I’ve been wondering why I feel weird about all the anti-war sentiment now that I’m back here in the liberal land of California. One of my favorite days was the winter day before the 1991 air war started, when we walked out of my Chicago high-school, and walked downtown on Lake Shore Drive to protest the potential war. The march down LSD was extremely cool, because we were walking on a highway, hundreds of young people, taking up two lanes, with a third lane of police cars, and a fourth lane of cars that honked as they passed us, either because they were upset at us blocking traffic, or because a honk indicated solidarity with peace demonstrations in those days.
Now, I feel ambivalent. I certainly doubt the President’s motivations. I’m inclined to believe that there is more immediate gain for him in securing oil supplies and domestic support in a time of international crisis, than any imminent threat to us from Iraq. On the other hand, while the resumption of war would cost a lot of death and destruction to the Iraqi people, if we actually remove Saddam Hussein, we will also be removing a long-standing source of death and oppression.
One way or another, the sanctions need to end; The Middle East needs stability that is not based on detent and decay. If we had to occupy and rebuild Iraq, there would be an excuse for resentment among Islamic Fanatics. On the other hand, perhaps it would mean that we could leave Saudi Arabia, the land of Mecca, to its own devices, which may give in to pressures to reform once we’re done propping up a redundant oil supply.
Maybe if we worry ourselves with occupying and building a strong and stable Iraq, we’ll feel more secure about Iran, and better able to sanely pursue relations with this formidable country.
Most of all, I feel most frustrated with European insistence on giving the inspections more time. More time for what? We’ve been trying “inspections” for more than a decade. Saddam Hussein has never been inclined to test clean, and the latest inspections are just a fancier version of the same old tired show. In America we fight wars in foreign lands, while Europeans have more direct experience with war, which encourages them to cherish peace all the more. While I think this is great for the cause of peace, it can lead to the “Peace at any Price” mentality which left Germany’s earliest WWII aggression un-checked. It is that sentiment in Europe today that causes the most direct emotional support, I believe, for the United States “proactively engaging” a problem overseas before it becomes a problem at home.
Of course, the most proactive policy would have been to remove Hussein in the first Gulf War. I believed at the time and I still believe that the cease-fire was a terrible decision. Whatever strategy you choose to solve a problem, you need to devote yourself to success. If you choose peace, you devote yourself to a peaceful solution. If you choose war, you devote yourself to victory. We chose war in 1991, which leads me to feel that the coming conflict is the attainment of victory, foolishly delayed, at the expense of a prolonged suffering on the part of the Iraqi people, who should have been liberated a decade ago.