I never believed the administration's claims that Iraq posed an imminent threat to anyone. My original thinking was that if there was a genuine imminent threat, the US would have done something about it instead of talking about it for a year. I agreed with the administration that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous man, that Iraq probably was continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction, and that everyone would be a lot better off if Hussein was removed from power. But I didn't want to go to war over it.
But then two things happened. First, the situation in North Korea flared up. That proved me wrong on my theory about what the administration would have done if Iraq had really been an imminent threat. Rather than rushing to war against North Korea, the US has done nothing, except take some tentative steps toward the bargaining table. Indeed, the US can't do anything, because they know that if they attack North Korea, North Korea will attack Seoul, and they're not willing to sacrifice the 10 million residents of Seoul to get rid of Kim Jong Il. Compassionate conservativism in action!
The same would be true in the Middle East. If Iraq successfully developed an arsenal of nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, millions of people in Israel and Kuwait would be dead or dying before the first US warplanes got back to the aircraft carrier.
Then Colin Powell gave his presentation to the UN Security Council. Powell was not altogether convincing: the photographic evidence was open to interpretation, and defectors and double agents are not known for their unbiased reports. And the links to al-Qaida were flimsy; the same level of connection could be made between al-Qaida and many other Muslim states, and odds are good that much stronger ties exist between al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.
But then there were the wire intercepts. The intercepts were solid evidence that Iraq is continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction, and that they are actively trying to hide that from UN inspectors. They also proved that the effort to disarm Iraq has been a failure. The initial UN disarmament resolutions didn't work. The first, second, and third inspections didn't work. Saber-rattling didn't work. We've been trying the peaceful approach for more than a decade now, and it hasn't even come close to working.
So what else is there? If Saddam Hussein is a potential threat, if wanting to disarm Iraq is a good idea, if we want to avoid another North Korea, what other choice is there but occupation? I don't like it, and I wish there was some other way. And who knows? Maybe France or Saudi Arabia will convince Hussein to voluntarily go into exile. But if we're serious about disarmament, we have to be prepared to admit that a negotiated solution isn't possible and disarm Iraq by force. I don't see any other way around it.