(in the March 1991 edition of The CampChuck Reviewer, then reprinted in the 2003 with the additional comments below)
The United States war against Iraq exemplifies the short sighted, paunchy hold we retain in the world today. Sure, we did the job well, which further obscures our failure to make long term moral sense, environmental sense, or business sense.
Rather than pave the way to continuing instability with bomb graded potholes, we could have engineered our way to successfully boycotting Saddam's inexcusable actions. Better than that, we could have begun more than a rhetorical “new world order” based on tried and false politics. We could have begun not to need the oil that made us commit 500,000 troops and 75 billion dollars worth of winning football strategy.
Sure, Saddam was an awful threat (about a three and a half on the Hitler scale of ten). Sure, cruel havoc wreaked on the human condition (selected carefully from a long list of otherwise ignored wreaking, both internationally and domestically). Sure, it was in our economic interest to return stability to this volatile region (if people see stability in this strategy, their economics is about as interesting as a three percent government bond in an inflationary spiral).
Yes, it's very complicated. It's not all black and white.
Yes, it's very complicated, but it is all black and white. We stormed into the desert because it was in our short term interest to do so. It was in the short term interest of the very few rich and powerful to wage this deadly kind of business and politics. It was in the short term interest of comfortable lifestyles everywhere to wage this kind of don't tax us patriotism.
What is not black and white is how we choose to see what we see, and ignore what we seem better off not seeing. Chalk up another injustice to our grandchildren.
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After twelve years containing Saddam Hussein's badness, including his massively destructive stuff, how might we summarize a complicated situation? How about this? The current administration of the United States never expected that pressuring Iraq as we have would go so far as the bad idea of preemptively invading Iraq. The current administration now feels compelled to set a horrible and incalculably expensive example because it can't be seen as backing down.
The thrust of the 1991 article above remains the same. Effective leadership can exhibit effective strength by backing down from going too far. It can distinguish itself from an enemy who can only weakly capitalize on such backing down. It can distinguish itself from a murderous dictator by showing that it listens to the substantive dissent of citizens of the US and the world. It can lead in global partnership, or it can lead by heavy handed, destabilizing arrogance.