What happens if we don’t find Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? We have waged a war because we — and the rest of the world, including the retiring Hans Blix — believed that Saddam didn’t give up the chemical and biological weapons we knew he had. Moreover, we went to war because we judged the threat of those weapons to be imminent because Saddam was likely to be pass non-nuclear WMDs onto terrorists whenever he thought he could get away with it. But almost three months have passed and we have yet to find those weapons.
I believe we will — soon after Saddam is captured or demonstrably dead — find his non-nuclear WMDs. We’ll also find more evidence of his nuclear program. But the Left’s rhetoric is white-hot, using every euphemism they can find to call Bush a liar without using that word. Those such as Sen. Robert Byrd, who now say that the president’s statements before the Iraq campaign were false, claim Bush was playing on “…the well-founded fear of the American public about future acts of terrorism.” Not long ago Byrd said that the president’s landing on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln was an insult to every soldier who had served in Iraq, including those who gave their lives in that fight. He, and many of that ilk, are not capable of embarrassment. If he were, he couldn’t say, as he did, “…upon close examination, many of these statements have nothing to do with intelligence, because they are at root just sound bites based on conjecture. They are designed to prey on public fear.” Byrd and Co. are desperate to weaken Bush politically, and their only strategy is to revive the “credibility gap” of the Vietnam era. And they won’t succeed.
So what happens if we don’t find the WMDs? Will the war on terror fail? Will our credibility be so damaged that no ally will again come to our side in this war? There are two dangers here. One is abroad, and one is at home. The only credibility gap we need to worry about is if our enemies lose their growing fear of us.
There is a real danger that the rebels in Tony Blair’s Labor party, backed by the ever-faithful BBC, will hobble Blair. When Bush asks Britain to join in whatever next military step the war against terrorism requires, Blair may have to either produce irrefutable proof of an imminent threat or be unable to answer the call. This is not a trivial problem. Though our military forces are awesome, there are gaps because, in the Clinton years, we failed utterly to buy some of the assets we need to fight. For example, even in the Afghanistan campaign, our fly guys couldn’t have done what they did without the help of the Brit airborne tankers. This goes double for Iraq. If the opponents of the Iraq campaign can hamstring Blair, they can reduce — not eliminate — our ability to take actions like the ones we did in those two campaigns.
Blair’s credibility does not rest on the foundation Bush’s does. Blair’s record since 9/11 is more than just commendable, but before that, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Clintonism, and it now leaves him with some of the same problems that Lil’ Billy would have if it were up to him to fight this war.
Bush’s harshest critics want to discredit his leadership by destroying his credibility. They would, were they dealing with a weaker man, create such doubt in his mind that further military action would be constrained by the all-night debates and theorizing that was mistaken for a decision process in the Clinton White House. Remember when the Clintonoids sent a naval vessel to intervene in Haiti, and ordered it back to sea when some punks on the docks waved some guns in the air? It is that same indecision, that self-doubt that the Byrd brains want to create in this president. Bush — and most of America — know that we did something we had to do in ending the threat of Saddam’s regime. But the world is still unused to a decisive America, one that will not settle for endless talk, and demands that a problem be solved. The most dangerous and unfortunate result — if this criticism was accepted — would be that the president became as indecisive — and thus as lacking in credibility — as his predecessor. That he must avoid, and I believe he will because he knows a nation must be credible to its enemies, even more so than to its friends.
The president said that the world cannot and will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. The idea of an Ayatollah Bomb should be enough to spur even the French to take action. But it won’t be. What the U.N., the Dems and the EUnuchs don’t understand is that Bush’s strength does not depend on discovery of the WMDs in Iraq. According to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken a week ago — after two and a half months of failing to find Saddam’s WMDs — 63 percent of Americans favor sending troops into any nation where forces are needed to confront terrorists. Any country, whether or not we have absolute proof, whether or not Kofi Annan says it’s a great idea, whether or not the diplomats say they need more time. If the president decided, tomorrow, that we would use military force to destroy the Iranians’ nuclear weapons plants, that number would change. It would shoot up 20 or 30 points, because most Americans realize we are at war, even if our betters don’t.
There are many aspects to Bush’s value as president, but the greatest of all is that he decisive. If America sinks into the indecision of the Clinton years, we could lose this war. One of the reasons we went to war in Iraq is that Saddam, down to the last moments, probably didn’t believe that the U.N., Saudi Arabia or Foggy Bottom would fail to save him again, as they had in the past. Our credibility as an international power was diminished to nothingness. If we act decisively, and with consistency, our enemies will come to expect it. And that is the only credibility that really counts in this war. If we have that credibility — not with our friends, but with our enemies — the war against terrorism will be won sooner, and with fewer lives lost in military action than will otherwise be necessary.
— NRO Contributor Jed Babbin was a deputy undersecretary of defense in the first Bush administration, and is now an MSNBC military analyst.