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Jewish World Review Jan. 9, 2002 / 26 Teves, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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A President Gore would have been a disaster -- THE Fox News poll indicates that -- by 2:1 -- voters think Bush is doing a better job of handling the war on terror than Gore would have done. The Friday Op-ed article in The New York Times by Leon Fuerth, Gore's chief national security advisor, gives us an inkling of why.

Conceding that Saddam Hussein is "dangerous and likely to become more so," admitting that he "may well possess stocks of biological weapons," and agreeing that he "is trying to rebuild his capacity to make weapons of mass destruction", Fuerth argues, nevertheless, that Hussein is "not our most serious problem" and says that attacking him "would be at the expense of higher prioties."

Betraying an instinct for attacking the capillaries rather than the jugular Fuerth says that after Afghanistan, we need to focus on "a sustained assault on the broader network" of terrorist cells, attacking "it by working in concert with intelligence and police services around the world." Fuerth warns that a move against Saddam would be a "fatal diversion" and that it would "detract from the willingness of other governments to work alongside us" in rounding up the terrorists.

This reasoning is Al Gore to a "T." Short-sighted, insecure, focused on details, Fuerth -- like his boss -- misses the essential point. Very rarely does a time come along when the American people are totally united and committed to action, no matter how long, no matter how expensive, no matter how bloody. This is a unique moment of opportunity. If we strike at a bold, important target in a forceful and dramatic way, we will send a message to terrorists and their nurturing regimes that you are not safe if you don't change your ways. To permit this vital momentum to dissipate in a series of police actions -- like so many drug busts -- and to leave Saddam in power sends the opposite message.

Hopefully, Bush realizes that he can only sustain the momentum he needs by a big war on a big target. He can always pursue the police work at the same time. Nothing will bring countries to cooperate with us faster than success and military victory.

In his memoir of the Ford Administration, Dr. Henry Kissinger memorably wrote that a leader of "stays too close to the conventional loses control over events." Were Al Gore in charge -- and Fuerth helping to call the shots -- our war on terror would dissolve into a series of "Law and Order" episodes while we walked on eggshells to assure the co-operation of the French, Russian, German, Italian, and Spanish police services. Public attention will drift, support will wane, and the moment will be lost.

Fuerth's argument would ring true with Gore. He would reject making war on Iraq in favor of the less dramatic but more workmanlike process of busting terrorists in their lairs. Al Gore would have run the war on terror like he ran his project to "re-invent government" -- with a prosaic but competent absence of drama and imagination.

Bush and his people understand that the details can come later. They grasp that we must win the psychological war against terror and convince those who would shelter and fund the suicide bombers that the jig is up and their own necks are on the line. They will -- we hope -- decide to move ahead and ask the rest of the world to follow, rather than temporize and tread softly lest we alienate reluctant allies by moving too fast. They realize the need to seize the historical moment and use this aroused, collective will of this magnificently galvanized nation to accomplish the big tasks on the big stage.

But for Fuerth and Gore, momentum doesn't matter, allied reluctance looms as a fatal obstacle, dull is good and exciting is suspect. Bureaucrats to the core, they miss the basic point that the war on terror is a war to terrorize the terrorists and their sponsoring regimes. Only Saddam Hussein hanging by his heels in the middle of Baghdad will send the kind of message that will make these madmen pull in their horns. Bush can do it. Gore wouldn't have.

JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, The New Prince. Comment by clicking here.


01/03/01: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris