'What makes our country so smart?
By ROD WATSON
George W. Bush tried to answer a lot of questions the other night by repackaging the usual arguments about pre-emptive self-defense, arguments that would land you in jail if you used them to justify attacking your next-door neighbor.
In a speech not ready for prime time - it was carried only on cable - Bush tried to answer a variety of rhetorical questions:
Why is Iraq different from other rogue nations? Because it is.
How urgent is the danger? Very.
Why warmonger now, just before a pivotal U.S. election? Because the danger is urgent.
But through all of the rhetoric leading up to an expected House vote today, there's one question the president and other proponents of war have yet to answer: What makes Americans so much smarter than practically everyone else in the world?
That's the question I'm having trouble with as I listen to Bush, Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explain why America must lead and the United Nations can only be relevant if it dutifully follows.
What is it that this axis of brilliance sees what no one else is capable of seeing?
If the danger is so apparent, why isn't the rest of the world - outside of trusty sidekick Tony Blair - with us? And if they're not with us, how can the danger be that apparent?
Granted, we lost 3,000 people a year ago and Osama bin Laden is still making tapes. That makes us more sensitive to risk, says Brookings Institution foreign policy expert James Lindsay, taking a stab at deciphering White House thinking.
But Saddam Hussein didn't send those suicide hijackers, and the line between him and al-Qaida is tenuous, at best.
In fact, Iraq's missiles can't reach the United States. However, they can reach nations like Saudi Arabia which, because of proximity and smaller militaries, are most vulnerable. Yet those most vulnerable don't see the threat the same way and are much more interested in the U.N. approach than the U.S. approach to what is an undeniable problem.
Taking it a step further, a unilateral war will only fan anti-American sentiments in the Arab world, revive the 'A' word - arrogance - and rouse more hatred of Washington.
Such fallout, rather than helping, would be 'very inconsistent' with the war on terror, said Paul Senese, University at Buffalo assistant professor of political science.
In fact, Senese comes up with as good an explanation as any for the U.S. threat to render the United Nations irrelevant while threatening Iraq - and it has little to do with the president's being smarter than any other world leader.
It has more to do with the fact that many of Bush's advisers were also on board when the president's father took on Saddam after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
'This is something that has been simmering with these guys for a long time,' Senese says of the Bush I alumni.
That doesn't sound like they know something nobody else knows, only that they have a military nobody else has.
Still, Congress is likely to go along, giving Bush the kind of 'predelegated authority to wage war' that the Founding Fathers would have considered 'asinine,' says Lindsay. That's what happens in an election year when most members are too afraid of being labeled unpatriotic and the Democrats have long ceded foreign policy authority to the GOP.
They'll go along with few members bothering to ask how many billions it will cost us for the post-Saddam cleanup that no other nations will want to fund if they have no real input in the decision.
And they'll go along with few bothering to think about what happens down the line when Russia, China or some other nation decides to work pre-emptively outside of the U.N. because of some threat it can't get anyone else to acknowledge.
We're 'smart' about Iraq in the same way we were smart about global warming, smart about the land mine treaty and smart about the international criminal court. Now we're about to go to war on the supposition that the Bush White House is smarter than leaders in Germany, France and those right across Saddam's backyard fence.
Sometimes we're just too smart for our own good.'
Taken from The Buffalo News, on Thursday, October 10th, 2002 http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20021010/1006042.asp
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