Europe says no; why care?

IBy Steven Snyder

in the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, countries around the world rallied to the defense of the United States. Leaders proclaimed their allegiance, offered public support for the U.S. war on terrorism and promised their help. As American soldiers entered Afghanistan, support remained. But now, on the brink of war with Iraq, the international support America enjoyed has come to an abrupt end.

France and Germany, typically allies with the United States, have come out against any proposed actions against Iraq. Russia has expressed support of the Iraqi cause. The United Nations might not pass a Security Council resolution against the country. In short, America finds itself nearly alone against the regime of Saddam Hussein.

What are we to do?

Our president has told both reporters and Congress of actions within Iraq that make it a critical target. New stockpiles of weapons, movement of chemical and biological agents and the absence of U.N. weapons inspectors lead many to the conclusion that Iraq is a growing threat. Still, many members of Congress oppose any military action, citing the opposition of other global leaders and claiming Iraq is a target low in priority.

I have often wondered why the United States feels compelled to appease the remainder of the world. Following World War II, the United States has been one of a few superpowers, using that status to assist dozens of countries with economic and military matters. We have aided starving nations and opposed political tyrants. We have been the world’s watchdog, often rushing to the rescue when other countries were unwilling to get involved.

And now, following an attack on our country, as a new threat arises, why should we listen to or be swayed by those who have rarely supported our endeavors in the past?

I do understand many of the arguments to the contrary. We live in a global village and must take into consideration how our actions will affect those countries overseas. However, in this instance, the issue is quite different. This is not a discussion about international trade that will cost French workers their jobs. This is not a question of financial aid that holds the lives of millions in the balance. Talk of Iraq is not only about U.S. safety, but global security. Having a madman such as Hussein removed from power, freeing the Iraqi people, and reducing the planet’s nuclear threats will not adversely affect the lives of Europeans.

Some opponents of the president’s plans are fearful of the consequences of a U.S. attack. The Middle East could erupt in turmoil and other countries could find themselves thrust into a much larger conflict. For opponents here at home, the prospect of U.S. casualties is too great a cost for a vague threat overseas.

At some point, we must have faith in our representatives. The president, vice president, U.S. intelligence agencies and military are not lying. They are not creating an Iraqi threat because it benefits them politically. Support for George W. Bush’s administration has actually declined since their proposed Iraqi missions, yet they remain firmly committed to the plan. They see a meaningful threat, and we must have faith in our senators and representatives to quantify that threat.

As other countries debate the motives of the United States and question the appropriateness of its plans, I return to one pivotal question: Would the world have assisted the United States in attacking al-Qaida in early 2001? I doubt it. Many countries and leaders would use the same rhetoric they are using now. “The timing is not right.” “The threat is neither substantial nor immediate.” “The United States is trying to pick a fight.” But that threat cost more than 3,000 American lives and brought our country to a standstill.

What will it take then for the world to agree that Saddam Hussein must be stopped? A nuclear attack? The first missile used to transport biological weapons? And where will that attack likely occur? Germany? France? No – either the United States or Israel. It is the countries condemning the United States that have the luxury of taking a “wait-and-see” approach.

I am not advocating an immediate attack against Iraq, only the need for our country to decide this issue without concern for popular international opinion. The debate belongs here, between friends and neighbors, Democrats and Republicans, within Bush’s cabinet and in the halls of Congress. Bush must address our representatives, earn their support, and then act on what is in the national interest.

If that decision disappoints foreign leaders, so be it.