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Carol Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is a senior member of the editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Just Another Face in the Crowd
Barbara Boxer and the Perils of Internationalist Group-Think
by Carol Platt Liebau 4/18/03

One of the first lessons my father ever taught me was based on the classic “The Oxbow Incident,” a tale illustrating the tragedy that can result from mindless mob rule. The moral of the story, according to my father, was “Always think for yourself – never go with the crowd.”

It’s a lesson that stuck – which is why Senator Barbara Boxer’s decision repeatedly to criticize the President for being willing to “virtually go it alone” in Iraq seems inherently mindless. Of course, Boxer is a knee-jerk liberal, and her jibe fits neatly into the left’s current obsession about the opinions of France, Germany, Russia and “the world” more generally (conveniently defined to exclude our extensive “coalition of the willing”). But the reasoning of so-called “internationalists” like Boxer has been bewildering for a while – apparently, for them, it’s perfectly legitimate for our troops to die to prevent Saddam Hussein from obtaining weapons of mass destruction he might use against the United States . . . but only if France (or Cameroon, or Guinea, or Syria) says so.

Never one to “go it alone” herself on behalf of any unpopular principle, Barbara Boxer has been a prominent member of the chorus of liberal naysayers. From Tom Daschle charging that war resulted from “failed diplomacy” to John Kerry blaming President Bush for “alienating” the United Nations, almost every prominent Democrat (with a few honorable exceptions) has decided to criticize the President for being insufficiently concerned with the opinion of “the international community.” It would seem to be a perfect political indictment, as it sounds grave and is at least abstract enough to allow the accusers to avoid being quickly proved wrong – as they were in their catastrophic predictions about the war in Iraq.

Even so, unfortunately for Barbara Boxer, already busily engaged in seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, it’s a critique that’s ultimately likely to fail. With every passing day, it becomes increasingly clear that the foreign leaders who most loudly and sanctimoniously chose to cloak themselves in the language of "international law" have turned out to be the most grasping and self-serving of all. Jacques Chirac has been busy protecting France’s extensive oil interests in Iraq, jockeying for leadership in the new European Union, pandering to country’s large and discontented community of Muslim immigrants, and basking in the glow of the snotty anti-American ignorance that is becoming one of France’s most pronounced characteristics.

And all the while that Vladimir Putin was advocating continued inspections in order to determine whether Saddam Hussein possessed prohibited weapons, it turns out that Russia was entering into intelligence sharing agreements with Hussein’s government in order to spy on Britain and swap information about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Even as they raised their voices in harmony with France to extol the virtues of “peace,” Russia’s leaders had to know that those two countries had sold Saddam Hussein more than two-thirds of the weapons he amassed between 1973 and 2002, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. (“Peace”-loving China was also a generous supplier of weapons to Saddam Hussein through that long and bloody dictatorship).

Gerhard Schroeder was likewise willing to sacrifice his country’s relations with the United States in order to attract enough hard-leftists to be able to limp to a narrow re-election in Germany (the country which, according to Iraqi declarations, provided more than half of all the equipment used for manufacturing chemical weapons). Even Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien, who so piously declined to help liberate Iraq, may have had motives that were less than pure – his son in law has ties to TotalFinaElf, the French corporation with development rights to 25% of the Iraqi oil reserves . . . at least so long as Saddam remained in power.

Having witnessed the hypocrisy, self-interest and nationalism that has marked the behavior of these leaders, even the most committed liberal “internationalist” like Boxer should wonder: If any of these other countries enjoyed America’s position of unrivalled global power, would their leaders – even for a moment – have let world opinion prevent them from acting in their own national (or personal!) interests, many of which are decidedly less noble than fighting to prevent a madman from obtaining weapons of mass destruction and to liberate an oppressed people? Would they have subjected themselves to the endless processes of the United Nations, and to the potential of being humiliated by countries like Cameroon and Guinea? Of course, as the sole superpower, the United States is proud to be held to a higher standard, but it would be a false and misguided humility that would allow any country to subordinate its will to a collection of countries so apparently indifferent to anything but their own narrow agendas.

When the deeds of countries like France, Germany, Russia and even Canada so clearly put the lie to their professed ideals of comity, it should become obvious that these countries are invoking internationalism not as a principle, but as a strategy in an increasingly desperate bid to thwart the will and curb the power of the United States. No matter how deeply opposed to President Bush’s politics any American might be, no "morality" can be involved where there are louder protests over the conduct of George W. Bush than Saddam Hussein. And when other countries actually define their own interests in opposition to the United States, Democrats like Boxer need to recognize that the interests of the so-called “international community” are not necessarily congruent with ours.

Of course, there remains the unsettling possibility that Senator Boxer and other Democrats may understand that already, and that protecting distinctly “American” interests – as opposed those defined as “international” interests – simply isn’t of paramount importance to her. When we choose our leaders, it’s important to know exactly where everyone stands. Perhaps it’s time to ask Barbara Boxer (and every other Democratic candidate in 2004): Do you consider yourself first and foremost a US citizen, or primarily a “citizen of the world”? And if you are first an American, how do you justify delegating decisions of war and peace – that constitutionally reside with America’s president and Congress – to transnational institutions like the U.N.? With a critique of President Bush’s policies that compensates in ferocity for what it lacks in discernment, Senator Boxer and her crowd at least owe California’s voters an explanation of how her diplomatic approach to world affairs would better protect our people’s lives and interests.

As we mark a milestone in the long struggle against international terrorism, the American people need to know that California’s senator will think for herself, and not just go with the crowd, either at home or abroad – especially when they’ve become little more than a collection of hypocritical and self-serving “leaders” seeking a last refuge in the shifting sands of a weak and flabby “internationalism”.

CRO columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA.


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