Byline: William R. Hawkins, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq points out the inherent problems of collecting information about covert projects in dictatorships.
Both in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf war and now in Libya, intelligence agencies have been surprised to find WMD programs much further along than previously thought. Thus, it is easy to understand why, when looking at an Iraq that had already used chemical weapons on a large scale, analysts expected the worst. As David Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee in his celebrated Jan. 28 testimony, "As I look back on the evidence, I understand [President Bush's] decision" to go to war.
The invasion of Iraq was meant to remove the WMD threat before it could be used against the United States or its allies. President Bill Clinton's barrage of cruise missiles against suspected Iraqi research and production sites in 1998 had also been an act of pre-emption.
Missile strikes, however, could only disrupt and delay deployment, they could not put an end to the threat. Only removal of Saddam's regime could change the strategic environment. Mr. Bush's action accomplished that goal. American troops were not attacked by WMDs as they advanced on Baghdad, thus proving the wisdom of pre-emption.
How to improve intelligence collection and analysis is a perennial question. As Aristotle noted in ancient times, "War, as the saying goes, is full of false alarms." Many on the left, which includes the leading Democratic presidential aspirants, are not concerned with improving the CIA, but only in making political points about the origins of the war.
Yet, no one proposes Saddam be released from custody with an apology and reinstated as the tyrant of Baghdad. Everyone knows removing Saddam from power was a good thing.
Even Howard Dean, who built his campaign on the antiwar issue, said on "Meet the Press" Feb. 1, "Until we leave a stabilized Iraq behind - and that's got to be the goal now that we're there - I'd love to be able to tell all my supporters, most of whom are very antiwar, that I'd bring them out tomorrow. It's just not true. You can't do that. It's not responsible. We have to be responsible to national security."
So the real issue is where does U.S. policy go from here, and what are the core differences between President George W. Bush and his Democratic opponents?
Critics of the Iraq war continue to argue that the war was "illegal" because there was no prior United Nations approval. This is the basis of the charge that the United States was acting "unilaterally" despite formation of a sizeable "coalition of the willing" that could get the job done, when a deeply divided U.N. could not.
President Bush met this argument very effectively in his State of the Union address when he said, "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country. …