Immediately following victory comes a most tenuous time, Richard Nixon was fond of saying. The victor, naturally feeling a rush of euphoria, eases up the previous laser-like focus.

Richard Nixon should know. For after his stunning 1972 victory came his most tenuous time. Watergate unwound, with Nixon and his staff displaying a stunning nonchalance to the creeping crisis, until it was too late.

George W. Bush should know, too. For his father squandered much of the Gulf War victory when nonchalantly okaying General Normal Schwarzkopf accepting Saddam’s forces flying their Army helicopters around Iraq after their defeat.

These helicopters mowed down the anti-Saddam rebellions in the north and south, which we allowed -- if not encouraged. But this sad tale was missed among all the ticker-tape parades celebrating the Gulf War victory.

The cost of thus allowing Saddam to remain in power over the past dozen years – the cost in blood, treasure, and top-level executive time -- is simply mind-bending. It is probably incalculable.

Now comes a second chance -- for the second President Bush to end the second war against Saddam Hussein without tarnishing its second victory.

Granted, those atop the U.S. and U.K. governments are physically exhausted and mentally drained from the tension of war-fighting. We can see it most clearly in Tony Blair’s face. Yet more stamina, more laser-like focus, must be summoned to assure their victory turns out better this time around.

In particular, attention must be paid to assuring that all key Saddam officials -- whether in the party, military, or government -- are brought to justice. I’ve long preferred war crimes trials for those in such tyrannical regimes -- ala Rwanda, Serbia, Germany, and Japan -- since trials publicize their atrocities. This both sets a base standard for acceptable international behavior, and precludes respectable revisionist history of their regimes. Yet if war crimes cannot be managed, stashing them away in Guantanamo Bay would be swell by me.

Second, a quick hand-off of key ministries -- transportation, electricity, telecommunications, housing, and the like -- to Iraqi technocrats. Even before any formal government is chosen, these technocrats can begin administering. A quick hand-off shows that Americans have no desire to rule Iraq.

Third, a quick launch of a process for choosing a new government. This process might take some time. Regardless, it would best run in conjunction with the military Operation Mop-Up, not after. While the temporary U.S. wardens should avoid backing any Iraqi person or faction, we must insist on three requirements for the post-Saddam period:

• Iraq must retain its territorial integrity -- hence no autonomy for the Kurds (despite their deserving it more than the Palestinians);

• The new government must be fairly elected, and representative of all Iraqi groups; and

• The new country must denounce weapons of mass destruction, and urge all those with knowledge of chemical, biological, and nuclear programs to a) reveal their locations and b) stop any export of such toxic material or know-how.

Fourth, the Saddam records should be seized and speedily published. Before worldwide attention flags, we need to publicize the extent of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. We need to publicize the extent of his murderous regime, to prove the moral dimension of our liberation. And we need to publicize the extent to which foreign governments and companies – especially from the sanctimonious trio of France, Germany, and Russia -- aided and abetted Saddam’s vile regime all these years.

Last, while we can welcome U.N. specialized agencies to help rebuild Iraq -- since their development and peacekeeping experts have a lot to offer -- we need not welcome in the U.N. Security Council. It has nothing to offer.

The very notion of France nosing its way back into Iraq, during the post-war phase, is revolting. Ditto for other such Security Council members as Germany, Russia, and Syria. The appeasers must not end up victors -- in any way, shape, or manner.

Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.