One other notable thing about Packer's taxonomy of war arguments (which, I should have said more clearly, detailed the arguments he saw among liberal hawks) is that nowhere on the list does he mention Iraq's threat to us, or connection to 9/11. These arguments, though central to the case for war, were utterly derided by liberal hawks, who chalked their (obviously mendacious) existence up to basic fear-mongering needed to placate the rubes.
I really don't think this is true. Certainly "scary weapons" were invoked by self-styled liberal hawks even if they weren't, in their heart of hearts, their prime reason.
How does war on Iraq advance our effort to combat terrorism? Not in the literal-minded sense that Saddam must be stopped from funding al-Qaida or harboring Osama Bin Laden. But merely to ask the question that way fosters a misunderstanding created by the war-on-terrorism metaphor. Sept. 11 was a catastrophic event of conventional terrorism. However, it woke the country up to a group of related security threats, including conventional terrorism, the potential use of unconventional weapons by rogue states, and the acquisition of such weapons by terrorists.
Saddam's biological weapons—and his drive to acquire nuclear ones—look to me like the most pressing of those threats. This is a judgment that involves weighing both the likelihood that Saddam will use his WMD (or enable terrorists to use them) and the scale of potential devastation that would result from that happening. To be sure, Iraq isn't the only rogue state that poses this kind of risk, but it's by far the most dangerous at the moment. The idea that because we can't fight them all, we shouldn't fight any of them is illogical. By disarming Saddam, we'll make ourselves safer in two ways: by incapacitating the most diabolical of the rogue states and by sending a strong signal to the runners-up.
And after the war:
The first was humanitarian: Saddam was (is) a genocidal butcher on an epic scale, and I wanted to see Iraq freed from his grip. The second was Saddam's seemingly incorrigible pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons. March 2003 was not the time of my choosing—I would have gone in back in 1993 (when Saddam tried to assassinate former President Bush), or in 1998 (when he slammed the door on the U.N. inspectors*), or waited for a genuine emergency and a more propitious moment to reassemble an international coalition. But when George W. Bush chose to finally act, I supported him despite serious reservations about timing and method because I wanted the job finished at last.
The liberal war critic Michael O'Hanlon:
Are inspections of Iraqi weapons facilities a viable alternative to war? Or are they so certain to fail that further efforts to resume them are pointless, and war the only practical option for addressing the threat posed by Saddam Hussein?
The very liberal Kenneth Pollack (could cite numerous examples, including that little book he wrote):
The doves, meanwhile, are right about Iraq's not being a good candidate for a replay of Operation Enduring Freedom, but they are wrong to think that inspections and deterrence are adequate responses to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.
Tommy Friedman, 12/2002:
But this leads to the second issue, which is a deeper moral question. Is there an Iraqi Andrei Sakharov? Is there just one Iraqi scientist or official who wants to see the freedom of his country so badly that he is ready to cooperate with the U.N. by submitting to an interview and exposing the regime's hidden weapons?
I think Bush is right about preemption. For one thing, we aren't containing Saddam now--he's been free to build up his chemical, biological, and nuclear arsenal for almost four years now.
The argument may have just been for the rubes, but they were making it. And, sure, they weren't claiming Saddam was going to destroy the United States with a massive ground invasion, but they were making the evil bad dictator with scary weapons argument even if they were wrapping that little toffee center in a cherry candy happy humanitarian shell.
They wanted war. They'd constructed a little world in which that made sense, and most weren't above invoking the specter of weapons of mass destruction, which reasonable people consider a "threat," directly or indirectly. They may not have being saying "we must invade Iraq before Saddam nukes us!" but they were certainly invoking those weapons. And the rubes heard them loud and clear.