The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Thursday, February 27, 2003


Matt Welch has asked his blogging readers for "to-war-or-not-to-war" posts. I am happy to write a post on this as I have not done much blogging lately.

In early September I wrote a long article on whether the US should go to war with Iraq. I remember that post with affection, because I wrote it under time pressure (I was about to leave for a weekend trip) and wasn't sure if I had done a good job. Colby Cosh linked to me and said "Floyd McWilliams, whoever you are, you hit a 500-foot home run." He then blogrolled me and called me The Declarer, which was an obvious name for my blog that I had somehow overlooked.

A brief summary of my earlier article (in unordered-list-o-vision):

  • Saddam is nasty but not insane
  • Evidence of links between Al Qaeda and Iraq is unconvincing
  • "Iraq first, Saudi Arabia next" is a puerile fantasy
  • Going after Iraq distracts the US from what should be the real targets: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt


My thinking has changed since September. I believe that there is a reasonable case for attacking Iraq. What I am about to say is not the case that most people will make.

Many warbloggers have said that we need to save the Iraqi people. This seems somewhat hypocritical as none of those people were advocating a war for liberation two years ago. However I do think that we have the right to liberate the victims of tyrants, as we see fit. (I learned this from James Donald: We have a right to liberate people, but not a duty to do so.) The US should intervene in the Arab world and right some of its wrongs, not from idealism but from self-interest. The Arab world, like Africa, is a failure; unlike Africa it is a dangerous failure. Improving the Iraqi regime will not solve all our problems but it's a helpful start.

Some warbloggers say that Iraq is a step on the path to conquering Saudi Arabia. Don't believe them. Bush and company have no inclination to overthrow Saudi Arabia, and even if they did such an action would be a disaster. Bush has asked Saudi for permission to help with the Iraqi campaign; to subsequently attack them would be a betrayal worthy of Hitler. But even though we will not march into Riyadh, a US-sponsored Iraqi democracy will give other regimes pause. It will encourage dissidents in other countries (such as Iran).

The fundamental reason why the US must attack Iraq is this: America must destroy its enemies, and be seen doing so.

The United States has been attacked and is at war. The US cannot win this war on defense -- by "defense" I mean doing nothing except attempt to guard against attacks. If the US remains passive after being attacked, our enemies will be encouraged to attack again and harder. Also, I do not want to live in an America which is mobilized to prevent any conceivable attack. The result of such a policy would be a civil liberties nightmare and a practical nightmare.

The United States cannot win its war by attacking individual terrorists. There cannot be a "war on terrorism" because such a war cannot be won. To fight such a war would require the cooperation of all countries in the world, cooperation which is obviously not forthcoming. The government of Pakistan is afraid to help us. The government of Saudi Arabia is two faced; it wants to fund terrorists and also be our pals. The governments of Iraq and Iran are opposed to us and will never cooperate. Furthermore, a war against Al Qaeda with no reference to governments would quickly turn into a war of the US against the world, as it is an act of war to attack someone in another country without that country's permission.

George Bush laid the foundation for the only sensible policy when he said that governments were either with us or against us, and that any government which allowed terrorism to fester in its borders would be held responsible. The US must win its war by attacking and intimidating governments.

No one will be intimidated if they believe that the US will not fight its enemies. Saddam Hussein is an enemy of the United States. The United States waged war against him, he surrendered under promise to give satisfaction, he has failed to give satisfaction. It's true that Saddam is a minor enemy but so what? If the United States cannot confront its crippled and easy-to-kill enemies, how can anyone be intimidated? Do you really think that the mobs in Cairo and Riyadh and Islamabad understand noblesse oblige? Perhaps Saddam plans to use weapons of mass destruction and perhaps he does not. Again, so what? How can anyone take a nation seriously if it dithers while its enemies acquire new weapons?

You may think that this policy of attacks and intimidation is brutal. What choice do we have when fighting savages other than to use brute force? The US cannot treat other nations as though they were defendants in an American criminal trial.

For those who say that an attack on Iraq will make people hate us and strive against us: Have you ever read a history book? Japanese soldiers raped and bayonetted a quarter of a million Chinese in one brutal orgy in Nanking. Where is the Chinese suicide bomber who destroyed a Tokyo skyscraper? The Soviet Union ground nine European countries under its heel for 45 years. Where is the Estonian or Czech or Romanian who blew himself up in Red Square? Bin Laden despises us not because the World Court tut-tutted when America mined harbors in Nicaragua; he hates us because our women are allowed to show their faces, because we are irreligious and irreverent, because we are a success and his heartland a failure. You can only make these people stop hating you by destroying every vestige of civilization that the West has painfully accumulated over the last three centuries.



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