President Bush, in reference to Saddam Hussein, recently said, “It would be foolhardy to wait for him to attack us before we acted.” Besides that quote being fundamentally flawed (which I won’t get into for fear of being accused of “acting intellectual”), let’s just assume that Saddam is the evil son-of-a-goat that we keep hearing he is. Hypothetically speaking…Saddam goes berserk and unleashes all the mustard gas he can muster, mister. Or maybe, he uses a handful of nukes that he stole or bought (what’s the difference, really). What damage could he possibly do? Certainly there would be damage to local people, structures, ecology, etc., but nothing wide-scale or debilitating. Nothing like…oh…what the U.S. did to his country during the first Gulf war.
Now, we know that he is probably a certifiable megalomaniac, and quite possibly out of his mind, but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid. It is a bad idea to assume that your enemy is as big a fool as your propaganda machine makes them out to be. Clearly, Saddam has something that keeps him in power, whether it is by charisma or forceful persuasion, we’ll have to wait to find out. If he is (at least) moderately intelligent, he knows that he would only have one chance to inflict whatever damage he could. One measly attack, and then his whole country would be reduced to one big smoldering pile of red, white, and blue shrapnel. There’s simply no question that if he went nuts, we would go nuts, too. That good ol’ eye-for-an-eye mentality hard at work.
I just don’t see how the idea of attacking to prevent attack is really the best choice. Many people die when nations go to war, and those in charge essentially sign the death warrants of innocent people. I wish some history buff would tell me what happened the last few times a superpower attacked to prevent attack. My guess is it was pretty effective, but unpleasant. There’s too much brute force involved. It’s like radiating a person to remove a particularly nasty cell. We need to think like surgeons, concerned with removing the problem with as little disturbance to the surrounding cells, in this case, the people of Iraq. When someone is diseased, do you beat the sickness out of them or try removing it by other means?