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Why Go to War?
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
As I begin writing this, there's just over a day left until the deadline for Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq expires. I think it's important to write, one last time, about the reasons for going to war. I see three reasons, two of which justify regime change in Iraq, and one of which justifies addressing Iraq before any other nation.
These reasons are not original, and many people have written about them before me, especially in the blogosphere. But I still wish to write about the reasons one last time before the shooting starts.
The first reason I have for regime change is that I believe that war is inevitable, and that war now will be better for all concerned than war later. We've known that in the past, Saddam has produced weapons of mass destructions under the inspection regime. His failure to completely disarm is what is causing this latest crisis. We need to ask why.
The only reason I can think for him to continue to risk so much to possess weapons of mass destruction is that he plans to use them. The only uses I can see is to use them to invade his neighbors or oppress his people. Now, Saddam has only chemical and biological weapons, which I think we can handle. His generals know that the massive US and allied army will quickly defeat the Iraqi regime, which mitigates against the use of these weapons. But in a first strike, without a massive US army in the region, with nuclear weaponry, the equations change. That's a dangerous place for US troops to be in, and I think it's inevitable unless the Iraqi regime is changed.
The second argument is one of compassion. The Iraqi people are being tortured and being killed by Saddam's regime. This is not for crimes as we know them, but instead because the criticize the Iraqi regime. Saddam diverts food aid from his people to build palaces and weapons. These people deserve liberty and the chance to control their own destiny, rather than to have their futures determined by a strongman who happened to seize power.
I don't think this reason is enough for the US to go to war, to risk American lives. If it wasn't for that, it would be. If the US could, without risk, overturn these horrible regimes, then I would support that wholeheartedly. Even now, it's appealing, and I think it needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But I think that this is a strong additional reason to go to war, and one that should be appealing to the many people who believe in justice more than reflexive anti-Americanism.
The final reason may not be enough to justify invading Iraq. It is a reason to choose to address Iraq now, given the above. The creation of an Arab liberal democracy is key to winning the war on terror. We need to provide options, to show the region that Democracy can work, that people of different beliefs can get along. Iraq provides an ideal location for this, consisting of both Shi'a and Sunni Muslims, as well as 3% Christians and other religions.
If a liberal democracy can be made to work here (and the oil reserves and US troops may help), then it may become an example to the rest of the Arab world, that there is a way other than violence, conquest, racism and hatred. If taken up by other Arab nations, such as neighbors Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, it can go a long way to reducing the social forces behind terrorism. At the very least, it will remove Saddam as a funding source for terrorism in the mideast.
War is never an easy thing, but there are good reasons behind this one. We will prevent a future war that could be much worse for both sides, we will free the Iraqi people from an evil dictator, and we will take another step in the long war on terror. For all these reasons, we should and will use force to defeat Saddam.
Twenty-Three hours left.
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