Foreign policy occupied fully half of Tuesday night's speech, appropriately so for a country that may be moving closer to war. The president provided not just new information regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction but a new sense of momentum as well.
The U.S. policy on Iraq is grounded in American principles and security interests alike, Mr. Bush said. "The qualities of courage and compassion that we strive for in America also determine our conduct abroad. … This conviction leads us into the world to help the afflicted, and defend the peace, and confound the designs of evil men."
Appropriate compassion was embodied in aid for the rebuilding of Afghanistan, for fighting AIDS in Africa and for planning a better future for the people of Iraq, whom the president urged to realize that, "Your enemy is running your country."
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's promised reassuringly to fight the "man-made evil of terrorism," to extend the protections for Americans at home through the new Homeland security department and through the fielding of missile defense, which he urged Congress to fund. He also urged the intelligence services to support the creation of a "terrorist threat integration center," to share their information about potential attacks.
Ultimately, the main story of Tuesday night's speech was case President Bush made for disarming Iraq. It is a case that has been made before, and which Mr. Bush made again, and did with passion, resolution and deep conviction.
The nexus between terrorists and outlaw regimes striving for or possessing nuclear, chemical weapons of mass destruction is the greatest threat to the United States and our allies. Mr. Bush, in his speech, echoed the report of chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix to the Security Council on Monday, which detailed Iraq's recalcitrance in the face of international inspectors. "The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving," Mr. Bush said.
Countering Security Council members Russia, China and France, who argue for giving the inspectors more time, Mr. Bush put them on notice that arms control is "not about process, but about results." In his clearest statement yet that this country will move ahead with or without the United Nations, he said that while the United States has asked other nations to join, "the United States does not depend on the decisions of others. I will defend the freedom and security of the American people."
Three months ago, Mr. Bush reminded his Congressional audience, the United Nations gave Saddam yet another chance to disarm and account for his weapons of mass destruction. In return the Iraqi dictator showed the world his "utter contempt for the United Nations," Mr. Bush said. You have only to look to North Korea to see what will happen if we allow Iraq to continue in this direction, he noted.
Americans heard for the first time the evidence presented by Mr. Bush that Iraq is violating its cease fire obligations, including the charge that Iraq is actively thwarting the work of the U.N. arms inspectors, continuing to acquire equipment potentially for the production of nuclear weapons, and has produced no evidence that its agents of biological and chemical weapons have been destroyed. The examples were compelling, yet there will be more to come.
On February 5, said Mr. Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell will present an even stronger and more detailed case to the U.N. Security Council. The Bush administration has begun to build its case against Iraq in a way it has not been done before. "The call of history has come to the right country," the president stated. For Iraq the final count down has begun.
Helle Dale is Deputy Director of The Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute.