If President Bush is Right
Recently a close friend challenged me about my position on the pending war with Iraq. His point was that USA failure to provide the UN with solid evidence of Iraqi possession of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons was simply because we donít share all the information we have with the UN, presumably to protect the information sources. He further stated that if President Bush backs down in the face of UN vetoes, and we later have a terrorist attack in the USA in which the source of weapons for the terrorists is Iraq, then President Bush will go down in history as a bad president for not protecting the citizens of the USA.
I bit my tongue and promised that I would examine that scenario in deference to my friend. The arguments he presented have been heard publicly now for some time, so I wonít attribute the lack of believability of the arguments to any deficiency on my friendís part. I will simply accept the arguments at face value and proceed from there. The question, given my friendís position, becomes what is the future security of the USA if we do attack and conquer Iraq?
If we do have solid knowledge that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, and we conquer Iraq, then it is obvious that we will eliminate that threat to USA security. Then, the question becomes whether or not other nations with programs for weapons of mass destruction might also provide terrorists with those weapons to attack the USA. The answer is yes.
One might argue that reducing the overall threat by eliminating Iraq is still better than doing nothing, even if other countries are ready to supply the terrorists. It is true that fewer active enemies is better than the pre-Iraq situation, but it is necessary to plot out the future in terms of risk to the USA and USA response.
We have been and are attempting to be a world policeman. That is a thankless job that may be critical to world peace, particularly when other strong UN member countries choose "laisse faire" instead of direct participation in the policing activity. But we must also consider what it means to fill that role.
First, we become the focal point of anger for all countries that feel economically or militarily oppressed. This means we are inviting attack while other UN members stay out of the fray. Then, the questions become, do we have the economic and military resources to underwrite our chosen role, and the will of the USA citizens to pay sufficient taxes for that global service?
The problem with most aggressors is that they fail to look into the future to understand the implications of their proposed actions today. So even if we are correct about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction, we are setting our future course internationally and irreversibly if we attack without UN approval.
Our problem today is lack of vision to see where assertion of our will will land us ten or twenty years from now. Wars are horribly expensive and USA citizens will not be inclined to elect people who are found responsible for ruining our economy through military conquest. New terrorist attacks in the USA after Iraq is conquered will also raise the question of stupidity in our strategic planning.
We are thus in a most difficult position if we proceed without UN approval, for to ensure security here we either must appease our enemies today or be prepared to conquer a lot of nations going forward. That includes all belligerent nations, including North Korea. It also includes all Islamic nations.
One of the problems of going it alone is that nations that do not participate have a downstream economic and military advantage. The weaker we become in exhausting our military and economic capabilities, the stronger the other nations become. I can imagine China, Russia, France and Germany sitting back watching us self-destruct. They wonít have long to wait before their relative strengths exceed ours, at which point they will eat our lunch.
In the end, my friendís challenge was unassailable if, and only if, all of the assumptions of the argument are true and if one is absolutely blind to future implications of unilateral assault without UN approval. We either make our case with proof or we do not get help from other member nations. We may not need that help now, but we certainly will in the future. Even now I must ask, is any source so valuable that itís protection is worth the price we will have to pay? I find a "yes" answer totally illogical, so if we have proof we would already have shown it to the UN.
Finally, I must conclude that patience in disarming Iraq is sensible and mature, and allows for growth in UN cooperation instead of decline into a world of warring coalitions, even if President Bush is right.