Complexities of foreign policy make it difficult to know right thing to do What others say

Posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2003

When political opponents of the president say issues are complex, they never mention their own considerable contribution to the complexity.

Let's review.

In 1990, Democrats spoke out vigorously against war with Iraq and were echoed vigorously in the liberal media. They saw no reason to tamper with a madman who enjoyed torturing and killing his opponents and their families, and posed no threat to anyone even though he commanded the fifth-largest army in the world and had invaded two neighboring countries.

So they voted to support the first Gulf War while, at the same time, saying that it probably would lead to a Vietnam quagmire at the least and possibly defeat.

After all, Saddam Hussein had the fifth-largest army, and the fearsome, battle-hardened Republican Guard.

After the Army and Marines went through the Iraqi army like castor oil through a goose, the opposition began pleading for the killing to stop and insisting that Baghdad and Saddam's regime be preserved.

This was done and, for the next 10 years, they blamed Presi-dent Bush for leaving the "despicable" Saddam in power.

When Bill Clinton needed some distraction from impeachment proceedings, however, he discovered Saddam was a threat and decided to bomb Iraq. The former opponents of bombing

supported him. No one knows how many camels were killed by the multimillion-dollar missiles fired at empty tents in the desert.

Once Clinton was re-elected, the threat of Saddam and his weapons of mass destruction seemingly disappeared (along with many of Saddam's political opponents).

But after Sept. 11, 2001, when Saddam's efforts to achieve nuclear capability and continue his chemical and biological weapons stockpiling became important, the loyal opposition dug in again.

George W. Bush must not disturb the despicable madman again merely to avenge the first Bush or "for oil," they said. Meanwhile, the public, which supported Bush 2-to-1, was getting whiplash trying to follow the opposition arguments.

Invading Iraq would lead, again, to a quagmire or defeat. Anyway, there was no evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and, on top of that, he would use them against the United States if it dared to violate Iraqi soil.

How could we possibly launch an attack against friends of the terrorists who had declared war on the United States without the approval of France, the moral Mount Olympus of the world? And, the United Nations had issued 18 resolutions against Iraq, but it didn't issue 19!

So, critics voted to support the war. Those who had said it would take years to defeat Saddam were pronouncing it a defeat for the United States for failing to achieve victory in two weeks. (It took three.)

Now, however, Saddam's body is not laid out on a slab and terrorists are still shooting at U.S. soldiers. So, the whole thing has been an exercise in futility, apparently.

We await their counsel on the complex issue of Liberia.

Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville - July 11

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