Strike Sooner than Later

If you apply Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's proposed guidelines for committing U.S. forces to the test case of replacing Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration meets its own criteria.

  • First, is the proposed action truly necessary? The necessity of replacing Saddam Hussein is the unanimous view of not only the senior leadership of the United States and Great Britain. They concluded that allowing him to acquire weapons of mass destruction--weapons he is willing to use--would make the world dramatically more dangerous. That opinion is also held by former ambassador Richard Butler, who was the head of the United Nations inspections commission in Iraq.
  • Second, is the proposed action achievable? No one seriously doubts that the United States and its coalition partners, including Britain, Australia, Kuwait, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Italy, Spain, Poland and the Netherlands, are all prepared to succeed. Even Saudi Arabia and other nations have agreed to help if there is a U.N. resolution.
  • Third, is it worth it? The bombing in Bali, Indonesia, should have reminded us that we are permanently at risk until those who support terrorism are defeated. The question is not, "Should we replace Saddam?" The question is, "Should we wait until Saddam gives biological, chemical and nuclear weapons to terrorists?"

We should not wait until Saddam has the full capacity to create terror around the planet and is able to blackmail with nuclear weapons. Waiting is not an option.

  • Fourth, if there is to be action, we should act early, and we should have unrestricted options. The Bush administration has gotten congressional authorization, mobilized diplomatic and military forces, worked the U.N. aggressively and prepared and communicated with our allies. Moreover, the Bush administration will not restrict the options for success and ultimately will do what is necessary to win as rapidly as possible with minimum casualties.
  • Finally, Rumsfeld calls for honesty with the American people. The president and many senior administration officials, as well as British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others, have been publicly explaining the case and presenting evidence for four months. The administration has been as candid about the risks as it has been honest about the dangerous road of inaction. For 11 years, Saddam has not responded to sanctions, diplomacy or 16 U.N. resolutions.

The only issue is whether the risks are greater now or whether the risks will be greater later. We learned with Adolf Hitler that moving early would have been less expensive and less dangerous and would have saved millions of lives.

I believe Rumsfeld's guidelines make an overwhelming case for replacing Saddam as soon as possible.

Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI.

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