Our country is in serious trouble: increasingly isolated in the world, lied to by our government, in the thrall of a cabal of ideologically-driven hawks who have been on the wrong side of every major event in recent times. Even real conservatives – especially conservatives! – ought to be worried.
Conservatives stand for prudence, caution, and respect for tradition and history. The Bush Administration is anything but conservative. With little debate and no justification, it has overturned a fifty-year tradition of seeking allies and building coalitions in support of foreign policy. It not only ignores the United Nations and disparages our allies, but it insists on the right to attack any government that, for the moment, challenges our political dominance and disagrees with our economic priorities.
As we abandon the more reasonable aspects of our foreign policy, we embrace the more blatant failures. Instead of learning from past errors, we repeat them, thinking that smart bombs can over-ride the mistakes of dumb people. To wit: We supported bin Laden against the Soviets and now he is our enemy. Saddam was, as he is today, a thuggish dictator when he was making war and dropping chemical weapons on Iran, but we supported him. Which Iraqi factions will we arm to overthrow Saddam, and how can we be sure that they, too, won’t become our enemy? The issue is not our ability to defeat Iraq militarily. The issue is what we plan to do after we bomb Iraq into rubble?
Ignorance seems to be a guiding principle among the Administration’s hawks. Dick Cheney supported South African apartheid and voted against a congressional resolution to free Nelson Mandela from prison. According to Frances Fitzgerald in the NY Review of Books, Cheney didn’t trust Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and advised President Reagan to keep up Cold War pressure rather than encourage Gorbachev’s reforms.
Richard Perle, the guru of Bush’s "bomb now, think later" brain-trust, once advised former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "make a clean break" with the Oslo peace process. He and others in the Bush Administration, including Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, are on record as opposing a Palestinian State. Is this how the Bush Administration expects to get Islamic support for its "get Saddam" policy?
Rumsfeld’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security, J. D.
Crouch, called, in 1995, for a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea,
an attack that would have brought war to the entire Korean peninsular. I wonder
how Saddam feels being a back-up target. Rumsfeld’s Undersecretary for Arms Control
and International Affairs, John Bolton, is an outspoken opponent of the United
Nations. Most recently he lied about Cuba having weapons of mass destruction merely
to take a cheap shot at former President Jimmy Carter. Thus is the case against
Iraq measured and made. Petty and ignorant men are running our foreign policy.
On every issue of importance, the men making the Administration’s policy have been factually, analytically and morally wrong. Do you think they’ll do any better in "Iraq 101," a course on reconstructing Iraq after the U.S. invasion? Don’t bet the future on it, but that’s the wager Bush is making.
Shamelessly, the Administration again floats the idea that Saddam was behind
Al Quid’s terrorism. Besides lacking evidence, it makes no sense. As the N.Y.
Times’ Nicholas Kristof reminds us in his October first column, Iraq is one of
the few Middle East Islamic countries where women have equal rights. On key fundamentalist
issues of religion and social policy, Iraq under Saddam represents everything
the Taliban and Al Qaida hate. It’s conceivable that bin Laden and Saddam have
become allies against the United States. But, if this is so, it is an alliance
of opportunity forged after 9/11, a consequence of Bush’s blunderbuss militaristic
Polls indicate great ambivalence about going to war. The cave-in by many congressional Democrats is a result of political cowardice, not the pressure of public opinion. A
movement is growing to stop the country from going to war. It needs to be an inclusive citizens' movement that looks beyond the reach of existing peace and anti-war organizations. What’s needed is a commitment to civility and persuasion, a reaching out to all citizens no matter where they stand on other issues. When the bombs start falling another perspective will come into play. Until then, we need to be the voice of reason in a national debate. The Bush Administration has not make a case for war and, with the support of the international community, anti-war arguments can still carry the day.
Marty Jezer’s books include Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel. He writes from
Brattleboro, Vermont and welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org