Sunday, June 02, 2002

"THE WAR ON TERROR WILL NOT BE WON ON THE DEFENSIVE": That was the major theme of the President's West Point commencement speech on Saturday. He hit other key points, and hit them well. The nature of the threat: "shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend" and therefore immune to containment or nuclear deterrence. The justification for preemptive war: "We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act." The kinship between the war against communism and the war against Islamism: "Our struggle is similar to the Cold War. Now, as then, our enemies are totalitarians, holding a creed of power with no place for human dignity. Now, as then, they seek to impose a joyless conformity, to control every life and all of life." That moral clarity is indispensable (and did he ever hit this point hard):
Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong. There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it."
Words like these give me hope that, despite the ducking and weaving of the last few months, the President knows he must and intends to wage war against terrorist states, beginning with Iraq. It's not just that he's saying the rights words and making the right arguments. It's that by speaking so clearly, he continues to box himself in politically, so that if he does not instigate war against Iraq, and if he does not effect the revolution in international law that such a preemptive war entails, he will have committed political suicide. I can't believe this adept and pragmatic politician would unwittingly drive himself into such a corner. Which is kind of funny: I usually don't trust George W. Bush because he's a pragmatist; now I hope he'll do the right thing precisely because he is.

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