Yes, Rocket Man, and the

Yes, Rocket Man, and the Bush administration should do so with or without the support of other governments. In fact, there is a sense in which the less support we have, the better our interests are served by a successful attack on Iraq. Here’s why I think that may be the case. Operations of this nature serve two general purposes in the war on terrorism — (1) to derail specific terrorists and their operations and (2) to influence other governments that may be supporting and/or harboring terrorists. The Afghanistan operation accomplished the first purpose well. But its effect on other governments was limited because the Taliban had no international support. The only government that had ever been even slightly friendly towards that regime, Pakistan, abandoned the Taliban at the outset. Thus, the more mainstream and less isolated tyrannies could reasonably conclude that they are not in the same boat as the Taliban and that they can harbor and support terrorists with impugnity. In fact, the evidence is that Syria, Iran, and Iraq are all doing so.
Of the remaining tyrannies, Iraq has traditionally been the least mainstream and the most isolated. During the Gulf War, its lone support, as I recall, came from Jordan and the Palestinians. If Saddam were again targeted, as a pariah, by a broad coalition, the deterrent effect on other governments might well be minimal (although, as Rocket Man points out, a pro-US regime in Baghdad would have other positive effects). But if the successfully U.S. attacks Iraq with little or no support, or in the face of European opposition, the lesson will be unmistakable — the terrorists cannot hide behind friendly Arab governments and these Arab governments cannot hide behind “international opinion” (or European business interests).
I do not conclude from this theory that the U.S. should decline to seek international support. But there is a corollary to the theory that I do insist upon. If the U.S. backs down from attacking Iraq because it lacks international support, the Bush doctrine of fighting terrorism by attacking governments that support and harbor terrorists will be dead. If the international community can get the likes of Saddam Hussein off the hook, then governments like Syria and Iran will have no basis for fearing any meaningful adverse consequences from supporting Al Qaida. That sounds like the defeat of the war against terrorism.


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