The eve of war

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    From the Publisher/Arnold G. York

    We are on the eve of war and things are strangely quiet. Life goes on as if we don’t have a quarter million men and women poised in the Persian Gulf just waiting for a single order to launch an onslaught. Among my friends it’s not even much more than an occasional topic of conversation. Somehow we are all strangely detached from the entire matter, and I have a suspicion the reason may be that many are as conflicted as I am.

    I was hoping as we got closer to the ‘Go time,’ the gray clouds would part and I would begin to see the situation with some clarity, or at least I’d have a sense of where I stood on the question of war or peace, or delay. That clarity just hasn’t come.

    Part of the problem is that we’re dealing with something new and the old answers don’t seem to work, or at least they’re not very plausible. The question of who’s the enemy seems a great deal murkier than the old days.

    I listen to the president and his inner circle, and I try as I might to let myself be persuaded. They’re not very persuasive. It’s not that I disbelieve their analysis. There is no question in my mind that Saddam Hussein has all sorts of offensive weapons, many probably bearing French, Russian and, I suspect, even “Made in the USA” labels, and also a lethal supply of biochemical weapons. But he’s no different than a dozen other similar nations.

    So what’s so different about him and why get so upset and attack him now? It’s not an unreasonable questio. Most of the world is asking it and our answers are not very understandable or persuasive.

    But on the other hand, I don’t trust the world either. I see a vast capacity for self-delusion and a willingness to avoid hard decisions, and to make believe that somehow the use of force is wrong and counterproductive. Just be nice and the problems will go away runs the mantra. Give Peace a Chance. Peace in our time.

    The problem is, I see absolutely no evidence to support that view as an effective alternative either. That type of delusion is not unique to Europe or Asia, or the Middle East. I would guess if you ran a poll in the United States on Dec. 6, 1941 the majority of Americans would have said they didn’t want a war with Germany or Japan, nor did they see any great danger to the U.S. A day later their world changed, as did their opinions.

    So I guess the fundamental question is how you view Sept. 11. If you view it as a watershed, as another Pearl Harbor, as an unprovoked attack, or, as President Roosevelt put it in 1941, “a date which will live in infamy,” then, our course, our action is clear. This is a war requiring wartime measures, both foreign and domestic, and we must engage the enemy wherever we find him and destroy him ruthlessly, lest he destroy us first.

    To my mind that’s true, yet, it wasn’t Saddam Hussein that attacked us on Sept. 11. We were attacked by a dedicated group of Muslim extremists who were mad at us, for reasons that to many of us are still unclear. Iraq, of all the countries in the Middle East, is one of the most secular. So why attack Iraq now?

    I believe the answer goes this way.

    In the next decade or two, dozens, if not scores, of nations or groups will have chemical, biological and nuclear bomb capacities, and also the ability to deliver those weapons. Being the biggest, strongest, richest nation, we are also the juiciest target. And, despite what we like to believe about ourselves, we’re not always the nicest guys. There are many people out there with long simmering grudges against the U.S. There is little we can do about most of this. It will happen. Those countries and those groups will acquire those weapons. What we can do is what we did in the Cold War. That is, making it abundantly clear that to attack us, or to give aid to those that attack us, is a guarantee of assured annilation. What we’re seeing now is an updating of the doctrine of massive retaliation brought current. It is a terrible doctrine. It’s ruthless and far from humane, but totally necessary in a world of one million grudges.

    Why Iraq and why now?

    Because they’re there. Because we have a history with them. Because it’s doable. Because he’s a nasty, brutal SOB. Because he’s dangerous to us. Because we are sending a message to the rest of the world, which is also the reason that President Bush can’t back down now. We must go. Saddam being Saddam will make it easier for us, but I don’t think it matters what he does.

    We will go, and only history can tell us if it was a good decision.