The Long View 2003-03-07: Speak Softly

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Speak Softly
Remember the old joke that you know things are really bad when Mr. Rogers is on television giving directions to evacuate the city? Sadly, Mr. Rogers has recently left us, but President Bush's demeanor at his press conference on Thursday, March 6, was nearly as soft spoken and non-threatening. It made him sound oddly implacable. It was like a confrontation when the shouting stops, and you know that the other guy is going to throw a punch.
The president handled the questions badly, which is to say he did not handle them the way I would have. I would have explained that the reason Jacques Chirac opposes the war is because he thinks he's Cardinal Richelieu, trying to maintain the balance of power by gingering up the Thirty Year's War. I would then have explained the mass demonstrations by pointing to the vile groups that sponsor them. To the question of why we have to do this now, I would have pointed out that we need to occupy Iraq to get at the Islamonutters (Mark Steyn's term) in Iran and Syria, before they go nuclear. All these things would have been true, but they might have occasioned alarm.
How much more tactful the president was: just keep repeating "My job is to defend America." Eventually, the press stopped asking questions with awkward answers.
* * *
I found today's session of the Security Council almost eerie. This is one of those historical periods when, to quote 2Thessalonians11,12:
"Therefore God sends them a misleading influence that they may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have preferred wickedness."
To look at the matter a little more prosaically, surely it was obvious that what the French and Germans and Hans Blix were saying was analytically incoherent. They said that increased Iraqi cooperation was due to "pressure from the international community." The pressure, of course, was the impending Anglo-American invasion. Nonetheless, they refuse to authorize the invasion, because it would interfere with the inspections.
There is more than wishful thinking here. Dr. Blix's oral report was the most hopeful he had yet delivered. It little resembled his written report, most of which has not been superseded by events, and which Secretary Powell pointed out is remarkably damning.
Here's an anonymous quote, from yesterday's New York Times of all places, that people of good will might keep in mind: "I expect the pope to pray for peace. I expect the U.S. Marines to implement it."
Copyright © 2003 by John J. Reilly

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