Jewish World Review Nov. 27, 2002 / 22 Kislev, 5763
The unThankful list
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Very high on my list of things for which to be thankful is President Bush (right behind my family and friends, hearth and home, a job and the gift of life itself). After that, the gratitude list drops off rather sharply this season. And, if one were assembling an un-thankful list, fairly high up would be found a lethally foolish little man named Hans Blix.
It's not that the milquetoast Chief U.N. weapons inspector is not a premier member of the world's diplomatic corp -- it's that he is. There is nothing wrong with Mr. Blix that isn't also wrong with the entire diplomatic instinct today -- at the beginning of year two in the Age of Terror.
We face such monstrous dangers. Yet most of the civilized world, almost all their diplomats and politicians (a few of ours, too), persist in denying the imminent and mortal danger. I have talked with many Europeans in the last year: earnest, sincere, not cynical, not hateful of America -- but incapable of seeing the danger. For them, somehow, terrorism fits within their historic memory. Perhaps for people of a continent that has know Attila the Hun, the Black Death, the Inquisition, the wars of religion, the slaughter and futility of World War I, the genocide of Hitler and the totatilitarian darkness of Stalin -- perhaps for them nuclear and biological terror is just another chapter in a long, familiar book.
But for most Americans it is not just another chapter. It is the slamming shut of the only book we have known -- a book of joy, hope, freedom and adventure -- the book of the American dream. And it is the opening of a new and hideous book filled with maggots and razor-toothed, poisonous, winged insects crawling from its pages. Like any healthy beings, we want to fling this abomination to the ground and utterly destroy it -- before its gestating foulness comes to full vigor and infests our land forever.
It's not just bin Laden or Saddam -- but it is them. It is an Islamisist fury that will find succor in many places -- Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia -- so many other spots. There are no bad targets for us. Where the local leaders will act in good faith, we should work with them to root out the infestation. But we don't have time to parley with the likes of Saddam Hussein. It is not given to us to know the future. Perhaps we do have months or years to take Iraq off the table as a source of danger. Or perhaps we have only hours or days.
When, during WWII, we learned that Hitler was working on the atomic bomb, we assumed the worst, and spent as much as it took and worked as fast as we could around the clock to get the bomb first. That sense of urgency reflected in the Manhattan Project is the only rational pace at which we should be moving on all fronts today. But even our good and determined president is finding his pace slowed down by the quagmire in which he finds himself. Not the quagmire of battle (our soldiers fly with the wings of Mercury and the weapons of Mars at the throats of our enemies), but the quagmire of diplomacy.
Even the New York Times reports that, of course, we can't expect Hans Blix and the weapons inspectors to actually find the weapons. But they may find evidence of Saddam's breach of U.N. resolutions. Meanwhile, Mr. Blix says he doesn't want to confront Saddam or search aggressively (what he calls an American trait). He admits that it is very hard for him and his team even to assemble and bring into action 35 Jeeps and a hundred inspectors. He is bemused. He is patient. He knows his limits. What's a 74-year-old Swedish diplomat to do? More importantly, what's President Bush to do?
He must stand by his commitment to zero tolerance for Iraqi lack of cooperation (he has already taken a dangerous step back from that standard when his government identified shooting at our warplanes as a material breach and then did not act). The world diplomatic community wants to play the definition game with Bush. It depends on the meaning of material.
They will win that game. Within days, the president must be prepared to knock over that game table. He will have to face the condemnation of the United Nations, of France, of Canada -- of all the fanatics who think that what they are doing will make the world safer. The reason I am thankful for President Bush is because I hope and believe that he is just the man to ignore those fretting diplomats and get about the business of killing our enemies.
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