October 19, 2003


Why the War Was Right: We had to move. Either we could welcome Saddam back into the community of nations, or we could rid Iraq of an evil dictatorship (Fareed Zakaria, 10/20/03, Newsweek)

Those who now oppose the war must recognize that there was no stable status quo on Iraq. The box that Saddam Hussein had been in was collapsing. Saddam's neighbors, as well as France and Russia, were actively subverting the sanctions against Iraq. And yet, while the regime was building palaces, the restrictions on Iraqi trade had a terrible side effect. UNICEF estimated that the containment of Iraq was killing about 36,000 Iraqis a year, 24,000 of them children under the age of 5. In other words, a month of sanctions was killing far more Iraqis than a week of the war did. This humanitarian catastrophe was being broadcast nightly across the Arab world. Policy on Iraq was broken. We had to move one way or the other. Either we could lift sanctions and welcome Saddam back into the community of nations, or we could rid Iraq and the world of one of the most evil dictatorships of modern times. One of The New York Times's best war correspondents, John Burns, made this latter point as well as anyone: "Terror, totalitarian states and their ways are nothing new to me," he said in an interview, "but I felt from the start that [Iraq] was in a category by itself."

Iraq was a threat, but more important, it was an opportunity. "A pre-emptive invasion of a country gives one pause," I wrote in that August 2002 column, "but there is another massive benefit to it. Done right, an invasion would be the single best path to reform the Arab world. The roots of Islamic terror reside in the dysfunctional politics of the region, where failure and repression have produced fundamentalism and violence. Were
Saddam's totalitarian regime to be replaced by a state that respected human rights, enforced the rule of law and created a market economy, it could
begin to transform that world." I still believe that.

We've yet to hear any of the Democratic candidates explain just what they'd have done to contain Saddam Hussein's anti-Western ambitions without either a war or prolonging the agony of the Iraqi people. "End the sanctions and acknowledge that he won the post-war manuevering from 1991" seems unsatisfactory. "Maintain sanctions forever" seems to ignore the reality of Franco-Russo-German perfidy and to suggest a lack of empathy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2003 7:09 AM
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