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Jewish World Review August 20, 2002 / 12 Elul, 5762

Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow
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Don't start the second Gulf War | President George W. Bush says he hasn't made up his mind about "any of our policies in regard to Iraq." But to not attack after spending months talking about regime change seems inconceivable. Fortunately, war is not likely to be as simple and as certain as he and many others seem to think.

Lots of arguments have been offered on why we need to strike Baghdad. One, for instance, is that Saddam Hussein is an evil man who has brutalized his own people. True, but the world is full of brutal regimes that have murdered their own.

Indeed, Washington's ally Turkey has a policy toward its Kurd population scarcely more gentle than Iraq's Kurd policy.

Slightly more plausible is the contention that a democratic Iraq would provide a model for the rest of the Mideast. But that presupposes democracy can be easily planted and sustained. Professions of unity from an opposition once dismissed by retired Gen. Anthony Zinni as "silk-suited, Rolex-wearing guys in London" offer little comfort and are likely to last no longer than have similar promises in Afghanistan.

Also problematic is Kurdish demands for autonomy and Shiite Muslim resistance to the central government. One defense official told The Washington Post: "I think it is almost a certainty that we'd wind up doing a campaign against the Kurds and Shiites."

Similarly worrisome would be action by Iran, with which Baghdad fought a decade-long war. Tehran might consider intervention against a weakened Iraq as an antidote to serious political unrest at home.

Moreover, while Americans might see America's war on Iraq as a war for democracy, most Arabs would see it as a war for Washington. If the United States deposes Saddam, but leaves in place despotic, pro-American regimes elsewhere -- such as Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- few Arabs would take Washington's rhetoric seriously.

Saddam's complicity in Sept. 11 would present a good argument for devastating retaliation, but there's no evidence that he was involved. The best argument for overthrowing Saddam is the prospect of Baghdad developing weapons of mass destruction.

Yet if nonproliferation should be enforced by waging war, Washington will be very busy in the coming years. The problem is not just countries like Iran and North Korea, which seem to have or have had serious interest in developing atomic weapons. It is India, Pakistan and Russia, which contain unpredictable nationalist and theological currents, have governments of varying instability and offer uncertain security over technical know-how, as well as actual weapons.

Potentially most dangerous is Pakistan's arsenal. The government of Pervez Musharraf is none too steady. Islamabad long supported the Taliban. Its military and intelligence forces almost certainly contain al-Qaeda sympathizers. It is easy to imagine Pakistan's nuclear technology falling into terrorist hands.

In contrast, Saddam would not use such weapons against America, since to do so would guarantee his incineration. Israel possesses a similarly overbearing deterrent. Would Baghdad turn atomic weapons over to terrorists? Not likely.

First, to give up a technology developed at such a high price would be extraordinary. Second, Baghdad would be the immediate suspect and likely target of retaliation should any terrorist deploy nuclear weapons. Third, al-Qaeda holds secular Arab dictators in contempt and might target Saddam as well as America.

Of course, the world would be a better place without Saddam's dictatorship. But that's no reason to initiate war against a state which poses no direct, ongoing threat. Especially since war often has unpredictable consequences.

Washington would have to bear most of the burden, a task made more difficult and expensive without European support and Saudi staging grounds.

If Iraq's forces didn't quickly crumble, the United States might find itself involved in urban conflict that would be costly in human and political terms. Saddam would have an incentive to use any weapons of mass destruction that he possesses, since Washington is dedicated to his overthrow.

Further, the United States would be sloshing gasoline over undemocratic Arab regimes stretching from North Africa to Southeast Asia. Riots in Egypt, a fundamentalist rising in Pakistan, a spurt of sectarian violence in Indonesia, and who knows what else could pose a high price for any success against Iraq.

War is serious. Making war on a country which does not threaten the United States is particularly serious.

Even if the optimists who think a campaign against Iraq would be easy are right -- and we can only hope they are -- war should be a last resort. As House Majority Leader Richard Armey warned, an unprovoked attack "would not be consistent with what we have been as a nation or what we should be as a nation."

There are times when Washington has no choice but to fight.

Iraq is not such a place and now is not such a time.

JWR contributor Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. Comment by clicking here.


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08/06/02: Hostile allies
07/30/02: Protecting or persecuting citizens?
07/23/02: Shifting the risk to Uncle Sam
07/16/02: Fighting the patent wars
07/09/02: Getting that quota feeling
07/02/02: Teetering on the Democratic edge
06/25/02: Judicial litmus tests
06/18/02: Killer teeth?
06/11/02: Europeans defending whom?
05/24/02: Threatening pharmaceutical innovation
05/14/02: The war crimes fantasy
05/07/02: Paying a high price for befriending Saudi princes
04/30/02: The price of postal monopoly
04/23/02: The war on charity
04/16/02: The forgotten human right
03/27/02: Cuba's struggle to be free
03/20/02: How to defeat Cuban communism
03/12/02: Junk science, redux
03/06/02: Axis of hubris
02/27/02: Washington-style campaign reform: incumbent protection
02/20/02: The grand Enron morality play
02/12/02: Rebuilding what?
02/05/02: Succumbing to the terrorist temptation
01/29/02: Democrats for what?
01/22/02: The Iraqi question
01/14/02: Profiling frequent flyers
01/08/02: Trade, not aid
01/02/02: Treason by any other name
12/26/01: Preserving freedom in an unfree world
12/17/01: Dealing with terrorism's aftermath
12/10/01: Emerging friendships?
12/04/01: Uncle Sam: Insurer of last resort
11/28/01: Expanding the circle of trade
11/20/01: Free to be stupid
11/13/01: The meaning of compassion
11/07/01: Patriotic scoundrels
10/30/01: The coming postal raid
10/16/01: First, do no harm
10/12/01: Good news from a suffering land
10/04/01: Defending whom?
09/25/01: The wrong solution to the wrong problem
09/21/01: The price of terrorism
08/28/01: Uncle Sam's retirement scam
08/21/01: Canberra's quaint naivete
08/14/01: Uncle Sam's false fuel economy
08/08/01: The Clinton administration in drag
07/31/01: The high cost of government
07/24/01: Kill the campaign reform illusion
07/17/01: Do as I say, not as I do
07/11/01: Lawyers at play
07/05/01: Western blundering, Macedonian disaster
06/26/01: How best to honor Bill Clinton?
06/19/01: A maturing Europe?
06/15/01: Tell Beijing to mind its own business
06/06/01: Ukraine's boiling cauldron
05/31/01: Protecting privacy from Uncle Sam
05/22/01: America's Balkan quagmire
05/09/01: The Taiwanese flash point
05/01/01: Globalization serves the world's poor
04/24/01: Who's cheating whom?
04/10/01: The NCAA scam
04/03/01: Balkan stupidities
03/27/01: McCain doesn't want a 'risk for our country'
03/20/01: Dubious Korean alliances
03/06/01: Coercive patriotism
02/27/01: Bombing without end
02/20/01: A dose of misplaced outrage
02/13/01: Psst: Tax cuts for taxpayers. Pass-it-on
02/06/01: Bridging the unbridgeable gap
01/23/01: Left-wing demagoguery
01/16/01: The drug war problem
01/10/01: Politics and trade
01/03/01: Hope for liberty?
12/27/00: The debris of war
12/19/00: What's the rule of law for?
12/15/00: Ending silicone breast implant saga
12/05/00: Election may yield victor, but there are no winners
11/21/00: A Bush presidential mandate?
11/07/00: Exprienced Gore? Yeah, right
11/01/00: Interventionist follies
10/17/00: America's brightening prospects in Ukraine
10/11/00: GOP budget scandals
10/03/00: How a pharmaceutical 'crisis' was created
09/27/00: Clinton's empathy has helped nobody
09/13/00: AlGore's risky budget policies
09/05/00: Military readiness and Korean commitments
08/29/00: Let sleeping hypocrites lie
08/21/00: Targeting a journalistic pariah
08/15/00: European garrison for Kosovo?
08/08/00: Journalistic cleansing at the Boston Globe
08/04/00: Junk science on trial
06/22/00: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty
06/15/00: The end of U.N. peacekeeping
06/07/00: The Clinton regulatory miasma
06/01/00: Administration stupidity, congressional cowardice
05/25/00: The silence of the international community
05/18/00: Protecting the next generation

05/11/00: Freer trade with China will advance human rights

05/04/00: How not to save the Constitution

04/28/00: American tripwire in Korea long ago disappeared: Why are we still involved?

04/18/00: Clinton administration believes the IRS is too gentle, wants more auditors

© 2002, Copley News Service