It must have been last week's sound and fury that obscured the "signifying nothing" part of Richard Clarke's 9/11 commission testimony. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., asked the most pointed question: Could the 9/11 attacks have been prevented if President Bush had implemented each of Clarke's recommendations immediately on taking office?
"No," replied Clarke.
No? So, what really roils Clarke about the Bush administration? George Will puts it this way: "His belief that the Iraq War was a tragic blunder, arising from the president's monomania about Saddam and draining resources from the war on terror." Which maybe tells us to forget red states and blues states: The great divide now pits Americans who regard the Iraq War as a key front in "the war on terror," and Americans who don't.
But it is the genius of the Bush doctrine that sees the truly big picture. The president believes American security relies not only on foiling attacks of Al Qaeda jihadis -- which his administration has done with remarkable success for some 30 months, knock wood -- but also on draining the terrorist swamp, as Donald Rumsfeld likes to say. That means a long-term offensive against both terrorists and the nations that support terrorism. That means a long-term goal of democratizing the Muslim Middle East. Iraq is Step One.
And a murderously difficult step it is, as the horrific killings and mutilation in Fallujah this week remind us. But imagine a "war on terror" that left Saddam Hussein unscathed (not to mention Uday and Qusay); and allowed a Ba'athist regime to flout the international community, shelter Al Qaeda offshoots and renegades, run its torture chambers and rape rooms, fund jihad against Israel, and generally menace the region. Without bothering to speculate what measures Ba'athist Iraq might have taken by now, consider the boons to world peace that would not have occurred without its defeat.
1) Rogue-state Libya would not have voluntarily surrendered its WMD program and applied for membership in the community of nations. In an interview last year with the British Spectator, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi told him, "I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq and was afraid."
2) Pakistan's secret role in passing nuclear secrets to rogue-states such as Libya, Iran and North Korea would not have been exposed. As UPI's Arnaud de Borchgrave has reported, "Suddenly, Col. Gadhafi, suitably impressed by U.S. military capabilities in Iraq, had no compunction about leaking secrets that led to a Pakistanian and Iranian connection."