I'm gonna differ with those folks, largely because I never thought weapons of mass destruction had a damned thing to do with it. WMD (yes, that acronym has gotten too popular) was just the way we sold this to the UN. Who -- seriously -- thinks Saddam didn't want to bathe in our blood? Who thinks Saddam wasn't slaughtering and torturing and, from a Realpolitik perspective, destabilizing the whole damned area? Did he have WMD? Almost certainly. Was that the point? Hell no.
The point, my one or two dear readers, was this: Never again can September 11th be allowed to happen. Never. Never again can some nutjob blow up our innocents for fun and profit. Bush gets this implicitly and explicitly. Clinton did, and does not; Clinton is not a serious man.
So when we go knock over Iraq -- and, knock on wood, Iran -- the point is not to preserve world peace. World peace, without putting too fine a point on it, is a fantasy, and not one worth spending blood on. The point is to show that we have serious cajones, that it is a deeply bad idea to screw around with the United States, that doing so will inevitably end in your own painful demise, and that we have the oomph to do it.
The point is to make the world a safer place for us, not for the world; if the world does better for it, whoop-de-doo. Anything else is irrelevant.
Maybe it's because I see so little TV, and get my news almost exclusively by print, but I never thought the case for sending Saddam to Satan's harem for all eternity rested on WMDs. I read a trillion reasons, to my mind all good, for blowing his ass out of the water. WMD possession was one. So was torture. Funding suicide bombers. Helping Palestinians murder Jews. Helping Palestinians murder Americans. Helping other Arabs murder Americans. Standing as a big, honking reminder that sometimes America's foreign policy establishment gets the military and diplomatic equivalent of premature ejaculation. Trying to kill a former President (sniping aside, y'all do know that, traditionally, that's about as big a declaration of war as they come, right?). Violating (snort) UN Resolutions, God only knows how many and which ones. Get the idea?
If you play any games like Warcraft or Starcraft, you'll get an idea about how this Administration -- correctly -- views foreign policy: To stop the Ogres or Zerg from overrunning the damned place, you must fight back; then strike, one by one, at the enemy-production centers. When you kill a Zerg base, the Creep -- this slimy stuff that grows on the ground and gives the Zerg a place to breed and absorb life -- recedes, then disappears. Kill the central base, and the whole thing goes bye-bye (especially when you turn the heavy artillery on the outlying structures). The fewer bases, the easier it is for your little band of humans (or Protoss) to live to another day.
So with the Middle East. Let's not be coy about it; at this exact instant, that's where the bulk of the nutjobs with a yen for blowing us to pieces live. There's North Korea, but I don't think they've got the genitals to put on the table (to badly mix metaphors). We know that 3,000 Americans and assorted others lie dead because of the headcases in the Middle East.
So we go and blow up their central bases. We destroy Creep wherever we find it. We take away the breeding grounds for pathological terrorism. Iraq is gone as a source of this problem, and the Creep has begun to recede. Iran is a really developed base, with those nasty claw-wing things, and it's sending out some serious waves of Zerglings and Hydralisks. Palestine and Syria have started to develop those little kamikaze flyers. And, yes, North Korea would badly like to send an Ultralisk our way.
So I couldn't care less if we never find a WMD in Iraq. What I care about is making sure this mess never happens again. Given the past few months, I'm betting the Bushies do, too.
Lileks says it well here.
This, by the way, is a silly argument. So, killing Saddam disseminated those weapons to terrorists, but leaving him alive wouldn't've? Sure. He's set up a false choice: Either we depose Saddam (which must necessarily lead to terrorists getting nasty weapons) or we don't (which probably would've led to terrorists getting nasty weapons, and which definitely would've led to Saddam having nasty weapons). Is Mr. Balkin in favor of reconstructing the USSR? After all, it became a lot easier to get nuke material when that venture went out of business.
On second thought, he probably is in favor of bringing back the USSR. Never mind.
UPDATE: Josh Claybourn, to whom I tried to mail a copy of this, and gave up during a power outage (and for that, I am sorry), responds and clarifies his point (full text included by way of apology):
Thomas Crown responds to criticism over the lack of WMDs by saying I'm wrong for suggesting the President is lying. But I never suggested that, and I don't think Bush lied. In fact, I've had several posts explaining at length why I don't think he did, so I'm a bit disappointed in the mischaracterization. I think the more likely scenario is a poor - very poor - intelligence job and an unwillingness by the administration to resolve conflicting reports. Look, it's clear that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction at some point, and it's clear that 5,000 gallons of chemical agents are unaccounted for. But was the threat as imminent as the administration made it out to be? That has yet to be proven.Initial disclosure: I wrote too broadly; I misread Mr. Claybourn's thrust. I now see that he wasn't saying that Bush appeared to be lying. I apologize.
Crown sticks with the now-standard position that his case for war never rested on WMD. Fine, but who cares? The point is that the President's did, so he has an obligation now to prove that his gloom and doom outlook was indeed accurate, especially in light of fabricated British intelligence reports (by whom we don't yet know) used in the State of the Union. Patrick Ruffini makes the case that after September 11 the definition of "imminent threat" has changed. He makes a good point, but once again, the President's definition, stated clearly each day in every policy speech, was that the imminent threat stemmed from known WMD. So I want to know, where are they? And if there are none, who screwed up? What will be done to prevent future errors? I'm willing to grant more time to find them, but way too many conservatives have already decided it doesn't matter.
For the rest: It doesn't matter to me, insofar as there were trillions of reasons to do what we did, and the Bush Administration tossed them out left and right before October 2002. (And like I was trying to say, I don't think the Administration either had, or was trying to present, only one causus belli. Lack of WMD does not mean, to me, that the Administration was mislabelling goods; it just means that one of several tacks was not as good as all the others.) Any intel failure does matter to me; if there was one, I'd like to have it corrected promptly, thank you. Next time, it might not be a harmless error.
UPDATE TWO: THE WRATH OF UPDATE: Just for reference, this was the post of Mr. Claybourn's that got me going. It was a mistake, but a reasonable one.