- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The antiwar protests over the weekend were meant to spark both domestic and international opposition to any U.S.-led military action to topple the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. If the United States is to remain the world's leading power, the Bush administration cannot allow itself to be swayed by the present array of opponents. Indeed, even to look like it is hesitating will give critics a measure of credibility and authority they do not deserve.
The opposition is weak and lacks a compelling moral basis.
The easiest to dismiss are the street demonstrators and their fellow radicals in academe and Hollywood. Their arguments are not just shallow and naive, they flow from bad motives. It is common to accord those who speak of peace some respect due to their supposedly high ideals. But there is no merit in the agenda of the main protest group, International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism).
ANSWER is fronted by Ramsey Clark who has spent the last four decades spewing out anti-American propaganda. In a profile by Peter Carlson in The Washington Post last month, Mr. Clark is described as someone always "flying to Iran, Iraq, Panama, Serbia, Libya and North Korea to denounce the United States" and his group as described as "dominated by members of a tiny Marxist-Leninist sect called the Workers World Party." These leftovers from the Cold War oppose U.S. action precisely because it will advance American interests, which they oppose out of devotion to foreign causes and failed regimes. Their antipatriotic chants have little appeal to the general public.
Far more important is what happens in forums like the United Nations. There are two groups to consider at the U.N.: the organization's own bureaucracy and the nations who make up its membership.
The United States cannot accept that the U.N. has any autonomous authority. The U.N. bureaucracy may aspire to world government, where it can sit in judgment of subordinated national communities, but nothing would constitute a greater abdication of responsibility by the United States. The U.N. is an incompetent body. Those who advocate seeking its permission before taking action do so knowing that U.N. involvement is the best way to ensure nothing gets done. Only national governments have the necessary resources and a direct mandate from their people to act in the world arena.
If the United States were to abandon a course of action deemed vital to its national security because of anything said at the U.N., it might as well openly embrace isolationism and be done with it.
Refusing to acknowledge the pretensions of the U.N. is not the same thing as unilateralism, though some like to make this claim. What counts is the ability to put together a coalition of states with compatible interests who can act together to get things done. This is the task of traditional diplomacy. The U.N. is a forum in which states maneuver for political advantage, but it is not the only one. The United States can easily muster sufficient troops in concert with allies to take out Saddam.
American leadership can move nations. As U.S., British and other contingent forces mass in the Persian Gulf, more and more governments are coming to realize they cannot stop a determined Washington from moving into Iraq. Their only recourse is to cooperate with American policy in order to protect their own interests. There have been several examples in recent days indicating a shift from trying to contain Washington to trying to hop on the American bandwagon.
Reports continue to surface about various Arab plans and proposals to either entice Saddam to go into exile or to encourage his overthrow by a coup. To be attractive, either option depends on the expectation of an invasion. No one will want to be standing next to Saddam when he is swept into the dustbin of history.
France took the lead in blunting the U.S. drive at the U.N. last year, but there are growing signs President Jacques Chirac may be preparing to send French forces to join the anti-Saddam coalition. If France cannot stop an invasion of Iraq, it must join it if it is to protect its economic interests and have a voice in postwar reconstruction. By showing resolve, President Bush is changing the dynamics, from facing a hostile coalition at the U.N. to leading a victorious coalition in the Gulf.
How well the president performs his duties determines the good opinion of the American people. Current polls are mixed on support for war, but this is common before the shooting starts. It's what people think after the war that really matters.
President Bush will undoubtedly step up his efforts to explain what is at stake, but he must remember Winston Churchill's warning: "Nothing is more dangerous in wartime than to live in the temperamental atmosphere of a Gallup poll, always feeling one's pulse and taking one's temperature."
The public wants those elevated to high office to be successful. The primary role of democracy is to provide a means to remove those who fail. A decisive victory in Iraq will settle the domestic debate for all but fringe elements who can safely be ignored as the mainstream will rally behind a president who has proven his mettle and gotten the job done.

William R. Hawkins is senior fellow for National Security Studies at the U.S. Business and Industry Council.


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