Yesterday’s announcement of Saddam Hussein’s capture was indeed a spectacular accomplishment for our military. It’s clear that consistent effort in intelligence-gathering, coupled with discipline and a few lucky breaks led to the capture of the most wanted man in Iraq.
Regardless of your opinion of the merits of the war to begin with, one thing should be said of President Bush: he remained firm in his desire to end Hussein’s rule. Bush persisted in searching for Hussein after major combat operations were over, and now not only has Hussein alive in custody but has also caught or killed more than 70% of the original 52 most wanted Iraqis.
This commitment is laudable, and Bush’s leadership on this issue (not the war, but the pursuit and capture of Hussein) is commendable.
However, (you knew there had to be a however, right?) I don’t see how this materially affects the safety and security of Americans at home, nor do I think this makes our soldiers materially safer in Iraq. By the Bush Administration’s own admissions, Iraq is now a haven for terrorists of all stripes, many of whom (all of whom?) take their direction from individuals other than Saddam Hussein. Whether they’re directly linked to al Qaeda, or they’re Saudi, Syrian or Iranian nationals looking to sow unrest, or some other flavor not yet identified, the fact remains: American soldiers are targets throughout Iraq. And the fanatics laying the mines, aiming the rifles and driving truck bombs into buildings are not under Hussein’s command.
As a result, his capture will not end the terrorism in Iraq. And I believe that the country’s primary mission today should be fighting the war on terror — and Iraq was not a material element of the terrorist threat prior to our invasion and occupation. Consequently, I don’t see Hussein’s capture as dramatically lessening the terrorist threat in America or abroad.
I think we owe it to ourselves and our allies to show the same commitment to winning the war on terror that the Bush Administration showed in winning the war in Iraq. Taking Osama bin Laden out is a necessary step in that war, as is internationalizing the coalition in the war on terror so that the terrorists have fewer places to hide, fewer sources of funds, fewer suppliers of weapons, fewer advocates of hate.
DeanSkeptic asked in my comments how having France or Germany on our side would help: by marginalizing these fanatics and denying them the anonymity they require in order to operate. If every nation were cooperating with us in this war — cooperation that would yield intelligence, arrests, extraditions — we would dramatically increase our ability to flush them out and win the war.
We are stronger when our allies are stronger — and by marginalizing countries who failed to fall in line behind us (bribery does not a true coalition build), we’re weakening the ability of the civilized world to act as one. Working together as one requires compromise and it requires patience. We’ve demonstrated precious little of either commodity on the world stage, and I’m afraid our efforts in the war on terror have suffered as a result.
Once again, congratulations to the men and women of the military who shined this weekend. Saddam Hussein’s capture was indeed a triumph for the Iraqi people, and a necessary accomplishment for the Iraqis to move towards a lasting peace.