Cassus Belli

CASUS BELLI….The Washington Post asked Colin Powell yesterday if he would have supported the war if he’d known last year that Iraq had no WMD stocks. His answer:

I don’t know. I don’t know, because it was the stockpile that presented the final little piece that made it more of a real and present danger and threat to the region and to the world….The absence of a stockpile changes the political calculus. It changes the answer you get, the formula I laid out.

David Frum is pissed off by this:

Can we recall please that it was Colin Powell?s insistence on working through the UN process that forced the United States to base its case for action in Iraq so very largely on the WMD issue? In his address to the UN a year ago, Colin Powell could have stressed Iraq?s record as a haven for terrorists like Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal….He could have stressed the tyranny and cruelty of Saddam?s rule….

There were other arguments too that could have been made, if not at the UN, then in other forums: arguments about strategy, about the need to cut the connection between the United States and Saudi Arabia, about the need for political change in the Middle East, about the need to show that anti-American radicalism is a weak and failing force not a strong and growing one.

What kind of drugs is Frum taking? Does he really think the American public would have backed a preemptive war based on “strategy”? Or on vague talk about the need for political change in the Middle East? Or ? worse yet ? on the honest truth that this was just a show of force?

David Frum may think those are all sufficient reasons to launch a major war, but it’s unlikely very many Americans would have agreed. It’s true that Americans are pretty tolerant of preemptive small wars, but we’re generally not very tolerant of big ones unless (a) the other guy starts it or (b) in a pinch, we believe the other guy is a serious threat to national security. We didn’t have the first ? although the White House did its best to fudge that ? and without WMD we didn’t have the second.

Frum is living on a different planet if he thinks Americans would have supported this war if they knew Saddam posed no danger to the country or the region. We’ve shown ourselves more than willing to commit small numbers of troops and a bombing campaign or two in order to get rid of nasty despots in the past, but for big ones we need more than that. Without WMD, this war probably never would have happened.