Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Despite Steep Costs, Saddam Must Be Ousted

A look at the media shows Bush’s war proposal is not a popular idea:

“There does not appear to be a political force capable of replacing the [current regime].” Jacob Heilbrunn, Los Angeles Times

“This is a war in trouble.” Dan Schorr, PBS “Weekend Edition”

“Like an unwelcome specter from an unhappy past, the ominous word `quagmire’ has begun to haunt conversations among government officials and students of foreign policy, both here and abroad.” R.W. Apple, New York Times

Will the administration consider concerns like these before it acts in Iraq? Well, it’s too late, actually, because the quotations above don’t refer to a potential invasion of Iraq. The worriers in each were offering up last fall’s collective media wisdom about the early stages of the war in Afghanistan. It’s a forgivable mistake, however, because anyone watching the news or reading the major newspapers in recent weeks has been hearing similarly depressing thoughts about the prospects for a war in Iraq. In an Aug. 15 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft foresaw “an explosion of outrage” against America in case of an attack on Iraq and predicted that an invasion would be “certain to divert us for some indefinite period from our war on terrorism.” While one is tempted to ask what the goal of the war on terrorism is if not to take weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of tyrants, a growing minority holds Scowcroft’s opinion. By his way of thinking, an invasion of Iraq would unravel the `global coalition’ against terror, trap U.S. forces in a prolonged ground war followed by an even more prolonged campaign of reconstruction and rouse anti-American sentiment in the uslim world to an all-time high.

The first of these points, that invading Iraq would cause the defection of many U.S. allies in the war on terror, seems at first glance to have some grounding. France and Russia, Iraq’s two largest trade partners, have already indicated their understandable lack of enthusiasm for a war. Saudi Arabia, a key partner in the Gulf War, has refused to offer staging areas for U.S. troops this time. The significance of these defections is questionable, however. It was not French troops who occupied Kabul, and Russia’s cozy position with Iraq is all the more cause for worry, as Soviet-era weapons and technology float untracked around the region. Saudi Arabia is an oppressive monarchy, which spawned 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers, whose citizens pay blood money to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers and whose state media regularly runs virulently anti-Semitic stories. The Saudis would not even allow U.S. planes to use their runways during the war in Afghanistan last fall. The negative effects resulting from the loss of such close `friends’ seem questionable at best.

The second point, that an invasion and the subsequent rebuilding of Iraq will consume time, money and lives, also has some validity. Nevertheless, it only presents one side of the equation. The sad reality is that there is much more to be lost if America does nothing about Iraq. Weapons inspectors have not entered Iraq since 1998, and the progress of Iraqi weapons programs since that time can only be guessed. Richard Butler, former chairman of the U.N. commission charged with weapons inspections, has commented that it would be “foolish in the extreme” to believe that Iraq has not been attempting to develop nuclear weapons and expanding its chemical and biological stockpiles over that time period.

Further, Saddam Hussein has shown his willingness to use these weapons, killing 5,000 Kurds in a poison gas attack in northern Iraq during 1988. U.S. intelligence estimates in January of 2002 predicted that Iraq could pose a ballistic missile threat to America by 2015, and long before then to its neighbors in the region. Perhaps most chillingly, former Iraqi nuclear engineer Khidir Hamza told a Senate committee in a July 31 testimony that Iraq could have enough fissionable material for three nuclear bombs by 2005. Whatever trials a period of occupation may present seem preferable to a poison gas or dirty bomb attack on a major American city.

The final anti-invasion argument, that toppling Iraq will lead to a cataclysmic `backlash’ or `uprising’ in the Arab and/or Muslim world, is the least persuasive. Like the Afghans living under the yoke of the Taliban, it’s hard to imagine Iraqis themselves being particularly outraged at their newfound freedom from despotism. Victory creates allies. True, the invasion would be more fodder for the America-is-all-that’s-wrong-with-the-world beliefs of groups ranging from Islamist fanatics to American academics, but anyone who thinks that these people would suddenly start wearing flag lapel pins if America decided not to invade Iraq is severely misguided. Those who already hate America will continue to do so regardless of whether regime change occurs in Iraq. They already have the will to further harm the U.S.; ignoring the Iraqi threat only means that they will have additional capacity to do so. And really, what is it that we have to fear from this torrent of outrage? Planes being flown into major buildings? We are, sadly, long past that point.

It is as tragic as it is inevitable that invading Iraq will lead to the loss of American and innocent Iraqi lives, and no one should make such a decision lightly. The cost of inaction, however, is even less tolerable. Iraq is headed by a regime that has both the capability and motivation to use weapons of mass destruction, and the first responsibility of any government must always be to protect its citizens from harm. Will invading and assisting in the reconstruction of Iraq be a trying and dangerous endeavor? Certainly. And yet such risk is infinitely preferable to the risk posed by an Iraq allowed to develop its weapons of mass destruction unhindered.

James Parker is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

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