The Libertarian Party's Ten Reasons NOT to go to War with Iraq
Monday, March 10, 2003
by Daryle Hendricksen
In response to Mr. Berg-Andersson's commentary, "REVERSAL OF ROLES... AND FORTUNE-- Still more musings on possible war with Iraq", I wanted to tell him first, that I very much agree with his musings on Iraq (and Al Qaeda, for that matter). I have nothing to disagree on. When thinking long-term, it's difficult not to see Iraq as a potential threat in the way Germany was in 1937.
For my own opinion, I find it difficult to even make the judgment as to whether or not we *should* go to war with Iraq. I simply do not have all of the information. None of us know what President Bush knows, or even what former President Clinton knows. Or the leaders of Great Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. What are their motivations? The Democrats voted in favor of military authorization last October (pre-election) and have been speaking out AGAINST it since early last November! There are so many political variables. Why, for example, does Tony Blair so adamantly support the war, while his own people, and his own political party, swing the other way? What are HIS motivations? Is he a great leader taking the difficult path in spite of the political winds blowing against him? Or is there some other motivation? I don't know.
As I've mentioned before, I'm a member of the Libertarian Party (http://www.lp.org). If you know anything about the LP, you know that they have a rather radical foreign policy outlook. It's what I would call "paleo-conservative". The old GOP view of isolationism. Shrink the size of the military. Stop mucking around in other nation's business. Let's just worry about ourselves. Switzerland doesn't have to worry about terrorism, why should we?
I do not agree with their Foreign Policy views. While I do feel that the U.S. should, more often, mind it's own business, the fact remains that we ARE a "superpower" and as such we cannot simply transform into a Switzerland! Sure, I suppose we could stand down in the way they suggest but I cannot imagine the nightmare scenario that would create. The global power void would be enormous, and would need to be filled somehow. It's scary to think about which country might fill the void, and which leaders might take advantage of the situation. No, returning to isolationism is not an option. The United States is by no means perfect, but I think the world is pretty lucky to have us in the hot-seat, so to speak. Earth could do a lot worse! :)
To be sure, being a "superpower" is both a blessing and a curse!
Nevertheless, in the spirit of playing "devil's advocate", I present to 'The Green Papers' the Libertarian Party's ten reasons NOT to go to war with Iraq. Their reasons are very convincing. I will simply list the reasons here along with select quotes from their article. The link to the article is at the bottom. I invite anyone to read it over and respond to their points. I'm not saying that I agree or disagree, but it is another point of view.
10 reasons why the USA should not attack Iraq...
1) Even if he does have nuclear weapons (or other weapons of mass destruction) Saddam Hussein would not risk using them on the United States.
"Why? Because Hussein has no wish to die. The Iraqi dictator understands that if he attacks the United States, he faces massive, devastating retaliation."
2) There is no evidence that Saddam Hussein helped the September 11 terrorists.
"Osama bin Laden is a radical fundamentalist, and he detests secular leaders like Saddam. Similarly, Saddam has consistently repressed fundamentalist movements within Iraq."
3) Hussein is extremely unlikely to give WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction] to al Qaeda for future attacks on the United States.
"Hussein would not give al Qaeda nuclear or chemical weapons because doing so would pose a danger to the Iraqi dictator's favorite cause: The longevity of Saddam Hussein."
4) The one thing that might convince Hussein to use WMD against United States is a U.S. invasion of Iraq.
5) Invading Iraq will make Muslims hate us more -- increasing the risk of future terrorist attacks on the United States.
"Occupation of an Islamic country by the United States could be a recruiting poster for Islamic terrorists. We should remember the worldwide mobilization of Islamic radicals to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan."
6) Iraq is a greatly diminished military power, and poses little threat even to its neighbors.
"The numbers are stark. In 1990, Iraq had 1 million men in its armed forces, backed up by 5,500 tanks. By contrast, the Iraqi military today has only 400,000 men in arms and 2,200 tanks."
7) A war against Iraq is unconstitutional.
"The Congress shall have power ... to declare war."
8) A war against Iraq will be enormously expensive.
"[if] Iraqi President Saddam Hussein blows up his country's oil fields, most economists believe the indirect costs of the war could be much greater, reverberating through the U.S. economy for many years"
9) A pre-emptive strike is un-American.
"While our nation has never fully lived up to its don't-strike-first ideal (the U.S. attacked first or fabricated a pretext for the Mexican War in 1846-47, the War of 1812, and the Vietnam War), the U.S. has never seen itself as an aggressor in war, notes Ken Ringle in the Washington Post (November 19, 2002)."
10) A war against Iraq is utterly arbitrary.
"Iraq isn't the only nation with a nuclear weapons program, a bellicose foreign policy, and the potential to give WMD to terrorists: North Korea and Pakistan also fit those criteria."
The complete article can be read here:
I'm just looking to further the discussion! :)
Mr. Berg-Andersson responds:
As to the Libertarian Party's 10 reasons as quoted above (and, again, I am not here advocating war in Iraq... in the spirit of Daryle Hendricksen's offerings, I am here merely playing "devil's advocate" and, like him, "looking to further the discussion"), here are my refutations of each of them. Like Mr. Hendricksen, I do nonetheless find at least a few of them rather convincing, though- as I will (at least hopefully!) show below- they all have "holes" in them about which one must think long and hard before being most fully convinced:
I would dismiss Reason # 1 outright... when this reason against war is advanced, it seems to me that those who advance it forget two essential concepts: a.) that being attacked by Iraq does not necessarily mean being attacked by Iraq in its capacity as a Nation-State (that is, by having Iraq's military- in uniforms or vehicles, etc. identifying them as such- as the only ones who might utilize such a weapon): Saddam supplying a weapon of mass destruction which is capable of dispersing chemicals or biohazard to a terrorist (whether from Al-Qa'eda or any other similar group that might have reason to hate America and, further, attempt to kill or injure as many Americans as possible) who then uses it either here in the United States or against Americans abroad would be the equivalent of actual "attack by Iraq" (of course, the hard part would then be to prove- beyond a reasonable doubt- Iraq's complicity in such an attack: there will always be those who will refuse to be convinced even if such evidence of complicity were fairly hard, if only because they might continue to want to believe it simply can't be so); b.) what if Saddam were already convinced his own demise, or that of his regime (which is really one and the same thing), were only a matter of time?
As for Reason # 2, the facts as stated certainly seem to be correct (I have always assumed that, were there any credible evidence of Iraq's complicity in September 11th, we all would have heard about it by now- it being just about 18 months after those attacks)-- the rationale behind this Reason, as quoted, is flawed however. The notion that Iraq's secularism is somehow a "block" against Al-Qa'eda choosing to support Iraq over the United States seems rather naive at best, foolhardy at worst (for reasons I have already opined in a Commentary of mine dated this past 12 February [scroll about halfway down the web page]): by way of analogy (keeping well in mind the essential rule of Logic that "Analogies are Illustrations, not Proof"), allow me to point out that Adolf Hitler, an avowed anti-Communist, had signed a non-aggression pact with Josef Stalin, no fan of Nazism, in which the two agreed to split Poland between them once Germany had invaded and subjugated that country; yes, Hitler had in mind the notion that his forces would have to take on the Soviet Union's Red Army at some point (and, for his part, Stalin could well surmise that Hitler, indeed, had this in mind), as they- in fact- did less than two years later (it could even be said that Hitler agreeing to divide Poland was a method by which his own forces could someday engage Stalin's across the River Bug).
Many historians have since pointed out that Hitler and Stalin- despite the differing political ideologies fueling their respective dictatorial regimes- actually shared a basic belief in the efficacy of, as well as the necessity for, totalitarian state control of their respective societies (so, how different were they really?); likewise, why can't Saddam and Osama be more or less working for the same general goals at the same time for at least a time (and even in some kind of concert)?-- after all, each of their "regimes" (Osama's not being Nation-State-based) are merely the product of different faces of Islamic Extremism based on their respective experiences having been born into, and raised within, the Islamic World! This, by the way, also goes to the heart of the problem with Reason # 3... the benefits to Saddam of aiding Islamic fundamentalist terrorism by Al-Qa'eda against Americans might very well outweigh the more detrimental elements of just such an "arm's-length" alliance via which Saddam might supply terrorists with WMD. The method behind maintaining Saddam's "longevity" is in the eyes of Saddam himself!
Reason #4 is undoubtedly correct and I would be most surprised, should war with Iraq break out, if our military had not seriously considered the possibility that WMD might be used against American and British forces invading that country. However, this one sounds much too much analogous to the argument that, if an intruder is holding one's family hostage at gunpoint, one should not then call the police (on the theory that the police will, of course, then have to "do something" to free one's family from the clutches of the intruder- including, should the hostage standoff go on too long, possibly taking the intruder on, which might only cause the intruder to fire his/her gun at one's loved ones).
I have already dealt with the main problem with Reason # 5 in my 12 February Commentary (and reiterated my argument in summary form in my 27 February piece): if one were to accept the validity of this Reason, one would also have to assume that Al-Qa'eda's principal reason for launching another terrorist attack against the United States or American interests would be because we might attack Iraq... of course, we hadn't attacked Iraq as of 11 September 2001! As I've said, not going to war against Iraq will do nothing to reduce the threat from Al-Qa'eda (to be fair, neither will going to war: ridding Iraq of WMD as a result of toppling Saddam's regime will not, in and of itself, stop any terrorist group [let alone Al-Qa'eda] with whom the current government of Iraq might potentially connect from possibly getting it elsewhere [though, yes, doing so will be a bit more difficult] or coming up with some other means and method of attacking [after all, September 11th did not involve the use of WMD]).
In addition, the rationale Mr. Hendricksen quotes under Reason # 5 actually undermines this Reason itself: as if Al-Qa'eda and like-minded Islamic extremist groups don't have such "recruiting posters" now?... what would a picture of the Twin Towers burning and then collapsing most likely mean to such people as those attracted to Islamic fundamentalist extremism (and associated terrorism)?! It's about a year and a half too late to stop the widespread dissemination of such "recruiting posters" among the more impressionable in the Middle East! A lot of what Muslims in general will think about the United States occupying Iraq will depend on what we might do (or not do) once Iraq is occupied (the subject of a future Commentary of mine, I suppose); as for what these Islamic extremists themselves might think: they will fail to see much good in whatever we might do post-Saddam (then again, the same can be said of a healthy minority- but by no means all!- of those who are protesting the possibility of war in Iraq-- both here in the United States, as well as all around the globe). The essential problem with conspiracy theories is that the lack of proof of a given conspiracy is itself taken, by those who posit the conspiracy, as the very proof of its existence (and there is more than enough of this going around in both pro- and anti-war circles nowadays!)
Reason # 6 is true enough... but it is also the very reason the current Iraqi regime might very well try to strike at us (or our interests)- rather than its own neighbors- through the avenue of shadowy connections with various and sundry terrorist organizations (there are, as Secretary of State Colin Powell pointed out before the UN Security Council back on 5 February, Al-Qa'eda operatives in Baghdad... don't tell me that Saddam doesn't know about these hanging out in his own police state! [though, to be fair, there are also Al-Qa'eda in the Kurdish-controlled North of Iraq opposed to Saddam; then again, Al-Qa'eda (and, for that matter, many another in the Arab Muslim world) has absolutely no use for the "Westphalian" concept of a Nation-State, here one known as Iraq (as I have already pointed out in recent Commentaries), although its operatives- so I am sure- would not be at all afraid to use the political and cultural by-products of "Westphalian" Nationalism (in this case, Iraqi or Kurdish) for its own purposes]).
Reason # 7 is also true enough... I myself have consistently called on President Bush to ask for a Declaration of War (see especially my Commentaries of 13 September 2002 and this past 15 February)... guess what, though?... not happening!... I also don't see a major constitutional crisis looming in this country should he not ask for one either (that is, unless and until things happen to go horribly wrong once war with Iraq is already underway)... I will only here quickly note that many Democrats (some of whom have begun to turn against the war) voted for that Resolution last October on which the President depends in lieu of a formal Declaration of War by Congress.
Reason # 8 is another that is true enough... but the Space Program (including the investigations currently underway as a result of the 1 February Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy), for example, is also enormously expensive, as are any of a hundred other governmental expenditures that people- both in favor of, as well as against, war with Iraq- happen to support. How the tax revenue is spent is- or at least should be- a hard choice; however, allocating money for a war with Iraq is no harder a choice- in kind- than allocating money for a rather large National Forest system or funding a particular area of scientific inquiry/research and development (such as the Space Program- including unmanned, as well as manned, aspects). If expense were the only major criterion, the government shouldn't be spending money on lots of things (including things supported by many of those opposed to war with Iraq- conservatives as well as liberals). Tough choices between "guns" and "butter" so often grease the wheels of democratic politics!
As for responding to the rationale for Reason # 8 as Mr. Hendricksen has quoted it above: let me simply note that, should an Iraqi-supplied terrorist explode a weapon that disseminates biological and chemical hazards throughout a large portion of a major business or financial center in any of our Nation's largest cities which then kill hundreds- if not thousands- if not tens of thousands, while permanently injuring and maiming thousands- if not tens of thousands- if not hundreds of thousands, the physical, personal, psychological and, ultimately, economic damage (recall how the Stock Market tanked in the wake of September 11th, though there were also problems being worked through the financial markets that well preceded that particular downturn) which would result might also be found "reverberating through the U.S. economy for many years".
As for Reason # 9: see my Commentary of 8 September 2002 in which I discuss the historical underpinning of the quintessential American definition of "Anticipatory Self-Defense" (what we today would call a "Pre-Emptive Strike"); then-Secretary of State Daniel Webster well argued that a militia from British North America had not fulfilled this definition during the Caroline incident... however, he did not say that the United States did not accept the concept (indeed, his providing a definition suggests quite the opposite!) However, it is true that the application of this doctrine to the present-day situation re: Iraq is rather dicey, as that very Commentary of mine from now over half a year ago itself points out (then again, as Mr. Hendricksen himself opines, we don't know what President Bush knows [or, then again- or so I would here add, doesn't know!]).
Finally, to address Reason # 10: it could be said that all wars are, in a sense, utterly arbitrary: nothing more rational could be said of the irrational madness that is war. Even wars that later generations might defend as having been 'just', 'right' and/or 'noble' have their elements of arbitrariness. For example, might colonial Americans have asserted their 'Rights as Englishmen' through means other than those that ended up with the American Revolution as the result? We don't know- and will likely never know- who fired that first shot on Lexington Green in the dawning of what was 19 April 1775, nor do we know why (accidental discharge?-- if purposeful, was it British Redcoat or Massachusetts militiaman?) but that arbitrary act is one of many reasons why I am typing this piece as a citizen of an independent Nation-State known as the United States of America!
As for dealing with the rationale behind Reason # 10: Soon after Pearl Harbor forced the United States into World War II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in Washington (the same conference that would produce the anti-Axis Declaration by United Nations which proved a precursor to the UN as a post-war organization) to decide on basic war aims from the Western perspective. Despite the fact that it had been Japan that had attacked the U.S., Churchill convinced FDR (who, in fact, needed little convincing) that Germany should be the main focus of the war effort-- Germany was an industrial giant (Japan was, at the time, quite behind economically) with the scientific genius to develop potentially more dangerous weaponry comparable to what the Western Allies could develop: therefore, Hitler was a greater danger than Hirohito's generals.
It is likewise with Iraq vis-a-vis North Korea: North Korea may have a missile or two capable of reaching the American West Coast; however, I'd like to know a lot more about their guidance systems, for a missile fired from Pyongyang toward California might otherwise end up coming back down to earth somewhere far off the coast of South America! Saddam's Iraq has been documented as having already long been in the process of developing WMD of various and sundry types, along with concomitant delivery systems: the Bush Administration claims Saddam still has same (though, again, we on the outside don't know much of what the Administration knows [or is merely pretending to know]); Saddam (as I have pointed out above) also has reason to ally- however distantly, tenuously, indirectly, albeit however temporarily- with terrorist groups in the Islamic World bent on harming the United States, its citizens, its economy and its interests abroad. It may well be that, despite North Korea's recent belligerence, Iraq is the greater danger of the two.
Finally, let me finish up here by saying that I don't blame Mr. Hendricksen one bit for being uncertain as to "whether or not we *should* go to war with Iraq": I myself have already pointed out- in Commentaries, as well as my responses to various and sundry 'vox Populi', on this site- that this will not be an at all "clean" war (to quote from my 12 February Commentary: "after all, to paraphrase one-time Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes, there are basically three reasons for attacking Iraq... and two of them are bad!"): there are far too many competing interests among proponents of this war (a stable, potentially democratic post-Saddam Iraq, yes... but we still get access to the oil!)-- however, to be fair, there are also far too many competing interests among those opposed to the war (many in the anti-war movement have their own agenda [much of which seems too tied up with bolstering ancillary issues on which a Democratic presidential nominee might run against President Bush in 2004]); as Mr. Hendricksen himself asks, what are the real various and sundry motivations behind the leaders and peoples in countries opposed to this war? why is Tony Blair so bucking his own Party? (yet can anyone really believe that the Conservatives, in Opposition [and who were in power during the Persian Gulf War of 1991], would be more "dove-ish" if they were, instead, the ones forming the current British Government?!)
And that, I think, might well explain what is at the heart of all the confusion seen and heard re: this war-- that of those against the war in Britain who, at one and the same time, also decry what they perceive as French "arrogance" in France's similar opposition to the very same war they themselves oppose; that of those overseas who, on the one hand, cry out that "Iraq is America's fight- we should not be dragged in" and then, in virtually the next sentence, argue that "We in Europe [or, for that matter, elsewhere on the globe] have to stop America from fighting" (after all, if this is America's fight- as it now appears it, in the end, might very well have to be- it is then, logically, no non-American's business!); that of those here at home who want Saddam forcibly removed from power because they see him as a threat to American security but still don't want President Bush to more or less "go it alone" without international approval (which thereby creates the "soft underbelly" of the American "supermajority" on which Bush's war plans depend and of which I have often written in recent weeks); that of those in the anti-war movement who argue they represent the "real majority" before quickly adding the words "of world opinion" (because the polls show they are the current minority here in the United States and, of course, George W. Bush is President of the United States, not "president of the World" [though those outside the United States decrying this war often enough claim that that is precisely what Bush is, in fact, trying to be!]).
There are rather mixed motives on all sides of this issue; likewise, there are also such rather contradictory arguments advanced by those on all sides. Thus, there is no real basis on which the thoughtful, educated and reasonable person who is trying to independently and intelligently decide where to come down on this issue can even make such a decision... and, unfortunately- and largely as a result of what is contained in that last statement, there will be- at least for quite some time to come- no real basis (even if we were to find out- as the direct result of a war with Iraq- that Saddam was, say, stockpiling WMD and had plans to turn it over to operatives of Al-Qa'eda and others of that ilk) on which to decide, once the war is over, whether it was all worth it... again, a lot will depend on just what exactly the term "post-Saddam Iraq" might finally mean (but that, as I've already said, will likely be the subject of a future Commentary on this site!).
I will now close by merely reiterating that which I wrote at the very end of my Commentary of last 11 October 2002 and urging all who now read it- five months after these words were first posted on this website- to well contemplate the fullest ramifications of these words (whether you be for or against war with Iraq) in the context of such a war now seemingly being upon us in not all that much more time:Even if this provision of the UN Charter [Article 51] did not exist, the United States would retain its constitutional power to defend itself (including the doctrine of Anticipatory Self-Defense as explained in my Commentary of this past 8 September) under its own Constitution; moreover, it does not, in any wise, give up its right to do so even under the terms of the UN Charter where such a right of self-defense is mentioned (and, were the UN Charter- or any actions taken by the UN as an organization under its Charter- to be interpreted as requiring the United States to give up said right, such would clearly be deemed to be unconstitutional under the terms of the US Constitution and those provisions of the UN Charter so deemed unconstitutional would then cease to have the status of being part of the Supreme Law of this Land!). It is true that, theoretically, the UN Security Council would be permitted- under the UN Charter- to "do what it had to do" were the United States to act without UN sanction (the phraseology "Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense... shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain and restore international peace and security" found in Article 51 makes this abundantly clear); in practice, however, the veto the United States itself wields in the Security Council as one of the five Permanent Members would render the exercise of this provision a nullity, at least insofar as the United States itself is concerned. Thus, there is no "veto" the UN Security Council can possibly hold over the United States in its own judgment as to when, where and how to exercise its military power! All this "UN veto over US" talk in the halls of Congress was merely rather lame justification for pushing Congress (successfully, as things turned out) to turn its inherent power "to declare war" on Iraq over to the White House without much restriction on the President's subsequent use of said power-- nothing more, nothing less!! Again, Politics- pure and simple... but nothing much grounded in constitutional reality!!!