Tuesday, February 03, 2004
John Podhoretz weighs in on the topic of the day with the following argument: we didn't go to war because we thought Saddam was on the verge of building a bomb (though we worried he might be) but because we knew he wanted one. Why wait until the threat was imminent? And Saddam was still very dangerous because, even without a robust WMD program, he could have cooperated with terrorists to do terrible damage with the limited capabilities he had.
That's a reasonable case. I'm on-board with the idea that Saddam could not be turned into a friendly or a neutral, had too much reason to seek revenge on the U.S. and otherwise make trouble for us, and therefore could not be allowed to remain in power post-9-11. That was my main reason for supporting the war in the first place, and I think it was a primary reason why the Bush Administration pursued the war.
But it still strikes me that you could have made the same case about Libya in the wake of Reagan's airstrikes. And Qaddafi's links to international terrorism are a lot more robust than Saddam's were. We now know that Libya was further along the nuclear path than Saddam was, and that our war in Iraq was a major reason Qaddafi opened up. Maybe we should have gone to war with Libya, and this would have convinced Saddam to give up his own nuclear ambitions?
I'm being facetious, but you see what I'm saying?
The best reason to take out Saddam was: why not? Why on earth leave Saddam in place? Why leave an unstable maniac in charge of Iraq? Isn't Iraq too important for that? Maybe we can tolerate a Saddam-scale maniac in Burkina Faso, but not in Iraq. Right?
But there are few other places like Iraq in that way - places that have WMD or ambitions to get them; places that have unstable or hostile governments. We're not going to invade them all.
We can't have a doctrine of preemption that says: anyone we think might be a threat is fair game. We either need iron-clad intelligence (which we didn't have in Iraq and can't count on in the future). Or we need more than just our own threat-assessment.
Listen: I'm a friendly critic. I think we need to pursue the war vigorously. But we are going to fail if we persist in a kind of bull-headed, take-no-prisoners, never-admit-error manner which too often characterizes the Administration's public stance. I had - and still have - high hopes for this Administration. I don't want them to fail.