Has Bush Got the Brains to Take Yes for an Answer?
                        It would be an entirely different question if the country's life was in danger,
                        its existence at stake; then -- that is one kind of patriotism-- we would all
                        come forward and stand by the flag, and stop thinking about whether the
                        nation was right or wrong; but when there is no question that the nation is
                        in any way in danger, but only some little war away off, then it maybe that
                       on the question of politics the nation is divided, half patriots and half traitors,
                       and no man can tell which from which.
                                  -- Mark Twain
                           Last week, President Junior did something unexpectedly clever.
                      The president who supposedly pays no attention to opinion polls did what key
                      Democrats, his own Secretary of State and the vast majority of Americans
                      clearly wanted: he took his case against Iraq to the United Nations,
                      basically challenging it to do something about Saddam Hussein's flouting of
                      international law.

                          Not since the U.S. and Britain bombed Iraqi military targets after Saddam
                      expelled UN weapons inspectors in 1998 has the Security Council been called upon
                      to enforce its own resolutions. It's reported that Bush's speechwriters even added
                      mollifying words after being shown the advance text of Secretary General Kofi Annan's
                      address stressing the moral and political necessity of multilateral cooperation.

                         Junior did exactly what Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass), a likely candidate for the 2004
                      Democratic nomination, had urged in a toughly-worded New York Times column.
                      "We are at a strange moment in history," Kerry wrote "when an American administration
                      has to be persuaded of the virtue of utilizing the procedures of international law and
                      community—institutions American presidents from across the ideological spectrum
                      have insisted on as essential to global security."

                          For once, Bush acted like a grownup. Overnight, international opinion shifted
                      dramatically in the administration's favor. Besides the ballyhooed "weapons of mass
                      destruction," Bush enumerated the Iraqi tyrant's offenses against U.N. resolutions dating
                      from the Gulf War—the torture and repression of ethnic and religious minorities, hiding
                      prisoners and stolen property, oil-smuggling in defiance of U.N. sanctions, and failure
                      to pay reparations.

                          Confronted with a U.S. president who portrayed Saddam as an international outlaw
                      instead of threatening to act like one, the Security Council appears willing to confront
                      Iraq's transgressions. Even the French, Russians and Chinese seem likely to go along.
                      Once again, Democrats hoping Secretary of State Colin Powell will resign in protest
                      are left to commend his steadfast service.

                           No sooner had Junior returned to Washington, however, than he
                      reverted to partisan form, sneeringly demanding that congressional Democrats
                      write him a blank check before the November elections to attack Iraq or be
                      branded appeasers. "If I were running for office," Bush said "I'm not sure
                      how I'd explain to the American people—say, vote for me, and, oh, by the
                      way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for
                      somebody else to act." Somebody else, in this instance, being the same U.N.
                      Security Council whose help Bush had just earnestly solicited.

                           The administration's need to distract voters from its disastrous economic policies,
                      its Social Security nostrums GOP candidates are fleeing, and its coziness with
                      corporate criminals is obvious.

                            Democrats, however, needn't whine about Bush "politicizing" foreign policy.
                      Americans are paying attention; they will heed a serious argument. Sen. Kerry pointed
                      out that "[s]ome in the administration actually seem to fear that...an ultimatum might
                      frighten Saddam Hussein into cooperating."

                            Iraq's seeming capitulation may indeed prove a stalling tactic.
                      Reverse centuries of American tradition, however, in an unprovoked attack to
                      bring about "regimechange?" What's the big hurry? Iraq poses no immediate
                      threat to U.S.security. Even the Iraqi army's loyalty to Saddam is
                      questionable. Iraq has no navy. British and American warplanes operate over
                      Baghdad with impunity.

                             In their 1998 book "A World Transformed," George H.W. Bush and
                      Brent Scowcroft, explained that "[t]rying to eliminate Saddam [during the
                      Gulf War] would have incurred incalculable human and political costs....We
                      would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The
                      coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger
                      and other allies pulling out as well....Going in and occupying Iraq, thus
                      unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the
                      precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had
                      we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying
                      power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically
                      different-and perhaps barren-outcome."

                             War should be the last option, not the first. Congress should
                      offer Junior exactly what he says he wants: unequivocal support for actions
                      the U.N. Security Council deems necessary. Nothing more. Let's see if he has
                      sufficient wisdom to accept what could be a major diplomatic triumph at the
                      possible expense of a short-term political advantage.

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