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Monday, March 22, 2004

OIF/TELIC ONE YEAR ON - THE SADDAM/IRAQ LINK WITH TERRORISM To make it clear from the start I don't believe that Saddam and bin Laden were in cahoots with each other. However there were two distinct terrorism-related reasons why the invasion of Iraq had to go ahead and was not, as some critics and even some supporters claim, a war of choice, except perhaps in the timing.

The first point is one of Western weakness. Now leave aside the West's support for brutal Middle Eastern dictatorships or the inhumane "containment" regime against Iraq, it's important to understand that all this signalled weakness to our enemies. Saddam effectively started a war against us by invading Kuwait in 1990. In 1991 we agreed to a ceasefire, which was conditioned on several steps such as disarmament that the Saddam Hussein regime needed to take to maintain the ceasefire and eventually get a proper peace deal.
For a decade Saddam refused to comply and we refused ourselves to act in the only logical way and topple him. This was one of the major factors that fed the impression that the West was unwilling and incapable of putting up a fight. (To be entirely correct Western actions in Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda and elsewhere contributed as well.) It was this impression that made bin Laden's delusional dreams of taking on the West in armed confrontation realistic enough to gain sufficient support to carry out the 9/11 attacks. To take on terrorism we needed to reverse this impression of indecisiveness by doing something big and decisive. Iraq was the ideal target and that is why Saddam had to be toppled.

The second point is a more indirect argument. Most people like to say that we need to fight terrorism by removing the root causes. Normally the removing the root causes is strangely also what these same people have been arguing for independently of the terror threat whether it is spreading democracy, alleviating global poverty or whatever else. A lot of this is good and right, but it is also irrelevant. Terrorism needs something to rub itself up against and that was the troop presence in Saudi Arabia and to a lesser degree in other Islamic countries. So to remove the West's connection with the various root causes and terrorists' spheres of influence the troops had to go.
Most importantly the huge US military presence in Saudi Arabia had to go. The reason that presence was there was because of Saddam and the mullahs in Tehran. So the solution was simple really: topple Saddam, move the Middle East military presence to Iraq and wait for the Iranian regime to fall. This is one of the most important steps in fighting and winning the war on terror and it is being implemented. It is a step that was absolutely necessary, which is why regime change in Iraq was both an integral part in the war on terror and a war of necessity.

I don't have a great collection of further reading I'd recommend, but here is anyway:

- Stephen F. Hayes sums up the argument that Saddam and al Quaeda did work together, although I'm still to be convinced

- Max Boot's call for The End of Appeasement makes the argument about terrorism resulting from a weak Middle East policy by the West, although I find this piece is a bit too rich for me,

- and finally read the report by Ivan Eland of the Cato Institute that shows how terrorism and involvement correlate with each other, which in a way is the real root cause.

PS: If you're fed up with the Iraq debate, blogging will be back to normal again in a few days.

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