Saturday, September 28, 2002

Attacking Iraq Unprecedented?

I don’t mean to question a United States Senator’s logic, but what could Senator Mark Dayton mean when he said, "Yet now Congress is being rushed to pre-approve whatever President Bush decides to do, which includes something no president has done before: start a war. According to researchers at the Library of Congress, the United States has never in its 213-year history launched a preemptive attack against another country. Never."

The good Senator from Minnesota is first of all confusing preemption, attacks, and war. Then he freely transfers arguments between the concepts. He says no president has ever started a war. Did we not go to war against the Barbary pirates? Did we not declare war on England in 1812? Did we not declare war on Mexico in 1846? Did we not declare war on Spain in 1898? Did we not declare war on Germany in 1917? Did we not invade Grenada in 1983? Invade Panama in 1989? Attack the Iraqis in 1991? Attack Bosnian Serbs in 1995? Attack Yugoslavia in 1999? How many of them launched a direct strike against America before we attacked? Which one of these wars would the good senator retract?

Does the senator really think that striking Iraq now, after it has violated the 1991 ceasefire accords and UN resolutions it is required to obey repeatedly, is something completely new for us? Even if we weren’t completely justified in renewing hostilities that were merely suspended and not ended, a war against Iraq is hardly a radical break from the past. I’m afraid the senator will really have to argue against the particulars of this war. He must argue that we cannot tell the difference between stopping a mad man and destroying an innocent nation. He has too little faith in us.

He also argues that striking first would have bad effects on the behavior of the rest of the world: "That principle, which has earned us enormous respect throughout the world, is the cornerstone of international stability. As the world's superpower, we set the standards for international conduct. We lead by our deeds. When we lead the world by our diplomacy and peaceful resolution of conflicts, we make it more secure. But if we attacked another country because it might threaten our national security, how could we dissuade others from doing the same? If nations that have nuclear weapons or that are developing them fear a preemptive strike, what might their responses be? Would the world be more or less secure?"

Earned us enormous respect? Where? The world has had nothing but hostility for us, trusting the motives of Saddam more than ours. Denying us the right to defend ourselves. They see evil motives for anything we do and nothing we do can make them think better of us. We are too big for them to not suspect us—whatever we do. I hardly think the Milosevics and Saddams and bin Ladens and other assorted nut cases have plotted their mayhem only to pause and contemplate, "What would the Americans do? I certainly wish to emulate their example." Please. Let them fear our wrath. We have made the world more secure by force of arms. From smashing Japanese, Italian, and German fascism, defeating Soviet communism, holding back North Korean communism, and beating back Saddam’s megalomania and Serb nationalism, Americans in uniform have carried out these missions. We have yet to launch a preemptive strike, so where is the restraint of others? Violence is the norm and wars are ongoing every day of every year. We lived in a cocoon of peace while the rest of the world slaughtered each other with machetes and hoped for nukes. When we refuse to use our weapons, our enemies see not example but opportunity—opportunity to pillage and kill with nobody to stop them.

The senator goes on. The specific case of taking on Saddam is still not compelling to him: "The profound consequences of these decisions are compelling reasons to make them as carefully as possible. I believe that the president is right about the need to disarm Saddam Hussein before he obtains nuclear weapons and the ability to use them against us. But that threat does not appear to exist today or within the next few months."

Here is the weasel escape. He concedes that Saddam is a threat and should be taken care of –somehow, without us doing anything. Please don’t make me vote. Please, let Saddam stay quiet until somebody else has to deal with him. Let me please retire from the Senate before I must vote.

The threat is now, senator. Saddam and others like him do not strive to be peaceful. They strive to kill. And they fear only our power—not our example. It is up to you to vote. Don’t let us down. Don’t put the lives of our people in your faith in the peaceful nature of the Saddams and bin Ladens and Milosevics of this world. It is no sin to kill them. The consequences of waiting are so great that we dare not take the chance. Start with Saddam. And trust that our nation of laws, based on a two-century old constitution vesting the power of the world’s only superpower in the American people, can wisely decide whether a preemptive strike is wisdom or Hitlerian aggression. We are up to the task. We must be.