This op-ed by James Taranto, which I heard him present the other night, is worth reading. It takes on the bromides of the antiwar position–among them that America is “rushing to war” and that invading Iraq is a “diversion” from the war on Al Qaeda. What interests me most is his third one, which I’ve been hearing a lot lately: that military action against Iraq will lead to more terrorism:

It will [allegedly] inflame the “Arab street,” whip up anti-Americanism and expand the number of potential terrorists.

This, it seems to me, misunderstands the Arab street entirely. What inflames the Arab street is not American strength but the perception of American irresoluteness. Before the Gulf War, the Arab street protested fervidly in favor of Saddam. After the Gulf War, it was quiet. On Sept. 11, the Arab street whooped with delight at America’s suffering. It was quiet after we liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban.

Recently I met an Iraqi-American woman who told me that whenever she travels to places like Egypt and Syria, people respond with great enthusiasm…: “[Saddam is] wonderful because he stands up to America.”

As long as Saddam is in power, he remains a symbol of defiance against the feckless free world. He personifies the disorder that prevails throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds. This is what breeds terrorism. This is why liberating Iraq is a crucial part of the project America began on Sept. 11, 2001. [OpinionJournal.com, 3/6/03]

The central motive behind bin Laden’s attacks on 9/11 was to reveal to the world that America is weak, that it is a paper tiger–because he thought that doing so would rally Arab support. In other words, the person who’s in the best position to know, and who’s bet his own life that he’s right, believes that the perception of American weakness helps encourage terrorists and that the perception of American strength makes potential terrorists give up in futility.

To the question: “What if you’re wrong?” I answer: What if you’re wrong? Why do you find the risk of inflaming terrorism by going to war to be unacceptable, but the more realistic risk of inflaming terrorism by not going to war to be acceptable?

And even if it were true that attacking Iraq would swell terrorist ranks: Which is more of a threat to us, a few terrorists armed with poison gas, smallpox and nuclear weapons, or a large number of terrorists armed with conventional weapons? Most of these people have no chance of reaching America anyway; but with weapons of mass destruction the arrival of even a few of them would have a devastating effect.

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