It appears the Clinton Administration is now ready to bomb Iraq.
The stated reason, of course, is to force UN inspectors into every inch of Iraqi territory to rule out the existence of any weapons of mass destruction: an impossible and implausible task. While some will try to claim that the President's personal problems may influence this decision (which should not be completely discounted), the real problem is the flawed foreign policy which underlies all our activities abroad.
Why is Iraq a greater threat to U.S. security than China, North Korea, Russia or Iran? They all posses weapons of mass destruction, and at least three are hostile to American policies. It makes no sense that a petty dictator without weapons is the target of hostilities while big dictators with massive armaments are the recipients of US aid.
There was a time in our history that bombing foreign countries was considered an act of war, done only with a declaration by the Congress. War is something to be feared, and thoughts of which should never be entertained lightly. It is for this reason that our Constitution specifically states that declarations of war, the initial commitment of military personal in armed situations, is to be made only by Congress.
Today, tragically, decisions to place our troops in harm's way are done at the whim of the presidents, though often at the urging of some congressional leaders without a vote of the entire Congress. As repugnant as it may be to our sensibilities, the UN Security Council and the leaders of our "ally" countries often have more say in whether or not our troops go to battle than the elected representative constitutionally charged with this decision.
Trying to appease the military industrial complex and appear tough for campaign ads, many congressmen will make strong public statements goading the president to battle, going so far as to draft meaningless resolutions supporting bombings and military action. But they refuse to claim their proper constitutional role and take responsibility for sending America's youth to die in the sands of a foreign desert.
Poll after poll shows Americans are not anxious for war, and few constituents I meet offer any advice other than that we get out of the situation before it gets bloody. But even internationally the President is getting little support, in fact a lot of resistance, from our allies for his aggressive talk. Indeed, it is surprising to find that our allies in the Middle East, who are most likely to suffer if Hussein indeed develops weapons of mass destruction, are the least inclined to go to war.
Several years ago we fought a war for the people of Kuwait after Hussein invaded their land. Today, the Kuwaitis are opposed to seeing US troops destabilize the region with war.
A Kuwaiti professor was quoted in a pro-government Kuwaiti newspaper as saying, "The U.S. frightens us with Saddam to make us buy weapons and sign contracts with American companies," thus ensuring a market for American arms manufacturers and United States' continued military presence in the Middle East.
And a Kuwaiti legislator was quoted as saying, "The use of force has ended up strengthening the Iraqi regime rather than weakening it."
Other Kuwaitis have even suggested that the U.S. really wants Hussein in power to make sure his weak neighbors fear him and are forced to depend on the United States for survival. Not a bad theory when we remember that the US supported Hussein as recently as nine years ago, and had until then for a decade supplied him with money and weapons, turning a blind eye to his policies and aggression.
Sadly, our policy in the Middle East has served to strengthen the hand of Hussein and unify the Islamic Fundamentalists against the United States. Hussein is now anxious for the bombs to hit so he can further stir hatred and blame toward America for the pain he has inflicted on his people. Indeed, at every turn in this "crises," Hussein has gone before his people and blamed the US for their problems. And the Iraqi people believe it.
So no we are faced with the possibility of going to war, alone, for what reason? To protect a region which says publicly that it does not need to be protected? Even now the groundwork is being laid for a war as senseless as the one in Vietnam, in Somalia and in Bosnia.
I, too, worry about a biological or nuclear threat. But I see our cities at a much greater risk because of our aggressive, hostile policies, than if we were friends with all, enjoying economic relationships and open dialogue. The way we usually get dragged into a war is by some unpredictable incident, where innocent Americans are killed after our government placed them in harm's way and the enemy took the bait. Once hostilities begin, debating the policy which created the mess is off limits; the thinking goes that everybody must support the troops by blindly and dumbly supporting irrational and irresponsible policies.
But the best way to support our troops is to have a policy that avoids unnecessary confrontation and bloodshed. A pro-American constitutional policy of nonintervention would go a long way toward guaranteeing maximum liberty and protection of life and property for all Americans.
Unfortunately, we cannot expect such common sense to prevail in the current political climate.