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Reich is Wrong on Iraq
by Bruce Walker
7 August 2003Robert Reich

Robert Reich is wrong on several different levels.


Sean Hannity had Robert Reich as a guest on his radio program last week.  Reich came across as a much more sensible and serious man than most Leftists.  He correctly noted that America needs a prospective national security policy and that recriminations for past neglect, at some point, becomes petty and silly.

Then Reich began to ask why President Bush chose Iraq rather than North Korea or Iran.  The implication was that President Bush did not have a good reason for choosing Iraq, and that his policy was guided more by politics than national security concerns. Reich is wrong, and he is wrong at several different levels.

Iraq occupies a pivotal geographical position in the Near East.  Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran - each an important state in our war on terrorism - share long borders with Iraq. American forces now are able to influence events in each of those nations, while at the same time having removed one of the three identified nations in the “Axis of Evil.”

This is particularly important because - as Mr. Reich surely recalls - the first nation we liberated was not Iraq, but Afghanistan. This squeezes the mullahs of Iran, who must cope with American forces on their northeast and southwest borders, as well as a powerful insurgent movement.

Which is one of the reasons why most pundits are not recommending direct military action against Iran.  Unlike Hussein or Jong Il, who both have absolute and brutal autocracies, the mullahs of Iran rely heavily upon moral authority for their power. 

Attacking Iran directly would not be considered a war of national liberation and might well galvanize support behind the mullahs.  Surrounding Iran, however, tells the Iranian people that help is very, very close. 

A popular revolution against the mullahs would be the best possible outcome for America.  It would be another telling blow to the perverse notion that Islamic peoples love sadistic, anti-American authoritarian rulers.

North Korea is a danger, but China, Russia, Japan and the Republic of Korea ought to take some of the heat for stopping the nuclear weapons program development in that Orwellian nightmare nation.  They are the nations most likely to be blackmailed - indeed, they are already being blackmailed to some extent.

Moreover, our actions in North Korea need to be secret, precise and focused.  Bill Clinton liked to throw cruise missiles from a safe distance as his way of coping with terrorism (and pumping up his poll numbers).  Cruise missiles involve no danger of losing American lives. Collateral damage can be largely minimized with these and other very smart ordnance. 

America has an interest in North Korea not acquiring for export or use nuclear weapons. We do not need to liberate the wretched people of North Korea to achieve that limited national objective.  As part of a broad coalition of the willing, the liberation of North Korea would be a wonderful thing, but South Korea has the economic, technological and demographic strength to liberate North Korea by itself.  If Koreans on the southern half of the Korean peninsula are not willing to fight for that noble goal, then why should we?

On this primary level of national security, Iraq made sense.  Iraq also made sense - and this may sound odd - because of the international reaction to our actions.  France, Germany and other nations should have joined us in Iraq. Our NATO “allies” had gone on record as condemning Hussein, something that could not be said of Iran or North Korea. The United Nations was also on record as finding Hussein in violation of important promises.

It was the very failure of nerve or decency among these nations that President Bush needed to show Americans and the world before proceeding farther in our war on terrorism. If our “allies” would not support removing Saddam Hussein, then when would they support us? Have these “allies” ever supported us, except in their own selfish interest?

The demonstration of will that we demonstrated in Iraq also made this war important. We had spent a decade of doing nothing about Iraq, and the rest of the world could seriously question whether we had the resolve to end Hussein.

Finally, Iraq was right (and Reich was wrong) for a reason that probably subconsciously troubles Leftists like Reich: we could win easily. The Left seems to feel that when the good guys carry big sticks that it is “unfair” to use these sticks against the bad guys.  It is another variation of the Leftist obsession with “fairness.”

A student of history will find some curious similarities between our current war and the Second World War.  The first victories - the first stands against the Axis - were made by the British at strategic points in space and time. Dunkirk, after all, was a retreat. The Battle of Britain was a draw.

Japan in 1940 was a very serious threat to world peace, but Churchill understood that if Britain went to war with Japan in 1940, then Britain would be driven out of the war.  So he won the battles that had to be won first.  Like North Korea today, Japan was a threat in 1939 and 1940 that had to be dealt with later.

Churchill also understood the vital geographical role of the Mediterranean and Middle East.  If the Axis reached Suez and Gibraltar, then it would be almost impossible to ever remove them from power.  So he understood very controversial demonstrations of will.

The Royal Navy sunk much of the French Fleet, even though Vichy France was at peace with Britain, because if that fleet was ever used against the Royal Navy, then Britain could be forced to make peace. Churchill also understood the importance of making a statement to the world: we will never surrender.

The Axis powers in 1940 had three main powers, just as President Bush has identified three powers.  In 1940, as today, two of the three shared common borders, and the other was thousands of miles away in the Far East.  Should Churchill, seeing Hitler as “the real problem” have sent Royal marines and spitfires in a suicide attack against the coast of Europe? 

What he did instead was begin to win.  In November 1940, he sunk the Italian fleet at Taranto, granting the first decisive military defeat for the Axis powers.  The next month, bold attacks by British Imperial forces captured a huge Italian army in North Africa, the second decisive military defeat of the Axis.

Afghanistan and Iraq were victories over evil. President Bush, like Prime Minister Churchill, wants the good guys to win.  America is involved in a global war today, like Britain was sixty-three years ago.  If we can pick fights against evil which we will win and which will chill the hearts of other tyrants, then we should.  What, Mr. Reich, is so complicated about that?

Bruce Walker's articles can be found at the Conservative Truth
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