ARMONK, N.Y., March 6 (UPI) — “I don’t like war.”

It is a remarkable state of affairs when an American president has to come before the country and state such a simple proposition. But in his Thursday night news conference, President George W. Bush found himself in the position of doing just that.

There are very few responsible world leaders who believe that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein does not represent an eventual threat to the peace and security of the free world.

He has used weapons of mass destruction — chemical gas, missiles — against his enemies and has pursued the acquisition of even more, including those that could bring about nuclear or biological devastation.

He has made war against his neighbors, including an unprovoked invasion of the emirate of Kuwait — from which his forces were forcibly expelled by an international coalition. He has tortured and murdered his own people, including some of his closest advisers.

Hussein has given support to terrorist organizations that use military tactics against innocent civilians. For all that, it is Bush who is being branded as the aggressor and the bringer of war.

In many ways, the world has seen this all before.

When the Japanese moved into Manchuria and established the puppet-state of Manchuko, the League of Nations response revealed its impotence. Some blame the league’s failure on the refusal of the United States to participate; but it was the responsible “great powers” in Europe that failed to act.

They failed to act when Mussolini invaded Ethiopia and they acquiesced as Hitler’s army began its march into the Rhineland, through the Sudetenland, the rest of Czechoslovakia and into Poland.

America, which retreated back into isolation after the armistice ended the Great War, remained outside these entanglements until the empire of Japan launched a sudden and unprovoked attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor.

The United States has not left the international playing field since.

America, carrying the banner of freedom, led the world in resisting Soviet expansion into the Mediterranean. America, leading the newly born United Nations, led the fight to expel North Korean and Chinese Communist aggressors from South Korea.

To prevent the nations of Southeast Asia from falling to communist-backed tyrannical regimes, the United States took on the burden unsuccessfully shouldered by the French in Vietnam. Here, America failed and with lasting consequences.

But even this defeat did not force America from the battle for freedom around the world.

Now, Bush, standing for an enduring peace on behalf of the people of the United States, the people of the world and for the people of Iraq, has kept the pressure on. Many of the world’s other important states — like Germany, France and Russia — are not completely with the United States in this regard. They have adopted a posture of continued negotiation, continued discussion and continued inspection that is, eerily, like what the world saw in Europe and Asia after 1933.

The principle difference between the two eras is, perhaps, that the destruction that the Imperial Japanese Army or Nazi Panzer divisions could bring about in weeks or years can now be achieved in hours or minutes. And it no longer takes the resources of a nation-state to bring that level of destruction to pass; a small group of determined men and women who can find the financial and technological resources can bring about mass destruction.

Anyone who doubts this should re-examine the footage of the carnage of Sept. 11, 2001.

The question is not “Who is for peace?” The question is “Who is for freedom and who is against it?” What the president called “a cancer inside Iraq” will, left unchecked, spread throughout the world.

No one should speak again of “a rush to war.” As the president outlined clearly in his remarks Thursday night, he is not for war. He is not, as some would have the world believe, a cowboy. He is for peace — but a meaningful peace — one that may only come about as a result of war.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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