One day, we here at the Nashville Scene felt agreeably clued in to the international picture.
We nodded as the president rambled on about hunting down the 9/11 sponsors like dogs, felt a rush upon hearing about combat in the caves, applauded at the rooting out of al Queda and the overthrowing of the Taliban. Things seemed to be generally headed in the right direction, save for all the smarmy new television anchors staking their futures on hotel balconies in Islamabad.
But the next thing we know, it’s as if the Commander in Chief has changed channels. We’re on to something new and different. George W. Bush has got his underwear in a wad over Iraq.
How did we get to such a situation? Why Iraq? Why now?
We have no answer. We have only clues, which the president has provided us: Iraq is a bad place, with a bad leader. It is capable of weapons of mass destruction. It prevents weapons inspectors from doing their jobs, and has experimented withperhaps usedgerm warfare.
This is about all he has offered. And on these accounts, we agree with the president: Iraq is bad.
The president then goes on to say that unless international communities unite to demand better conduct from Iraqin other words, United Nations condemnationthen the United States will go it alone, that being, presumably, an attack on Iraq.
To date, the president’s drum beat for war has found a receptive audience among several strands of human beings: neo-conservative hawks, numerous Democrat and Republican congressmen seeking political cover, and some of the Democratic candidates for president. As for the schools of thought against such a warsome of which were the subject of a recent piece in The New Yorker magazinewe think the people with the right attitude are the so-called “realists.” To them, the mistake may have begun when Bush launched an overly broad “war on terror.” And, to them, going into Iraq represents a snowballing of that error in judgment.
To the practical-minded realists, as described in The New Yorker, the world is a tough place that requires us to look at our own interests first. Moral outrage isn’t enough of a cause to start a fight in a faraway place, and remaking the world in our own democratic image just won’t happen. Those who have recently expressed realist arguments include people like Brent Scowcroft, James Baker and Zbigniew Brzezinski, all of whom have posed serious questions about invading Iraq. They believe in a limited approach, because they understand much of the world hates America; to them, that is reason to be less aggressive in our military exploits.
Realists think it is fitting to go after al Queda, and believe everything should be put into that effort. Beyond that, a full-fledged war on terror everywhere makes no sense. In fact, it would be futile.
We agree. In our judgment, invading Iraq does not adequately serve our national interest. Iraq may be a horrible hellhole of a sick and twisted place, but so is much of the rest of the world. Take Saudi Arabia, whose leaders are frequent picnic guests at President Bush’s Texas home these days. Policemen in that nation recently forced young school girls back into a burning building, where they perished, because they were not cloaked in appropriate Muslim garb. Saudi Arabia financed much of 9/11. Saudi Arabian princes flew Osama bin Laden’s relatives out of the United States immediately after 9/11 to protect them.
If we are to fight terror everywhere, why are we not attacking Saudi Arabia? Why, for that matter, are we not attacking rebels in Columbia, Palestinians in the West Bank and Communists in North Korea?
Whyand why nowIraq? The case hasn’t been made.
One final thought: President Bush has yet to dedicate a single soldier to the battlefield in Iraq. He has also been thrifty in his shipment of soldiers to Afghanistan. While we can’t read the president’s mind, it would seem that he may be speaking loudly about invading Iraq with hope that it will help foment greater international anger at Saddam Hussein and result in his removal from office...without us lifting a finger. We shall see.
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