Jimmy Carter picked up his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo and reminded the world that it's easier to start a war than to prevent one. At the same time, President Bush was cautioning the global community that any use of weapons of mass destruction against the United States or its allies will be met by “overwhelming force,” including nuclear weapons.
Mr. Bush's statement, part of a newly drafted strategy whose purpose ostensibly is to deter use of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, was a thinly veiled threat against Iraq in preparation for a conflict that appears all but inevitable.
Back in 1991, his father's administration issued a similar threat, even though George H.W. Bush had decided privately in advance that he wouldn't employ nuclear or chemical weapons in the event Saddam Hussein launched a chemical attack during the Persian Gulf War.
The strategy this time appears to again leave the possibility of nuclear retaliation purposely vague, while ratcheting up the rhetoric. Unlike in the Gulf War, the oft-repeated goal of George W. Bush is “regime change,” which everyone takes to mean killing Saddam.
Lurking in the background of this international drama is the Bush Doctrine, a controversial policy of armed intervention in foreign nations, unilateral if necessary, that we've come to know as pre-emptive war.
Back in Oslo, Mr. Carter was warning persuasively of the danger posed by a policy of shooting first and asking questions later in world conflicts, including the new threats from stateless terrorism.
“It is clear that global challenges must be met by an emphasis on peace, in harmony with others, with strong alliances and international consensus,” Mr. Carter said in his Nobel acceptance speech.
“Imperfect as it may be, there is no doubt that this can best be done through the United Nations ... For powerful countries to adopt a principle of preventive war may well set an example that can have catastrophic consequences.”
Mr. Bush would do well to heed these words of wisdom and experience, even though the President and many in his administration look with disdain on the man who uttered them.