The Case against War in Iraq
For weeks I have been arguing that Congress needs to debate the wisdom of a war in Iraq. Recently I gave a speech before the House of Representatives outlining why I believe such a war would be exceedingly unwise.
First, there are practical military reasons not to initiate a war in Iraq. Our military has been severely weakened over the last decade. Conservative estimates call for 200,000 troops to mount a successful invasion of Iraq. Placing 200,000 soldiers in Iraq- with hundreds of thousands already deployed around the globe- will further dilute our ability to defend our own shores.
Remember, we do not know exactly how long this conflict will last. It could be a six-day war, a six-month war, or six years. We ought to listen to the generals and other military experts, including Colin Powell, Brent Scowcroft, Anthony Zinni, and Norman Schwarzkopf, who are now advising us NOT to go to war. They understand that our troops have been spread too thin around the world, and it is dangerous from a purely military standpoint to go to war today.
There are economic reasons to avoid this war. We can do serious damage to our already faltering economy. An invasion of Iraq may well cost over a hundred billion dollars, especially when we cannot know the outcome or duration of the conflict. Our national debt is increasing at a rate of over $450 billion yearly, yet we are talking about spending a hundred billion dollars pursuing another nation-building adventure in Iraq. What will happen to the economy if oil skyrockets to $30 a barrel and lines form at gas stations? Will the current recession deepen? What will happen to the deficit? We must not kid ourselves about the economic ramifications.
There are clear philosophical reasons for those who believe in limited government to oppose this war. "War is the health of the state," as the saying goes. War necessarily means more power is given to the state. This additional power always results in a loss of liberty. Many of the worst government programs of the 20th century began during wartime "emergencies" and were never abolished. War and big government go hand in hand, but we should be striving for peace and freedom.
Finally, there is a compelling moral argument against war in Iraq. Military force is justified only in self-defense; naked aggression is the province of dictators and rogue states. This is the danger of a new "preemptive first strike" doctrine. America is the most moral nation on earth, founded on moral principles, and we must apply moral principles when deciding to use military force.
If we once again wage war without a clear declaration of war by Congress, as we have done on so many occasions since World War II, we further damage the Constitution. I fear we will engage our troops in a haphazard way, by executive order, or even by begging permission from the anti-American United Nations. This haphazard approach, combined with the lack of clearly defined goal for victory, makes it almost inevitable that true victory will not come. When Congress evades its responsibilities and allows war to be declared by the President or an international body, it ceases to represent the very people for whom the war supposedly will be fought.