- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

President Bush is set to make good on his vow to protect Americans at any cost, including pre-emptive military action, as he charts a path that will redefine how and when nations can use force and determine the future of the United Nations.
The president exhausted diplomatic options on Iraq before returning to a course he set out long before the ordeal began. Embarking on the most momentous endeavor of his term, Mr. Bush has looked to history to mold the United States' future.
"Ever since 9/11, everything has been a defining moment," said Henry Kissinger, secretary of state for President Nixon. "But pre-emption is an integral part of foreign policy in the world of proliferation and terrorism.
"I strongly support what the president is doing," Mr. Kissinger said in an interview. "The president is in a very difficult situation, but I think history will treat him well."
Perhaps the most controversial tenet of the "Bush Doctrine" is the president's assertion that the United States can at will pre-empt foes with U.S. military strikes. The strategy, laid out in June, articulates the country's right to attack a nation that is about to strike.
In speeches across the country, Mr. Bush never failed to deliver a variant of his central message: "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long."
Last night, he restated that threat in vivid language.
"Instead of drifting along toward tragedy, we will set a course toward safety. Before the day of horror can come, before it is too late to act, this danger will be removed," he said. "We are now acting because the risks of inaction would be far greater."
In recent days, pundits and columnists have sought to redefine the mission in Iraq as a preventive war, meaning an attack by a powerful nation against a potential enemy. Mr. Bush rejects that notion.
"Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in formal declarations, and responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now," he said last night.
Throughout the Iraq ordeal, Mr. Bush has stressed his belief that the September 11 terrorist attacks, which he said last night "requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable realities," changed the prevailing theories of deterrence and containment.
Although Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been contained for 12 years, since his defeat in the Persian Gulf war, Mr. Bush has pressed his case that the world cannot simply stand by as a despot amasses weapons of mass destruction.
"Deterrence, the promise of massive retaliation against nations, means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend," the president said in a speech June 1 to graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy.
Summing up his doctrine, Mr. Bush said: "We will not leave the safety of America and the peace of the planet at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants. The war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge."
The new doctrine seemed to conflict with the mission of the United Nations, established by the United States and its allies after World War II to keep peace. Mr. Bush's assertion that the president alone can decide to use force with or without U.N. approval raised hackles in Europe.
Taking aim squarely at equivocal U.N. Security Council nations, Mr. Bush said: "This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will. … These governments share our assessment of the danger but not our resolve to meet it."
While the president stuck to his guns on Saddam, the United Nations has spent nearly five months mired in what staunch ally Tony Blair, prime minister of Britain, on Sunday called "endless discussion."
As Democrats harangued the president for his single-minded focus on eliminating the threat posed by Saddam, one former secretary of defense said Mr. Bush is exhibiting a trait few posses.
"Knowing what one wants to do and sticking with it is regularly regarded as the key to leadership," said James Schlesinger, who served under presidents Nixon and Ford.

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