WMDs and War

WMDs AND WAR….Matt Yglesias has a Tech Central Station column up about why it’s important to know whether intelligence information about Iraqi WMD was exaggerated before the war. He makes a good case, but I want to make one that I think is more fundamental.

No serious analyst suggests that the United States should mount large scale foreign wars for purely humanitarian reasons. While the humanitarian aspects of the Iraq war are welcome, pretending that they are sufficient is both dangerous and disingenuous.

The fact remains that the only substantial thing that distinguished Iraq from Burma, the Congo, Zimbabwe, or Iran in public eyes was the possibility that Iraq had WMDs and was likely to use them. In other words, that Iraq threatened the security of the United States or, at the very least, threatened the vital interests of the U.S.

Conservative warhawks have become tireless in recent weeks making up reasons why all these other humanitarian interventions are somehow different: Iran has its own reform movement, the Congo is in the middle of a war, etc. etc. But the real reason is a lot simpler: none of these countries pose any real threat to the United States or our allies. If they truly did, we’d invade in a heartbeat.

That’s why the WMDs are important. Did President Bush pretend that a threat existed where none really did? Or does he truly think that it should be U.S. policy to engage in major wars for humanitarian reasons? It’s hard to say which of these would be more disturbing.