THE RELIEF OF ACTION

Chatting with a senior member of the administration this weekend, I felt a sense of relief. The president is adamant that Saddam will soon be gone. It will happen. The only option short of war will be Saddam’s exile, or death. I think Saddam understands this, which is why we suddenly have his desperate attempts to show superficial disarmament. But it isn’t enough. It cannot be enough. Maybe if he’d done it three months ago, we could have come to an agreement. But now the moment has passed. The permanent and transparent disarmament we need – the reassurance that the world deserves – cannot be accomplished while that duplicitous monster is in power. We should try for a second U.N. resolution, but we shouldn’t be too disheartened if we don’t get it. When you’re dealing with the likes of Chirac, there can be no secure agreement. One reason the French get along with many of the Arab regimes, after all, is that they have the same approach to negotiation. They never mean a thing they say; and will pledge one thing one week (Resolution 1441 anyone?) and act as if it doesn’t exist the next. And the interminable delays only encourage our other foes (North Korea), and sap the morale of the armed forces. It’s time to act. It’s good to know that forces are now at full strength, that we can achieve our goals without Turkey’s help (a Kurdish blessing in disguise), and that the Brits are also ready to move. So let’s roll. Sooner rather than later.

THE REAL AGENDAS: And one reason to pay only limited attention to the howls of outrage as the U.S. and U.K. do what is necessary is the fact that very little of the opposition to this war is actually about this war. For some it’s about “war” in general – a newly empowered new age pacifism. For France, it’s about … France, and its eclipse as a power of any significance. France’s crisis is deepened by the fact that a successful war against Saddam could also accelerate the end of the Franco-German bloc as the power-house of the European Union. For Russia, it’s about money. For the Germans, it’s about a new national identity. The Germans have never been able to sustain a moderate polity on their own. They veer from extreme romantic militarism to romantic pacifism. Their current abdication of all strategic responsibility for Europe or the wider world is just another all-too-familiar spasm from German history. For the broader anti-war forces in Europe, it’s about American uni-polar power – and the need to counteract it, even if it’s being put to good use. For still others, especially in the Vatican and France, it’s the old Jew-hatred again. For the Democrats, it’s about getting back to prescription drugs. For the anti-war left in America, it’s really about Bush. The pent-up fury they felt after Florida never found expression or even validation in the wider culture. It was repressed in the first months of a new presidency – and then made irrelevant by 9/11. Finally, they have a chance to demonstrate their hate – which is why so much of the demonstrations’ focus has not been on Saddam, Iraq or even war, but on Bush. The anti-Bush left knows that a successful war will only strengthen the president further and marginalize them even more – hence their utter desperation and viciousness today. This is their moment; and the demonstrations are their therapy. Meanwhile, a real and actual problem in global security is being addressed. Thank heavens that for some, this moment really is about Saddam.