June 20, 2002

The Minority Report-Iraq Co...

The Minority Report-Iraq Connection: James Pinkerton, the columnist and former White House staffer in the Reagan and Bush administrations, sees real danger in a pre-emptive unilateral strike against Iraq:

If Bush has a good case against Iraq, let him take it to the world; let him turn his present-day minority into a future anti-Saddam Hussein majority.

If he insists on acting alone, however, and if other countries see an Iraq attack as merely the arbitrary use of Pentagon power, then one need not be a precog to see what will happen next. If the U.S. as global leader lets loose a new doctrine of preemption, then other countries will feel emboldened to identify "pre-aggression" all around them, launching unilateral attacks of their own whenever it suits them.

That's a forecast based on history, not technology. In the age of loose nukes, the idea of Washington green-lighting a return to earlier lawless eras, those of lone-wolf attacks across sovereign borders, is scarier than anything in the movies.

Posted by at June 20, 2002 02:21 PM
Comments

Pinkerton makes an interesting point here, but would a US attack on Iraq really qualify as a "pre-emptive unilateral strike"? Given the fact that Saddam has repeatedly violated the various and sundry UN resolutions and cease-fire agreements that ended the Gulf War, it seems to me that there's a solid legal/diplomatic case supporting military action over there. And that's before we even begin to discuss Saddam's role in funding Palestinian terror bombers, and his possible connection to the September 11 attacks. Pinkerton needs to go back and ask himself who the real aggressors are...

Posted by: Scott at June 20, 2002 04:13 PM

K-Town Boy -- "pre-emptive unilateral strike" was my phrase, though that's the gist of what Pinkerton was saying.... The counter-argument to yours is A) if we attacked every country that funded Palestinian terror bombers, we'd probably need to attack Saudi Arabia and Egypt & others; B) outside of Czech government officials, William Safire, the New Republic and (maybe) the majority of war-supporting commentators, there is a lot of doubt about the Iraq-Sept. 11 connection, and C) Maybe the U.S. & U.N. made their beds by refusing since 1998 to back their insistence on weapons inspections with military punishment....

But you know all that. More importantly, where are you going to watch the next Korea game? Or will you pre-emptively and unilaterally flee the neighborhood?

Posted by: Matt Welch at June 20, 2002 04:21 PM

Matt,
In regards to Egypt and Saudi... what's your point? We should have nuked Riyadh and Cairo after 911 They are our enemies just as surely as Iraq, Iran and Syria. The US needs to nock over everyone in the Middle East besides Israel and Turkey as they have declared war on us.. since when is that pre-emptive... Someone in a government sponsored mosque daily declares war on the US... stop being a racist liberal and actually believe them

Posted by: bugs bunny at June 20, 2002 08:33 PM

Hey "Bugs Bunny" -- Before you start demanding that a "racist liberal" respond to your questions on his own personal website, how about playing along with his request to post comments under your actual real name? I assume you're not afraid to stand squarely behind your brave words....

Posted by: Matt Welch at June 21, 2002 12:24 AM

Pinkerton's position is very close to the one Tony Blair is putting to George Bush of course. Blair differs from his European colleagues in that he believes that barracking Bush will only push the US towards unilateralism. He is also generally sympathetic to American policies.

But deep down he hopes that a stronger international (not supranational) system will one result of the current crisis.

Posted by: David Steven at June 21, 2002 06:31 AM

Pinkerton's logic is faulty because the winner almost always gets to set the rules in international politics. If we see any "preemption" we don't like, the threat of U.S. military force will almost certainly overcome the rightness of any perceived hypocrisy in our policy.

Pinkerton also assumes that tyrants derive their mandate for aggression from cool, rational argument. That's wrong -- they derive it from their own naked ambition. Remember that dictators seek power, not righteousness. To use another example, our ban on assassinating foreign leaders is not what keeps others from going after ours. Our strong defense alone suffices to keep that from happening.

Posted by: Patrick Ruffini at June 21, 2002 08:40 AM

So, what did we do that caused Iraq to overrun Kuwait? Or Iraq and Iran to go at it for a decade? Or the Arab world to attempt to overrun Israel repeatedly? Were they taking their cue from us then as well?

The Arab world has been conducting a low-grade war of attrition against Israel for a long time. A successful democracy run by Jews, in which Arabs have rights not found in Arabic countries, is a threat to their dictatorial regimes. Our country has been repeatedly attacked, and it will continue so until the source of these attacks are pulled out, root and branch.

We know who our enemies are.

No, it will not be easy, but I think this country has the resources to do it if its leaders have the will. Destroying Saddam will send a clear message that we will no longer sit back and accept the current situation in Israel, nor will we accept further terrorist attacks on our country. It will also correct the tragic mistake George Bush made a decade ago.

Posted by: Bill Peschel at June 23, 2002 05:02 PM

Mr Peschel:

I sincerely doubt dislike of democracy is a major factor in Arab antipathy to Israel.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at June 24, 2002 12:05 PM
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international (not supranational) system will one result of the current crisis.

Posted by: David Steven at June 21, 2002 06:31 AM

Pinkerton's logic is faulty because the winner almost always gets to set the rules in international politics. If we see any "preemption" we don't like, the threat of U.S. military force will almost certainly overcome the rightness of any perceived hypocrisy in our policy.

Pinkerton also assumes that tyrants derive their mandate for aggression from cool, rational argument. That's wrong -- they derive it from their own naked ambition. Remember that dictators seek power, not righteousness. To use another example, our ban on assassinating foreign leaders is not what keeps others from going after ours. Our strong defense alone suffices to keep that from happening.

Posted by: Patrick Ruffini at June 21, 2002 08:40 AM

So, what did we do that caused Iraq to overrun Kuwait? Or Iraq and Iran to go at it for a decade? Or the Arab world to attempt to overrun Israel repeatedly? Were they taking their cue from us then as well?

The Arab world has been conducting a low-grade war of attrition against Israel for a long time. A successful democracy run by Jews, in which Arabs have rights not found in Arabic countries, is a threat to their dictatorial regimes. Our country has been repeatedly attacked, and it will continue so until the source of these attacks are pulled out, root and branch.

We know who our enemies are.

No, it will not be easy, but I think this country has the resources to do it if its leaders have the will. Destroying Saddam will send a clear message that we will no longer sit back and accept the current situation in Israel, nor will we accept further terrorist attacks on our country. It will also correct the tragic mistake George Bush made a decade ago.

Posted by: Bill Peschel at June 23, 2002 05:02 PM

Mr Peschel:

I sincerely doubt dislike of democracy is a major factor in Arab antipathy to Israel.

Posted by: M Ali Choudhury at June 24, 2002 12:05 PM
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