ARLINGTON, VA — When President Bush The First went to war against Iraq almost 12 years ago, I was totally opposed to it. I figured Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a bad guy all right, but let the Kuwaiti princes fight their own battles.
The first President Bush never communicated to me any reason why I should want to send American troops to Baghdad. In the end, when we went to war but didn't go to Baghdad after all, I was furious. It seemed Mr. Bush The First was willing to go on a fool's errand - and make it all the more foolish by not going all the way.
Fast forward more than a decade, and how things have changed.
George the Second is in the White House. I have four young children. I live in the suburbs. I drive a minivan filled with kids going to and from gymnastics, piano practice, and Boy Scouts.
I had to go out at night with a flashlight and my first-grader to find "saw" and "smooth edged" leaves the night before the tree project was due. ("But mom, I have to have it tomorrow!") I say things like "don't interrupt," "because I'm the mommy and I said so," and "here honey, I'll give it a kiss." I have to keep my 17-month-old away from toilets because she likes to suck on objects she's dipped in them. I tell my 8-year-old boy not to doodle so many guns on the margins of his schoolwork. My 3-year-old tells anybody who will listen that she never wants to grow up. And why should she? She probably figures life can't get better than this.
I'm delighted to see my kids get up in the morning, and delighted to see them go to bed at night. Once in a while, I even try to meet a journalistic deadline. In my entire life I've never been happier or enjoyed my life more.
And something else has changed - this George Bush has convinced me that Mr. Hussein is a threat to this way of life; that, more than anything else, he is a menace to the four most precious things in the world to my husband and me - our kids.
It may even be that Hussein is a hazard largely because George the First foolishly "shot at a king" without killing him, setting the stage for the current confrontation. But how we got here doesn't matter to me. Whether Hussein is a threat to his neighbors is not what makes me want to put ground troops in Baghdad.
What motivates me is this: I don't want my kids to be on the receiving end of smallpox, a chemical weapon, or - most horrifying of all - a nuclear device, courtesy of Hussein. But I do think that is exactly what Hussein wants.
A new study says mother rats are actually smarter than rats who've never had rat babies - and I'm assuming this carries over into the human population, which is why I can pretty quickly do the calculations of what's going on.
Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction even when the UN weapons inspectors were in Iraq. For the past four years, in direct violation of the settlement agreement to end the war, Hussein allowed no inspectors in at all. Even though Hussein (supposedly) allowed weapons inspections to resume last week - and I wholly doubt it's possible to effectively "inspect" that country - Bush's case remains a compelling one: Saddam Hussein continues to produce weapons of mass destruction. Duh. And he's not doing it to go after coffee growers in Colombia. Double duh.
But what's also changed is not just that this President Bush has convinced me that Hussein is a threat to my kids. This Bush has convinced me that he'll finish the job this time. That he'll go into Iraq with overwhelming force, and do what his father would not: topple Hussein and his murderous regime.
This president has won my trust. Apparently a lot of women agree. A CNN poll in September showed that 58 percent of American women, as opposed to 56 percent of men, backed sending ground troops - yes, ground troops - into Iraq.
Things have changed.
• Betsy Hart is a Washington-based writer who appears each Monday on CNN's Inside Politics.