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The Internal Iraqi Debate
by Brian S. Wise
13 December 2002 

Reasonable considerations regarding our Iraqi mission.

From the moment President Bush first spoke of the “Axis of Evil” in connection to the "war on terrorism,” at this year’s State of the Union address, it was pretty well understood that a giant red bulls eye was being painted on Baghdad. It was also well understood that the only way America could fully expect Saddam Hussein to disarm and vacate his position would be if he were forced to do so, as dictators don’t often go shuffling off into the sunset submissively. (They are, after all, dictators.) The question was, What business is Iraq’s leadership of ours? So this week, when I was asked in three separate strings of communication whether or not it was reasonable to be divided on the matter of the Iraqi War, the response was generally as follows, embellished here for your reading pleasure:

Let’s say the overwhelming question was, Isn’t it better for the Middle East specifically, and humanity generally, if Saddam Hussein is out of power, or better yet, dead? That it were, everyone could nod their heads in solemn agreement; of course his removal is for the better. It could be safely said that any dictator’s removal throughout history would have been and ultimately for the better, provided he’s not replaced with an equal or greater tyrant.

And this is where we get to the notion of Nation Building, and its possible merits versus possible complications. Nation Building is one of those double edged swords: For one thing, if it’s in humanity’s best interests to see Saddam Hussein removed from power, isn’t it equally in humanity’s best interests to guarantee that whoever follows 1) represents the ultimate will of the people through eventual elections, 2) is friendly to democratic nations and unfriendly to dictatorships, and 3) is keen to Islam? (Word has it Hussein is building a temple larger than Mecca; this is, as I’ve come to understand, a no-no; isn’t that in itself disrespectful to Islam?)

The other edge of that sword is, well, Afghanistan. Liberating Afghanistan at the expense of the Taliban was, of course, noble and just. But in regards to the outlaws controlling various points of the country, we haven’t followed up well, insofar as Prime Minister Karzai’s government cannot claim even casual rights to its own nation as a whole. Iraq provides a different variable in that Hussein controls every square mile of his domain, the concern being that under some form of democratic rule, whoever and whatever ends up replacing Saddam Hussein may not end up having complete control, thus further complications could result in the future. Another headache, politically and militarily.

That being said, has President Bush produced for the American people, to who he is ultimately accountable, his exact case for storming Baghdad and forcibly removing Hussein? Not necessarily, no. Is it pivotal at some point for that case to be made, regardless of recent opinion polls, which seem to suggest most are willing to forego that explanation in exchange for Hussein’s downfall? Yes, but it depends, not only on the impact of the information he possesses, but on whether or not national security is otherwise compromised by divulging such information. It is for national security, after all, previous justification has been made toward going after Hussein in the first place. That security cannot be compromised to satisfy our national curiosity.

Finally, Should we trust that, if a proper case isn’t made to the American people, that a proper case does in fact exist, and that the President of the United States isn’t leaping hip deep into Iraq for nothing? A fascinating question, one that goes to the heart of how individuals trust the president, combined with their own levels of tolerance for Saddam Hussein’s act. A certain reasoning suggests that he should be removed post haste for defying the United Nations resolutions, some for breaking the Gulf War agreement, some for gassing his own people, some for all of the above, and whatever it is he’s done we haven’t seen. Not entirely illogical by itself, but no different from other dictators around the world, we are reminded by others, so why Hussein, why an American first strike, and why now?

President Bush has yet to make his grandest argument for invasion. One can trust that Hussein’s ouster will ultimately prove to be for the greater good, and in the face of what we know about his tenure, that may be enough. But absent an explanation, with the above mentioned considerations for national security, whatever victory we secure could leave an odd taste in our mouths.

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