By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to have missed the case for going to war with Iraq.
I am writing on the eve of President Bush‘s address to the U.N., where he will presumably make the case for intervention. I know he will because he has to make the case. Everyone has told him he has to make the case. And there is something peculiarly backward about this process.
Normally, the case for going to war -- this kind of war -- begins with the discovery of evidence. That was the genesis of the Cuban Missile Crisis, for instance: Our U-2 spy planes discovered and photographed Soviet missiles being installed in Cuba; John Kennedy took to the airwaves to share this information; and Adlai Stevenson, our U.N. ambassador, produced the photos during the Security Council’s debate on the crisis. That is, the evidence preceded the discussion.
Not here. Bush may well produce some photographic evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program, but not because it is something our spy satellites stumbled upon last Tuesday. In this instance, he is producing evidence because it is already his announced national policy to go to war with Iraq, and he has been compelled by a cabal of vulgar empiricists to come up with a reason. In short, Bush is not producing supply-side evidence. He is producing demand-side evidence. Which, as evidence goes, is inherently the shakiest kind.
And it‘s not as if the administration hasn’t been trying to find a smoking gun. Our intelligence agencies have spent a year, quite properly, trying to discover any link between Iraq and the al Qaeda attacks of last September. They have looked for any evidence that Iraq‘s nuclear program is any closer than half-a-decade away from producing a bomb. Not only have they not found any convincing evidence of a 911 connection or an A-bomb in the making, they have yet to find any indication of an Iraqi delivery system that could send a nuke, or chemical or biological weapons, our way. The intelligence agencies’ failure to come up with anything decisive, however, has never been a factor in the administration‘s determination to go to war.
Of all the genies that such a war would let out of the bottle, the most terrifying by far is that of pre-emptive war. Even were a war in Iraq to be unimaginably successful -- bloodlessly replacing Saddam and his ruling clique with a stable, responsible coalition government that required no longtime assistance from other nations -- the precedent of the United States arrogating to itself the right to go to war against a nation absent a precipitating cause would still outweigh the undeniably positive consequences of a Saddamless Iraq.
Ranking all the dangerous ideas and idiotic policies, foreign and domestic, that the Bush administration has churned out in its 20 months in office is an arduous task, but pre-emptive war is plainly the biggest doozy of them all. The United Nations Charter -- drafted, chiefly by the United States, in 1945 -- prohibits such wars, and understandably so. Both world wars began with pre-emptive German attacks on neighboring states, and the vision of a world in which states could attack rival states for fear of what their rivals might someday do was abhorrent to the charter’s authors. And for all its military ventures, justified and not, since 1945, the United States had never repudiated the charter‘s proscription of pre-emption. Until this summer, when Bush, speaking at West Point, did just that.
It was the threat of terrorism, said Bush, that rendered the charter obsolete. Today, an attack can come in a truck, in the mail; armies no longer have to mobilize, and all the spy satellites in the world may be useless if there are no discernible military actions to detect. Bush’s argument was compelling -- if the force threatening to attack were a stateless network. But he did not answer, or even consider, the question of why a state that is considering a terrorist attack could not be deterred by threat of retaliation. States, after all, cannot take to the hills. Unlike such groups as al Qaeda, they cannot hide.
Over the past half-century, in fact, the U.S. faced off against an enemy just as cruel and infinitely more dangerous than Saddam‘s Iraq. The Soviet Union didn’t simply threaten to develop a crude nuclear force; it had one that could have destroyed the world many times over. And in Josef Stalin, it had a leader who made Saddam look positively bush league in his depredations. Saddam gassed thousands of Iraqis to death to bolster his control of the nation. Stalin killed somewhere between 7 million and 20 million Russians to bolster his. In the end, though, despite the magnitude of the Soviet threat and the blood-addicted madness of Stalin, we concluded that we could deter -- and by so doing, eventually defeat -- the USSR with the threat of retaliation. As events had it, we were right.
Yet Iraq, the Bushites argue, poses such a danger to our security that we must wage pre-emptive war. They say that Saddam has treated his own people with such monstrous disregard for human life that we cannot assume he will be deterred by a threat to destroy his nation in time of war. They concede that deterrence worked for Stalin‘s Russia -- but insist it won’t for Saddam‘s Iraq.