And that brings us back to President Bush claim that we are safer today because Saddam is gone. Bush is running for re-election, and presumably his strategists and advisors believe that he has to say it that way. He may also believe it. But I think it's simply not true. Of course, it's impossible to know for sure. Who knows what Saddam might have done while America focused on al-Qaida? The sanctions regime was falling apart, thanks to the active mischief of the French and others. We know now that the oil-for-food program was giving billions to Saddam under the table.
We also now know - thanks to the Senate intelligence report - that more than likely Saddam was trying to obtain uranium from Africa. (We also know from that report that the White House did not pressure the CIA to fabricate any evidence against Saddam.) Still, if you assume that the prewar status quo was permanently sustainable, we would probably be safer if Saddam were still in power, murdering thousands of his own people, rewarding suicide bombers in Israel, and cheering al-Qaida (Saddam publicly applauded the 9/11 attacks, if you recall).
But who cares? Seriously, time bombs are very dangerous when you try to defuse them. Does that mean cops shouldn't try? America was much less safe for years after FDR and the Congress decided to wage war against Germany, Japan and Italy. Does that mean he shouldn't have done it? The "Greatest Generation" was great precisely because they understood that the safety of their grandchildren was more important than their own safety.
John Kerry is claiming that George W. Bush has the wrong "values" because he went to war when "he didn't have to." Fair enough, for an election year. But it seems to me that Bush could turn that around on Kerry. I think President Bush can claim the right values precisely because he had the courage to do the right thing in the long run, even if it was the risky thing in the short run. Kerry values stability and alliances for their own sake, which is another way of saying he values popularity over principles. If Iraq becomes the engine of a prosperous and democratizing Middle East in 20 years, who in the next generation won't be grateful for the values of this generation?
Alas, that's my argument, not George Bush's.