In today’s Wall Street Journal, former Secretary of State George Shultz has an excellent analysis of the Iraq War in the context of the broader war on terror. The article, based on a speech Shultz gave recently at the Library of Congress, is lengthy, dense, and can’t really be excerpted. It’s well worth reading in its entirety. Here is the conclusion:
The question of weapons of mass destruction is just that: a question that remains to be answered, a mystery that must be solved. Just as we also must solve the mystery of how Libya and Iran developed menacing nuclear capability without detection, of how we were caught unaware of a large and flourishing black market in nuclear material–and of how we discovered these developments before they got completely out of hand and have put in place promising corrective processes. The question of Iraq’s presumed stockpile of weapons will be answered, but that answer, however it comes out, will not affect the fully justifiable and necessary action that the coalition has undertaken to bring an end to Saddam Hussein’s rule over Iraq. As Dr. David Kay put it in a Feb. 1 interview with Chris Wallace, “We know there were terrorist groups in state still seeking WMD capability. Iraq, although I found no weapons, had tremendous capabilities in this area. A marketplace phenomena was about to occur, if it did not occur; sellers meeting buyers. And I think that would have been very dangerous if the war had not intervened.”
When asked by Mr. Wallace what the sellers could have sold if they didn’t have actual weapons, Mr. Kay said: “The knowledge of how to make them, the knowledge of how to make small amounts, which is, after all, mostly what terrorists want. They don’t want battlefield amounts of weapons. No, Iraq remained a very dangerous place in terms of WMD capabilities, even though we found no large stockpiles of weapons.”
Above all, and in the long run, the most important aspect of the Iraq war will be what it means for the integrity of the international system and for the effort to deal effectively with terrorism. The stakes are huge and the terrorists know that as well as we do. That is the reason for their tactic of violence in Iraq. And that is why, for us and for our allies, failure is not an option. The message is that the U.S. and others in the world who recognize the need to sustain our international system will no longer quietly acquiesce in the take-over of states by lawless dictators who then carry on their depredations–including the development of awesome weapons for threats, use, or sale–behind the shield of protection that statehood provides. If you are one of these criminals in charge of a state, you no longer should expect to be allowed to be inside the system at the same time that you are a deadly enemy of it.
Sept. 11 forced us to comprehend the extent and danger of the challenge. We began to act before our enemy was able to extend and consolidate his network.
If we put this in terms of World War II, we are now sometime around 1937. In the 1930s, the world failed to do what it needed to do to head off a world war. Appeasement never works. Today we are in action. We must not flinch. With a powerful interplay of strength and diplomacy, we can win this war.