Thomas Sowell

Vice President Dick Cheney's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on the need to end Saddam Hussein's terrorist regime in Iraq was a much-needed dose of cold, hard reality.

Those who are wringing their hands over the possibility of a pre-emptive strike against Iraq seem not to remember that there has already been a pre-emptive strike against Iraq -- two decades ago. The Israelis bombed a nuclear facility that Saddam Hussein was building at that time -- much to the consternation and condemnation of so-called world opinion. But many an American soldier may have come back alive from the Gulf War of 1991 because of that Israeli strike.

When we are talking about weapons of mass destruction, we are talking about the possibility of waking up some morning and finding half of Chicago in ruins or millions of Americans across the country dying in agony from some biological agent. Make no mistake about it, there are dangers in going into Iraq. But there are huge dangers in just waiting and hoping that nothing bad will happen.

The vice president hit the nail on the head when he called that "wishful thinking or willful blindness."

Not only do we have to worry about what Saddam Hussein will do, we have to keep in mind that other terrorists and other terrorist-sponsoring nations around the world will be watching to see whether we are all talk and no action. Make it safe for other countries to keep harboring terrorist networks, subsidizing suicide bombers, or developing weapons of mass destruction, and nothing else will be safe.

This is one of those situations where caution may be the most dangerous policy. For an individual politician, letting things drift may serve his purpose, even when it is a disservice to the nation. That was certainly Bill Clinton's strategy, which allowed him to pass along the dangers to his successor, instead of confronting them himself.

The biggest difference between Clinton and George W. Bush is that the latter has decided to face the dangers now and seize the initiative. As Ronald Reagan used to say, "If not us, who? And if not now, when?"

One of the things that makes any military action even more dangerous than it needs to be is the irresponsibility of too many print and broadcast journalists. The publishing of leaked military plans is clearly intended to make a pre-emptive strike against Iraq less likely. It also makes success in such a strike less likely -- and higher American casualties more likely.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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