The economy is doing fine but the stock market is slumping. So far, the blame has rightly been placed on corporate corruption, dishonest accounting practices, and some ill-advised protectionist trade moves by the Bush administration. But these, it seems, are only partly to blame.
A worrisome USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll reveals that only one in three Americans believe the U.S. is now winning the war on terrorism, with a full half saying the war is at a stalemate. Compare this with last January, when two-thirds of the country said the U.S. was winning the war.
Could it be that a lack of decisive follow-through in the global war on terrorism is the single biggest problem facing the stock market and the nation today? I believe it is.
There has been a big drop in the American spirit. The euphoria surrounding the successful victory in Afghanistan has given way to a gnawing fear that Osama bin Laden and his evil followers have survived, regrouped, and are getting ready to hit us again. Sept. 11 may not be the seminal event. A new calamity may befall us, one that will surely close our businesses, shut our financial markets, block basic family security, and inflict unimagined pain on the nation. The down market is a manifestation of the pained expressions on our faces.
President Bush’s speech Monday set down the clear democratic-reform principles necessary to change Palestine from a terrorist safe-harbor into a true member of the family of nations. He correctly delineated U.S. support for our democratic alley Israel, and just as clearly assigned the appropriate blame to Arafat’s piece of the evil axis. He also communicated the principles of free elections, representative government, and the rule of law to the other Middle Eastern states that fail on all these counts. Bush wasn’t only speaking to Iraq, Iran, and Syria, but also to Saudi Arabia, and perhaps even Egypt.
But these are just more words in this global and just war on terror. The president must now execute and follow-through in support of these fine principles. There can be no hesitation. In dealing with Israel and the PLA, there can be no return to the split-the-difference peace processes that have failed completely in the past.
Even more, Bush must not allow Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to remain in play. That they are still around, poised to do catastrophic mischief, is a huge factor in just how far American confidence in this war has deteriorated.
To be sure, the greatest mistake Papa Bush ever made was leaving Saddam Hussein in place. Weakened or not, he is still there — and Americans have never liked loose ends. With weapons of mass destruction at his disposal, and through his financing of terrorism worldwide, Saddam is a dangerous loose end.
Decisive shock therapy to revive the American spirit would surely come with a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Why not begin with a large-scale special-forces commando raid on the Iraqi oil fields? This will send a shot across Saddam’s bow; an electrifying signal to all terrorist nations. The message will be that the game is up. Surrender now or you will be crushed in a short while.
Meanwhile, Saddam’s cash flow can be cut off. Oil is his only crop, his single manufacture. Without money there will be nothing left to steal, and nothing to use to pay off his cronies.
A couple of weeks later a final assault on Baghdad can take place. A small war, to use Wall Street Journal editorialist Max Boot’s lexicon, led by fast-moving special forces and leather-toughened Marines, and assisted by high-tech precision bombs and air cover, can get the job done. All-out war mobilization is unnecessary. Iraq will fall with much less. At the same time, U.S. special forces must conduct a similar sweep to root out the bin Ladens and al Qaedas along the Pakistani/Afghan border.
In his key war speeches thus far — the axis-of-evil designation before Congress, the first-strike-preemption speech at West Point, and this week’s Palestine-directed statement of institution-building through the principles of freedom — Bush has kept democracy and a market economy central to solving this world terrorism crisis. But statements of principle only go so far. The spirit and security of the United States now require the instrument of war.
The shock therapy of decisive war will elevate the stock market by a couple-thousand points. We will know that our businesses will stay open, that our families will be safe, and that our future will be unlimited. The world will be righted in this life-and-death struggle to preserve our values and our civilization. But to do all this, we must act.