If I hear the words “no smoking gun” one more time, I think I’ll throw up. Did we really believe that the UN arms inspectors were going to discover new evidence sufficient to indict Saddam Hussein for weapons possession before a grand jury? And who is the jury, anyway? The UN, which has just appointed Iraq to chair its disarmament conference and elected Libya to chair its Commission on Human Rights? Give me a break!
What we have in Saddam Hussein is a brutal menace who has expressed the moral equivalent of Hitler’s Mein Kampf about his intentions for thirty years. As David Brooks recently pointed out, this is not about this missile or that weapon of mass destruction (another term I’d like to ditch), but about the explicit objective of a madman to be known 500 years from now as the Arab who brought America down and re-established Pan Arabism by whatever means possible, including racial and ethnic genocide.
There was a time when I would have agreed with the “realpolitiks”, that we must have a narrowly defined mission, a definitive and imminent threat, and a well-defined exit strategy before intervening in Iraq. The events of the 1990’s, culminating on 9-11-01, changed this view for me. As I’ve suggested before, in too many instances in the past, this realpolitik has supported stability as the ultimate objective, where revolution and transformation would have been preferable, albeit messy. On the subject of this particular enemy, I’m much more a crusader in the best sense of that term, as an American form of crusading intervention for liberation, not to act as the “redeemer nation” to recreate the world in our image, as with Woodrow Wilson, but rather based on universals that are the minimal acceptable standards in an increasingly smaller and more interdependent world—the rule of law, the sanctity of each individual life, and self-determination. The ruling elites in the Arab-Muslim world, friend and foe alike, must choose which future they want, but the status quo is not acceptable for them or us. Call this type of crusading American exceptionalism if you like, but name another regime that has the moral authority to lead it.