people do not realize how many conservatives are against going to
war in Iraq.
A strong majority of nationally-syndicated conservative columnists
have come out against this war. Just three of many examples I could
give include the following:
Charley Reese, a staunch conservative, who was selected a couple of
years ago as the favorite columnist of C-Span viewers, wrote that
a U.S. attack on Iraq: "is a prescription for the decline and
fall of the American empire. Overextension – urged on by a bunch of
rabid intellectuals who wouldn't know one end of a gun from another – has
doomed many an empire. Just let the United States try to occupy the
Middle East, which will be the practical result of a war against Iraq,
and Americans will be bled dry by the costs in both blood and treasure."
Paul Craig Roberts, who was one of the highest-ranking Treasury Department
officials under President Reagan and now a nationally-syndicated conservative
columnist, wrote: "an invasion of Iraq is likely the most thoughtless
action in modern history."
James Webb, a hero in Vietnam and President Reagan's Secretary of
the Navy, wrote: "The issue before us is not whether the United
States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as
a nation are prepared to occupy territory in the Middle East for the
next 30 to 50 years."
It is a traditional conservative position to be against huge deficit
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a very short war followed
by a five-year occupation of Iraq would cost the U.S. $272 billion,
this on top of an estimated $350 billion deficit for the coming fiscal
It is a traditional conservative position to be against the U.S. being
the policeman of the world. That is exactly what we will be doing
if we go to war in Iraq.
It is a traditional conservative position to be against world government,
because conservatives believe that government is less wasteful and
arrogant when it is small and closer to the people.
It is a traditional conservative position to be critical of, skeptical
about, even opposed to the very wasteful, corrupt United Nations,
yet the primary justification for this war, what we hear over and
over again, is that Iraq has violated 16 U.N. resolutions.
Well, other nations have violated U.N. resolutions, yet we have not
threatened war against them.
It is a traditional conservative position to believe it is unfair
to U.S. taxpayers and our military to put almost the entire burden
of enforcing U.N. resolutions on the U.S., yet that is exactly what
will happen in a war against Iraq.
In fact, it is already happening, because even if Hussein backs down
now it will cost us billions of dollars in war preparations and moving
so many of our troops, planes, ships, and equipment to the Middle
It is a traditional conservative position to be against huge foreign
aid, which has been almost a complete failure for many years now.
Talk about huge foreign aid – Turkey is demanding $26 to $32 billion
according to most reports. Israel wants $12 to $15 billion additional
aid. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia want additional aid in unspecified
Almost every country that is supporting the U.S. in this war effort
wants something in return. The cost of all these requests have not
been added in to most of the war cost calculations.
All this to fight a bad man who has a total military budget of about
$1.4 billion, less than 3/10 of one percent of ours.
The White House said Hussein has less than 40% of the weaponry and
manpower that he had at the time of the first Gulf War. One analyst
estimated only about 20%.
His troops surrendered then to camera crews or even in one case to
an empty tank. Hussein has been weakened further by years of bombing
and economic sanctions and embargos.
He is an evil man, but he is no threat to us, and if this war comes
about, it will probably be one of the shortest and certainly one of
the most lopsided wars in history.
Our own CIA put out a report just a few days before our War Resolution
vote saying that Hussein was so weak economically and militarily he
was really not capable of attacking anyone unless forced into it.
He really controls very little outside the city of Baghdad.
The Washington Post, two days ago, had a column by Al Kamen
which said: "The war in Iraq, likely in the next few weeks, is
not expected to last long, given the overwhelming U.S. firepower to
be arrayed against the Iraqis. But the trickier job may be in the
aftermath, when Washington plans to install an administrator, or viceroy,
who would direct postwar reconstruction of the place."
Fortune magazine said: "Iraq – We win. What then?"
"A military victory could turn into a strategic defeat. . . .
A prolonged, expensive, American-led occupation . . . could turn U.S.
troops into sitting ducks for Islamic terrorists. . . . All of that
could have immediate and negative consequences for the global economy."
Not only have most conservative columnists come out strongly against
this war, but also at least four conservative magazines and two conservative
One conservative Republican member of the other Body (Sen. Hagel)
said last week that the "rush to war in Iraq could backfire"
and asked: "We are wrecking coalitions, relationships and alliances
so we can get a two-week start on going to war alone?"
The Atlantic Monthly magazine said we would spend so much
money in Iraq we might as well make it the 51st state. I believe most
conservatives would rather that money be spent here instead of 7,000
It is a traditional conservative position to be in favor of a strong
national defense, not one that turns our soldiers into international
social workers, and to believe in a noninterventionist foreign policy
rather than in globalism or internationalism.
We should be friends with all nations, but we will weaken our own
nation, maybe irreversibly unless we follow the more humble foreign
policy the President advocated in his campaign.
Finally, it is very much against every conservative tradition to support
Another member of the other Body, the Senator from West Virginia,
Senator Byrd, not a conservative but certainly one with great knowledge
of and respect for history and tradition said recently:
"This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming
battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign
policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of the revolutionary
doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The
doctrine of preemption – the idea that the United States or any other
nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening
but may be threatening in the future – is a radical new twist on the
traditional idea of self-defense."
The columnist William Raspberry, again not a conservative but one
who sometimes takes conservative positions, wrote this week these
words: "Why so fast. Because Hussein will stall the same way
he's been stalling for a dozen years. A dozen years, by the way, during
which he has attacked no one, gassed no one, launched terror attacks
on no one. Tell me its because of American pressure that he has stayed
his hand, and I say great. Isn't that better than a U.S.-launched
war guaranteed to engender massive slaughter and spread terrorism?"
Throughout these remarks, I have said not one word critical of the
President or any of his advisors or anyone on the other side of this
I especially have not and will not criticize the fine men and women
in our Nation's armed forces. They are simply following orders and
attempting to serve this country in an honorable way.
Conservatives are generally not the types who participate in street
demonstrations, especially ones led by people who say mean-spirited
things about our President. But I do sincerely believe the true conservative
position, the traditional conservative position is against this war.
John J. Duncan represents the 2nd District of Tennessee.