Climbing Down From the Fence

Sunday, October 27th, 2002

If youâ??ve been reading this site for a while, youâ??ll know that Iâ??ve struggled quite a bit on the issue of a possible war with Iraq. Part of the problem I think is that I have a hard time identifying with the shriller advocates coming from either side of the debate. Sensible voices tend to get obscured by the rhetorical grenades thrown by the ideologues. Consequently, just as Brink Lindsey has convinced me going into Iraq is probably a pretty good idea, William Kristol advocates making sausage of the Arab world and starting from scratch — and I start to wonder if maybe that isnâ??t whatâ??s next on the Presidentâ??s agenda. Or just as Jim Henley has convinced me that Saddamâ??s no more a threat than any number of other despots in the region, Lewis Lapham starts yapping about Americaâ??s â??cultural imperialism,â? or Pat Buchanan rants about how the Elders of Zion have moved their headquarters to a secret chamber in the U.S. Senate (Iâ??m kidding about that last one â?? barely).

The key I think is to strip away the rhetoric and, very fundamentally, ask two questions: 1) under what circumstances is use of military force against another country is justified? And, 2) does the present situation with Iraq fit those circumstances?

First, question one. As a libertarian, I think there are really just a handful of tasks that can be justifiably be ascribed to a national government. One of those is protecting the country from outside threats. Consequently, the only time I think the use of force is justified is when Americaâ??s national security is threatened. Yeah. Thatâ??s pretty vague.

But even that broad, sweeping principle knocks out a good number of the military engagements weâ??ve dipped our tentacles in in just in my lifetime. Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Panama, Haiti and the Gulf War â?? none of them in my opinion were justified under the rubric that we should only engage when weâ??re threatened. Bosnia and Kosovo were regional conflicts. Nothing to do with us. The Serbs were never a threat to U.S. national security. Somalia was a poorly conceived humanitarian mission. Likewise with Haiti. Panama was a grudge, fueled in part by our drug war fanaticism. And the Gulf War too was merely a regional conflict of little consequence to the United States. You might make the case that Saudi oil is a U.S. national security interest, but I doubt I could be convinced. Even if Saddam took over the Saudi oil fields, heâ??s powerless unless he actually puts that oil on the market.

Given September 11, however, I think the definition of â??threatâ? has changed. Itâ??s no longer a matter of looking at a countryâ??s military might and gauging whether or not they can hit our shores. 9/11 proved that you donâ??t need long-range missiles or massive armies to kill lots of Americans. Anyone with a few million dollars and a streak of hate can take a pretty big bite out of us. And considering most every head of state in the world has a few million dollars at his disposal, itâ??s the â??streak of hateâ? part â?? how potent it is and how motivating it is — that separates who really threatens us from who merely dislikes us. Today we have to look not just at weaponry, but at psychology. We have to gauge how suicidal a guy like Hussein might be, how deep his grudges cut, and how much heâ??s willing to risk to settle them.

On to question two: Does Iraq present a â??threatâ? to our national security?

Iâ??m pretty convinced now that the answer is no.

Iâ??d say yes if I could see definitive proof of an al-Queda or a 9/11 connection. Iâ??d say yes if I could see definitive proof that Iraq had nuclear capabilities and had plans to put them into action. Iâ??d say yes if I could see definitive proof that Saddamâ??s own sense of self-preservation and survival were overwhelmed by his hatred of the United States. But to be honest, I havenâ??t yet seen proof of any of these.

Part of the problem has been the shady way the Bush administration has waged its public relations campaign. It would seem to me that if you have direct, concrete evidence of Saddam Husseinâ??s plans to attack the United States â?? or that he already has — youâ??d put it front in center to help make your case â?? as Kennedy did during the Cuban missile crisis. Instead, the Bushies have been coy. Suspiciously so. When key figures in the Bush 41 White House came out against the war on the op-ed pages a few weeks back, it was interesting to watch how the Bush 43 crowd rebuffed them. When Brent Scrowcroft or Lawrence Eagleburger said they couldnâ??t support the war unless there was clear evidence Iraq had weapons of massive destruction, Colin Powell trotted off to the Sunday talk shows a week later to assert that, yes, the White House does have intelligence showing Iraq to possess such weapons, but no, they wouldnâ??t be sharing it with us.

The same thing happened when other retired diplomats and heads of state said that we shouldnâ??t engage a war unless thereâ??s a direct link between Hussein and al-Queda. Then it was then Condi Rice who hit the Sunday circuit. Yes, she said, the White House has intelligence linking Hussein to al-Queda. No, she said, they wouldnâ??t be sharing it with us. Conveniently, that evidence came from prisoners at GitMo Bay, prisoners who couldnâ??t be questioned or cross-examined for veracity.

The kicker came a little over a week ago. The CIA released a report stating that yes, Saddam Hussein probably does have WMDs in his arsenal. But the report went on to say that he was unlikely to ever use them â?? especially on American interests. In fact, the report said the only time Saddam was likely to use them was if he were attacked.

That makes a lot of sense. Saddam is a tyrant, but heâ??s not suicidal. He knows that an unprovoked attack on Americans here or abroad would bring the wrath of American might crashing down on top of him. He knows that heâ??d probably be dead in a matter of days — that the very best scenario would find him spending the rest of his life in hiding. Heâ??d lose his castles, his mistresses, his power.

But if we attack him, if we make it clear that we arenâ??t going to stop until weâ??ve toppled him, what does he have to lose? You can bet that American soldiers then become target #1 for any chemical weapons he might have lying around. And on the off chance he has a nuclear warhead or two, you can bet heâ??ll be lobbing them at Israel the minute an American soldier steps foot on Iraqi soil. If youâ??re a ruthless, bloodthirsty tyrant, and you know youâ??re going to die, arenâ??t you going to die taking out as many enemy combatants as possible? And wouldnâ??t it make sense to kill a bunch of Israelis, too, in the hopes that you might provoke a region-wide slaughterfest?

Whatâ??s most troubling about the CIA report, however, is not the contents of the report itself, but the Bush administrationâ??s attempts to squelch it. Immediately after it was released, the Bushies sprang into action, twisting arms at the CIA to discredit its conclusions. Sure enough, the White House wheeled CIA director George Tenet out before Congress a few days later in an attempt to discredit the report. Still not content, the Bushies then set up their own, separate â??task force,â? one that might come up with its own â??conclusions,â? and one thatâ??ll likely get more attention, given that it will have the Pentagon and White House megaphones ready to trumpet its findings.

The lust for war I think has blinded many libertarians of their natural distrust for government. Why are blogosphere libertarians suddenly so quick to believe the Bush administration when it says â??weâ??ve got the evidenceâ?¦trust us?â? Why arenâ??t we demanding to see it? Have we already forgotten that our government has â?? in the past, on occasion, from time to time, in matters of war â?? lied to us? Arenâ??t we at least a little troubled when a report comes out of the CIA that draws conclusions counter to the war effort is suddenly played down by that agencyâ??s politically-appointed director, under pressure from the White House? Whereâ??s the healthy skepticism?

This of course begs the question: why do the Bushies want to go to war? Could it be that they really do have the evidence of Iraqi 9/11 ties or WMDs but arenâ??t sharing it with us â?? perhaps for national security reasons? Maybe. But I doubt it. Itâ??s tough for me to see how giving us concrete evidence to bolster the case for war might jeopardize security. This administration is eager for war. My guess is that if they had any real evidence at all that would swing world opinion around to their favor, theyâ??d offer it up in a heartbeat.

There could be any number or reasons the White House wants a war. I wonâ??t delve into conspiracy theories. My own hunch is that Bush 43 feels inclined to finish where he feels Bush 41 left off. From the campaign to the economy to foreign policy, thereâ??s been much in the papers about how vigilant Bush 43 has become about not repeating his fatherâ??s mistakes. I think he feels history will one day prove to be a harsh critic of his fatherâ??s failure to take Saddam out during the Gulf War, and so heâ??s determined to finish the task for him.

But going into Iraq isnâ??t a bad idea because the White House may or may not have dishonorable motives. Itâ??s a bad idea because war is always a bad idea. Itâ??s a bad idea because I donâ??t want any innocent blood on my hands unless Iâ??m reasonably certain its necessary to prevent any spilt blood of my own. And Iâ??m just not convinced that thatâ??s the case with Iraq. By most any measure of â??threat,â? we can find targets far more worthy of our attention than Saddam Hussein.

What if, for example, we defined â??threatâ? as nuclear capability? Last week, we heard that North Korea has nuclear weapons. North Korea was included in President Bushâ??s â??axis of evilâ? â?? three countries he named that presented immediate threats to the United States. If North Korea is on par with Iraq in terms of its â??rogue-nessâ? â?? itâ??s willingness to use WMDS â?? wouldnâ??t it make more sense to invade North Korea, considering that we have definitive knowledge of its nuclear capabilities? Even the most liberal estimates put Iraq a year or two away form acquiring nukes. If both are hostile, wouldnâ??t the country we know has a nuke be more of a threat than a country weâ??re pretty sure doesnâ??t yet have one?

How about we define â??threatâ? as a willingness to sponsor terrorism? Well, we know now that Saudi Arabia, for example, has a history of bankrolling terrorists in the Middle East. Sixteen of the nineteen September 11 highjackers came from Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud held a nationwide telethon a few months ago for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. And what about Iran? Iâ??ve read several reports now that Iran is harboring senior al-Queda officials within its borders. Spy satellites spotted an al-Queda training camp just inside just inside the countryâ??s eastern border. Al-Queda found recruits in Algeria, Tunisia, Indonesia, Libya, the Sudan and Yemen.

The most Iâ??ve ever read of an Iraq/al-Queda connection is a debatable account of a meeting in Europe between Muhammad Atta and a senior Iraqi intelligence official. Iâ??ve seen about half dozen stories since either confirming or discounting the alleged meeting. The White House says it has more evidence of ties, but again, it wonâ??t share that evidence with us.

How about we define â??threatâ? in terms of militant, extremist Islam? Again, Iraq doesnâ??t measure up. Iraq is a secular dictatorship. Islam is so far from being state-sponsored in Iraq, in fact, that the true theocracies in the region are suspect of Hussein.

The most virulent anti-American venom in fact comes from the state-sponsored madrassas and mosques in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Hussein rules with an iron fist. We can talk at length about his human rights violations, but one thing we certainly donâ??t need to worry about under Husseinâ??s rule is the prospect of militant Muslims seizing power. We should worry about the potential of such an insurrection in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia and, particularly, Pakistan and its nuclear weapons.

It seems to me that by most any measure of â??threat,â? there are far likelier targets in the region than Iraq. Of course, that lends a bit of credence to the neoconsâ?? â??invade them all and change their cultureâ? line of thought. But is that even possible? And at what cost?

Are we prepared to keep U.S. soldiers in Iraq indefinitely? Because I can tell you, one thing you donâ??t want in that region is democracy. Democracy means majority rule. And you only need to take a look at the polls weâ??ve seen coming out of predominantly Arab countries to quickly come to the conclusion that any regime voted into power by a majority of Arabs in Iraq or Iran or Saudi Arabia most certainly would not be a regime friendly to the United States. So are we prepared to station troops in Iraq indefinitely to prop up a â??benevolentâ? dictator? Are we prepared, then, to eventually do the same in Iran? In Saudi Arabia? In Pakistan? In Algeria? When and where do we stop? Do we stop?

Iâ??m not inclined to buy into the â??blowbackâ? September 11 theory â?? that the attacks here were mostly the result of our foreign policy. I think anti-Americanism in the Arab world is more fundamental than angst over our troops in Saudi Arabia, the sanctions against Iraq, or even our support for Israel. I think that Muslim purists hate us for everything we are â?? free, prosperous and materialistic (a word I consider to be an attribute) — and I think we have a long and tiring fight ahead.

But that doesnâ??t mean we should be giving the Osama bin Ladenâ??s of the world bullet points for recruiting fliers. It doesnâ??t mean we should continue with sanctions against Iraq that do in fact make us complicit in the hunger and illness of Iraqi children (if we know Saddamâ??s a tyrant, shouldnâ??t we also know that cutting off aid to him isnâ??t going to starve him or his army, but his people?). It doesnâ??t mean we should meddle in conflicts around the world (Chehnya, Kosovo, Sudan) simply because militant Muslims are involved, and weâ??ve decided militant Islam is the enemy. And it certainly doesnâ??t mean we should start bombing indiscriminately because we feel as if we should be doing something to stave off the next 9/11. It doesnâ??t mean we drop our values and our principles in the rush to reach for our guns.

It seems to me that there are really only two courses of action here. The first is to stay out of Iraq, Iran, the Sudan, and whatever villains present themselves in the future unless we have specific and credible evidence that theyâ??re either harboring and aiding those who intend to kill Americans, or have the means and the intent to kill Americans themselves. To vigorously defend ourselves and protect our security, but to not go looking for villains and conflicts when none are present or necessary.

The second is the neoconservativesâ?? plan to embark on a final crusade â?? to take it upon ourselves to inculcate American values throughout the Arab world â?? and by force, if necessary. That means toppling religious tyrants, stationing U.S. troops throughout the Arab world on what for all intents and purposes would need to be a permanent basis, and keeping foot to head until weâ??re comfortable that weâ??ve created a new society with new values and principles, pretty much out of whole cloth.

I donâ??t think thereâ??s much in-between, here. If weâ??re going to â??installâ? democracy in Iraq, weâ??ll need to keep troops there indefinitely until that democracy holds. U.S. troops stationed permanently in an Arab country will only inspire more Osamas. Undoubtedly, our actions in Iraq will inspire more hatred for us in the Arab world, giving future Osamas more places to seek refuge. That means weâ??ll have more countries we’ll need to invade and, once weâ??re through, set up more democracies, which will require more troops.

And thatâ??s the best-case scenario. Thatâ??s assuming Saddam doesnâ??t hit Israel with chemical or biological weapons, and that Israel doesnâ??t respond with a nuclear attack, which might then set off a regional calamity. And if we get a U.S./Israel vs. Arabia scenario, what happens in Pakistan? India? China?

There are lots of nasty questions in this debate. I certainly donâ??t claim to have any of the right answers. But it seems to me that invading Iraq — putting U.S. troops in harmâ??s way, inevitably killing more innocent Iraqis, risking thousands â?? maybe millions â?? of Israeli lives, risking region-wide conflict — all to dispose of a regime that isnâ??t even the most threatening in the region certainly isnâ??t one of them.

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49 Responses to “Climbing Down From the Fence”

  1. #1 |  Paul | 

    I’ve been waiting for you to figure out your position for a while. Your arguments are among the most rational I’ve heard (and are many of the ones I use myself when discussing this issue with others) and I totally agree with your conclusion. Another consideration I feel needs to be included is to weigh the possible American casualties that could come from an invasion of Iraq. Is regime change, and the possible prevention of future attacks that may or may not be attempted (I would argue that an invasion would result in more terror attempts rather than fewer) worth the hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of American lives that may be lost in the fight?

    One thing I am curious about though (and not because I disagree – simply because I’m curious about what you think), you mention that the protection of Saudi oil may or may not be a national security interest, justifying the Gulf War. Considering that the government is supposed to provide services that the public really can not provide for itself (like national defense or to protect property rights), how should we protect the concerns of Americans and American corporations when their property extends beyond our national boundaries? In your opinion, is force justified to protect the property rights of a Texaco or Exxon when force has been used on foreign soil to deny them those rights?

  2. #2 |  iamcatman | 

    You make some good points, but if we leave Saddam to his own devices, will the region be any better or worse in five or ten years? I think this is a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  3. #3 |  Matt | 

    This was coming down off the fence? If we cut to the real fundementals of why we go to war, it is this: Thier self-interest does not coincide with our self interest……

  4. #4 |  Jim Henley | 

    Welcome home, Brother Radley! We’ve been keeping a place for you. I think Gene and Julian have the fatted calf ready, and as it happens, I just assembled the new smoker I got for my birthday. (This last is no metaphor.)

  5. #5 |  mark | 

    I am a libertarian also. I think the only way to stop terrorism, though, is to have a credible policy of toppling regimes that harbor terrorists. Toppling Saddam is an investment in reputational capital. Additionally, the Iraqi government is illegitimate in the sense that there in no way is any consent of the governed.

    Bush doesn’t make the best case possible for toppling SH, but the end result is desirable.

  6. #6 |  ruprecht | 

    I think you miss the point regarding North Korea. Now that they have nukes they are pretty much immune to attack. Is Saddam gets nukes he also will be immune to attack. So if there is reason to attack Iraq it is best to do so prior to his achieving immunity.

    I also think you misunderstand the hostility to the US in the Arab world. There is a reason the Saudi’s all want to come here and its not because they are all terrorists. Many Arabs actually like America and Americans they just can’t say so in nations that have government controlled media, and no freedom of speech.

    5 years of occupation combined with open media and I think you will find Iraq can become as solid an ally as Turkey. I bet people thought that Tojo’s Japanese could never learn to get along with Americans either.

  7. #7 |  alina | 

    Your argument covers almost every corner, and I find it all the more convincing precisely because you seem so reluctant to espouse the position that you end up espousing. Visceral political positions lack the credibility and rationality of a measured weighing of options. I commend you.

  8. #8 |  scott | 

    It is all about the nukes. The only thing the “Axis of Evil” has in common is they are all trying to get nukes. N. Korea might already have them, which is why we aren’t to eager to go in, (which also makes us eager to go in Iraq before they get them). He could use these nukes to take over Saudi oil fields. Yes, they are in our interests. The US isn’t the only country that buys oil. He could drastically affect world oil prices. Japan gets about 80% of their oil from the Persian Gulf, so Saddam would have them by the, ahem, “horns”.

    He could also use them in a terrorist attack against the US. It might not be likely, but I consider even a small likelihood to be unacceptable. We have to risk losing thousands of Americans because of some petty dictator? Not to mention what he might do to Israel. Nor should we wait until his nuke program is more advanced, he’s shown his intentions pretty clearly. As to his survival instincts, there’s the attempted hit on GHWB. And one of his sons is certifiable, so we can’t be sure of Qusay’s survival instincts.

    Victor Davis Hanson had an excellent article about the threat of Saddam going out in a blaze of glory: (I would only add that actually using chemical weapons against moving US troops would be technically difficult).

    Would it result in more recruits for Osama? Maybe. But if we don’t go in you can bet the Arab world will look to Saddam as a hero who made the US blink, and Al-Qaeda recruitment will go up even more. And the democratization of Iraq is just an American desire to clean up our messes, not a cassus belli.

    War is always a bad idea, but not always the worst idea.

  9. #9 |  David Thomson | 

    â??We have to gauge how suicidal a guy like Hussein might be, how deep his grudges cut, and how much heâ??s willing to risk to settle them.â?

    You mistakenly believe that Saddam would directly attack us. Instead, the Iraqi tyrant will more likely discretely send in teams of terrorists to do his dirty work.

    â??How about we define â??threatâ? in terms of militant, extremist Islam? Again, Iraq doesnâ??t measure up. Iraq is a secular dictatorship. Islam is so far from being state-sponsored in Iraq, in fact, that the true theocracies in the region are suspect of Hussein.â?

    People are rarely that logically consistent. The enemy of my enemy is my friend often dictates oneâ??s choices in comrades. Have we, for instance, already forgotten our partnership with Stalinâ??s Russia during WW II? Both Saddam and the religious nut balls share an intense hatred of us.

    â??It doesnâ??t mean we should continue with sanctions against Iraq that do in fact make us complicit in the hunger and illness of Iraqi children.â?

    How is this our problem? Why are we supposedly responsible because Saddam uses his available funds to develop more weapon programs while ignoring the needs of his people?

    â??Are we prepared, then, to eventually do the same in Iran? In Saudi Arabia? In Pakistan? In Algeria? When and where do we stop? Do we stop?â?

    What can I tell you? Life sucks, and then you die. Indeed, America may very well have â??to eventually do the sameâ? in those other countries.

    â??…all to dispose of a regime that isnâ??t even the most threatening in the region certainly isnâ??t one of them.â?

    Is their another regime in the region that is more threatening to the United States? If so, I am utterly unaware of its existence. Even Iranâ??s mullahs are hesitant in taking on our military. No, Saddam Hussein is our worst nightmare. The others are at most second rate threats.

  10. #10 |  harmon | 

    My God, do you really believe polls concerning Arab opinion? Why in the world should anyone pay attention to a person who believes in fairy tales?

  11. #11 |  Allen S. Thorpe | 

    I agree that there isn’t suffient proof for every point supporting war, but there IS sufficient proof from Saddam’s history to establish that Iraq should be disarmed.
    It isn’t a matter of tying him to Al Qaeda, so much as one of preventing a world war starting when he nukes Israel in an effort to make himself a hero with the rest of the Arab and Muslim world.

    I agree with a lot of basic libertarian principles, but not to the point of isolationism, and not to the point of waiting until someone succeeds in delivering a nuke to New York’s harbor, or Washington D.C. before we move to prevent it. Of all the nations out there, including Pakistan and North Korea, who have or are near to having nukes, Iraq under Saddam is the only one crazy enough to use one. The others understand mutual assured destruction, but Saddam doesn’t.

    I don’t for an instant believe that we can do this without far more casualties than in say the Gulf War or Afghanistan, but that’s why they call it courage. I wish I were 18 so I could volunteer, but I have two sons. If either of them volunteered to fight Saddam, I’d be proud. Only promise me that we won’t have regime change interruptus like the last time.

  12. #12 |  Stephen S. | 

    Dethroning Hussein, and occupying a large chunk of the Middle East for an extended period of time (Iran would have to be next, by the White House’s logic — weakening Iraq would, ceteris paribus, make Iran stronger . . . oh, wait, those guys are religious fanatics, who have very obvious sympathies with al Qaida, so we might as well take them out, too, occupy them for a while, et al). There is no possibility that Hussein would use those (so-called) WMDs that the war party is so concerned about against the United States. Going to war with Iraq is just a bad idea. Glad to know you’ve joined the ranks of the skeptical, Radley.

  13. #13 |  Josh H. | 

    Count me among the hawkish, but skeptical. As a libertarian-leaning conservative (or conservative-leaning libertarian, it seems to change weekly), I do think that some of the anti-war factions are being naive about the threat Saddam Hussein poses to not just the United States, but the rest of the world. At the same time, I recognize that some of the hawks are underestimating the dangers of war, and what it could mean in the long term.

    This Saturday night, I had the pleasure of hearing former Secretary of Defense William Cohen speak on current events. I think he represents a balance between the two. He stressed international unity against Saddam, which means that the current U.N. resolution must be passed if there is to be any hope of this situation ending peacefully. If Saddam senses that he may have any friends in the international community, he will call the U.S.’s bluff and refuse to disarm. I hope that it doesn’t come to that and that the international community will give Saddam a strong message to disarm. However, if Saddam calls our bluff, we’re going to have to throw our cards on the table. After all, if he’s got nothing to hide, why is he refusing to open up?

  14. #14 |  Kieran Lyons | 

    Hi Radley,

    I’m also a classical liberal and I share your hesitancy to endorse this Iraq war. There is no doubt at all that the government is lying to us in some way or other on this. They’re the government, it just comes naturally to them.

    I must admit, I have come down on the other side of this argument, and I’d like to point out why.

    “I’d say yes if I could see definitive proof that Saddam’s own sense of self-preservation and survival were overwhelmed by his hatred of the United States.”

    For me, definitive proof of his recklessness was obvious when he tried to whack Bush 41. There was clearly nothing to gain and everything to lose, but he did it anyway. The nut took and incredible risk for no real gain. He likely will do something similarly stupid again, if only because he got away with it once before. In hindsight, we should have taken him out then, when no one in the international community would have raised a finger. At the time, I’d have opposed it, but I’d have been wrong.

    Just as important, it would have made a point to our other enemies in the region, such as the Wahhabis.

    Please don’t presume that pro-war libertarians are blinded by war fervor. I am simply employing the age old principle of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” The current most useful enemy of radical Islamist terror is, unfortunately, GW. He’s inarticulate and sometimes disingenuous, but is there anyone else I can write in on my dance card?

    After all, we’re not talking about a protest vote here. We’re talking about real threats to us.

    Thanks for your refreshing and thoughtful post.

  15. #15 |  jb | 

    A libertarian has no cause for war in this present situation–Afghanistan has seen retribution for its Taliban connections.

    War with Iraq cannot be justified in any constitutional terms, nor can any of the governmental determinations leading to such a decision, without abandoning the libertarian position by definition.

  16. #16 |  Brent Taylor | 

    Some interesting points but I have two questions for the doves. First, what would it take for each of you to be convinced that preemptive war is necessary? A subway gassed? A mushroom cloud hanging over D.C? Second, ask most of those in Israel what our next course of action should be. Think you’ll find most citizens of Israel are siding with G.W.

  17. #17 |  Richard | 

    Radley, you speak of “war” as if it were some future event. The fighting began some time ago, and the enemy is radical Islam. Your most valid point, although you do not ask it directly, is asking what, or whether, a regime change in Iraq contributes to defeating the true enemy.

    The Bush administration, and Undersecretary Wolfowitz in particular, seems to have decided that the correct model for fighting Islamism is to attack its state understructure. Regimes, rather than cultural or religious institutions, are presumed to be the strategic pressure points. That’s why President Bush is going after Saddam rather then Mecca.
    In this model, Iraq is to the structure of enemy states what the Normandy Peninsula was to Festung Europa.

    I sincerely hope that President Bush is right and that things will be a simple as all that. It may be that you will prove correct; that Baghdad and every other Arab capital is an irrelevancy and that we may have to undertake what the Administration, to its credit, has so far refused to do: make Islamic civilization share the fate of the Maya.

  18. #18 |  Cecil Turner | 

    Just popped over because the professor said there was a thoughtful anti-war post here. Was sorry to see some souped-up versions of the same old stuff: Bush has ulterior motives, the CIA is lying (except for the reports you agree with), Saddam is not suicidal enough to attack/use WMDs, there’s no proof . . . and so on. Rounded out nicely by an unworkable “national security threat” test for a just war and a call for isolationism.

    The Bushies’ coyness with convenient evidence and dishonorable attempts to squelch debate and slake their lust for war is not proven. And the apparent need to ascribe ulterior motives weakens your argument. Is a nuclear-armed Iraq with Hussein at the helm an acceptable risk? If so, say so. Personally, I feel the probability you’re wrong about him using them multiplied by the likely consequences of the event makes that risk unacceptable. Considering the Gulf War peace treaty pledges Iraq to divest itself of WMDs, I have no moral qualms about removing that capability–forcibly if necessary.

    War is only justified “when Americaâ??s national security is threatened” seems sensible and defensible. But now some judgment is necessary. If Serbia was “never a threat to U.S. national security” in 1999, how much less of a threat was it in 1914? How about Czechoslovakia in 1938? The sad fact is that threats are not perfectly predictable–nor are they always readily apparent whilst they are still manageable. The current threat in Iraq–in the middle of the Mideast powderkeg–makes any competent historian shudder. Need we repeat the sad image of Chamberlain holding aloft a paper claiming “I bring you peace in our time” as a prelude to fifty million deaths? Sometimes inaction is more dangerous than action–and the President, Congress, and the majority of Americans believe this is one of those times.

  19. #19 |  Aaron McDonald | 

    Oh no! I came here to see what had been heralded by Instapundit as a better-than-average anti-war post. But all I saw was the same old leftist content:

    “War is never good”. Since when? Even the Vietnam War permanently ended Chinese communist imperialism and turned Ho Chi Minh and the Chinese leadership into enemies. Most wars Americans have fought have ended in furthering our interests quite well…and spreading democracy arond the world in a manner unprecedented in the history of mankind.

    Let’s look at the 5 main reasons to overthrow Saddam and his sons:

    1) Fear of smuggled nukes destroying US cities NOW or later: This is far and above the most important reason to get rid of the Iraq regime right away. Many of us believe there already is a suitcase nuke in NY or DC…and this could explain why Bush is going about regime change so gingerly. Selfishly, I am avoiding my hometown (NYC) until I see proof that there is NOT a nuke hidden there. The only proof for me is to see us attack Iraq openly and for NYC to remain unharmed. For me, the #1 reason to attack Iraq is to make sure that they are not pointing a weapon at us already or to call their bluff because they have already threatened Bush with a nuke. This might explain why Bush and Condi are not explaining the “proof” we have about nukes and Al Qaeda connections. I bet the proof comes in the form of an explicit nuclear threat. Bush is prepared to call their bluff and do a big version of what Putin just did in Moscow: allow a nuke to possibly go off in an American city to steal the blackmail potential of the enemy and have the excuse to forever silence them (the enemy is defined as the Saudi Wahhabist sect, not the easy to topple Hussein family).

    2) Toppling Saddam with the help of Iran and a Shiite and Kurdish uprising should bring about a Shiite dominated democratic Iraq, which is what the Iranian Ayatollah would prefer over the status quo (thus his secret support for the war against Iraq as argued quite well by The Moslem world would instantaneously become a Shiite dominated world with the Shiite leadership allied with a conservative USA (the Shiite clerics would still stand against a liberal USA by criticizing “too much feminism”, etc. and thus support Bush for reelection). Seeing that our enemy is Sunni Wahhabism based in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it would be horrifying for that enemy to wake up one morning to see that their dreams of controlling the Islamic world had been killed by their eternal enemies the Shiites! Shiites control Kuwait and dominate the Saudi oil field region. Shiites control Bahrain and Qatar. The Sunni Wahhabists (and all Al Qaeda members) would realize that there was imminent danger of their losing the oil fields and Mecca itself if they did not IMMEDIATELY make friends again with the USA. I can imagine and hope that Al Qaeda is secretly licking Bush’s feet now as a result: note that the recent terrorism has actually been in favor of America…bringing the Australians and Russians closer to the American viewpoint. If Al Qaeda is not licking Bush’s feet now, you can be sure they will be licking his feet if we get a Shiite democratic Iraq this fall or winter.

    3) Saddam’s fall and Iraqis cheering America as liberators would end Arafat’s tenous popularity among the Palestinians and turn the tide of Palestinian opinion toward being more pro-American and recognizing Israel. Our third major reason to topple Saddam is that it would finally get the ball rolling on real peace in Palestine. Remember that Saddam is the symbol of hate toward the “Zionist Entity.” The fascists among the Arabs, who look up to Hitler, themselves refer proudly to Saddam as their Hitler, and they proudly say that Saddam has a right to develop and use nuclear bombs against the Jews. Anyone who believes that a democratic Iraq that recognizes Israel won’t completely change the Palestine situation for the better, is either stupid or just hates George Bush so much that they cannot bear to see how close he is to becoming a major world hero.

    4) I forget reason #4 but it was a good one. I think it has something to do with the fact that Rumsfeld is obviously perpetrating a major smoke and mirrors action right now. We are seeing threats against Iraq dominating leftist newspapers while major military actions are going on in Yemen and Iran, completely out of sight of leftist quibblers. I saw a leftist at get upset that Rumsfeld has said that he would lie to the world about war plans because “the truth is too precious not to be protected by a bodyguard of lies.”

    5) Reason #5 is that we need not only to secure cheap oil, but we need to keep the oil revenues out of the hands of people who will work against our interests with it. In particular, in order to defeat the elements of the Saudi Royal Family who are against us, we need to make Sauid oil unimportant for us.

  20. #20 |  Aaron McDonald | 

    A few more comments and emphasized concepts:

    Keep in mind that Saddam and his sons are the ONLY world leaders who openly say they are our enemy and who openly cheer the 9-11 attacks. There was NO other regime in the world, including the Taliban, that did not offer us condolences and condemn the 9-11 attacks. Leftists MUST understand that this is causus belli enough regarding Saddam, and the explanation for why we are not going to be belligerent toward North Korea now.

    This war (if it has to be fought – I am 80% sure that the Iraqis will overthrow Saddam with CIA help before the war ever officially starts) may be, first and foremost, a way of proving that Saddam does not already have the power to destroy a US city. Anti-war people keep saying that they want to see proof that Saddam might have an nuke. But George Bush is 100% correct, with no room for argument, that this proof could only really come by seeing a mushroom cloud. Only a regime change can prove for sure that he does NOT have nukes, and that, despite leftist rants, is where the onus of proof lies in the light of the fact that the Iraqi regime is the only declared enemy of the USA in the entire world. Hillary Clinton agrees that Americans will not live with the uncertainty of whether suitcase nukes exist or not, placed by the only regime in the world that hates us. She said a war could bring us massive destruction but she voted for the war anyway. The onus is not for us to prove nukes but for the other side to prove no nukes, by being toppled without using them while they say they are our enemy. Its “use it or lose it” time for Saddam and his sons…and we can be sure that tons of agents around the world are trying to stop any attempts for nukes to be used. If we had caught the Iraqis red handed with a nuke on that container ship off New York habor last month, do you think Bush would have announced that fact? NO. He would not. It would remain a secret. But he would be more determined than ever to topple Saddam.

    So please stop the crazy talk about needing to see “proof” on WMD. Most of us need to see “proof” that the nukes are not already here. There is no way that the government would ever admit finding a nuke in a Manhattan apartment or getting believable signals that such a nuke exists. And Al Qaeda would not have yet had a reason to explode such a nuke because Afghanistan was not as strategic to the survival of Sunni Caliphate dreams as Baghdad is. If I were Al Qaeda with a nuke in NY, I would threaten to explode it only if Baghdad were in danger of falling to the infidel, not because a few training camps in Afghanistan were taken away.

    Also about proof on Al Qaeda connections with Saddam: the author of this blog refers to the nonsense about an Atta meeting in Prague as being the only thing he or she has ever read about a possible connection. This only proves that the author has not read any number of bestsellers on Osama Bin Laden and terrorism. Most major books on terrorism, show fairly convincing connections between Saddam’s son Qusay and Al Qaeda going back to the Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia and including the first attempt to destroy the World Trade Center. Criticize the sources of these books if you want (the sources are often Iraqi defectors and Arab professors) but don’t keep going back to the red herring in Prague.

    Israelis are willing to live with the risk of what would come now, rather than what would come later. Our soldiers are in less danger than the site author thinks. They are now turning Iraqi units to our side just like they did in Afghanistan. Believe me, there will be very few American deaths unless a nuke is used somewhere, and that will only have a 2 mile radius of destruction, meaning it could only kill a company of 200 special forces.

  21. #21 |  Frank | 

    Until we are shown specific evidence that Iraq is a danger to American interests, I see no reason to send our guys to die and go slaughter civilians.

    Israel, Pakistan, North Korea are all armed with nukes…are they any less dangerous if they were attacked and standing on their last leg?

    Welcome to the new world order…wasn’t the Cold War much simpler?

  22. #22 |  Aaron McDonald | 

    I am sorry. I went back again to check the original post and found yet another major point to make: how can the author honestly say that he or she was “sitting on the fence” and then write “I made my decision because war is always a bad idea”? It does not sound like there was ever much fence sitting going on.

    And the whole thread of the leftist argument also seems to go along the lines that Muslem extremists could never be brought back into the 74 year alliance that they had with the USA between the Russian Revolition in 1917 and 1991 when the Soviet Union fell. Please remember that the Muslim fundamentalists were allied so long to the USA (indeed supported by the USA via Saudi Aramco) because they hated communists (spell L-e-f-t-i-s-t) more than they disapproved of western society per se. A conservative USA beats a leftist Europe in the minds of most smart Islamic fundamentalists who see Europe’s current leftist appeasement and anti-Americanism as a trojan horse, an alliance with which might appear tactically great as a way of making Bush look stupid and weaken American alliances but could ultimately turn Muslims into leftist liberals!

    Believe me, Al Qaeda’s remaining leadership in Riyahd and Jeddah are only tactically supporting leftists whom they revile more than Jews. They are surely seeing that the anti-war movements in the west have no chance because Bush is too strong. Because leftists are the eternal ideological enemy of Islamists (for supporting feminism, homosexuality, etc), there is every reason for Al Qaeda to come out in favor of Bush over leftists everywhere. Think about it.

    Meanwhile, Bush is strategically aiming at the heart of Sunni Wahhabism with his desire to take the Caliphate seat of Baghdad forever away from them and give it to the hated Shiites, who dominate Iraq’s population. With the huge dagger of secular Shiite Islam pointing at the heart of religious Sunni Islam itself (Mecca), you can be sure that there will be no more terrorism aimed at Americans from Al Qaeda. The path to surrounding Mecca and securing a peace agreement over Jerusalem is via Baghdad.

    But I can foresee a secular Shiite Mecca in the near future anyway…the absolute worst fate the Sunnis could ever imagine, much worse than Mecca being nuked.

    We are not like the Russians who botched the Chechnya operation by raping the women and robbing villagers. Unlike the Russians, who lost 400 men per month while they were in Afghanistan in the 1980s and continue to lose 120 per month in Chechnya, we lose less than one soldier per month guarding Afghanistan while we have the respect of the Afghans, the admiration of 99% of Iranians and the admiratin of 95% of the Iraqis who (according to the leftist New York Times) are begging for the USA to attack but for Bush to “make it quick.”

  23. #23 |  Joe Reynolds | 

    The proof that SH presents a substantial threat to this country already exists. It is in the reports of the UN WMD inspectors. The BOB had aflatoxin loaded in artillery shells during the gulf war. Any dictator that is nuclear capable can extract an immense price for attacking them, regardless of how justified the attack. As of now we may pay a higher price than many believe, if we wait it gets worse.

  24. #24 |  Brian | 

    Itâ??s not a war against Al Quaeda; theyâ??re just a single unit. Itâ??s not a war about 9/11 either; that was merely the last straw. The enemy is expansionist Wahabbi Islamism and its tactic of choice: terrorism.

    The main terrorist sponsoring regimes are and have been Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and the late Taliban Afghanistan. The goal since 9/11 has been to topple these terrorist sponsoring regimes. Whether or not they can be directly linked to 9/11 under current evidence is irrelevant; current evidence is far from complete, and 9/11 was only a part of the larger phenomenon of expansionist Islamism.

    Regime change should be accomplished by force of arms only if it is A) necessary and B) possible.

    We donâ??t invade North Korea because not B) possible. They have nukes now, and unless you want to recommission the Light Brigade, Iâ??d advise we not charge in. Anyway, the whole â??why donâ??t we invade NKâ? argument is just a way of slyly accusing Bush of hypocrisy and hinting at the imbecilic â??war for Dubyaâ??s oil buddiesâ? canard.

    We donâ??t invade Iran and Saudi Arabia because itâ??s not A) necessary. In all likelihood regime change there can be accomplished without resorting to force.

    Iraq is both necessary and possible.

    Itâ??s necessary because:
    1. They sponsor terrorism; always have.
    2. Inspections and sanctions wonâ??t stop this.
    3. Theyâ??ll soon have nukes and be essentially invincible.

    Itâ??s possible because:
    1. They donâ??t currently have nukes.
    2. The Iraqi people have only a tenuous loyalty to Saddam.
    3. Theyâ??re armed forces suck eggs.

    Additional benefits include:
    1. With Iraqi oil flowing, the Saudis become irrelevant.
    2. Islamist triumphalism will sustain a major blow.
    3. The Shiites get a boost (Props to Aaron McDonald.)
    4. We can meddle in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
    5. The Palestinians lose a major supporter.

    So in we go.

  25. #25 |  Brian | 

    I wrote “they’re” when I meant to write “their”. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me.


  26. #26 |  Conor O'Brien | 

    I’m not sure you weighted heavily enough the fact that liberating the Iraqi people from a brutal dictatorship would be an inherently virtuous act. I can understand the position that freeing other peoples from oppression is not sufficient cause to go to war. However, when the scales are more balanced in terms of U.S. national interest, as your very hesitancy in coming off the fence suggests, then shouldn’t the fact that we would be doing a tremendous amount of good by ridding the world of a loathsome madman carry a bit more weight? Was there not some value in ending the holocost apart from the national security considerations of stopping the Nazis? I would say “yes.”

    Interesting to note the counterprotest staged by Iraqi-Americans in DC this weekend: they were FOR the war. When you talk about “innocent blood” on our hands, be sure not to conflate the Iraqi government with the Iraqi people.

  27. #27 |  James Casimiro | 

    Your points are well taken. However, I think you miss one important aspect of the debate. While the Democrats and the media continually paint the debate as an impending war with Iraq, this is not the case. Bush has stated over and over again, that military power may be in order if Saddam continues to prevent full inspections. Were Saddam to allow full inspections by the UN and/or the US, there would be no military action against him. His failure to allow inspections, along with our knowledge that he has been developing weapons of mass destruction, warrants immediate attention. When Saddam says he has no such weapons, but that he will use them if we attack, and that no one is allowed in Iraq to inspect, military force is surely justified to protect our national security. He is an outspoken enemy of the US. Finally, the evidence of a connection to Al Qaeda is clear, and has been outlined numerous times by the Administration, much to the chagrin of the press, who choose not to even air Bush’s speeches. Bush realizes the UN is a joke, and he is taking the initiative to prevent the loss of American (and others) lives.

  28. #28 |  Joe Sims | 

    Nice going, Radley… This should be published somewhere outside the blogosphere; if it gets this sort of attention online, just imagine what sort of trouble you could get yourself into on the Op/Ed page of the Post or the Times? Regardless of your position on the impending conflict, it’s good to read something as thought-out as this piece. Keep up the good work.

  29. #29 |  Paul | 

    Radly –
    I’m shocked and surprised by how ignorant and/or naive so many of your readers are! Talk about an invincible Iraq with nuclear weapons, limited casualties from chem/bio attacks on American soldiers, squabbling between other Muslim nations, isolationism, and all war is bad is just rubbish!

    1. Iraq with nuclear weapons is not invincible and it does not mean that they will use them either. We managed to balance against the USSR, who not only had nuclear weapons (and lots of other WMD for that matter) but the means to deliver them for decades. If Iraq gets a nuke or two there are two things they must consider. First, they don’t have the means to get them to the US (I’m more worried about the poorly maintained Russian stockpile than Iraq giving terrorists nukes). Second, the only other nuclear power in the region is Israel and they have at least a few hundred nuclear weapons. Saddam may be crazy, but he likes his power. Using nuclear weapons against either the US or Israel will only ensure that he is destroyed – maybe with retaliation in kind.

    2. If we invade, WMD attacks will be directed against our base camps as well as our operational soldiers. This means that there will be more than just the “company of special forces” affected by the attack. Also, it’s not well known, but the training and maintenance of our military’s chem/bio defense tools (protective masks, detectors, etc…) are not very effective in a real chem/bio attack (we can’t even detect biological weapons until well after the fact!)

    3. Even with fighting between the various Muslim sects, they all dislike the United States far more than they dislike each other. Consider the Saudi fund-raisers for the families of murder-bombers. There is little reason to think that we can suddenly win everyone to our side by overthrowing a Muslim leader.

    4. Libertarian thought does not call for isolationism. Rather, it’s just about totally opposite. While we do believe in our government not being entangled in foreign affairs, by opening our borders to trade and travel, we are being about as un-isolationist as possible.

    5. Finally, Libertarians do not think that all war is bad – only the initiation of force. I recommend you dust off your copy of Ayn Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness” or “Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal” and re-read the essay “The Nature of Government.” Also, the “winning the hearts and minds of the people” by riding in on our tanks and overthrowing the oppressive government has never worked. It didn’t work for us in Vietnam; it didn’t work for the English in our Revolutionary War. Why would it work in Iraq?

    I’m surprised that so many people are willing to throw their nations sons and daughters into a war over a bunch of ifs and maybes!

  30. #30 |  Paul | 

    My bad – I left out the e in Radley… Sorry about that…

  31. #31 |  Harry Eagar | 

    I want to comment on only one point,
    that you say that even if Saddam has WMD, the CIA (or anyone else)
    believes he would not use them.

    It is a well-established rule of military planning that you plan not for
    what you believe the enemy will do but for what he can do.

    Hundreds of examples from history suggest that anything else is suicidal.

    And you can apply this rule to Saddam, too. He, as much as Radley, seems
    to be operating on the principle that he can predict what the U.S. will do,
    not what it can do. This is likely to be suicidal for him.

  32. #32 |  levine | 

    To call a nuclear equipped Iraq equally threatening as the Soviet Union is a sure sign of a very weak mind. The power of the Soviet Union was in the hands of a small group. While soviet party members possess more power than their American congressional equivalent, their system did have some checks and balances. A single sick little man controls the power in Iraq. The most likely threat from the Soviet Union (likewise Russia) was that their decaying ICBM system would crash and mistakenly fire a missile. If Sodamn Insane has nukes there would be no telling why he might set one off. A day of feeding live victims to hungry dogs not getting his rocks off anymore? Why not set a nuke off in NY?

  33. #33 |  Jim Henley | 

    “While soviet party members possess more power than their American congressional equivalent, their system did have some checks and balances. A single sick little man controls the power in Iraq.”

    You need to take this argument up with the Administration. They’ve been on a very public campaign to convince Hussein’s subordinates, the ones in the chain of command controlling such Weapons of Some Destruction as he currently possesses, to ignore any order they get to fire them in the coming war. Or else bad things will happen to those commanders personally.

    So apparently the Administration believes that

    1) Mr. Mustache does not have the firing switches in his bedroom. He needs help to make any of his doomday devices go.

    2) We can convince the help to ignore his orders.

    3) Apparently Saddam isn’t Dr. Doom after all.

    Saddam is a great monster to frighten the children with. So the question becomes, who’s a child?

  34. #34 |  alina | 

    This might just be the most controversial or attention-exciting thing you’ve ever written Radley. Lots of good comments. Get the armchair warriors off their recliners and onto the battle field.

  35. #35 |  Paul | 

    Speaking of armchair warriors getting on the battle field… I wonder how opinions in the blogging world would change if they were the ones faced with spending 6 months to a year in Iraq fighting? It’s really easy to say “let’s do it” when you’re not the one doing it….

  36. #36 |  ruprecht | 

    In the past the US supported some pretty nasty dictatorships. Iraq is one of them. He is our responsiblity and we should clean up the mess, not ignore it.

  37. #37 |  scott | 

    A nuclear powered Iraq would be virtually indestructible. The US has never gone to war with any other nuclear power, and I’m pretty sure that’s true for every other nuclear power. We’ve fought wars by proxy with the USSR, how do you think we’ll fight wars by proxy with Saddam?

    Most importantly, Saddam doesn’t need to actually use his nukes to be a threat, there’s nuclear blackmail. He could easily try and call our bluff. If we back down, it will show the world that the US is vulnerable to nuclear blackmail, and if we don’t it will be war with a nuclear power. Saddam could easily think the second option isn’t likely, given the point I mentioned above, plus we’re already woried about his WMDs.

  38. #38 |  Damon Poeter | 

    Nice post, Radley. To anyone who has accused you of “fence-sitting” on whether or not to attack Iraq, either before you posted this, or even after — it seems to me that anyone on either side of the fence who isn’t a few quick steps and a hop away from jumping over to the other side, isn’t really looking at the many aspects of this question — moral, political, pragmatic, risk calculation, where to compromise and where not to, etc — with an open mind. I agree with a lot of your take on the situation, just wanted to elaborate on one of your points:

    1. The evidence situation. It could be argued that the “new” strategy of pre-emption isn’t really all that new. That’s worth a discussion, but let’s assume it is a new position, in real terms. Because it certainly is new as far as our own concept of ourselves as a nation is concerned. What this means, I think, is that gov’t secrecy is less justifiable now than it was under the previous attack-when-attacked position. Clearly, concerns about compromising intelligence sources and methods remain. Clearly, the world is complex and many threats are non-conventional, requiring mult-layered defenses. But gov’t secrecy for security purposes has always been a massive compromise of libertarian values … in other words, a lesser evil. The more information people possess, the freer they are — socially as well as in markets. That doesn’t change because the threats facing the US have changed. And now that this administration is saying we no longer need a smoking gun, a la Pearl Harbor, to go to war, the danger of fooling an uninformed citizenry about the justification for war is greater than it used to be. Which is why Rumsfeld’s talk about (paraphrase, I can’t remember the full quote) the truth being so precious, it needs a bodyguard of lies to protect it, is really, really troubling. And I’m not talking about specific military plans, where secrecy must be conceded, but rather the feints, dodges and (admitted) misinformation campaigns that seem to pervade this administration’s planning. I mean, why the fuck is Tony Blair “making the case” … to AMERICANS? At the very least, this fundamental compromise of democratic values should not be reveled in, as Rumsfeld and Cheney in particular do.

  39. #39 |  Jim Keegan | 


    I’m in favor of taking out the Hussein/Baathist regime in Iraq.

    1) Of course there are other trouble makers in the world. Are we to be paralyzed until we can unequivocally identify the absoultely most dangerous? I think not. Take out the most obvious one first and re-evalute the rest. Quite possibly decisive action against Iraq will lead to reolution of Iran, Syria, North Korea, etc.

    2) Must we wait for absolute proof? If Hussein were innocent, surely it would be easy enough for him to convince us. Even if he is not actively plotting our imminent destruction, surely he deserves to be removed.

    3) Also, John F. Keenedy as the model for presidential action? That lying buffoon? On the one hand, perhaps he did bring us to the very brink of nuclear war (he essentially said he did), but as it turned out, all of his threats weren’t worth a plugged nickel. He told us that first evening that he demanded on-site inspection – we got pictures of crates on ships. And so on.

    4) We ARE threatened. Inaction will embolden those who hate us (including a number of Americans, and a great number of French, Russians, and so forth).

    5) Finally, do you really expect that ANY president would lay all his cards on the table? Do you really think it would be a good idea for President Bush to say “This is what we’ve got – you examine it, and if you’re covinced, then and only then will I act.” It just can’t be.

  40. #40 |  Chris Farley | 

    I agree with most of what you say, but this time Iâ??ll have to disagree. Your argument presents itself as a well thought out logical process. But, it seems there is an underlying emotional content. Specifically, as a Libertarian, you have an inherent distrust of government and a deep aversion to war.

    I feel that we should go to war. My argument is based upon Albert Einsteinâ??s well-proven belief that the best solution is the simplest solution, but no simpler.

    Because we are a democracy and elect our leaders, the terrorists in particular and Muslims in general believe that each and every American citizen is a lawful combatant. This means each and every American is in mortal danger.

    Some argue that the war in Afghanistan was won or is being won, but Muslims donâ??t see it that way. We didnâ??t get all of Al Qaeda, so we didnâ??t win. Saddam Hussein is popular among Muslims because he withstood an onslaught from â??the Great Satan.â? Again, we did not achieve a clear victory. Muslims in Somalia humiliated us. Muslim warriors won in the Balkans â?? America just helped. We have yet to show the Muslim world that America can win a clear victory when battling Muslims.

    Iraq is our opportunity to show all Muslims, regardless of their degree of fanaticism, that America has the resolve to take on a Muslim country and win. This would deal a blow to popular terroristâ??s image. American destroyed Iraq and Bin Laden didnâ??t do anything about it.

    So, I think the question boils down to:

    If we sacrifice American lives now by invading Iraq, will we save more lives in the future by landing a physical and psychological blow to the Muslim extremists?

    At this point, I would say the answer is yes.

  41. #41 |  Anonymous | 

    I used to think that Iraq was our Number One enemy that we can fight against. Since the terrorist cell are decentralized and stateless, destroying them will be difficult, but destroying Saddam Hussein is not.

    But now I have some reservations, not because Saddam Hussein is “cooperating” with the UN (that is a smoke screen), but because a more immediate threat is forming…North Korea.

    It is North Korea that has a mentally unstable dictator; it is North Korea that has the material and machinery to make Nukes; it is North Korea that seems to be hellbent on constructing a missle-warhead system to strike at us, China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and even Russia directly; and it is North Korea that is most likely to use their Nukes.

    Maybe we should continue the pressure on Iraq but secretly move our most effective troops to the Western Pacific Rim. Maybe we can fake out both of the leaders of the Axis of Evil and secure our country.

  42. #42 |  OJI CHIDI | 

    What i want to say is that let the UN take it easy and judge the mather politely so that peace will be achieved atlast
    Chidi Oji

  43. #43 |  Sarah | 

    Excellent post, Radley. This is my first visit to this forum, and it was quite refreshing to see well-thought out arguments without people telling those that are anti-war that they are pro-terrorist, and also without radicals screaming “nuke em all!!!11”.

    Many are calling this war the new vietnam, as I’m sure you’ve all seen. Yet there is so much difference between the threats of communism vs. terrorism, making it hard to argue on either side of the war. Communism we didn’t necessarily have to fight. The dominoe theory was sketchy at best. With terrorism we know there is a great and worldwide threat. How then do we fighht such a threat, and who do we attack first?

    Unlike countries that are bound together and ruled wholly or in part by theology, America is a country of ideals. It is based solely on principles of freedom, and the only reason to attack another country would logically be to protect those freedoms. I’m not sure when America’s focus turned to the freedom of other peoples, but indeed this is the case. the president can wage any war he wishes to fight the opressed and liberate others from dictators. As long as it is under the guise of freeing the iraqi people from a corrupt dictator, the war is in some way justified, regardless of ulterior motives, at least in the eyes of the government.

    I accept that we have several great threats in our midst, regardless of nuclear capability. I don’t see, however, why we aren’t settling this the way we have in the past…get Iraqi people with CIA support to assassinate/overthrow SH. Whether justified or not, that tactic has worked in the past, and seems to be the way to reduce the threat ofmmore terrorist attacks and blame on the US. plausible deniability, right?

    There is no longer a choice of whether or not to attack, obviously. The focus should be on how to minimize US deaths and involvement in the situation before it gets out of hand and we see massive retaliation. If overthrow without big bombs and thousands of troops is possible, then why not?

    It was previously stated somewhere in this thread that GW was trying to learn from his father’s mistakes. Looking back at the Bay of Pigs invasion, bush-funded, i believe may be the reason GW wanted to launch an all-out assault rather than risking a CIA-based overthrow.

    That’s my 2 cents (maybe more like 50)on the matter. Here’s to the long war ahead of us.

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