This morning’s papers bring us columns by virtually all of our favorite commentators on the war we are in: Victor Davis Hanson (“Finish the War”), Daniel Pipes (“The War on Campus”), and Mark Steyn (“Chretien Caught in a Web of Confusion”). For good measure, the Chicago Sun Times also brings us a column adapted from the remarks of Benjamin Netanyahu (“US Must Beat Saddam to the Punch”) before the House Government Reform Committee last Wednesday.
Netanyahu recalls an ealier example of preemption that has some bearing on the current situation: “The dangers posed by a nuclear-armed Saddam were understood by my country two decades ago. In 1981, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin dispatched the Israeli air force on a pre-dawn raid that destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak. Though at the time Israel was condemned by all the world’s governments, even by our closest friend, history has rendered a far kinder judgment on that act of unquestionable foresight and courage.” Netanyahu also pointedly notes the foremost difficulty of preemption as it applies to us: “In the history of democracies, preemption has always been the most difficult choice. Because at the time of decision, you can never prove the naysayers wrong. You can never show them the great catastrophe that was avoided by preemptive action. And yet we now know that had the democracies taken preemptive action to bring down Hitler’s regime in the 1930s, the worst horrors in history could have been avoided. And we now know, from defectors and other intelligence, that had Israel not launched its preemptive strike on Saddam’s atomic bomb factory, recent history would have taken a far more dangerous course.”
I personally do not believe that going to war against Saddam Hussein would be preemptive; it would be retaliatory. In her brilliant 2000 book “Study of Revenge” (now titled “Saddam Hussein’s War Against America”), Laurie Mylroie powerfully demonstrated his connection to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The post 9/11 edition of the book carries a foreword by then-CIA director James Woolsey endorsing Mylroie’s conclusions. Given Saddam Hussein’s likely connection to the first World Trade Center bombing, I find it extremely difficult to believe that Mohammed Atta’s Prague meeting with an Iraqi intelligence agent was unconnected to 9/11. It certainly wasn’t a social meeting.
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