Remember the old saying “What are you going to do with the tiger that you have caught by the tail?”
Or the still older adage “Beware, you may get what you asked for!”
Today we might ask what George W. Bush will say if his invading armies find no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq? How will he answer the braying millions who claimed all along that war with Iraq was a bad idea? How will he deal with the sanctimonious Jacques Chirac, the smug president of France, as he sets out to rub
Bush’s nose in this embarrassment?
Bush should first tell them all to shove it, and then take his case to the American people.
I would argue that Bush has more reason to get rid of Saddam Hussein today than ever before. And it isn’t because Saddam has become more dangerous, because he hasn’t. After all, that Iraq possessed and used WMD has long been on the public record. So also is Iraq’s habit of rewarding financially the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Clearly, Saddam remains what he has always been, a dangerous dictator intent on doing us great harm. But, what if this evil man did actually rid Iraq of its WMD, would that invalidate Bush’s decision to effect a regime change there? Not in my view, because of 9/11!
Over the last twenty-five years or so, US foreign policy seems to have been dominated, first, by a determination not to repeat its misadventure in Vietnam, and second, by the need to deal with major-power stresses, in China and the USSR for instance.
Other conflicts were either avoided or ignored:
Thus, when the Ayatollahs in Iran kidnaped and held American diplomats hostage, President Carter did nothing.
When one of these Ayatollahs called for the murder of a British novelist for blasphemy, western governments responded with silence or timid demurrals.
When Islamic terrorists bombed American military installations in Beirut and Saudi Arabia, killing hundreds of American soldiers in the process, President Reagan responded by retreating.
When Islamic terrorists bombed a US warship, killing dozens of sailors, President Clinton wrung his hands and did nothing. He exhibited the same impotence following similar terrorist attacks on US diplomatic installations in Africa and the Middle East.
And we mustn’t forget Somalia where a small rag tag militia was able to get Clinton’s marines to turn tail and flee.
Or, what about the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York that killed a half-dozen Americans and caused damage in the millions? Apart from sending a few Islamic terrorists to prison, little or nothing else was done to call to account those responsible for that atrocity.
Is it any wonder that events such as these led terrorist groups and rogue states to conclude that the US did not have the guts to retaliate when its installations were assaulted and its people murdered? And they were absolutely right, until 9/11 that is.
9/11 was the last straw. It was the strategic event that finally convinced Americans that reluctance to confront terrorism would only beget further terrorism on American soil. Americans must have wondered which of their cities was next on the terrorist list.
Would the next attack involve easily hidden biological or chemical weapons that any chemist could manufacture in his basement? And, if a rogue state such as Iraq had nuclear weapons that could be miniaturized, wouldn’t they be made available to these terrorist groups?
And what would prevent these terrorists from detonating these bombs in downtown New York, Boston, Washington, Detroit, Atlanta, Los Angeles, or in all of the above?
Clearly, the possible adverse consequences of following traditional US do-nothing policies had become too great to continue. Based on what was known in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Bush Administration had no alternative but to strike out against Islamic terrorists and the countries that harboured, nurtured or armed them.
Thus, attacking the al-Qaeda network and its protectors in Afghanistan was the first phase of the war on Islamic terrorism. By the same token, taking the same war to Iraq made sense. Based on Iraq’s past history, what could Bush conclude rather than Saddam would indeed supply these terrorists with the chemical and biological weapons he had used on his own enemies in Iraq and Iran?
Moreover, if Iraq succeeded in producing nuclear weapons, there wasn’t much doubt that Saddam would also make them available to terrorists. However, in the unlikely event that Iraq proved to be squeaky clean of WMD, the American initiative would still serve as a warning to other rogue states (Iran and North Korea for example) and terrorist groups that the US would no longer allow itself to be held hostage by pipsqueaks.
In conclusion: I would argue, first: that Bush did the right thing. And second: that Chirac and the braying millions are dead wrong.
Bush should ask the American people to consider the evidence. Where his critics were willing to wait for the next shoe to fall on some unfortunate American city before acting, he was taking pre-emptive action.
Where his critics were willing to risk the lives of American civilians to advance their misguided ideologies, he was not. Since Bush obviously will be recognized for doing the right thing, the American electorate will reward him, and thus confound his critics.