18 Jan 2009

The Left’s Foreign Policy Ambush

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Richard Perle evaluates the Bush record in foreign policy (to the limited degree that Bush was allowed by the federal bureaucracy to have a say in the matter) and attacks the left’s false narrative of the reasons for bringing about regime change in Iraq.

[T]he salient issue was not whether Saddam had stockpiles of WMD but whether he could produce them and place them in the hands of terrorists. The administration’s appalling inability to explain that this is what it was thinking and doing allowed the unearthing of stockpiles to become the test of whether it had correctly assessed the risk that Saddam might provide WMD to terrorists. When none were found, the administration appeared to have failed the test even though considerable evidence of Saddam’s capability to produce WMD was found in postwar inspections by the Iraq Survey Group chaired by Charles Duelfer.

I am not alone in having been asked, “If you knew that Saddam did not have WMD, would you still have supported invading Iraq?” But what appears to some to be a “gotcha” question actually misses the point. The decision to remove Saddam stands or falls on one’s judgment at the time the decision was made, and with the information then available, about how to manage the risk that he would facilitate a catastrophic attack on the United States. To say the decision to remove him was mistaken because stockpiles of WMD were never found is akin to saying that it was a mistake to buy fire insurance last year because your house didn’t burn down or health insurance because you didn’t become ill. No one would take seriously the question, “Would you have bought Enron stock if you had known it would go down?” and no one should take seriously the facile conclusion that invading Iraq was mistaken because we now know Saddam did not possess stockpiles of WMD.

Bush might have decided differently: that the safer course was to leave Saddam in place and hope he would not cause or enable the use of WMD against the United States. How would we now assess his presidency if, say, Iraqi anthrax had later been used to kill thousands of Americans? He would have been accused—rightly in my view—of having taken a foolish risk by not acting against a regime we had good reason to consider extremely dangerous. (And no one would be so stupid as to ask: Would you have left Saddam in place if you had known he was going to supply anthrax to terrorists?)

Read the whole thing.

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