Being that Iraq is really the only big news these days, I’ve been thinking about the situation in Iraq a lot. I haven’t really drawn any conclusions — I’m still hashing out the data. Here are a few of the things I’ve been thinking about lately:

  • One of the major current points of debate is whether we have proof that Saddam Hussein is working on weapons of mass destruction and whether he would use them against us (preemptively, mostly). Here’s the deal: of course Saddam Hussein is working on weapons of mass destruction, just as just about every powerful country is viable in any way is working on WMD. How far have they gotten? Who knows. But if anyone is arguing that we shouldn’t go to war with Iraq because we don’t know whether they have WMD programs, they’re being disingenuous. Better to argue that we don’t know how Iraq would use such weapons, since we really don’t. All things considered, I’d just as soon Saddam Hussein not have those options at his disposal.
  • I’ve noticed that many of the hawks talk about “liberating” Iraq. I think they just like the way that word sounds, because they tend to be the same people that eschew “nation building” except in the most limited form possible. We already “liberated” Afghanistan, and the country is nearly completely out of control. Worse, there’s no national or international force patrolling the country outside Kabul, and in Kabul things aren’t going so smoothly either. If we go to war in Iraq, it’s almost certain that the remaining US forces in Afghanistan would be lowered to an absolute minimum. I think Afghanistan faces long odds as it is, if the US pulls out, those odds get a lot worse. So I don’t put a lot of stock in the “liberation” talk.
  • We have a huge issue on our hands with the Kurds and the no fly zone. Kurds are historically some of the most put upon people in the world. They’ve entered what can almost be called a golden age since the US started enforcing a no fly zone in Northern Iraq, because Iraq’s government hasn’t been able to send the military in to oppress them. What happens for the Kurds now and in the future? We’re not going to enforce the no fly zone forever, so either we quit at some point and Iraq destroys everything the Kurds have built, or we go to war with Iraq and the Kurds have to figure out what to do in the aftermath. The Kurdish question is complicated by the fact that Turkey has a huge Kurdish population that has been oppressed for decades and wouldn’t mind having what the Kurds in northern Iraq has. If there’s a reason to effect regime change in Iraq, it’s that going to war is probably more honorable at this point than leaving the Kurds at Saddam Hussein’s mercy (or lack thereof).
  • No matter what we do, we owe the Iraqi people in a big way. I know that conservatives will dismiss that, but the simple fact is that we have failed the Iraqis in many, many ways over the years. There’s no doubt that they have a megalomaniacal “leader” who’s led his nation down the path to destruction, but let’s talk about where the US comes in. First of all, we supported Iraq in its awful meatgrinder war with Iran that lasted for most of the eighties. There’s no way to tell how many casualties there were, but Iraq’s casualties are estimated at around 375,000. (We also had Ollie North and company supplying weapons to Iran, but we won’t get into that.) Then there’s the fact that we failed to dislodge Saddam back in the Gulf War, and then launched a battery of punitive sanctions against Iraq afterward. The suffering of the Iraqi people since the Gulf War is, of course, Saddam’s fault, but the fact is that if we had gotten rid of him back then, the Iraqis would probably be better off right now. Then there’s also the fact that we killed plenty of Iraqis during the Gulf War, and destroyed as much of Iraq’s infrastructure as we could. If we go to war with Iraq again, we’ll kill a lot more Iraqis and destroy whatever they’ve managed to rebuild in the past decade. It may be Saddam’s fault that Iraq is in this mess, but he’s not going to be around to clean it up. Somebody else has to, and given the past 20 years or so of history, it probably ought to be us.