Foreign Policy

Baghdad Bait and Switch

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It's becoming increasingly difficult not to view President Bush's plans to invade Iraq as a foreign policy bait and switch, a brazen non sequitur to the stated goals of the war on terrorism. Back in his State of the Union address, Bush stressed the need to contain terrorists of "global reach" and to destroy the "global terror network." Those are legitimate and necessary objectives–and they enjoy widespread support, even in some Islamic countries.

But what exactly do they have to do with Iraq, a country that has been hemmed in by U.S. forces for over a decade? Our presence, by virtually all accounts, has successfully managed to clamp down on terrorist activity emanating from Baghdad. In March, CIA Director George Tenet euphemistically told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "the jury's out" on Saddam Hussein's role in 9/11. U.N. reports bolster the case that Hussein may not even have "weapons of mass destruction." In the event he does, the military occupation of Iraq will be an effective barrier to his using them.

Yes, yes, Hussein is a tyrant, a thug, a butcher–he is one of the reasons to continue to believe in the existence of Hell. Yet his being beneath contempt is hardly reason to expend U.S. military resources–and international good will–on unseating him, especially absent a clear link between him, 9/11, and ongoing terrorism directed against the U.S.

Having failed to find Osama bin Laden and thoroughly quash Al Qaeda, it almost seems as if Bush is simply hell-bent on attacking Iraq because he can. The current debates taking place within the Bush administration and the U.S. Senate will hopefully stay that apparent decision, which will not make the legitimate goals of the war on terrorism any easier to achieve.