' Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2002 / 28 Kislev, 5763

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Defining 'regime change'

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Bill Clinton's administration was caricatured, and the last vestiges of his reputation shredded, with his famous dodge "It depends on what the definition of 'is' is." Now, as the clock runs down to next Sunday's deadline for Saddam Hussein to make a full disclosure of his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, President Bush risks doing similar damage to his legacy -- and, more importantly to the national security -- by redefining the clear meaning of "regime change" in Iraq.

That meaning was originally established by Public Law 105-338 known as the "Iraq Liberation Act." When this bipartisan legislation was adopted by veto-proof margins in both houses of Congress, President Clinton chose to sign it into law. Unfortunately, as was his wont, he decided not to implement the act's direction that: "It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime."

To President Bush's credit, he has repeatedly declared regime change in Iraq to be the policy of his administration. His subordinates have echoed this principled position on myriad occasions, often in response to urging from other quarters to the effect that "containing Saddam"or disarming him would be sufficient.

The reasons Mr. Bush and his senior advisors have publicly distanced themselves from such alternatives to the toppling of Saddam can be reduced to three words: They won't work.

For confirmation, one need look no further than the situation in Iraq today after nearly a week of resumed UN weapons inspections. Hans Blix, the hapless Swedish diplomat chosen by Saddam's friends on the Security Council to run the search for chemical and biological weapons and their delivery systems is demonstrating why he was tapped for the job. According to press accounts, he is selecting inspectors, not on the basis of their expertise, but in light of their inoffensiveness to Saddam. [Even UN officials have confided to reporters off the record that "a lot of inspectors are inexperienced" and are being hired without background checks to establish their fitness, let alone their objectivity and integrity.

The conduct of the inspections to date inspires no more confidence. True to form, Blix has thus far sent his inspectors to previously known weapon and related industrial sites certain to have ceased activities of interest long ago. ]

Meanwhile, Western intelligence is reporting that Saddam is ordering his scientists to hide components of weapons of mass destruction in their homes and on farms. If true, this arrangement would infinitely compound the inspectors' difficulties in discovering the whereabouts of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Should enough time be allowed to elapse, the danger will grow that at least some of these weapons will wind up in the hands of terrorists or other bidders. Yet, Blix's counterpart for the nuclear weapons inspections, Mohamed al-Baradei, told the BBC on Sunday that "it would take us probably around a year before we can come to a reasonable conclusion that Iraq does not possess the capability to have nuclear weapons."

It is against this worrisome backdrop that the Bush administration has been suggesting that what the President means by "regime change" is not necessarily the removal from power of Saddam Hussein and his ruling clique. Now, we are told, if Saddam cooperates with the inspectors and disarms, his regime will have "changed." Ergo, no problem -- and certainly no need for U.S.-led military action to liberate Iraq.

This formula may suit the United Nations, whose membership remains dominated by totalitarians and other despots and recoils from the idea that any of their peoples might be freed by dint of outside intervention. As in 1991, when the first Bush administration averred that it had no UN mandate to remove Saddam from power, the absence of one today could ensure the Iraqi tyrant's survival for years to come.

It may even suit the likes of Senator John Kerry, who announced Sunday that he hopes to run against President Bush in 2004. According to Sen. Kerry, the United States would lack "legitimacy" if it acted without the support of the United Nations. Even though he voted for the Iraq Liberation Act in 1998, Mr. Kerry told NBC's Tim Russert: "I'd not be willing to support the president [in unilateral action against Iraq] if it's just for regime change."

President Bush now faces a choice that will, ironically, define his presidency and perhaps his political future. He can reaffirm his commitment to change the regime in Iraq via the only means that has any hope of genuinely, let alone permanently, disarming that country -- namely, by liberating its people from Saddam's misrule. If he does so, in the process assuming all the risks such an action entails, he offers hope not only to Iraqis repeatedly abandoned by the UN but to many millions elsewhere in the region and beyond who yearn no less than they for freedom.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Bush goes along with a redefinition of the meaning of "regime change," he will not avoid war between Iraq and the United States. If he allows the UN once again to trump sovereign American decisions about our security, he will simply be condemning this nation to a conflict with Saddam at some other time and under circumstances of the latter's choosing, a conflict which will, as a result, surely be more destructive and costly to both Americans and innocent Iraqis. Perhaps betweentimes, Mr. Bush could face defeat not from a John Kerry who will applaud his inaction, but -- like his father in 1992 -- from a more formidable rival who condemns him for leaving Saddam in power.

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JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


11/26/02: With friends like the Saudis...
11/19/02: The Jayna Davis files
11/12/02: Could Israel die of thirst?
11/04/02: Against us
10/22/02: Too clever by half?
10/17/02: 'Drain the swamps'
10/08/02: The temptations of George Bush
10/01/02: Return of the San Francisco Dems
09/24/02: The next crusader?
09/17/02: It is no accident that advocates of coercive inspections have opposed prez's goal of regime change
09/10/02: A model for Iraq
08/27/02: Beware 'consensus leadership'
08/20/02: To Iraq or not to Iraq?
08/13/02: Trading with the 'enemy'
07/30/02: Who's trashing Ashcroft?
07/23/02: Wall Street's 'poisoned apples'
07/16/02: Back on the China front
07/09/02: See no evil?
07/02/02: Rethinking peacekeeping
06/25/02: Political moment of truth on defense
06/19/02: Inviting losses on two fronts
06/12/02: Make missile defense happen
06/04/02: The next 'Day of Infamy'?
05/29/02: Bush's Russian gamble
05/21/02: The 'next war'
05/15/02: Ex-presidential misconduct
05/07/02: When 'what if' is no game
05/02/02: Careful what we wish for
04/24/02: The real 'root cause' of terror
04/02/02: First principles in the Mideast
03/26/02: 'Renounce this map'
03/20/02: The inconvenient ally
03/12/02: Adults address the 'unthinkable'
03/05/02: The Saudi scam
02/26/02: Rumsfeld's 'now hear this'
02/19/02: Where's the outrage?
02/12/02: Post-mortem on 'Pearl Harbor II'
02/05/02: Spinning on the 'Evil Axis'
01/29/02: A challenge for the history books
01/22/02: Who pulled the plug on the Chinese 'bugs'?
01/15/02: No 'need to know'
01/08/02: Sentenced to de-nuclearize?
12/18/01: Missile defense mismanagement?
12/11/01: Is the Cold War 'over'?
12/04/01: A moment for truth
11/29/01: Send in the marines -- with the planes they need
11/27/01: 'Now Hear This': Does the President Mean What He Says?
11/20/01: Mideast 'vision thing'
11/13/01: The leitmotif of the next three days
11/06/01: Bush's Reykjavik Moment
10/30/01: Say it ain't true, 'W.
10/23/01: Getting history, and the future, right
10/16/01: Farewell to arms control
10/05/01: A time to choose
09/25/01: Don't drink the 'lemonade'
09/11/01: Sudan envoy an exercise in futility?
09/05/01: Strategy of a thousand cuts
08/28/01: Rummy's back
08/21/01: Prepare for 'two wars'
08/14/01: Why does the Bush Administration make a moral equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israel's restrained defensive responses?
08/07/01: A New bipartisanship in security policy?
07/31/01: Don't go there
07/17/01: The 'end of the beginning'
07/10/01: Testing President Bush
07/03/01: Market transparency works
06/27/01: Which Bush will it be on missile defense?
06/19/01: Don't politicize military matters
06/05/01: It's called leadership
06/05/01: With friends like these ...
05/31/01: Which way on missile defense?
05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
05/15/01: A tale of two Horatios
05/08/01: The real debate about missile defense
04/24/01: Sell aegis ships to Taiwan
04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
03/28/01: The defense we need
03/21/01: Critical mass
03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
02/21/01: Defense fire sale
02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
01/23/01: The Osprey as Phoenix
01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
01/09/01: Wake-up call on space
01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.