Sunday, March 02, 2003

on iraq 2.

please see: this post .


can everyone agree on an operating principle? human life is worthy of being preserved. no one wants nuclear war. no one looks forward to it. i believe it is the threat of the destruction of our species that makes foreign policy discussions so necessary. in this world, one state actor, whoever they may be, can control the fate of humanity.

now, if you are conservative, or if you are "for" pursuing the war in iraq, you could have read what i just wrote and come out with the following thoughts: god, why are you liberals always against the U.S.? we aren't acting unilaterally, we have several nations signed up with us. people are going to die because of the war, but if we don't act people could die anyway because saddam is crazy and is capable of anything. that rogue state actor you speak of is saddam hussein. he could start a nuclear war if he finished developing his weapons of mass destruction!

if you are liberal, or you are "against" pursuing the war in iraq, you could read what i just wrote and think: yes! obviously! human life must preserved at all costs and so i shall go join the people who just parked their big bus in baghdad to take a stand against the war. the U.S. is acting dangerously irresponsibly, is a rogue state actor and this could lead to very bad things, like nuclear war.


There is truth in each of these arguments, to varying degrees. The extremity of some of the anti-war arguments, specifically the philosophy of the people who have parked themselves in Baghdad, is naive. People who argue that war is always inappropriate have, in my opinion, misappropriated reality, although it would be nice if they were right. On the other hand, notwithstanding the idea that there could be a middle here, the Bush administration argument of acting now to halt a tyrant from accessing weapons of mass destruction is compelling. It is even rational. In fact, I would think it would be quite a good idea if I thought it was the absolute best thing to do for the United States right now. If Saddam was an imminent threat to the citizens of the United States of America.

But Saddam Hussein is not THAT imminent of a threat. We are unlucky enough to already have an imminent threat: the network of terrorist cells worldwide that have as their sole motivation death and destruction of American citizens, businesses, and yes the American way of life. The Bush administration recognizes that we, the people, know that the imminent threat to US takes the form of terrorists, which is why the administration is working so hard to convince the world that Saddam Hussein is intricately involved with terrorists.

There is a good article in the Feb 10 New Yorker by Jeff Goldberg about the possible links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. There are links. To an extent they are a matter of debate, but I personally believe that the links are there. I fall down on the side of Donald Rumsfeld and George Tenet: there is a working relationship between terrorists and Hussein. I am not so idealistic that this idea is preposterous to me. Frankly, I see no reason why they wouldn't work together. The differences in the secular nature of Hussein's Baathist state and the religious nature of the terrorist networks do not stop the axiom "my enemy's enemy is my friend" from functioning, nor do they undermine the general feeling of the need for unity amongst peoples in the Middle East (the same need which Osama bin Laden has so successfully galvanized,).

What I do not believe: the links that Hussein has to terrorists are stronger than the links of other countries. If we need to be looking at countries who have a very serious, very established, and very dangerous connection to Al Qaeda, so much so that we have to INVADE them, we need only look back two years. Afghanistan was a good example of a country with such explicit ties between its leadership and the terrorists that an invasion was warranted, given the belligerence of the leadership.

Right now, if I were in charge, and I were limited to the 'Middle East,' and I had to pick one country for us to 'tackle,' I would hands down pick Pakistan. By 'tackle', I mean exercising a concentrated effort to cut down the fomenting of terrorist networks. I do not necessarily mean invade, bomb,---I do not believe that military force is the only tangible response that this country can come up with to combat terrorism in other nation states, but that does not mean I do not see its value. If we want to cut down on terrorism, we also need to cut down on the reasons why people support terrorists or become terrorists. "Kill them all" is not the only thing we can do. I am particularly keen on having the U.S. government work towards undermining what is apparently WIDESPREAD SUPPORT of the activities of terrorists, seeing as it would be an important first step to have the local communities view the terrorists as social pariahs. This being established----

My problem with the doctrine of preemptive non-aggression, invasion, whatever you want to call it in the case of Iraq is that we are already far worse off, terrorism-containing-wise, in several countries. While it would be nice to try to preemptively cut off the development of problems, in doing so we are ignoring the places which pose a more imminent threat to the citizens of the United States and indeed, the world.

Can we do both? I don't think so. Because it costs a lot of money. Rumsfeld didn't even want to give us a budgetary figure the other day for what a war and the resulting nationbuilding would cost in Iraq. (Here, I'd like to be wrong.)

Saddam is a dangerous criminal who should be contained and whose power should be minimized.

But not at the cost of our international credibility. Not when over half the world disagrees with our proposed course of action, and not when there are other things we need to be working on NOW (*north korea*). The Bush administration should let the inspections go on until the international community is WITH US. What is sad is that although the goal of removing Saddam from office is a good one, I fear that any such line pursued by the U.S. government will be resisted by the rest of the world no matter what we do now, because we already have this reputation of forcing the rest of the world to do things, and not cooperating with things like Kyoto and the International Criminal Court. We need to be viewed as the idealist in the world again, not as the country that is so rich and powerful that it can do anything it wants whenever it wants. Invading Iraq right now will not bring that back to us.

Let me sum it up: Cooperate with the international community. Pursue your ultimate goal, but be willing to wait on it for a bit if the entire world feels that they are being forced into doing something they do not want to do. We need our allies for nation-building. This is very serious business; we can't alienate everyone. It's too dangerous. In the meantime, pursue our most imminent threats. That's what we need to be working on. Saddam is an ass, but he isn't our only problem right now.


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