War is not the Smart Option

The disasters that have afflicted American foreign policy in the last weeks should raise once again the question raised during the campaign three years ago: Is George W. Bush intelligent enough to be president of the United States? By a margin of a half million votes, the American people decided he was not. By a margin of one vote, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that he was.

The Wall Street Journal last week in an article about the Korean mess (written by three journalists) argued that the two sides are talking past one another. The key theme was that the North Korean government is frightened by the U.S. administration.

The fears, as it seems to them, are based on four events: the suspension of discussion during the first year of the Bush administration (while the president reviewed the Clinton administration's policy, just as he reviewed the terrorism policy till just before the World Trade Center attack); his gratuitous "axis of evil" category that included North Korea; his refusal to approve direct negotiations with North Korea, and finally, the warning of a possible "surgical strike" to take out North Korea's nuclear plants.

The "axis of evil" remark may have done it all by itself. You lump a country with Iraq, what else do you expect that country to do except get ready to fight?

Now we are entering a war that most countries in the world--as well as most people--oppose. You lose almost all your allies, including perhaps Mexico and Canada. You cannot make a $20 billion bribe stick with the Turks (the world's most bribable people). You preside over the probable destruction of NATO and the Security Council by your rhetoric. Finally, you swagger into a news conference and you talk about putting your hand on the Bible and swearing to protect the people of the United States. Saddam Hussein is a virtual ally of al-Qaida and is a direct threat to the American people, whom you've sworn to defend. Never mind that neither of these presumptions have been proved.

And all of this while the market and the economy tank because of war fear.

The New York Times quotes presidential staffers as saying that the president sees the world as a "biblical struggle of good vs. evil." The name of that is fanaticism.

The father built up coalitions. The son destroys them. It takes a lot of effort to destroy in less than a year coalitions that previous presidents spent a half century and more putting together. This is not a very smart man, but one who is surrounded by very smart people who have managed by their arrogance in a couple of years to drive off almost all of our friends and allies and lead us into a foolish and frivolous war.

Suppose that all goes well and the war is won in a couple of weeks. Suppose that the people of Iraq do eagerly welcome their American liberators. Suppose even that some weapons of mass destruction are found and destroyed. It would still have been a bad war, a war fought out of fear and rage with disregard for the simple principles of morality. Many men and women on both sides will be dead because of Bush's personal conviction of his own moral goodness. It is all justified in the name of ''freedom,'' which seems to mean that the United States is free to do just about anything it wants.

I make no case for the 12-year failure of the Security Council or the verbal gyrations of Hans Blix. Yet the only reason for starting the war now seems to be that our troops are in place and that the president has grown impatient with Saddam.

Are these sufficient reasons for the death and destruction, the broken bodies and the broken hearts that our pious, if not all that smart, president and his team of chicken-hawks are about to cause?

I don't think so.

If this country was truly the great country it pretends to be and indeed has on occasion been, it would be great enough to show some self-restraint before it began to drop its bombs.

God bless America? God save America? Or God forgive America?

© 2023 Chicago Sun-Times