Tough Time to Love War(Making)

This just isn’t a good time to be George W. Bush. Unit­ed Nations inspec­tors comb­ing Iraq for weapons of mass destruc­tion have come up emp­ty hand­ed. Sad­dam Hus­sein has allow­ing them rel­a­tive­ly unfet­tered access but all they’ve uncov­ered is a few unused shells.

Bush is noth­ing if not per­sis­tent when it comes to per­ceived world bad guys. Just yes­ter­day he told an audi­ence in St. Louis that Hus­sein is “a dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous man with dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous weapons.” Despite the repeat­ed use dan­ger­ous, the rest of the world is uncon­vinced. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Ger­hard Schroder still talks about “peace­ful solu­tions” and Ger­many and France is putting the brakes on war in the U.N. Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil, wait­ing for evi­dence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruc­tion to turn up.

It must frus­trate our pres­i­dent to see that all these years of mil­i­tary sanc­tions against Iraq have been work­ing. All the evi­dence uncov­ered by the U.N. inspec­tors prove that we can “win with­out war,” as one cur­rent slo­gan goes, and that we have in fact been win­ning. We’ve kept Sad­dam Hus­sein from rebuild­ing his mil­i­tary after the Gulf War. U.S. iso­la­tion of Iraq has been suc­cess­ful despite its numer­ous flaws. Sad­dam is not a threat.

Which brings us to real threats and to North Korea. Pres­i­dent Bush and his team of war mon­ger­ers have been so busy look­ing at Iraq that they’ve giv­en North Korea just spo­radic atten­tion. Recently-declassified reports show that the U.S. Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency has known much more about North Korea’s nuclear bomb mak­ing over the last dozen years than anyone’s been admit­ting.

The C.I.A. has known that North Korea and Pak­istan have been trad­ing nuclear secrets. Pak­istan has been show­ing its ally of con­ve­nience how to build the cen­trifuges that process weapons-grade ura­ni­um. North Korea in return has pro­vid­ed the mis­sile tech­nol­o­gy that gives Pak­istan the nuclear reach to destroy arch-rival India. Now that we know Pres­i­dent Bush knew all about this his­to­ry of what we might call “dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous” tech­nol­o­gy trade, why did he cozy up to Pak­istan fol­low­ing Sep­tem­ber 11th? He so want­ed wars with Afghanistan and Iraq that he nor­mal­ized rela­tions with a coun­try far more dan­ger­ous. If a Pak­istani or North Kore­an nuclear weapon goes off in New York City it will kill a whole lot more peo­ple than Osama bin Laden’s four hijacked air­planes. What hap­pened on Sep­tem­ber 11th was ter­ri­ble but it’s noth­ing com­pared to what a ene­my with resources could do.

There are real threats to world peace, far more “dan­ger­ous, dan­ger­ous” than Iraq. The Unit­ed States needs to drop its president’s obses­sions and look square­ly at the world and who we’re allied with. And when we reset our poli­cies we wqcan use Iraq as our mod­el. For as the U.N. inspec­tors have proven, we can cre­ate peace through diplo­ma­cy and we can iso­late trou­ble­mak­ers through smart sanc­tions.

What a tough les­son for U.S. lead­ers bent on war.