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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Today is my birthday! I'm 20 today.
It's nice not having "teen" in my age anymore. I've always felt more mature than my given age so its nice to reach the two decade milestone. No longer a teenager, I'm ready for my twenties. Bring 'em on.
It seems as if a congressional vote about Iraq will occur before the November midterm elections. Both sides of the aisle are saying they would like to either get the ball rolling (GOP) or that they would like to get the war issue off the table in the weeks before voters do their thing (Dems). Both of these reasons make sense on their merits, for both help their cause.
However, if a rush to war by the Republicans is what is needed in order not to loose the intensity of revenge that has accompanied military action since September 11, 2001, then maybe an attack isn't what is needed. The Bush administration has accused Saddam Hussein of allowing inspectors in to his country simply to increase his longevity as dictator. They say that Hussein is only throwing sand in the face of the U.N. with his "unconditional" acceptance of weapons inspectors. Some critics have even said that Hussein is attempting to delay his regime's demise as long as possible because the further such an attack gets from the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the harder it will be for the U.S. to rally the support of other world powers. Evidence of this has already shown itself when Russia and France, two Security Council veto holding members, quickly showed opposition to any military action against Iraq as soon as that letter to Kofi Annan was delivered.
In all likelihood, this is Hussein's true goal. It would be enormously beneficial to him to distance any action against his nation from the terrorism of 2001. The longer he tinkers with inspectors, complying and then harrassing, allowing and then forbidding, the European support for action against him will diminish and the U.S. will again be stuck without the support that it needs. This is a terrible thing. Not that Hussein is using this brilliant tactic, but that Europe is falling for it. It is a shame for Republicans that they must use the coattails of the terrorism of September 11, 2001 in order to keep the world's attention on the next pet project of the Bush administration. If Europe loses interest that quickly and allows Hussein to pull the wool over its eyes then hurrying towards war now may not be the best option.
Similarly, Democrats in Congress have recently said that they would like to get the debate about Iraq off the front pages so that domestic issues, their forte, can be focused on by voters. Tom Daschle has been trying to regain some respect for his party by attacking the administration on domestic problems. In doing this, Daschle has said that he would like to get Iraq out of the way before November so that Americans can see the issues that truely effect their lives. While the ultimate goal is an honest one, to get voters to see the real issues and not just war propaganda, the fact that he is willing to go ahead with a war in order to do so is irresponsible. True, voters need to focus on domestic issues, but to dismiss a congressional vote for war just to gain a few senate seats is almost treasonist. War is not to be dismissed.
For Bush and his administration hawks this Iraq debate could not have been timed any better. It comes on the eve of the September 11, 2001 anniversary, it covers the cracks that have shown themselves this summer concerning the economy and corporate fraud, and it leaves little room on the front page of newspapers for the domestic issues that Democrats would like to bring to the forefront of voters' minds.
Both parties are using an Iraqi war now for the wrong reasons. Why now? Republicans want war now so that allies will still be caught up in the post-terrorism mentality to attack. Democrats want war now so its not an issue. Does that even make sense? Since when have wars not been an issue that have dominated the news? Let's wake up people. War is not a tool for political gain. It is for justice and security that we should fight Iraq. Not because support would otherwise dissolve or that other issues need attention to garner votes. Fight for the right reasons.
This is becoming far too predictable. The Iraqi government has said it would allow U.N. weapons inspectors into its country unconditionally. In his letter to Kofi Annan, Iraq's foreign minister wrote, "The government of the Republic of Iraq has based its decision concerning the return of inspectors on its desire to complete the implementation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and to remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction." The letter indicates that Iraq believes that this sort of trade-off will save them from an attack. On the surface it would seem clear that it had. However, knowing Iraq's history of harrassing inspectors and preventing them from doing their job, such an announcement holds little water. While this comes off as Saddam Hussein caving to international pressure and suddenly becoming a willing participant for peace, its doubtful that inspectors will accomplish anything new. In all likelihood, such an admission only means that Hussein is confident that his stockpile of weapons is hidden sufficiently. Either that, or he's prepared to hassle inspectors once again. Either way, this move will accomplish nothing significant.
As expected the Bush administration quickly disregarded this move by Iraq, even though it was the stated desire of U.S. policy. All in all this whole escapade seems like its all been done before. As if we all know the script, we just have yet to see the performance. One move is followed by another, each taking the world closer to war.
Iraq has played. Your move Mr. Bush.
The Wall Street Journal (subscribers only) reported on monday that Bush's top economic advisor has estimated a war with Iraq would cost between $100 billion and $200 billion. This is huge. As the front page article notes, this would be 1-2% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Purely from an economic viewpoint a war with Iraq could be very costly. When viewed in comparison to the Gulf War in 1990-91 which cost the U.S. a mere $10 billion, one must wonder if its worth it. Ignoring both the tangible loss of life from a possibly bloody urban war, and the more ambiguous harm that a unilateral action could inflict upon American allies, an economic burden of this magnitude could easily be overwhelming for the already debt-ridden federal government.
In the Gulf War our allies ended up paying a whopping 80% of the total war costs while the U.S. and Britain were responsible for the actual combat of the war. The second time around such generosity may not be as forth coming. When the U.S. is stuck with the costs of attacking a nation, overthrowing its government, securing the country from the vacuum of anarchy, and generally being responsible for the entire costs of redesigning a state, the blow to the U.S. economy, and in turn the world economy, could be tough to respond to.
Couple the costs of war with the danger a war would pose to world oil prices, and any action against Iraq seems less and less feasible. While it appears as if the Bush administration is learning the ways of international diplomacy for the first time as it appealed to the U.N., the obstacles to war are more than just convincing politicians at home and leaders around the world. It's the economy too, stupid.