One Person's Opinion
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Thursday, April 03, 2003
ROOT ROOT ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM:
I have spent a fair amount of time here criticizing the Right for slamming everyone who opposes the war as anti-American and unpatriotic. For some reason, that is the default thinking pattern of American hawks at a time of war-- this is something that has happened in just about every previous war.
But as I noted in my last post, there is at least some anti-Americanism out there. What was I talking about? Well, there was a college professor who wished a "million Mogudishus" on the U.S. army last week. There are some people in the anti-war movement who don't want to hear about Saddam Hussein's dreadful history of chemical weapons attacks and systematic torture.
These people are marginal figures. I think they unfortunately give the Right ammunition to paint the whole anti-war movement as unpatriotic. But to resist this charge, the anti-war movement needs to do what the French and German governments did today: make clear that if it is a choice between Iraq winning the war and America winning it, America must win the war. Saddam Hussein is not Che Guevara. He is a ruthless dictator who runs an oppressive totalitarian state. He has screwed his people by refusing to get rid of his weapons and thus ensuring continued economic sanctions that have killed up to a million Iraqis. The Arab world needs more democracies, not more governments like Saddam's.
I didn't particularly care whether he invaded Iran or Kuwait-- those governments are horribly oppressive as well. (Kuwait's is also elitist and racist-- I don't have any sympathy for a government that imports foreigners to do the work to support its lazy population, and then refuses to provide any means for those foreigners to attain citizenship and share in the wealth of the country.) I certainly wouldn't have cared if he had invaded Saudi Arabia in 1991, the threat that caused Bush 41 to start the Gulf War. If Saddam had overthrown the Saudi monarchy and imposed his will on Arabia, Osama Bin Laden might have chosen to turn his formidable fire at Saddam rather than the United States.
But the current war is not Iran vs. Iraq, or Saudi Arabia vs. Iraq. This is Saddam Hussein versus a coalition that, whatever else you want to say about it, is attempting to impose a decent government in Iraq. Even the worst possible government that the coalition could install, full of neoconservatives more concerned with the security of Israel than the aspirations of the Iraqi people, would be a distinct improvement over the Baath dictatorship. The new government will not stockpile chemical weapons. It will not torture dissidents. It will not squander the country's considerable oil wealth building presidential palaces and buying tons of armaments. And it is quite likely that the government that we install will be much better than even that worst-case scenario. Iraq stands a chance of becoming some sort of a democracy, or at least a federated state that protects the rights of its minority groups (unlike any of the other countries in the region).
The point is, rooting for Mogudishu, or Vietnam, in this war, is rooting for the bad guys. Of course, one can still protest for peace, protest American tactics, or seek a pullout from Iraq. Such protests played a role in our pullouts from Vietnam and Somalia, which saved countless lives in needless conflicts.
And I don't flinch from my position that we should not have started this war in the first place. Indeed, I fear that after this war, the US will seek out future conflicts because there are very few remaining checks on American power. (I suspect we could defeat just about any country that doesn't have nuclear weapons.) I also fear that widespread nuclear proliferation will occur because countries with questionable governments (and there are many of them) will seek the security that Kim Jong Il has obtained against American attack. Whoever replaces W in the White House is going to have a difficult task of rebuilding international security mechanisms that W has destroyed with his inept and reckless foreign policies.
Those things are all true. But we must still defeat Saddam Hussein. Even in some of our more imperialist exercises have been good for the world in the long term. (Not all, just some. Kissinger should still face his day of reckoning for what we did in Chile.) Would Panama be better off if they still had Noriega? South Korea has a wonderful government; one hates to think what would had happened if the North had taken over.
The most important thing that we can all do in the coming days and weeks and months is to force the Bush Administration to keep its promises to install a decent government to replace Saddam Hussein. I wish we had chosen the route of peace. But when someone hands you a tub of lemons, you have little choice but to try and make lemonade.
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