"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Monday, July 10, 2006

Bombs in Baghdad, nukes everywhere else

Amidst allegations of massacre in Haditha (with charges yet to be laid) and the apparently more substantial accusations of rape and murder elsewhere in Iraq, it's worth being reminded of the good things that happen with greater (but unreported) frequency in that country. No matter the outcome of the War in Iraq, the media will bear much of the blame for either passively or actively skewing reporting so much that public support waned because of their half-truths. Nevertheless, the recent spate of violence has received much coverage, and serves as a reminder that one of the most important goals in battling the insurgency has yet to be accomplished: securing Baghdad. That much of the country lives in relative peace is significant, in that it shows how truly limited in scope and support the insurgency is. But Iraqis will be hesitant to fully back their fledgling government if it can't even control its own capital. Awhile back, immediately following al-Zarqawi's death, U.S. and Iraqi forces launched an offensive to pacify the city. It seems we still have a long way to go, which is unacceptable at this stage of the game. It is high time for an all-out, unrestricted campaign against the insurgency in Baghdad. Casualties may be higher in the short term, but a secure center of government is vastly better than the alternative of low body counts (for us) but continuous bloodletting and loss of faith amongst innocent Iraqis.

Elsewhere: Time magazine has announced the
death of the Bush Doctrine. The most "revealing" sign of this, they claim, concerns Bush's response to North Korea's recent missile launches: "Under the old Bush Doctrine, defiance by a dictator like Kim Jong Il would have merited threats of punitive U.S. action. Instead, the administration has mainly been talking up multilateralism and downplaying Pyongyang's provocation." Perhaps this reveals the media's refusal to give Bush credit when he tries playing by the rules they claim to cherish more than any change in policy direction; but it does seem a far cry from the pre-Iraqi-invasion days when Bush warned Saddam: disarm, or else. That left little room for negotiation. Saddam didn't disarm, and he got the "or else".

The response to Kim Jong Il's recent fireworks display, on the other hand, sounded more like Team America's Hans Blix: disarm now, or we will be very upset with you, and then write you a letter telling you how upset we are. Maybe it's a sign that, contrary to popular belief, Bush does pay attention to polls, and wants to see if using words like "diplomacy" and "unity" and "multilateral" pays off with a jump in his approval rating (unlikely, since no matter what the man does, the MSM will cry that it's the wrong thing). Maybe he's taking the John Kerry "nuanced" approach and applying different strategies to different countries because different conditions exist. Maybe he's afraid that more aggressive action will lead to more American military casualties and destroy any chance he has at a respectable legacy. Maybe he's just plain afraid of going toe-to-toe with a nuclear-equipped enemy.

Whatever the case may be, now is not the time to be faint of heart or to attempt to placate the all-talk-no-action-to-be-immediately-followed-by-apologies-for-talking U.N. crowd. In the face of two emerging nuclear powers, the leaders of which have very tenuous grips on sanity, the time for talk should have ended long ago. The negotiating histories of
Iran and North Korea show a one-sided bargaining pattern. The West tells one or the other not to cross a line, the other crosses it and demands more concessions so that they don't cross a more distant line, the West talks and caves, and the other crosses it anyway. If I put on my thinking cap, I'm reminded of another time in recent history when one country kept crossing every line the global community drew in front of it. That country was Germany, its leader a man just as unhinged and undeterred as Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I seem to recall the results were rather disturbing. Despite the wealth of evidence that Hitler was rearming and preparing to launch a pre-emptive strike against his neighbors, the civilized world did nothing, and tens of millions paid the price for that inactivity.

The threat we face from Iran and North Korea may not be a land invasion by armored divisions, but a more deadly aerial invasion of clouds of missiles that will kill far more than any tank brigade ever could. And, while critics can argue back and forth about the intelligence used to justify the Iraq invasion, the fact is the world was agreed that, based on the best available evidence, Saddam Hussein had not accounted for his large stockpile of WMDs. We invaded Iraq to, among other things, ensure that Saddam could never again use his chemical and biological weapons against innocent people. Well, the intelligence we have about Iran and North Korea's nuclear capabilities is far more detailed than what we had on Iraq, and their ability to project deadly weapons across the globe equally if not more terrifying. If invasion was justified to eliminate the Iraqi WMD threat and take down an unpredictable, murderous despot, then at the very least, some kind of
aggressive action is justified to degrade or eliminate a similar global danger. Sting operations are effective in destroying the ability of rogue regimes to arm themselves; once they've procured such weapons, however, something more direct is needed.

If ever there was a time for a quick-reponse policy like the Bush Doctrine, that time is now. And if there is a failure in the international system, that failure lies not with America's willingness to act sooner (and alone), rather than together and later, but in the global community's pigheaded determination to hide behind the false moral legitimacy of the United Nations. The U.N. is a broken organization. To those who wish to maintain it and try to make it work, all well and good and more power to you; in the meantime, there are millions around the world who can't wait for that bloated bureaucracy to fix itself. If other nations don't want the U.S. to go it alone all the time during impending crises, they need to learn to band together with America in quick, informal alliances ("coalitions of the willing") that can achieve real results.

Those who cling to the great ideals of the U.N. may bemeon what appears to be a suggestion to return to a 19th-century type treaty system. That's not what I want; but if concerned nations want to come together to meet a specific threat, they should be able to do so without waiting for Kofi Annan's rubber stamp. After all, a little "compare and contrast" exercise quickly shows which method is more effective. Kosovo: collective talk allowed Milosevic months to pursue his ethnic cleansing program; unilateral action by America stopped it in weeks. The tsunami: international aid took weeks to reach thousands who were starving and displaced; American helicopters reached them within hours. Iraq: over a decade of sanctions and "no-fly" zones failed to topple a bloodthirsty dictator and eliminate the threat from his biochemical weapons; a few weeks of American and British action, and the dictator and his weapons were no longer a threat. Rwanda and Darfur: collective condemnation from the U.N. accomplished nothing; that the United States did not find it in its "national interest" to stop genocide there is tragic, but there is little doubt that if we did act there or even threatened it, the bloodletting would stop.

The list of U.N. failures is long and depressing; that of American successes, long but cause for hope among many people in the world. Whenever one group oppresses another, someone always cries, "Where is America?" And they do so for a reason: the United States, willing or not, is capable of quickly projecting its power onto the international stage. Do I think this is the way the world should run? No. A unipolar world is not healthy for the globe, for the country in power will inevitably fail or make mistakes, earning universal condemnation even while the rest of the planet clamors for more intervention. It allows other countries to shirk their responsibilities, and forces one nation to take on the burdens of many. Neither is it healthy for the unipolar power, as continued intervention will strain it, and continued condemnation may make it reluctant to intervene where it can do real good.

But our world is a unipolar world, and until another equal power emerges to help shoulder the world's problems, America will be forced make difficult decisions alone. That is, unless other powerful nations can look beyond the cheap gratification of anti-Americanism and contribute some form of assistance. If a problem needs fixing, and quickly, willing nations should be able to take the necessary steps without waiting for approval from Cuba or Sudan. The Bush Doctrine does not need to be unilateral (nor is it in fact, for anyone who cares to look at the dozens of nations who've contributed military or material aid to Iraq). It has only turned out that way because other countries with the ability to make a difference get more satisfaction out of watching America struggle than helping their fellow man. In the face of nuclear-equipped madmen, the world can no longer afford such petty inaction. Yet even if other nations fear the consequences of action, the threat is too great for America to give in to the same fear. She should be willing to act alone if the threat becomes too great. Perhaps, for once, the world will thank us for doing so.

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