The possible negative consequences of an Iraqi invasion have been discussed ad nauseum in recent months. We’ve been told that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians could die, many Americans will die in street to street fighting, that the risk of terrorism will be increased, that our attacks on Iraq will increase the chances of other striking pre-emptively, getting rid of Saddam might be a recruiting tool for terrorists, that Saddam might launch weapons of mass destruction at us or Israel which might provoke a nuclear response, an Iraqi invasion might cause Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to fall, attacking Iraq will make America more unpopular, etc, etc.
There’s nothing wrong with bringing up the possible negative consequences of going to war. To the contrary, even though we know from previous experience that most of these negative scenarios are not likely to occur, being aware of them helps prepare and steel us for potential problems.
However, I think insufficient attention has been paid to the consequences of failing to remove Saddam Hussein. If we’re honest, we must admit that we would face some rather severe repercussions if we allow Saddam to retain power.
– If we do not invade, it’s highly likely that Saddam Hussein will continue to possess weapons of mass destruction and will likely develop nuclear weapons.
– If Saddam develops nuclear weapons, it’s highly likely that many of Iraq’s neighbors (at least Iran, Syria, & Saudi Arabia) will attempt to develop nuclear weapons programs of their own in order to counter the very real threat of an attack from Iraq.
– In fact, it’s not unrealistic to assume that we could see three or four terrorist supporting nations in the region, armed with nuclear weapons within a decade’s time unless Iraq conquers them first or an outside power (the United States) intervenes. This would of course lead to a DRASTICALLY increased chance of nuclear weapons spreading across the globe, a DRASTICALLY increased chance of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons, and a DRASTICALLY increased chance of a nuclear war occurring between Israel and at least one of it’s belligerent neighbors.
– IF the US were AGAIN proven to be a “paper tiger” it would mean the amount of cooperation we’re getting in the war on terrorism would drop significantly. Moreover, nations that overtly support terrorist groups like Iraq, Iran, “Palestine,” & Syria would realize that they could continue to support terrorist groups with no real repercussions.
– Our faltering could encourage North Korea to believe that we don’t have the will to stop them from selling nuclear weapons globally. China might also decide that the US won’t have the guts to step in if they invade Taiwan. After all, why would anyone think we’re going to tackle North Korea or China if we won’t stand-up to Iraq?
– Since it’s essentially impossible for a country the size of the US to adequately protect itself from terrorists, our only long-term hope of preventing another 9/11 is to cut the terrorists off at the source. That means we have to topple regimes that continue to support terrorism and we also have to go after terrorist groups of global reach no matter where they may reside. Pulling back from an Iraqi invasion would mean that we were no longer willing to do that. Over time, that means that the risk of another 9/11 like attack, this time featuring weapons of mass destruction, would increase astronomically.
Now, I’m willing to say that I accept the risks and consequences and an Iraqi invasion. I know that when we invade US soldiers & Iraqi civilians are going to die. I also recognize that it’s going to be expensive and our troops are going to be stuck there for years, possibly decades. Furthermore, I accept the much more limited risk that that there could be massive casualties, nukes launched, or that Saudi Arabia could fall.
That being said, is the anti-war crowd willing to claim responsibility for the negative end-results of their position? Are they willing to say, “Yes, it’s fine with us if Saddam Hussein and quite possibly down the road Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia acquire nuclear weapons?” Are they going to take responsibility for terrorists getting their hands on nukes provided by one of these regimes and using them on an American city? If five years from now Iraq launches a nuke at Israel and Israel responds by launching two dozen nukes at Iraq (perhaps at all of the countries that surround Israel), is the anti-war crowd going to stand up and admit that, “If only we would have invaded Iraq, this wouldn’t have happened?” Not if, but when countries like Pakistan, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia stop cooperating with us and start openly supporting terrorists again, is the anti-war crowd going to say, “leaving Saddam alone was worth it?” If Saddam decides to liquidate the Kurds or continues to deliberately starve hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to death, is the anti-war crowd going to proclaim, “Keeping Saddam in power was so important that it was worth the lives of all those people?”
Being taken seriously when you talk about foreign policy requires that you do more than go to a protest march and wave your, “Drop Bush, not bombs” sign around. To really be worth listening to, you’ve got to have a good understanding of the benefits and the drawbacks of a position, and then you’ve got to make your decisions accordingly. Whether you agree with them or not, the pro-war voices in our country have been willing to tackle difficult questions about the consequences of their policies. But, have the most strident anti-war voices done the same thing? Have they acknowledged the terrible risks of the “non-action” they advocate? For the most part, the answer is, “no.” Apparently, shouting out bumper sticker slogans like, “no blood for oil” and trying to come up with creative new ways to compare the Bush to Hitler is more their speed.