The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events
September 1, 2002
The Debate over Iraq
The major topic of debate among the TV
talking heads and pontificating pundits is a possible U.S. war against
Iraq. I normally deplore such frenzies, but this time it’s justified.
Waging war is the most serious function of government – it must never be
undertaken lightly or without proper debate, reflection, study, and
That’s what is going on now. President
Dubya has started this by making regime change the goal for Iraq. Saddam
Hussein must go. Anything less – weapons inspections, containment,
sanctions – is inadequate in the face of the threat Hussein represents.
But how does Hussein threaten America?
According to President Dubya and other so-called hawks in his
administration like Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense
Don Rumsfield, Hussein:
- Possesses chemical and biological
- Is working toward acquiring nuclear
- Has already used poison gas against his
own people and Iran
- Maintains grand designs on conquering
the Saudi oil fields
- Funds families of Palestinian suicide
- Attempted to assassinate former
President Papa Bush
- Has violated just about every tenet of
the cease-fire agreement that ended the Gulf War
- Harbors al-Queda terrorists and
terrorist training camps
- May have played some role in the
September 11 attack
A friendly, pro-Western government that
guarantees freedom to Iraqis would undermine other Arab governments that
suppress their people. It would also break up OPEC by controlling the
Iraqi oil fields, the second larges in the country. Freedom and
prosperity, and low oil prices, would finally arrive in the Middle East.
That’s quite a list. Assuming all these
charges are true (and some are debatable), do they warrant a war to
So-called doves dispute several of those
charges and contend:
- War against Iraq is too risky – the
drawbacks outweigh the benefits
- An attack would inflame the Middle East,
enrage the “Arab street” and cause more America-hatred among the
- It would anger other countries,
virtually none of whom support a war
- An attack would force Hussein to attack
Israel and use his chemical and biological weapons against U.S. troops
- Finally, wiping out Hussein would force
the U.S. to occupy Iraq for decades to support a pro-Western
democratic government, which would be a constant target of terrorists
Doves also question the morality of
an Iraq attack. Hussein, they claim, has never attacked America and
represents no threat to American interests. He’s attacked no other
country since he got spanked in the Gulf War. Such a war would be a naked
act of aggression. Besides, President Dubya must have war declared by
Congress to make it legal. But, in the end, overthrowing Hussein is not
worth dead American soldiers.
So that’s the debate, as I see it.
Despite the serious subject matter, there have been moments of silliness.
For example, doves and critics of the administration (often one and the
same, but not always) said for weeks that President Dubya must make his
case for regime change to the American people. So, this past week, Cheney
has given two strong speeches outlining President Dubya’s case, and
several talking heads suggested the administration was trying to stifle
debate! They were ignoring the opposite point of view! That’s not only
silly, but incoherent, which implies that several pundits are using this
opportunity to jab Dubya.
Others have slyly pointed out that many of
these so-called hawks have never served in the military. So what? Clinton
never served, in fact dodged the draft, but these same pundits never
criticized Clinton for it. In fact, many of these same doves were silent
when Clinton sent troops to Haiti and Bosnia.
So, there is a bit of partisanship involved
here. But that’s to be expected, and there’s nothing wrong with it. In
fact, the debate that’s occurring now is healthy. It shows America’s
greatness. How many governments in the world would tolerate something
similar? Not many, and especially not in Iraq. As Americans, we should
always remember what makes our country unique.
So what’s my take on this? Do I think we
should invade Iraq? My answer would be a very cautious and uneasy yes.
I understand the doves’ arguments and agree with many of them – any
war is a risk and carries unforeseen consequences. But I believe the risk
of doing nothing outweighs the risks of war. What happens when Hussein
goes nuclear? The doves say he wouldn’t dare use them, because he
doesn’t want to die. But he could use them without risking his own
worthless skin. Let’s look at some possible scenarios.
- Hussein announces he’s got nukes and
the means to bomb America. He then invades Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,
vowing to nuke Washington or New York if America intervenes. What does
- Hussein announces he has a nuclear
weapon in a major city in the United States, smuggled in by Iraqi
operatives, and if America doesn’t do as he wishes, he’ll set it
off. Admittedly, this is a bit far-fetched, but still possible. What
does America do?
- Hussein gets the bomb but says nothing.
Instead, he sells it to al-Queda or another terrorist group and they
detonate it, taking full credit. In that case, the U.S. wouldn’t
know how the terrorists got the bomb. Hussein stays safe.
In essence, the doves’ arguments boil
down to this: We should wait until Iraq acquires a nuke and murders
millions of Americas before we take him out. The hawks, in essence, say
that we shouldn’t wait for millions of Americans to die, so let’s take
him out now before Hussein has a chance to do just that.
Look, I’m no warmonger. War sucks. People
die. Innocents die. It’s risky and could backfire. But sometimes, the
alternative is worse.