Jewish World Review Jan. 13, 2004 / 19 Teves, 5764
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
The vision thing
In this political year, George W. Bush is said to have felt the need to demonstrate that he has a quality his father once derided as "the vision thing." So he has reportedly embraced an ambitious, long-term and stupefyingly costly (some estimates run as high as a trillion-dollars over the next few decades) program for manned exploration of the Moon and Mars.
As it happens, there is far more immediate, clear and, frankly, credible proof of this President's 20-20 vision: His determination to liberate Iraq and his courageous, steadfast and effective realization of that strategically critical initiative.
Just how visionary was this presidential undertaking can be measured in two ways. First, Mr. Bush recognized apparently from the very outset of his administration that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power would not only be of immense benefit to the long-suffering people of Iraq and to their long-threatened neighbors. It had the potential to catalyze long-needed changes among other terrorist-sponsoring and weapons of mass destruction-wielding regimes in the region and beyond.
Today, there can be no doubt that the forcible toppling of the Butcher of Baghdad and the demonstration it entailed of American power and, no less importantly, will has "concentrated the minds" of his counterparts elsewhere in the Mideast and Central and East Asia. With characteristic lucidness and verve, syndicated columnist William Safire enumerated in a column published Monday in the New York Times how enemies of freedom in Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, the West Bank, Iran and North Korea have all trimmed sail of late.
As Safire observes of the sudden renunciation last month of Libya's WMD programs by its despotic ruler Moammar Gadhafi, "the notion that this terror-supporting dictator's epiphany was not the direct result of our military action, but of decade-long diplomatic pleas for goodness and mercy, is laughable."
The second measure of just how visionary was President Bush's decision to liberate Iraq can be found in the lack of vision exhibited by so many of his critics. Some, like Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment writing in Sunday's Washington Post, insist on making the "laughable" case that "It is unclear whether these breakthroughs [in Libya, Iran and North Korea]...are the result of the American success in Iraq or of our failures there."
Now, Cirincione like the left-wing think-tank for which he works has a powerful interest in diminishing the far-reaching and beneficial effects of George Bush's surgical application of American military power. He and the Carnegie Endowment have long promoted the idea that arms control, international treaties and regimes, supranational government bodies, multilateral inspections and, in extremis, UN-approved sanctions can be relied upon to resolve basically all threats to our security.
Just last week, Cirincione and two Carnegie co-authors published a much ballyhooed critique of the Bush Administration's perceptions of, representations about and efforts to eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Few of those in the press who uncritically touted the report's conclusions took note of their self-serving nature. For example, Cirincione et.al. concluded that, "Considering all the costs and benefits, there were at least two options clearly preferable to a war undertaken without international support: allowing [UN] inspections to continue until obstructed or completed, or imposing a tougher program of 'coercive inspections' backed by a specially designed force."
If you start from the perspective that U.S. military action is essentially illegitimate unless authorized by the UN and that inspections ("coercive" or otherwise) are always useful even in the face of systematic deception and concealment operations by the inspectees and of international inspectors who don't want to give offense to their hosts, it almost always follows that there are "clearly preferable" alternatives to war. An analysis that flows from such premises is so predictably skewed as to amount to "garbage-in, garbage-out."
More importantly, many of President Bush's would-be-successors are displaying a similar, stunning lack of vision. Two of the most prominent Democratic candidates, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and retired General Wesley Clark, have endlessly described Iraq as a "diversion" from the war on terror. (Last week, Gen. Clark further disqualified himself for the job of Commander-in-Chief when he made the preposterous and dangerously misleading pledge that, "If I'm president of the United States, I'm going to take care of the American people. We are not going to have one of these incidents [like 9/11].")
The reality is, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said long ago, to win the war on terror we must not only kill individual terrorist "mosquitoes" but "drain the swamps." One need not believe that the various tactical changes the rogue state regimes have adopted represent real changes of heart to recognize that none of them not one would likely have occurred at this point in time without President Bush's vision and the actions that flowed from it.
We are unlikely to see the world really made a safer place for the long run unless and until the regimes that have lied to us in the past notably, those running Libya, Iran, North Korea, the Palestinian Authority, Sudan and Syria are replaced with ones that respect their people, the rule of law and their word. As long as President George W. Bush does not lose sight of that reality, he will be remembered for his transforming vision long before any American takes up residence on the Moon or steps foot on Mars.
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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
© 2004, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.