Dick Cheney addressed the Heritage Foundation on the war against terror today; the complete text of his speech is here. It is an excellent exposition of the administration’s position on the war, including but not limited to Iraq, and I would urge you to read it in its entirety. Here are a few excerpts:
“Remember what we saw on the morning of 9/11. And knowing the nature of these enemies, we have as clear a responsibility as to ever fall to government. We must do everything in our power to keep terrorists from ever acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
“This great and urgent responsibility has required to shift a national security policy. The strategy of deterrence which served us so well during the decades of the Cold War will no longer do. Our terrorist enemy has no country to defend, no assets to destroy in order to discourage an attack. Strategies of containment will not assure our security either. There’s no containing a terrorist who will commit suicide for the purposes of mass slaughter. There’s also no containing a terrorist state that secretly passes along deadly weapons to a terrorist network.
“There is only one way to protect ourselves against catastrophic terrorist violence, and that is to destroy the terrorists before they can launch further attacks against the United States.
“Even as more evidence is found of Saddam’s weapons programs, critics of our action in Iraq continue to voice other objections. And the arguments they make are helping to frame the most important debate of the post-9/11 era. Some claim we should not have acted because the threat from Saddam Hussein was not imminent. Yet, as the president has said, ‘Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intention, politely putting us on notice before they strike?’
“I would remind the critics of the fundamental case the president has made since September 11th. Terrorist enemies of our country hope to strike us with the most lethal weapons known to man and it would be reckless in the extreme to rule out action and save our worries until the day they strike.
“As the president told Congress earlier this year, if threats from terrorists and terror states are permitted to fully emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late. That is the debate. That is the choice set before the American people. And as long as George W. Bush is president of the United States, this country will not permit gathering threats to become certain tragedies.”
That’s the choice, all right, and the choice will be made next November. Notwithstanding arguable weaknesses in the application of the administration’s strategic doctrines to Iraq, the case for action, as opposed to the preference of President Bush’s critics for “doing exactly nothing,” as Cheney put it, is overwhelming. Whether it will seem so to next year’s voters remains to be seen.
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