Get on with it

Case Against Saddam 2 | You can't contain him; you can only hope to defeat him

Issue: "When liberals seize a state," Aug. 31, 2002

Those who had column space last fall debated whether the United States should make war on Afghanistan. Just how directly responsible for subsurface activity was the ruling Taliban, anyway? What links did the Afghan government have to terrorists in Tora Bora caves plotting to bring down tall buildings? Were we really sure that Osama bin Laden was behind it?

On Oct. 8 the planes flew, the bombs dropped, and the caves became rubble. We are wiser now. What courtroom attorneys call material evidence surfaced in abandoned Kabul guesthouses and destroyed al-Qaeda caves. Osama bin Laden himself came forward with what amounts to a videotaped guilty plea. The Taliban government refused to hand over the al-Qaeda agents it claimed were just guests, then fled hand-in-hand with them. Besides liberating Afghanistan, the U.S. assault pried open the terrorists' manual and scattered its operators to the four winds. In the streets the people flew kites and sent their girls to school again.

But now it is a new season, and the pundits love their sport. Not only peaceniks of the left but libertarians of the right and containment theorists of the middle are complaining again that war would be-newsflash-risky and dangerous.

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It might turn the Middle East into a battleground-a "cauldron," said Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to former presidents Bush and Ford. Imagine.

It could send terrorists our way, warned the Cato Institute's Ivan Eland and others, even as they like to say that Saddam has not been directly linked to Sept. 11. War proponents, said Mr. Eland, "understate the costs of scrapping the containment policy that has contained [Saddam Hussein] effectively."

If the experts want to haul out containment theories, they should listen to Henry Kissinger, arguably chief among architects of late 20th-century containment exercises. Back in January he wrote in The Washington Post, and with regret, of where containment could leave us and Saddam: "If [he] survives both the Gulf War and the anti-terrorism campaign, this fact alone will elevate him to a potentially overwhelming menace."


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