(Host) Commentator Jeff Wennberg reports that the Bush administration’s foreign policies were the subject of a lively family discussion over the holidays.
(Wennberg) My father was always interested in the news. When he came home from work we kids weren’t allowed to pester him until he had watched the news and read his evening paper. So it was at an early age that we appreciated the importance of events. It’s not surprising that when my family gathers as we did over the holidays, a spirited discussion of the news is always in store.
My brother cast the first line by stating that President Bush was determined to start a war with Iraq without justification. (By the way, I never start these “discussions,” but neither do I leave the room when one gets rolling). I took the bait. “What justification are you looking for?”
“Something that either directly connects Saddam Hussein to September 11, or some other serious threat to America,” he answered. He was furious at Bush, who in my brother’s mind was determined to take out Saddam for personal reasons; ignoring the wishes of the American people and the geopolitical consequences.
“And what about Korea?” my mother asked, “Korea is even more of a threat but we still focus on Iraq. Why not send troops to Korea?”
Most folks now believe that North Korea has nuclear weapons, and that Iraq doesn’t, but not for want of trying. Consider for a moment how the situation in the Middle East would be changed if Saddam possessed nukes, and the ability to deliver them. Unlike Kim Jong Ill, Saddam has already invaded his neighbors and used weapons of mass destruction against Iran and his own people. He sits within striking distance of every major flash point in the world’s most volatile region. This is the situation that Bush seeks to prevent. My mother wasn’t quite convinced. “But Iraq is all he seems to care about.”
Let’s look at where we are. Four years ago the inspectors were kicked out of Iraq and before September 11, no one seemed to care. Since then, the Congress has passed a joint resolution, the U.N. Security Council has unanimously demanded new, tougher inspections, and inspectors are now on the job. Saddam is under intense scrutiny and everybody believes that Bush is serious. The question is: Is America safer? Are we better off, under the current situation, than that which existed before September 11? She agreed. And would this have happened if Bush had not convinced everyone that the United States was prepared to go to war? Probably not.
But what about North Korea? Well, Kim is not Saddam; Asia isn’t the Middle East; and we have the cooperation of China, Japan, South Korea and Russia in trying to resolve the crisis. The fact that Bush hasn’t called up the troops means that he’s willing to match the response to the challenge.
My mother seemed somewhat reassured, but not my brother. I’ll probably have another chance next time we get together, but in the meantime George W. Bush will have to convince my brother on his own.
This is Jeff Wennberg, in Rutland.
Jeff Wennberg is a former mayor of Rutland.