Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Thursday, February 06, 2003

David Warren assesses yesterday's presentation at the UN.

Colin Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council yesterday was a waste of time and energy. While his show was effective enough in itself, and met the demanding criterion of entertainment, by holding its audience, no one was swayed by it one way or the other.

He demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that Iraq is in flagrant breach of each of the three requirements of Resolution 1441.

Iraq has failed: 1. to declare promptly and truthfully the extent of its illegal weapons programs and stocks; 2. to co-operate fully and candidly with UN inspectors; and 3. to publicly and verifiably disarm.

Punches were nevertheless pulled. The media have avoided explaining to the general public the constraints under which the Bush administration must operate, in providing such evidence. By doing so they expose war targets, they provide not only Saddam but other evil regimes with the means to assess U.S. intelligence sources, which in turn means putting the lives of brave people at additional risk. The publication of sensitive security material moreover creates a legal nightmare, for much of the declassification is itself prevented by U.S. law. The President himself could be open to legal challenge in authorizing such disclosures.

This is the fact. The appeasers of Saddam have used the same arguments and the same language as the appeasers of Hitler. They have relied on the same fundamental reasoning -- that there is no price too high, if we can win "peace in our time" -- and under the same inspiration, a pant-wetting fear. They want to believe, in the face of any evidence that is presented to them, that security can be obtained by some kind of negotiation. They chant all the old thirties mantras about "collective security," and invoke the United Nations as their grandfathers invoked the League of Nations.

An element that is different is George W. Bush. In my judgment, though he may not be the equal in mind and spirit of Winston Churchill -- the one man growling the night Prime Minister Chamberlain came home with the Munich treaty, when all Europe cheered -- he is proving a worthy successor. A Clinton, a Gore, indeed any "normal" politician in President Bush's shoes would have noted all the alarm bells ringing, and have done what Chamberlain did. They would "go the extra mile" to Munich, or in this case Baghdad.

And just as the shame of Germany is no longer acknowledged by a later generation of Germans, the shame of Munich is no longer acknowledged by our peace constituency. Only men as old as Alistair Cooke can still remember.

Another element that is different is that, today, we face not one Hitler, but an assemblage of them, so that each can be used as an excuse for avoiding confrontation with each other. We cannot deal with Iraq, because we must more urgently deal with North Korea; or vice versa once interest is shown in Pyongyang. The U.S. and its allies are by necessity caught up in a thankless game of "monkey in the middle" -- to which the only possible response can be to eliminate the monkeys, one by one.

Nobody, or at least nobody who is properly informed, said it was going to be easy. But it is going to be done, and as would now appear, done over the dead body of the United Nations.

< email | 2/06/2003 10:47:00 AM | link

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