In September 2002, I wrote this: ” Saddam Hussein must go. Now. Not after re-instituting United Nations arms inspections (a red herring); not after we prove to an international court of world opinion that he is harboring weapons of mass destruction; not after we or one of our allies has been attacked again; and not after we have commitments from a multinational coalition of allies. Certainly President Bush should make the case, forcefully and with as much candor as prudent, and he should also ask for Congressional approval, not that he needs it except as a politically unifying gesture. But the evidence is in, and I can’t improve on Lady Margaret Thatcher’s words: ‘His continued survival after comprehensively losing the Gulf War has done untold damage to the West’s standing in a region where the only unforgivable sin is weakness. His flouting of the terms on which hostilities ceased has made a laughingstock of the international community. His appalling mistreatment of his own countrymen continues unabated. It is clear to anyone willing to face reality that the only reason Saddam took the risk of refusing to submit his activities to U. N. inspectors was that he is exerting every muscle to build weapons of mass destruction. To allow this process to continue because the risks of action to arrest it seem too great would be foolish in the extreme.’
There is no doubt that we are at the dawn of a transformation in foreign policy, diplomacy, and our role in the world. This should have been obvious since 9-11-01 and the enunciation of the Bush Doctrine. Steve Forbes says we are ‘at the creation’, no less so than at the end of World War II. The first real test of the new doctrine will come in Iraq.”
It has been a long and deadly, mistake-filled road from that point until President Obama’s announcement of “the end of combat operations”. Was it worth the effort and price? Yes, but only if we sustain the effort to its satisfactory conclusion, which is the transforming presence of a working democracy (no, not by American standards) in what has been called “the Germany of the Middle East”, the economic and cultural linchpin of the region, and one that is a peaceful and mostly reliable ally of the U. S. What will it take to reach this conclusion? Probably what many Americans don’t want to hear, but what most believe will be necessary to finish the job and validate the price we have paid, and that is nothing less than what was required to ensure a peaceful, independent, and friendly Japan, Germany, and South Korea.
And wouldn’t it be an honorable gesture for Obama to at least acknowledge the vindication of his predecessor in making the politically bold, courageous, and unpopular, but ultimately successful decision to launch the military surge that produced the victory that made this day possible?