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I don't believe that even if we find and destroy any weapons of mass destruction the world will be even marginally safer (some have offered that it would be even less safe). This I believe because the tools of mass destruction are ubiquitous. In a knowledge-based society wiping out the weapons of mass destruction requires the removal of knowledge or the removal of motivation. The latter seems a more efficacious approach if only slightly less difficult.
I don't believe in the domino theory of democracy, and I don't believe that we can or even should attempt to recreate Iraq in our own image. There is some irony in our current religious leaning, ostensibly secular democracy trying to put in place a democracy in a Muslim country. That is, as I understand it, the Republican idea of the integration of church and state may be closer to the Muslim idea than is present in America currently. How could a constitution for a new Iraq not allow prayer in schools?
It was reported that some in the Muslim world viewed the sandstorms that enveloped the advancing US Army as a sign from Allah. Although reported in a slightly dismissive way, how can we chuckle when we have a president who is on a "crusade" and who prays to God for guidance, and in a country that thinks that creationism is a more likely explanation for human beings than evolution?
And has been pointed out, a democracy is no guarantee of a government friendly to America.
I have tremendous angst about the notion of "pre-emptive action." This I believe is incompatible with basic notions of fairness, justice, and does little to advance humankind beyond our most primitive instincts of fear and mistrust. I wish, and I believe it is clear that the world wants the United States of America to act in relation to other countries the way our constitution requires us to act toward ourselves. There must be a response to the world that cries, "We love Americans, but we hate American foreign policy."
Some dismiss this notion as out of touch with the reality of dealing with the treachery and deceit of other governments and being naive about the darkness and turbidity of international waters. In response I would point out the US requires businesses and individuals operating overseas to abide by our rules and not local custom, for example, in forbidding the giving or taking of bribes. Even at this moment, US troops faced with forces using human shields, ruses, and deception are ordered, even though their very lives are imperilled, to operate using rules of engagement consistent with the Geneva Convention. An America that operated the way it wished the rest of the world would operate would set an example of a benevolent nation that leads by example and not by force. As former president Clinton offered, "we must behave in way we will want to be treated when we are no longer a super power."
I feel strongly that it is important to continue to enhance and develop supranational institutions to deal with complex multinational issues. As has been said the UN is only what we make it. That is why I think for as long as it would have taken to find some internationally acceptable answer, it would not have been too long. The process of doing so would have strengthened the institution, our standing in the international community and perhaps found a better solution to the problem than war.
I summarily reject the idea that a vetoed majority vote would have leant legitimacy to the current invasion. After all, our president has a veto and it is not suggested that laws enacted by congress by simple majority be put into effect over a presidential veto. The veto is part of the rule-set the US agreed to abide by (indeed helped create) and we should honor the rules or change them, but not unilaterally dismiss them.
Perhaps no one on the security council should have a veto, perhaps there should be no permanent members, perhaps there should be a provision to override a veto. There seem to be many possible solutions, but they will take time, effort, commitment and good faith. For a nation that prides itself on overcoming any obstacle to give up on an institution it founded seems overly defeatist to me.
It seems clear from published reports that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle prepared to invade Iraq from the moment the Bush administration took office. It was the Republicans who lambasted president Carter for trying to link US trade to Chinese human rights. It is the Republican party that has for years railed against the UN and blocked payment of dues. It was Cheney and Rumsfeld who through a combination of action and inaction helped undermine Colin Powell's efforts at the UN on Iraq. Thus I find that the present administrations UN negotiations to have been wholly disingenuous.
The maintenance and improvement of the international system are more important in my mind than the ousting of president Hussein. But this is an administration that has dismissed as unnecessary international institutions and treaties in a long and growing list of cases. To look at the past two years in total is to see a nation that seems to want free trade, but in all other areas wants dominion or special privileges. This, it seems to me, is at the root of the complaints about globalism that rightly or wrongly are identified with the United States. Businesses are creating institutions like the WTO to further commercial aims, but where are the institutions to protect the rights of individuals and other non-commercial interests?
This government seems to have taken the phrase, "world's only superpower" and turned it into a job description.
It is asked, "what are we supposed to do? Wait until we are living like Israel." It is my opinion that our actions far from escaping Israel's fate are bringing us nearer to it. Here we have adopted the Israeli tactics of assassination of suspected terrorists, military tribunals, pre-emptive strikes, and territorial occupation as deterrent. It seems to me a dead-end strategy that will turn Iraq into another Lebanon or worse the West Bank, and leave the US in the eyes of the world a nation that rules by intimidation and superior military force.
If it was hard to attack Americans across the ocean, how much easier it is going to be with 100,000 US "nation-builders" just next door? As one Iraqi commented to journalist Christopher Dickey, "we could not get rid of Saddam, so we are happy to see the Americans get rid of Saddam because we know it will be much easier to get rid of the Americans."
It is hard for me to relate to the event of 9-11. It has done little to change my thoughts but has only come into my view because of all the effects it has had on other people and the events it has precipitated. Whereas for some people 9-11 "changed everything," for me nothing changed. Or perhaps more to the point, Bush's reaction to 9-11 may change everything. Terrorism works, that is to the extent it works, because we value our own lives and fear the loss of them above all. I believe that terrorism alone cannot defeat America, but America's response to terrorism might.
In my mind there is some vague and not as yet well formed idea about how Western, and in particular, American culture, has arisen to over-value the role of the individual above the group. Perhaps this dates to the Civil War when conscription was first required as not enough people were willing to volunteer to die for an idea. Now I fear that we have reached a point where we are only willing to give the lives of other people to defend our "blessed way of life".
It seems to me, if we are truly willing to die for America, then we must accept death, even at the hands of terrorists, when to thwart such attacks would kill the idea of America. This is not a message of appeasement, but nor is it a message to brave shopping at the mall while under a code orange alert.
The value of the individual is expressed in sports, entertainment, and business in the rewarding of the few without regard for the role of the group in that success. Even as Kobe Bryant scores 55 points, the overall NBA shooting percentages and total scores decline. Executive compensation rises and the disparity between executive and worker pay grows even as corporate performance declines and in a surprising number of cases is found to be illegal. The individual is prized to the point where we want him (and it's mostly him) to keep his wealth even after he's dead.
Here is a generation that does not even care what America can do for them, but instead what can they do for themselves. We are all "an army of one."
With the over-valuing of the individual comes hubris and certitude. I know, I suffer from it. Worse, as the recent economic bubble may have demonstrated, the reverse may be true. With hubris and certitude may come over-valuation. I believe we see this in today's Whitehouse. A generation of MBAs with too many answers and not enough questions. Linear thinkers in a non-linear world. Is it not the same arrogant optimism that enables someone to propose to revolutionize an industry they have no experience with by adding a ".com" to the terminus of the thought, and the proposal to reshape a whole region of the world? Iraq.gov.us. This may be the triumph of enlightenment and the end of civilization.