War with Iraq signals

disastrous policy shift

This column was written August 1, 2002 and published on the S-T editorial pages August 4, 2002...

by Greg Stone

Iraq's in the news again and once again we seem to be missing the main point.

Congress and the press are starting to debate whether or not we should go to war with Iraq on the basis of our suspicions about what "evil" Saddam Hussein might do. But whether we go to war with Iraq or not is minor when compared with the massive foreign policy shift such a war would signal. 

And this is no accident. Iraq is merely the first example of a major change in foreign policy that could be the worst thing this country ever did. The President has been dropping hints about such a change since January. He favors a new doctrine of "strike first," or "pre-emption." It is a doctrine that is rife with overwhelming moral, legal, and foreign policy issues.

Monstrous policy shift

It is an enormous shift of direction for this country that past presidents have toyed with, but none has come out openly and advocated.

It is a doctrine that opens the door for China, Russia, or whomever to follow suit. If you are big and strong, strike first - then claim you did so because you suspected the weaker guy was planning to attack you. Not logical, but if we do it, why can't they?

It is a doctrine that is being justified by the September 11 attacks, even though those attacks arose from no country. Not a single September 11 terrorist hailed from Iraq, yet Iraq is the first country we want to unleash this "strike first" policy on. Have you heard any talk about attacking Saudi Arabia? Of course not. Saudia Arabia is our "friend." Yet 15 of the September 11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia, as did their leader. Why do we ignore that nasty detail?

Wag the dog? Uh uh!

At first I thought this war on Iraq talk was merely a "wag the dog" scenario. President Bush, falling in the polls , stuck with a shrinking economy, and having to preside over sending a few of his old business buddies to jail, needs a distraction. But that is not the case. This is a planned policy shift.

In the State of the Union speech he warned: "I will not wait on events while dangers gather." On June 1 at the US military academy he said: "We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act."

This is scary stuff. It sounds bold, but Hitler sounded bold. Boldness is amoral. I'm still with Ben Franklin who declared, "There never was a good war, nor a bad peace."
But this President seems to think he can have a good war. Peace, which involves a lot of boring, tiresome negotiation, doesn't seem to fit his style. Let's look at the application of this principle in the case of Iraq.

We think Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction, perhaps even atomic weapons. We don’t know this. We admit our intelligence agencies can't be sure. These are the same agencies that failed to warn us about September 11, yet we will use their guesses as an excuse to strike first.

Our allies don’t agree. The king of Jordan doesn't support us, nor do the French or Germans. And still we seem to move inexorably towards war.

Wrong from every angle

It's a bad idea from just about every possible angle.

  • Attacking Iraq would divert energy and resources from our main mission which is stopping terrorism.

  • It will play right into the hands of the Islamic fundamentalists and drive more people to join the ranks of the terrorists. The net result will be an increase in the danger to US citizens, and for what? We don’t even know what we would do with Iraq were we successful in such a war.

  • It would be one more step in the direction of international lawlessness. What we can do today becomes a model for someone else to do tomorrow. (Our actions in Afghanistan make it hard for us to be critical of Israel when it kills innocent women and children in an attack on Hamas.)

  • It would destabilize the region and as some have warned, may bring the world economy to its knees.

  • It ignores the main lesson of September 11 which heralded a new type of threat where we can be terribly hurt by small groups of people acting independent of any country. In fact, for such terrorists, having a country is a liability.

  • Striking out at countries such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea - the President's so-called "axis of evil" - looks more like the flailing of a wounded giant, not the mature efforts of a genuine world leader.

And what would the world say of our president? That he is sacrificing the lives of other men and women in order to satisfy a personal score? That last is already being bandied about in England. The Guardian, a major English daily, quoted one English general as suggesting that an attack on Iraq "could be a matter of settling scores for the Bush family, after an alleged Iraqi plot to assassinate the president's father during a 1993 visit to Kuwait." Keep in mind that England is our strongest - and in this case, perhaps our only - ally.

Moral bankruptcy

But in the final analysis guesses about motives mean little. Attacking Iraq is simply a bad idea driven by an absolutely monstrous shift in foreign policy. It sets us up to become the world dominators, not the world leaders. It is morally and legally bankrupt and a path that in the end can only lead to disaster and chaos on a global scale.

Comments - email to: gstone@giveyoujoy.net

Last updated August 1,, 2001


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