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
Without question, there was more support among Jewish legislators than would have been the case if Iraq didn't figure in to the nightmares of Israelis, doves as well as hawks. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and most of the Israeli political leadership, regardless of party, support the U.S. taking out Saddam.
And yet one can, from an Israeli-centric viewpoint, make a pretty fair case against the Bush resolution; Jerusalem journalist Gershom Gorenberg did precisely that in a recent issue of The American Prospect. Such a war might eliminate Saddam's uncertain capacity to attack Israel with horrific weapons, he argued. But it might also prompt Saddam to begin those attacks; it could spawn a new generation of terrorists in the region; it could destabilize some Middle Eastern Arab regimes (admittedly rotten ones) and lead to their replacement by militant Islamic ones. And if a nation is now justified in waging preventive war against an enemy regime because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, might that not someday justify an Arab state's attack on Israel?
My colleague Howard Blume posed some of these concerns to Waxman, who acknowledged the risks of a U.S. invasion. "It could lead to an attack on Israel," said Waxman. "It could lead to an attack on other Arab countries. It could lead to an attack on our troops or an attack by Saddam Hussein on his own people. All of those are possibilities. But it would have been accepting a form of blackmail to allow him to succeed in scaring us off while making himself stronger for the future."
That position sounds surprisingly hawkish for Waxman, who voted against the Persian Gulf War resolution in 1991. And Waxman was at pains to note dissatisfaction with the wording of the current war resolution. He preferred an alternative put forward by Representative John M. Spratt Jr. (D-South Carolina), which would have authorized military force only with the backing of the U.N. Security Council. Absent U.N. support, Bush would have had to come back to Congress.
That amendment was voted down 270 to 155.
"Once that amendment was defeated," said Waxman, "it was a far better signal to have a strong vote, to make it more likely that the United Nations Security Council would see the resolve of the American government, and so that Saddam Hussein would harbor no illusions."
Although Waxman rejects the principle of preventive or pre-emptive war and also talks of war as a last resort, he is nonetheless reconciled to unilateral U.S. action should Bush take the plunge (which, principle aside, sounds a good deal like embracing the practice of pre-emptive war).
Waxman's reasoning doesn't allude much to Israel at all, but it's hard to look at the vote of the California Democratic delegation and conclude that the normally good judgment of a number of liberal Democrats wasn't clouded by their inability to distance themselves from the conventional Israeli perspective on Saddam -- which is something quite different from the emerging liberal perspective on what seems the most dubious of wars. Something that both Waxman and Berman -- who, in the early 1960s, led the California Young Democrats to become the first Democratic organization in the United States to oppose the war in Vietnam -- should clearly understand.