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"The Bush Team Needs an 'Attitude Lobotomy'"

In what will most likely be his final column before the war begins, Thomas Friedman once again stands out as one of the most rational voices on the planet:

This column has argued throughout this debate that removing Saddam Hussein and helping Iraq replace his regime with a decent, accountable government that can serve as a model in the Middle East is worth doing -- not because Iraq threatens us with its weapons, but because we are threatened by a collection of failing Arab-Muslim states, which churn out way too many young people who feel humiliated, voiceless and left behind. We have a real interest in partnering with them for change.

This column has also argued, though, that such a preventive war is so unprecedented and mammoth a task -- taking over an entire country from a standing start and rebuilding it -- that it had to be done with maximum U.N legitimacy and with as many allies as possible.

President Bush has failed to build that framework before going to war. Though the Bush team came to office with this Iraq project in mind, it has pursued a narrow, ideological and bullying foreign policy that has alienated so many people that by the time it wanted to rustle up a posse for an Iraq war, too many nations were suspicious of its motives.

The president says he went the extra mile to find a diplomatic solution. That is not true. On the eve of the first gulf war, Secretary of State James Baker met face to face in Geneva with the Iraqi foreign minister -- a last-ditch peace effort that left most of the world feeling it was Iraq that refused to avoid war. This time the whole world saw President Bush make one trip, which didn't quite make it across the Atlantic, to sell the war to the only two allies we had. This is not to excuse France, let alone Saddam. France's role in blocking a credible U.N. disarmament program was shameful.

But here we are, going to war, basically alone, in the face of opposition, not so much from "the Arab Street," but from "the World Street." Everyone wishes it were different, but it's too late...

The president's view is that in the absence of a U.N. endorsement, this war will become "self-legitimating" when the world sees most Iraqis greet U.S. troops as liberators. I think there is a good chance that will play out.

But wars are fought for political ends. Defeating Saddam is necessary but not sufficient to achieve those ends, which are a more progressive Iraq and a world with fewer terrorists and terrorist suppliers dedicated to destroying the U.S., so Americans will feel safer at home and abroad. We cannot achieve the latter without the former. Which means we must bear any burden and pay any price to make Iraq into the sort of state that fair-minded people across the world will see and say: "You did good. You lived up to America's promise."

To maximize our chances of doing that, we need to patch things up with the world. Because having more allied support in rebuilding Iraq will increase the odds that we do it right, and because if the breach that has been opened between us and our traditional friends hardens into hostility, we will find it much tougher to manage both Iraq and all the other threats down the road. That means the Bush team needs an "attitude lobotomy" -- it needs to get off its high horse and start engaging people on the World Street, listening to what's bothering them, and also telling them what's bothering us.

After we've amended the Constitution to permit Tony Blair to serve as US President, can we appoint Thomas Friedman as Secretary of State?


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Friedman and his supporters are being too hard on Bush's efforts to build a coalition.

To quote Tony Perkins' on this issue:

"when the war is over, and the iraqi people are dancing in the streets celebrating the end of the terrorist regime that has been killing their neighbors for years, then the world will then understand what this is all about.

as bush says, the value of an innocent iraqi's life is equal to that of an innocent american's life. and if the US will not liberate the iraqi people from this thug, than who will?

even if you presume that iraq is not a threat to the US, are you all suggesting that we should not come to the defense of millions of innocent people?

there is nothing pre-emptive about this war, sadaam has been killing and invading everyone around him, and our response to date has been to fight this madness with sanctions, which have done nothing but starve thousands of innocent iraqis.

how many innocent people would you all like to see die at the hands of sadaam before we stop this truly evil man?

if this is not a definaition of a just war, what is? as michael novak argued on our site "a limited and carefully conducted war to bring about a change of regime in Iraq is, as a last resort, morally obligatory."


also, remember the words of nobel peace prized winner shimon peres in his AO interview. "If British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had moved more quickly in World War II, and fully confronted the danger of Hitler, millions of lives would have been spared."


we all hate war, as we would hate to kill someone who had broken into our homes and tried to killed one of our family members. but sometimes you have to fight aggression with aggression.

my hope is that sadaam goes for the condo deal in syria, or his army doesn't show up the day the war begins. war is ugly, but is sometime necessay if you want to defend innocent people.

Tony Perkins | POSTED: 03.07.03 @08:22 "

Paul, it's important to remember that both Friedman and I support going to war to install a democratic regime in Iraq. What we object to is how the Bush team has gotten to this point. Bush the Elder assembled a coalition of 28 nations that put troops on the ground to enforce Security Council resolutions on Iraq. Bush the Younger has managed a coalition of 3.

Do you remember the groundswell of sympathy after 9/11? Do you remember how people around the world felt pain over our loss and wanted to help us? Do you remember foreigners saying "I am an American today" back then? That's all gone. It's over. We have completely squandered it.

It didn't have to be this way. We could have, as Friedman suggests, made more of a push for a negotiated settlement -- more of a push to appear to be willing to work things out, knowing full well that Saddam Hussein would have rejected or violated any reasonable deal. Ask yourself how many foreign capitals President Bush visited to build support for his plan. (None.) Ask yourself how many foreign capitals Colin Powell visited to build support. (Again, I believe the answer is none, at least after 1441 passed.)

As for Perkins' argument, I find it intellectually shoddy. He's saying that we should feel justified going into Iraq, with or without world opinion on our side, because Saddam Hussein is a bad guy. Of course he's a bad guy. So why not go into North Korea? Kim Jong Il is clearly a bad guy and has nukes and has a launch system capable of reaching California. Why not go into Iran? The mullahs there are clearly bad guys. Syria? Belarus? If you're going to argue for invading Iraq purely on the "bad guy" line of reasoning, then you're going to slide very quickly down a very slippery slope.

Now, with all that said, and having wished we had gotten to this point via a different path, I'm glad that we're liberating the Iraqi people. Like Friedman, though, I think it's important that we reach out to people around the world, repair our image as a bully, and most especially do whatever it takes to create the kind of nation in Iraq that will serve as a beacon of democracy to oppressed people throughout the Middle East and the world.

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