Make talk, not war

Among the most frequently professed goals of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to make the United States safer from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. But if anything we are less safe now than before.

The Bush administration hoped that, by demonstrating U.S. willingness to use military force to take out a dangerous bad guy, other bad guys, Iran and North Korea in particular, would get the message that developing such weapons was a poor idea. It hasn’t worked that way. Since the war, both countries have accelerated their nuclear-weapons programs, not cut them back.

Meanwhile, no evidence has emerged to show that Saddam Hussein was a significant supporter of Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups or that our invasion of Iraq has done anything to diminish the terrorist threat.

If anything, the war and continuing occupation of Iraq have taken energy (and money) away from the world-wide effort to track and capture would-be terrorists. Thousands of Al Qaeda jihadists remain on the loose. They have infiltrated every Western country, including the United States, and they are looking for opportunities to wreak havoc. And yet the unilateral war in Iraq has alienated many of the allies whose help we need to thwart them.

Nothing further is to be gained by blustering and gun-slinging. We can’t go after every bad guy with a big gun. For one thing, the bad guys keep shifting on us (Saddam, remember, was once our ally, as was Iran). Second, we can’t afford it. Third, it doesn’t work long-term.

We need instead to encourage all nations to give up the pursuit and possession of nuclear weapons. We could begin by giving up even more of our own and pledging to get rid of the rest if others do the same—instead of, as the Bush administration desires, developing a new generation of low-yield, "bunker-busting" nukes. Ultimately, in a world as small as ours, all nuclear weapons are a danger to all people. The ultimate goal should be international agreement on a nuclear-free planet.