R.C. Longworth, advertised as a “Tribune senior correspondent,” stunk up the Windy City yesterday with this bit of blithering idiocy, in which he counsels against the danger of taking out Saddam:
Well, that was a tidy little war in Afghanistan. We won, more or less. Not many casualties, and we caught a few of those Al Qaeda guys, if not the big shots.
Yeah, but if I google you, I’m betting you didn’t predict that outcome.
What’s next? Why, Iraq, of course. It’s time to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Everyone agrees. So why not?
Actually, there are lots of reasons why not. But Washington seems so intent on attacking Iraq, as the first point on President Bush’s “axis of evil,” that bombs will be falling on Baghdad before any questions are asked or objections raised.
Really? Well, by my count, questions have been asked, and objections raised, from you and your ilk, for months. Ever since, in fact, you realized that whining about Afghanistan was beating a dead horse, and the outlines of the next target came into focus, way back last fall. And not a bomb has fallen on Baghdad yet. So your silly prediction has already been grossly falsified.
The United States is racing toward a war with Iraq on the assumption that we can topple Hussein quickly, with relatively few casualties, no impact on oil supplies, no damage to our relations with the rest of the world, no serious domestic opposition, and no hitches in putting a post-Hussein Iraq back together again.
No, the United States is proceeding calmly and resolutely toward a war with Iraq, in full knowledge that some or all of those things may not be the case, but that the risks of not doing so exceed the risk that it won’t be as easy or clean as we might like. From just what planet is it that you email in these stupid little screeds to Chicago?
All this is debatable, to say the least. But the administration seems determined, and the Democratic opposition has been quieted by the president’s 83 percent approval ratings. In short, although questions emerged in the past week about the president’s long-term plans, nobody in Washington is saying, “Wait a minute.”
This was written (or at least published) yesterday. Were you holed up in a cave somewhere last week, when Tom Daschle and Bob Byrd were castigated for doing just that?
If there are doubts beyond the Beltway, they aren’t being heard in any coordinated way. Memories of Sept. 11 remain fresh. The nation, terribly wounded but still dangerous, seems ready to lash out at its enemies, wherever they are.
For “lash out at its enemies,” read “take preemptive action against those who have stated their desire and intent to see us dead, and have the means to make it happen.”
Administration officials talk approvingly of a national “war fever” that gives Bush a free hand in eradicating the “axis of evil.” Public opinion polls back this up. One of the most recent, by the Pew Research Center, showed that 92 percent of Americans endorse military force in the war on terrorism and no less than 73 percent want to see us attack Iraq–and Sudan too.
Well, it’s not surprising that they approve of the fact that they have public support for actions that they believe that they would have to take, even if the polls were reversed.
What’s your point? Do you have one?
As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: “If we have to go into 15 or more countries, we ought to do it.”
This amounts to a mandate for permanent war in which dissent is treason.
Yes, the prisons are overflowing with the dissenters we’ve been rounding up. They’re even having to let out murderers, drug users, and cigarette executives to make room for them.
Haven’t you noticed in your hysteria, Mr. Longworth, that we haven’t even charged Johnny “Jihad” Walker Lindh with treason? And he had actually taken up arms against us.
No wonder doubts are hushed, even among opposition Democrats such as Al Gore who have abandoned their duty to oppose in favor of a national wartime consensus. If the administration thinks Americans want war, it may be right.
Gee, ya think?
Or it may be wrong. Pollsters say in-depth polling and focus groups indicate that this support is softer than the raw figures suggest. Mounting anecdotal evidence supports this.
Good ol’ anecdotal evidence. The last refuge of the scoundrel without real evidence.
About 20 prominent Chicagoans gathered recently for a private dinner to hear an emissary from the Eastern Establishment lay out the administration’s case for a war on Iraq. It was a conservative crowd–lawyers, business people, bankers, a sprinkling of academics, even a retired army general. All probably supported the war in Afghanistan, and there wasn’t a card-carrying dove in the lot.
Did you check their cards?
Somewhat to their own surprise, these citizens lined up unanimously against a war on Iraq. All agreed the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein. But all felt that a U.S. attack on him would do more harm than good, for a variety of reasons.
They “felt” that, eh? Once more with feeling. Feeeelllliiinngggs…wo wo wo Feeeellliiinnngggsss…
First, Hussein’s terrorist credentials are pretty theoretical. The idea of attacking him arose after Sept. 11, and the administration has made him a target in the war on terrorism. Certainly, he has a fearsome arsenal of weapons. But there is no evidence that he has used them against the United States or plans to do so. Evil he may be, but few people think he is so crazy as to jeopardize his hold on Iraq–his overwhelming political goal–by inviting an all-out U.S. attack.
No, he’ll just slip some weapons to some other people to attack us (you know, like when his head of security met with the Al Qaeda guy in Prague last year?). And perhaps you’ve forgotten about that little assassination attempt on Bush 41?
Nawww, Saddam’s just a regular guy. He’d never do anything to hurt the United States.
The one link between Iraq and the September attacks is a reported but unsubstantiated meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, between an Iraqi agent and one of the suicide pilots–a flimsy justification for a pre-emptive war.
Now here is where you and your idiotarian fellow travelers in Europe go completely off the rails. And you display the confusion right here in this one sentence. First you talk about the September attacks, as though we can never take action against someone unless they can be proven to be related to that particular event.
Then, in the very same sentence you talk about “pre-emptive war.” But if it’s a pre-emptive war, what does it have to do with September 11? Pre-emptive means to fend off future attacks, not to avenge past ones.
So this sentence is simply a long oxymoron (as opposed to its writer, who is apparently just the simple, unmodified kind).
“Iraq is going to be a major distraction from the war on terrorism, not a part of it,” one lawyer said.
Oh, good. That’s who we need war advice from.
You know, like the one who told them in Afghanistan that we couldn’t take out Mullah “Cyclops” Omar when we had a chance. Might not be strictly legal, you know.
The Chicagoans’ dissent was no bleat of Midwestern isolationism. Just the opposite. All valued America’s alliances, in Europe and the Middle East especially, and felt that a unilateral attack on Iraq would shred those alliances, turning the U.S. from a global leader, respected by its allies, into a global bully feared by its subjects. (Seventy-three percent of Americans may favor an attack, but opposition in Europe runs between 68 percent and 80 percent, depending on the poll.)
Ahhh…note that he presents no evidence for this point of view–the bizarre notion that denizens of the heartland actually value alliances with militarily-impotent and morally-challenged European elites over defending the country. Or that they’re overly concerned about the U.S. becoming a “global bully.”
I think that this is what psychologists refer to as “projection.”
The administration says the Europeans and the Arabs will support a U.S. attack “when they see we are serious.” This is unproven wishful thinking. So is the claim, by Richard Perle, a leading hawk, that other Arab nations privately tell us that they want Hussein gone and that his ouster by U.S. arms “would be met by dancing in the streets.”
Well, not to gainsay someone who is obviously a premier expert in “wishful thinking,” but that seems to be the trend so far.
In fact, the only nation interested in attacking Hussein–us–is the one farthest from him. Why, asked one Chicagoan, should the United States worry about him when those closest to his threat, especially the other Arabs, don’t?
Because he’s managed to cow the other Arabs into feigning support for him? Because they’re afraid that if he goes, their little theocratic dictatorships might be next?
There are lots of potential reasons that have nothing to do with our national security, but why explore them?–it would just remove whatever little air there is to his pointless comment.
“I’m stunned by the enthusiasm of the administration for this war and the growing unanimity among military thinkers for it,” a local expert on the Middle East said. “There’s going to be a huge Arab backlash.”
Like the one when we went into Afghanistan? I could dig out all the predictions. You know, the “Arab street”? The ones that we haven’t heard boo from since the daisies were cut? Was this one of those experts?
The word from Washington is that any attack on Iraq is probably six or seven months away, because it will be more complicated than the relatively easy assault on Afghanistan.
An Afghanistan-style attack, with air strikes supporting mostly opposition forces, won’t work in Iraq, where the local opposition is weaker and the government forces stronger than the ones in Afghanistan. According to Washington hawks, an American ground force of 100,000 to 200,000 soldiers, possibly more, would be needed. This, we are assured, would guarantee victory within a month, with American casualties limited to about 1,000 dead and wounded.
We are assured by whom? I haven’t seen any firm plans. Is Mr. Longworth privy to some classified briefings?
To some of the Chicagoans, these forecasts sounded like government assurances during the Vietnam War.
“…some of the Chicagoans…” Gotta love those sources.
Others wondered where the Pentagon expects to find staging areas for these ground troops. Carrier groups can provide a home base for an air war, but you can’t launch tanks from an aircraft carrier.
Only those who are unfamiliar with geography and politics.
Washington seems certain that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring nations will gladly play launching pad to this American attack. On Kuwait, that view may be right. The rest are much more uncertain.
I haven’t seen any such certainty. Has the author never heard of Turkey? Has he considered that Saudi Arabia may play launching pad without doing so “gladly”? We are at war, after all…
It is an article of faith among the hawks that there is a ready-made anti-Hussein coalition in Iraq that can be quickly mobilized to plant a functioning democracy in what is perhaps the most undemocratic country in the most undemocratic part of the world. As Robert Kagan and William Kristol have written: “The United States will have to make a long-term commitment to rebuilding Iraq . . . and put it on a path toward democratic governance.”
To the Chicagoans, this sounds like a quagmire.
I think he’s channeling again. I will give him credit for getting this far into the article before using the “Q” word, though.
Most strategists consider the best-known Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, to be a joke. Even supporters of an invasion warn that the U.S. will be left “owning” a shattered country of 23 million people.
A joke. Kind of like that barrel of laughs, the Northern Alliance?
Putting Iraq back together again would cost American taxpayers about $10 billion dollars per year for a decade. Simply running Iraq and keeping it from breaking into fiefdoms, each with its own cache of leftover chemical weapons, would be an international nightmare.
Why is that? I thought they had oil.
If the war goes on longer than predicted, or if the casualties mount, or if the war against terrorism turns into a war against the Arab world, or if post-Hussein Iraq becomes an ungovernable mess, or if the Americans can’t catch Hussein (as we can’t find Osama bin Laden)–if any of these things happen, domestic support for an Iraq adventure will dry up fast.
If, if, if…
Yes, if it were an “adventure,” indeed it would. In fact, it wouldn’t even occur in the first place. But of course, if and when we go into Iraq, it won’t be as an “adventure.” It will be to remove a clear and present threat that Mr. Longworth, who sees so clearly all the “ifs,” remains blind to, regardless of the fact that it is not an “if,” but rather, an “is.”
The best argument for attacking Iraq is the danger that Hussein is close to acquiring nuclear weapons and using both them and chemical weapons against his neighbors or against us.
But even Kagan and Kristol admit that “no one knows how close Saddam is to having a nuclear de-vice.”
Perle agrees: “How close is he? We do not know. Two years, three years, tomorrow even? We simply do not know.”
Candid ignorance, while endearing, is a feeble battle cry.
Yes, since we don’t know if it’s tomorrow, or the day after, or even next year, we should simply let sleeping Saddams lie. The fact that we know that he is developing them is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that we don’t have his exact schedule and project management plan in hand, and therefore we should do nothing.
So is the assurance that Hussein intends to use his weapons of mass destruction against us. If he did, any domestic opposition to an attack on Iraq would vanish, as it did when Afghanistan-based terrorists protected by the Taliban launched their slaughter in September. Hussein knows this.
Only if he can’t do it in such a way as it can be traced back to him. Perhaps he thinks himself smarter than bin Laden, and that he’ll get away with it. After all, he has so far (particularly thanks to handwringers like R.C. Longworth).
At the moment, though, the opposite is true. Little evidence exists of Hussein’s links to terrorism, at least outside the Middle East. If, despite this, we attack him, we give him every incentive to unsheathe his own chemical, biological and (maybe) nuclear weapons. The first targets would be the U.S. troops invading his country.
Yes, Mr. Longworth thinks that Pentagon planners are idiots.
This line of reasoning argues that Hussein can be contained without an attack. This is not so stirring as an assault on the “axis of evil,” but it avoids a cure that might be worse than the disease. And there’s a precedent.
President Ronald Reagan labeled the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” a model for Bush’s “axis of evil” speech. But once Reagan identified the evil empire, what did he do about it?
He certainly didn’t launch a military attack. Instead, to his everlasting credit, he did what all his predecessors since Harry Truman had done, which was contain the Soviet Union with a policy of military, economic and diplomatic pressure. Late in his presidency, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered to end the Cold War, Reagan had the courage and generosity to accept that offer.
Russia is still a problem but no longer an enemy. If history repeats itself in Iraq, it will be no bad outcome.
Well, this last almost sounds reasonable, except that the analogy is flawed. The only reason we avoided war with the Soviets was that the risks were too great. Despite all of the vapors exhibited here, the potential downside of an Iraq war isn’t large enough to take the risk of continued weapons development on Saddam’s part.
And in his apparent isolationist zeal (yes, that’s what I call him, despite his apparent channeling of Eurowhining, because he seems to think that we should never attack another country unless it is an indisputably direct and immediate threat to us), he ignores the threat to Israel. What does he think that the U.S. domestic reaction will be if Tel Aviv is nuked, because we were unwilling to preempt Saddam?
The reality, with which Mr. Longworth doesn’t want to deal, is that the entire middle east is a vast swamp of tyranny and misery. Until we drain it, we will continue to be at risk of terrorist attacks. Mr. Hussein’s regime is the most dangerous one there. Once it’s gone, we’ll have much more leverage to clean up the rest. It has to be one of the highest priorities.