All Writings
October 28, 2001

If Iraq Is Next, How Should We Go About It?

There is a growing consensus in the Bush administration and Congress that Iraq will be the next target in our war on terrorism. This consensus is based on the premise that Iraq has developed chemical and biological weapons, including Anthrax with delivery systems, and as such poses a clear and present danger to the United States and its allies. The problem we face is whether we should strike Iraq at all, and if so how and when so that we may serve much larger national concerns on the long road to combating terrorism than simply winning a war against that nation.

Attacking Iraq without first providing clear evidence of Saddam Hussein's culpability will directly play into the hands of extremist Islamic demagogues who exaggerate the scope of the present war by portraying it as an epic struggle between two civilizations– the West against Islam. If this war is, as we believe, truly against terrorism, then we must heed the sentiments of the much larger Arab/Muslin world community by carefully orchestrating any war efforts against Iraq to convey this precise message. For this reason, however despicable we may find Saddam Hussein and however strong our urge to punish him, we must first establish a direct connection between the September 11th attack or the Anthrax mail assaults and Iraq before we act. If such a connection is established, we must then exhaust all available means to gain our objective before we wage war on Iraq. Although we are right to be concerned about Iraq, the world is watching intently how we conduct ourselves. Are we going to stick to the values we preach or allow our national rage to obscure our long-term national interests? A critical aspect of these interests involves maintaining and even expanding the coalition we have successfully assembled.

The level of support we are receiving from many countries for our war efforts is conditional, with many strings attached. But what nation, including ours, and especially the Arab/Muslim states, would act contrary to its national interests solely in the name of universal morality (the war on terrorism) when it is extremely anxious about how this campaign might end? Will we let them fend for themselves once we accomplish our objectives as we did the Afghani and Iraqi peoples (following the departure of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and the defeat of Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War), or will we continue to stand by them? If we find ourselves virtually alone in the battle against terrorism as recently suggested by New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman, it is because, more often than not, we act unilaterally, consult later, if at all, and are perceived to act solely in our own best interests. Our embrace of corrupt Arab/Muslim regimes is in this context is not lost on the masses in these countries. Yes, we must wage a relentless war every single day, week, month and year until terrorism is defeated. But we must prudent and sensitive and not stoop to the corrupt level of any other group or nation either in waging this war or suing for peace.

America is not Saudi Arabia, France, Argentina, Japan or China. America is the only remaining superpower. We have, therefore, a unique role, with global responsibilities and major strategic interests in every continent. We cannot, consequently, be or act like any other nation if we want to be looked-up to for guidance and leadership. Now that we have been wounded, we must learn to lick our wounds with dignity. The war on terrorism has put us to test. Will we rise to the occasion and work toward closer alliances and cooperation with other nations so that we will not be alone again? Or will we unleash our might against any suspected enemy because we were unjustly assaulted? What we choose to do and how we do it will determine whether we emerge from this war a better, stronger and more respected nation or be seen as a nation that has won the war but lost a singular historic opportunity to fashion a more peaceful world that reflects our values and is emulated even by our enemies.

Before we embark on another war on another front, we must first win the war in Afghanistan decisively. We must in the process leave that country in a much better shape than we found it–without Al Qaeda and the ruthless Taliban regime that has pillaged and robbed the people of their basic human dignity. In the aftermath of the war, we must restore not only some form of a democratic government that reflects the demographic composition of Afghanistan, but by enshrining human rights constitutionally, end the unspeakable human abuses. We must provide economic aid to rebuild a war-torn nation and its people's shattered lives. Finally, we must leave Afghanistan under the administrative authority of the UN, if need be, until a representative democratic government is in place.

In the interim we must build on the coalition we have assembled to join us in supporting a new UN Security Council resolution calling on Iraq to allow another UN inspection team to start its work there. For nearly three years we have pursued a failed policy toward Iraq, holding onto elusive, totally ineffective sanctions, with no inspection. This policy has permitted Saddam Hussein to forge ahead in developing weapons of mass destruction without interference. The time has come, in any event, for a new policy. We may find Russia and China, which have been supportive of our war efforts, to be more amenable to a tough inspection resolution that includes substantially modified sanctions against Iraq. This resolution must permit the United States and its allies to use force, as a last resort, should Iraq decline to accept the new inspection regime. Such inspections will either lead to the destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction or clear the way for military action sanctioned by the United Nations to achieve the same results. Only after Saddam Hussein has been given the opportunity to cooperate and refuses (which is more likely), can we be legally and morally, fortified by the authorization of the Security Council, wage another war against Iraq. Under such circumstances whether this war generates more or less Arab/Muslim consternation and backlash becomes secondary.

Nations like Syria, Iran, the Sudan and others suspected of harboring terrorist groups are watching carefully to see how we conduct the war in Afghanistan and deal with the nations that offer terrorists refuge. Afghanistan is our first test and Iraq may be next. How we finish the war in Afghanistan and tackle Saddam Hussein will determine if we will have to fight a third, fourth and fifth war.