- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

Almost two weeks ago, we recommended that the president end his diplomatic efforts and move militarily as soon as the generals said they were ready. Our view then was that the politics, both domestic and international, would only get worse. Since then, things have indeed gotten worse not that it took any particular prescience on our part to have predicted it. In fact, it took considerable visual impairment not to see the coming events. But that is precisely the sort of obscured vision to which men and women at the center of a storm are susceptible.

As we go to print, the firm call for a March 17th deadline is now subject to change. A second resolution that was to be straight-forward, may now include a series of farcical benchmarks, such as having Saddam Hussein go on television and affirm his opposition to weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the president's absolute commitment, which he expressed personally at his press conference last Thursday, to call for a U.N. vote and have the players "put their cards on the table," embarassingly has been shifted by Secretary of State Colin Powell from a certainty to an option. We appreciate that practicing diplomacy in public (as modern technologies make inevitable) is an inherently messy affair. We also understand that President Bush owes the magnificent British premier Tony Blair as much leeway as possible, given his own vast domestic political opposition. But things have degraded to the point where, at the least, the president's public image as a decisive leader is in jeopardy of being badly damaged.

It may well be and we certainly hope that the president is privately working off a carefully calibrated timeline to war, and that these public twists and turns are simply the political price that must be paid for Mr. Blair's needs. But it doesn't look that way. It looks like the administration is focused on yet gaining some public relations advantage from the United Nations. They call it a moral majority nine votes and a veto. This is a chimera. The open haggling with, and pressure on, minor countries has stripped the notional nine votes of any possible moral quality. Only the United Nation's apparently unavailable legal re-endorsement is of any value and that only to those members of the world public that put any value in such barren matters. In fact, as we discuss below, the United States already has a U.N.-sanctioned legal right to commence war on Iraq. Some international legal experts may take note of such legalities.

For most of the rest of the world, mindless passion rules the day. The fog of failed diplomacy and the fulminations of worldwide rhetoric can only be dispersed by the clarifying act of war. We conclude as we did in our first editorial, with a warning from Gen. Patton: "A good plan executed violently today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow." Because, sometimes, tomorrow is too late.

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