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On Point

McDermott and Bonior the Neville Chamberlains of Our Time

by Austin Bay
October 1, 2002

LONDON -- Which war are you fighting? The Bush administration fights the War on Terror at several levels. U.S. success depends in great part on how well the administration integrates and prosecutes these "levels of war."

At the level of grand strategy, the War on Terror has become a "war of transformation." When the administration speaks of "transforming" the Middle East by replacing autocracies with democracies, the counter-terror goal is to foster governments that will not tolerate or support terrorists. They will in fact police themselves.

Which leads to "the war to remove Saddam." Saddam's regime has abrogated the U.N. Security Council resolutions that temporarily halted the Gulf War of 1991. Sanity and sobriety argue that criminality should have consequences. If the U.N. is indeed a source of world order, and not a forum for graft and kvetching, there must be consequences for a dictatorship that has failed to comply with Resolution 687 arguably since 1994, definitely since 1996. Toothless U.N. resolutions are not a source of order

I still believe the United States hopes to remove Saddam via the 9mm ballot -- a coup d'etat triggered by intense diplomatic and military pressure. Sources here in London indicate Mauretania and North Korea might offer Saddam asylum. Exile isn't execution (his deserved fate), but it avoids expanded war. Like other psychological gambits, dangling exile could exert pressure within Saddam's regime. The true soft underbelly of every dictatorship is internal rebellion.

The operational war the Pentagon is preparing to fight -- a military campaign that represents the ultimate source of pressure -- is a war that takes Desert Storm up a quantum. It will include multi-axis special forces and heliborne assaults supported by swarms of precision munitions.

Tony Blair's war is politically complex -- and fascinating. Sure, Blair serves as America's policy bridge to Europe, but his more important role is as Europe's bridge to America. The French are crawfishing, backtracking from last spring's anti-American cant to a position of support for U.S.-led action. Blair stresses the many common values shared by all democrats, ties that so many of the myopic European and American left-wing academic and media elites fail to notice, since they are autocrats in their souls.

Blair's deft defeat this past weekend of hard left Labor Party backbenchers barking at his War on Terror policies wasn't so much a war as a lesson in political art.

Then there's the war Reps. Jim McDermott and David Bonior are waging, at the moment via embarrassing phone calls from Baghdad.

These men epitomize that slice of my generation trapped in a terrible quagmire. "Peaceniks" like McDermott and Bonior are still fighting the Vietnam War, and they are sadly indicative of how peaceniks have morphed into appeaseniks. Instead of principled Eugene McCarthy's opposing LBJ's War of Body Counts, they've become Neville Chamberlains -- men who fail to comprehend radically changed circumstances.

Several astute commentators have picked up on an extraordinary irony. In the '50s, the American Left disdained President Dwight Eisenhower as a man whose thinking was shaped by an "old war" -- even though WWII was only a dozen years in the past. (And the critics harped despite the fact that Ike had an extraordinary gift for strategic thinking.)

Vietnam is 30 years gone. In the face of global terrorists and proliferating weapons of mass destruction, the lessons the left-wingers thought they learned have become lesions.

McDermott and Bonior come from the same cadre of doddering arch-lefties who told us the world would go pffft if the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty were chucked.

The war the ABM Treaty was designed to help deflect was in history's dust bin, but McDermott and Bonior's soulmates were still fighting it in 2001.

The Bush administration chucked the ABM Treaty in favor of missile defense, much needed in today's strategic circumstances. What was the result? A new arms race as predicted by the Left? A war between the United States and Russia? With a pish and a tut, their fearmongering died not with a bang but a whimper.

The complex war responsible Americans began to fight on 9-11 has radically shifted terms. This new war does demand old virtues -- courage and persistence being essential. Winning it also means putting ideological fossils like McDermott and Bonior into the same political museum as Neville Chamberlain.

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