Perspective is in order. The United Nations was in Bosnia for eight years before it turned over reconstruction to the European Union. It has been in Kosovo for five years. Post-conflict reconstruction in Germany and Japan took more than a decade. Will reconstruction in Iraq demand U.S. involvement as long? Hopefully not, but France's demand at the United Nations for Iraqi self-governance in a matter of months exposed the French motivation as meddlesome and calculating rather than helpful. In his response before the United Nations, President Bush was right to reject the French and, instead, pledge America's commitment to Iraq while calling upon the U.N. to help Iraq succeed as a free nation.
For his resolve, George Bush continues to be pilloried by his political opponents, but rewarded by pushing the world in the right direction. Even France acknowledged after Bush's speech that it would not veto another United Nations' resolution concerning Iraq, but instead, if necessary, simply abstain. This is a good thing, because the American president is deadly correct when he says that terrorists have made Iraq the central war about terror, and they must be defeated.
"By the victims they choose, and by the means they use, the terrorists have clarified the struggle we are in," Bush said to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. "Those who target relief workers for death have set themselves against all humanity. Those who incite murder and celebrate suicide reveal their contempt for life, itself. They have no place in any religious faith; they have no claim on the world's sympathy; and they should have no friend in this chamber."
Instead of backing down, Bush again outlined the divide between the methods of terrorists, who deliberately take the lives of men, women and children "without mercy or shame" and those who seek order and the protection of human rights.
"All governments that support terror are complicit in a war against civilization," he said. "No government should ignore the threat of terror, because to look the other way gives terrorists the chance to regroup and recruit and prepare. And all nations that fight terror, as if the lives of their own people depend on it, will earn the favorable judgment of history."
The role Bush has accepted for the United States is not an easy or inexpensive one. More than 300 American lives have been lost since the beginning of the war; and the president has asked for another $87 billion from Congress to help in peacekeeping and reconstruction. Without doubt, more lives will be lost. And more money will be sought. Thus, it is not without irony that George Bush, the candidate who decried nation-building in the 2000 presidential campaign, calling for the U.S. to be humble in the world, is now leading the largest reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan.
But it is a role that is necessary. To paraphrase U.S. representative to the United Nations Richard Williamson: Sept. 11, 2001, taught us that two vast oceans and our military might cannot protect us from attack. If we are not willing to go to bad neighborhoods to deal with gathering threats, they will come to our shores. The United States is leading the world in the right direction.