Friday, January 31, 2003

This is a difficult post to write. It is my attempt to get at the heart of the problem with Bush's approach to Iraq. Bear with me. I was flipping through the channels this morning and ended up watching a segment on FOX. They were showing photos of Iraqi citizens who have been killed by Sadaam Hussein. Now, I know that FOX is propaganda central. They can never be trusted to tell the truth, even when they are telling the truth. But, the photos shown this morning were extremely disturbing. Piles of bodies. Children and babies sprawled on the ground, contorted in agony from the gas they inhaled. Images as disturbing as anything that came out of Auschwitz or Buchenwald. These images force me to come to terms with core issues. I believe, in my heart, that there is a case to be made for removing Hussein from power. Yes, even if it means going to war to do it. The problem is, I simply do not trust Bush to do it right. Any proposed solution to a problem has to meet three criteria in order for me to support it: 1. Show that it is a problem that needs solving. 2. Show that there is a solution that will fix the problem 3. Show that the solution will not cause as many problems, if not more so, than the original problem to be solved. If any proposed solution fails to meet any of these three criteria then I will not support it. This is based on the conservative principle that "no solution" is better than a "bad solution". How does Bush's proposed war stack up? 1. There most certainly is a problem, but the nature of the problem has been badly stated. Bush has chosen to focus on the WMD and terrorism issues (all valid concerns) with only a sprinkling of the human rights question thrown into the mix. I believe his choice of priorities is dictated more by the desire to scare people into supporting his action more than by any facts in evidence. WMD and terrorism are of concern. But human rights are even more important. Now some may say, "Hey, what difference does it make WHY he wants to do it, just so long as the result is what you want?" I believe this is what Tony Blair thinks. I was listening to NPR this morning and they were discussing Blair's so far unqualified support for Bush. Blair seems to be motivated by a believe that being in power means that you have to use that powers to make the world a better place. Thus, when he saw that Milosevic was a monster that needed to be removed from power, he actively worked to get the European community to join the US in the Kosovo campaign. He sees Hussein as a similar monster and has ended that he also needs to be removed from power and that America is the only one with the means to do so. I agree. I supported the campaign in Kosovo (I am not a pacifist). It was, in my opinion, the first time since WWII that America has used force for a noble purpose. All intervening military actions were either imperialistic adventures or simple necessities brought on by the conditions of the time. There was no strategic advantage to the United States to get involved in the campaign to remove Milosevic. But we did it anyway because, in this one case, it was the right thing to do. If we were to go after Hussein with a similar purpose then I could support it. But, if our motives are questionable, then my support will be hard, even if the result is something that I desire. Why? Because I do not like being lied to. I do not like being manipulated. How can I trust Bush to give me a fair assessment of the problem if I know that he lies about aspects of it? I firmly believe that lies and deception will ultimately destroy any hope we have for a positive result. This ties in to the third criteria and I will talk more about it below. But I want to talk a little more about lies and deception. As I said, I do not appreciate being talked down to by my leaders. I lose faith in that leadership when it does nothing but treat me like a child. If my leaders have to trick me into giving my support then how can I ever trust them with anything? The simple truth is that Bush does not trust me to do what he thinks is right. I see no reason to trust a leader who does not trust the people he leads. 2. Now there is little doubt in my mind that, if we were to attack, that we would remove Hussein from power. But would that really solve the problem? Is the problem only the man or are there deeper problems that cannot be solved by simple military action? And do I trust Bush to understand those additional problems and solve them correctly? Sadly, the answer is no. While I believe that we could remove Hussein from power if we decide to do so, I am not convinced that doing so will ultimately solve the problem. 3. Which leads us to the biggest question of all: what happens next? It is here where I think Bush has completely failed to make the case. It is bad enough that I do not trust him to give me a fair presentation of the problem. But I do not trust the man to comprehend the consequences of a unilateral pre-emptive strike against Hussein. Some will poo-poo these concerns as just being weak-kneed. But I would characterize the lack of concern for consequences to be arrogance of the worst sort. The Bush administration is populated with people who think that they are strong enough handle any of the problems that come along. Maybe. Maybe not. But might it not be the wiser course to minimize the consequences instead of just assuming that there are no consequences that could really harm us? Isn't that the very definition of hubris? Tragedies are built on such arrogance. To conclude: I do not trust Bush to tell me the truth about the real reason we are going to war. I do not trust him to use the war machine at his disposal in a judicious manner. And I do not trust him to either assess the consequences of his actions handle them when they come up to bite him (and us) in the ass. Yet I still would support a military action to remove Hussein from power. Hussein is a monster. Anyone who would do the kinds of things I saw in those pictures deserves to be dragged through the streets by their testicles. But how we go about it will tell as much about our character as his actions tell about his. So, how should we do it? 1. Give a full accounting of the problem to be solved: Hussein is a monster, as Milosevic was a monster, as Hitler was a monster. Monsters should not be allowed to rule because they bring down all humanity by their presence. 2. Remove him from power by forming as large a coalition of humanity as is possible to address the existence of the Monster in our presence. Do not lie or deceive potential allies. Do not threaten or cajole them. Make an appeal to the better angels of their nature. Pre-emptive strikes can be moral if you can persuade the jury of nations to join in removing the Monster from power. You can do this by showing that action can be required for moral as well as practical reasons. 3. Fully assess and take responsibility for what comes next. Do not sweep in, remove the Monster, and then sweep out to leave the people of Iraq to fend for themselves. This is the lesson of WWI, WWII, and the Marshal plan. Investing resources to rebuild a conquered nation can return dividends for years to come. The price of not doing so is far higher than the price of not doing so. If we had a leader who could make a case like this, I could support an attack on Iraq. But we do not. Therefore, despite the pain it brings me given those haunting images I saw this morning, I cannot support this war. And that really pisses me off.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home