Friday, September 26, 2003

NYT straddles on Iraq

The world changed on Sept. 11, 2001. Terrorist groups like Al Qaeda are dedicated to inflicting maximum harm on this country. Since such groups rely on suicide bombers and are therefore immune to threats of retaliation, the United States is right to attack a terrorist group first in some circumstances. It was certainly justified in its war in Afghanistan, which had become little more than a government-sponsored training camp for Al Qaeda. It is quite another thing, however, to launch a pre-emptive military campaign against a nation that the United States suspects poses a threat.

Americans and others in the world are glad that Mr. Hussein has been removed from power. If Iraq can be turned into a freer and happier country in coming years, it could become a focal point for the evolution of a more peaceful and democratic Middle East. But it was the fear of weapons of mass destruction placed in the hands of enemy terrorists that made doing something about Iraq seem urgent. If it had seemed unlikely that Mr. Hussein had them, we doubt that Congress or the American people would have endorsed the war.

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