Disarmament vs. Liberation


Now that Baghdad has fallen, you have to wonder yet again why the Iraqi regime has not used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces. Earlier in the war, the speculation was that Saddam did not want to alienate world opinion and vindicate the Bush administration by using weapons of mass destruction he has long denied having. Instead, the theory went, he was counting on a bloody, drawn-out battle for Baghdad to compel a settlement that would allow him to remain in power. But now he (or whoever is in charge now) has nothing to lose.

Could it be that Iraq never had a siginificant WMD capability? So far the search for evidence of one has turned up nothing but false alarms. A lot of ground remains to be covered, of course, but the administration's decision to play down disarmament as the war's goal seems to anticipate the possibility that nothing much will be found.

If so, will it matter? Even before jubilant Iraqis started pouring into the streets, waving improvised flags and tearing down Saddam's statues, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" had metamorphosed from a pre-emptive act of self-defense into a humanitarian mission to rescue people from a brutal dictator. It's hard not to rejoice that Iraqis are finally free of Saddam, but it is also hard not to worry about the precedent set by their liberation. A policy of using our military to free oppressed people would lead to war with half the world.