The Iraq War

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Was Saddam a threat to the world? Perhaps, eventually. But there are many threats just as bad or worse (of which America is one), and to try to attack them all would lead to complete international chaos. Was Saddam such an undeniably immediate and powerful danger as would be required to make "pre-emptive" attacking conscionable? Not at all, in my opinion. Nuclear weapons are really the only "weapons of mass destruction" dangerous to the world and the US - and Saddam both has not been shown to have them, nor to have his finger on the red button if he did (which might constitute reason to attack if we had proof he was going to use it). Chemical weapons are inefficient compared to traditional weapons (especially in battle, where winds can shift, but also for terrorists, who can only affect relatively small numbers). Biological agents are barely more dangerous - we've been living with anthrax, smallpox, plague and such for thousands of years, and these things can be treated today. Whether in battle or terrorist attack, biological and chemical agents are not a huge danger; and Saddam certainly wasn't using the nuclear weapons he didn't have. So I simply don't think he was enough of a threat to warrant the attack on the grounds of world threat.

However, I will admit Saddam was a brutal bastard who ran a horrible regime. Unfortunately, there are countless more dictators around the world just as bad or worse. The question of international intervention is a very tricky one, as one has to balance respect for the sovereignty of other nations and their ability to govern themselves with the desire to stop the worst human rights violations. Unfortunately, even if there were an easy answer on when it is conscionable to intervene, there will always be flaws in the system that make things even more complex. For one, it may simply not be possible to intervene in every case, in which case the choice of when to intervene may end up boiling down to rather troublesome reasons (i.e. the "liberators" choosing places that would help secure their power or boost their economy, etc.). The potential for corruption is huge. The United Nations, one would hope, helps to limit this by seeking a larger body of nations for deciding when intervention is warranted. Unfortunately, (1) the US (and other countries) are willing to ignore the UN and act on their own, and (2) the UN has just as much potential of abuse as singular countries. Any governmental body (of which the UN is one) is established on the basis of the use of force, and it is all too easy for governments to become corrupt (even when many of those participating in them, directly or indirectly, come to support their actions).

Either way, there is also the fact that intervention may make things worse. For one thing, civilian casualties from intervention may be just as horrible as the atrocities committed by the dictator to be ousted or censured. Also, actions like the US is taking in Iraq may really destabilize the global political scene and lead to even worse problems. For that matter, a worse regime may end up in charge (one need only look back as far as the Afghanistan attacks to see that regional warlords have taken over in many places now and often made things worse over there) - whether by a local power filling in the vacuum or by a corrupt puppet regime being installed (or at least, a regime "friendly" to the interests of the attackers). In addition, the acts are seen (perhaps not wrongly) as acts of imperialism or naked aggression against a certain group, and could easily lead to more, not less, terrorists. When families are torn apart by the death that comes from intervention, those who are left behind have a lot of motivation to get some sort of revenge, and few ties to their old life (dead families and destroyed homes) holding them back from taking action (similar to the proliferation of suicide bombers in Palestine as the massive Isreali government tightens its grip on the region and abuses the native population). So things could end up a lot worse through even the most well-intentioned intervention, and intervention is obviously not always completely well-intentioned.

Now, getting back to the Iraq situation specifically, I would say that there wasn't near enough evidence for me to support the attack on the basis of Saddam's treatment of the local people (including the Kurds). Yes, he used chemical weapons, but as I pointed out above, I don't understand the huge deal of that. Chemical weapons weren't avoided in World War II out of humanitarian concerns, but because World War I had shown that they are ineffective compared to conventional weapons (which are just as good at killing non-combatants). Death by gas or death by bullet is death either way. As for whether his actions warrant intervention anyway, I just haven't been convinced that it would be worth ignoring the above mentioned problems. Why attack Iraq, and why now? One could argue all sorts of interesting angles (including the push of the PNAC, founded by a plethora of Bush administration high ups; or the speculation that Bush wants personal revenge for the assassination attempt on his father), but the fact is it doesn't matter, because none of them seem to be good enough reasons to do what we are doing. It is one thing to defend one's self or one's allies from aggressive attacks, but another thing to commit those aggressive acts one's self. It's one thing to try to save an innocent people from certain genocide, but another thing to risk just as many innocent lives under the veil of "saving them" in a situation that is at least far from "certain genocide" and definitely not the worst human rights violations to be found on the globe. This just isn't an attack I could imagine supporting.

I do not support the attack on Iraq. I do not support our troops in their actions, though I do hope they come home with minimal casualties and minimal kills on their consciences.

Originally Written: 03-23-03
Last Updated: 11-14-03