President Bush has kept his promise to dispatch Secretary of State Colin Powell to make the case against Iraq before the United Nations — and, by doing so, he has totally capitulated to the whims of world opinion.
The premise of Powell’s speech is that America must gain the world’s support before striking a state that sponsors terrorism because, otherwise, some might become offended, alienated or, worse, incited to attack us. By ceding to the U.N., Bush has based America’s defense on this fallacy.
Until now, Bush had also reserved the option that the U.S. may, at its discretion, act alone. Powell’s presentation abandons that notion as a pretense; pleading to the U.N. makes a mockery of acting alone. The fact that America is willing to Show and Tell reveals that Bush is malleable; he has neither the courage to practice what he preaches — Iraq presents an imminent danger — nor the intellectual honesty to preach what he practices: rule by consensus.
The oft-cited example of U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson showing photographs in 1962 of Soviet missiles in Cuba proves the point. Stevenson’s comments bear superficial resemblance to Powell’s remarks. While Stevenson made an impassioned, defiant denunciation of the Soviet military buildup, Powell’s was a dispassionate, halting explanation. While Stevenson was openly angry at evidence of Soviet hostility, Powell presented Iraq’s support for those who launched the worst attack in American history — as an afterthought.
The contrast is unmistakable; to our enemies, Powell’s Show and Tell is an incontrovertible sign of weakness. In the face of nuclear attack — and Iran and North Korea have acquired nuclear weapons — Powell’s speech offers the assurance that America will put consensus before defense.
From whom does the U.S. seek consensus? The world’s dictatorships, past and present — communist China, Syria, Russia and Germany. If a fraction of Powell’s charges are true — and Iraq’s sponsorship of terrorism against America is measurably worse than Powell demonstrated — it is particularly obscene to appeal to a nation such as China — where shooting youths in the street is a substitute for justice.
Powell has also managed to reveal classified intelligence to the enemy. Those who risk their lives to obtain secrets for the U.S. are now in mortal danger. Telling the enemy where their weapons are located — and showing them the evidence — is worse than foolish; it threatens the lives of every American in military service.
Whether Bush orders U.S. troops to strike Iraq, the damage is done. Bush, by dispatching Powell to the U.N., has delivered a mixed message to the enemy: “we may strike back — but not without first obtaining permission.”
Top Democrats, such as California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, have praised Powell’s address as an enhancement of America’s stature. The opposite is true. Powell’s appearance before the U.N. Security Council, our enemies and the world erases any doubt that the United States is a paper tiger.
Since World War II, when America last declared war, the nation’s interests have long suffered in the name of diplomacy and consensus: there was Truman in North Korea, Carter with Iran, Reagan with Iran, Bush’s father in Iraq and Clinton in North Korea. Sadly, when it comes to America’s defense, Bush, like his predecessors, puts the world first.
But the world was not attacked by terrorists sponsored by states such as Iraq on September 11, 2001 — America was — and the world is not the proper arbiter of whether Americans have the right to retribution — America is. By having Colin Powell seek the world’s sanction, President Bush has compromised the sanctity of America’s defense.