- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 25, 2002

While President Bush has made it clear he believes Saddam Hussein should be deposed, he has also made it clear repeatedly he has not decided what the U.S. course of action should be.
Why is it, then, that some of Mr. Bush's critics are so furiously demanding he make the case for an invasion of Iraq that they oppose? It is plainly illogical to ask someone to defend a position he has not taken.
Another somewhat mystifying demand of the critics is that there be a much louder public debate about war with Iraq. In fact, a debate is going on, but it has not been particularly noticeable because relatively few voices have been heard opposing an attack. There seems to be a national consensus that, while the killing and risks necessarily involved in a war should never be eagerly or thoughtlessly pursued, this country may ultimately have to fight. It's that consensus that the critics hate. When they call for debate, they are actually asking and hoping the consensus will end.
These antiwar positions should be seen for what they are, more a venting of frustration and rhetorical trickery than anything substantive. But those fearful of a war do make solid points. They warn about the possible deaths of many American soldiers in such a war, about the consequences to American oil supplies and the American economy and about the chance that Israel might be hit by Iraq and join the battle, causing the whole Arab world to be America's enemy.
These negative possibilities should be weighed, but there is another, overwhelming negative that has to be weighed on the other side: If this country does not end Saddam's regime, he may very well find a means to use biological or chemical weapons to kill tens of thousands of us some day, perhaps even blowing up one of our cities with a nuclear bomb. And if he does develop a nuclear bomb, the threat to Israel will be much greater than it will be if the United States stages an invasion.
Some critics may think we can contain him with the threat of assured destruction if his terrorists come our way, but these same critics also keep telling us that we cannot be sure Saddam had anything to do with the September 11 attacks. No, we can't be. Hidden culpability is the nature of catastrophic terrorism, as opposed to direct assault by an enemy state, and if Saddam-directed terrorists one day incinerate Washington, it will be unlikely we could prove he had anything to do with it. Are we going to destroy his land with nuclear bombs then? Do the critics thinks so? Does Saddam think so?
The critics seem to think it crucial to link Saddam with September 11 before the United States launches an attack. It isn't. The man, by rejecting U.N. weapons inspectors, is in violation of a peace treaty, and the United States has certainly fought in the past without having been attacked; one commentator lists a half-dozen such conflicts, including the Clinton administration's campaign against Serbia.
Saddam has harbored terrorists and offered them money for killing Israelis; he is unquestionably developing weapons of mass destruction; he hates the United States; he is verifiably capable of just about any horrendous act.
These are plentiful reasons for taking him out.
Perhaps the United States can find a means of establishing a new regime in Iraq without an all-out war. Press reports indicate there are those within the administration maintaining as much, and there's no reason to doubt Mr. Bush will hear them out. In the end, I think Mr. Bush will decide to invade, probably with massive force, because he sees just how dangerous this man is and because the more convincing arguments favor invasion. I think his sense of responsibility will leave him with no other choice.
If he does so decide, I think he will then do what the critics want him to do now: He will make his case, and I think he will make it forcefully. I also think Congress will back him and that the public will approve, that the United States will win readily, and the liberated Iraqi people will be joyful. Keeping military forces there for a protracted period may be necessary, but that's not too extraordinary a price to pay for our security, and it's the sort of obligation superpowers sometimes have.

Jay Ambrose is director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers.

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