The past several weeks have stuck a thorn in the collective sides of President Bush’s foreign policy critics. On Dec. 13, 2003 American troops captured Saddam Hussein. Less than a week later, Iran surrendered to a tougher inspections regime laid out by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And a mere day later, Col. Muammar Qaddafi of Libya announced that he would renounce his ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons. It would appear then that the president’s approach to handling world affairs is working. But some still refuse to see the effectiveness of the Bush Doctrine.

For example, Howard Dean made the claim that Americans were not made any safer by the capture of Saddam Hussein. He should tell that to Coalition troops stationed in Iraq, who in the month since Saddam’s capture have witnessed a 30 percent decrease in combat fatalities, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

Many have alleged the Bush Doctrine, as elucidated in the National Security Strategy of September 2002, to be aggressive and unilateral. On Wednesday, Howard Kim asserted that, “it is important to realize that it is not the threat of force inherent in the doctrine that is persuading nations, but rather the diplomatic ‘carrots’ that have never been offered behind the scenes” (“Libya, Iran should not validate Bush doctrine” 1/14). But the common claim of the war in Iraq being “pre-emptive” is off base. For over a period of 12 years, Saddam Hussein had been in violation of 16 United Nations Security Council resolutions, many enforceable by military action. Regime change in Iraq has been the official, continuous policy of the United States government since Congress near-unanimously passed and President Clinton signed into law the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, before most Americans ever heard of George W. Bush or Paul Wolfowitz. While getting rid of Saddam Hussein may be considered “pre-emptive” in that it prevented greater catastrophes down the road, it is more accurate, in the words of Christopher Hitchens, to refer to this latest Iraq war as a “postponed liberation.”

Furthermore, it is not this administration’s intent to wage war on the world — to invade each and every state that is in violation of United Nations resolutions or harbors terrorists. To do so would not only be imprudent, but infeasible. Rather, the president seeks to restore credibility to American foreign policy by enforcing international law. Contrary to popular belief, the Islamist terrorist war against America did not begin on Sept. 11, 2001. From the 1983 bombing of the American embassy and Marine barracks in Lebanon that collectively killed over 300 people, to the destruction of two American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, to the bombing of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in 2000, America has been targeted dozens of times over the past two decades. Rather than lob missiles at an aspirin factory in Sudan and empty huts in Afghanistan, President Bush has taken the initiative in forcefully dismantling the worldwide terrorist network and the rogue states that sponsor it. To do this requires not only a strong display of military force, but in dire circumstances, its actual use. Having retreated from the battlefield with our tail between our legs for some 20 years, we are only just beginning to be taken seriously by our enemies abroad.

Kim, along with the rest of the Democratic Party foreign policy establishment, has asserted that Col. Qaddafi gave up his nuclear ambitions not because of President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, but due to months of “secret negotiations” between Libya and the West. But according to the Daily Telegraph of London, Qaddafi told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last September that, “I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.” Qaddafi’s motives are hardly covert; in fact, they could not be more transparent.

For those lacking historical memory, the idea of America launching a pre-emptive military attack against a rogue state will throw the world into utter chaos. Kim asserts that, “It is difficult to believe that President Bush would be willing to allow other nations to apply his doctrine against the United States.” He then describes a scenario in which Syria, using the rhetoric of the Bush Doctrine, could make the case for invading the United States. Never mind the attempt to draw a moral equivalency between Syria, which oppresses its own people, funds terrorists and threatens world peace with nuclear bombs, and the United States; that is intellectually hollow and ethically contemptible in-and-of itself. But to claim that dictators around the world now have free reign to do as they please thanks to the assertiveness of the Bush Doctrine is to make the preposterous assumption that dictators are naturally benign and take their malevolent inspiration from the United States. The logic is backward; dictators do as they please: they kill their own people; they construct weapons of mass destruction; they finance terrorism, all with complete disregard for the norms of behavior that the United States and the rest of the civilized world adhere to. If the United States were to have abstained from invading Iraq in both 1991 and 2003 or from bombing Serbia under Milosevic, just like we abstained from seriously pursuing Al Qaeda during the Clinton years, it would encourage global instability. The United States did not save mankind from totalitarianism twice in the same century (and is currently fighting the battle a third time) not to earn a special place in the world. America is exceptional, despite the attempts of the French and our own academies to undermine that notion.

Following the Libyan disclosure to forfeit its nuclear program last month, President Bush announced to the world that the United States “[has] sent an unmistakable message to regimes that seek or possess weapons of mass destruction,” that we will no longer tolerate their threat to world peace. We have sent this message — not through an unqualified reliance on international institutions, diplomatic concessions or other “carrots” — by putting our money where our mouth is. And that not only requires carrying a hefty stick, but using it when necessary.