Today, there is only one question that those looking backward ought to ask: Is there anything we could have done to compel Saddam Hussein to disarm that we have not done? Not contain, but disarm. Please, tell me.

I will recap history only briefly: The Gulf War cease-fire agreement required Saddam to disarm. Since then? Twelve years of diplomacy. Twelve years of crippling economic sanctions. Seventeen United Nations resolutions. Hundreds of weapons inspectors under two different regimes. And now, 260,000 troops and an armada of ships and planes surrounding his country. And the result is only more deception.

Before Sept. 11, the best strategy was indeed containment — the naive but prevalent belief that terrorists may bomb remote embassies and ships but would (and could) never endanger the American homeland with weapons of mass destruction. Today, change is the answer.

We may bemoan, as I do, the president’s failure at uniting the world behind us. And we can fret, as I do, that the administration may not have the staying power required to bring true democracy to Iraq. But one thing is clear: continuing on our current path (in other words, doing nothing) will not secure the peace, and a strategy built upon wishful thinking and intransigence is not an option.

The fight against the spread of weapons of mass destruction will constitute the defining struggle of this century. And I don’t know about you, but a world in which terrorists and rogue regimes are allowed to obtain such weapons is not a world I want to live in.

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