Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 8, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Hall of Mirrors
The president's speech last night contained few surprises. Bush said what he needed to say:
Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front. Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there -- and there they must be defeated. This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure.
All the key concepts in what has been called the neoconservative battle plan were on full display: the idea that the struggle against terrorism is a single, multi-front war; the idea that the fight in Iraq is part of "a systematic campaign against terrorism" that began after September 11; the idea that "[t]he Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations . . . Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat"; the analogy to the rebuilding of Germany and Japan after World War II; and the repeated references to democracy as the goal of our rebuilding in Iraq.
Then the president finishes up, and (on NBC, where I was watching this), Joe Biden gets on, says he likes the speech but characterizes it as a 180 degree reversal from what "the neoconservatives," who he identifies as "Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz" have been telling Bush. Huh? I mean, Biden does identify some conflicts: he notes that some of the difficulties and troop requirements had been prefigured by hearings held by Richard Lugar and Biden before the war, as opposed to some administration sources. But the core message here is the "neocon" strategy 101.
As for the request for UN help . . . as I noted, I'm not a fan of letting the UN decide anything here, but as more attentive commentators have noted, Bush is just asking for UN auspices to add additional troops from other nations that would remain under US/UK command. Which is what the UN was supposed to be about anyway. This isn't new ground . . . the whole idea of the UN was that it was supposed to be more effective than the League of Nations in stopping aggressive tyrannies, in part because it would abandon the League's pretenses at imposing rules on the great powers (which were a big reason why the US refused to join in 1919) and would instead serve primarily as a vehicle for concerted action. In short, the UN was established with the intent of eliminating barriers to collective action, so long as such action didn't infringe on the interests of any of the permanent members of the Security Council.
Thus, the idea that it is the UN's role to arbitrate the international legitimacy of war with Iraq was always misguided, and remains so now; the only proper question for the UN is whether it is in the interests of enough members of the international community to justify using the UN as a vehicle to organize a division to participate in rebuilding Iraq. Period.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)