ARLINGTON, Va. - First Saddam Hussein falls to the Bush Doctrine, and now Libya's dictator, Col. Muammar el Kadafi, buckling under pressure, announces he will give up his efforts (and they were considerable) to develop weapons of mass destruction. He has also allowed American and British inspectors into Libya to see what he's been up to for the last two decades.
The New York Times had advised a different course of action. The newspaper editorialized that the United States should have followed the example of the United Nations and lifted sanctions after Libya's settlement with the families of those killed aboard Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988, a terrorist attack in which Colonel Kadafi grudgingly admitted his role.
To its credit, the Times has acknowledged it was wrong and President Bush was right. In a Dec. 20 editorial, the newspaper said, "This page recommended lifting American sanctions, but President Bush left them in place pending further steps, most notably Libya's decision to end its unconventional weapons programs. It is now clear that he was right to do so. The added American pressure worked just as intended."
No wonder the president doesn't read the newspapers.
This policy success should be a lesson to the United Nations, "peace activists" and others who have criticized the Bush strategy of pre-emption and the "failure" (so far) to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq - even though Saddam Hussein used them in the past. Dictators lie and deceive. This lesson should have been learned in the last century. Applying moral equivalency in negotiations with dictators is like taking a used-car salesman at his word without inspecting the vehicle.
The fruits of the war to topple Mr. Hussein are becoming apparent. Even Democrats are starting to acknowledge the significance of Libya's announcement.
Ashton B. Carter, who served as assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, said that the Iraq war was a turning point in persuading Colonel Kadafi to relinquish his weapons. One senior Bush administration official told reporters Friday night that Libya had progressed "much further" in its nuclear program than the United States had suspected, including acquisition of centrifuges that could be used to produce highly enriched uranium.
Given Colonel Kadafi's history, weapons inspectors will need to remain focused. In a rare appearance in the White House press room, President Bush acknowledged as much when he said, "Because Libya has a troubled history with America and Britain, we will be vigilant in ensuring its government lives up to all its responsibilities."
Libya was one of a small number of nations that had refused to sign the treaty banning chemical weapons. In its war with Chad, Libya became one of a very few states to use such weapons in 1987. They were mustard gas bombs, supplied by Iran. Intelligence agents have said that Colonel Kadafi once tried to recruit South African scientists to assist him in developing biological weapons. U.S. intelligence officials concluded this year that a senior scientist who once led Iraq's germ weapons program had tried to emigrate to Libya in the mid-1990s.
If Colonel Kadafi follows through on his promises, the Bush administration (along with its equally steadfast partner, British Prime Minister Tony Blair) can rightly claim success for the proper use of force, power and resolve against those whose sole "weapon" is diplomacy, aided by the feckless United Nations. The only thing a bully understands is a fist in the face, not a shake of the hand and meaningless signatures on documents recording promises he never intends to honor.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein, some of the leading Democratic presidential candidates continued to say that while they are grateful Mr. Hussein is gone, they would have done it differently. Now that another of the world's terrorists may have been neutered by the powerful U.S. and British weapon of joint resolve, will Democrats who want to be president say they would have followed another path? Not unless they want to go against the repentant New York Times.
Cal Thomas' syndicated column appears Wednesdays in The Sun.