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The War Dividend

The war in Iraq has cost a great deal, but it's important to also examine its benefits.

12:00 AM, Jun 24, 2004 • By HUGH HEWITT
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CAMPAIGN '04 will spend a lot of time focusing on the war in Iraq, and its cost in American and coalition lives--as well as the billions of dollars it has taken to wage the war, and the billions more that will be required to secure the peace.

These are crucial debates, but John Kerry seems determined to use fuzzy math in assessing the costs and benefits of the war. For instance, Kerry seems intent on ignoring the Libyan dividend which the Iraq War has paid. When Kerry next surfaces for a serious conversation with a serious reporter, he ought to be asked: How important is it that Libya abandoned its WMD operations, and why does the senator think Muammar Qaddafi decided on that course?

When Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi spoke with Qaddafi last year, Qaddafi explained he would be acting out of a fear of America birthed by the rapid destruction of Saddam's regime. Qaddafi followed through, as George Tenet's made clear in a speech last February:

Let's talk about Libya where a sitting regime has volunteered to dismantle its Weapons of Mass Destruction programs.

This was an intelligence success.

Why? Because American and British intelligence officers understood the Libyan programs.

Only through intelligence did we know each of the major programs Libya had going.

Only through intelligence did we know when Libya started its first nuclear weapon program, and then put it on the backburner for years.

Only through intelligence did we know when the nuclear program took off again. We knew because we had penetrated Libya's foreign supplier network.

And through intelligence last fall when Libya was to receive a supply of centrifuge parts--we worked with foreign partners to locate and stop the shipment.

Intelligence also knew that Libya was working with North Korea to get longer-range ballistic missiles.

And we learned all of this through the powerful combination of technical intelligence, careful and painstaking analytic work, operational daring, and, yes, the classic kind of human intelligence that people have led you to believe that we no longer have.

This was critical when the Libyans approached British and U.S. intelligence about dismantling their chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. They came to the British and American intelligence because they knew we could keep the negotiations secret.

And in repeated talks, when CIA officers were the only official Americans in Libya, we and our British colleagues made clear just how much insight we had into their WMD and missile programs.

When they said they would show us their SCUD-B's, we said fine but we want to examine your longer range SCUD-Cs.

It was only when we convinced them we knew Libya's nuclear program was a weapons program, that they showed us their weapon design.

As should be clear to you, Intelligence was the key that opened the door to Libya's clandestine programs.

It was intelligence that opened the door, and the clear seriousness of the Bush administration that prompted Qaddafi to walk through it. Qaddafi knew we had the goods on him and his nukes and missiles, and he saw what had happened to the last regime we believed possessed these deadly weapons.

HOW IMPORTANT a credit is this in the plus column on the Iraq War? It is of enormous importance, since a Libya with nukes would be as bad as an Iran with nukes. Now that threat is off the table because of the Iraq War.

There are other major dividends from the war which have also been ignored by the Kerry camp.

The New York Times reported yesterday that the United States was prepared to offer the North Koreans a "strategic choice" on that country's future. North Korea may not accept the choice being put to it, and may play for time hoping for a Kerry victory in November and a return of the Clinton-Albright diplomacy which worked for it so well in the 1990s. But North Korea will understand that this administration will not be cowed by blustering and threats. That clarity is also part of the Iraq War dividend.

IT IS ALSO an outgrowth of the Iraq War that the Iranians seem on the verge of releasing the eight British sailors. This rapid decision to avoid confrontation with the coalition next door underscores the point that regimes--even brutal, terrorist-allied regimes with a history of confrontation with America and Great Britain--understand that Bush and Blair are leaders not to be trifled with. Because both have used force, our enemies are much more reluctant to tempt us to do so again.

And then there is the exposure of the U.N. oil-for-food scandal, a web of corruption so vast it will take years to unravel.