“Before the sun sets on this terrible struggle, our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand, and overwhelming power on the other.”—Gen. George C. Marshall as quoted by Vice President Dick Cheney
Last June I wrote of “the shake up we need” that will prepare us for a fundamentally different kind of warfare, a kind that is in some ways alien to our value systems as they have evolved, a pre-emptive war, a total war, one that results in the complete transformation of the enemy’s society. Well, we’re almost there, but I am shocked that many of our opinion leaders still shrink from this reality.
Saddam Hussein must go. Now. Not after re-instituting United Nations arms inspections (a red herring); not after we prove to an international court of world opinion that he is harboring weapons of mass destruction; not after we or one of our allies has been attacked again; and not after we have commitments from a multinational coalition of allies. Certainly President Bush should make the case, forcefully and with as much candor as prudent, and he should also ask for Congressional approval, not that he needs it except as a politically unifying gesture. But the evidence is in, and I can’t improve on Lady Margaret Thatcher’s words: “His continued survival after comprehensively losing the Gulf War has done untold damage to the West’s standing in a region where the only unforgivable sin is weakness. His flouting of the terms on which hostilities ceased has made a laughingstock of the international community. His appalling mistreatment of his own countrymen continues unabated. It is clear to anyone willing to face reality that the only reason Saddam took the risk of refusing to submit his activities to U. N. inspectors was that he is exerting every muscle to build weapons of mass destruction. To allow this process to continue because the risks of action to arrest it seem too great would be foolish in the extreme.” There is no doubt that we are at the dawn of a transformation in foreign policy, diplomacy, and our role in the world. This should have been obvious since 9-11-01 and the enunciation of the Bush Doctrine. Steve Forbes says we are “at the creation”, no less so than at the end of World War II. The first real test of the new doctrine will come in Iraq.
Unquestionably, President Bush’s use of the word “evil” is unsettling to the sensibilities of the postmodern mind. We’ve grown accustomed to dealing with “root causes” and avoiding absolutes. To Bush, however, evil is not an adjective, it’s a noun, and it exists in objective reality. The use of this terminology shows a profound understanding of how the world works, particularly the Middle Eastern world steeped in Nietzsche’s “will to power”.
What if the U. S. is alone in this campaign? I’ve written before about American exceptionalism and unilateralism and the criticism of these tendencies by our erstwhile friends and allies. In a recent Wall Street Journal essay, Victor Davis Hanson notes that one of the reasons we often must stand alone is that we really are different. Our Constitution alone preserves the sanctity of the individual. And I would add that our Civil War re-founding firmly established the U. S. as a culture built on the idea of the universality of certain self-evident truths about human nature, unqualified by race or nationality. And while the U. S. has interests to protect and citizens to defend, we are never without a sense of idealism and exceptionalism in our foreign policy. Most of the caution and responsible opposition to war with Iraq has come from advocates (Scowcroft, et al) of foreign policy realism, or “realpolitik” as we called it during the Cold War. This was the “balance of power” containment policy without a strong moral component that held sway before Ronald Reagan changed the objective to one of victory.
The Bush Doctrine, taken to its ultimate conclusion, will be messy because it prefers reformation over stability for stability’s sake. But it will transform the Middle East and send the message to the subjects of the authoritarian Islamic regimes that self-determination and assimilation with the modern world are realistic possibilities. Read the President’s June 1 commencement speech at West Point for an indication of how the world has changed. As Michael Ledeen has noted, this is not a manhunt, it is the opening salvo of a great revolutionary war. And remember that there is no peace and no security without victory.