ELECTION 2000 may now seem long ago, but it's worth taking a moment to recall with joyful relief the butterfly ballot, the Electoral College, and the landmark Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. For without these godsends, would-be president Al Gore wouldn't merely be delivering asinine speeches to the Commonwealth Club of California, he would be making asinine policy in the White House.
Lest anyone forget how tremendously fortunate we are that the election turned out exactly the way it did, Gore inadvertently provided (at least) ten examples in Monday's address. In chronological order, they are:
1. "To begin with, I believe we should focus our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on September 11th and have thus far gotten away with it. … I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this urgent task [by a war on Iraq] simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy than predicted. Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another."
Actually, great nations are capable of tending to more than one task at a time, especially when those two tasks are intimately related. Gore's presumption that the U.S. cannot simultaneously hunt down what's left of al Qaeda and dismantle the Iraqi threat is simplistic nonsense. Al Qaeda is a single, far-flung outfit operating in dozens of countries. Capturing and/or killing each and every one of its members will be a long-term project, the completion of which shouldn't forestall other, pressing national concerns — like thwarting Saddam Hussein's nuclear program.
Presumably, if Gore had been president in 1944, there would have been no invasion of Normandy, at least not until the Allies had secured victory in the Pacific Theater. After all, great nations do not jump from one unfinished task to the other.
2. "We also need to look at the relationship between our national goal of regime change in Iraq and our goal of victory in the war against terror. In the case of Iraq, it would be more difficult for the United States to succeed alone, but still possible. By contrast, the war against terror manifestly requires broad and continuous international cooperation. Our ability to secure this kind of cooperation can be severely damaged by unilateral action against Iraq."
Gore's premise is that the War on Iraq has nothing to do with Sept. 11 and the War on Terror. Missing is a realization that the two are one in the same. Al Qaeda may have orchestrated the 9/11 atrocities, but al Qaeda functions and prospers in a dysfunctional Middle East where corrupt tyrants and morally bankrupt regimes provide terrorists aid and sustenance.
The purpose of the War on Terror — a defensive war fought in response to the most vicious attack on Americans in the nation's history — is to eliminate not only the likes of al Qaeda, but also anyone else who directly or indirectly supports the terrorist enterprise. Anything less would be insufficient, and it would invite only more attacks in the future.
3. "President George H. W. Bush purposely waited until after the mid-term elections of 1990 to push for a vote [in support of the Gulf War] at the beginning of the new Congress in January of 1991. President George W. Bush, by contrast, is pushing for a vote in this Congress immediately before the election."
Gore the sanctimonious hypocrite is back. Here the former vice president has the nerve to denounce Bush for politicizing the war — in a speech that politicizes the war and lays the groundwork for his next presidential campaign.
Not that there's anything wrong with making the most important issue facing the nation the stuff of political campaigns. Americans deserve to know where their elected officials stand on national security, and they would be fools not to consider the matter in the voting booth. If Gore wants to make the war a campaign issue, more power to him. It will guarantee his next defeat.
4. "Regarding other countries, the Administration's disdain for the views of others is well documented and need not be reviewed here. It is more important to note the consequences of an emerging national strategy that not only celebrates American strengths, but appears to be glorifying the notion of dominance. If what America represents to the world is leadership in a commonwealth of equals, then our friends are legion; if what we represent to the world is empire, then it is our enemies who will be legion."
A commonwealth of equals? Gore seems to think that the only acceptable alternative to "empire" and "dominance" is granting the likes of China, France, and Syria veto power over matters of vital national security. Adding insult to injury, he then endorses the outrageous claim that America's anti-terrorist policies have created its enemies, and not the other way around.
Absent is an understanding that global cooperation should be a vehicle towards, not an obstacle to, national security. Our true friends will support us in our just cause; our false ones deserve whatever "disdain" they get.
5. "We have no evidence, however, that (Hussein) has shared any of those weapons [of mass destruction] with terrorist group. However, if Iraq came to resemble Afghanistan — with no central authority but instead local and regional warlords with porous borders and infiltrating members of Al Qaeda then these widely dispersed supplies of weapons of mass destruction might well come into the hands of terrorist groups."
So it is preferable, then, to let Hussein continue on his merry way until we have produced firm evidence that his weapons have made their way into terrorist hands? What exactly, would such evidence be — the disintegration of a major American city?
Gore is right that in a post-Hussein Iraq, the U.S. will have to pay close attention to what becomes of Saddam's stockpile. That is not, however, an argument for letting Hussein stay in power.
6. "Two decades ago, when the Soviet Union claimed the right to launch a pre-emptive war in Afghanistan, we properly encouraged and then supported the resistance movement which, a decade later, succeeded in defeating the Soviet Army's efforts."
Gore chooses the words "pre-emptive war" carefully. Throughout the speech, he denounces the Bush "Pre-emption Doctrine," and later complains that "President Bush now asserts that we will take pre-emptive action even if we take the threat we perceive is not imminent." Thus by characterizing the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the same language, Gore dabbles in some of the most obtuse and repugnant sort of moral equivalence imaginable, likening a war of American self-defense to a naked act of Communist imperialism.
7. "But Congress should also urge the President to make every effort to obtain a fresh demand from the [U.N.] Security Council for prompt, unconditional compliance by Iraq within a definite period of time. If the Council will not provide such language, then other choices remain open, but in any event the President should be urged to take the time to assemble the broadest possible international support for his course of action."
Welcome to the party, Al. Bush has already asked the Security Council for precisely such a measure. The council is still deciding whether it wants to be on the right or wrong side of history, and in the meantime, Bush is examining the "other choices" to which Gore here only cowardly alludes, but elsewhere denounces — unilateral action.
8. "An unspoken part of this new [pre-emption] doctrine appears to be that we claim this right for ourselves — and only for ourselves. It is, in that sense, part of a broader strategy to replace ideas like deterrence and containment with what some in the administration [sic] 'dominance.'"
Here is Gore's logic, borrowed, apparently, from the likes of Gerhard Schroeder: Bush wants to protect the U.S. from deadly attack, ergo he wants to dominate the world. That sort of talk might be common among the croissant, sauerkraut, and Jesse Jackson crowd, but it has no place coming from a man who would be (and almost became) president of the United States.
Deterrence requires having safeguards in place should deterrence fail. Clearly, "deterrence" as practiced during eight years of the Clinton-Gore Administration did nothing to stop Hussein from continuing his weapons program. The swift end of his regime, however, would certainly deter any other petty tyrants from pursuing his same course, and it would contain his nuclear program while containment still remains an option.
9. "At the same time, the concept of pre-emption is accessible to other countries. There are plenty of potential imitators: India/Pakistan; China/Taiwan; not to forget Israel/Iraq or Israel/Iran. ... What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of standards for the use of violence against each other."
More moral equivalence. Here, for the second time, Gore compares American self-defense to Communist imperialism, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. He then disparagingly throws the notion of an Israeli preemptive strike against Iran or Iraq into the mix, seemingly forgetting that had Israel not preemptively struck against an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, Hussein would almost surely have the bomb today.
10. "There is a case to be made that further delay only works to Saddam Hussein's advantage, and that the clock should be seen to have been running on the issue of compliance for a decade: therefore not needing to be reset again to the starting point. But to the extent that we have any concern for international support, whether for its political or material value, hurrying the process will be costly."
In other words, it's better that the U.S. give Saddam all the time he needs to finish his arsenal than to make the U.N. bureaucrats put in a full day's work and deliver a quick authorization.
Be very, very glad this man is not president.