The Columbia Critic

A place to debate anything we want to. We'll talk Columbia campus issues. We'll talk up the homosexual problem. We'll talk China. And we'll talk without resorting to partisan rhetoric. We may be left. We may be right. But we aren't going to be quoting any party line. We're leading the discussion. But feel free to chime in. Hannity and Colmes this is not.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A reevaluation of Iraq
In his journal article Chuck Pena makes some interesting points. Let me take it piece by piece.

First the comparison of Bush's War to Clinton's War. Its important to
note that the original justification for invading Iraq was the presence of WMD's, later shown to be fallacious. (Yes WMD's were found hidden in Iraq this week, perhaps evidencing a credible threat, but let us, for now, maintain the assumption that it had not been a credible threat). Bush invaded Iraq and successfully toppled a dictator who was performing atrocities intermittantly, but had not committed mass genocide for a while. An unstable country with a very bad (dare I say evil?) leader indeed, but likely not an imminent threat to U.S. interests or even to the sum of the Iraqi population. Clinton sat tight on the balkins for quite a while, some say too long, before deciding to intervene, and the decision that was made, after the crisis reached epic proportions and thousands and thousands of refugees were fleeing certain death, consisted of a bombing campaign, inserting quickly to incise the leadership, and leaving a NATO ground force to pick up the pieces. Both these instances have some severe faults. One might say Bush went in prematurely, while Clinton entered the arena far too late. In any case, one key difference between Kosovo and Iraq is that Kosovo occurred in a time of relative quietude for US National Security. Iraq occurred in the midst of the 'Global War on Terror.' I would argue that the invasion of Iraq was called for before 9-11, for similar reasons that the Balkans war was called for, in addition to the pontential WMD threat. Post 9-11 however, our concerns needed to shift drastically. They did when we went into Afghanistan. But we extended our reach in the invasion of Iraq, and thus overlooked some other serious prospects for our counter-terrorism efforts. It is fair to say that having Saddam's Iraq out of the picture allows us greater mobility in the region and our continued presence has positioned us strategically to reach farther and deeper into AlQueda as well as other terrorist threats abroad. But in evaluating the price (both in $$ and military functionability), I seriously question its cost effectiveness thus-far. Essentially our distraction with Iraqi affairs has hampered our ability to take advantage of the opportunities that exist given our massive physical presence in the region.

Our military is still the best equipped and best trained to perform the duties in what has been termed the Global War on Terror. I have a problem, though, with even that term. "The Global War on Terror." It is imprecise at best and misguided at worst to call this struggle or collective action a "war." The invasion of Iraq was a war. The main action in Afghanistan was (perhaps in that case still is...) a war. The occupation of Iraq, while quite necessary, is not a war but a security and nation-building effort. Our greater efforts against Al Queda and terrorism, while absolutely necessary, are not a war. Why? Because they involve so much more than the requisite military involvement, and because this is not state-on-state action. Calling it a War only serves to legitimize Al Queda. A 'War' implies one state (a government representing a static population inhabiting some delineated region) fighting another state. Al Queda does not represent a people. It is an organized criminal association. A world wide mafia. Now, we do not have a world-wide police force, and so the most effective means we maintain is our military and those of our allies (via NATO not the UN). The militaries are integral to our counter-terrorism policing efforts, more I would say than any other single component.

And here is where I get to the crux of the problem with the author's position. It is outdated by at least a couple of decades. Why? Globalization. Increased connectivity. "The spreading of the Western disease of modernity". Whatever you want to call it. We cannot afford to leave any part of the world alone to its own devices any more than
they can afford to separate themselves from us and the rest of the world. Trade agreements, alliances, ultra-fast communications, worldwide emigration - all of this requires some apparatus to ensure security and stability. The most effective solution on its face would probably be some sort of responsible world body that could perform
policing actions and operations abroad with a certain legitimacy. Unfortunately the UN is toothless, ineffective, and downright stupid. A second best might be NATO, and while I am still hopeful for this organization, it is at present transforming too slowly to meet current security needs.

Pena says that if the US would stop meddling in the affairs of other countries, middle eastern countries in particular, it would avoid these attacks. I say that this is unlikely. US involvement runs too deep, and in fact cannot be controlled with good conscience by the U.S. Government. Companies will continue to trade, people will continue to emigrate and immigrate, and the government will be continually pushed and pulled towards involvement by the brute force of economics. It is in no way feasible for the U.S. to "stop meddling in the affairs of these countries," just as it is in no way feasible for them to cease their relationship with us. Anti-american resentment would be helped very little if we left Iraq today, or we halted all trade with the arab world (if that were even possible). I will agree that the obsession with arab oil and with saudi arabia is tedious, annoying, and largely unnecessary, and that the close ties between the U.S. and the Saudi royal family should be abandoned. I do think that, ideally, we should reach a level of fuel consumption that would require NO dependency on arab oil, indeed on foreign oil altogether. I do think that we should reevaluate our position on and involvement in the Israel-Palestine affair (we are not non-partial, nor should we be, but someone else could be - perhaps the Swiss? They don't do much any more). But I do not think that any of this would greatly decrease the likelihood of Al Queda targeting the United States Al Queda and other terrorists, anarchists, and uber-fundamentalists have opinions ranging from strong disagreement to visceral hatred for our version of progress, for globalization, for modernization, for many of what we consider to be basic human rights, and yes for life. Perhaps we should update our foreign policy, and reaffirm that for which we stand. But let us not forget that for which they stand: religious fundamentalism, politico-social isolation, and unadulterated terror.


  • At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Bekki said…

    I find it interesting that Mr. Pena compared the war in Iraq to Bosnia, and not Somalia. I think that the engagement of Somalia is much more analagous, a hostile guerilla force with little organization, whereas in Bosnia, Milosovic was clearly the target.


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