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Jewish World Review Sept. 5, 2002 / 28 Elul, 5762

Robert W. Tracinski

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The case for "destabilization" | The president returns to Washington after a month on vacation in Texas and three months seemingly on vacation from America's foreign policy.

Since June, President Bush has been telling everyone who asks that he has made no decision on Iraq. Making that kind of decision is the president's job, and we can only hope that he gets back to it soon -- and makes the case to Congress for the invasion of Iraq.

That case desperately needs to be made because, in the absence of presidential leadership, every compromiser and appeaser from Foggy Bottom to Bonn has given his argument for the status quo. None of these people challenge the facts that Saddam Hussein is an evil man or that he is working to acquire nuclear weapons. But, they cry, invading Iraq would "destabilize" the region and endanger our relationship with our European allies and the UN.

Let us leave aside, for the moment, the upside-down priorities behind this objection -- the idea that disapproval from the European Union is a scarier prospect than nuclear attack from terrorists. Such a mentality is so concerned about upsetting the feelings of an army of international diplomats that it does not realize that "destabilizing" the world, and especially the Middle East, is one of the best results we can hope for from an invasion of Iraq.

Let us take a look at what passes for the "stable" condition of the Middle East today. In Afghanistan, al-Qaeda is regrouping and settling in for an extended terror campaign. In Pakistan, General Musharraf is still unable or unwilling to stop the killing sprees in Kashmir. In Iran, terrorism begins at home, with the theocratic regime cracking down on secularist dissent. Iran also has the most advanced nuclear weapons program in the region, and at least one mullah has declared the regime's intention to use a nuclear bomb against Israel. Syria's capital, Damascus, is home to Islamic Jihad, the most incorrigible terrorist group in the West Bank, while Saudi Arabia joins Iraq in paying bounties to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

It is obvious what is really destabilizing the region: dictatorship, religious fanaticism and the worship of brute force.

Why would anyone select, out of all these factors, the assertion of American power as the "destabilizing" influence? Such objections demonstrate less concern with "stability" than with paralyzing American action.

In fact, an American invasion of Iraq would interrupt the physical supply lines that bring weapons and money to Palestinian terrorists -- a boost to the region's stability. And it would put us in a better position to give moral and material support to Iranian dissidents who oppose terrorism and want to establish a secular society.

Beyond that, the fact that every country in the region opposes the invasion makes its symbolic value irreplaceable. Our Middle Eastern "allies" have played a double game with the West, allowing us to establish military bases for their protection, but refusing to let us use those bases for our protection, or nominally cooperating against terrorism while giving ideological and financial support to the killers. Invading Iraq would demonstrate that America has the independence and resolve to stop playing this game.

How about the United Nations? At the UN conference that just ended in Johannesburg, Zimbabwe's dictator Robert Mugabe -- the man who recently outlawed farming in a nation on the brink of famine -- got a vigorous round of applause when he blamed Africa's problems on the West. The Mugabes of the world dominate the UN's General Assembly, while such enlightened powers as China and Syria sit on the Security Council. What needs to be "destabilized" is the idea that we have to clear our national security plans through this corrupt organization.

And what about our relationship with our European allies? The latest news from Europe is that the Germans won't share evidence about the planning of the Sept. 11 attacks because America has the death penalty. This sums up the European contribution to the War on Terrorism: a lot of pseudo-moralistic posturing-against us -- and little real help.

Most important, however, is what an Iraq invasion would "destabilize" at home: the foreign policy establishment that tells us we can't defend ourselves without the permission of nations that are hostile or indifferent to our interests. A successful attack on Iraq would show, once again, that America can go it alone and that principled action is more powerful than compromise and consensus.

If that's what is at stake, let the destabilizing begin.

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