Saturday, February 28, 2004


"Pre-emption, unilateralism and multilateralism" no longer have the meaning they once had, says Victor Davis Hanson.

Please read it all so you can spot the flaws in the floggings our President is taking from the left.
’Preemption" is supposed to be the new slur. Its use now conjures up all sorts of Dr. Strangelove images to denigrate the present "trigger-happy" Bush administration. Partly the hysteria is due to the invasion of Iraq. Or perhaps the venom of the Left comes from recent disclosures that, in the post-9/11 era, the United States has publicly proclaimed it may strike terrorists and their sponsors — or indeed rogue nations who have the history, capability, and desire to obtain frightening weapons — before they strike us.

But instead of a rational discussion about the wisdom and feasibility of that logical policy, we have had two years now of national frenzy over a purported new "dangerous departure" in American foreign policy, one that "threatens" to "destabilize" the world order.

Rubbish. Preemption is a concept as old as the Greeks. It perhaps was first articulated in the fourth book of Thucydides's history. There the veteran Theban general Pagondas explained why his Boeotians should hit the Athenians at the border near Delium, even though they were already retreating and posed no immediate threat. The Boeotians did, and won — and were never attacked by the Athenians again...

In short, preemption is now a politicized, debased word. It is part of the anti-Bush lexicon and has lost any real meaning for the foreseeable future of its usage. The same may be true of "multilateralism" and "unilateralism."

The Left's problem is not our embrace of the concept of "unilateralism" per se — or it would have attacked Clinton's U.N.-be-damned use of force in Iraq, Kosovo, and Haiti. No, the rub is something altogether different. A Christian, southern-accented, conservative Republican president, coming off a disputed election, has chosen to preempt. And when you hit first in a therapeutic America, you are at least supposed to bite your lip and squeeze Hillary's hand on national television. You do not dare say, "Bring 'em on" and "Smoke 'em out" — much less fly a jet out to an aircraft carrier...

It is perhaps a rule of American politics that Democrats can preempt and intervene pretty much wherever they want and be called "sober" and "reluctant" — given their protestations of pacifism and lip-service to "multilateral frameworks." And to be fair, Republicans can raise deficits that would tar liberals as "tax-and-spend" and "big-government" naifs — and get away with it as purported advocates of "supply side" and "growth."

But whereas President Bush is receiving criticism from both left and right for his fiscal policies, he is not getting praise for his courageous attempt at ending the political and cultural climate that led to September 11. The present bastardization of our language proves it.

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