Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Declare War on Iraq

The United States Congress should declare war on Iraq.

Already, the Bush administration is reinforcing its policy that regime change is necessary, although there are no plans on the "president's desk" (but check the credenza under the copy of Certain Victory). We are making plans for establishing an Iraqi administration after the conquest, and even the Senate Democrats are lining up for war one hundred percent. We are going to war. Michael Kinsley is disturbed that we are not debating whether to go to war. Although he has a point, I think that the lack of debate stems from the high degree of consensus that war against Iraq is necessary. Few flatly oppose it, and many are probably not "for" war if asked now, but when we attack, they will agree with the decision. Still, the debate Kinsley wants would be useful if only to impress the international community of our resolve.

Sure, declaring war seems kind of anachronistic in an age of asymmetric threats by non-state actors. What are we to do? Send an envoy to slap Tariq Aziz across the face with a white glove? Yet why not? Iraq is a state and the tools we have to overthrow it are traditional, albeit advanced, conventional arms. We have no need to debate whether this is more a law enforcement problem or a military problem. War with Iraq is so September 10th, really. Iraq is a state with a brutal dictator who seethes with anger at us and who will not rest as long as he has a shot at hurting us. He has used chemical weapons against Iran and his own Kurds and undoubtedly still has chemicals. His ambition for a nuclear weapon is well known. He prefers to keep his people in abject poverty as a propaganda device for the gullible overseas and to make sure all paths to any material benefits go through him (carrot and stick is better than just stick--but only if you have all the carrots). At the risk of inciting the conspiracy minded, Saddam is a despot easy to hate and central casting could not have come up with a more evil villain. Only adding cannibalism would make him worse and that would strain credibility.

A declaration of war is ready made to show the world we are serious. No mere "authorization to use force in support of UN Security Council Resolution whatever," but a statement of intent from the elected representatives of the American people that this war ends with the American flag flying over whatever bunker in which Saddam chooses to make his last stand. Such a clear statement of intent will galvanize the American people and show we are united. It will put Europe on notice that we will go to Baghdad with or without them. It will let everyone who has begun to believe that they can waffle on the "with us or against us" deal that being against us bad national policy, and it will let the Iraqi military and people know that our no-fly zones are now no-resistance zones. It shows there is no turning back.

We should be prepared to march our Army on Baghdad and smash the Iraqi military; but at some point between our declaration of war and the start of the air campaign to open the war, some Iraqi general might get up the nerve and luck to put a few rounds into Saddam. The psychological warfare campaign to educate the average Iraqi soldier what it means to stand in the way of the Army might make them shatter on impact when the heavy armor rolls north across the Iraq-Kuwait border. And when it's over, they'd better cooperate in de-Saddamizing Iraq and creating a country based on the rule of law and elections if they ever want a peace treaty with us.

Yes, a device designed for waging war on another state is completely appropriate in these circumstances. Declare war on Iraq.