The bomb exploded at 4:40 p.m. Minutes earlier I had walked across campus to deliver a manuscript -- a labor of love -- to my publisher, Yale University Press. It had been a triumphant moment. My first thought at the sound of the blast: At least I finished the book before Osama bin Laden finished me!
The nation was on "orange" alert. I braced for the terrorists' second strike. But nothing followed except an ear-splitting emergency alarm.
Nobody can predict the future shape of the constitutional world that was created on September 11, but history can put it in perspective. This is not the first time American leaders have attempted a radical reorganization of the nation's aims and ambitions. From the country's founding through the civil-rights revolution, there have been many similar efforts -- sometimes successful, sometimes disastrous. What is distinctive about this one?
A healthy constitutional system learns from its mistakes, and we have made a big one. Congress should never again write the president a blank check to make war. The precedent left by the first President Bush has cast a very large shadow on this present crisis. Before making his war in the Persian Gulf, Bush Senior first gained the consent of the United Nations Security Council before turning to Congress for authorization. These actions presaged two great principles for the new world order emerging out of the Cold War.
The United Nations Security Council must now make two decisions on Iraq, but
Bush administration is focusing on only one. So far as President Bush is
concerned, the big question is whether he can convince the council
Iraq is in "material breach" of its resolution on disarmament. But if the Security Council refuses to
authorize an Anglo-American invasion, it is going to face a second question:
withdraw the UN inspectors from Iraq?
The president owes us an explanation. The North Koreans had already told him about their nuclear weapons at the time Congress was debating war with Iraq. But he kept this information secret from the House and Senate. And he failed to mention it in his address to the American people in which he urged quick passage of a war resolution.
Yet the secret was obviously crucial to the ongoing debate. If North Korea, not Iraq, had nuclear weapons, were we targeting the wrong member of the "axis of evil"? Were we running the risk of waging two preventive wars at the same time? Wouldn't this outstrip our self-defense resources if al-Qaeda attacked again?