I’m going to start with a rant on the war on Iraq. It’s become a pervasive thought in most of our lives, and near everyone has an opinion. And frankly, mine is that I’m disgusted, and maybe a little scared. I’m disgusted that those against the war are reverting to violence in the name of peace. The hypocrisy is appalling. I’m also disgusted by the pro-war crowd who make no room for dissension in the populace. You are either with ’em or against ’em. The reality is that there are many shades of gray in all of this.
Let’s start by putting a few stakes in the ground. It is possible and reasonable at this point to be supportive of the war and against the war policy. How we got to this point is increasingly moot with regard to the current conflict. We are already there. It’s not obvious to me that there is any viable way to back out without increasing Saddam’s power and verifying to our friends and enemies alike that we are vulnerable and have no stomach for real combat. Therefore, it’s only reasonable to be behind the war effort, and behind the brave men and women who are risking and giving their lives for this victory. I salute them each and all. So should you. You should be damn glad that these people are dedicated to their country, and willing to do whatever it takes to live up to the commitment they made to us.
Further, regime change in Iraq is certainly no loss. It’s unlikely that any government succeeding this one could be worse for the people of Iraq than the status quo. It’s arguable how much of a danger Saddam is or ever was to the U.S. itself. But few would disagree that he was a danger to his own people and the countries in his neighborhood. Good riddance.
My real concern, and the reason I consider myself against the war policy, is that the path we took to get into this war establishes a precedent. It defines a fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy and increasingly isolates the U.S. from the world community. The U.S. took the non-democratic position to defy the world majority and launch a campaign to bomb Iraq into democracy. It sold the necessity of the invasion on the grounds of stopping terrorism and liberating the oppressed Iraqis. The liberation angle plays well at the coffee house, but we have turned a blind eye to countless other regimes in other countries that were in far more need of liberation. The evidence linking Saddam to Al Qaeda is weak or secret or both. There is more hard evidence linking the Saudi’s, but we haven’t invaded them and aren’t likely to. The true motivation for invading Iraq lies elsewhere, which leaves us ample room for speculation.
Yes, this may just be motivated by Bush’s political ambition. He has defined an otherwise unremarkable presidency on his war on terrorism. Having defeated a tangible entity (as opposed to routing the nebulous Al Qaeda from Afghanistan) going into an election is clearly only going to bolster his approval ratings from conservatives and patriots. Yes, this could be some sort of family score settling for the Bush’s. G.W. could want to finish what his daddy started. Oddly, I’ll be happy if it’s something like that. Not that I consider them good reasons, but they have no longer term implications. But there is another possibility.
The U.N. may well be impotent, and it is minimally an increasingly irrelevant, if not annoying, organization relative to the U.S. The U.S. is in a position unlike any other nation in history. We have the technology, the military might, the population, and the wealth to stand alone as the quintessential 500 lb. gorilla. The majority of countries in the U.N. (and ironically most of the “coalition of the willing”) are countries which are politically and militarily irrelevant. We could launch into a whole new era of colonialism virtually unchecked. Running in and toppling unfriendly governments in the name of democracy and effectively creating a new world alliance under the ostensibly benign guidance of the U.S. Given the U.N.’s reluctance (and arguably the world’s reluctance) to take a hard line against Iraq, who will stand against the U.S.? Especially if we successfully assert a position on the moral high road and move slowly through the initial years so as to not arouse excess suspicion.
If the U.S. is successful in the Iraqi campaign, it will accomplish several things. It will have a strong military foothold in a strategic spot on the globe. It will have further incited the enmity of many pro-Arab or anti-U.S. groups or countries which will likely result in more terror attacks (or minimally, threats) against the U.S. But perhaps more importantly, it will have reignited the U.S. military/industrial complex which both drove and fed domestic military spending during the cold war. We will grow capability to address the heightened threat from terrorism. The 500 lb Gorilla will begin taking steroids. And given that we now have precedent for taking preemptive action against perceived threats, we are just a good media spin away from a reason to launch into the next country. That’s what scares me.
I’ve been teaching my young sons to play the board game Risk, world domination using dice and plastic armies. I haven’t played myself in many years, but I think I’m learning even more now teaching them the game strategy. You see, Risk is a game of balance – to a point. You make and realign alliances many times throughout the game trying to keep the players in balance. You can’t take on the world alone. You make small conquests, often in places which seem to be of little threat to the others. But then an opportunity comes. It is your turn and the balance is tipped ever so slightly in your favor. More importantly, you see a path to tip that scale full tilt with a few small maneuvers. At that juncture, all alliances go out the window, and the world falls in one or two turns. It’s a “straw breaking the camel’s back” scenario. By the time you realize that one small additional conquest has initiated the cascade, it’s too late to stop it. The key is to get that straw on the camel without the other players taking notice. Sure, it’s just a game. But lately the way the game plays out rings all too familiar.
I don’t trust the Bush administration. I doubt Bush himself has the intellect to conceive of a plan as significant as I’m suggesting. However, there are certainly conservative think tanks with the President’s ear who have conceived of such. And Bush is just the unwitting front man for the job. He’s passionate and can wave the flag with the best of them. He’s single minded in the extreme. And he has a devout domestic following who will not stop to question the grander implications of his righteous rhetoric.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” While the U.S.’s power is not absolute, it’s pretty far out there. One day it may be close enough. Will anyone notice before that last straw is placed? To my mind, the Bush administration has already demonstrated that they are being corrupted by the testosterone laden rush of power. In part, they are using Iraq to see if we are as tough as they think we are. We can’t afford to lose, yet winning will only encourage them. This is precisely why it is imperative that we be against the policy which created this war. We have to win the war, and we also have to assure that this does not happen again. Once the opportunity to liberate another country comes along, it will be too late (as it was this time) to stem the tide. As a population, we Americans are too easily wrapped up in nationalism and patriotism. They are good things to a point, but no allegiance should be given blindly.
“With great power comes great responsibility.” The Bush administration has not acted responsibly. You should act accordingly.