- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

As our troops are coiled for attack in and around the sands of Araby, President Bush last night ended the world-wide political tension that had built over half a year of inconclusive diplomacy. Either Saddam and his gang leave peaceably within the next 48 hours, or American military forces, with our British allies along side, shall remove them forcibly. The relief provided by certainty was reflected in stock exchanges yesterday, as word of the president's impending speech flashed across the globe. Even the Paris Bourse's CAC 40 index was up 3.35% (equivalent to 275 points on the Dow Jones average, which itself went up 282 points). The dollar gained robustly across the board, at one point gaining an astonishing two cents against the euro.

As Winston Churchill once observed: "This isn't the end, it isn't the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning." The real fighting and the real bleeding has not yet begun. But the president and his team finally have won the condition precedent to military victory: clarity of vision and moral purpose. This is no small accomplishment in a world filled with obtuse, duplicitous and indecisive governments. Not only Saddam, but the world is now on notice that the Iraqi boil is about to be lanced. As the president chillingly reminded us, this is not a risk-free venture. Our fighting troops may face chemical and biological weapons attack. Here on the homefront, the risk of terrorism has gone up, and he announced he was moving extra manpower to vulnerable spots around the country. The president's words were stark. Speaking directly to the Iraqi military, and, filled with historic resonance, he told the Iraqi soldiers that war crimes will be strictly prosecuted and that it will be no defense that they were "just obeying orders."

Had France, Germany and Hans Blix stood upright with the United States in demanding Iraqi disarmament, perhaps last night's speech would not have been necessary. But they did not. So this became a decision that had to be made, and a time that had to come. Americans go confidently, but not cheerfully, off to war. The national mood, so far as we can discern it, can be summarized in the recently oft heard statement: "Let's just get it over with." We have never been a nation that glories in war. But neither have we ever ducked a fight that had to be fought. Thanks to taxpayer dollars and the measureless efforts of our military men and women, the president has at his command the finest military instrument ever assembled. But every war has its own lessons and surprises. While we have good grounds to expect a quick and decisive victory with few Anglo-American casualties, we should nonetheless brace ourselves for the possibility of extended combat and greater suffering before the eventual victory.

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