Laying out his vision for a post-war Iraq, President Bush demonstrated again last week that he is his own best spokesman, drawing on the same eloquence and conviction that have marked every speech he has made on national security issues since the September 11th attacks.
Bush made clear that America seeks neither war nor empire in the Middle East. What we do seek is to remove the threat to our security posed by an Iraqi dictator who is arming himself with weapons of mass murder that he has already demonstrated the willingness to use against targets both foreign and domestic, military and civilian.
War, the President reminded a dinner audience the American Enterprise Institute on February 26, is our last resort. “We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully,” he said. “If it does not, we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, the danger will be removed.”
Saddam’s Last Decision
Should military action prove unavoidable, as now seems almost certain, what Bush sees in its wake is not a drive to establish American dominion in a distant corner of the globe, but the responsibility to leave behind a just and stable political order when we go. “We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary,” he said, “and not one day more.”
“We will provide security against those who try to spread chaos, or settle scores, or threaten the territorial integrity of Iraq,” he said. “The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another.”
Clearly, the President sees this as a prudential strategic necessity rooted in core U.S. interests and values, a duty that cannot be avoided if war itself cannot be avoided. Clearly, he is right. If we go into Iraq, we are going in to close Pandora’s box, not to open it.
An optimistic realist in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, President Bush has honestly and courageously confronted the greatest threat facing our country today, the threat of terrorists armed with weapons of mass murder.
The U.S. Congress has authorized the President to use military force if necessary to disarm Iraq. No matter what the French or Germans do, many good allies in both Europe and the Middle East are ready to stand with America if war comes.
There is only one significant decision left to be made-and it is for Saddam Hussein alone. Will he go peacefully, or at the end of a gun?