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Friday, July 23, 2004

It's Friday

Charles Krauthammer
Axis of Evil, Part Two
Well, of course Iran is a threat and a danger. But how exactly would the critics have "done" Iran? Iran is a serious country with a serious army. Compared with the Iraq war, an invasion of Iran would have been infinitely more costly. Can you imagine these critics, who were shouting "quagmire" and "defeat" when the low-level guerrilla war in Iraq intensified in April, actually supporting war with Iran?

If not war, then what? We know the central foreign policy principle of Bush critics: multilateralism. John Kerry and the Democrats have said it a hundred times: The source of our troubles is President Bush's insistence on "going it alone." They promise to "rejoin the community of nations" and "work with our allies."

Well, that happens to be exactly what we have been doing regarding Iran. And the policy is an abject failure. The Bush administration, having decided that invading one axis-of-evil country was about as much as either the military or the country can bear, has gone multilateral on Iran, precisely what the Democrats advocate. Washington delegated the issue to a committee of three -- the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany -- that has been meeting with the Iranians to get them to shut down their nuclear program.

The result? They have been led by the nose. Iran is caught red-handed with illegally enriched uranium, and the Tehran Three prevail upon the Bush administration to do nothing while they persuade the mullahs to act nice. Therefore, we do not go to the U.N. Security Council to declare Iran in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. We do not impose sanctions. We do not begin squeezing Iran to give up its nuclear program.

Instead, we give Iran more time to swoon before the persuasive powers of "Jack of Tehran" -- British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw -- until finally, humiliatingly, Iran announces that it will resume enriching uranium and that nothing will prevent it from becoming a member of the "nuclear club."

The result has not been harmless. Time is of the essence, and the runaround that the Tehran Three have gotten from the mullahs has meant that we have lost at least nine months in doing anything to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

The fact is that the war critics have nothing to offer on the single most urgent issue of our time -- rogue states in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Iran instead of Iraq? The Iraq critics would have done nothing about either country. There would today be two major Islamic countries sitting on an ocean of oil, supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction -- instead of one.

Two years ago there were five countries supporting terrorism and pursuing these weapons -- two junior-leaguers, Libya and Syria, and the axis-of-evil varsity: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. The Bush administration has eliminated two: Iraq, by direct military means, and Libya, by example and intimidation.

Victor Davis Hanson
Hedging on Iraq

The problem is not the moral question of removing Saddam in a new frightening post-9/11 world. His crimes were legion; his departure long over due. Most agree on that — but only if there is little perceived cost involved. Thus these mercurial fluctuations in public opinion are not entirely due to the actual tragic bill in blood and treasure. Some Pentagon estimates, after all, warned long ago of a six-month conventional war and 2,000 to 3,000 fatalities. Instead, the problem was the three-week victory that has had unforeseen but powerful consequences in changing our perceptions about what the war really was about and what it accomplished.

First, the Left was embarrassed in April of last year. Already stung after predicting a British-type imperial defeat in Kabul, its subsequent pre-Iraq-war scenarios of millions of refugees and thousands of American dead only confirmed its unreliability and deductive pessimism. So, it is only in this context that the loss of nearly 700 American dead in the subsequent 15-month reconstruction was seen as redeeming their initial gloom and doom. In a fateful decision, Kerry belatedly embraced Deanism and thus put himself on the path to seeing all bad war news as salutary for his own hopes and good news as fatal to his cause. The media knew that as well, and many in it reacted accordingly.

Indeed, it was worse than that. Each passing book — do we even remember all the titles in the "Lies of George Bush" genre of big-print, cheap paperbacks? — each passing investigative-committee report and each passing celebrity outburst were latched onto by critics as proof that we could not or should not win.

A dying generation of aging dissidents is desperately trying to find some final redemption to their life-long suspicion of the United States military. For these Vietnam-era retirees, the televised mayhem from Iraq — not the other 25.9 million Iraqis living in relative calm — will always be the second coming of rice paddies and Rolling Thunder.