- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2003

President Bush’s Sunday address to the country was an encouraging expression of presidential resolve to succeed in the war on terrorism, and specifically the Iraqi component of that long struggle. Perhaps, understandably, he left the description of the United Nations’ role general and vague. This may maximize his political support on postwar policy for awhile. His national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, characterized that role as, in effect, a fig leaf to permit other countries, such as India, to send troops. Many of those who opposed the war in the first place view the U.N. role as a fig leaf, not for the contributing countries, but for the United States to effect a quick exit from Iraq. Such a process sounds dangerously like the decent interval that the United States once gained by Vietnamization, followed by retreat and defeat.

Other, more sincere supporters of a successful postwar Iraq hope for the United Nations to preside over Iraq’s civic administration, and to induce both troops and financial support for the project. Our soundings of friendly Gulf states’ private views on the matter suggest that they prefer that the United States maintain a dominant position. Iraq’s nervous neighbors seem to have less confidence in the United Nations than do most of the senators and congressmen who found a camera or a reporter in the last 24 hours. We very much share the unblinking view of Iraq’s friendly neighbors.

We rather doubt that a U.N. endorsement is going to yield enough troops or money to justify the division of responsibility that inevitably will be the price of such a deal. Neither the French nor the Germans are going to send divisions of their finest troops — if they still have any such divisions. Nor, to be honest, do we see the efficacy of sending India’s formidable Hindu troops into the Islamic cauldron of Iraq. Likewise, Turkey’s sometimes lethal relations with the Kurds make their troops’ presence in Iraq of dubious long-term value. And while we strongly encourage the fastest possible raising of a loyal and well-trained Iraqi military, that process will take years, not weeks or months.

Of course, any financial and military help we can gain from willing allies will be of great value to the United States. The British, Australians, Polish, Bulgarians and others, who formed the coalition of the willing, may well continue to make more than their fair contribution. Friendly Gulf states, and perhaps Japan, may financially assist us voluntarily. But what would one call a coalition that included the United Nations, France and Germany? In essence, it would be a coalition of the unwilling. Whatever they would add in numbers of flags on the mast at Iraqi Headquarters, they would more than subtract from commonality of purpose. The simple truth is that, if we are to succeed, we must be prepared to bear the burden of leadership.

If, as the president suggested Sunday night, we need more troops, he should call up more Guard and Reserve units, as necessary. But both the president and his admirable secretary of defense can no longer cavil over the need for a bigger U.S. military force level. Not only for Iraq, but for the battles that almost surely are to come, we must have a military that, both in quality and quantity, are equal to their sacred duty of protecting the security of the United States. We ask much of America’s finest, but we cannot continue to ask them to perform double and triple shifts. The president has rightly said that we must not fail in the war on terrorism. It is time — and past time — to ante up the price of eternal vigilance.

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