But first . . .

Jerry Garrett: ‘I was surprised to see Tightwad, Missouri, missing from YOUR list of places. Population around 50, in Henry County. Back in the years before all the bank consolidations, the local bank had a disproportionate number of customers because people wanted their checks to show that they banked at the Bank of Tightwad.’

And now . . .


In case you missed this powerful piece in Friday’s New York Times, click here.


By Matthew Miller

Even though the French foreign minister’s response to Colin Powell was scripted in advance of Powell’s presentation at the United Nations on Wednesday, the divergence in worldviews and resolve couldn’t have been more striking. It’s hard not to think we’re at a seminal moment in which the world is dividing into those who would appease Saddam and those who would act. Call it a choice between decadence and determination.

Powell, in his usual commanding fashion, inventoried the many ways in which Iraq is flouting its obligation to disarm. As it has for a dozen years As most people expected would be the case. But this process has been necessary and edifying.

In the face of facts that no serious person can deny – that Hussein has no intent of disarming and is trying to string out the process in the same rope-a-dope that defectors have told us has allowed him to continue his deadly course for a decade – the French plan of ‘action’ was shocking.

‘Further strengthening of inspections,’ said France. ‘Decisive reinforcing of the means of inspection.’ Why, let’s really turn the screws, the French foreign minister said, and double, or even triple, the number of inspectors. France stands ready … to send observation aircraft. The French insist on a clear ‘timeframe’ and ‘regular follow-up.’

‘Regular follow-up’? Saddam must laugh himself silly when he watches this on CNN.

There is a serious case for waiting on war, and an unserious case.

‘Regular follow-up’ as a strategy for disarming Iraq is an unserious case.

Opposing the use of force in all contexts – while a legitimate (if misguided) view for individuals to hold – is not, in my view, a serious case in a dangerous world. Neither is the related discomfort with and distrust of the exercise of American power, which accounts for a fair portion of domestic opposition to our current course.

The fact that U.S. power has been misused before does not mean that it always is – or that in the world after 9/11 we should therefore shrink from acting.

America is uniquely strong; we are, for all our flaws, a force for good in the world; and at this moment in history, there are times and causes where American leadership is indispensable.

As fiercely as I oppose President Bush on domestic policy, I simply can’t understand Americans – and there seem to be millions of them – who sincerely believe that George Bush is a greater threat to the world than Saddam Hussein.

I’ve asked this question and received this answer in conversation recently, and it surpasses what I hope are my reasonable efforts to empathize with my fellow man.

These people aren’t living in the world I see after 9/11.

The serious case for waiting on war is that there are always unintended consequences to military action and that war is a bloody, costly affair.

But Iraq, like all such decisions, has always involved weighing the risks of action versus the risks of inaction. It is incumbent on all who criticize the president’s course to imagine themselves in the Oval Office after Sept. 11.

Imagine that we try a renewed ‘containment’ approach with inspectors, the same scheme that let Saddam, we now know, amass myriad chemical and biological weapons and pursue his nuclear ambitions.

Then imagine waking up one day a few years hence to Saddam announcing he has a nuclear weapon. The next day he invades Kuwait again and announces his plans to control the Saudi oil fields – and with them, 25 percent of the world’s energy supply.

If you were in the Oval Office contemplating this scenario after 9/11, which side would you err on? The risks of action – or of inaction?

It’s fair to slam President Bush for not leading a serious quest for alternative energy sources and oil independence. It’s also fair to slam him for not fully explaining – yet – the commitment America would need to make to reconstruct Iraq in the aftermath of invasion.

But if you were our first post-9/11 president, would you feel you had done your duty to the nation by risking, through inaction, the scenario I described above? The kind of scenario that every serious analyst – including Bill Clinton and Al Gore – thinks will one day come to pass if we let Saddam stay in place?

We know France is not serious. Soon enough we’ll know whether the United Nations is.

Columnist Matt Miller is a senior fellow at Occidental College in Los Angeles and host of ‘Left, Right & Center’ on KCRW-FM in Los Angeles.


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