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What to Do About Iraq

From the January 21, 2002 issue: For the war on terrorism to succeed, Saddam Hussein must be removed.

Jan 21, 2002, Vol. 7, No. 18 • By ROBERT KAGAN and WILLIAM KRISTOL
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-The Federation of American Scientists reports that Iraq possesses the equipment, the know-how, and the materials to produce "350 liters of weapons-grade anthrax" a week. In the five years before Desert Storm, Iraq produced 8,500 liters of anthrax and managed to place 6,500 liters in various munitions. We can only imagine how much anthrax Saddam Hussein may have at his disposal today.

NOR IS THERE any doubt that, after September 11, Saddam's weapons of mass destruction pose a kind of danger to us that we hadn't fully grasped before. In the 1990s, much of the complacency about Saddam, both in Washington and in Europe, rested on the assumption that he could be deterred. Saddam was not a madman, the theory went, and would not commit suicide by actually using the weapons he was so desperately trying to obtain. Some of us, it's true, had our doubts about this logic. The issue seemed to us not so much whether we could deter Saddam, but whether he could deter us: If Saddam had had nuclear weapons in 1991, would we have gone to war to drive him from Kuwait?

But after September 11, we have all been forced to consider another scenario. What if Saddam provides some of his anthrax, or his VX, or a nuclear device to a terrorist group like al Qaeda? Saddam could help a terrorist inflict a horrific attack on the United States or its allies, while hoping to shroud his role in the secrecy of cutouts and middlemen. How in the world do we deter that? To this day we don't know who provided the anthrax for the post-September 11 attacks. We may never know for sure.

What we do know is that Saddam is an ally to the world's terrorists and always has been. He has provided safe haven to the infamous Abu Nidal. Reliable reports from defectors and former U.N. weapons inspectors have confirmed the existence of a terrorist training camp in Iraq, complete with a Boeing 707 for practicing hijackings, and filled with non-Iraqi radical Muslims. We know, too, that Mohamed Atta, the ringleader of September11, went out of his way to meet with an Iraqi intelligence official a few months before he flew a plane into the World Trade Center. As Leon Fuerth understates, "There may well have been interaction between Mr. Hussein's intelligence apparatus and various terrorist networks, including that of Osama bin Laden."

SO THERE IS no debate about the facts. No one doubts the nature of the threat Saddam poses. Most even agree that, as former national security adviser Samuel R. Berger says, "the goal . . . should be getting rid of Saddam Hussein." Leon Fuerth recently wrote that Saddam "and his government must be ripped out of Iraq if we are ever to be secure and if the sufferings of the Iraqi people are ever to abate."

Tough talk from a Clintonista. But when it comes to actually doing something about Saddam, suddenly it's a different story. Fuerth, Berger, Madeleine Albright, and Tom Daschle and a host of other Democrats (with the increasingly notable and honorable exception of Joseph Lieberman) insist over and over again that no matter how much of a threat Saddam may pose, no matter how necessary it may be to "rip" him out of Iraq--nevertheless we should not do it.

Here is Daschle, in late December: "A strike against Iraq would be a mistake. It would complicate Middle Eastern diplomacy. . . . I think we have to keep the pressure on Iraq in a collective way, with our Arab allies. Unilateralism is a very dangerous concept. I don't think we should ever act unilaterally." What's more, the Iraq doves claim, removing Saddam would be a diversion from the war against al Qaeda, and the cure would be worse than the disease.

This is nonsense. It is almost impossible to imagine any outcome for the world both plausible and worse than the disease of Saddam with weapons of mass destruction. A fractured Iraq? An unsettled Kurdish situation? A difficult transition in Baghdad? These may be problems, but they are far preferable to leaving Saddam in power with his nukes, VX, and anthrax. As for the other arguments, the effort to remove Saddam from power would no more be a "diversion" from the war on al Qaeda than the fight against Hitler was a "diversion" from the fight against Japan. Can it really be that this great American superpower, much more powerful than in 1941, cannot fight on two fronts at the same time against dangerous but second-rate enemies?

And as for the issue of unilateral versus multilateral action, we would prefer that the United States act together with friends and allies in any attack on Iraq. We believe others will indeed join us if we demonstrate our serious intention to oust Saddam--the British and some other Europeans, as well as Turkey and other states in the Middle East. But whether they join us or not, there is too much at stake for us to be deterred by the pro forma objections of, say, Saudi Arabia or France.