Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Waiting for Nukes

A number of critics say that war against Iraq would be justified only if the Iraqis get nuclear weapons. Unexplained to my satisfaction is why Saddam’s possession of nuclear weapons would lead opponents of invading Iraq to become supporters of invasion. It can’t be the mere possession of nuclear weapons. Otherwise, we’d warn others not to develop them or face invasion. But really, if Germany, Japan, or Norway announced they were seeking nuclear weapons, we might be regretful of this development but would not even think of striking. Indeed, India and Pakistan show what we’d do when states we don’t think would use them against us acquire them—nothing in particular and not for long. Is it the anti-American rhetoric? Well, we’d have bombed the French a long time ago if that was the case.

It must be something about Saddam having nuclear weapons that justifies invasion. This is fair enough. I actually trust the French not to nuke us even if McDonalds opens a revolving restaurant on top of the Eiffel Tower. I don’t trust Saddam to have the same restraint. Given that critics of going to war concede that Saddam is awful (as a preface to everything they say against war) and that his possession of nuclear weapons becomes a cause for war, why would we wait until he gets them? Do these opponents of war think Saddam isn’t trying to acquire nuclear weapons? Do they think that even tougher inspections can prevent him from getting nuclear weapons? Given that they believe inspections are needed to disarm Saddam notwithstanding Iraq’s denial of such weapons or any intention of getting them, they must think he wants them. They believe that much tougher inspections backed by force are necessary to disarm Saddam, so they must even believe Saddam wants them very badly.

So, we’ve established the following:

1) Saddam with nuclear weapons is not to be trusted in a civilized world. And

2) Saddam will not abandon his goal of acquiring nuclear weapons.

What should these facts teach us?

A) That we should wait until Saddam gets nuclear weapons before we attack. Or

B) That we should strike now while he does not have them.

I don’t know how anyone who believes 1 and 2 can possibly say the answer is “A.” It is not consistent. Those who say deterrence is viable are at least consistent when going from their beliefs to their policy recommendations. They are wrong, but at least you don’t go “huh?” after they finish speaking.

Saddam is not to be trusted with nuclear weapons and we need to stop him before he gets them.

On to Baghdad.