Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Nuclear Annihilation

So soon after saying king words about Richard Cohen, I must object to this column. First of all, the "chicken hawk" comment is a cheap shot and not an argument. I thought Cohen was better than that. I never felt that President Clinton lacked the authority to command our military because he did not serve (and even used subterfuge to avoid service). I think it would be a sad world if we had to require military service to be president. The large number of World War II veterans is an anomaly in our society. Are we truly saying we would like major extended bloody wars on a regular basis to ensure we have veterans who can serve in government? If "chicken hawk" can be thrown at those of us who never served in combat (I served in uniform but was just a REMF) yet favor war against Iraq, can we say the anti-war crowd is just "chicken?" Could we say the former soldiers who would not have us take on Iraq are "cowards" because they do not want to take on Iraq? I should hope not. War is a serious matter and deserves to be debated. Those who call for debate should not hurl insults as a substitute. Cohen’s stated desire to avoid war now, but perhaps later it would be ok, is confusing. Is Cohen a "embryonic chicken hawk?" Really, he says he is just not willing yet to say we should go to war. Will he become a "chicken hawk" when he agrees with war? So how does this distinction earn derision for those who at this moment think now is the time for war? Cohen’s distinction between "potential" and "imminent" threats is just wrong. Since Saddam cannot lob a nuke at New York to finish the job does not mean the threat is not imminent. Given his track record we cannot say his threat is merely "potential." No, the possibility that Switzerland might develop and use nukes against us is "potential." The possibility that Saddam would use them is "imminent" when you consider the uncertainties of predicting when he would get them and the time it would take to conquer Iraq if we decided he was about to go nuclear. And what if Iraq manages to convince North Korea to invade the South? Or China to invade Taiwan? Or one of any number of crises that could cause us to delay in reacting to his imminent deployment of nuclear weapons? What would we do? What could we do?

Second, the reasons Cohen gives for seeing war in the future as justifiable are perplexing. Just how have the past eleven years failed to show that Saddam has chosen war by refusing to let us "vacuum" his country with inspectors to ensure compliance with the ceasefire terms? Why would four more years (assuming Saddam is five years from a nuke) be meaningful? And why are nukes the only hideous weapon Cohen deems justifying an assault?

And finally, is it really morally superior to avoid war now when Saddam does not have nukes? Did I really just read Cohen argue that our response to Saddam’s use of nuclear weapons against us would be to use our "ample means" to retaliate so that "Iraq would cease to exist." Does he realize what that means? Are we clear that Cohen is arguing for us to nuke Iraq? We’re talking mega-deaths! This is a superior strategy to taking Saddam out now? And if the world would react badly to a conventional campaign against Iraq just how would the world react to an American nuclear strike?! The fallout would be real not just political. Is mass murder really our preferred response?

Invade soon. The threat is imminent in any reasonable definition of the word.