its part, the administration has made gestures to accommodate global
opinion. The President isn't speaking about the "axis of evil" any
more and the author of the phrase is no longer in White House employ;
Bush has made some measured criticisms of Ariel Sharon's assaults
on Palestinian towns, and (as of this writing) General Zinni is
pressing for an Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire and meaningful political
the hawk's hawk, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, acknowledged
last week the truth that most laptop warriors desperately deny:
that there is a powerful connection between the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and the general difficulties the United States faces in
the Muslim world, including terrorism.
an obvious point, however unlikely one is to read it in National
Review or the Wall Street Journal's editorial page.
logical reason for Bush's shifts is that the administration is still
intent on attacking Iraq, and is trying to prepare the way by showing
a more reasonable face to the world. It's enough almost to tempt
people like myself – incorrigible seekers of common ground
to say "Let them have their war against Saddam – at least they're
not going to start wars all over the place, and they're finally
trying to do something about the Israel-Palestinian question."
the fact is that an American military move against Iraq would be
a mistake, probably a grievous one. It would not be a prelude to
a new era of stability but the stage-setter for a more vicious and
more anarchical international system.
United States has had a remarkable degree of international sympathy
and support for its campaign against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Its
action sent to the world a clear message: if a government shelters
people who attack American civilians on American soil, America will
destroy it. Plain and simple, something that everyone can understand.
Iraq is another matter. There is no credible evidence of an Iraqi
link to the 9/11 attacks, despite extensive efforts to find one.
There is of course a thuggish regime in Baghdad that the Bush administration
has called "evil." But it is one thing to strike at regimes which
have been involved in attacks on your citizens, another to order
preemptive attacks on a government you don't like, one that has
never attacked or even threatened Americans in their homeland.
foreign states and many Americans would see such a move as a reckless,
aggressive, and lawless act. The attack would spur a frantic push
by more nations to develop nuclear weapons, or any weapons which
would deter unilateral American military action. International diplomatic
and police cooperation against Al-Qaeda – that is, against the terrorists
who really are trying to kill us – would be adversely affected or
dry up entirely. And the actual fighting would be problematic, even
if the logistical problems could be solved. Either the US bombed
extensively, causing massive widely reported Iraqi civilian casualties
in a highly ambiguous cause; or it would send in troops who would
face far stiffer resistance than in Afghanistan.
course would be morally dubious, generate rage against the United
States and its citizens all around the world – undermining the war
on terror rather than bolstering it.
because they lack good answers to arguments like these, neoconservative
pundits have begun to spin their push for war against Iraq in a
new way – as a war for democracy, a war to save the long suffering
Iraqi citizenry from Saddam's tyranny. The quality of Iraqi civic
life has never been much of a concern for them before – even when
there were widespread reports (affirmed by Madeleine Albright) that
United Nations sanctions had killed half a million Iraqi children.
Now all of a sudden, the Iraqi yearning to cast free ballots is
up there with family values and apple pie. On "Meet the Press" Sunday,
The Weekly Standard's William Kristol made the Iraq campaign
sound as if it was a proposal for liberation of the European captive
nations, circa 1956.
are many reasons why it would be difficult for the United States
to impose democracy on Iraq through military occupation – on the model
of post-war Germany and Japan. But what if it could be done? Most
War Party pundits would, if pressed, acknowledge that their real
problem with Iraq is not its lack of democracy but the Saddam regime's
pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. How would a democratic Iraq
it wouldn't. The current nuclear balance in the Mid East is: Israel
has lots of nuclear weapons; the Arabs and Iran have none. This
may be a good thing, but it is inevitably something that several
Middle Eastern governments hope to change over the next generation,
either through a serious United Nations sponsored nuclear disarmament
program (which Israel would never agree to) or by acquiring nuclear
weapons of their own. Try as I might, I can't envision the Iraqi
presidential candidate (or the Iranian one) who will campaign for
continuance of Israel's regional nuclear monopoly, or acquiesce
short, we have heard war against Iraq advocated because of Saddam's
pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, then because of Iraq's fanciful
link to 9-11, finally because the Iraqi people are crying out for
democracy. Under scrutiny, the reasons all collapse. Starting such
a war is against America's interest.
only printable version of this article
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