As we move deeper into the “funny season” of Presidential election politics, it becomes increasingly more important to stay tightly focused on the principles of moral clarity that have defined Bush foreign policy since 9-11. The strategy of those who oppose the Bush Doctrine, particularly the policy of pre-emption, is to attack the so-called “soft underbelly” of the rationale for such pre-emption—the intelligence that identifies the relevant security threat. By attacking the credibility of the basis for the war on terror, or its timing and selection of targets, they hope to undermine the policy. Senator (and Presidential candidate) Bob Graham said it—we need to know not only whether or not Iraq had or was developing weapons of mass destruction after the fact, but whether this should have been a reason for the timing of our strikes against it. This is second-guessing at its most irresponsible because it has a chilling impact on bold leadership in countering terrorism. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said it best, as I paraphrase—the penalty for having been proven right and not acting will be unforgivable, many times worse than having been proven wrong and acting.Speaking of Blair, when have you heard more statesmanship or more clarity of moral purpose than in his recent address to the joint session of Congress? Dare I say that it was Churchillian or Thatcherite? It was right up there with them, and there were some memorable excerpts, such as: “September 11 was not an isolated event, but a tragic prologue”; “there never was a time when the power of America was so necessary or so misunderstood”; “our ultimate weapon is not our guns but our beliefs”; “ours are not Western values, they are the universal values of the human spirit”; “I don’t believe you can compromise with this new form of terrorism”; “there is no more dangerous theory in international politics than that we need to balance the power of America with other competitive powers”; and “why us? Why America? Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do…..and our job is to be there with you”.
It is amazingly ironic that this moment in history for American leadership comes at a time when we so imperfectly practice and often reject the natural right principles on which we base our liberating foreign policy. Which is why it is doubly important and timely to remind the demagogues and ourselves loudly and often that we occupy the moral high ground in this conflict. End of story.