Saturday, October 02, 2004

The following article by Charles Krauthammer was written for Time Magazine. Enjoy!!-


In a post-9/11 world, the President shows the political courage that wartime demands
by Charles Krauthammer
Time Magazine
August 29, 2004

The United States has two of the most centrist political parties in the democratic world. It rarely matters who wins. Things turn out all right regardless. Not this time. This time there is a war on. And when there is a war on, particularly a war with so much at stake, elections matter.
And what matters? Having a President who understands the war and has the political courage to make the necessary decisions. Everything else is trivial.

The war broke out on 9/11 and George W. Bush understood its meaning immediately. He understood that the old cops-and-robbers approach—bringing perpetrators "to justice"—was not only wrong but also dangerous. Up till then, it had lulled us into believing we were doing something about terrorism.

Bush acted. He declared war. Not just on terrorists—the old way—but on states as well. States that harbor terrorists, states that aid and abet terrorism, states that hunger for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It all looks obvious now. It was not then. It was new: radical, dangerous and absolutely necessary.

The Michael Moore Democrats are having a jolly time with the President's reaction during those first seven minutes on 9/11. What counts is the first 100 days. The first 100 days witnessed the single most important victory ever in the war on terrorism: the conquest of Afghanistan, the installation of a pro-American government and the decimation and scattering of al-Qaeda. It seems easy now. It was not.

It was risky and required great political courage. Afghanistan was the graveyard of empires. Rugged, mountainous, impenetrable, recalcitrant and peopled by an enemy hardened and fanatical, it was considered unconquerable.

Bush led. And succeeded. He did it by mobilizing the American people within 10 days with one of the great speeches in modern American history, an address to Congress so compelling that 19,000 hockey fans in a Philadelphia arena stopped the game so he could be heard and they could be led. He did it by approving a military plan of audacity and originality. He did it knowing that the United States was going to war practically alone.

John Kerry tells us we have to wage a more sensitive war where we acquiesce more to "allies." O.K., let's talk allies. Which is the single most crucial ally in the war on terrorism? France? Germany? Russia? No. Pakistan. Pakistan made possible the destruction of the Taliban, and has been turning over to us the most important al-Qaeda figures ever captured. How did Bush turn the world's foremost supporter of the Taliban into our most critical ally against them? Sensitivity? Two days after 9/11, Bush had his Secretary of State deliver an ultimatum to the Pakistanis: Join us or else. They joined. That is leadership.

Bush was rewarded for this extraordinary first victory with overwhelming popular support. He could easily have spent the next two years lavishing attention on domestic affairs, ostentatiously opening a bioterrorism triage center in every clinic in every hamlet in America. Punctuate that with regular announcements about the hunt for al-Qaeda, and he could have coasted to re-election as Father Protector.

Instead, he took on Iraq. Everyone knew that Iraq would be difficult and dangerous. But Bush believed that Saddam Hussein and the threat he represented had to be removed. Our postwar troubles have made us believe, as if under amnesia, that the choice was between war and some kind of sustainable equilibrium. It was not. The tense post-Gulf War settlement was unstable and creating huge and growing liabilities for America. First, Iraqi suffering and starvation under a cruel and corrupt sanctions regime was widely blamed on the U.S. Second, the standoff with Iraq made necessary a large American garrison in Saudi Arabia, land of the Islamic holiest places—in the eyes of many Muslims, another U.S. provocation. Indeed, these two offenses were cited by Osama bin Laden as the chief justification for his 1998 declaration of jihad against America. Most important, the sanctions "containing" Saddam were collapsing.

That would have produced the ultimate nightmare: a re-energized and relegitimized regime headed by Saddam—and ultimately, even worse, his sons—increasingly Islamicizing its Baathist ideology, rearming and renewing WMD programs, and extending its connections with terrorist groups. The threat was not imminent. But it was ominous and absolutely inevitable. Bush, correctly, thought it necessary to remove it. It was obvious to all that this second war would jeopardize his presidency. He risked his entire political future for it nonetheless.

He could have played it safe, Kerry-like: nuancing the issue to death, kicking the problem into the future. He did not. That is leadership. That is political courage. That is what wartime demands.

And that is why he should be re-elected.

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