President George W. Bush has taken a giant step toward building the consensus needed in this country for a military invasion of Iraq by pledging to seek congressional approval before he commits American troops in a campaign designed to bring about "regime change." In the president's view, the United States would attempt to oust military dictator Saddam Hussein and replace him with a government that would be our friend.
By seeking congressional approval, Bush and others within the administration who are advocating an attack on Iraq -- Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lead the pack -- will have to make their case clearly and convincingly. And that means answering all the questions posed by members of Congress.
Indeed, Bush will be put to the test next week when he gives a speech to the United Nations. The president says he intends to lay out his case against Iraqi dictator Saddam and will detail the reasons a change in regime is a global imperative.
Leaders around the world will be weighing Bush's every word, which means that he cannot be vague about why he believes that Saddam is a threat to world peace. He cannot simply say, for instance, that his administration has credible evidence that Iraq has become a nuclear threat to the region and to the United States. The president must be able to show that Saddam already has a nuclear arsenal or is on the verge of securing the weapons.
And, just as important, Bush must be willing to define the term "regime change" because that is what he has set as America's goal. It should come as no surprise that "regime change" is being interpreted by friends and foes as the willingness of the United States to go after governments -- whether legitimate or not -- that it finds unacceptable.
In response to this new foreign policy doctrine, Arab nations this week declared their allegiance to Iraq and said that U.S. threats against Baghdad were threats against the whole Arab world.
Even our European allies are warning that "regime change" could trigger regional conflicts. What's to stop one country from invading another with the goal of installing a government that it considers to be a friend?
If Saddam is viewed as such a threat to global stability, what about the leaders of North Korea and Iran? All three countries were described by Bush as forming an "axis of evil."
The president should share with the American people his vision of a new Iraq and should also explain how the United States would ensure that Saddam's replacement would not become the target of some other faction in the country.
In addition, the issue of American troops being deployed as peacekeepers in yet another country far away must be addressed.
Finally, the president needs to talk about the war on global terrorism and how the United States would fight it if our allies abandoned us as a result of the military operation in Iraq.