My Two Cents: Informative Q&A on war in Iraq, Part II

Q: What happened to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction?

A: It appears Saddam Hussein either destroyed his banned weapons in secret or they were moved out of the country…or perhaps they’re still hidden in the last place the U.S. will think to look.

Q: Why didn’t Hussein just come clean?

A: Who knows why a madman does what he does – or doesn’t do? Hussein was terrible at dealing with the outside world, often miscalculating badly, e.g., the stalemate that was the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88), invading Kuwait and starting the Gulf War (1990-91) and, of course, last year’s coalition invasion of Iraq, as well as the ongoing occupation and rebuilding. Hussein is a malignant narcissist who was surrounded by yes men afraid to tell him the truth; evidence suggests Hussein believed he had weapons of mass destruction because his own generals and scientists told him just that.

Q: How could U.S. intelligence be so far off on the question of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

A: The answer to the previous question – in part – explains how the CIA could have made such a major error. The U.S. wasn’t the only nation fooled, as intelligence agencies throughout Europe, Asia and the Middle East all thought the same thing, as did the U.N. Also, Hussein’s behavior and rhetoric did nothing to dissuade the world from believing Iraq possessed unaccounted for illegal weapons. There’s no question the U.S. – among others – needs to retool its intelligence services to prevent mistakes like the one made in Iraq. Still, overestimating Iraq’s capabilities is better than underestimating them, as has been the case recently in North Korea, Iran and Libya. (After the Gulf War, it was learned Iraq was less than two years away from having usable nuclear weapons!)

Q: What’s the bottom line?

A: The U.S. and its allies must stay the course. War and its aftermath are never easy, and the U.S. plan to establish a foothold for democracy or something like it in the Middle East in order to create an environment less conducive to terrorism is risky, as history shows. But the risks of doing nothing are even more dire. However, the Iraq war is already providing some fruitful results: Libya has opened up its weapons programs, Iran has suddenly become more amenable to nuclear weapons inspectors, the founder of Pakistan’s nuclear program and others have confessed to selling such technology to rouge nations and some Islamic leaders are actually speaking out against terrorism. Simply withdrawing because its politically convenient – as the U.S. did in Beirut in 1984 and Somalia in 1994 – would only embolden terrorists.

“My Two Cents” is a weekly column where the author – who promises there is no Part III – gets in his two cents worth in spite of the old saying that you only get a penny for your thoughts.