TCS Daily

Going It Alone

By Ken Adelman - September 11, 2002 12:00 AM

The smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud.

By the time we have "convincing evidence" - most critics, truth be told, won't find any amount of evidence ever convincing - it may well be too late.

That's why President Bush has to move out smartly. Having wasted seven or eight months - for what? one wonders - he must now march double-time towards the liberation of Iraq and protection of America.

This week he'll begin refuting the critic's biggest zinger of an attack - that we'd be "going it alone." Partnering with Britain's magnificent, even courageous Tony Blair somehow apparently doesn't count much.

Depressingly, ours is an era of groupthink. Lately it's even become an era of group-act.

American actions abroad must be collective to be legitimate. Two-thirds of Americans want to wait for support from our allies before liberating Iraq, according to the latest New York Times/CBS poll. Apparently, it's deemed better not to go at all, than to "go it alone."

How come?

America alone was attacked on 9/11/01. And America alone would most likely be attacked in the next 9/11, most probably with weapons of mass destruction.

Besides, since when did "standing alone" become a bugaboo? It used to be a sign of heroism, or spur towards action - not an excuse for inaction.

Our Founding Fathers chose to "go it alone" when creating the world's sole democracy in 1776. Our Founding Fathers never considered it shameful, or even regrettable, to "go it alone." They envisioned America as a singular, shining "city on a hill" inspiring others to adopt freedom in their own good time.

And that's precisely what happened. From being the world's sole democracy, we're now accompanied by 120+ freely-elected democracies, according to the non-partisan Freedom House.

The giant of last century, Winston Churchill, took pride in Britain "standing alone" to resist Adolf Hitler, the world's previous scary totalitarian tyrant.

On one of Britain's darkest days, on June 18th of 1940, new Prime Minister Churchill showed iron will to "stand alone" to defend civilization, as Britain indeed did for the ensuing year.

Churchill rang out in the House of Commons: "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"

That's how we do regard that hour, with admiration and a touch of regret. America should not have left Britain to stand alone. We should have stood proudly at Churchill's side from the outset in standing up to that totalitarian monster.

In the mid-1950s, a young senator named John F. Kennedy wrote the Pulitzer-Prize winning book, "Profiles in Courage" which celebrates eight senators who defied groupthink to do what was right. To Kennedy, "going it alone" was glorious, not regrettable.

In the early 1980s, when British citizens were endangered in the Falklands Islands, London formed no "international coalition." No one decried Britain's "going it alone" in the Falklands war in 1982, which was another of Britain's fine hours.

This week the President lays out his intention to do what's right - to liberate Iraq and protect America from chemical, biological and soon nuclear weapons produced there. Once he gives clear direction, others will climb aboard - Kuwait, Turkey, Qatar, Israel, plus a lot more.

That comes only when America shows clear policy direction and determination.

When we first ran this drama, in 1990, the now-vaulted "international coalition" against Saddam Hussein was formed only after the first President Bush declared that Saddam's aggression "will not stand," drew a line in the sand, and ordered 540,000 American troops over there.

There was no "coalition" for military action before there was this clear U.S. military action - to move the 101st Airborne Division and then supporting staff into the Gulf.

We enlisted other countries precisely because - right out of the box -- we were willing to "go it alone."

After all, that's how America was formed, and how America should proceed today.

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