February 1, 2003

Neither a Realist Nor a Liberal, W. Is a Liberator: Saddam finally hit upon a president who knows how to beat him (LAWRENCE F. KAPLAN AND WILLIAM KRISTOL, January 29, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

Realists and liberals approach the world from different directions, but when it comes to Iraq, both ended up in the same place: generating excuses for inaction. President Bush, by contrast, does not speak of merely containing or disarming Iraq. He intends to liberate Iraq by force, and create democracy in a land that for decades has known only dictatorship. Moreover, he insists that these principles apply to American foreign policy more broadly. A century of fighting dictators has finally alerted U.S. policy makers to the fact that the character of regimes determines their conduct abroad–their willingness to resort to aggression, their determination to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and their relationships with terrorist groups.

Hence, the Bush strategy enshrines “regime change”–the insistence that when it comes to dealing with tyrannical regimes like Iraq, Iran, and, yes, North Korea, the U.S. should seek transformation, not coexistence, as a primary aim of U.S. foreign policy. As such, it commits the U.S. to the task of maintaining and enforcing a decent world order. Just as it was with the Bush team’s predecessors, Iraq will be the first major test of this administration’s strategy.

It will not be the last.

C-SPAN ran the BBC nightly news report last night and there was an interview with Vaclav Havel. He was asked about why he supports the war against Iraq and his answer was instructive. He said that the Nazis and Soviets had taught us the danger of relying only on defense and that it is now necessary to rehabilitate the idea of pre-emptive action. Elsewhere he’s said that sometimes you have to strangle evil in its crib.