The Magazine

The Right War

Oct 1, 2001, Vol. 7, No. 03 • By ROBERT KAGAN and WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Indeed, we find it hard to believe that anyone in this administration, whether in the State Department or in the White House or in the CIA, can seriously be arguing that the Iraqi regime should be left alone. In 1998 a group of prominent figures sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to take strong action against Saddam Hussein. They warned that if Saddam were to "acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil will all be put at hazard." They pressed President Clinton to make it the aim of American foreign policy to "remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power."

The signatories of that 1998 letter are today a Who’s Who of senior ranking officials in this administration: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of State John Bolton, Under Secretary of State Paula Dobriansky, Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman, and National Security Council senior officials Elliott Abrams and Zalmay Khalilzad. If these Bush administration officials believed it was essential to bring about a change of regime in Iraq three years ago, they must believe it is even more essential today. Last week we lost more than 6,000 Americans to terrorism. How many more could we lose in a world where Saddam Hussein continues to thrive and continues his quest for weapons of mass destruction? Do we really want to find out?

Below we reprint another letter, signed by an equally distinguished group of Americans. The signatories support the president’s war on terror. They point out that such a war must include a policy designed to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power in Iraq. They call for measures against Hezbollah, and against Iran and Syria if they do not cease their support for that powerful terrorist organization. These recommendations are consistent with the principles the president laid out Thursday night, and with the vital interests of our nation.

We are at war. It will not be easy. But the sacrifices we will make will be fully justified, and redeemed, if we fight the right war, and fight it to victory.