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By Dick Morris


March 04, 2003
Tuesday - 1:15 pm


Remember the domino theory? First explained by President Eisenhower, it posited that if Vietnam fell, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and Singapore would be next. Then the Philippines and Indonesia. Soon we'd be fighting in San Francisco. It was wrong. Vietnam felland nothing happened.

But now a new version of the domino theory is back and it may well work. Bush is right that if Saddam falls in Iraq and 200,000 American troops occupy the country, the ripples will be felt throughout the Middle East.

In Iran, where the student strike of last year showed the strength of the opposition and the timidity of the clerical government in the face of determined democrats, the ayatollah's grip on power may be weakened. Until now, 70% of the Iranian population has contented itself with voting for the phony reform allowed by the clerics. The secular presidency in Teheran resembles nothing so much as a high school student government. Like the kids, Iranians elect their leaders but like the principal, the clerics still rule. Now there is a real chance to harness the forces of demographic change, a clear majority of the nation, and force an end to terrorist and repressive government.

Syria, long a handmaiden of terrorism, will feel the heat of US military action next door and will likely curtail its support of terror along Israel's northern border and will cut back its financing of terror worldwide. In Damascus, they know that they could be next.

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. You have Saudi Arabia. Always sensitive to global power shifts, the royal family will get the message from a robust US presence in Iraq and will have to cut back its financial support of terrorism. Cut off, Yemen will have to come around as well.

With Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia trimming their gifts to the 100 neediest terrorists, the PLO, Hamas, and Hezbollah will have to cut back their operations as well.

But the greatest change may be in Korea. The North cannot ignore the military precision and effectiveness with which we will likely topple Saddam from power. No nation appreciates power more than North Korea and no country is more sensitive to the possibility of a rapid and successful US invasion.

All this reinforces the key point about Iraq. If U.N. inspections, backed by the threat of US force, do work to disarm Saddam and we leave him in power, we will have accomplished almost nothing. We will have postponed a crisis for a few years. But we will not have solved the problem.

After all, if U.N. inspections make any progress at all, it is not because of their persistence but due to the presence of 200,000 in Kuwait poised to attack. We cannot keep those troops there, on full alert, for many more months. The moment they are gone, Saddam will reverse field, as he has done before, and begin to rebuild his arsenal.

To strike at terrorism throughout the Middle East, to oust Saddam, to give Israel a good chance of survival, and to cut back the support of terror everywhere, we must destroy Saddam, not just force him to disarm for the moment.

We are playing for big stakes and have a president with the clear strategic vision to appreciate it. By toppling Saddam's regime, we send a message of democracy throughout the Middle East. We crack a center of terrorist funding.

The domino theory didn't work in Southeast Asia because each nation was different, with varying levels of internal ballast. It failed, also, because the communists in North Vietnam were a nationalist challenge before they were an ideological one.

But in the Middle East, all regimes are subject to the same forces. They are all unpopular, lack a mandate from their people, and depend on arms to stay in power. A robust American military presence sends them a message: You could be next. The next domino.


Dick Morris has become a familiar figure as a commentator for the Fox News Channel. He writes weekly columns for the New York Post, The Hill Magazine in Washington D.C. and The National Post in Canada.

Copyright 2003 Dick Morris, Distributed by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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