February 13, 2003

The Edge Of The Knife

Charles Krauthammer on "Bracing For The Apocalypse"

The domestic terror alert jumps to 9/11 levels. Heathrow Airport is ringed by tanks. Duct tape and plastic sheeting disappear from Washington store shelves. Osama resurfaces. North Korea reopens its plutonium processing plant and threatens pre-emptive attack. The Second Gulf War is about to begin. This is not the Apocalypse. But it is excellent preparation for it.

You don't get to a place like this overnight. It takes at least, oh, a decade. We are now paying the wages of the 1990s, our holiday from history. During that decade, every major challenge to America was deferred. The chief aim of the Clinton administration was to make sure that nothing terrible happened on its watch. Accordingly, every can was kicked down the road:

--Iraq: Saddam continued defying the world and building his arsenal, even as the United States acquiesced to the progressive weakening of U.N. sanctions and then to the expulsion of all weapons inspectors.

--North Korea: When it threatened to go nuclear in 1993, Clinton managed to put off the reckoning with an agreement to freeze Pyongyang's program. The agreement--surprise!--was a fraud. All the time, the North Koreans were clandestinely enriching uranium. They are now in full nuclear breakout.

--Terrorism: The first World Trade Center attack occurred in 1993, followed by the blowing up of two embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole. Treating terrorism as a problem of law enforcement, Clinton dispatched the FBI--and the odd cruise missile to ostentatiously kick up some desert sand. Osama was offered up by Sudan in 1996. We turned him away for lack of legal justification.

That is how one acts on holiday: Mortal enemies are dealt with not as combatants, but as defendants. Clinton flattered himself as looking beyond such mundane problems to a grander transnational vision (global warming, migration and the like), while dispatching American military might to quell ``teacup wars'' in places like Bosnia. On June 19, 2000, the Clinton administration solved the rogue-state problem by abolishing the term and replacing it with ``states of concern.'' Unconcerned, the rogues prospered, arming and girding themselves for big wars.

Which are now upon us. On Sept. 11, the cozy illusions and stupid pretensions died. We now recognize the central problem of the 21st century: the conjunction of terrorism, rogue states and weapons of mass destruction.

Posted by Ithildin at February 13, 2003 7:50 AM | PROCURE FINE OLD WORLD ABSINTHE