September 18, 2002

Has war with Iraq – and a Middle East conflagration – been averted? Don't bet the ranch on it….

The Americans won't take "yes" for an answer. Here is how the war-maddened Bush administration is dealing with Iraq's decision to let in the UN weapons inspectors:

"Saddam Hussein's words cannot be taken at face value." – White House press secretary Ari Fleischer

"We have seen this game before." – Secretary of State Colin Powell

"You've got to understand the nature of the regime we're dealing with. This is a man who has delayed, denied, deceived the world. For the sake of liberty and justice for all, the United Nations Security Council must act – must act in a way to hold this regime to account, must not be fooled, must be relevant to keep the peace." – George W. Bush

In the next few weeks, as the U.S. government seeks to delay the peace process and deny that Saddam's unconditional offer represents any kind of concession, the world is going to discover the nature of the regime in Washington – one ruled by a clique of would-be warlords, "Bonapartists," as Chris Matthews aptly called them this morning [September 17] on MSNBC's "Buchanan and Press," who have set their sights on Iraq and will not be deterred.

This is not the end of the war dance, but only the beginning. Now, the real action will commence, first of all in the UN Security Council, where some hard bargaining is already taking place. Secretary of State Powell immediately rushed to New York, demanding a Security Council resolution amounting to nothing less than a voluntary "regime change" on Iraq's part. Wielding a list of every single UN resolution ever passed admonishing Iraq for its many shortcomings in the realm of human rights, reparations to Kuwait, as well as arms control, the supposedly unilateralist, anti-UN Bush Republicans are insisting that each and every one be enforced to the letter.

This is a precedent it would be unwise to insist on, however, since it could easily boomerang on the Bushies. For if UN resolutions are now Holy Writ, will the long list of UN resolutions condemning Israeli aggression against the Palestinians be similarly brandished by the Security Council and enforced?

The Brits want to pull another Yugoslavia, and one can imagine the Blairites craftiing a UN resolution demanding that Saddam Hussein be turned over to the International War Crimes Tribunal. But the Russians and the French have demurred, for the moment, while China sits passively on the sidelines. It is only a coincidence, of course, that this line-up parallels the economic interests at stake in a post-Saddam context – with American and British oil companies likely to grab the largest hunks of the rich Iraqi oil fields, the French and Russians getting a few small crumbs, and the Chinese a negligible factor at best.

We are already beginning to see the congressional Democrats brought into line – just today, as I write, word is out that Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle has agreed to schedule a vote on the war question before the November elections. Now that the Bush administration has decided to adorn its policy of naked aggression with a multilateralist fig-leaf, the leadership of both parties is signing on to the President's Iraq adventure. If they can't drag us into war through the front door, they can always sneak around through the back.

At this point, a technique long championed by the more "cautious" wing of the War Party, "coercive inspections," will be utilized to provoke an armed confrontation with the Iraqis – and trigger a U.S.-British "response." A collection of papers on the mechanics of this provocation, "A New Approach: Coercive Inspections," recently brought out by the horribly mis-named Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, outlines this strategy:

"In light of what is now a four-year-long absence of international inspectors from the country, it has been widely assumed that the United States has only two options regarding that threat: continue to do nothing to find and destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile programs, or pursue covert action or a full-scale military operation to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

"This paper proposes a third approach, a middle ground between an unacceptable status quo that allows Iraqi WMD programs to continue and the enormous costs and risks of an invasion. It proposes a new regime of coercive international inspections. A powerful, multinational military force, created by the UN Security Council, would enable UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection teams to carry out 'comply or else' inspections. The 'or else' is overthrow of the regime."

The above was written by Carnegie Endowment President Jessica Mathews. Ms. Mathews is one of the witnesses scheduled to testify at the upcoming Iraq hearings, supposedly representing the "moderate" position, while Richard Perle and R. James Woolsey will give voice to the Bonapartists, who envision "regime change" not only in Baghdad, but in Teheran, Damascus, Amman, and eventually Cairo and Riyadh. That is the narrow spectrum of allowable opinion – war in the name of the UN, or war in the name of a new American empire. Peace, we are told, is not an option. Which is why Scott Ritter, General Anthony Zinni, and the host of prominent Republican and conservative critics of this war have (so far) been excluded from Committee chairman Henry Hyde's hearings.

In counterposing the question of Iraqi disarmament to "regime change," Baghdad has succeeded in delaying but not derailing this administration's war plans. And perhaps not even that. The "coercive inspections" route could turn out to be the shortest road to war. For what happens if this "powerful, multinational military force" drops down into the Middle East, encircling Iraq? This may happen with the reluctant consent of the Arab rulers, but certainly it will not be welcomed by the people, who will recognize it as a collective surrender by the Arab world, and its complete prostration before the conquering West. Will Iraq admit inspectors accompanied by 50,000 foreign troops? The only difference between "coercive inspections" and outright invasion is that, in the former case, the Iraqis are given a chance to surrender.

The Bonapartists, for their part, are not content with mere humiliation: they want blood. Wasn't it Max Boot, the author of a lengthy treatise making the case for an American empire, who complained that we didn't suffer enough casualties in Afghanistan? Our neocon chicken-hawks, who inhabit the arcane world of neoconservative thinktanks, richly-endowed academic niches, and a war-besotted media, get a thrill out of the idea of spilling blood – without having to dirty their own hands, or those of their progeny.

Whichever road to war this administration takes – the express lane, or the scenic route – the destination is the same: an American Empire that stretches through Central Asia clear through to the Pacific, encircling both Russia and China and dwarfing the emerging Euro-entity economically as well as militarily. With its favored satraps – the United Kingdom, Israel, Turkey, India, Taiwan – alternately pulling it along, and following in its wake, the American hegemon will establish its "right of preemption" on every continent.

When the troops of King George III surrendered at Yorktown, legend has it that the British band played "The World Turned Upside Down," as if to underscore the truly revolutionary nature of the American victory. For the trimphant colonists did much more than set up a republic in place of a king. So great was their suspicion of power that they bound their elected rulers with the chains of the Constitution. Only Congress could declare war, and pay for armaments, and this was their insurance against the rise of empire.

But the cold war rendered this protection null and void. Ever since Harry Truman sent the U.S. military to Korea, only later deigning to ask Congress for its considered opinion, every President has cited this precedent as the "legal" basis of a new "interpretation" of the Constitution. Congressional authority over U.S. foreign policy has been effectively nullified. By exaggerating (or Napoleonizing) the President's role as commander-in-chief so that it eventually overshadowed and subsumed his office as chief executive, the Bonapartists and their "liberal" allies have elevated him into a de facto king, at least in the realm of foreign policy.

Iraq is another kind of precedent: it is our first war of conquest since the era of the Spanish-American war and the annexation of Hawaii, around the turn of the last century. We had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into all the wars of modernity, and then it was always to save the world from the Germans, the Russians, and itself, never for colonies or booty – until now.

The day the bombers take out after Baghdad will mark the final victory of the Bonapartists, and of neo-royalism over the Constitution and the rule of law. Once they set out on their wars of conquest, remnants of the system set up by the Founders may survive for an indefinite period, but in the end even these will be overthrown.

This doesn't mean some neo-Napoleonic figure will crown himself in the Capitol Rotunda – grabbing the crown like his precursor and placing it on his own head. The way we are going, however, it isn't just an interesting fictional scenario. Projected far enough into the future, one can easily imagine that day, as the band strikes up a song composed especially for the occasion: "The World Turned Right Side Up Again."

From the viewpoint of our rulers, and their intellectual amen corner – the neo-royalists (or neoconservatives, or "national greatness conservatives," or whatever) – the world will indeed be restored to its natural and rightful state. An American version of King George III lords it over an empire on which the sun never sets, and all's right with the world. Except at the core of the Empire, in the Imperial City of Washington, D.C., where the rot has already set in….

The Iraq war poses Americans with a choice. We can have a republic – a government strictly limited by the Constitution and the rule of law. Or an empire; that is, a lawless, often ruthless, and stupid giant of a nation, like a very large child lumbering carelessly across the global landscape, until it gets careless and inevitably stumbles and falls. How many will be crushed beneath its gargantuan weight?

– Justin Raimondo

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard.