Restating the Case for War
Waiting for Saddam to change is what got us into this mess in the first place.
I am pleased to notice the disappearance from the peacenik argument of one line of attack—namely that Saddam Hussein was "too secular" to have anything to do with jihad forces. The alliance between his murderous fedayeen and the jihadists is now visible to all—perhaps there are some who are still ready to believe that this connection only began this year. Meanwhile, an increasing weight of disclosure shows that the Iraqi Mukhabaratboth sought and achieved contact with the Bin Laden forces in the 1990s and subsequently. Again, was one to watch this happening and hope that it remained relatively low-level?
The literal-minded insistence that all government rhetoric be entirely scrupulous strikes me, in view of the above, as weird. It can only come from those who were not willing to form, or to defend, positions of their own: in other words, those for whom Saddam would not have been a problem unless Bush tried to make him into one. An example: In trying to justify the earlier eviction of Saddam from Kuwait, Secretary of State James Baker put forward the case that "jobs" were the main justification. I thought that to be both stupid and ignoble at the time (and was generally antiwar at that date) but did not think that it automatically, or even partially, invalidated the case for restoring Kuwaiti sovereignty by force of arms.
Arguments about democracy and reform cannot be phrased in terms of U.N. resolutions—especially when two of the relevant regime's clients are among the permanent membership of the Security Council—but there is every reason to believe that the United States has chosen the right side in the region, in principle as well as in practice. To take the salient case of Iran, does anybody believe that the mullahs' regime would have agreed to searches and inspections, or that Messrs Straw, de Villepin, and Fischer would have been able to seize the initiative on behalf of the European Union, except in the case that a) the main rival of Iran had been itself disarmed and b) a certain pedagogic lesson had been instilled? And that is to leave to one side the coming "people power" revolution in Iran itself, which seems to have been substantially encouraged by the "regime change" policy next door.
We are fighting for very large principles, in other words, and for extremely high stakes. And yes, part of the proof of this is the horror and terror and misery involved. Only a few months ago, the first elected president of Serbia, Zoran Djindjic, was shot down in the street by the alliance of mafiosi and ethnic fascists who constitute the legacy of Slobodan Milosevic. That gruesome reverse took place years after Milosevic himself had been put under arrest (and only a short while after the corpse of his murdered predecessor, Ivan Stambolic, had been finally unearthed). But do you want to try and imagine what former Yugoslavia would look like now if there had not been an international intervention (postponed and hobbled by the United Nations) to arrest the process of aggression and ethnocide? Both Bush and Scowcroft—and Baker—did make the irresponsible decision to let the Balkans bleed, which is why I mistrust the counsel of prudence that I opened by quoting and find even more suspect the tendency of today's left to take refuge in neutralist and conservative isolationism.
Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.