"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
December 7, 1990
WAR: ALL THE REASON WE NEED
This article originally appeared in The Crusader, the Holy Cross College campus newspaper for which I wrote a weekly column at the time.
As America lurches closer and closer to war in the Middle East, President Bush has come under heavy criticism. In a nutshell, it is argued that he has not offered one single compelling reason free of all other motives why America is involved in the reckless adventures of Saddam Hussein. This is a manifestation of Americans' desire to simplify complex foreign policy crises into simple black-and-white issues.
We must be sure not to mistake questions about the US-Israel alliance for an attempt to reduce the situation to a sort of "Arab-good, Israeli-bad" dichotomy. This would be even worse than its opposite, which all too often is resorted to in our policy decisions. The Israelis merely need to be held accountable for their actions, as we try to do with all of our allies.
In Iraq, however, while the situation is in fact complicated, America faces one of those rare cases where (as with Hitler in World War II) virtually all the facets of our foreign policy process indicate the same course of action. In short, there is not just one reason to stop Hussein, but every reason to stop him.
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Rather than face the disillusionment of those Americans who were shocked after World War I to discover that we had fought for more than just to "make the world safe for democracy," let us now look at the reasons for our involvement in the Persian Gulf.
First of all, it has always been America's policy to oppose aggression. Hussein's seizure of Kuwait was nothing more than naked aggression, veiled by only the slimmest pretext of any other motive. U.S. policy in particular can never tolerate totalitarian aggression, the perpetual expansion and war of rulers like Hussein who need to distract their people's attention to some exterior objective enemy to prevent the formation of any united opposition at home.
Those who claim a parallel between Hussein and the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama have overlooked a few key facts: Kuwait does not have a treaty granting Iraqi military bases in its territory; Kuwait did not have a democratic government subverted by a military dictator but a legitimate (if undemocratic) monarchy; Kuwait did not declare war on Iraq; and Iraq has not made any attempts to hold free elections and re-establish a legitimate government in Kuwait, to name a few. Hussein must be stopped because, like Hitler or Stalin, he will expand until he is defeated or checked.
Second, in the interests of democracy, Hussein is a dictator who maintains power through fear and oppression and who has destroyed the legitimate government of a neighboring state. He is undemocratic and a threat to self-determination.
Third, American security interests demand that Hussein be removed now before he extends his military influence in the Gulf and acquires nuclear weapons. The point has been made that many other nations have nuclear arms and America doesn't try to stop them, but other nations have poison gas, too. Nobody but Hussein uses it. We have little reason to doubt that this man would have little compunction about using nuclear arms, and therefore it is in our best interests to see to it that he never acquires the capability.
Fourth, whatever objections (legitimate or otherwise) may be raised to our allies in the region, we must stand up for Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in a moment of crisis. We have many allies the world over who are no friends of liberty and democracy; the time to chastise them is not during a military crisis.
Hussein's bitter opposition to Israel is clear, and the likelihood of an invasion of Saudi Arabia in August was high, particularly after Hussein called for the overthrow of the Saudi government. His continued existence unchecked would remain a constant threat to our staunchest allies in the region.
Fifth, we must do more than merely get a quick appeasement of Hussein. As long as he remains in power unchecked and unmarred by any clear rebuke, the stability of the region will be threatened. His military machine is too powerful to remain at peace with richer, weaker neighbors.
Sixth, while the cost of war in dollars is high, our economic needs do require a check on Hussein's influence over the oil market; the immediate trigger for the invasion was Kuwait's refusal to raise its oil prices. Yes, this means protecting oil companies, but there's more than that at stake. Anyone who remembers the 1970s can remember how much havoc an oil cartel and high oil prices can play on our economy.
Consumers are hurt by price hikes in oil and anything transported by vehicles or from any company using heating oil-the result is massive price shock in the economy that hurts consumers, producers, and workers. Therefore, though not our only motive, the fight over oil is real and is an important one. Anyone who denies the importance of oil should remember that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was a direct response to FDR?s decision to cut Japan's oil supply.
Seventh, Hussein is an exceptionally brutal ruler. Just ask the Kurds, if you can find one still breathing. He murders his advisers with his own hands, uses poison gas on his own people, and has been vicious in his treatment of Kuwait.
Finally, the U.S. has at long last the full support of the United Nations and the world community in opposing Hussein's atrocities. If ever the hour is to come when the noble experiment of collective security is to be put into action, this is that hour. President Bush has all the reason he needs to act strongly and decisively with the support of the civilized world against Saddam Hussein. The time to stop him will never be more opportune.
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