The case for attacking Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein's dictatorship is straightforward: Hussein is evil. He is manufacturing biological and chemical weapons and, according to recent remarks by Colin Powell on NBC's "Meet the Press," Hussein is desperately trying to build a nuclear bomb. He has used weapons of mass destruction on his neighbors and against his own citizens. (Is there any doubt he would direct them at us, if given the chance?) His government funnels money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. He nourishes hate and fanaticism in the hope that terrorism of the Sept. 11 variety will continue to replicate throughout the world.
In the past, the United States has intervened to stop such anti-human regimes. We did so against Germany in World War I and then again - albeit after much costly hand wringing - in World War II. We blocked imperial Russia and worked to foster democracy and human rights reforms throughout the world.
We have done so not in immediate self-defense, but out of a moral obligation to foster those basic human rights that we associate with happiness. We have done so to protect the balance of power. And we have done so because free trade and the freedom of expression end war. The world has become a better and safer place as a result.
Even so, scholars now question the legal authority for U.S. intervention in Iraq. "There is ... no doubt that the U.S. government, including Congress, is overstepping its limits in the matter of Iraq," wrote famed linguist Noam Chomsky in an online PBS forum. "Those limits are clear and explicit," he continued. "They are embodied in the Charter of the United Nations...
The Charter declares unambiguously that the UN Security Council alone 'shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace. ... The one exception is the right of self-defense against "armed attack."... These are the "limits" that bind law-abiding states." The major implication: Should the United States attack Iraq, we would be on par with the lawless and repressive regimes we regard as our enemies.
That's a nice bit of ivory tower reasoning. Separated from the world by two oceans, we can sometimes be susceptible to such decadent reasoning.
So perhaps a bit of perspective is in order: When Hitler's forces tore through Europe, the preeminent powers at the time - the United States, England and France - all refused to immediately defend their interests.
They tried to assuage and appease the Nazi regime. Hitler read this meekness as an invitation to strike with impunity. And so he increased his aggressions. Stop Hitler at the Rhine and we stop World War II.
Sometimes there is an obligation to act before one is directly attacked.
That is why the United States must facilitate a regime change in Iraq, regardless of whether France wags their finger at us or Russia objects - they do so largely out of sibling rivalry and envy.
The only debate right now should be about tactics. After all, the threat that confronts us is straightforward. Saddam has demonstrated the will to use weapons of mass destruction. We know that Saddam is desperately trying to accumulate nuclear weapons. Already, he has stockpiled chemical and biological weapons - weapons that could be exploded via crude suitcases or biological bombs in major cities across the United States. Just that easily, our economy and our way of life could be devastated.
This is the reality that confronts us. To ignore these facts is to invite disaster.