The Case Against War

Recently, a friend sent me an e-mail that made the case that anyone who was leery of launching a war against Iraq was motivated by ignorance, self-interest, or both. I know that now, with the war drums beating in the background, is probably not the ideal time to try and make the case for restraint. But the tone of the message made me feel that I had to try, in whatever limited way I could.

The result is this message. Read it and take it for what it’s worth — the opinion of one man, a man who is certainly no granola-crunchie peacenik, but who has reservations about the way we have chosen to deploy our awe-inspiring power in the world.

Here’s what I wrote:

“Here’s why I don’t currently support an attack on Iraq. (I can’t speak for the straw men set up by the authors.)

1) Dispersal of effort. A year ago we were told that Osama bin Laden was the #1 most wanted man in the world. No argument here. (Heck, I was saying that when he bombed our embassies in east Africa — and that wasn’t a terribly universal sentiment then, remember.) Now we’re told that Saddam Hussein is the #1 most wanted man in the world. Why? What did he do to knock bin Laden off the top spot? Do we have bin Laden in custody, or his corpse sitting on a slab in an Army field hospital somewhere? If not, why are we redirecting our efforts now? If so, why doesn’t the American public know about it?

2) Questionable value to the main effort. We’re in a “war on terrorism” (whatever that means). How does invading Iraq advance our cause in that war? Do we have hard evidence that Hussein provided aid & succor to al Qaeda as it ramped up for 9/11? If so, great — let’s see it. If not, why is replacing Hussein a higher priority than replacing, say, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan (who supported the Taliban for many years, obstructed our efforts to conduct the war in Afghanistan, and may have let members of al Qaeda take shelter in his country when we closed down their operations there)?

3) Lack of casus belli. Nobody argues that Saddam Hussein is a repressive tyrant who has brutalized his own people for many years. However, he’s hardly the only one who does this — for example, Kim Jong Il of North Korea has been starving his country for many years now, has demonstrated aggressively against US allies in the region (firing missiles over South Korea and Japan, for example), and is probably much closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon than Hussein is (ask the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: President Bush recognized all this when he included North Korea in his “axis of evil”. Yet, we aren’t hearing any talk about “regime change” in North Korea. Why not? Why is Hussein more of a clear and present danger to the U.S. than Kim, or any of the other nut jobs heading up dictatorships around the globe?

President Bush and his advisors need to explain these things to me, and the rest of the American public, if they expect us to follow them into war. We are the most powerful country in the world, maybe the most powerful that has ever been. That imposes upon us a special responsibility to use our power with wisdom and restraint. If we don’t — if we’re happier to just grant to the executive branch a license to knock off any leader or government it pleases — we may as well just change our name to the American Empire and be done with it. We’d have lived up to the worst caricatures of ourselves that our enemies have painted.

I don’t want that to happen. So I urge President Bush to lay it on the line for us. It doesn’t cost him anything to do so, and it’s consistent with the best traditions of our government. If there’s something that would convince me, if only I knew it — hey, educate me! But if not — if the justification is a jaunty “trust us, we’re from Washington” — I’m gonna have to opt out.

Just my $0.02, adjusted for inflation.”