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Iraq: What would it take to change your mind?(12 posts)

Iraq: What would it take to change your mind?King Henry
Aug 21, 2002 11:08 AM
The various Iraq-related postings on this board have been very interesting--on both sides of the debate. At this point, I am curious what would cause the various posters to change their positions.

Those who are against military action tend to say that the pro-invasion people have not presented any compelling justifications. What, if anything, would you need to see; WMD capability, WMD development, WMD use, WMD use in the U.S., or something else? Or maybe your primary concern is the end game. Do we need to have a Gulf War-style coalition and a viable government that substantially reduce the likelihood of more significant problems after Saddam Hussein is deposed?

If you favor military action, would you address what pushed you over the line? Does 9/11 now justify military action against all groups which we label as "terrorist threats" against the U.S. and the countries in which they operate?
a reason other than "because we want to"mr_spin
Aug 21, 2002 12:29 PM
Since the end of the Gulf War we've known that Iraq has been developing WMD. That was ten years ago. We had inspectors. We had evidence. Then the UN got frustrated and left, and we put our heads in the sand and pretended it wasn't a problem anymore. Suddenly it's worthy of our attention again? If the stories we are being told are true, we should have done something a long time ago.

Israel, the most likely target of Iraq's WMD, doesn't seem to feel anywhere near as threatened as the USA does. You have to ask why. I guarantee that Israel has more and better intelligence than the USA does. Israel has not been shy in the past about going into Iraq to destroy installations.

I am no pacifist. I am all for military action to search and destroy anything that threatens the United States and the rest of the world. But so far, all I hear is saber rattling over the same vague complaints we've had for the last decade.

Furthermore, if there is hard proof of WMD installations, why is the President even talking about it? Drop in some Rangers and destroy the things. Tell us what you did afterward. That's how you conduct a war. "Discussion" in public of war plans just goes to show how weak the argument is for going to war. If the cause is just, the public should not need to be convinced.
a reason other than "because we want to"King Henry
Aug 21, 2002 2:19 PM
Bush's PR campaign does seem very odd, piecemeal and unfocused, which of course generates suspicion and distrust among the fencesitters out there. I, for one, tend to give our President (whether Bush, Clinton or the next person) the benefit of the doubt on military issues, particularly those that require immediate action, and then formulate my opinion as the issue plays out in the media. Therefore, I was initially inclined to support Bush's position on Iraq, but the more I hear the more I get frustrated with his bungling.

On the other hand, my feeling is that Bush's PR bungling stems, at least in part, from his team's recognition of your primary point, which is that WMD development is an old issue and may not engender public support for military action against Iraq. Therefore, Bush's team is now trying their damnedest to link Iraq to Al Qaida. After all, if they are successful, then we have a new issue and a new justification that the American public will buy into. Unfortunately, assuming the link can be made, the Bush team's efforts have been half-hearted and come across as a real stretch. And if there is no real link, then of course they lose all credibility, which would be devastating to later efforts.

That said, if WMD concerns were real after the Gulf War and remain so, I fail to see how our inaction at that time necessitates inaction right now. I followed this issue much more closely when I worked on Capitol Hill from the late 80's through the early 90's, and there were numerous reasons why we did not pursue the war into Bagdhad--nervousness about a possible Vietnam, coalition opposition, absence of a viable alternative government, belief that inspections would work, etc. Therefore, I do not look back and second guess Bush Sr.'s decision at the time. But as the inspection process went forward and began to fail, and as we gathered evidence of WMD development, the case for follow-up military action grew. Perhaps Clinton should have acted quickly and decisively, but he would have had almost no support for military action. Internationally, there was pressure to continue to work through the UN, and domestically, few viewed Iraq, even with WMD, as a real threat to the U.S.

Next thing we know, years have passed by with no action against Iraq, 9/11 occurs, and suddenly the U.S. government and a significant portion of the public recognize that Iraq may be a real threat. We can kick their asses all over the desert in a "conventional" war, but WMD can be the great equalizer.

Bottom line, the old WMD argument, which you appear to view as invalid because it is timeworn, I view as valid and probably sufficient to justify military action. My hesitation stems from a nagging distrust generated by the Bush team's PR campaign. If they would stick to the basic justification and not try so hard to add another spin, I would be more comfortable. Then again, I am not really the guy they are targeting.

As for some corollary issues, I am not too bothered by Israel's apparent lack of concern. After all, a hopping mad Israel would significantly detract from a coalition building effort in the region, lest various countries be viewed as taking a pro-Israel position. As for surgical strikes, that fails to address to root problem, which is Saddam Hussein. So long as he is in power (and he is not very old, I might add), new WMD programs will crop up and threaten us. Moreover, we can conduct surgical strikes only if we know precisely where to go and we can conduct numerous missions. Overall, I suspect that we could only hamper Iraq's efforts and not make a real dent in them.
a reason other than "because we want to"mr_spin
Aug 21, 2002 2:39 PM
I'm not saying that we should ignore WMD development now because we ignored it for 10 years. I'm saying that ignoring it for 10 years and then suddenly making it into a huge issue makes me very suspicious of the intent. After all, no one is surprised by this "development." No one.

The bottom line is that if WMD is scary today, it was just as scary on Sep 10 of last year. Sep 11 changes nothing except that we are all pissed and looking for some asses to kick. Bush is trying to take advantage of this environment to push a questionable war.

Let's not forget that for the past ten years, the USA and the British have been bombing Iraqi outposts. At least once a month we drop bombs somewhere in Iraq. If there are WMD installations to bomb, why haven't we been bombing them?

There are far too many questions here, and I am not interested in Americans dying on foreign soil until there are some real answers that make sense. Like I said, if we know of WMD installations, the time is now to bomb the hell out of them or send in special forces to take them out. A full fledged invasion is just a waste of lives.
a reason other than "because we want to"King Henry
Aug 22, 2002 7:59 AM
I figured it was a trust issue for you, and I can certainly buy that. However, for the reasons spelled out in my prior post, I think there are some very legitimate reasons for years of inaction with respect to Iraq's WMD production. Regarding your 9/10 vs. 9/11 point, you are absolutely correct that the risk level did not change at all. What 9/11 did, however, was raise U.S. consciousness regarding the level of risk. And it is that heightened consciousness, and hence feeling of vulnerability, which stimulates action (and of course the possibility/likelihood of overreaction).

Now, if Iraq simply were to build WMD and quietly store them or only threaten use against certain of its neighbors, we would be hard-pressed to justify to the public and to the world an invasion or the launching of strategic bombing and special forces missions. But if there is a link between Iraq's WMD and terrorist threats against the U.S., that is a whole different story. Hence, Bush's efforts to publicize what his people think are links--or, for the more cynical out there, to establish a link where there is none.

As for those ever attractive strategic bombing and special forces missions, I generally agree that they make sense. Unfortunately, my suspicion is that they will prove unsuccessful. Intelligence is an obvious issue. The various inspection pundits I have heard recently and tend to trust (namely, those who have been on the ground in Iraq) generally say the only effective way to locate WMD facilities for inspection purposes is to have unfettered access to the country and an ability to visit facilities unannounced. Bombing obviously presents a different scenario, and it certainly addresses the issue of quick and unannounced action. However, what I take from these purported experts is that we know very little about where the WMD facilities are located, which means that bombings and raids may not be particularly effective. What you need is to have people (i.e., the military) forcibly move through the country, inspect as they go, and dismantle WMD facilities when they are located. Plus, I would add that bombings, in particular, leave little in the way of evidence. Consequently, we end up with extensive news coverage of bombed-out buildings which Iraq claims were hospitals, schools, residential homes, etc. Over time, that makes the task very difficult.

Finally, I personally am much less cynical about the motives behind Bush's pro-war team. It is easy to sit back and say that they are a bunch of war mongers just looking for a fight. However, even though I am not too impressed with their handling of the situation, I find that concept hard to accept. Perhaps Bush's people are wrong, perhaps they are too hasty in favoring war, but I do not think that they are looking for a fight just to flex some muscle or beat up on a poor, vulnerable country.
The Rule of Law, and Self DefenseJon Billheimer
Aug 21, 2002 2:40 PM
My major concern is that the U.S. practices in world affairs what it preaches, and also what it practices domestically: the rule of law. If the United Nations through a security council resolution authorized military action against Iraq then I would support a U.S.-led U.N. coalition force. I don't believe the United States or any other nation has the right to wander around the world beating up on whomever it chooses, simply because it's by far the strongest militarily and no one can legitimately challenge it.

Second, I believe that the U.S. has the absolute right to defend itself against attacks, such as the attack on New York on Sept. 11. Iraq has not attacked the U.S. and probably isn't capable of attacking the U.S. Destroying a country or a regime on the basis of what it might do some day just doesn't cut it morally or legally. In my view George Bush just doesn't have legitimate justification for attacking Iraq other than a "bully's" rationale: he's big enough and strong enough for him to do it without anyone stopping him.
Show me a smoking gun. Connect Iraq to Sept. 11.scottfree
Aug 22, 2002 10:09 AM
Otherwise, it would be hard for me to stomach. Seems like there'd be little to gain and much to lose, including whatever stability is left in the Middle East and whatever goodwill remains between Christendom and the Islamic world.
Show me a smoking gun. Connect Iraq to Sept. 11.King Henry
Aug 22, 2002 12:09 PM
I find it interesting that many people would support action based on a clear 9/11 link. Consider, however, if the 9/11 hijackings had failed, or if the terrorists had missed the WTC buildings. In my mind, the culpability hasn't changed, but without the terrible consequences of the terrorists' success, could we justify the Afghanistan invasion, let alone further action against Iraq? I doubt it, although logic tells me that the answer should be otherwise.

My point in relation to your posting is that the justification for military action should derive from threats against the U.S., not only retribution for a single attack. The problem, and it is an extraordinarily difficult one, is that the U.S. is trying to pre-emptively take action to avoid another 9/11-type event. Without the benefit of tragic hindsight, even the most successful prevention is subject to persuasive second-guessing. If we had taken military action prior to 9/11, whether in the form of a full-fledged invasion or otherwise, to take out Bin Laden and his suitors, very few people would be able to appreciate the AVOIDANCE of 9/11, and most would focus on the adverse consequences of unilateral, arrogant bullying by the U.S.

Bottom line, the question boils down to whether we need to wait for the next attack to occur or whether the risk reaches some level where pre-emptive action is deemed necessary. Personally, I don't want to wait for the next big one, but I am not sure whether we the risk level is high enough for pre-emptive action.
"Avoidance" of 9/11TJeanloz
Aug 22, 2002 1:12 PM
People talk in hindsight as though something like that could have or should have been avoided. But frankly, if we had been told on September 10th that the government had uncovered the plot, who would have believed that it was a serious threat that could have been pulled off? Part of what made the day so awful was that the United States was the Titanic of security- we were all so sure that we were secure every day, that we wouldn't have believed it if somebody said we were not.

FWIW, last night I saw a bit on El Al, and their security measures. The Isrealis were basically taking the stand that the United States needs to clamp down and can learn a lot from them. That we need to expect an attack every day. It struck me then that the terrorists have achieved their goal in Isreal- people there are terrified every day that they may be killed. And here's the difference; Isrealis live in fear and without basic freedom and liberty, a situation that is untenable to most Americans.
"Avoidance" of 9/11mr_spin
Aug 22, 2002 1:43 PM
I think you are wrong about Israel. The Israelis I have known do not live in fear. On the contrary, they have gotten beyond their fear and live ordinary lives. The feeling is more fatalistic than anything else. Danger exists, but there is little I can do about it, and I refuse to lock myself inside. So why worry?

A few months ago an Israeli friend was talking about taking his pregnant wife back home to Israel to live. It was her idea, actually. I was amazed, and when I asked how he could do it with all that was going on, he said something to the effect that he would rather be there now, when everything seemed to be going to hell, than when it was calm, because calm usually preceded the storm. I guess it was a matter of expectations.

His statement reminded me of Malcolm X, who when asked if he would rather live in the North or the South, he said the South. His reasoning was simple. In the South, he knew who hated him because they would call him names to his face. In the North, he was never sure, because they did it behind his back.
I can't speak for your friends..TJeanloz
Aug 22, 2002 1:56 PM
Obviously, my comments only reflect those comments made on 20/20 (or Dateline, or whatever it was), mostly by Israeli security officials.
"Avoidance" of 9/11King Henry
Aug 22, 2002 1:51 PM
Obviously, I agree with your comment about the likely public reaction had the 9/11 plot been discovered and foiled. Perhaps 9/11 was an inevitable, terrible wake-up call that is forcing us to reassess the wisdom of a very limited and passive response to terrorist threats. I think most people, including the Bush administration and other governments, are reevaluating their standards for military responses. Perhaps we are slipping into a variation of the domino theory that will lead us into another Viet Nam, but hopefully we have learned some lessons in both military tactics and global diplomacy that, ultimately, will result in effective responses to terrorist threats without waiting for the next big attack.