First, we have a test case for how Saddam will react when threatened with massive retaliation for use of weapons of amss detsruction against an opopnent who can follow through: the Gulf War. James Baker explicitly warned Saddam. And Saddam didn't use his arsenal of chemical weapons against our troops, or even Israel. Why? Because he is rational, the threat was credible, and his survival was not on the line.Props to Hesiod- I had totally forgotten about that part of the Gulf War, but it's about the best evidence that Saddam can be deterred that I've seen so far.
Moreover, Saddam has not used such weapons against any other opponent since the Gulf War.
And, we know for certain taht he WILL use such weapons. He used them to gas the Kurds. And he used them in his prolonged and bloody war with Iran. Ironically, Saddam's improving relationship with Iran proves that he is a rational actor who will do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means cozying up with a formerly mortal enemy.
Den Beste then, after agreeing that Saddam is a rational actor, goes off the deep end with this portion of his argument.
So it would appear that even without critiques based on theory (and the theoretical ones are damning enough), what evidence we have shows that the case for unilateral invasion is weak indeed. Does that mean that the U.S. won't invade? Maybe not, but it will ensure that there's no way that the U.S. can spin it to its advantage, and that pretty much the rest of the free world will remain resolute in their condemnation of the invasion.
And the Republicans were worried about Clinton losing his moral authority. If it invades Iraq, it looks more and more like the U.S. will only derive respect and authority from the point of a gun. Pity, that- despite what Den Beste seems to think, we had finally moved a little ways away from that. Oh well.
Edit: Damn, I missed this part, and it's great too:
Den Beste does not explain why Saddam would simply hand over a nuclear device to Ilamic radical terrorists, who could, at some point, just as easily decide that Iraq qould be a better place if it were run by, say, some radical Wahabi mullah? He'd have to exercise some degree of control over the operation, or risk them being used against himself. And that risk is not trivial. And the more control he exercised, the more of his fingerprints would be all over the operation. He cannot risk that his plans would be upset by, say, a Saudi or Jordanian intelligence mole in the terrorist camp would tip off the United States..
It's convenient to forget that Iraq is not beloved by the Islamic theocrats, but Hesiod makes an excellent point here- Iraq is a target too, and one that doesn't have much support in the West. Saddam would be jeopardizing his own regime by handing WMDs off to terrorists.. and nobody thinks he'd ever do that. Without that threat, why invade Iraq?