Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

War on Terror, War on Iraq

I don’t have a good answer to Steve’s first question, so let me turn to the second one first. I think conducting both the war against terrorism and a war against Iraq effectively at the same time will be difficult and perhaps impossible because our resources are limited and it might make international cooperation more difficult while increasing support for al Qaeda. Polling in the Middle East shows that majorities outside Kuwait do not have a favorable opinion of the Gulf War. I think this is because we are still in Saudi Arabia and everyone thinks we did it for the oil. They will think the same if we go into Iraq and especially if we stay there. Important military capabilities are in limited supply but more importantly so is attention in the Pentagon. The Pentagon prefers conventional wars. When one starts in Iraq, chances are it will get all the attention.

When should we go to war with Iraq? When we have no other choice. That is simple but not very helpful. We will need a reason and we will have to make a case. The administration through the UN has laid out a clear set of requirements. When they are not met, we will have the reason. The important thing of course is the political effort to make sure that we and others act on that reason. In his recent speech, President Bush began the political work necessary to induce action. High ranking people in the administration are apparently going to various capitals to continue and deepen this work.

It might help if the administration highlighted the critical importance of countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. New reports have just been published that a Russian scientist may have given the Iraqis a virulent strain of small pox. The problem is not just Iraq obviously. My impression is that the administration and conservatives in general have not paid sufficient attention to counterproliferation (CP). Conservatives in Congress, for example, have resisted efforts to give money to the Russians to help them get rid of their weapons of mass destruction. They argue, among other things, that money should not come out of the defense budget and the Russians can’t be trusted. There is probably also some suspicion of CP because it was such a high priority in the Clinton administration. It deserves more emphasis, however. Iraq is a small part of a much bigger problem.

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