Critics cry, "Why now?" a better question is "Why wait?" Those wishing to liberate Iraq, uphold the United Nations' integrity and preclude the specter of Saddam Hussein's getting nuclear (on top of more chemical and biological) weapons lost momentum last summer. After his glorious State of the Union address, President Bush went mum. While momentum for action slid, dangers rose. In Iraq, Saddam surely expanded his arsenals of weapons of mass destruction. Should a catastrophic attack on the U.S. occur and be traced to Iraqi-made weapons, the Bush presidency would be tossed on the ash heap of history.
Why risk that? Why risk us? Have we learned nothing since Sept. 11? Critics ask, "Just what is the cause for war?" Brent Scowcroft claimed that little less than "compelling evidence that Saddam had acquired nuclear-weapons capability" would constitute a casus belli. But is it really smart to wait until after Saddam gets nuclear weapons? At least, critics go on, let's use the military as a last resort. But all nonmilitary options have been tried and have failed. Nothing can force Saddam from power but power. That must be done, as Saddam constitutes the No. 1 threat facing the U.S. While a terrorist network is horrible, a terrorist state like Saddam's is even worse, for it has all the assets of a state--billions of dollars in revenue, diplomatic immunity--which wild men in Afghan caves can't muster. Terrorist states can thrive without terrorist networks. But terrorist networks can barely exist without terrorist states. Deterrence no longer works to defeat them. Besides, the destructive power of weapons of mass destruction changes past calculations. The first smoking gun may now be a mushroom cloud. To risk that is irresponsible.
Fine, so reinstitute inspections, the critics continue. But that smacks of what Dr. Johnson called second marriages--a "triumph of hope over experience." Before defecting, Khidhir Hamza, Saddam's longtime top bombmaker, identified more than 400 nuclear sites in Iraq. U.N. inspections would need an army to detect this expansive covert program. In that case, why not the real thing? The only inspectors I'd ever trust to disarm Iraq are the 101st Airborne Division.
Critics say that the U.S. should not "go it alone." Well, the U.S. alone was attacked on Sept. 11. And it is likely that the U.S. alone would be the target in the next such attack, conceivably with weapons of mass destruction. A President and Congress's first obligation is to protect America, regardless of how many abroad approve. Yet many will--starting with the Iraqi people, who will soon be dancing in the streets of Baghdad like those liberated in Kabul. Beyond obvious allies such as Britain and Kuwait, other nations will join with us as Bush's resolve grows clear. In 1990 the much vaunted "international coalition" developed only after Bush Sr. dispatched 540,000 troops to the Persian Gulf. We enlisted others precisely because we were willing to "go it alone." Besides, when did "standing alone" become the big bugaboo? Our Founding Fathers proudly stood alone in 1776. In 1940 Churchill proclaimed that Britain was fighting "by ourselves alone; but we are not fighting for ourselves alone." Similarly, President Bush must fight to fortify international law and the U.N.'s effectiveness "not for ourselves alone."