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Should conservatives support a war against Iraq?

By Rachel Alexander
web posted December 23, 2002

Quite a few conservatives, particularly neoconservatives, agree that President Bush has made the case for attacking Iraq. President Bush has obtained Congressional approval as well as the support of a U.N. Security Resolution to proceed with action against Iraq if Iraq does not comply with U.N. inspection and disarmament requests. Yet there are a few conservatives, including Bush's own Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who believe the U.S. should not start a war with Iraq, even if Saddam fails to comply completely with disarmanent and weapons inspection. There are intriguing arguments on both sides.

Iraq has flaunted requests for weapons inspections for years, so why invade now? Proponents of attacking Iraq argue that precisely because of the last decade of indecisiveness by the U.S., Saddam is getting more bold and so it is imperative now that he be stopped.

Since 1991, Iraqi officials have blocked weapons inspection attempts by the U.N. After Iraq completely kicked out the weapons inspectors in 1998, the U.S. and Britain launched a series of air attacks on Iraq, until Saddam reluctantly agreed to allow the inspections. However, most people are suspicious that he has not been revealing everything. Unfortunately, this has been difficult to prove. Critics of Bush's ultimatums against Iraq ask if it is really fair to attack a country based only on suspicion. Supporters of President Bush are hopeful that the U.S. does have real evidence to back Bush's position.

Looking at the broader picture, there are several reasons why many believe we must attack Iraq. Iraq has given support to terrorist groups for years, and has ties to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network. This is part of the war on terrorism. However, there are several countries that give support to terrorist counties. Furthermore, fifteen out of the nineteen hijackers in the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia, as well as Osama bin Laden himself. Several Saudi Arabian charities in the U.S. have been shut down since 9/11 for funneling money to terrorists. Yet Saudi Arabia is considered an ally, far from a country we would invade. There are other countries harboring mass weapons of destruction, yet Bush is not threatening war against them. Why isn't the U.S. talking of invading North Korea or China? According to some, the difference is that Saddam Hussein is the only leader who has used weapons of mass destruction - chemical weapons. Furthermore, he has offered shelter to al Quaida and vowed revenge against the U.S.

Some critics, as well as many conservatives including Colin Powell, Dick Armey, Pat Buchanan, General Schwartzkopf, Brett Scowcroft, and Lawrence Eagleburger, claim that Bush wants to invade Iraq because of a fear that Iraq will interfere with U.S. access to cheap oil in the Middle East. The U.S. frequently supports dictators of oil exporting countries, which currently include the dictators of Venezuela and Nigeria. Critics believe that the U.S. supports those tyrants because they are relatively "friendly" to the U.S., whereas Saddam has been far from "friendly." By 2020, the U.S. need for oil will increase by 70 percent, making it necessary to find new suppliers. Iraq currently exports 12 per cent of the oil in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia exports the most of any Persian Gulf country, with 44 per cent of total exports. As long as Saudi Arabia's government is perceived as being friendly to the U.S., it is expected that the U.S. will continue to treat it as an ally. This is troubling, because countries like Saudi Arabia really aren't loyal U.S. allies. Perhaps the U.S. should instead use the money it plans to spend on a military battle for alternative sources of energy or obtain oil elsewhere, such as within our own territory. Until it does, its military activities in the Middle East are going to look suspiciously related to its oil policy.

Opponents of attacking Iraq point out that killing Iraqis will only escalate hostility by Arabs and Muslims towards the U.S., increasing the likelihood of more terrorist attacks against the U.S. Few countries currently support a U.S. war against Iraq, but it is suspected that several of Saddam's neighbors would not be unhappy to see him removed. Iraq has already attacked Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iran, which has to make some of the other nearby countries uneasy. Because of Saddam's reputation for brutality even to those closest to him, it is also surmised that many of his own countrymen would be relieved to have him disposed of in some fashion.

Many on the Left would prefer to stick with President Clinton's Iraq policy, which, as pointed out in a recent article by Michael Kelly, preferred the status quo of Saddam Hussein in power because it ensured a certain level of stability in the Middle East. Yet what kind of "stability" is that, with Iraq occasionally attacking other nations and more recently threatening to attack the U.S.?

Critics of a U.S. invasion of Iraq point out that the U.S. is bound by the U.N. Charter, which at first glance appears not to support a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Article 2 of the U.N. Charter forbids "the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state" and requires UN members to "settle their international disputes by peaceful means." Furthermore, the U.N. only authorizes region wide disarmament of "mass weapons of destruction" - not targeting one country for disarmament. Bush has clearly not called for disarming Israel, Pakistan, and India, the latter two which have nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, Bush has obtained the support of a U.N. resolution calling for "serious consequences" should Saddam fail to comply with weapons inspections. Saddam is in violation of the U.N. Gulf War Armistice, which provides that a failure by Iraq to adhere to its terms could result in continued hostilities. Iraq has repeatedly breached a past U.N. resolution, as well as the most recent resolution, which prohibit it from attacking U.S. and British aircraft in the No- Fly Zones. Why should the U.S. follow the U.N. charter to the letter if it contradicts the Gulf War Armistice, and removes the teeth from its own Security Resolution? The U.N. Charter was written by smaller countries, many of which dislike the amount of power the U.S. holds. Why should the U.S. allow itself to be subject to rules that weaken it, letting the wannabe bullies win? Iraq doesn't play by U.N. rules; does that mean it should be allowed to trump the U.S.? Yet on the other hand, maybe the U.S. should hold itself to a higher moral standard than Iraq.

Opponents of attacking Iraq point to a 1999 UNICEF study that reported that sanctions against Iraq have resulted in an extra 1,500,000 deaths of Iraqi citizens, and have increased the mortality rate for Iraqi children by 160 per cent. They also contend that most of Iraq's medical problems are a direct result of the U.S. bombing campaign in 1991 that destroyed Iraq's factories, water and sewage treatment plants and electrical power plants, which have never been restored. However, it is also claimed by others that these are widely exaggerated numbers provided by Saddam's regime for propaganda purposes.

Would a war with Iraq result in another Vietnam, or a Cuban Missile Crisis? Even if the U.S. were to successfully remove Saddam, it is beyond debate that U.S. troops would need to remain in Iraq for years down the road. Will Americans support keeping U.S. troops in a country for a reason they suspect is even less justified than supporting democracy - oil? Or, after attacking Baghdad, Saddam could concede just enough so Bush loses significant support, from both Congress and U.S. allies, rendering Bush powerless to continue a war. Nothing would end up being actually accomplished, similar to what happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kruschev didn't go away, he just agreed not to use nuclear weapons at that instance, in return for major concessions from President Kennedy. The "success" was limited to containment, not a triumphant defeat. Is containment what Bush's goal is with Iraq? Even if the U.S. successfully attacks Iraq, what is success? The U.S. allegedly won the Gulf War, but obviously, it did not resolve the Iraq problem.

Are nuclear weapons really the reason why the U.S. should crack down on Iraq? What may end up being more dangerous than nuclear weapons is Saddam's chemical weapons. He knows how to use them effectively, having done so in the past. The weapons inspectors are not even sure where the chemical facilities are located, so they will likely not find them during their inspections. Even if Saddam allows an honest inspection of his nuclear facilities, the chemical weapons will still be there.

Although it is clear that Saddam and his regime comprise one of the most evil governments in the world today, it is important that conservatives understand thoroughly the reasons and ramifications for attacking Iraq, because ultimately, there are a lot of lives at stake.

Rachel Alexander can be reached at editor@intellectualconservative.com. She is the founder of the web site Intellectual Conservative.

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