TCS Daily

Presidential Weeble Wobble

By Ken Adelman - June 19, 2002 12:00 AM

Margaret Thatcher isn't usually so tepid as when she gingerly wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "I have detected a certain amount of wobbling about the need to remove Saddam Hussein."

The onetime Iron Lady quickly adds " - though not from President Bush."

It was his father who then-Prime Minister Thatcher bucked up on August 3, 1990 -- the day Saddam's storm troopers conquered Kuwait - by quipping, "Don't go wobbly on me, George." He didn't and they both waged the Gulf War.

Mrs. Thatcher is coyly referring to that conversation when telling George II -- to use terminology familiar to a Brit - that: "As someone once said, this is no time to go wobbly. Saddam must go."

But what's happening to make Saddam go? I can't see much of anything real - just major press stories, and grave presidential addresses on the new U.S. strategic doctrine of preemption.

Around all the Washington harrumphing, I detect no serious actions to liberate Iraq and rid us of the #1 threat poised against the American people.

Why not? I can't imagine.

Every day he delays, President Bush unnecessarily damages his presidency and gravely endangers it. And he risks the type of catastrophic attack his vice president and defense secretary have considered probable, if not inevitable. Should - God forbid! - that attack happen and be traced back to an Iraqi hand-off of weapons of mass destruction, then this Bush presidency will be relegated to the ash heap of history.

Criticism is being heaped now for government inaction against terrorism before September 11th - when few of us could ever conceive of a major attack on America. Just imagine what will be hurled against George W. Bush when all of us could -- and did -- imagine such an attack marked by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction given to some terrorist group like Al-Qaeda. And yet his Administration did not act.

Why risk this? Why risk us?

Moreover, seemingly going wobbly on Iraq is now blurring the Bush focus on strength and morality. In his marvelous address to the Joint Session of Congress of November 21, 2001, President Bush said, "We fight the terrorists and we fight all those who give them aid." Now President Bush hosts Saudi and Egyptian dictators -- who clearly give political, media, and even financial aid to terrorists.

The President then went on: "If you feed a terrorist, or fund a terrorist, you are a terrorist, and you will be held accountable by the United States and our friends." Now, startling, those very states are considered "our friends."

Rather than giving straightforward statements of morality and protection, the Bush team is succumbing to mushy pronouncements of State Department "refinement" and conciliation.

It's going from sounding like Reagan to sounding like Clinton.

Recently, an ace reporter of a national publication asked me why, with the clear doctrine of pre-emption the President enunciated at West Point, the clear documentation of how Bush decided Saddam must be eliminated (in the leading Wall Street Journal piece recently), and the dire warnings by his top national security associates, President Bush shows no sign of acting against Iraq.

There's been no U.S. military buildup in that neighborhood. No diplomatic buildup in the Gulf or Europe. No background briefings. Indeed, no sign of life on this project - the most important of his presidency.

I've thought of that question a lot, and haven't been able to come up with an answer. I'd really hate to think it's the obvious answer. I'd hate to be the one to inform Margaret Thatcher that, well sorry, but the administration has gone wobbly after all.



TCS Daily Archives