When it comes to foreign policy, I don't have many rules, but one of the critical ones I do have is "If you can avoid it, don't start a fight." While I think every country, the same as every individual, has the right to defend themselves against aggression, if it is at all avoidable, it's unwise to be the aggressor.
However, that's exactly what George W. Bush and roughly fifty percent of all Americans want to do, launch a full-scale attack on Iraq in order to overthrow Saddam Hussein and they're willing to accept the heavy casualties and global outrage that will likely come from it.
Why do they want to do this? Why are they willing to sacrifice so much and turn this supposed peace-loving nation into a global bully? Well, they can't decide either.
The most commonly given reason is that Iraq is stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and is thus a threat to both the region and even the United States itself. This is no secret, we've known that since the end of the Persian Gulf War when Saddam started playing cat-and-mouse with U.N. Inspectors. That's why Iraq is currently under harsh U.N. sanctions and most Iraqi citizens are living in total squalor.
I will grant that Saddam's record with weapons of mass destruction is very poor, especially when you include the fact he gassed his own people following the Persian Gulf War after they rebelled against him. But if we're going to invade an enemy state for building and stockpiling such weapons, we can't show bias toward Iraq, we need to invade them all including North Korea, Cuba and China.
After all, North Korea's nuclear program is clearly a greater threat to the United States than Iraq's puny chemical plants. If we're going to invade anyone for developing weapons of mass destruction, it should at least be someone capable of using those weapons against us with disastrous results, not someone who can barely scrape together the knowledge and materials to build a modest stockpile of outdated chemical weapons.
The second most common reason given is that Iraq supports terror and probably had something to do with the Sept. 11 attacks.
This simply isn't true. The CIA searched very hard to find a connection between Saddam and Bin Laden, any connection at all, and it found none. Every reported meeting between an Iraqi official and an Al Qaeda one were quickly debunked and remarkably enough it seems Saddam's hands are completely clean when it comes to those attacks.
The truth is that Saddam's secular regime directly conflicts with Bin Laden's mission to create Muslim governments. The only thing the two seem to agree on is their hatred for the United States and while that's kept them from killing each other, it doesn't really inspire cooperation.
Another reason commonly given is that Saddam is a danger to his own people. That he's already used chemical warfare on them, that he is a brutal dictator and uses lethal force to squelch political dissidents.
While all of these reasons are definitely valid, all of these behaviors can be found elsewhere in the world and if America intervenes for that reason, we'll be making a historical exception as well. Think about it, we stood by when Hitler slaughtered the Jews, when Stalin massacred the Ukrainians, when Pol Pot decimated Cambodia and when Xiaoping butchered protesters in China.
Suddenly Saddam's behavior falls into focus, if someone reaches for this when justifying an attack on Iraq, they've officially hit the bottom of the excuse barrel. Not only have we ignored worse in the past, but we're also ignoring worse now. There are no American plans to invade China or North Korea and even our greatest ally in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, which is known for its harsh Islamic law.
The best sincere reason that can be given for attacking Iraq is "We don't like them and they don't like us." The truth is that they pose little threat to the United States and with the sizable United States force in Saudi Arabia, little threat to the region.
Saddam knows what happens when he invades another country unprovoked, he watches his army get routed and his air force destroyed before they can get off the ground. He knows that he's lucky to have survived his first battle with the United States and will do what he can to avoid another while getting his way as much as possible, even if it means starving his own people.
To make matters worse for the war hawks, our strongest European allies, including the United Kingdom and France, are very unsure about this attack both in its principle and its chances of success. Tony Blair, who first gave resounding support for the attack, has since wavered and many in the British parliament have already openly condemned it. Even legislators on our own Capitol Hill are very skeptical about this attack with many wondering what has gotten into our President.
Even Bush himself isn't quite sure what to do. Every week he seems to waver on the issue going frequently from calling the attack "imminent" to wondering if Americans "are ready for the casualties." He's gone on the record as saying that "there's no immediate plans" to attack Iraq, even though the New York Times has already uncovered and printed tactical plans for just such an invasion.
It really makes you wonder about the competency of our leadership.
But the bottom line is that with our allies unsure, Congress torn, the people divided and even the President uneasy, why are we even considering such a dangerous and costly action? There is no proof that Iraq is any threat to the United States or even a significant threat to the region and it's simply not worth incurring the wrath of the Arab world, the distrust of our allies and the heavy loss of life to engage in an offensive that no one can explain and almost no one is sure about.
Perhaps it's time for us as a nation to step back and think about what we're doing. Before we risk thousands of lives and forcing America to stand alone in the world, we should at least take a moment to think about what we hope to gain.
Something that I think most people will agree simply isn't worth the potential price…