The first question to ask is, "Is it worth the killing?" And that includes civilians
as well as soldiers. If the killing did not take place, what would have happened? This was
asked after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. And reasonable people were certain
that an invasion of Japan was going to take a million casualties. That doesn't lessen the
horror but leads to the necessity to stop war. Or, more exactly, not let war get so
monstrous that weapons like that are used. One would think that the power of the U.S.
would prevent such horror. It certainly stopped it in the 1940's. But, it seems likely
that another nuclear device will be used in the Middle or Far-East despite the power of the
U.S. Only God knows what will happen in the 21st century and whether it will be the most wrathful in history. America is in the position where it matters what happens and it should
think about it.
In the case of Iraq a case can be made that "many more civilians would have been killed
at the hands of Hussein and his sons...." And that is a legitimate case if there is a record
of abuse. The precedence for this was set by President Clinton in freeing Kosovo. During
the bombing of Belgrade civilians were killed, foreigners were killed but the act was
justified by the saving of thousands, even millions of ethnic people in Kosovo.
The problem with Iraq is the complexity of issues that are separate but entangled and mixed
together just the same. That would include oil, terrorism, dictatorship, possible weapons
of mass destruction, and an aggressive leader. If the invasion had been simply about
freeing the population of the scourge that would be one thing. But, it was sold as an
attempt to get rid of the weapons cache and part of the war on terrorism. Oil, however,
was never out of the picture, nor was the revenge the President wanted for the assassination
attempt on his own father.
Is it an improvement or a positive that the government is doing , out in the open,
what the CIA used to do clandestine-style? That is, topple a leader.
If there is a war on terrorism then it has to be defined. Is it a war of unconditional
surrender? Is it a war of attrition? The Bush Administration is very quiet about all of this
because it doesn't know. When Al-Queda fighters were slipping into Iraq to be part of an underground
resistance, the President said, "bring it on." From a military sense I think that was correct.
Get them out of hiding and confronting U.S. troops and Iraqian policemen. From a military point of view
one could say that the U.S. has established a front in Iraq, along the fabled Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and will be able to smell out the terrorists with greater accuracy.
But, does it add to the security of the U.S.? And is the effort, in terms of money and lives, worth it?
The initial impression one has is that of an action made by brave-hearted types who,
in their private moments, have grave doubts about the whole effort. And make no mistake about it: The future of American foreign policy, at least for a twenty year period, rests on the success or failure of this action.
To pull out too soon would invite the terrorists to take Iraq and then you'd have
one bloody mess; as well as egg on the face of those who initiated the policy. But, the American people have the right to know time-tables, what results the Administration wants, the overall policy goals in the region, and some hint that they understand the precipice that they stand on. That they are not reading the history book but writing it at this point.
The good citizen always cherishes the belief that America is a different, unique entity and exists for the well-being of the people. That it exists to liberate the energies and talents of all people and is very successful in many cases. And the citizen even peeks into the future of Iraq and would love to see that forlorn nation rise up in its potential and lead the region into a splendid future.
On this sits the Bush legacy if there is one. A nation like Iraq is as easily dismissed and left to fend for itself as it is conquered.
And does that make the U.S. an empire?
It could, if our presence there lasts longer than twenty years and there is no sovereign
government in place.
But then, don't Empires have the privilege of naming themselves anyway they want?
I don't think Americans want Empire, even though America has been imperialistic from time to time. It really is in the position of a man who's suddenly won the lottery. What now? What do you do? How do you conserve all this gain? This is the effect of throwing off the bonds of the Cold War that defined world politics from 1945 to 1995 or so. And we have not a clue. And it's not a time to listen to ideologues from the Left or the Right. It is time for the freshest, clearest, cleanest thinking possible.
Posted January 22, 2004
Posted February 19, 2004
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March 27, 2003