interesting times: friendship,

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    Interesting Times: Friendship,
    By Saul Singer
    Mar. 7, 2003

    On Wednesday France, Germany, and Russia stated that they "will not let... pass" a UN resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq.
    The US is being called "increasingly isolated" and President George W. Bush's domestic critics are accusing him of causing lasting harm to the web of post-war alliances that Americans had taken for granted.

    Here is how Bush should respond:

    Eighteen months ago the United States suffered a terrorist attack that took 3,000 American lives. Since then America has pursued its right and its duty to eliminate the threat of terrorism to itself and to free nations around the world.

    The first step was the removal of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which had hosted the terrorists who murdered so many of our citizens. Afghanistan, with our help, is now on the difficult road toward establishing a stable democracy and is already an important new ally in the war against terrorism.

    Since then, the United States, with the help of many nations, has made significant progress in eliminating the threat from al-Qaida. But the nations that have for years made support for terrorism an integral part of their foreign policy, such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria, have not yet decided to abandon that path.

    In an effort to address this problem through peaceful means, the United States has imposed economic sanctions on these nations for some time, but has received little support from its European allies. In Iraq's case in particular, the same countries that now oppose military action worked tirelessly to weaken and even remove economic sanctions against Saddam Hussein's regime.

    Some have questioned why, of all the dictatorships and terror-supporting nations in the world, the United States is poised to liberate Iraq. Does not Iran provide more support for international terrorism? Has not North Korea already announced that it will produce plutonium, which can only be used to produce nuclear bombs?
    The answer is that Iraq is the only country in the world in flagrant violation of binding Security Council resolutions requiring its disarmament. As recently as November, the Security Council unanimously came to this conclusion; the difference now between us and some of our friends is not over whether Saddam has disarmed, but whether he can be disarmed peacefully or not.

    Now, in addition to being accused of launching an unjust war, my administration is being charged with unraveling the bonds of friendship with some of our closest allies, particularly France and Germany.
    I am convinced, as are, I believe, a majority of the American people, that Saddam Hussein has been given more than ample chance to resolve this matter peacefully, and that only the liberation of Iraq will fulfill our responsibility, not only for the security of our own people, but to advance the cause of freedom and human rights in the world.

    There is, however, nothing I can say that would convince some governments of the necessity and justice of this war. Let me say that I respect the right of free nations to disagree. Yet there is one thing that such nations do not have a right to do: expect our unconditional friendship.

    WE RECOGNIZE that as the sole superpower on earth, the United States must tread lightly, and that even then our power and wealth will be met with the resentment of many nations. We have a special responsibility to respect the rights of all nations, and our decision to seek the assent of the United Nations in the current case, unlike in Afghanistan, reflects this understanding.

    But even superpowers have needs. It was the United States, not any other nation, that was attacked on September 11. We too, have a right of self defense. We also have the right, at least, to choose our own friends.

    Some nations have reassured us that their friendship with America will not be harmed by their opposition to using force in Iraq. I must say, as commander of the soldiers who are now poised to risk their lives in Iraq's liberation, this is a bit rich. It is not their friendship with us that is at peril, but our friendship with them.
    It is one thing for a nation to say to us, we understand what you are doing, but we cannot participate militarily. It is another when a nation says it will not support us diplomatically. It is quite another when a nation organizes opposition to us, effectively putting our forces at greater risk, giving the enemy hope and perhaps stiffening his resistance in time of war.
    If any other democracy were attacked the way the United States was on September 11, they would have the right to expect our support for their self-defense. We do not argue that our size and power merits receiving more support that other nations might receive, but neither are we willing to expect any less. Our claim for international support has nothing to do with our strength, but with the fact that we were victims of one the most brutal and blatant acts of aggression in human history.

    Americans are generous, tolerant people. But I cannot, in good conscience, ask them to pretend that betrayal is consistent with friendship. France, Germany, and Russia are great nations. But so are Great Britain, Spain, and the many nations that have supported us. And so is the United States.

    We prefer to stand with others, and we do, but we will not stand with those who oppose us in our hour of need.

 
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