Monday, March 17, 2003

Declaration of war. This is not the wrong thing to do. But it is the wrong way to do it. If George W. Bush and Tony Blair had been able to muster genuine international support to overthrow Saddam Hussein, liberate his long-suffering people, and eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, then who, really, could object?

Instead, as we all know, Bush has managed to alienate a broad cross-section of world opinion -- not just the disingenuous French, but many other countries whose leaders could probably have been persuaded to lend their support if Bush had not been so eager to keep grinding the heel of his cowboy boot into their faces.

And let's not forget "Shock and Awe," the White House war plan, which, according to some accounts, involves destroying Bagdhad and everyone in it before American soldiers march in. We can only hope that's not what Bush really intends to do. If he does, he's guaranteed at least another generation of Arab and Muslim terrorism against the US.

We may well be on the eve of war this morning. Three reports worth pondering:

1. This morning's New York Times contains a long, front-page piece on the US's failed, halting efforts to prevent war through diplomacy. The article, by Steven Weisman, doesn't really have an "ah, ha!" moment. But it is depressing nevertheless to see how White House officials invariably opted for war-talk over diplomacy, even to the point of moving chief weapons inspector Hans Blix to soft-pedal Iraqi violations so that he wouldn't play into Bush's hands.

2. Liberal war hawk Peter Beinart, the editor of the New Republic, is nevertheless pissed off at the Bush administration's repeated lies over Iraq's weapons and intentions -- from the falsified uranium documents from Niger to the aluminum tubes, as well as a number of smaller lies. Can you say "Gulf of Tonkin"?

3. The cover of the current Newsweek portrays a cruise missle falling from the sky; the headline is "Why America Scares the World." Inside, Fareed Zakaria, who, like Beinart, is prowar, weighs in with a long essay titled "The Arrogant Empire." Zakaria offers a sweeping historical and cultural overview, and it's worth reading in full. But his account of how the Bushies blew it is horrifying -- the president's constant invocations of what he "expects" other countries to do, the humiliation that has been meted out to recalcitrant foreign diplomats, and the seething resentment that Bush's unilateralism has created. Zakaria writes:

Donald Rumsfeld often quotes a line from Al Capone: "You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone."

But should the guiding philosophy of the world's leading democracy really be the tough talk of a Chicago mobster? In terms of effectiveness, this strategy has been a disaster.

No comments: