Sunday, January 22, 2006
In searching online for the date of a famous phrase -- Margaret Thatcher's admonishing of President George H. W. Bush, in 1990, that "this is no time to go wobbly" -- I encountered an editorial by Charles Krauthammer, which used that phrase as a starting point:
"Remember George, this is no time to go wobbly." So said Margaret Thatcher to the first President Bush just days after Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait. Bush did not go wobbly. He invaded. A decade later, the second George Bush came into office and immediately began a radical reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. Now, however, the conventional wisdom is that in the face of criticism from domestic opponents and foreign allies, Bush is backing down. Has W. gone wobbly?Sounds familiar, doesn't it? The catch is that Mr. Krauthammer wrote this back in June of 2001, before the Twin Towers fell. The issues he's discussing are not withdrawal from Iraq and the looming threat of Iran; no, he's discussing the Kyoto protocol and missile defense!
Has Bush gone wobbly? Not at all. [...] No need for in-your-face arrogance. No need to humiliate. No need to proclaim that you will ignore nattering allies and nervous ex-enemies. Journalists can talk like that because the truth is clarifying. Governments cannot talk like that because the truth is scary. The trick to unilateralism -- doing what you think is right, regardless of what others think -- is to pretend you are not acting unilaterally at all.
By all means, read the whole thing... and try to remember what the world was like, and what we thought of it, before September 11, 2001.