The New York Times offers an op-ed today characteristically titled "The Rush to War." It is worth noting that the NYT makes a couple of concessions up front: first, based on the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, "[t]he Bush administration proved over the weekend that it can plan for war against Iraq and fight international terrorism at the same time." This little quote should be repeated to every liberal commentator who uses the "priorities" argument. Second,
"[w]e are not under any illusion that Mr. Hussein is disabling his missiles simply because he likes the idea. Iraq would never be making even these grudging concessions if American troops were not massed near Iraq’s border. The U.N. must realize that whatever success it has achieved of late in getting Iraq to abide by its directives has come only because of American military might."
The larger issue, however, is that the New York Times suffers from a bit of ivory tower syndrome on this question. In a famous speech, Churchill remarked that Germany’s great mistake in attacking Russia is that they forgot about winter. He conceded that he had made many mistakes over his life, but had never actually forgotten a season. U.S. fouces are facing a similar problem: summer. The heat of summer is rapidly approaching, something which is painfully apparent to those planning the invasion. Add to the desert heat the need for soldiers to wear chemical or biological suits, and suddenly you’ve got big problems. While our night-vision technology would permit us to conduct most operations in the cool of the night, it would be too optimistic to think that all daytime operations could be avoided.
In the end, the President’s move to war has been anything but a rush. The administration has been talking with Iraq and the UN for well over a year. Hussein has gamed the process to the nth degree, taking the most limited action necessary to appease the French, Germans, and the New York Times at the precise 11th hour. While it is modestly useful that he has begun (in a very limited sense) to destroy the Al Samoud 2 missiles, there is still no progress regarding the large stores chemical and biological weapons unaccounted for.
Given the time leading up to the administration’s current stand, it is folly to call the administration’s current posture a "rush." Any statement on timing must take into account not only Hussein’s actions, which are relatively insignificant, but his inaction, which is significant. Finally, any statement on timing must yield to Churchill’s wisdom: we must not forget about the seasons.