Why I Oppose the US' Policy on Iraq

Today, a friend asked me why I oppose war in Iraq, and just as I was about to unload an emotional tirade, he stopped me and said he wasn't asking because he was in favor of it, but rather wanted to hear what I was thinking. I took a deep breath and continued calmly, listing the reasons without effort.

"Pre-emptive war" is immoral and illegal

What right have we to enforce our will on another nation, telling them to depose their leader? In the absence of demonstrated or imminent threat, there is no moral justification for waging war on another country. The list of nations with weapons of mass destruction is sadly far too long, but there is no legal basis for us to assume that we can predict who will act against us. Other nations have developed and maintain WMD for their own defense and to deter attacks from others.

Such a doctrine is an invitation to anarchy: other nations will have our example to follow, to the extent that we do not oppose their intentions, or to the extent that they are strong enough to act in spite of our approbation.

War is economic folly

Estimates of the direct cost range to hundreds of billions of dollars. The enormity of the cost in innocent lives will be even greater. Iraq is currently exporting 2 million barrels of oil a day, and war would interrupt that commerce. We can draw down our strategic reserve and mitigate the effect, but we can not eliminate it. Stock markets around the world have been falling since the Bush administration started rolling out the Iraq policy before the election. We're already in or on the verge of worldwide recession, and a war is likely to seal the deal.

Bush came to office with budget surpluses forecast for the forseeable future. With the dot.com bubble bursting and the terrorist attack turning us to recession, and no change in the "cut taxes no matter what" plan, we now have record deficits before us, without even accounting for the cost of going to war. States and cities are in the greatest budget crises of history, without the ability to use deficit spending to get out.

War is political folly

The last Iraq war and the recession that accompanied it signaled the end of the Bush I regime. Political posturing for defense in the context of the terrorist attack of 2001 proved to be a successful strategy for the 2002 elections, but without an economic turnaround, Bush II will likely suffer the same fate. We are writing doctrines that are likely to haunt us, as Robert Byrd so eloquently described in remarks on the Senate floor last week. We are burning political capital in our relations with other nations around the world, forcing them into a black & white decision when the issue is far more complex than that allows. Russia and France have the current franchise on oil from Iraq, and will not support us because they have the most to lose from our adventuring. By threatening unilateral action, we also threaten the relevancy of the United Nations, and ensure that we will have to act as policemen to the world for years to come.

Saddam Hussein is in large part a creature of our own making. We supported him to balance the growing power of Iran. We looked the other way when he committed atrocities on the Kurds. We expressed indifference when he prepared his military to intimidate Kuwait. We left him in power at the end of Gulf War I. We refused to commit meaningfully to his opposition after that war. The effect of sanctions and continuing military action against his country has done nothing to undermine his power.

We do not have the will or the skill to build democracy in the Middle East

Our effort in Afghanistan has fallen off the front page, but it is worth considering that, as Robert Fisk reports, the near collapse of peace in this savage land is a narrative erased from the mind of Americans. As the warlords fight over territory, and our troops remain at risk with no clear mission, how much longer will we stay? Our reason for going there was to root out a den of terrorists, and while the Taliban have been dispersed, the mission has not been accomplished. It isn't clear that it can be accomplished without engaging Pakistan, and we've shown no willingness to do that.

It certainly can't be done without money, and Bush's budget for the next fiscal year omitted any funds for humanitarian or reconstruction aid to the country! The Congress corrected the oversight, committing $300M.

We are ignoring the Central Issue of stability in the Middle East: Israel

There are only so many things that can be done at once, and given our distraction with Afghanistan, and now Iraq, we are not doing much to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, arguably the fertile ground from which global terrorism is nurtured. Israel has flouted UN resolutions for more years than Iraq, and continues to use settlements to extend its control over captured territory. It seems unlikely that a solution will come from the two warring parties, and the US has a unique role and the power to arrest the downward spiral. We are too busy to deal with it right now.

There are probably more reasons, and more eloquent statements of them, but it seems to me that these should be more than enough.


Tom von Alten's website