Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Well, Fuck It. Let's Hope It Goes Well

With war now being inevitable, this seems to be the dominant position of most of the anti-war contingent -although, really, war has been inevitable since September 2002, if not September 2001.

The war has been discussed ad nauseum for many months now. The pros and cons have been listed by so many people in so many forums that it would take a Herculean act of apathy to not have heard most of them.

For me, it comes down to this:

Several months ago, I thought about what I would do if I were Saddam Hussein. The short answer is this: I would put everything I had into making not one nuclear weapon, but two. I would then light one off in the middle of the desert to prove that I had it, and inform the world -- particularly the United States -- that the other one was on a mobile SCUD launcher somewhere in the country and was aimed at Tel Aviv. "If anyone fucks with me, I launch."

I have yet to hear an argument from the anti-war faction that truly soothes my concerns about this, the ultimate hostage scenario. Israel is a fully functional democracy, and our greatest ally in the region. Allowing them to come under this threat is absolutely unacceptable.

Beyond that, from what I can tell, the anti-war position regarding Saddam is, basically, let's wait until he dies. Well, ignoring sneering references to how well that solution has worked with Castro, this seems like a fairly optimistic approach. Saddam is perfectly aware of the possibility that he will one day be too weak -- due to age or illness -- to keep the government under his control. Not wishing to be killed or imprisoned in a coup, he has surely laid the groundwork for choosing a successor, quite possibly one of his sons. Which means that even with Hussein himself out of the picture, the Iraqi government would remain essentially the same. This would mean that we could be in the exact same position in 15, 20, or even 30 years.

For these reasons, I have leaned toward supporting the war.

Several months ago, I tried to come up with the best way to ensure that Iraq does not have nuclear weapons. What I came up with (and have since heard in various anti-war circles) was massive inspections backed up by the threat of credible force. A group of inspectors is being prevented by Iraqi government officials from entering a certain site? Fine. Six hours later, blow it to hell. After two or three incidents like this, the inspectors would have free reign over the country - without putting our troops in danger or causing unnecessary civilian casualties.

I have yet to hear an argument from the pro-war faction that truly convinces me that this approach would not be effective.

Beyond that, over the course of the last several months, our government has acted in bad faith - toward us, toward Iraq, and toward the world. If our case for war was truly as strong as the Bush administration has insisted, then why have they put out so much information that is misleading and verifiably false? I do not for one minute believe that the administration has made a real effort to work with the world and with Iraq. The last six months have been an elaborate charade, a mask to make the war more palatable to people who do not think that war is always good.

For these reasons, I have leaned toward opposing the war.

These are the concerns I have had for many months as the situation has developed.

But what do I think now, on the eve of hostilities, when bombs may be dropping as I write these words?

I have decided that I am against the war, for two reasons.

The first reason, to steal a phrase from someone, is that I do not trust this administration not to fuck up the aftermath. The thing that put me over the edge on this one was the fact that we were willing to sell out the Kurds in order to win Turkey's support. The fact that Turkey did not accept our offer does not change anything. In that moment, we lost all claims on this war being about freeing the oppressed and helping the Iraqi people. Anyone who still thinks we want to help oppressed people with this war doesn't know what they are talking about. Beyond that, the foreign policy of this administration has been a complete disaster. It is nearly impossible to describe just how incompetent the Bush people have been when it comes to almost everything beyond our shores. In the eyes of most of the world, we have gone, in a year and a half, from the most loved and sympathized-with country to the most hated and feared. The North Korean situation is the most frightening thing to happen in the last twenty years (yes, I view the existence of an unpredictable, hostile regime with the ability to put a nuclear weapon on the west coast as worse than terrorism), and it can be directly traced to the swaggering bluster of the ideologues who currently run our government. And just as Iran -- a nation that is very close to becoming a nuclear power -- edges toward a new revolution, one that will pull the America-hating theocrats from power, we engage in a war that will undoubtedly stir anti-American sentiment, which can only help the mullahs and the ayatollahs.

I think it is an accurate depiction of our foreign policy in general that even Mexico will not back us up in this war.

This whole operation will be for naught if the cleanup is not an international endeavor, and the fact that so many of our allies are balking leads me to believe that, rather than all of them being evil and stupid, perhaps we have been doing something wrong.

The second reason I am opposed is philosophical.

I am not against all war. We are not advanced enough as a civilization to make war unnecessary. Someday...maybe. But not yet.

We are the strongest nation in the world, militarily and economically. We can, essentially, do whatever we want.

But what sets us apart from the Roman Empire -- the only real historical precedent for such unmatched power -- is the fact that we participate in the world community; not as a king, but as a peer.

This is a critically important distinction, for in a worldwide civilization of free people, which we are slowly becoming, that participation -- as opposed to the dictating of terms -- is what gives us the moral authority to condemn dictators and despots. It is not our own sense of righteousness that makes our actions acceptable. Virtually every nation in history that has gone to war believed they were in the right. To paraphrase someone, no one thinks God is on the enemy's side. It is, instead, the consent of the global community that grants true historical legitimacy to our actions, for then we are no longer acting as a single nation, but as an agent of the collective will of humanity.

Does this mean that I do not believe in the sovereignty of the United States? No. Does this mean that we should never, ever act outside of the UN? No. But it does mean that the UN, while an organization with serious flaws, is not the flimsy bit of bureaucracy to be dismissed out of hand that the Bush administration has regarded it as.

In the end, you can yell all you want about how hostilities technically never ceased after the Gulf War, and how we have had UN approval for twelve years, and how resolution 1441 authorizes us to start the war, but make no mistake: in this war, we are acting as an aggressor nation, not just without the consent of the global community, but in the face of its active opposition. This is a first for the United States, and I am very afraid that that is a bridge that, once crossed, cannot be uncrossed.

And so I join the ranks of those who would support the war, were it not for the stunning incompetence and disdain for international opinion displayed by the current administration in bringing it to pass.

But all of this is merely for the record. If the war hasn't already begun, it will soon, and nothing I or anyone else says about it matters anymore.

So fuck it. Let's hope it goes well.

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