- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2001

"Remember, George, this is no time to go wobbly," British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sternly warned President George H. W. Bush in 1990 as he was assembling the multinational coalition that would later oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Husseins army from Kuwait. That was excellent advice then, the American president recalled after waging the successful Gulf War, adding at a March 1991 White House reception for Mrs. Thatcher, "Never, ever, will it be said that Margaret Thatcher went wobbly."
Now is the time for President George W. Bush to reverse the trans-Atlantic direction of Mrs. Thatchers sound advice. On the issue of missile defense, the message Mr. Bush must sternly deliver to Americas wavering left-wing allies in NATO particularly the French, the Germans and the British is clear: "Remember, Lionel, Gerhard and Tony," Mr. Bush should soon tell Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin of France, Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany and the Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, "this is no time to go wobbly."
As the foreign ministers of NATO gathered last week in Budapest, Hungary, for their first meeting ever in a former Warsaw Pact nation a development that should have said volumes about the end of the Cold War and the onset of new strategic challenges longtime European allies were playing an irritating obstructionist role in NATOs discussion of the new strategies required to meet new challenges. In a word or two, they were "going wobbly."
Indeed, Secretary of State Colin Powell had great difficulty convincing the French and the Germans that rogue nations, such as Iraq, Iran and North Korea, surely represented evolving threats to the democratic industrialized nations. The French and Germans who, as it happens, were the least helpful allies during the Balkan wars of the 1990s and who were not particularly helpful in protecting their own oil supplies during the 1991 Gulf War refused to acknowledge in a joint statement that NATO countries faced a "common threat" of missile attack. A joint statement issued last year referred to a "potential threat," a level of security assessment the foreign ministers of France and Germany refused to upgrade.
At a subsequent news conference, Mr. Powell, noting that "there is a recognition that there is a threat out there," even if there is disagreement about the immediacy of the threat, clearly stated the U.S. position. "It would be irresponsible for the United States as a nation with the capability to do something about the threat not to do something," Mr. Powell declared. Moreover, while insisting that this weeks meeting with his NATO counterparts and previous missile-defense briefings delivered by American emissaries to allied governments represented the "real consultation that President Bush wants and not a phony consultation," Mr. Powell nonetheless signaled Americas ultimate intentions. "We really want to hear back from our allies," the U.S. secretary of state said, but "at the same time we made clear to them we have to move forward. We see a threat." Moving forward, the allies must understand after the time for "real consultation" has ended, means deployment of the most effective missile defense system possible one that would not only defend the American heartland but also defend the 100,000 American troops serving in Europe and the tens of thousands of U.S. troops protecting other allies. Inevitably, that will mean providing missile defense for NATO allies, whether they like it or not. If Germany objects, Mr. Schroeder should be pointedly told that the United States has no intention in this century of relying on the sorts of pieces of paper arms control agreements, to be specific that failed to prevent Hitler from rearming the Rhineland. If France objects, Mr. Jospin and French President Jacques Chirac should be told the United States declines to accept strategic military advice from the nation that built the Maginot Line and failed adequately to arm itself to protect its oil lifeline or to stop a two-bit dictator in the Balkans.
This is precisely the message Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should deliver to his counterparts when he briefs them this week on the technological options of the missile defense systems he is considering. It is a message President Bush should reinforce at a meeting of NATO heads of state in the middle of June. NATO allies must be told, "This is no time to go wobbly." For his part, Mr. Bush could never hope to receive a higher compliment in the future from the leader of a NATO ally than the compliment his father paid to Mrs. Thatcher. To wit, "Never, ever, will it be said," Mr. Bushs legacy could read in a future world that has been rid of ballistic missile threats from rogue nations that mean harm to Western democracies, "that George W. Bush went wobbly."


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