The above anti-war message was delivered to me via a sad-looking pink poster. I pulled the poster off a light pole and hung it in my office over my desk. I look at the poster every day when I sit down to work, and every day I wonder how and when the American left lost its moral compass.
You see, lefties, there are times when saying "no" to war means saying "yes" to oppression. Don't believe me? Go ask a Czech or a European Jew about the British and French saying "no" to war with Germany in 1938. War may be bad for children and other living things, but there are times when peace is worse for children and other living things, and this is one of those times. Saying no to war in Iraq means saying yes to the continued oppression of the Iraqi people. It amazes me when I hear lefties argue that we should assassinate Saddam in order to avoid war. If Saddam is assassinated, he will be replaced by another Baathist dictator--and what then for the people of Iraq? More "peace"--i.e., more oppression, more executions, more gassings, more terror, more fear.
While the American left is content to see an Iraqi dictator terrorizing the Iraqi people, the Bushies in D.C. are not. "We do not intend to put American lives at risk to replace one dictator with another," Dick Cheney recently told reporters. For those of you who were too busy making papier-mâché puppets of George W. Bush last week to read the papers, you may have missed this page-one statement in last Friday's New York Times: "The White House is developing a detailed plan, modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan, to install an American-led military government in Iraq if the United States topples Saddam Hussein."
These developments--a Republican administration recognizing that support for dictators in Third World countries is a losing proposition; a commitment to post-WWII-style nation-building in Iraq--are terrific news for people who care about human rights, freedom, and democracy. They also represent an enormous moral victory for the American left, which has long argued that our support for "friendly" dictators around the world was immoral. (Saddam used to be one of those "friendly" dictators.) After 9/11, the left argued that our support for brutal dictatorships in the Middle East helped create anti-American hatred. Apparently the Bush administration now agrees--so why isn't the American left claiming this victory?
Because claiming this victory means backing this war, and the American left refuses to back this or any war--which makes the left completely irrelevant in any conversation about the advisability or necessity of a particular war. (Pacifism is faith, not politics.) What's worse, the left argues that our past support for regimes like Saddam's prevents us from doing anything about Saddam now. We supported (and in some cases installed) tyrants, who in turn created despair, which in turn created terrorists, who came over here and blew shit up... so now what do we do? According to the left, we do nothing. It's all our fault, so we're just going to have to sit back and wait for New York City or D.C. or a big port city (like, say, Seattle or Portland) to disappear.
It seems to me that if supporting tyrants creates terrorists, withdrawing our support from those very same tyrants might help to "uncreate" terrorists. Removing the tyrants from power seems an even better way to uncreate terrorists.
But wait! Taking out Saddam means dropping bombs, and dropping bombs only creates more terrorists!
That's the lefty argument du jour, and a lot of squish-brains are falling for it, but it's not an argument that the historical record supports. The United States dropped a hell of a lot of bombs on Serbia, Panama, Grenada, Vietnam, Germany, Japan, and Italy. If dropping bombs creates terrorists, where are all the German terrorists? Or the Italian terrorists? Or the Vietnamese terrorists?
But wait! Iraq isn't in cahoots with al Qaeda, so why attack Iraq in the war on terrorism?
Because we're not just at war with al Qaeda, stupid. We're at war with a large and growing Islamo-fascist movement that draws its troops and funds from all over the Islamic world. Islamo-fascism is a regional problem, not just an al Qaeda problem or an Afghanistan problem. To stop Islamo-fascism, we're going to have to roll back all of the tyrannous and dictatorial regimes in the Middle East while simultaneously waging war against a militant, deadly religious ideology. To be completely honest, I would actually prefer that the United States go to war against the ridiculous royal family in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have been using American money to export their intolerant and deadly strain of Islam all over the world (the kind of Islam that inspires people to blow up discos in Bali), and getting rid of the Saudi royal family and their fascist clerics makes more sense than getting rid of Saddam. But the Saudis are our "allies," so perhaps we can pressure them to reform, as Josh Feit suggests.
In the meantime, invading and rebuilding Iraq will not only free the Iraqi people, it will also make the Saudis aware of the consequences they face if they continue to oppress their own people while exporting terrorism and terrorists. The War on Iraq will make it clear to our friends and enemies in the Middle East (and elsewhere) that we mean business: Free your people, reform your societies, liberalize, and democratize... or we're going to come over there, remove you from power, free your people, and reform your societies for ourselves.
Post-9/11, post-Bali, what other choice do we have?