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Jewish World Review Dec. 18, 2001 / 4 Teves, 5762

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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What Bush did right -- IT'S easy to say that one approves of the job Bush has done in fighting the war on terror. But lest we gloss over the true brilliance of his conduct in this dangerous and difficult period, it would be well to pause for a moment to consider each of the decisions he has made and to understand how correct they have proven to be.

Declaring War on Terror - At the first moment that the planes hit the Trade Center, Bush decided to frame the crisis as an international war rather than as just a crime. While Clinton chose to treat the 1993 Trade Center bombing, which forced the hospitalization of almost one thousand people, as a crime, Bush immediately dealt with the attack as the catalyst for a full national war effort. From the first moment, it was clear that this attack was in an altogether different category from the Ridyah attacks, the embassy bombings, the Olympic attack, and the bombing of the Cole. At the very first, Bush was clear that this time, it was war.

Identifying Nations Not Just Terrorists as Culprits - Rather than just focus on rounding up, arresting, and destroying the terrorist networks, the president decided to hold the nations that sheltered them equally responsible. In refusing to distinguish between terrorists and sponsoring governments, he laid the basis, not only for the attack on the Talliban, but for subsequent actions against Iraq and other nations that promote terrorism.

Resisting Immediate Retaliation - Doubtless Osama bin Laden assumed that President Bush would react as Clinton had to previous attacks with a knee jerk retaliation with Cruise Missiles from afar. He probably assumed that there would be day two photos of carnage at civilian targets hit in error to offset the moral culpability of the devastation at the Trade Center towers. In the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio, the terrorists always can count on offsetting pictures which frame their instigating attack and Israeli's subsequent retaliation as moral equivalents.

Decision to Use the Northern Alliance as a Proxy Force - It took considerable political savvy and bravery to build our military response around the shaky reed of the ramshackle force known as the Northern Alliance. To predicate American military prestige on its ability to lead the gang that had not, as yet, been able to shoot straight took a lot of courage. It took all the more to risk our alliance with Pakistan, so vital to the operation, by linking so closely with their Afghan enemies.

The Willingness to Accept Casualties - Bush's instant decision to commit ground troops as needed to sustain the effort, even in the face of the likelihood of casualties, was a welcome and total diversion from the Clinton policy. Bill Saffire once told me that a key difference between Clinton and other presidents was that he was unwilling to accept casualties. Bush was willing to take them. Perhaps intimidated by his own lack of military service, Clinton was not.

Refusing to be Rushed - Bush took his good, sweet time before the first bomb dropped on Afghanistan. He was willing to risk public disapproval for inactivity while he patiently waited for the lumbering transports and the snail-like ships to bring into position the right planes, troops, and equipment for the job.

Minimizing the Anthrax Scare - Bush saw the anthrax attack for what it was - a limited attack, likely from a deranged, domestic psycho - quite different in magnitude and purpose from the Trade Center attack. By downplaying the anthrax scare and remaining focused on the bin Laden, Bush showed an admirable ability to lead above the clamor of public panic.

The remaining test which faces Bush is whether he can now pivot and take on terror in the remaining areas - Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Sudan, the Palestinian controlled towns, Colombia, and North Korea. Likely the first step must be Iraq. Bush won't have to invade nine countries. A victory over Saddam Hussein will probably accelerate the "flipping" of Iran, Libya, and the Sudan. But it will take decisive, courageous action for Bush to move against Iraq, dragging a reluctant world with him, or proceeding on his own

. Iraq will be his next test of greatness.

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


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11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
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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