A veteran Washington journalist, speaking to an audience at the John Locke Foundation’s 13th anniversary dinner, on Friday refuted several common arguments against a war with Iraq.
Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard and a pundit on the Fox News Channel, rattled off reasons why the United States cannot back down to Saddam Hussein, and said it was impossible to “win without war” as mostly liberal critics of President George W. Bush claim.
“Most of [the arguments against war] are really stupid,” Barnes told the audience of about 250 in Raleigh.
The former Baltimore Sun columnist first made a case for the need to remove Hussein from power, which former President Bill Clinton said was necessary during his administration. Barnes recalled how Clinton cited Hussein’s willingness to use weapons of mass destruction, and to give them to terrorists, as reasons to remove the Iraqi dictator. Barnes said the former president “didn’t have the will” to take serious action against Hussein.
When weapons inspectors were “kicked out” of Iraq in 1998, the United Nations knew Hussein had huge amounts of chemical agents and munitions. Barnes said that people who argue that Hussein isn’t a threat must believe that he voluntarily destroyed those weapons when inspectors left in 1998.
Barnes also denied Bush’s opponents’ characterization of the president as a warmonger. Barnes said the president campaigned as a semi-isolationist who sneered at the idea of “nation-building.” He told the Raleigh audience that the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and cabinet meetings in the days following, changed Bush’s views. Still, Barnes said the president has not pursued a “rush to war” as many anti-war activists have alleged.
“It’s more like a crawl,” Barnes said.
Barnes countered several anti-war arguments voiced recently, including:
• Bush’s alleged “war for oil.” Barnes said it would be easier for the U.S. to lift sanctions on Iraq and buy their oil.
• A war would provoke more terrorism. Radical Islam already hates the U.S., Barnes said, “because of who we are.”
• The “Arab street” will erupt if the U.S. attacks. Barnes reminded that that didn’t happen during the Gulf War or in Afghanistan. “The ‘Arab street’,” Barnes said, “respects American power used effectively.”
• President Bush is making up for his father’s failures. “There’s not a single shred of evidence for that,” Barnes said.
• An American attack would be unprovoked aggression against Iraq. Barnes said Hussein has repeatedly violated the truce he signed after the Gulf War. Because he has not disarmed, the truce is nullified, Barnes said.
• Containment is working. Barnes argued that containment in the traditional sense of the word isn’t the problem. He said giving terrorists deadly biological agents in an envelope is uncontainable, and the only way to protect against that threat is to destroy the weapons.
On the other hand, Barnes said if the U.S. backs down from Hussein, it will face serious consequences, including lowered national security; no serious consequences for Hussein; energized terrorists; and a weakened U.N.
But with regime change in Iraq, Barnes said the benefits are great, including “a huge advance in the war on terrorism” and victory for a moral cause.
Chesser is associate editor for Carolina Journal.