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Published: Saturday, 1/24/2004

Bush not 'going it alone'

Police commander Gonzalez Perez Garcia, in charge of security for a Spanish brigade, was shot in the forehead by terrorists while he was sitting in his car in the town of Diwaniyah in southern Iraq on Jan. 22.

Commander Garcia's injury was inflicted less than 48 hours after he, his country, and the soldiers of 33 other nations were insulted by the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.

"[The President] has pursued a go-it-alone foreign policy that leaves us isolated abroad," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California in her response to the State of the Union address. "He failed to build a true international coalition."

As of Jan. 21, 97 soldiers from Britain, Poland, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Thailand, and the Ukraine have been killed in Iraq, according to the Web site Iraq Coalition Casualties Count. Soldiers from 34 countries besides the United States - a much larger coalition than that assembled to beat the Nazis in World War II - are taking part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and another 13 nations are supplying non-military assistance.

So much for unilateralism.

The coalition is likely to grow. A questioner at a luncheon Tuesday sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh tossed the former German defense minister an anti-Bush softball, which he expected him to bat out of the park.

"The Germans and especially the French were right," the questioner began. "There were no weapons of mass destruction. What do you have to say about that?"

But Rudolph Scharping didn't rise to the bait.

"As to whether there were weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq], I'll wait for the final report from the inspectors," Mr. Scharping said. "But there is no doubt that the danger existed, and there is no doubt the world is better off without Saddam Hussein."

If the United Nations returns to Iraq, Germany, which already is training Iraqi policemen, is likely to participate, he said.

"The only question we have to answer now is do we have a common interest in Iraq now, or do we leave it as another failed state?" Mr. Scharping said.

The Bush diplomacy for which Ms. Pelosi has such scorn is making great progress in alleviating the principal economic problem facing postwar Iraq, the massive debt run up by Saddam Hussein in his pursuit of weapons, palaces, and Swiss bank accounts.

Germany is willing to forgive the entire $4 billion it is owed, Mr. Scharping said. France, Russia, and Iraqi neighbors Kuwait, Qatar, and Bahrain have agreed to write down much of what is owed them. Saudi Arabia may follow suit.

It seems that the only people who want to leave Iraq as a failed state are the Saddamite remnant, al-Qaeda, and some Democratic politicians.

Many Democrats seem incapable of viewing foreign affairs except through the prism of domestic politics. Whatever Mr. Bush does in foreign policy, they criticize - even if the criticisms are contradictory. Those who bash Mr. Bush (falsely) for a "unilateral" approach to Iraq blast him for insisting upon multilateral negotiations with North Korea about dismantling its nuclear weapons program. It is true that the United States - and Britain and Australia and Poland - went to war in Iraq without the blessing of the United Nations, whose resolutions the coalition was enforcing.

But that blessing never would have been forthcoming. Russia, which was supplying arms to Saddam up until the eve of the war, would have vetoed it, as would France.

President Clinton had the same problem in 1999 over Kosovo. He never even approached the United Nations before initiating hostilities because he knew Russia would veto any action against Serb dictator Slobodan Milosevic.

So why was bypassing the United Nations a good thing in the case of Kosovo, but a bad thing in the case of Iraq? Democrats need to answer that question if they want to argue the United States must obtain a permission slip from the United Nations before taking action to protect itself, or to prevent genocide.

Could the answer be that Mr. Clinton is a Democrat, and Mr. Bush is not? That may be good politics for the hopelessly partisan. But it is not a foreign policy.



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