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On the Iraqi War revisited

2003-04-08

Category: politics

A few months back, I wrote that I didn't think that war with Iraq was very likely. Like many people with opinions on the subject, I didn't have as much information as I needed to make a sound judgement. As we approached the war, I learned more and more about the Iraqi regime and Saddam Hussein.

I learned that he rose through the ranks of his party through treachery and assassination. I learned that his first job with his party was to actually assassinate some one, though he failed to do so. I learned also that he likened himself to Joseph Stalin, the butcher who sent many Soviet citizens to their deaths because they may have thought things he didn't care for. In all, Hussein is an absolute tyrannical nut job.

Having that information, it is easy to see that he would not back down from the overwhelming might of the American military. Where would he go? How could he live with himself if he were at the mercy of others? In the mind of such a man, surrender would not be an acceptable action.

That leaves the other side. Should the U.S. have invaded? I have no doubt that it is the correct action. The Iraqi regime has polluted a great deal of the useful land in that country. The citizens have suffered greatly at the hands of the party and its leaders. The regime needed to be removed and it is the custom of the United States to do this sort of thing.

Why should the U.S. get involved? Isn't it an internal matter in a foreign country? Sure it is, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't get involved. Some people say that it's none of our business but, by the same misplaced logic, the police have no business going into your home to protect you from violence there. It would be none of their concern because it would be an internal matter.

Don't get me wrong, I do not believe that the United States should intervene in all internal matters throughout the world. The question is a matter of scope. In the case of Iraq, there is a sufficient bad thing to warrant intervention. Furthermore, not getting involved led the possibility of worse trouble later. Sure, we should have handled things different early on, but shortsighted "peace lovers" wouldn't allow the government to arm the Iraqis so that they could handle the matter as an internal matter.

Another reason in favor of going to war is that it is technically an extension of the previous war. I know that the American attention span is short, but politics is measured in centuries and twelve years is the blink of an eye. In the first war, Iraq invaded Kuwait. That country asked us for help. We helped and Iraq surrendered. There were terms to that surrender.

To give you an idea what terms of surrender mean, consider this example. Imagine a gunman has taken several people as hostages in their home. The police come along and tell the bad guy to drop his weapon and come out peacefully with his hands up. The gunman then walks out of the home with his hands behind him where the police can't see. At this point, he has complied with part of the police directive, he has come out and the hostages are no longer being threatened. Is that where it should stop?

The cops tell him to drop his weapon and put his hands up. He says that he has no weapon. Will they believe him? Does it matter if he has no weapon? You get no on both counts. Not only will the police not risk believing the gunman, but it is now the gunman's responsibility to prove that he is not armed. It is not on the police to prove that he is armed, they will assume that he is until he proves otherwise.

This is what happened in Iraq. The conditions of the surrender were that Iraq was to prove that they destroyed their aggressive weapons. I hear people say, "But Iraq is a sovereign nation. Why should they have to do anything another country says?" Well, because that is international law. You invade another country and get forced to surrender then you must accede to the terms of surrender. By agreeing to the terms you are entering a contract that lets other countries know that you are no longer being aggressive. This is like the gunman tossing his gun away and putting up his hands tells the police that he has really surrendered and will be peaceable from that point on.

If you were a citizen in the neighborhood where the gunman took hostages you wouldn't want the police to say, "Oh, you don't have a gun? Well, you can go about your business then." Likewise if you are citizen of the world you don't want the victors of Desert Storm to say, "Oh, you got rid of all your weapons and you promise to be good? Well then, you can go about your business and we won't bother you anymore."

Of course there are people who believe that the U.S. should never have been in the war in the first place. They think that the function of the government is to protect the citizens of this country only and that means only from aggressors who attack American soil directly. This argument has not kept up with the realities of an over populated, technologically advanced world.

People travel at an extreme pace. Weapons travel faster. It is no longer just the strong that we must guard against. Any petty little group with a library card can figure out how to cause massive amounts of damage to this country. Larger groups, like bin Laden's boys have no border and recognize none. Where are they and who shelters them?

The key to peaceful coexistence anymore is to be sure that people are fed and educated. Take Iraq as an example. There will still be Saddam loyalists who are upset at who ever is in charge next. Will they gain strength? That depends on the condition of their recruiting pool. If we can use Iraqi oil wealth to build power plants and food generating places (an abstract would be underground hydroponics farms) then the Iraqis will have little to complain about.

What about the Islam thing? Well, many Muslims live in the United States without being troublesome. I'm sure that they appreciate that they have food to eat and relatively safe places to sleep. Given a good life, Iraqi Muslims would probably come to the same sense of getting along.

Can you imagine a dam across the Tigress and Euphrates Rivers? It could generate hydroelectric power (without a nuclear reactor in case I'm wrong about the peace thing) and could back up the rivers to aid irrigation. If they can grow a bit more of their own food they will be happier.

Why is this important to defending the U.S. borders? Simple, if weapons can travel as fast as they do today then we need to head them off even faster. What can be faster than before they even exist? By keeping the complex world at peace we can affect how threatened we are. Any view to the contrary is simplistic and infantile.

Some have suggested that interfering in the affairs of Iraq will make the terrorists more aggressive. That would cause a greater threat to Americans.

Though it will undoubtedly irk some terrorist groups, they were irked already. It is sad but these groups are being childish in the way they lash out. They think they have nothing and that someone else is to blame. They are told that they have a higher purpose and that attacking others, such as the United States, will fulfill that purpose.

An American presence will be used by some leaders of these groups to recruit more followers. Fortunately, this would be a short-lived activity. As I mentioned above, the happier people are the less likely they are to become troublemakers. There are always exceptions to that and there will always be dissidents, but the way to combat them is to make their life less attractive.

We may have a few more attacks for a while. As peace returns to the area there will be fewer people willing to trade a good life for a fast death. Just as we have malcontents here in the U.S., there will always be some who aren't happy no matter what, but they are the exception. The good thing about suicide bombers is that there is one fewer every time they use one.

Even with the concern about annoying the people "over there", there is no reason to consider Iraq as a place that will get that much attention. The United States is in much more hot water over the apparent association with Israel. Since Israel is an artificial country created with the help of European countries back in the forties, the indigenous peoples may have a good reason for being upset. If it seems that the U.S. doesn't mind the human rights violations committed by the Israeli government against the Muslims of the area, then some might be angry with the Americans.

Given the Israeli situation, the war with Iraq is hardly going to cause a notable increase in terrorist activities.

The other big complaint I've heard about the war is that it is war. The soldiers may get killed or wounded. The civilians may get killed or wounded. Shouldn't there be another way? The short answer is no.

Like the example I used above about the police and the gunman, sometimes there are people or groups that can't be dealt with through any means but violence. Though it is true that some people may get killed or hurt, the greater good is served through war. Would you want to stop the action of your local police force because the officers might get hurt? Probably not.

The police are volunteers. They choose to put themselves in harm's way to serve a higher good. That is their choice. We have a volunteer army. These soldiers have also made the choice to risk themselves for the betterment of all.

Would I do it myself? I enlisted quite some time ago. When I signed up I was fully cognizant of the risks involved. No soldier arrives in combat and says, "Hey, why are all those people shooting at each other? If they're not careful someone could get hurt." Though it is good that non-soldiers should feel concern for those going to war, that concern cannot be so great as to prevent the goals of soldiers.

As for the civilians who may be harmed, that is also unfortunate. Throughout history innocent people have died when they were caught in the struggles of larger powers. The truly sad part here is that many of them will be unaware of the full nature of what is going on. They live as though the ideal simple life is theirs never realizing that life is always on the brink of termination. They think that by not getting involved they won't have to deal with any of the unpleasantness. Unfortunately that leaves them oblivious to the danger that is coming. They don't know when to duck.

This doesn't apply to all civilians, of course. Many others are just unlucky. True, it is sad for those who get dealt a bad hand. Fate is sort of random in that way. There is little that can be done for it. If you were really compassionate, you would feel just as sad for the gunman when the police have to shoot him.

Where does this all lead? Well, it led to war. It is probably one of the more justifiable wars, as wars go. I know that many disagree about war ever doing any good. After all, war ended slavery in the United States, it bought our freedom from Britain, and it ended the slaughter of the Jews in Nazi Germany. When war came into Cambodia and ended the rule of the Khmer Rouge, it was probably a good thing. Come to think of it, there have been some really good and just wars. Operation Iraqi Freedom will just have to go on that list. I was wrong in my original belief that Hussein would back down like a sane dictator. We did go to war. It is the reasons why Saddam refused that will make this a just war. Overall, I'm pretty happy about it.


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