The New York Times The New York Times Opinion March 17, 2003  

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  Welcome, sparksrm

Getting On With It


The Phony War — what Tony Blair derided yesterday at the Azores meeting as "perpetual negotiation" — is at last ending. In the somber days before action begins, we can ask: How should the U.S. deal with those nations that made the Security Council irrelevant?

Neither with anger nor with petulance. Forget about our sacrifices in freeing France, Germany and Russia from Hitlerism and Stalinism; remembrance has no place in their diplomacy. Set aside personal economic retaliation: no switching from French to Spanish wine, from Russian to Polish vodka, from German to Italian designers.

Instead, President Bush should reward those countries whose leaders stand with us in stopping the spread of 21st-century terror. Example: move our 70,000 troops and their families from garrisons in pacifist Germany to more strategic, less expensive deployments in Bulgaria and Poland.

Our response to the quagmire of the U.N. Security Council should be to stop pretending it is a vehicle for collective security or moral authority. Presidents Chirac and Putin, who supported Saddam's refusal to disarm for a decade, delivered the coup de grâce to that dreamy notion. However, we should continue charitable contributions to the U.N.'s humanitarian establishment, useful in postwar reconstruction.

NATO? Because France has long been half-out, America is in the Western alliance's strong majority. We should urge the move of its headquarters from unstable Brussels to new-Europe's Budapest. If Chirac carries out his threat to veto the entry of our East European allies into the European Union, we should object to any further military or economic integration with Putin's Russia.

That brings us to Turkey, whose turnabout has been the unkindest cut of all. Only weeks ago, we prevailed on NATO partners (with France outside the military committee) to supply the Turks with Patriot missiles and chemical defenses in case Saddam lashed out at them. Now not only has Turkey's new government refused to quicken victory and save lives in Iraq by renting us a base to launch a northern front, but it is the only NATO member to deny our aircraft overflight permission.

This really puts to the test a policy of no retaliation to non-allies. Turkey is a democratic Muslim country, although its tradition of secularism may be eroding under its new leader. Americans have to respect the decision of a freely elected government, wrongheaded, costly and ultimately self-damaging though it is.

Therefore, as Turkey presses its case for admission to the European Union to its newfound friends in France and Germany, we should say nothing. And we should base our judgment on loans to financially distressed Turkey from the International Monetary Fund on pure economic merit. Neither punitive nor supportive, Bush should treat the Turks' requests as deliberately as they have treated ours.

It is no retaliation for us to provide arms to the free Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to fight Saddam, ending our foolish policy of demurring to Turkish paranoia about such help leading to an independent Kurdistan.

President Bush noted that yesterday was the 15th anniversary of Saddam's poison-gas massacre of Kurds in Halabja. Today, almost one million Kurds live in Baghdad. If Saddam persuades his diehard special Republican Guard to put up a bloody battle in its streets, the allied coalition should be able to make it possible for the Kurds, some of the fiercest fighters in the region, to bear modern arms in the cause of Iraq's liberation.

Finally, how should Bush respond to the advocates of inaction in the U.S.?

Very respectfully. Because the phony war has dragged on so long, protest paraders and the Kennedy-Pelosi left have gained momentum. "Why America Scares the World" is the cover line in the current Newsweek, with readers thrilling to its theme, "the Arrogant Empire." The way for Bush to answer such legitimate disagreement is to get on with winning the war and to help Iraqis create a dictator-free confederation.

As the U.S. does that, dissent will decline. Tragic mistakes will be revealed, but most of the embedded media will focus on heroes. Smoking guns and hiding terrorists will be found. European non-allies and Arab potentates will find ways to forgive us and our new alliances will be rewarded with security. And American voters next year will remember who offered fear and who offered hope. 

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United States International Relations
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