Jewish World Review March 17, 2003 / 13 Adar II, 5763

Zev Chafets

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In war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry --- now, let's go get 'em! | In the movie "A League of Their Own," Tom Hanks famously decreed that there is no crying in baseball.

That dictum also applies to international affairs - especially in wartime.

American lawmakers, outraged by the perfidy of the French and the ingratitude of the Germans, need to dry their eyes, take a deep breath and put French fries back on the congressional cafeteria menu. The public airing of hurt feelings makes America look childish. And at this particular moment, appearances are crucial.

People all over the world are watching America through hard, narrowed eyes. They know that what the U.S. does in the next few weeks will change their world. Naturally, they want to be on the right side of this change. That means a decision: Should America be followed or opposed?

This calculation is wholly self-interested - it has nothing to do with friendship or gratitude. Are American soldiers buried in the soil of France? Great, put a wreath on the graves. Did the U.S. save Europe from communism? Swell, name a street after Ronald Reagan. It's not about the past. In the words of former President Bill Clinton's favorite song, yesterday's gone.

Foreign policy isn't an exercise in perpetual thanksgiving. It is also not a debate tournament. The U.S. has spent the past few months talking itself red-white-and-blue in the face without making its case to France, Germany, Russia and most other nations.

This doesn't mean - and only a simpleton would take it to mean - that America has failed to construct a moral argument sufficient to satisfy Syria, France or Cameroon. It means that Washington hasn't yet convinced the world that it intends to use its power unapologetically in pursuit of what it regards as its vital interests.

That is the real case America needs to make, and only action will make it. The first step is deposing Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Anything less would, at this point, would make America a laughingstock.

But simply defeating the Iraqi Army won't, in itself, be enough. The how of this war will matter as much as the what.

In the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. fought in such a tentative way that its victory was actually counterproductive. The Arabs, in particular, saw Washington's urgent desire to assemble a vast coalition as a sign of weakness. No one knew better than the Arab governments themselves how impotent they truly were. The very fact that then-President George Bush so desperately wanted them as allies sent them the message that America didn't deserve respect.

As a result, for the past dozen years, America has been disrespected in the Middle East - not only by Saddam, who humiliatingly still rules in Baghdad, but by Iran, Syria and American "friends" like Saudi Arabia. Now war is coming again. Post-9/11, the stakes are higher. This is America's chance to reestablish its credibility.

President Bush has said the right things about not needing international permission to defend American interests. The problem is, he's said them once too often. The President's next speech should end with the words, "Ready, aim, fire."

Once the order is given, the U.S. will defeat and occupy Iraq very quickly. The Iraqi regular army is worthless, and the Republican Guard isn't much better.

Alarmists to the contrary, America won't need much international support to govern Iraq. If France or Cameroon or Chile came to occupy Iraq, they would need help. America can do the job by itself - at least in the short term, which is the only term Bush should be contemplating.

It won't take hundreds of thousands of troops. An awesome show of battlefield force accompanied by an uncompromising American demand for civil order should do the trick. Iraqis will bend to American power. Not out of gratitude. Not out of love. Out of respect.

Respect isn't an empty or vain desire. It is an essential tool of war. Keeping Iran and North Korea from getting nuclear weapons is urgent and serious business. So is dealing with the world's other deranged and heavily armed regimes. The amount of force these missions require will be inversely proportional to the amount of respect America generates in Iraq.

If Bush fights as hard as he talks, nothing is beyond America's capacity. And, soon enough, the coalition of the unfriendly will give way to a smiling line of nations hoping to become America's best friend.

In the meantime, let's keep the tears of righteous indignation to a minimum. This is wartime, after all. And in war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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12/31/02: Dem Dummies
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12/13/02: Lott has to be dumped to save W's authority
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11/25/02: Sharon looks like a winner
11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
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11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
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