Freidman Bashes Bush, Supports War

Thomas Freidman has an interesting column in The New York Times that argues that Bush is undercutting some of the best arguments on why action towards Iraq is necessary.

I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and every time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don’t take the country to war on the wings of a lie.

Tell people the truth. Saddam does not threaten us today. He can be deterred. Taking him out is a war of choice — but it’s a legitimate choice. It’s because he is undermining the U.N., it’s because if left alone he will seek weapons that will threaten all his neighbors, it’s because you believe the people of Iraq deserve to be liberated from his tyranny, and it’s because you intend to help Iraqis create a progressive state that could stimulate reform in the Arab/Muslim world, so that this region won’t keep churning out angry young people who are attracted to radical Islam and are the real weapons of mass destruction.

To an extent, I think Freidman is on to something. It doesn’t matter if Saddam Hussein had complicity in the September 11 attacks or any ties to al-Qaeda. If he did, fine, but we’re not invading Iraq because of some tenous connection to Osama bin Laden. If that connection does not exist, the case for war is still as strong. Freidman is right in that we should not bother butressing a weak argument when there are a whole host of stronger arguments for action against Iraq.

One of those arguments runs counter to Freidman. I don’t believe Iraq can be deterred. Even if we assume that the anthrax attacks of last year were entirely domestic in origin, such an attack could be launched from Iraq with plausible deniability. Or Hussein could be insane enough to smuggle a nuke into New York or Baltimore and blackmail us with it. The fact remains that either way, we cannot know if deterrence will be sufficient – and if it is not, millions of people die. If you have a chance to avoid that risk, then the most moral action is to take it, even if you know that there will be lives lost in the process.

The arguments are there, it’s just that the Administration needs to be more forceful about making them. The European press hates the United States, and will lie, spin, and distort the evidence to make the US look like the bad guy if at all possible. We need to be prepared to counter these ridiculous assertions with skilled public diplomacy. The American people have heard the evidence and know the score, and they generally support war. However, if we want to see any change in Europe, we have to be willing to fight the European intelligentsia and beat them at the diplomatic game. The surest way to counter the lies of the Eurocrats is by ensuring that the truth gets out – even if it means throwing an occasional bone at whoever replaces Scroeder and Chirac when their governments finally collapse.

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