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To B2, or Not to B2

The Question of Going Alone Against Iraq.


by Jonathan Wilson
September 3, 2002

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To B2, or Not to B2_Jonathan Wilson-The Question of Going Alone Against Iraq. I took a laissez-faire attitude toward election in the 2000, much as I had in 1996. In 1996 I could not vote because my conscience would not allow me to choose betwen such dismal alternatives. In 2000 I had the opposite opinion; I felt I could be happy with either candidate.

My opinion changed after the second Bush v. Gore debate. Bush asserted a confident, stately philosophy on foreign relations and interventions. Bush earned my vote. I was thrilled when Powell agreed to be Secretary of State.

I am now earning more money in real dollars than in 2000, and paying fewer real dollars in taxes. My wife and I have budgeted the difference to medium and long-term savings. No joke. I am Bush's man.

I am distressed by the talk that comes out of the Bush Team, talk about "pre-emptive war" and unilateralism. Long gone is the campaign rhetoric of engagement in humility. What changed?

The answer I expect from the reader or the Bush Team is "September 11 changed everything." In fact, it has not. Neither Saddam Hussein nor Iraq had anything to do with the suicide attacks on the United States by citizens of Saudi Arabia. They were not involved in conceiving the plan, paying for the plan or executing the plan.
Hussein is neither more nor less a villain after September 11, he is neither more nor less legitimate as a head-of-state after September 11.

The blood in the ground cries out against Hussein: the blood of Kurds and moderates and Assyrians and Christians. He is monstrous. However, unlike Hitler, whose name is tossed out as an example of the failure of western allies to act quickly, Hussein is also contained.

The "pre-emptive war" has happened already. In response to Iraq's occupation of Kuwait, a coalition of nations defeated Iraq in a war ten years ago. Kuwait is to Iraq what the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia was to Germany. Had the allies rallied to the Czechs, war would have resulted, but it would have been much briefer and less costly. Perhaps Hitler would have retained power. Perhaps his own humiliated Wermacht would have taken power in a coup d'tat.

The great disappointment about our war 10 years ago is that the uprising among Iraqis did not result in Hussein's ouster. However, against Hussein's Iraq, a multi-national coalition has since enforced sanctions, weapons inspections and "no fly zones" which protect Iraqi citizens from their own brutal dictator. Hardly a month has gone by in ten years without either a British or U.S. warplane firing on an Iraqi installation.

Weapons inspections were curtailed four years ago, prior to the Bush Presidency. This has given Hussein plenty of time to replenish the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons that he used in combat against rebels and Iranians.

However, with coalition command of Iraqi airspace, just when do we think Hussein is going to use these weapons?

It would be wishful thinking to say that Hussein is toothless. He must continue to be contained. However, a pre-emptive war to humiliate Iraq is on the opposite pole of foreign relations that Candidate Bush espoused in the second debate. The situation with Iraq has not changed since that time.

Pre-emptive can mean two things. It can mean, Prior to Catastrophe, or it can mean, Prior to Provocation. Had the U.S. waited to wage war on Germany until after the Nazis were able to load an A-Bomb onto their jets, that would have been a Catastrophe.

Cheney and other Bush hawks are beating the drums of war, claiming that Hussein has Catastrophe in his power.

Hussein has the power to provoke, but with hostile warplanes daily patrolling his air space, I doubt that he has the ability to pull the trigger on a Catastrophe without several intervening steps of multilateral inaction.

I do not suggest appeasement with Hussein. Throughout the 1930's Hitler piled up one provocation after another that could have resulted in the justified intervention of the European powers. They chose appeasement.

If Hussein provokes, build the coalition and go to war. Go a step further and give the people of the United States a stake in the outcome by asking Congress for a Declaration. In a way, I hope that Hussein commits a provocation, as the arrest of U.N. inspectors. I would love to have the pretext to take him down.

But drumming up fears of Catastrophe in order to justify an attack without Provocation--frankly, this is unAmerican.

I was not alive in 1964, but it seems to me that Bush has surrounded himself with a cabinet exuding the same kind of Texas-sized arrrogance that poisoned the Johnson Administration at the outset of our intervention in Vietnam. Yet even Johnson had the pretext, such as it was, in the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis. It took what appeared to be a deliberate bombing of the U.S.S. Maine to justify war in 1898 against Spain. (Spain has always denied any involvement.)

The world knew that the U.S. is justified to make war on Al Qaeda. Partners as unlikely as Holland and Turkey have cooperated. The world knew that Iraq's conquest of Kuwait was no longer a legitimate means of conducting affairs of state. They sponsored the military effort to rectify that situation and effectively hand-cuff Hussein ever since.

The world knows that a pre-emptive war against Iraq is wrong. It is time for the United States to demonstrate the same humility Candidate Bush espoused. It is time to return Colin Powell to esteem and a commanding profile in the management of foreign relations. Hussein will only forget that the hawks are circling, to his own peril.

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