I’m in favor of war on Iraq because I don’t want to be killed by terrorists who get access to weapons it’s trying to develop. The World Trade Center attack dramatically alerted Americans to the fact that there are some people in the world who want us dead. I was already aware of this before the attack, but feeling two planes hit the building across the street from me, and escaping past mangled corpses made it more real, as they say. Why aren’t most people in Manhattan already dead? It is because anti-American terrorists haven’t gotten their hands on atom-bombs, or major biological weapons, yet. Where could terrorist groups get their hands on such weapons? From governments that have both stated and displayed their hatred for the U.S., and that are attempting to develop such weapons. Which countries? Iraq and North Korea are currently in the lead in this regard.
In the anti-war-activists’ ideal world in which Iraq and North Korea are restrained only by some U.N. paperwork and bureaucrat-inspectors, I have no doubt that eventually these countries will develop the weapons they desire. North Korea has certainly made progress thus far under these conditions. Sooner or later, one or more such weapons will end up in the hands of a terrorist. It’s all downhill from there. To its credit, current U.S. leadership is unwilling to lose a city and a few million people on the chance that Iraq is able to dodge U.N. restrictions as it has in the past. Thus U.S. leaders have decided to insure against a (perhaps) low-probability but catastrophic event by planning a preventative action.
Some suggest that “preventative wars” are a “slippery slope,” dangerous, and unjustified. I’d suggest the situation is analogous to this: let’s say that a paroled deranged murderer who shot at and missed you once before (we may assume this was in Massachusetts under Dukakis) has begun to accumulate guns and ammunition, and his communications and actions indicate that he is targeting you for a future attack. You ask the police to intervene and arrest this person, but they decline, suggesting they will wait for the “smoking gun” of a shot fired at you before using force. But they assure you they will be monitoring the situation, and have asked him to dispose of the weapons he has. Satisfied? Will you sleep well knowing that such monitoring actions have been erratic in the past? Fortunately, police can and do arrest people simply for planning murders, before they happen.
When can one decide that there is enough information to justify a preventative war? Alas, that is a question I can’t answer, but must leave that to the Commander in Chief, his advisors, and the CIA. If it’s my and my family’s life in question, and it is, I’d like six-sigma quality in my favor, not Saddam’s. Make American lives being in jeopardy the null hypothesis. How much information is enough? I can say what the answer is not: it is not what is required to satisfy public opinion, or the U.N. Security Council, or “peace activists.” Furthermore, I do not expect the president to blow the cover and jeopardize the lives of CIA operatives, and damage covert intelligence channels by disclosing top-secret documents.
I hope that the war progresses without a U.N. sanction, but with the help of the U.S.’ true allies. The U.N. is a corrupt institution, riddled with numerous members that share few or no values in common with the U.S. This is an institution in which the majority of members voted to install representatives of the tyrannical government of Libya as the chair of the U.N. commission on human rights, one of many dangerous moral travesties at the institution. I think it would be dangerous for the U.S. or the rest of the world to believe that the U.S. needs the U.N.’s support to take actions to defend itself. This is because the primary task of the U.S. government and its military is to protect U.S. citizens — and any other obligations can deflect it from that role. When the U.S. stands up and shows that it is willing to take strong action to protect its security interests, regardless of what the U.N or various other countries say, then other dangerous regimes similar to Iraq will have to think twice about the possible consequences of their decisions.
The side-benefits of the war against Iraq are not particularly important to me, other than how they relate to U.S. security. Some point out that the millions of Iraqis would be liberated from Saddam’s bloody tyranny, and its long-oppressed people would have the opportunity to form a government that protects their rights and freedom. In this case, “peace” would preserve and protect tyranny and injustice. While this is true, and is something so-called “peace activists” should contemplate, it is only the threat Saddam poses the U.S. people that justifies the personnel risks and tremendous expenses associated with war. Naturally, governments and countries with a well-developed appreciation for individual rights and freedom pose little threat to U.S. security, so we would hope to cultivate such values in replacement regimes. It’s much safer to have a new Japan-like government in Iraq.
That’s all I care to say about the war. This is not a thorough and comprehensive argument in favor of war, and I have not attempted to rebut in advance the many arguments that I am aware of against it. Nowhere in this essay will one find the sort of sentimental slogans popularly found on posters and t-shirts. But this core argument is all that I require. A world at peace is generally preferable to a world at war; however, killing an enemy is preferable to dying at his hands.