Saturday, March 22, 2003
Conflicted about the Conflict: Stated Reasons for War
Probably the biggest concern I’ve had about the impending (and now occurring) conflict is the question of why. What are our actual reasons for attacking Iraq? (Make that our stated reasons. More about our actual reasons later.)
The first is that “Saddam is a threat.” To whom? He isn’t a threat to us; even if he does have “weapons of mass destruction,” he doesn’t have the delivery systems to get them to North America. Discarding (see this post) the possibility of his passing such weapons on to those who could use them against American interests domestically or abroad, the weaponry at Saddam’s disposal is not a significant threat to the United States. Since he has not used such weapons in the past ten years, there is little reason to expect him to attack us now.
Second is that he could be a threat, sometime down the line, in a year or ten. If he acquires a powerful delivery system. If he develops a nuclear device. If pigs had wings, we’d have to take them down before they could come into our airspace, too. “If” is a good reason to take preventative measures — treaties, sanctions, United Nations resolutions, inspections — but it is a lousy reason to do a first strike. Striking against Saddam without real provocation, for what he could do someday, opens the door to take on anyone else: Iran, Indonesia, Columbia, France, or Canada.
(As a side to the “threat” angle, it is repeatedly mentioned that he used nerve gas on his own people. This was on the Kurds, who are Iraqi by dint of living in the artificially created national boundaries, but by no means are they Saddam Hussein’s “people” in any other sense. It was also a single incident, and it occurred some fifteen years ago. Not that we should ignore that this occurred, but we should recognize that it was a one-time event that happened before the last Gulf War, and thus we should give it no more attention than it really deserves.)
The third stated reason is that Iraq has not complied with the United Nations disarmament resolutions passed over a decade ago. This one I can actually get behind, to a degree. The purpose of weapons inspectors isn’t to enforce the disarmament but to inspect, to find out if compliance has occurred. We should have pushed matters years ago, when the inspectors were kicked out. When the Iraqi report delivered to the United Nations was obviously invalid, the United Nations should have moved on things. The moment the inspectors found missiles or anthrax or whatever, the United Nations should have moved on things. But the United Nations did not, and they did not via a democratic process. The United States should not go around the United Nations’ collective back even if we disagree with their decision to drag things out further. By doing so, by thumbing our nose at the rest of the world, we prove ourselves to be the bully they already believe us to be. (And if we are setting ourselves up as the world’s police force, using this noncompliance as a reason to go to war, we must be consistent and go after every nation which is in violation of such resolutions. Israel probably needs to be next, not North Korea.)
The fourth “reason” for attacking Iraq is humanitarian reasons, to stop Saddam Hussein from torturing his citizens. (The bit I heard today is that people who speak out against Saddam are forced to watch their children get dropped feet-first into a plastic shredder. Woo!) Yes, there undoubtedly are tragic amounts of human rights abuse and torture and such going on today… just like for the past decade or three, during which we’ve not been worked up over it sufficiently to make a move on Saddam. Not to mention the vast number of other places in the world where we know such activities occur and we do nothing about them. This reason is a red herring (despite Colin Powell talking it up as a reason a couple weeks ago); it has only been presented for the purpose of convincing some moderates and even lefties to support the attack (out of liberal guilt) who would not be convinced on other grounds.
Updated on July 1, 2010