I’ve been thinking a lot this week about our upcoming war with Iraq, and what disturbs me about it. As I’ve written before, I understand that war with Iraq may be necessary or even inevitable at some point in time, and that really there’s no way we should allow Iraq to become a nuclear power. And yet, every missive from the Bush administration concerning the war disturbs me and gives me pause, and I think I’ve finally figured out why.
My core philosophy when it comes to war is that it should be the last resort. We should attempt every alternative solution possible before putting the lives of our soldiers in danger, and before laying waste to another country. At times, we must defend ourselves or are morally obliged to defend other people who aren’t able to defend themselves. I also believe that there are also lines that cannot be crossed, and that we must be willing to use force to prevent those lines from being crossed. For example, it was unacceptable for the Soviet Union to install ballistic missiles in Cuba, and we risked war to prevent that from happening.
My problem with our machinations regarding Iraq is that I have never gotten a sense from the Bush administration that they see war as a last resort. On the contrary, I feel like the Bush administration is eager for war, that it’s in a hurry to go to war. Before we started the bombing in Afghanistan, we gave the Taliban (a regime every bit as odious as Saddam Hussein’s) many opportunities to turn over Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda members living in their midst. They refused that opportunity (as we obviously knew that they would), but the important thing is that they chose conflict over resolution. Our demand that they turn their backs on al Qaeda was not unreasonable, and the rest of the world saw that and supported us in our efforts to rid Afghanistan of both the Taliban and al Qaeda.
In looking at our current impasse with Iraq, we find ourselves in a situation where we have very little international support, despite the fact that nobody in the world likes Saddam Hussein. I believe it’s because it has seemed from day one that the Bush administration wanted war and nothing else. Every diplomatic step taken thusfar has come only begrudgingly. The feeling I get from the administration is that the inspections, the negotiating, and the UN resolutions are all items that they feel forced to check off before they can get their war on. I think that this approach is even beginning to make many Americans uncomfortable with the idea of war in Iraq.
One big problem we have at this point is that our image as warmongers is going to be tough to rehabilitate with regard to Iraq. Having gone down the “only war will do” road, it’s going to be hard to get other countries to believe that the threat Iraq poses does demand war, since it’s apparent that we’ve wanted war all along. It’s going to be hard to get me to believe that. Of course, I really believe the Bush administration is going to send in the tanks regardless of what anybody thinks, so this discussion is academic. I just hope we stick around to clean up our mess when we’re done.