- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

The criticism of the president's Iraq policy advocating a war against Iraq isn't about Saddam Hussein's repression and impoverishment of the Iraqi people. It isn't about large payments to homicide bomber families. It isn't about the fact that Saddam is a dangerous despot who is bent on getting weapons of mass destruction. Most people concede these points.
The criticisms generally fall into the following categories:
We can't prove Saddam is connected to September 11th or other terrorism.
We can't prove he is close to developing weapons of mass destruction.
We can't take unilateral action (both a strategic and a moral criticism).
We will divert attention from the war against terrorists and their supporters.
We will destabilize Arab regimes.
We will be stuck in Iraq building or attempting to build a democracy.
Each deserves a response:
The first two deny the legitimacy of pre-emptive action without evidence that meets American judicial standards. We do not need a court of law to understand those seeking our destruction and that of our friends. If someone who has threatened you confronts you while loading an empty gun, do you wait for the gun to be loaded before you react? Even the loaded gun is not proof of danger. Do you wait to be shot? Likely not. President Bush said of the Taliban, "It is not only repressing its own people, it is threatening people everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists. By aiding and abetting murder, the regime is committing murder." Likewise Saddam.
And for those who say Iraq is A) not developing weapons of mass destruction or B) not planning to use them against Americans, the burden of proof is on Saddam. He used missiles against Iranian cities, chemicals against the Kurds of Halabja and poison gas against the Shi'ites of southern Iraq. How many more people will we allow him to kill, and in which countries, before we are entitled to act on what we know?
The third is a red herring. Mr. Bush said, "This is not just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom. We ask every nation to join us." Europeanscannot deny his request that they participate and accuse him of unilateralismatthe same time.
TheArab states say they "can't" help us against Saddam until we "solve" the Palestinian problem. The truth is they won't rejoin our coalition because we dithered away the victory of the first Gulf War and they are afraid we will not follow through this time. Saddam finances and supports the Palestinian war against Israel to position himself as the leader of the Arabs, and the Arab states acquiesce. In fact, the Palestinian war will be much easier to end after Saddam goes.
So some European and Arab countries will opt out. But let it be clear that as a military proposition we don't need them. The Gulf War coalition was militarily meaningless though politically important; American and British forces did most of the fighting. We can do it again. Iraq today is in many respects weaker, and last time we did not avail ourselves of either indigenous or expatriate opposition groups. While they may not be a major military force, they are highly motivated and their psychological impact in Iraq could be significant.
The fourth point is just silly. Removing Saddam will not divert us from the war it is essential to the success of the war. From the perspective of the terrorists, Saddam won the first Gulf War because he remained standing. On a political level, Saddam's continued existence is evidence to those who want it that Western power and influence can be withstood and eventually defeated. On a practical level, he finances terrorism. The money he gives to the families of Palestinian homicide bombers is far in excess of anything he does for his own people, and he does it to encourage more terrorism.
The fifth and sixth points are related as well. We will surely destabilize some countries, but Mr. Bush has proclaimed the destabilization of despotic regimes to be a central goal of his foreign policy. At West Point on June 1 he said, "The requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire Islamic world." In the Rose Garden on June 24 he said, "Prosperity and freedom and dignity are not just American hopes, or Western hopes. They are universal, human hopes. And even in the violence and turmoil of the Middle East, America believes those hopes have the power to transform lives and nations."
Those who believe America's future lies with corrupt dictatorships despised by their own people and dangerous to others should be made to answer the question: "Why are you privileged to live in a free country so willing to consign others to a fate you wouldn't care to share?"
Jordan will likely survive the coming war with U.S. assistance, so will some of the sheikdoms. The current Saudi regime will likely not. The Iran dissident movement would be helped enormously by the demise of Saddam, and the Palestinians would have to know that the future lies with the West. Syria's Ba'athist dictatorship will likely fall unmourned, liberating Lebanon as well. Israel and Turkey, the only current democracies in the region, will find themselves in a far better neighborhood.
Yes, it will take time, effort and money to develop the conditions for democracy in the region, but that is certainly preferable to spending time, effort and money defending the indefensible. Or waiting for Saddam to choose the target for his undisputed arsenal.
The choice of going to war against Saddam is not ours; only the choice of timing.

Tom Neumann is executive director of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in Washington.

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