Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Political Science and International Relations disciplines
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA USA 24401
This editorial by Prof. Bowen was published September 11, 2002 in the News Leader (Staunton, VA): p. C4.
The first anniversary of September 11th is upon us, and the long conflict to eradicate terrorism promised then by President Bush continues to loom darkly ahead. While no additional major attacks on the U.S. have succeeded, the suggestion that the conflict is over is premature. Many appropriate and solemn ceremonies this next week may add momentum to spreading pacifist sentiments. But hard work remains to be done in Iraq and elsewhere if the clear threat to the security of all Americans is to be removed.
Alone in our agony last September 11, Americans again face hostile forces substantially alone. Yes, we heard comforting words from many foreigners in the weeks that followed the attacks: nearly all the world's leaders phoned in their polite condolences. Yet, as we recovered from our national shock, in the months that followed a chorus of anti-Americanism again was heard. Our many foreign well wishers last Fall, cheering from afar as U.S. Armed Forces toppled the Al Qaeda terrorists' hosts, the Taliban of Afghanistan, now have grown quiet and when heard, they often are unhelpful. It's election season in Germany, so the ruling Gerhard Schroeder Administration openly woos voters by declaring its unwillingness to help in a further conflict with the Middle East's leading terrorist state, Iraq. Inside the ruling Labour Party of our British ally, more legislators seem to oppose than support war plans in Washington, mirroring polls of British voters' views. At the United Nations, a near unanimity is sure that toothless U.N. inspectors again can root out Iraq's banned weapons better than can the U.S. Army. Similar views even are heard among Republicans on Capitol Hill, from conservatives like Texas Rep. Richard Armey to moderates such as Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar.
Such a course might once have been plausible. Prior to September 11, many were comforted by the thought that our military forces reliably had deterred attack on the U.S. for more than a half century. We thought we were safe, even if our Marines in Lebanon (1983), embassies in East Africa (1998), and ships guarding the seas (i.e., the U.S.S. Cole, 2000) were targets of terrorists' deadly attacks. The first Bush Administration, and that of Bill Clinton, could pursue inspections to de-fang Iraq because we thought the homeland safe, invulnerable. We now know otherwise, much as we know that nearly a decade of U.N. inspections in Iraq failed to locate and destroy his deadly weapons. The death of terrorist fugitive Abu Nidal in Baghdad last month simply points to the deep nexus of international terrorism and the Saddam regime. It was no accident that Nidal, mastermind of murders of American civilians (and others) over three decades, lived out his exile in Iraq. Yet some would have us wait for the video of Saddam's minions handing Al Qaeda a nuclear or biological terror device destined for an American city before being convinced that the threat to us now is imminent.
We can be too sanguine about these pacifist impulses. The Germans, British leftists, and United Nations, not to mention our sometime Arab allies, will not pay the price if they are wrong: American civilians will. Military action to carry out President Bush's stated policy of pre-emptive attack against states that join weapons of terror with terror networks clearly will carry risks. But those demanding delay really are saying we must wait for the decimation of an American city prior to acting. Traveling across America this summer, sea to sea I have encountered not one American who thinks our 3000 martyrs of last year were not enough.
Throughout the last month first an Iraqi "information" minister (August 12) and then this week, the tiresome chief diplomat, Tariq Aziz, have stated that "inspections have finished in Iraq." Iraq now is emboldened by the cracks widening among the formerly reliable allies of the U.S. As fair weather friends confidently assure that the U.S. cannot prevail against Iraq without support of Europe, plus the Arabs, plus Russia, or China, Iraq builds weapons. As delays mount, claims that peace elsewhere must come first (Palestine, Pakistan, etc.) wrap our preachy allies' indifference to our security in a warm blanket of rhetoric. We assume all the risk if they are wrong about Iraq's intentions and capabilities, they get the moral high ground from which to watch. For nearly four years no inspectors have set foot where Saddam once built chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile weapons for attack. Give him more time, we are told.
This challenge is of burning relevance to Americans, even if many of our friends are unconvinced. Iraq may not be the only state capable of it, but Saddam surely is the man most likely to slip nuclear or biological weapons to terrorists for their next attack on an American city. If September 11 is to have meaning beyond self pity, it must be as an inspiration to avoid such a horrific second chapter. President Bush understands this, and has warned that the U.S. will employ pre-emptive strikes on such enemies when necessary. This position continues to rally most Americans: 69 percent favor military action against Iraq, according to an August 2002 Washington Post poll.
To obtain real security in this post September 11 age of global terrorism, governing by committee is ill suited to the requirements for success. An alliance structure, such as that of the N.A.T.O. alliance, one that gives a right of veto over our self-defense to dubious friends like Greece, is a hindrance, not an asset, toward that end. Acting alone should not be our first choice, but when the course suggested by the counsel of others magnifies a nation's peril, it is in the interest of that nation to act alone. Our friends in Israel who long have lived under the terrorists' siege understand this axiom; Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations authorizes acting in self-defense. Most Americans will rally around national leaders who understand the consequences of further delay. This Fall, Congress should authorize and the President should implement a military policy to pre-empt the most deadly potential form of attack on the U.S. by removing the current regime in Iraq.
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