A Case for Patience

President Bush’s patience is running short. He has spoken of his willingness to, “lead a coalition to disarm [Hussein],” with the support of the UN or not. Criticism of the UN is understandable considering that it made Iraq chairman of the UN Commission on Disarmament and allowed Iraq to violate 17 Security Council resolutions over the last 10 years. Most importantly, the UN boasts a recent history of extreme ineptitude–i.e. protecting food, not people, as Slobodan Milosevic attempted to “ethnically cleanse” Bosnia. Bush feels, as he should, that he doesn’t need the UN’s permission to go to war. In the words of US humanitarian aid worker, the late Fred Cuny, “If the UN had been around in 1939, we’d all be speaking German.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated that “the risks of war need to be balanced against the risks of doing nothing while Iraq pursues the tools of mass destruction.” Rumsfeld insists upon war. I agree with Rumsfeld’s statement but not with his conclusion. Bush and the US military must act in the interest of Americans and at the moment our best interests lie with peace–continued political pressure on Iraq, but not violence. The true threat to the US is terrorism and the way to stop terrorism is not to bomb and invade an Islamic country. Iraq is likely harboring large amounts of chemical and biological weapons, but its destruction will not eliminate terrorism. “We need small, mobile units of special forces deployed everywhere, stealth operatives–kidnapping terrorists and debriefing and neutralizing them,” Camille Paglia explained. In the days following Sep. 11, the world, including moderate Muslims, was on our side. The display of the radical Muslim terrorists on 9/11 led to a great shift away from the extremists and brought about worldwide assistance and sympathy in the US-led persecution of terrorists. Unfortunately, the world’s sympathy and camaraderie with the US has changed drastically with our current hard-line stance for war. Rumsfeld said that the war will take less than a year. This can only mean one of two things. Either he expects a quick surrender or our destructive power is so great that all of the weapons (and the civilians near them) will be quickly annihilated. A quick surrender is doubtful considering the madness of Saddam Hussein and the militancy and anti-Americanism of the Iraqis. The second option, if not followed by an occupation and establishment of a legitimate government (which will cost more American money and lives than anyone should be willing to “spend”), will cause more unrest in the Middle East. By bombing and invading Iraq we will be justifying (in the minds of many moderate Muslims) the terrorism of the extremists. Paglia points out correctly that, “There may be an apparent immediate victory in Iraq, but we’ll be winning the battle and losing the war. The real war is for the hearts and minds of the Islamic world. We don’t want a world where Americans can’t travel abroad without fearing for their lives–or even within our borders, where a small cell of fanatics can blow up a railway station or bridge or tunnel.” The president doesn’t need the UN’s permission to go to war but he does need the support of more countries and the sympathy of the moderate Muslim world before attacking Iraq. US foreign policy must look into the future because the Islamic religion is not going away (one billion Muslims today; two billion 40 years from now). We must understand that America is part of the world and subject to its judgment.