Scowcroft, Saddam, and Parmenide's Fallacy

Steve Coll reports on his swanky new blog about a swanky dinner he attended at John Kerry's over-large Georgetown home, held to celebrate the publication of "America in the World," a book-length conversation between Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, moderated by the Washington Post's David Ignatius. Steve describes as "remarkably lucid and useful" an exchange between Scowcroft and Ignatius on Scowcroft's opposition to the Iraq invasion. Scowcroft told Ignatius that he opposed the war for many reasons, including this one:
"Saddam, in fact, was quite well contained. And we had a big problem following 9/11 in dealing with this greater threat of terrorism."
    It is an open question, however, whether Saddam was in fact "contained." The sanctions regime was crumbling; the world was tired of keeping Saddam in a box. And as John Kerry himself said in October of 2002, "It would be naive to the point of grave danger not to believe that left to his own devices, Saddam Hussein will provoke, misjudge, or stumble into a future, more dangerous confrontation with the civilized world. He has as much as promised it."
   But let's assume it was true that Saddam was actually contained in early 2003. Does this mean that he would have remained contained in 2004? Here, Scowcroft falls victim to Parmenide's Fallacy, which occurs when a policymaker considers the merits of a particular proposal by judging it against its current context, rather than by what might occur in the future if the proposal isn't acted upon. In the words of Phillip Bobbitt, "indefinitely extending the present is never a realistic option." Just because Saddam was contained in 2003 (assuming he was) has no bearing on whether he would have been contained in 2004 or 2005.
  I'm not arguing for the Iraq War, by the way. When I do that, I'll let you know. I'm just arguing against easy answers, and amnesia.