Jewish World Review April 15, 2003 / 13 Nisan 5763
After Saddam? Watch out, Syria
If I were Syria's President Bashar Assad, I think I'd start packing my bags. It's time for him to think about making a clean getaway.
The more I hear members of the Bush administration tell us that they have no plans to invade Syria, the more they sound like they are planning to invade Syria.
Even before American Marines helped newly freed Iraqis topple Saddam Hussein's statues of himself in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was sending warnings to Syria. Stop shipping military aid, he said, or offering shelter to fleeing members of Saddam's regime.
On April 6, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, rattled sabers at Syria on NBC's "Meet the Press," saying they're "doing some things they shouldn't be doing, and the sooner they stop, the better it will be for them."
He also said, "There's got to be change in Syria."
Those strong words came a few days after former CIA director James Woolsey declared that the United States is engaged in "World War IV," counting the Cold War as "World War III," and that it will last "longer than World Wars I or II."
Afghanistan, Iraq and al Qaeda are only the beginning, he said, and Iran's religious rulers and Syria's "fascists" had better watch their backsides, too.
And, what about our nervous allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia?
"As we move toward a new Middle East, over the years and, I think, over the decades to come," Woolsey said, "... we will make a lot of people very nervous. Our response should be, 'good!' We want you nervous. We want you to realize now, for the fourth time in 100 years, this country (the United States) and its allies are on the march, and that we are on the side of those whom you -- the Mubaraks (of Egypt), the Saudi Royal family -- most fear; we're on the side of your own people."
Woolsey has been named in news reports as one of Rumsfeld's top candidates for a key position in the reconstruction of post-war Iraq. He was speaking at an April 3 "teach-in" held by influential conservatives at Americans for Victory over Terrorism, former Education Secretary William Bennett's new organization created to, among other tasks, stiffen the "resolve" of Americans about the fight against terrorism.
Look out, world. The hawks are on a roll, thanks to thousands of young American men and women in uniform. In the name of "supporting our troops," a lot of good-hearted, well-meaning Americans may soon be sending those troops into further adventures.
And, if you raise a peep against it, you may find your lack of "resolve" shouted down by vigilant self-appointed guardians of the freedoms we hold dear.
As a result, there's not much open debate about Uncle Sam's position in the world anymore. Congress has abdicated its war-declaring powers since World War II. That was quite a few police actions ago.
Talk of regime change in Syria, a next-door neighbor to Iraq and long-time enemy of Israel, has been bubbling for years.
The United States includes Syria, along with Cuba, Libya and Sudan, among "state sponsors" of terrorism, but Syria did not rank high enough to make Bush's top-three "axis of evil" list.
That's because Syria was cooperative enough to support America's Persian Gulf War against Saddam Hussein and more recently has provided some valuable information about al Qaeda. But Assad helped the wrong side this time, putting him on the other side of Bush's simplistic view of of the world: "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists."
Secretary of State Colin Powell remains the most prominent voice urging Bush to try alternatives to military action. It appears to be a lonely job but I am glad he's doing it.
We have a spirited war debate going on. It's an important debate about the future role of the United States. We are the world's most powerful country. We also are increasingly isolated and resented by countries who think we want them to care about what we think more than we care to hear what they think.
This is an important debate and we have needed to have it for a long time. Unfortunately, it's going on behind the closed doors of the White House. It should be on the floor of Congress.
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