- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

These are, as Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, the times that try men's souls. Most especially, this moment at the brink of war with Iraq is one that tests the stuff of which the man who leads this nation George W. Bush is made.
What is evident from the public glimpses of the president performing his duties and from the reports of the private man suggest we are very fortunate he is our commander in chief at such a juncture. He is evincing a vision, a steadiness of purpose, a determination in the face of adversity and just plain true grit that are desperately needed at the moment.
To be sure, those of us who agree with President Bush on his conduct of the war on terror have little difficulty discerning these qualities. To us, it is evident he correctly perceives the threat posed by a psychopathic Saddam Hussein, bent on amassing ever-more-dangerous weapons and wielding them to the detriment of this country, its allies and its interests.
We find admirable the president's courageous conviction that if the United Nations Security Council either cannot or at least will not confront this threat there is no choice but for the United States to lead a "coalition of the willing" to do so. The quality of that courage is all the greater in light of the pressure he is under to back away from the present confrontation from those who do not bear his responsibility for the safety and security of the American people.
It is also extraordinarily heartening to hear the purpose to that Mr. Bush believes U.S. military force in Iraq must be put: the liberation of the long-suffering people of that country, their empowering to rule themselves and their creation, thereby, of an Iraqi nation that can give hope to millions of others in the Middle East and beyond for a freer and more prosperous future. It is hard to believe that any American would disagree that such goals are the ones for which we should be striving, however skeptical some might feel about the likelihood of their realization.
The quality of Mr. Bush's vision and leadership are all the more striking when contrasted with what is on offer from his most prominent critics. In recent days, top Democratic politicians, foreign officials and editorialists have insisted that the United States cannot, or at least must not, act without the assent of the Security Council and the unified support of the international community.
For example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has declared: "Our country has never been greater. And yet we have never been more dependent on our friends and allies to keep our country secure." Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the Armed Services Committee's ranking Democrat opined: "We have got to lead the world. We shouldn't be treating the U.N. as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to rally the world against terrorist threats and not take unilateral actions which could fuel the terrorist response against the United States."
Meanwhile, former President Jimmy Carter took to the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times on Sunday to argue that, "Increasingly unilateral and domineering policies have brought international trust in our country to its lowest level in memory. American stature will surely decline further if we launch a war in clear defiance of the United Nations."
Were President Bush to follow such advice, war might indeed be avoided for a while. But the crisis brought on by Saddam's malevolence and defiance would likely simply be deferred until it is even more dangerous. The U.N. would have shown itself effective only at checking U.S. power employed for the purpose of enhancing freedom and international security. Meanwhile, the prestige enjoyed by America's enemy, and those who have offered him diplomatic protection would be greatly enhanced, encouraging others to follow suit in breaching with impunity international commitments concerning, for example, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Does anyone really think this is a formula for a safer world? In their insistence that war, as Mr. Carter put it, "can be waged only as a last resort, with all nonviolent options exhausted," they would essentially foreclose not only the one means of disarming Iraq that has any prospect of working. They would be condemning the Iraqi people to further, open-ended enslavement under one of the world's most odious regimes, denying them the liberty to which they, too, have every right and which Mr. Bush has promised them. Is that truly a more moral, a more humanistic stance?
The truth of the matter is that no one knows what costs will be entailed in toppling Saddam Hussein and liberating Iraq. Regrettably, the time the U.N. "process" has given Saddam to prepare for our onslaught has almost surely increased those costs considerably in terms of the lives of his own people and American forces in Iraq and, quite possibly, those of our citizens here at home.
The president is assuredly right, however, that the costs entailed in ending the threat posed by Saddam Hussein will only increase if the advice of the war's opponents were now to be heeded and the Butcher of Baghdad's days in power extended further. Mr. Bush deserves great credit for perceiving this regrettable reality and for his steadfastness in pursuing the harder, but unavoidable, course now.

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