By A.D. Freudenheim

22 September 2003

I hate to say it, but there may be something to the old, parental admonition that, having made one’s bed, one now needs to lie in it, accepting the consequences of however poorly it was made. In this case, the poorly made bed is Iraq, and it seems that we Americans are now destined to recline there.

No fan of President Bush’s war, I nonetheless believe that having started this new Middle Eastern crisis, we must finish it off, and push forward – quickly, and preferably with support from the United Nations – with bringing some better level of stability to Iraq. To anyone who says that we should withdraw, that we do not belong there: I agree. But we are there already, and the argument about our military presence has already been lost. Now, the issue is only whether the dangers of chaos in Iraq outweigh the dangers to the United States of continued involvement in the deeply-troubled process of nation building.

It should seem evident that they do. It is not hard to imagine an Iraq unencumbered of its American forces moving in a variety of unsavory directions, whether towards the “revolutionary” political Islam of neighboring Iran or, more dangerously, into some kind of impoverished, Taliban-style chaos. As a friend recently said to me, Hussein was a bad man, but there have been worse; let’s not find out what that might mean in this context. The implications of this political instability for neighboring nations are largely negative, to say nothing of the potential dangers to America and American “interests.” If we were a target before, we will only be an even greater one to an errant Iraqi regime that, unlike its predecessor, may lack even a basic commitment to maintaining its own long-term control.

Perhaps more vividly, imagine the costs – in human and financial terms – of an Arab-Israeli war, should a new Iraqi regime attempt to go even further than Saddam Hussein’s did in attacking Israel and supporting Palestinian terrorism. Israel has not hesitated to attack Iraq under other circumstances; with no U.S. troops involved, they would have even less incentive not to strike back, a reaction that would only further escalate the level of tension – and the likelihood of ongoing reprisals from both sides.

The Bush administration’s request for $87 billion to support operations in Iraq is outrageous, especially considering how ungracefully the President and his Secretary of Defense have lied to Americans about the costs of the war to date. (We know, we know: you could only “estimate” those costs, Mr. Rumsfeld.) Congress has the authority to evaluate the need and intended allocation of these funds, and ensure that this is not the large boondoggle it appears to be for certain well-connected American companies. Congress has, and should exercise, the authority to monitor the distribution of these funds, and to force the Bush administration to account for all expenditures. And Congress should prevent a replay of Viet Nam’s Tonkin Gulf Resolution by setting standards and goals for the administration, with respect to the role that the American military will play, the duration of our involvement, and by pushing for greater and more rapid inclusion of a multinational force, to share in the burden of nation building.

I do not support or trust President Bush. But in some equally distant places like Somalia or Rwanda, America’s Democrats were once very much in favor of using our military might to aid failing nations. Now is not the time to withdraw from Iraq, especially when the longer-term implications of a successful campaign to rebuild – perhaps the first truly democratic Arab nation? - are enough to make the short-term risks worthwhile.

Copyright 2003, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.