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Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2001 / 3 Adar, 5762

Michael Kelly

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As good as doctrine gets -- ASSUME that George W. Bush is serious about projecting force around the world to eliminate the threat from states that meet three criteria: institutional hostility to the United States and to a liberal respect for life, liberty and law; support for anti-American terrorists; and a demonstrated hunger for weapons of mass destruction. Is this a good idea? I would argue that Bush's new doctrine is as good as doctrine generally gets -- necessary and workable, although not perfect. The chief points for the "axis of evil" doctrine may be seen in considering the chief points against it:

  • It is "simplisme." It is simplistic, or simple-minded, as the French foreign minister, whose name is Petain or Maginot or something, sniffed last week. C'est vrai. It is indeed "simplisme" to pick fights with evil regimes just because those regimes want to kill you or enslave you or at least force you to knuckle under and collaborate in their evil, when one might choose the far safer and far more profitable path of shrugging one's shoulders in a fetchingly Gallic fashion and sending one's Jews off to the camps, as one's new masters in government request.

    On the other hand, as the foreign minister might have noticed, the French may today enjoy springtime in Paris without the annoying sounds of jackboots all over the place, and the reason for that was the simple-minded determination of the British, the Russians and the Americans to fight the Nazis and to die by the millions, in order to make the world safe for, among other creatures, future French foreign ministers. "Simplisme" works. Against evil, it is the only thing that does.

  • It is a confusion between war and police work. This argument holds that terrorism is a crime (as opposed to the official belligerence of a state) and that the terrorist groups we wish to destroy are criminal enterprises (as opposed to states), so war (which is between states) is wrongheaded. Yes, terrorists are criminals. But they are, in specific cases, state-sanctioned and -supported. The specific cases involve, as Bush noted, the states of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The state support of terrorism vastly magnifies its threat. Without the Taliban and Afghanistan, al Qaeda would have been an evil without a country -- fundamentally vulnerable, weak, baseless. Terrorists supported and hidden by nations enjoy not only the wealth of nations but also the protection of nations: They enjoy a shield of sovereignty that effectively puts them outside the law of other nations -- outside the realm of police forces and courts.

    Only military force can pierce this shield (the Hague got Slobodan Milosevic in the end, but only because the U.S. Air Force got him first). It is not possible to end terrorism. It is possible to end the state support that raises terrorism's danger to levels that threaten other states. But only by going after the states: war, not police patrols.

  • Our allies will abandon us. However will we manage without the Saudi navy? Yes, they will abandon us -- until it is clear we have won. This will work out fine.

  • The Arab Street will rise in flames. The "street" in any given Arab country consists of 278 state-sanctioned mullahs already preaching death to the Americans and the Jews, five state-controlled newspaper opinion columnists preaching ditto, 577,000 state security officers making sure nobody says anything to the contrary and 73 million people who would very much like to be living in New Jersey. In Kabul, they cheered and kissed our soldiers. In Baghdad, they'd love to have the chance.

  • Ground troops, quagmire, body bags. Amazing, the power of cliche. Of the past six American adventures in force, four -- the Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan this year -- largely if imperfectly succeeded. In each success, doomsayers had predicted failure on the grounds that wars cannot be won from the air and cannot be won by superior technology. And so they cannot -- fully. But they can be won enough -- when you have armed forces that are by an order of magnitude technologically superior to the armed forces of the rest of the world.

  • It is dangerous, expensive and may end in disaster. True. But what is the better alternative?

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Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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