- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

Last Sunday, two members of the Senate were interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press" on the subject of eliminating Saddam Hussein, a prime target of American foreign policy.

The administration, like most Americans, is anxious to destroy the regime of the Butcher of Baghdad as soon as possible and replace him with a democratic government. The situation is increasingly urgent because of the fear he might use his weapons of mass destruction built up since the Gulf war.

The two senators, Bob Graham, Florida Democrat, and Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, immediately offered their opinions about President Bush's plans to invade Iraq. Mr. Graham quickly doffed his general's hat and said that no, we should instead focus our military might on a different target than Iraq.

Mr. Grahams' rather ludicrous suggestion was that our first military move in the Middle East should be an attack on Lebanon and Syria, to eliminate their terrorist camps. Not only is that a much lesser strategic target, but it can probably be accomplished through intimidation once we invade Iraq. In addition, that would confuse the situation and deter others in the area from backing our Iraqi move.

Mr. Hagel was less warlike than Mr. Graham, but neither did he back an invasion of Iraq. Instead, he played the international statesman rather than the general, offering the usual caution, the diplomatic wait and see. We should wait until the European community comes around to our viewpoint before taking military action. We need allies, he opined.

In fact, Europe has been playing a nasty game with America, deriding our good intentions and trying to cast us as warlike instead of the truth, that America is the only hope for a decent world.

After 2000 years of warfare Europe is tired, and we should not, nor need not, count on them. Of course, once we move, they will probably come around. By nature, they are not courageous in the modern world.

All this is leading to the fact that members of the American Congress are often, like the Europeans, less bold than sheep. And they have proven to be mightily poor generals besides.

We must not forget that in the beginning of the Gulf war, when the first President Bush asked for congressional support, only 10 Democrats in the Senate voted to back his action to get Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. Wait, wait, was their refrain. Try sanctions a while longer. Besides, this could be another Vietnam.

Two of his Democratic supporters were Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman, who used that small touch of courage to propel them to the head of their presidential ticket.

The lesson is that American presidents generally reflect the nation in the boldness needed to rid the world of tyranny, while too many other politicians are only willing to hold his coat.

"Meet the Press" has the privilege and right to invite senators to discuss world affairs, but Americans should remember that historically they are too often wrongheaded. The Congress seems to breed poor generals and delusionary statesmen, while the president, with the responsibility of our lives, usually has a clearer vision of what is needed.

The lesson should be doubly clear. We must eliminate Saddam Hussein once and for all, and with it his threat to world peace. And we must act with dispatch despite the false caution of Sens. Graham and Hagel.

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