February 06, 2004

Defense of the War

Graham Ware, a fellow Redeemerite and blogger, commented on the US-led war in Iraq (scroll down to "The Fuhrer, George W. Bush"). I've commented below.

Nextly, in the Iraq war debate... where are these WMD? I have yet to see one iota of proof of any WMD, or even WMD programs. Didn't Bush attack on the grounds that Saddam was ready to attack using WMD? Which of course, brings me to comment on the idea of "imminent threat." During the attack on Iraq, the Iraqi army was unable to get a single plane in the air, their tanks sat unmanned at airports and bases, and the fighting forces were militia. Baghdad was taken in 6 weeks. And this is the country that was an imminent threat to world? They didn't have pilots to fly their planes, soldiers to fight, or even the ability to defend themselves. Imminent threat my arse!
Everyone's intelligence services (US, UK, France...) said that Saddam likely did have WMD. We couldn't prove it because Saddam wasn't cooperating -- and under the ceasefire agreement (not peace treaty mind you) at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, the burden of proof was placed on Iraq to prove they were disarming. Bush did not say the threat was imminent, quite the opposite. Here's his words in the State of the Union address, January 2003:
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.
It is difficult to postulate that the President of the United States, in the yearly speech watched by all politically-minded Americans and laying out his plans and positions for the year (something like the Canadian Speech from the Throne, if I understand that rightly), would propound an argument diametrically opposite to the one his Administration really wanted disseminated -- that "Saddam is an imminent threat".

This is all something of a red herring to me, though. I never thought WMD was the best argument, and I suspect it was used to bring in international allies like the UK, Australia, Poland, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, Japan... the list goes on. I supported the war on these legal and anti-terrorism grounds as well, but my primary reason was moral. I believe it's the responsibility of the free and the rich peoples of the world to help their fellow human beings suffering under oppressive governments. Iraq was a good place to begin this effort because of the legal reason (US, Iraq technically still at war), the threat reason (unaccounted-for WMD, support for Palestinian terrorists if not others, prior aggression against Kuwait and internal dissidents & minorities) and, yes, the strategic interests. While I don't think OIIILLL is the main concern, it is the foundation of the world economy, and until we're able to develop alternative, cost-efficient energy sources, I would prefer not to have the world held captive to the whims of a few Mideastern dictators.

Many of my fellow Americans will not agree with me. There's a strong isolationist streak in American thought, an unwillingness to deal with the rest of the world. We'd really just prefer to stay at home (remember, we showed up late for both World Wars). I think this is unfortunate, and that Americans should be working all around the world to do what they can to make it better.

Am I a starry-eyed liberal? I don't think so. We have a mixed record -- off the top of my head, successes in Germany and Japan, failures in Colombia and other places. Sin is everywhere, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't try to do the right thing. And I don't see how overthrowing or closely watching repressive, brutal regimes like Saddam's Iraq (and hopefully Kim Jong Il's N. Korea, through diplomacy if possible) is wrong.

I'm more worried about the widespread, and I think a bit racist, beliefs that (a) non-Western peoples would rather live under homegrown oppressors than West-aided representative governments and (b) governments have the right to do anything they wish to their subjects. I believe that governments are instituted by God, yes -- and even non-representative governments should be given respect as God's instrument to uphold justice (as Paul said about the Roman Empire, hardly a liberal construction). I do not believe that those engaged in systematic denial of their peoples' rights as humans, image-bearers of God, should be given a free pass.

I'm not a huge fan of the President's policies. His domestic programs are largely illegal encroachments of the Federal Government onto the terrain of the states and local governments (if not the people themselves). But what else is new since FDR. He's not been as harsh on Saudi Arabia as he should have been, and I have other small quibbles with his foreign policy, but ultimately it looks like I shall have to vote for him over John Kerry or whoever the Democrats put up against him, and I suspect lots of Republicans feel the way I do. It makes me wish a little that we had proportional representation. It makes me wish a lot that Washington would just go away and leave us be. But that's another post.

Posted by Tim at February 6, 2004 09:40 PM | TrackBack

Well, Tim, it seems we may have to agree to disagree. I will post a respone on my page.

Posted by: Graham Ware at February 7, 2004 03:00 AM

my respone is up. It is entitled "Against Tim Van Alstyne" not meant to be disrespectful, meant to be witty. It isn't really, but it's my sad attempt at wit.

Posted by: Graham Ware at February 7, 2004 04:35 PM
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