Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TOTAL RECALL: March 11, 2003

This is a week late, but deserves to be seen again. As we near the 5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Global Review recalls the position of its predecessor blog on March 11, 2003.

Instant Replay Invades the Iraqi Question

IR has come under tremendous pressure from U.N. inspectors to take a position on the United States' buildup in the Persian Gulf and the possibility of going to war against Saddam Hussein's corrupt regime in Baghdad.

Having taken a month and a half off from blogging has given me the clarity to address this firmly. I will attempt a linear argument, but I'm a bit pressed for time, so don't hold it against me that I can't make a comprehensive 12,000 page declaration.

Instant Replay believes that Saddam's regime is as corrupt, ungodly, and "evil" as government can be. The Iraqi people I know have no love of Saddam, and most Arabs think he's a little nuts. Saddam Hussein has earned his ouster, and he deserves anything anyone can throw at him. It's not a question of whether Saddam deserves to be keelhauled; it's a question of whether the United States - or anyone - should do it.

There are three arguments for disarming Iraq by force. One is humanitarian: war now will save lives in the long run. One is political: Iraq may be linked to al-Qaeda and is undoubtedly linked to Palestinian insurgents, on whom the U.S. and Israel are waging a war. The last is legal: Saddam has disregarded a long series of UN resolutions and has developed WMDs.

So Saddam deserves to be ousted, and there exist a few good reasons to oust him. IR believes that if the UN Security Council can agree to a course of action, that course should be followed. That may involve another six months of inspections, during the heat of the Iraqi summer. It also may involve another six years of circus, like the last six years. Either way, Saddam has put himself on the international agenda, and the world community has a responsibility to deal with him.

IR believes that the United States has tenuous legal grounds at best for entering the war. The U.S. does have moral footing of some sort, though. However, most importantly, the U.S. should not preempt the UN for political reasons.

The disastrous consequences of unilateral action will include a sharp split from our important allies - Europe, Russia, China, others - in the war on terror, increased terror against the U.S., and a loss of flexibility in dealing with the very real threat of North Korea.

By disregarding not only the UNSC but - more importantly - our allies, we are sacrificing post 9/11 favor for worldwide resentment. It's not that the Russians will become suicide bombers, it's that they won't tell us before some Uzbek does. In the post-Cold War world, we need allies more than we need victories. I don't know that Bush's people - all of whom are Cold Warriors who cut their teeth on Nixon and Reagan battles - understand that. Bush needs to listen to his Daddy, who was the #2 architect of the New World Order (Gorby was #1, imho), and ignore Samuel Huntington, author of "Clash of Civilizations."

The gains from conquering Iraq would be modest and mainly deterrent. However, I believe that the costs could be much higher. The U.S. will give ammunition to every Islamist pedagogue, their versions of Samuel Huntington, and the "Clash of Civilizations" will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some of Bush's strongest hawks point to Israel as a country who really knows how to deal with terror: by cracking down hard. Has anyone noticed that Israel is the most fear-ridden, terror-stricken country in the developed world?? Following longstanding Israeli tactics of preemption and punitive aggression will only lead to an Israelization of America.

This argument brings us back to the starting point: the war on terror. While IR won't commit to this position, it would like to raise the question of the wisdom of waging such a war. Since one successful terrorist can win the entire "war" by slipping through and blowing something really important up, isn't this a war we can't win? Seizing assets and arresting militants by cooperating with other countries is great. But intervening militarily and punishing those who host terrorists - the same way we punished villages hiding Viet Cong guerrillas - may be "right", but it doesn't augur success.
For a full month of war-related posts, see the March, 2003 archive.

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