The Case Against Iraq
In a 1998 column, I wrote that the United States must continue to work to depose the dictatorship of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. "The time has come for the United States to regain the will to accomplish what we sent General Schwarzkopf and our troops to do in the Gulf War -- to end the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to his neighbors and the international community," I wrote.
Events since then only reaffirm my position. In fact, it is now more imperative than ever that Saddam be removed from power. The world would be a safer place.
President Bush has said the same thing. In recent weeks, he has begun to enunciate what amounts to a new doctrine of "preemption," striking against those who wish us harm before they are able to launch an attack. In a world where terrorist groups and hostile regimes are racing to acquire weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear – America often may have no other option than to act preemptively. We certainly cannot sit back and wait for the next attack.
As President Bush said in a speech at West Point on June 1: "The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology. Even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends -- and we will oppose them with all our power."
Iraq might very well have been in the President’s mind, for it is the most notable example of this threat. Saddam Hussein’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction are well-known. He has used chemical weapons against his own people, and has worked to acquire nuclear capability. Saddam has never been held accountable for his invasion of Kuwait, nor for conspiring to assassinate former President George Bush. He has thrown out United Nations inspectors seeking to ascertain whether Iraq is developing offensive weapons in violation of UN sanctions.
Some have attempted to draw a nexus between Iraq and the September 11 plotters. Making such a connection would be interesting, but not essential. The obvious threat Saddam poses to the world negates the need for a pretext to act against him.
A forceful response to the threat from Iraq would be a fitting start for implementation of President Bush’s new doctrine. It would signal to terrorist-sponsoring nations around the world that America will put its might behind its mission to eliminate global terror networks. It would strengthen our hand in dealing with other nations in the Middle East – where pledges of allegiance to the U.S. often are loud, frequent, and duplicitous. And it would eliminate a brutal and unstable menace, who does harm to his own people and means harm to the rest of us.
We are now witness to a fundamental remaking of the world, and America’s role in it. It is another remarkable period when history is formed, as it was in 1941, when Imperial Japan attacked the United States and – in Winston Churchill’s memorable phrase – "awakened a sleeping giant." Roused to action, America battled Nazi and Japanese tyranny, and then Communism during the Cold War.
Freedom won those struggles. But for a time thereafter, the West seemed to drift back to a peaceful slumber, a bit uncertain about its role after the fall of the Soviet superpower.
The rest has been short. September 11 shook away the last vestiges of the post-Cold War world, where the West relied on an increasingly irrelevant policy of nuclear deterrence to ensure the peace. Such a policy cannot deter an enemy that lurks in shadows and has no territory to defend. Or, as the President noted, "when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies."
Saddam Hussein may very well be the first to meet President Bush’s new policy up close – and he has demonstrated that he deserves that distinction.
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