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Over the weekend, the Bush administration signaled its intention to proceed with military action in Iraq in the very near future. The signals, exhibited by the President and his cabinet through press conferences and on talk shows, come after what the administration describes as an attempt to go “the last mile for diplomacy.” This attempt, evidently, has failed, as President Bush announced Monday night his intent to authorize the use of military force, absent United Nations (U.N.) approval, should Saddam Hussein refuse to leave the country by Wednesday evening. Given America’s position in the global war on terror, its interest in promoting stability in the Middle East and its stated aim of helping the Iraqi people, war at this time seems contrary to America’s goals. We oppose unilateral military action in Iraq.
Much of the rhetoric advanced by war’s proponents rests on the premise that our efforts at “liberation” will lead to a more democratic Iraq; but this is overly optimistic. Installing the mechanisms for democratic government in Iraq—whose infrastructure will have been decimated by war—requires an enormous commitment. But after its failure in Afghanistan, we doubt the Bush administration’s will to follow through. Before war began in Afghanistan, the President’s public goals were to dismantle the Taliban government, destroy terrorist training facilities and aid in the humanitarian relief and rebuilding necessary to improve the quality of life of the Afghan people. Little more than a year later, however, funding for Afghanistan’s restoration is conspicuously absent from the Bush budget. This should give pause to those who consider war in Iraq a humanitarian effort.
Similarly, those who support war argue that the removal of Saddam Hussein will increase stability in the Middle East; but this notion is also ill conceived. In January of 1991, following the beginning of the first Gulf War, Iraq responded to attack by launching SCUD missiles into Israel. The United States prevented Israel from retaliating by arguing that doing so would destabilize the careful coalition that then-President George H.W. Bush had assembled to prosecute the war. Convincing Israel and other countries that will suffer from Iraqi attacks not to retaliate will be much more difficult if America is fighting in Iraq on its own. The instability that will result from Hussein’s retributional attacks, promised Sunday to occur “wherever there is sky, land and water,” is in no one’s interest.
Going to war in Iraq also puts at risk the success of our broader effort to combat al Qaeda worldwide. Beyond the shift of resources and attention from our anti-terrorism campaign to our anti-Iraq campaign, initiating an unpopular military conflict in Iraq may alienate crucial allies necessary to the capture of terrorists. Recent successes in the war on terror have come as a result of the work of law-enforcement agencies in many countries. As anti-American sentiment gains traction in these countries, a good-faith cooperation will be harder to produce. War in Iraq is not, as the Bush administration argues, part of an effort to fight terrorism; rather its effects will undermine this very effort by placing unnecessary stress on already weak alliances. Further, the increased anti-Americanism spawned by frustration with our unilateralism may very well fuel terrorist organizations, aid in their recruiting efforts and increase the risk of terrorist attack in the United States and its interests abroad.
Finally, acting in the face of U.N. disapproval undercuts the foundational purpose of the organization itself, as outlined in its charter: “to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest.” Acting contrary to the clear and stated preference of the U.N. security council undercuts the council’s directives and makes any further U.N. position—even those with which America might agree—less legitimate.
Had broader international support been assembled, military action in Iraq may have been more palatable. The goal of disarming a dangerous tyrant is a worthy one, and bringing relief to a nation crippled by totalitarianism is a noble objective. But given the lonesome international situation in which Bush now stands, we cannot support the President’s plan for war.
Dissent: Saddam Must Go
The Staff calls impending military intervention in Iraq unilateral. But the facts show that it is not. Eight European leaders, as well as the leaders of 10 prospective European Union (E.U.) members, are in full agreement with Bush. Saddam Hussein remains in breach of U.N. resolutions that he disarm, stop developing weapons of mass destruction and stop brutally repressing civilians. By allowing Saddam’s recalcitrance to continue indefinitely, the U.N. has failed in its fundamental responsibility “to maintain international peace and security.”
The Staff questions Bush’s commitment to humanitarian rebuilding. But U.S. investment in Afghanistan shows real progress towards building stable democracy. Since Oct. 2001, the US has budgeted $38 million “to help the Afghan people strengthen civic institutions and reinforce democracy,” $23 million for “improved access to primary health care,” and $2.5 million for “the construction of 14 women’s centers.” Such improvements in Afghan living standards fight anti-American demagoguery in the Middle East far more powerfully than does continued waffling while demagogues like Saddam remain in power.
We believe that Bush must act to safeguard American interests in democracy and stability in the Middle East, and we believe that for democracy and stability to prevail, Saddam must relinquish his power. We support military intervention in Iraq.
—Noam B. Katz ’04, Travis R. Kavulla ’06, Zachary Z Norman ’04, Luke Smith ’04, Simon W. Vozick-Levinson ’06 and Andrew P. Winerman ’04
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