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December 16, 2008



"it seems like a safe bet that Saddam's not going to be passing on WMDs to al-Qaeda anytime soon."

The chances have dropped from vanishingly, hit-by-a-meteor unlikely to to literally impossible. It would always have required a very interesting story to explain why Saddam would have handed WMD to Al-Qaeda. Saddam *using* WMD was an understandable fear, and him handing WMD to some *other* terrorist organization (e.g. Hamas) was at least plausible enough to form the basis for a geopolitical thriller, but even in 2002 the idea of Saddam handing WMD to Al Qaeda was just silly.

If the project of Iraq was to give Al Qaeda the rope they needed to hang themselves in Arab public opinion, then it was a success. I have to admit that Afghanistan might never have worked as well for that purpose because Arabs aren't the ones dying in Afghanistan. It would be very strange to think that that was our goal.

Anyway, Scoblete is probably just wrong when he says "We invaded to prevent Saddam Hussein from passing weapons of mass destruction to al Qaeda terrorists." We had a variety of reasons, but I presume that insofar as that was mentioned as a casus belli that it was echoed/intended for consumption by people who didn't know any better. I have a very low opinion of this Administration's competence, but I can't imagine that anyone on the inside of the decision-making process really gave any credence to that malarky, nor was it necessary to justify the war.

Greg  Scoblete

I'm not sure what other grounds we have to judge the soundness of military action other than "national security." That's not narrow - that's the whole enchilada!

Anyway, thanks for reading.


I think Nathan and I both accept the premise that a freer world is also a safer world, and democratization is, in the long run, the ultimate national security victory. to make things more concrete, when Al Qaeda is discredited in the Islamic and specifically the Arab world, they are stripped of a great deal of their ability to do harm. Large radicalized populations of individually harmless people hide genuine terrorists quite effectively. The smaller the haystack, the easier it is to find the needle. It's also nice if you have fewer needles to find.

Nathan Smith

re: "I'm not sure what other grounds we have to judge the soundness of military action other than 'national security.' That's not narrow - that's the whole enchilada!"

The democratic peace is a pretty well established regularity in the social sciences, so in the long run, I'd agree that a freer, more democratic world is a safer world. Aside from that, though, I tend to think that US foreign policy both is and ought to be driven mainly by values, not interests, and I personally would desire it to be driven by values even more than it already is. If I could make the whole world free and democratic at the expense of increasing the likelihood of another 9/11 by 1,000%, I'd do it without thinking twice.

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