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I post this here because I noted DoctorBombay's recent thoughtful post, The case against a war with Iraq. I confess to being somewhat ambivalent about this specific war, but below lay out what I believe is the broad case for it, and the benefits of it.

A forwarning: it is long. It takes the form of a letter I recently emailed to a German friend, who I met when I was a student in Bonn. His academic credentials in international and European politics are as sterling as they get, and he was no doubt provoking me for a response (as you will see in his paragraph that introduces the post). That said, I have no doubt that he truly believes this is a catastrophic move on the part of the United States, and would have thoughtful reasons why; and I can assure you, he is not "just another thoughtless leftie American-hating European peacenik" (That tedious charge is why I am not posting this over at PA). His command of American diplomatic history exceeds that of 99% of Americans. I do below what I can to deflect his claim.

For a bit of context, he is writing to acknowledge receipt of the wedding present I sent to him. A kitchen discussion is referenced that ensued before his wedding between his godfather (a former General in the German military) and the godfather's French friend, Pierre (former officer in the French Occupation sector of West Germany, where he met the godfather).

I hope this contributes productively to the on-going dialogue on war and security,



Hope everything is going well in the west - but you, “Jimi,” should finally do something to stop the empire americain from making its worst hegemonic move in the last 50 years!

Would be glad to hear from you!

Patrick, my good man! Damn glad the package arrived: use them frequently and in good health.

Now, since you've broached the topic, let's talk shop.

The first thing I must say is that at this late stage, the Empire will not be stopped. Iraq's fate and the course for war were sealed by a 15-0 vote in the Security Council supporting Resolution 1441. For some “parties” to step forward at this late hour and say, “Mais, non!” and profess surprise and concern at our building military capacity in the Gulf is surely, well, ridiculous. There was no doubt in my mind, as there should have been no doubt in the minds of voting (and veto-wielding) members of the Security Council, that the Bush administration was not going to feel obliged to return to the Security Council for a subsequent final resolution. Here are the appropriate holes from 1441 through which the Bush administration can drive its heavy armor on to Baghdad:

4. Decides that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations and will be reported to the Council for assessment in accordance with paragraphs 11 and 12 below;

13. Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;

The Bush administration set the trap that 1) foresaw obvious lies originating from Baghdad (see Iraq's subsequent report to the Security Council about its WMD) resulting in 2) “serious consequences,” which at the time, no one mistook for anything other than war.

Thus, it is a war we will have, barring the unlikely departure from Iraq of the Hussein Entourage, or his sudden death from lead poisoning viz. a bullet to the temple. If I were a bookie, I would assign a probability of either of those two outcomes to < 10%.

Let's now consider briefly the protests emanating from the Axis of E-ville… the E, of course, referring to “(Old) Europe.” I suspect that you would concede that 1) Saddam is a bad man, 2) Saddam is a liar, 3) Iraqis would be far better off without Saddam, 4) He has plenty of WMD, 5) Evidence suggests he has used chemical weapons, 6) The world would be a more bucolic place without Saddam. Why precisely the administration has decided to scratch this burr from between its backside and saddle at this moment in time seems to elude Old Europe: I will even entertain the possibility that some of this is about oil, Bush family honor, and most cynically, about the presidential election cycle (thanks to Karl Rove).

That acknowledged, I also believe—for better or worse—that Bush is also pursuing this military campaign because he thinks it is “just,” and it serves broader American strategic interests. I'll consider each in turn.

Linking the term “just” with any military action that will no doubt leave many innocent people dead always causes me discomfort. But let me emphasize that it does not matter whether I find the current course of action “just,” but rather to believe that I think President Bush finds the current course of action “just.” Which I do.

In opposition to this “just war” are the opportunistic Schroeder and the ever-conniving Chirac. What is it that they want? Seemingly, “more time… more time… why now… more time.” Yes, well, it seems to me that the conditions they seek to establish have a certain, “heads-I-win-tails-you-lose” element, in that, 1) if the inspectors find something, France (and its poodle, Germany) will point to that as evidence that inspections work, and therefore war should not be pursued; or, 2) if the inspectors fail to find anything (i.e., the elusive “smoking gun”), France/Germany can point to that “insufficient evidence” as reason why war should not be pursued.

Again, in all fairness and in the interests of analysis, I will also acknowledge that the Bush administration uses a similar approach when it insists that the failure to find anything is clear evidence of Iraqi intransigence, and therefore yet further “material breach,” while the discovery of anything (e.g., the paltry cache of chemical weapons munitions) is further evidence of “material breach.”

But all this is so-much political and diplomatic trivia that does nothing more than confirm for me that war is a +90% likelihood… and that the Security Council can work itself into paroxysm of indignation, as can Berlin & Paris, but war is coming, and when it is concluded, the Bush administration will point to the cited passages from 1441 as its justification... and when Saddam is gone, the protesters will disperse and the rhetoric that came from Berlin & Paris will appear in retrospect rather cowardly strident. Which makes the current Franco-German obstinacy seem not only feeble, but in vain. And while I admire the pure Realism of unprincipled French foreign policy that permits it to tack 180 degrees when self-serving advantage requires (as I have every expectation they will when use of American force seems imminent… la gloire dictates that France participate in any successful campaign!), Schroeder's shrillness is just down-right perverse.

I would suggest, additionally, that I am not alone in that perspective, given the proclamation issued by the so-called Gang of Eight European leaders yesterday [N.B. Obviously, I was slow to post this letter here]. While conservative commentators here thoughtlessly drool over what they see as vindication for Bush's “Just War,” I see it more as a clear slap at the determination by French and German leaders to equate Franco-German condominium with the position of the European Union. These eight were saying, “Ummm… no. You two are definitely NOT in charge of either any EU foreign policy position, nor will we submit to a political tyranny of your consensus.” As such, Franco-German obstinacy in the face of inevitability has set back, if not exposed the terminal futility of a common foreign and security policy for Europe. Quite a diplomatic achievement… while simultaneously, Blair has shown deft diplomatic acumen, demonstrating the primacy of security and foreign policy formulation outside the bureaucratic corridors of Brussels.

As such, Schroeder/Chirac do not promise to join the august ranks of Kohl/Mitterrand, Schmidt/d'Estaing & Adenauer/de Gaulle as those who decisively moved the "European" ball down field. Instead, they appear to me to have committed a penalty within the box in the 59th minute. Oops.

Put simply, my friend, from this side of the drink, they appear as ineffective asses… but, I guess it plays well politically at home (or not, if the most recent German elections are any indication).

On the issue of “hegemon,” I would offer two points. First, it must be recalled that the impetus for this is the devastation of 9/11. I am certain you can appreciate the historical trauma this represents for us on this side of the drink: our treasured oceanic defense—the heart of American security identity since its founding—came collapsing down on that date along with the twin towers. But let's be fair: since World War II, but especially in the post-Cold War era, the United States has never acted upon the world stage in proportion to its military capacity. In part, that was because we were prepared largely to rely on containment and deterrence. Well, I'm afraid an undeterrable opponent's attack on our soil has stirred us, and it really doesn't matter what the UN, or EU, or for God's sake, the French or Germans, have to say about how we are to conduct ourselves in years to come. The evening before your wedding, in the kitchen with Pierre and your godfather, I listened to their anger at Bush Diplomacy; and while I was distracted by another conversation, and desperate to join in, and in fact, felt like I was being simultaneously baited and invited to defend American policy, what I would have been tempted to say (but obliged by politeness not to say, of course) is: “I am terribly sorry that our transatlantic friends are irritated by our unilateral and aggressive shift in policy. Alas, spare us your input: the choice of insignificant little powers like you is to follow us, or get the hell out of the way.” They would not have appreciated that message, but it remains what I believe today: me, a Europhile!

Which brings me to my second point: we are not your run of the mill hegemon. If American history is any guide, and I think it is, here's what's going to happen. Saddam will be vanquished, although I worry about a WMD attack on Israel, and subsequent response, that might convert quantities of the Middle East sands to glass. While it may be messy, the United States vanquishes Saddam Hussein, and then we do what we do in victory: set up shop until a functional pluralistic system is in place… and remain until the locals formally—and through representative institutions—request our departure. We're still in Japan, and Germany, and Korea… and there are glorious pluralistic systems there, where if the public authorities insisted we left, would cause us to pack up and leave (see the Philippines, Subic Bay, 1992). We are not your run of the mill hegemon. We stick around, more or less, by begrudging invitation, because it is recognized that we seek not to dominate, but to bare the shared sacrifice required for defending the freedoms enjoyed by pluralistic systems.

I have every expectation that in 10 years, and likely 20 years, and conceivably 50 years, we will still have troops on Iraqi soil by such invitation.

Yup: we're going to set up shop in Iraq, oversee there the establishment of a pluralistic federalist system (a la Germany!) that allows all the ethnic fractions a measure of self-determination, and we'll offer the fledgling Iraqi government no end of preferential investment and trade advantages… just like with Japan & Western Europe in the 1950s & 60s. And Iraq will sit like a flourishing democratic “blemish” amid a sea of despotic regimes… and the neighboring oppressed will someday become fed up with their totalitarian overlords, just like they did in Leipzig in 1989, and they will rise up and say, “No more.”

And to achieve this simultaneously noble and self-serving end, Americans will expend the blood of its young and the gold of its treasury.

I know what you're thinking: “What the hell does Saddam Hussein have to do with 9/11 or the threat posed by terrorists?” Well, let me suggest that there is about to unfold a rather profound lesson on the global stage. Iraq has been obliged for a dozen years to disarm. He has chosen not to, and the Clinton administration, and for the first year, the Bush administration, seemed indifferent to doing much about it. Now, Iraq is about to suffer the wrath of American military might, and Hussein will be gone. People here talk about the war lasting perhaps 18 hours: even if it lasts 18 months, the U.S. most certainly will gain control of Iraq, and Hussein will be (in successive diminishing probability) dead, in a cell in den Haag or Guantanamo, or in exile. What this will have done—and this is the cornerstone of US post-9/11 security policy—is to have raised the costs to non-pluralistic states of possessing weapons of mass destruction. Pure & simple: a regime can maintain a non-pluralistic system, or can possess WMD, but it most certainly cannot do both. It isn't necessary to show that al Qaeda and Iraq are in regular contact: the New Rule is that the possession of such weapons alone (even by an opponent who has demonstrated a willingness to be deterred, as I believe Hussein has, both during and since the 1991 Gulf War) establishes sufficient opportunity to threaten us. Those who insist that the radical secularism of Iraq would never find common cause with the radical religionism of al Qaeda would do well to review the German-Soviet Non-Aggression/Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of Aug. 14, 1939. Fascists and Communists (!!) found common cause, if but only opportunistically and temporarily. For those not paying sufficient attention, U.S. policy now is to deny—by pre-emption—any such opportunity:

“We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends.”
--National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002, p. 14.

Those words are about to find their demonstration, and the lesson's intended recipients are: most immediately, Iran & Korea; somewhat tangentially, Syria and Libya; more distantly, even Pakistan… anyone who weds tyranny and WMD will appear on our radar screen, and be dealt with and disposed of. This will substantially shift the balance of costs and benefits for states pursuing, and contemplating the pursuit of, a WMD programs: pursuit will not enhance security. Once Europe itself is hit with catastrophic terrorism—and I believe it will be next, because I believe al Qaeda seeks less to oppose America, than to divide civilizations—NATO will re-dedicate itself to that shared purpose. And even Schroeder's successor will be on board….

“But what of China, which is both autocratic and possesses WMD?” I acknowledge that China represents a special geostrategic challenge, namely because it already possesses a credible deterrence that limits the U.S. capacity for direct confrontation. So be it. Eventually, China will have to democratize (a la Soviet bloc, 1989), implode (from the social demographic unrest of +1,000,000,000 citizens denied any meaningful expression of their will), or suffer isolation (a new Cold War). But that is not the immediate concern.

The immediate concern for your “Hegemon” is to dethrone those regimes that threaten to become stronger states by acquiring WMD, thereby creating the opportunity for terrorist acquisition. Is it a mistake? “Its worst hegemonic move in the last 50 years?” History will judge, but the script is as old as recorded history:

“The strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.”
-- The Melian Dialogue, Thucydides

We are strong. We will do what we can, with or without our traditional allies. But you know what? We don't do so to make the weak suffer. We do so in self-defense… and in pursuing that self-defense, it is not the weak who will suffer, for it is ultimately they who we liberate from their oppressive tyrants.
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