Jewish World Review April 28, 2003 / 26 Nisan, 5763

Jim Hoagland

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Wars tailor made | President Bush resembles both the Little Red Hen and Aladdin as the war in Iraq subsides. He has baked a loaf of liberation and hope for that broken Arab country -- with precious little help from presumed friends. To accomplish that, he rubbed the magic lamp of U.S. military technology and summoned a genie with powers to remake the world.

Fairy tales persist because they capture essential truths about the human condition. So it is with the Little Red Hen, who pleads in vain with the other animals for help in preparing and baking a loaf of bread. They disparage her efforts but are ready to devour her accomplishment when it comes out of the oven.

That tale anticipates the current stance of France, Russia and other naysayers who fought Bush's liberation efforts and now gather at the U.N. table to perpetuate a corrupt hold on Iraqi oil contracts and sales. Bush cannot allow that greed to stand.

He has made the moral dimension of the war in Iraq a dominant theme in his explanations of its causes and conduct. The brilliance of the campaign -- its lightning speed, relatively low number of casualties, and avoidance of huge refugee flows and widespread material destruction -- reinforce an emerging Bush doctrine that would harness America's vast and precise military power to moral purpose in world affairs.

Bush enunciated the core of that vision in St. Louis on April 16: "By a combination of creative strategies and advanced technology, we are redefining war on our terms. . . . In this new era of warfare, we can target a regime, not a nation. Our aim is to track and strike the guilty. Terrorists and tyrants have now been put on notice, they can no longer feel safe hiding behind innocent lives."

"Redefining war on our terms" is a huge ambition that Bush feels is now within his grasp. As a presidential candidate, he promised a transformation of the "overextended" U.S. military in broad, functional terms that seemed like so much rhetoric. It was not until 9/11 that he and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were abruptly presented with a history-changing mission for U.S. power.

The St. Louis speech and the warnings that followed to Syria and Iran underscored the varying ways in which Bush will now use that power. The president was explicit: Syria was given a chance to change its behavior to avoid the risk of regime change. It seems to have begun to do so. Iran now has the same chance, and the same risk to ponder.

That is not recklessly drawing up a hit list or doing Israel's bidding. The Syrians were tempted to shelter Faruq Hijazi, a key Iraqi intelligence contact for al Qaeda. But they instead facilitated his capture on Thursday after being warned by Washington of the risk that sheltering him would bring.

Many critics portray Bush's motives in Iraq as vile. He is grabbing oil fields. Or they stigmatize him for allegedly being in the grip of hidden Israeli agents in the administration they label as "neocons." Such critics are stuck in self-defeating time and perception warps. This labeling grossly distorts and delays a much-needed serious debate about the uses of U.S. "creative strategies and advanced technology" in the Middle East and the world at large.

The 9/11 horrors brought home to the Bush team the dangers of continuing to count on crisis management (aka "the peace process") to stave off as long as possible the next Arab-Israeli war or another terror assault on Americans. Waiting is no longer an acceptable policy in the Middle East. Israelis and Arabs are likely to be surprised and then distressed at how strongly the protection of U.S. interests will figure in the administration's approach to the peacemaking to come.

France, Russia and others react in horror not simply to losing oil contracts in Iraq but also to the vision of the surgical-therefore-moral American genie of power that Bush conjured up in his St. Louis speech. The Europeans don't fear that it won't work nearly as much as they fear that it will.

Was the Clinton administration's approach of preventive diplomacy punctuated by low-risk (to Americans) airstrikes on the infrastructure of offending nations really more moral than a strategy of preventive wars tailored to destroying regimes, not countries?

The answer is not as simple as those who claim that a Zionist "neocon" clique has seized power in Washington pretend. They obscure the important new debates -- on morality and power, and most of all on the still unproven feasibility of tailored warfare -- that Bush's words should summon.

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04/25/03: De-Baathification, root and branch
04/21/03: Victims of civic passivity
04/14/03: Three miscreants
04/11/03: Saddam's final mistake

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