After Powell, Before War

At 10 a.m. eastern time Wednesday, as Colin Powell arrived at the United Nations to tutor some slow learners about the obvious regarding Iraq, North Korea--it was midnight there--announced it was reactivating the Yongbyon nuclear facilities, but only to produce electricity "at the present stage." This announcement came five days after U.S. satellites had seen fuel rods being moved around the facility, which has an insignificant capacity for generating electricity but can produce fissile material.

This was eight days after the president's State of the Union address, in which he said: "Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq." Four days after the president said that, the shuttle disaster taught Americans that one of the astronauts was an Israeli pilot who in 1981 participated in an act of muscular unilateralism--Israel's raid that destroyed Baghdad's nuclear reactor. Were it not for that raid, Iraq would have been a nuclear power in 1990, and Kuwait would be the 19th province of Iraq.

The lessons of the Korean Peninsula, not to mention those of the 1930s, are lost on the current Vichyite French government. Its feckless response to Powell's presentation--more inspectors, more time--further inflamed anti-European sentiment in America. (A joke going around: How many French soldiers does it take to defend Paris? No one knows because it has not been tried for so long.) But that sentiment mistakenly accepts the French claim to speak for Europe.

Six days before Powell addressed the Security Council, eight European governments (Britain, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic) jointly announced their support for U.S. policy. The day of Powell's address, 10 more European nations voiced support--Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The next day, in a coincidence rich in symbolism, it was reported that the draft constitution for Europe, being written by a commission chaired by former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, would not include the aspirational phrase embraced by the European Union for 40 years--the commitment to "an ever-closer union." The old Europe, in which France and German together supposedly were the sun around which lesser nations were to orbit, looks very old indeed. Particularly so now that in stagnant Germany, where unemployment is 10.3 percent, Chancellor Gerhard Schroder has found that playing the anti-American card, which helped him win re-election last September, could not save his party from landslide defeats in two state elections.

Several weeks ago Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "I do not rule out that Russia may change its position" of opposition to a U.S.-led attack on Iraq without U.N. authorization. The day Powell addressed the Council, Prime Minister Abdullah Gul of Turkey, which borders Iraq, announced his government's support for U.S. policy. King Abdullah II of Jordan, which borders Iraq, is cooperating with U.S. prewar activities around--and in--Iraq.

But San Francisco remains unpersuaded. At any rate, its Nancy Pelosi, leader of House Democrats, says war is not the only way to disarm Iraq. Strong letter to follow. A poll conducted by Democrats finds that Americans favor Republicans over Democrats, 47 percent to 16 percent, when asked which party is more trusted to keep America safe.

Among Democratic presidential aspirants, the Washington contingent all voted last October for the resolution authorizing the use of force, and against a resolution requiring U.N. authorization. They are, with varying degrees of grace and grumpiness, with the president.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry pronounced Powell's proofs of Iraq's weapons "real and compelling." But Kerry may consider them less alarming than Peter Beinhart's dissection, in The New Republic, of his recent rhetorical somersaults. Kerry has been saying he opposes "unilateral" U.S. action. But given that the United States has many allies, "unilateral" is meaningless unless it means "without the United Nations imprimatur."

Only candidate Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, remains inscrutable. Before Powell's presentation, Dean's position was the mantra of most Democrats, that the president had not "made the case" for war. After Powell spoke, Dean said he had "heard little" that "makes the president's case for war."

But in a recent meeting with the editors of Roll Call, the newspaper that covers Congress, Dean vowed that if he saw evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction--what were those Iraqis talking about in the voice intercepts Powell presented?--"then I'd go back to the U.N. and get a new resolution that Saddam either disarms in 60 days or we go in." We.

And regarding North Korea, which already has nuclear weapons, Dean is emphatic: the United States must get rid of those weapons, peacefully or otherwise. One wonders what Dean thinks are "the lessons of the Korean Peninsula."