Why I oppose the war [was "According to the BBC...&quot

Well, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? I guess I’ve been dipping my toe into these conversations without a lot of introduction, so it’s a fair question that deserves an answer. Apologies in advance for how long and desultory this is going to be…

I’m very conservative when it comes to international politics. I think the embargo on Cuba has been a joke. I think we’ve handled China too softly. I was in favor of military intervention in Bosnia. I am strongly pro-Israel. I honestly believe Reagan deserves praise for essentially winning the Cold War. I remember being giddy with pride the day Bush ordered troops into Somalia. I think land mines serve a valuable purpose in spite of what the dear departed Princess Di said.

In a way, I’m the ideal candidate for a supporter of Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Yet, I am strongly opposed to this war for a number of reasons.

9/11 was a terrible day for the world, but it was also an important day. It provided us, as a country, with a righteous moral basis on which to build relationships with other countries. It provided us with opportunities that are now squandered. Although we are the most powerful nation in the world, we cannot move through this world alone and of our own accord. Power is only one measure of greatness; an even more important measure is flexibility. A powerful country needs to secure it position by coexisting and compromising. If there was any silver lining in 9/11, it was the doors that were opened for us to co-exist with powers that previoiusly were against us.

The struggle between Islam and the West is an important theme in the development of the world from here on out. In fact, without communism, it is the last significant ideological obstacle to Western democracy. Islam thrives under conflict. It does not melt under oppression. It does not adapt under secular rulers like Judaism and Christianity. Islam is a powerful force in the world today. While we cannot brook its fundamentalist strains, particularly in the form of al-Qaeda and even those goofballs in Algeria, we must foster commonality with its more moderate forms. 9/11 was an ideal opportunity for this. It forced the demarcation of clear lines that have now been irreparably blurred.

A unilateral invasion of Iraq squanders all the international goodwill, and the connections with Islam, that we gained from 9/11. We had the opportunity to turn al-Qaeda’s cowardly attacks to our benefit, indeed to the benefit of the entire world. We have instead handed them a victory.

I do not believe all this rhetoric about Hussein’s regime not responding to deterrance. He is a knowable quantity, far more so that North Korea’s leader or even Castro. He exists to propogate his rule. He has shown in the past that he will try to get away with just as much as he’s allowed, and then he will pull back. To paint him as a rogue madman who will lob nukes at Israel from his deathbed is a silly and paranoid fantasy.

We had not exhausted our options in dealing with him. The embargoes were not enforced. He was able to sell oil under the table to Syria (Jordan?). He had economic ties to France and Germany. He has secured conventional weapons in violation of the post-Gulf War settlements. The no-fly zone should have covered his entire country. The UN inspectors should have been backed with UN military forces. The inspection process should have been given military teeth and a realstic time table with clearly spelled out and incremental consequences. We should have won over to our side countries like Jordan, France, and Russia, no matter how long it took (and we could have in the wake of 9/11).

Instead, we allowed Bush’s axis of evil rhetoric to manifest itself into policy almost overnight and with little regard for the consequences. I am astonished at how quickly it happened. Wasn’t Bush recently having to recant some remarks about a modern-day crusade out of respect for how it would play in the Arab world? I am astonished at how little political opposition there has been for a war that a third of our population doesn’t support. The fucking Democrats are falling all over themselves to support the troops. My most fervant hope from all this is that there will be a candidate next election who questions the wisdom of this war. I’m afraid I may not get such a candidate. I am astonished at how few people in the US are expressing reservations. When did we turn into a country of yahoos who don’t understand the significance of invading another country in spite of international opposition? This is another Vietnam, not in terms of our country fighting an unwinnable war, but in terms of our government waging it unwisely and in the wrong place.

The UN’s intervention in Kosovo was a model for international action that should have been followed in Iraq. It was effective and at harnessing regional alliances like NATO as well as forces abroad. There should be Pakistani troops on the ground in Iraq, for Pete’s sake! Do you know how significant that would be in the Arab world? Just a few photos of some Egyptians in tanks outside Basra would have worked wonders! The US and Britain did all the heavy lifting over Kosovo, and we did it against the Serbs who are traditional Russian allies. That would have been unthinkable in the past.

Now it’s unthinkable once again. The UN has been maginalized by the US’s invasion of Iraq. This is exactly where we should be using the UN, exactly why it was founded. This is where the UN belongs. By shoving them aside, we undermine everything they’ve worked for in the last 50 years. We dismantle fifty years of painstaking work and all the precedents that have been set since Korea in the 50s. If the UN belongs anywhere, it’s in Iraq. Without the UN by our side in Iraq, they no longer have relevance in the world.

I don’t know if I’m tying this together very well. But in brief, I’m opposed to the war because we hadn’t exercised all our options against Hussein, it squaunders all the international goodwill we earned after 9/11, and it marginalizes the UN, which should have played an important role in the world. I’m opposed to the war because the true damage won’t be done until after we’ve taken Iraq, it’s an egregious misuse of American power, and the Bush Administration’s motives are suspect (Brian Rucker has covered that topic far better than I could hope to).

The unilateral invasion of Iraq by the US has changed the shape of the world. The role of the United States in this new world is ultimately weak and vulnerable, both morally and strategically. It is a complete inversion of our position after 9/11. Nice work, Bush. Nice.


I thought there would be dinosaurs.

ps. I pretty much agree with you, but I don’t think you have ever clearly stated this in the other threads.

I don’t know Tom…

What about the jublient Iraqi’s? What about the children who were held in prison because their families opposed Saddam’s regime? What about the citizens who were tortured?

Eventhough I disagree with most of Bush’s rhetoric for invading Iraq, the citizens seem to be happy.

I don’t know shit about international politics but I do know that people deserve to be treated with the respect that we Americans are used to.

And also:

Outside the hotel, a column of U.S. tanks and Humvees of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines were pulling into the nearby roundabout. Iraqis walked up to the U.S. soldiers, tentatively at first and then more and more enthusiastically, smiling and flashing the V sign. “There was very little resistance,” said Lt. Col. Bryan McCoy as a gaggle of foreign journalists scrambled to interview him, “Iraqis were shouting, ‘Down with Saddam’.”

The UN’s intervention in Kosovo was a model for international action that should have been followed in Iraq.

Sorry, Tom. I’m going to have to call bullshit.

Next time you cite a model UN intervention, you might want to check to make sure that it was indeed a UN intervention and NOT, as in the case of Kosovo, a unilateral intervention in defiance of the Security Council.

Which it was. Kosovo was a NATO operation, denigrated fiercely at the time by Russia, which had always coddled Milosevic.

And I don’t point this out to be a rules lawyer. It’s genuinely disheartening to hear Kosovo repeatedly invoked as a model of stirring international accord when it was done without UN sanction. Russia stated loud and clear that it would veto action in Kosovo.

In fact, Tom, NATO’s resolution on Kosovo used the same language Bush/Blair used prior to Iraq. It points out that NATO is acting to enforce unmet UN resolutions with regret “that there has not been full compliance with the requirements of these resolutions”.

Sound familiar? Read it and weep:


Great summary Tom, mostly agree.


The UN had been active in monitoring Serbia ever since rump Yugoslavian aggression began against its newly independent neighbors. They put forces in the area, they implemented political solutions, they were a forum for condeming Serbia, and they set the pace. When Serbia took UN forces hostage, NATO took over and the rest is history.

My point is that we did not charge into Kosovo through some twist of rhetoric. We gave the UN a chance and we rescued them when Serbia demonstrated they cared fuck all about the UN. We operated with the approval of the world and even – here’s what’s remarkable – the tacit approval of Russia, a Serbian ally.

If you don’t see how this lesson could have been applied to Iraq, then I credit you with a greater failing of imagination that Captain Cookiepants.

Read it and weep. :)


Furthermore, the Kosovo intervention received every one of the same charges of being illegal, illegitimate, and unjustified.

Doctors Without Borders published an open letter condemning it. Noam Chomsky supplied his standard essay (this one titled “In Kosovo, There is Another Way”), and Viktor Chernomyrdin helpfully opining in the Washington Post that it’s “Impossible to Talk Peace with Bombs Falling”.

The legacy of the intervention: an end to Serb atrocities in Kosovo, the eventual capture of Milosevic for the war crimes tribunal before which he now stands, and a peace in that province that has endured since 1999.

Sorry. Have we charged into Iraq? I seem to recall five whole months of UN negotiations and weapons inspections.

Still waiting for your retraction of the blatant factual error in your hyperbolic first post – the error that categorically undermines your rosy revisionism.

; )

Furthermore, the Kosovo intervention received every one of the same charges of being illegal, illegitimate, and unjustified.

I’m not sure what you’re trying to argue. If you’re trying to paint the UN and NATO actions in Kosovo as a counterpart to the US invasion of Iraq, then I’m guessing Brian Koontz logged into your account. You might want to guard your password better.

My point is simple: the escalation of UN actions against Serbia is a model for how the UN can be successful.


Sorry. Have we charged into Iraq?



My point is that you’re demanding I draw inspiration from a UN intervention that never happened – an intervention which only occurred because NATO acted to uphold Security Council resolutions which the Council itself had abandoned.

I leave you to draw your own parallels to the intervention in Iraq.


Right. Russia refusing to go along, but all the other security council members being on board, means it’s exactly the same.

My point is that you’re demanding I draw inspiration from a UN intervention that never happened

I don’t recall demanding you draw inspiration from anything. If you feel that way, I hereby retract the demand.

The point which you’re intent on missing remains: the UN worked wonders in Kosovo, political machinations in the Security Council notwithstanding. You might as well join Met_K and point out how they don’t stop volcanos.


I’m done posting on this thread. This is the thread where the UN worked wonders in Kosovo despite the fact that it actually refused to intervene there. If you’re a fan of this parallel universe, please enjoy this thread.

I don’t want to interfere with anyone’s efforts to cut and run, but it’s news to me that the UN “never intervened” in Kosovo.

It’s pretty common knowledge that the UN was instrumental in coordinating international opinion against the Serbs. I don’t know about you, but I saw a lot of footage of blue-helmeted guys running around in former Yugoslavian provinces, much to the chagrin of the Serbs. And I always thought the “UN” in UNPROFOR stood for “United Nations”. :)

The point remains: I think the UN action against Serbia should have been a model for how we proceeded against Iraq. In spite of what Daniel Morris seems to be arguing, the UN can, and has, worked. Just not against volcanos.


To be pedantic, as Halberstam details in War In A Time Of Peace, the UN tried in Yugoslavia, but basically couldn’t stop anything. UN peacekeepers are pretty much powerless by design, so they always end up using a great power’s army to enforce their resolutions (lately, the US.)

That doesn’t change that the UN was central to stopping the slaughter, and preserving the peace afterwards.

They always end up using a great power’s army to enforce their resolutions (lately, the US.) That doesn’t change that the UN was central to stopping the slaughter, and preserving the peace afterwards.

Exactly, which is why I mentioned it in my initial post: “[The UN] was effective and at harnessing regional alliances like NATO as well as forces abroad.”

I think the point Daniel was trying to make is that Russia has veto power in the Security Council and Noam Chomsky was agasint NATO intervention. To which I respond, “Umm, okay”.


Good post, Tom, even though I disagree with a lot of it. My thoughts (and I realize I’m breaking my prior no-more-debating-propriety-of-the-war announcement):

First off, much of the post comes down to “We screwed up the international diplomacy aspect.” I agree and I think most people agree. The next question, though—not addressed in your post—is, should we take out Saddam anyway? In other words, it’s not enough to say “our international standing is important.” That’s a truism. What matters is whether taking out Saddam is more or less important than the damage done to our standing. I would argue that it’s more important, for all the reasons I’ve argued in previous posts that I won’t rehash here. This is particularly true in light of the fact that our standing may not be as tarnished as you think. According to various news reports (and Ken Pollack—oops, did I just close the thread?), many Arab leaders wanted Saddam gone but were unwilling to say so publicly. Notice, for example, Saudi Arabia publicly speaking out against the war but allowing us to stage out of their country.

Your refusal to believe that Hussein is unpredictable is your own thing. I’d point to the arguments in Pollack’s book, and the fact that Hussein has stunned the world intelligence community with his decisions more than once (e.g., invasion of Kuwait, invasion of Iran). You may think he’s a “known quantity,” but he’s not known enough for people to predict that he’s going to invade his neighbors. I don’t know why you think he’s predictable; it’s clearly contrary to all evidence. Similarly, saying he only “gets away with just as much as he’s allowed, and then pulls back” overlooks the issue, which is that what he thinks he’s allowed and what he’s actually allowed often don’t match up.

You are correct that the embargoes were not enforced, but you falsely imply that there was some way of enforcing them. The rest of the world (at least, enough major players) was unwilling to enforce the embargoes. How are we supposed to enforce them? Are we supposed to torpedo French shipping heading to Iraq? Are we supposed to shoot down Chinese aircraft taking fiber-optic communications wire into Iraq? Invade Syria to shutdown the pipeline? Bomb tanker trucks leaving the country? How is any of that any better than the invasion?

You are also correct that he had financial ties to France and Germany (and Russia and China, I’d add). What were we supposed to do about that? Embargo those countries until they repudiate their deals? Because we tried—we really did—to get those folks to stop letting Saddam get around the sanctions. But they wouldn’t play ball. The sanctions looked like they were going to stay in place forever, and Saddam was offering them something we never could: cheap oil. If other countries are willing to overlook the long-term problems of Saddam for their own short-term gains (knowing that the US will step in to save the day anyway), are we to just sit on the sidelines and say “Oh well, that’s what everyone wants to do”?

You are also right that Saddam had conventional weapons that were not allowed. What were we supposed to do about that, short of invading? Saddam kicked out all the UN inspectors. He only let them back in when we built up a massive army on his doorstep. The army can’t stay there; it costs too much money, it’s bad for America to have the troops gone, and Saudi Arabia won’t let them. The inspectors can’t be expected to find weapons that Saddam is determined to hide. The country is too big (size of California), the weapons too easily hidden, Saddam’s intelligence operation much too large (20,000 people estimated), the inspection force too small (100 guys) with no reasonable chance of increasing their numbers, and the inspections themselves were too easy to keep one step ahead of, especially since Saddam could halt the inspectors when he needed to, just long enough to get stuff away or destroy documents. Similarly, there was no reasonable chance of cooperation from scientists and other knowledegable persons in the country, because they knew their families and children would be raped and tortured to death, as would they, if they cooperated. How are we supposed to compete with that? How can inspectors possibly hope to really do their jobs? How can we hope to rid Saddam of his nuclear program under those circumstances? This was trying to match Saddam on a totally unfair playing field–everything worked to his advantage, and he used that advantage fully.

Your suggestions are all vague, pie-in-the-sky ideas like “We should have won over Jordan, France, and Russia no matter how long it took.” Won them over how? What if it took forever? What if it took five years and Saddam had a nuke by then and told everyone to get out of his country or else? How are you going to put UN military forces into Iraq when the UNSC has three permanent members who want to keep the status quo because they’re getting cheap oil and sweet contracts out of it? What is a “realistic timetable” for the inspections? If Saddam isn’t willing to cooperate, it could take decades for 100 guys to inspect a country the size of California, never mind the fact that the things they’re looking for are mobile.

Isn’t it okay for the US to make unilateral decisions in its own defense? If Russia, France, and China decided to park nuclear missiles right off our shore, I know you would say it’s okay for us to take military action, even if the UN doesn’t agree. So you can’t just say “No unilateral military action.” Your position has to be more nuanced than that–you have to show why this unilateral military action was unjustified because there was no threat. (I realize the burden should be on the person taking the unilateral military action, but as I said, I think Saddam’s threat is adequately spelled out in other posts and Pollack’s book. I don’t see anything here that makes me think Saddam was not a threat, so if you have anything, what is it?)

I’ll skip your Kosovo stuff; suffice it to say I agree with Daniel that it was an unwise choice of models.

As for the marginalization of the UN, that blame rests more with the UN than us. We did not “shove aside” the UN. We tried SO HARD to get the UN on our side, but they wouldn’t. Maybe that’s just an honest disagreement. Maybe it’s that France, Germany and Russia are making tons of money in Iraq and don’t want to see Iraq opened up to the lowest bidder—the USA. Either way, you can’t blame Bush for marginalizing the UN. We made clear what was going to happen: either a UN invasion of Iraq, or a US one. The UN decided not to get on board.

Furthermore, I don’t think the US’s reputation is going to be that tarnished. The war has gone exceptionally well and most Iraqis—both civilian and military—seem exceptionally glad that we’re there. I expect that details of Saddam’s regime (nuke program, brutality, weapons, etc.) will come to light now that he can’t forcibly repress such discoveries. I know what I think those details will be, but I’m willing to say “let’s wait and see what comes out in the next year” rather than arguing about it now.

Actually, my point is that your ode to international action is at least partially predicated on a fabricated UN intervention in Kosovo.

This point is so simple, actually, that only willful obtuseness can account for your utter disregard of the factual error.

I’ll stop harping on your fallacious argument when you simply acknowledge the error and switch to a new argument along more accurate lines, something like: “The UN worked wonders in bringing peace to the Balkans.” We could debate that position like intelligent persons, but first we have to be discussing the same empirical reality. And right now, we’re not.

So here I am again to restate what I’ve already stated three times and which has been ignored by you three times: There was no UN intervention in Kosovo. It was a NATO military intervention, the reason for which can be plainly read in the following NATO resolution: