Sunday, July 13, 2003

A conservative steps in where the liberals haven't 

George Will on WMD - regime change is not a sufficient justification for the Iraq War:
An antidote for grand imperial ambitions is a taste of imperial success. Swift victory in Iraq may have whetted the appetite of some Americans for further military exercises in regime change, but more than seven weeks after the president said, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended," combat operations, minor but lethal, continue.

And overshadowing the military achievement is the failure -- so far -- to find, or explain the absence of, weapons of mass destruction that were the necessary and sufficient justification for preemptive war. The doctrine of preemption -- the core of the president's foreign policy -- is in jeopardy.

To govern is to choose, almost always on the basis of very imperfect information. But preemption presupposes the ability to know things -- to know about threats with a degree of certainty not requisite for decisions less momentous than those for waging war.

Some say the war was justified even if WMD are not found nor their destruction explained, because the world is "better off" without Saddam Hussein. Of course it is better off. But unless one is prepared to postulate a U.S. right, perhaps even a duty, to militarily dismantle any tyranny -- on to Burma? -- it is unacceptable to argue that Hussein's mass graves and torture chambers suffice as retrospective justifications for preemptive war. Americans seem sanguine about the failure -- so far -- to validate the war's premise about the threat posed by Hussein's WMD, but a long-term failure would unravel much of this president's policy and rhetoric.
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