What's the worst that could happen?

Posted: Sep 10, 2004 12:00 AM

Barring some mental of physical disaster, you --- whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you?re doing, and whatever your economic and social status in life ? are experiencing at this very moment the net result of the decisions, large and small, that you have made in your life up to this point.  Decisions are the steering commands that we issue as we careen through our lives and careers.  Most of the times (hopefully) we try to steer toward some positive and pleasant objective. Sometimes circumstances demand that a steering command be designed not so much to achieve a positive result, but to avoid a negative one.

Viewed in the context of the possible negative results of a decision, only the most partisan and disingenuous fool could suggest that President Bush?s choice to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power was the wrong one.

Bush had only two choices on Iraq.  Invade and remove Saddam Hussein, or permit Hussein to remain in power by allowing the already-failed United Nations process to proceed.  Creating a mental flow chart for the two options leads to the inescapable conclusion that the removal of Saddam Hussein was the only responsible choice.

First, the decision to invade:  You have two foreseeable consequences.  Saddam survives, or Saddam is replaced.  Considering the fact that Jimmy Carter is not currently serving as our Commander in Chief, Saddam?s survival would have been unlikely.  Saddam would be history.  This means that the U.S. and the rest of the world would have a new Iraqi government to deal with.  Would it be friendly?  Possibly so.  All efforts would be made to replace Saddam?s regime with a government more friendly to the West.  However, an invasion could lead to a government unfriendly to Western interests.  So be it.  At least that government wouldn?t have chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in place and proven ties to Al Qaeda.  A mere modicum of common sense would tell you that the new Iraqi government, modeled after a Western democracy or not, would seek friendly relations with the West so as to (a) sell it?s oil and become insanely wealthy; and (b) avoid another forced regime change.

So ? that brings us to option two:  Leave Saddam alone and let the processes of the last 12 years continue.

If George Bush?s decision was to back off and allowed ?the process? to continue, would this mean that Saddam Hussein would suddenly start behaving?  Would he become another Muammar al-Qaddafi and suddenly announce the cessation of all programs for the development of weapons of mass destruction?  Sorry, but you really can?t use Qaddafi as a model for a possible change in Saddam?s behavior, since Qadaffi?s change was brought about by a show of American resolve in invading Iraq. 

No .. the more likely scenario would be that Saddam would continue to be Saddam.  He would be emboldened by yet another failure of the U.N. or its member nations to enforce U.N. resolutions.  Western inaction would be seen as weakness, and weakness is to be taken advantage of.

So, what if a decision not to replace Saddam leads to a possible worst-case scenario; an emboldened and more determined Saddam ? a Saddam who has decided that our show of spinelessness was his signal to press his advantage and solidify his position?

These things we knew about Saddam Hussein.  He had a program for the development of weapons of mass destruction.  He enjoys killing.  He had already used these weapons to kill tens of thousands of Iranians and his own people.  He had contacts with Osama bin Laden, and he had a seething hatred of the United States.  Do the math.

Saddam, encouraged by continued shows of weakness and a lack of U.N. resolve, steps up his weapons programs.  Feeling that America will never screw up the courage to take military action against him, he makes arrangements to place a suitcase full of anthrax or a gallon or two of sarin gas into the hands of bin Laden?s goons.  A few weeks later thousands die on the New York subways as the deadly gas spreads through the system.  Thousands more die when anthrax is introduced into the HVAC system of a Chicago skyscraper. 

Then again ? maybe Saddam would wait.  Maybe he would wait just long enough to gather enough radioactive materials to fabricate a dirty bomb.  Where would be a good place to detonate such a devise?  How about a rental truck in Boston during the Democratic National Convention?

Was Bush?s decision to remove Saddam Hussein the right one?  Viewed in the context of the possible negative consequences of failing to remove Saddam Hussein, the rational person not consumed with an obsessive hatred of George Bush would have to say ?yes.?  The only way to preclude the worst possible outcome was to remove Saddam Hussein.  Any other decision would have been a gamble with much higher stakes.

Can we be sure of the worst possible outcome resulting from a decision to leave Saddam in place?  Of course not.  But the downside of replacing Saddam is certainly less onerous than the downside of leaving him to his devices.  Of one thing we can be certain, however.  If President? Bush?s decision had been to leave Saddam in place, and if that decision had resulted in Saddam?s weapons eventually being used on American soil, the hate-filled left would have held Bush responsible for his inaction.  I would rather be held responsible for replacing a brutal dictator, the murderer of millions, than to be held responsible for allowing him to continue with his deadly plans.

Are there problems today in Iraq?  Most certainly there are.  But one of those problems is NOT a brutal dictator with weapons of mass destruction, a blinding hatred of the United States and a desire to become the leader of the entire Arab world, through force if necessary.  Besides, who?s to say how much better things would be going in Iraq right now if the partisan hatred of all things ?W? had not worked so diligently for the last year to provide comfort to the enablers of Islamic terrorism.