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The Appeasers By: Bruce S. Thornton
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, October 24, 2002


The tinhorn Hamlets are busy these days, digging up more and more excuses for not dealing with a psychopathic dictator bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The usual alternatives to military action — in reality the aliases of appeasement — are continually trotted out, despite the numerous facts discrediting these approaches. Once more, the media, pundits, and many in the foreign policy establishment haven't yet figured out the nature of the war we are fighting.

A particularly absurd nostrum is "diplomacy." Instead of spouting simplistic "axis of evil" rhetoric and going off like trigger-happy macho "cowboys," we are instructed, let us sit down and reason together. Most bad behavior is the result of material deprivation or wounded self-esteem, so let's bolster both. Let's "feel their pain," respect their "cultural difference," and figure out what they need. Is the autocratic overlord of a totalitarian society pursuing nuclear weapons? Then send over a sensitive ex-president to bribe him with nuclear reactors. More electricity will raise his people's standard of living and lessen the incidents of irrational "acting out" that so disturb us.

Well, that's what Clinton did with North Korea. And the result? Jimmy Carter got the Nobel "peace" prize (Arafat's award has made those quotes obligatory), and North Korea is now further along the road to a capacity to nuke not just Seoul or Tokyo, but Los Angeles. The wisdom we should have remembered — Hitler gave us a hard lesson in the thirties — is that diplomacy's "frameworks" and "accords" and "agreements" work only if there is good faith on both sides, or if a credible threat of force exists to punish non-compliance. In the absence of these, the tyrant and autocrat will cheat and lie and turn sanctimonious Westerners like Carter into his shills and chumps.

Then there's the UN snake oil. We must not go it alone, we are warned. We must have a "coalition" and "multilateralism" to provide the moral authority for action — as though we can't know the principles and values that justify action until the UN tells us. And so here we are, dickering with the UN Security Council and parsing the syntactical minutiae of resolutions, all the while our "coalition building" aids and abets both the thug Hussein and those nations like France and Russia that do business with him.

The UN solution perhaps was credible in 1991, when Hussein signed off on UN agreements that required inspections and disarmament as the price for starting a war and then being left in power after defeat. Yet here we are, nearly a dozen UN resolutions later, and we still have no clue about the extent of Hussein's armaments. The last decade has proven that such resolutions are useless when a dictator has no intention of abiding by them and will use every resource in his power to evade their intent. Thus in the 90's every concession on weapons inspections yielded to Hussein — requiring advance notice, cherry-picking inspectors by nationality, or making the presidential palaces off-limits — merely emboldened him to demand more until, convinced that the UN might growl but would never bite, in 1998 he threw the inspectors completely out of the country.

With that sorry record of UN humiliation and failure, why would anyone think that more UN resolutions, particularly the toothless sort the French and Russians are demanding, would yield anything more than further lying, evasion, and stonewalling on the part of Hussein? What the last ten years should have taught us is not the utility of UN-sanctioned multilateralism, but its danger to our own interests and security. The whole mechanism of coalition diplomacy merely provides weak or morally indifferent states with excuses for postponing necessary action, and the autocrat with time in which to maneuver.

Perhaps because these excuses are becoming less and less tenable, a new one has turned up. We can't invade Iraq now, the argument goes, because it would detract from the war on terror. There is no evidence that Iraq supports Al Qaeda or had a hand in 9/11. After all, Bin Laden hates secular rulers like Hussein who don't fully Islamicize their society. Our priority for the present, then, should be completing the destruction of Al Qaeda. Sanctions and diplomatic pressure can contain Iraq.

This reasoning is politically useful, for it allows doves, who reflexively oppose the use of military force in almost all cases, to camouflage themselves in the hawkish feathers of the "war on terrorism." But now that the Taliban have been routed from Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, if defined as the pursuit of Al Qaeda, is largely metaphorical — what remains to be done involves police work, intelligence gathering, and providing military assistance and training to other nations. Thus a dove can champion this so-called "war on terrorism" without really accepting the necessity of using large-scale force, with all the unpleasant unforeseen consequences that attend such use.

Be that as it may, the argument that dealing with Iraq detracts from the real war on terror is fallacious. That war is not just about Bin Laden or the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Such terror is the mere tip of a cultural iceberg: the Islamic world view that despises the West and all it stands for, that hates individual freedom, secularism, sex equality, and participatory government, and that envies and resents the success these have brought to the West. That this view is held by more than just a radical fringe can be seen in the money still being pumped into terrorist organizations by Islamic nations, the support given to the madrassas that teach Islamic radicalism, the way Bin Laden and Palestinian murderers are idolized as religious heroes throughout the Islamic world, and in the bizarre anti-Western and anti-Semitic propaganda published by the state-run presses in Arab countries.

It is this world view that justifies and validates terror, and until this world view is utterly and definitively discredited, and Islamic civilization realizes that it must adapt itself to the modern world, terror will continue to be a threat to the West, long after Al Qaeda is destroyed. Thus no matter what enmity Islamicists may have for Hussein, he still is a potent enemy of the West, a warrior in this centuries-old conflict, and so an instrument of their aims. And of course he is a supporter of terror, if only because of his payments to the families of Palestinian homicide bombers, for terror is the only weapon a militarily weak Islamic world possesses.

If Hussein gets his hands on a nuclear weapon, then, he will become an even more lethal enemy than any terrorist, able to pursue the war against the West at a level that could dwarf the horrors of 9/11. Thus his removal is a key part of the war to eradicate terror. And his demise will send a signal to other terror-supporting states like Iran and Syria that any support of terror anywhere is categorically unacceptable, and that no cause exists that justifies the intentional slaughter of innocents.

This is the real war on terror we are fighting, a long conflict involving many fronts. Is this war fraught with risk and dangers, unforeseen contingencies and unintended consequences? Of course it is. But avoiding those risks and dangers today very likely means enduring greater ones tomorrow. We should remember the words of the Greek orator Demosthenes, who tried vainly to alert the Greeks to the dangerous ambitions of Philip of Macedon: one should never prefer "an inglorious security to the hazardous vindication of a noble cause." The difference for us today is that if we don't act, we will suffer the same lack of glory without enjoying any of the "security."


Bruce Thornton is the author of Greek Ways and Decline and Fall: Europe’s Slow-Motion Suicide (Encounter Book}. He is 2009-2010 National Fellow at the Hoover Institution.


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