War should be a last resort
American patriotism and international sympathy sparked by the Sept 11 terrorist attacks gave the U.S. wide latitude to take military action against the al Qaeda terrorist network. But international sympathy has run dry with President George W. Bush's attempted extension of the war to Iraq, and lack of international support is just one of many reasons why the U.S. should not initiate a war.
First off, a war with Iraq would compromise the war on terrorism. Iraq's alleged connection to al Qaeda has been proven false. Al Qaeda is as much a threat to the U.S. now as it was before September 11, 2001, according to CIA Director George Tenet. The war would shift resources away from combatting al Qaeda and towards Iraq, which does not pose a credible threat to U.S. national security. CIA reports state that Iraq will use chemical or biological weapons only if the U.S. attacks first. Iraq does not have the ability to launch long range weapons of any kind, nor does it have nuclear capabilities.
Before the U.S. even considers attacking Iraq, it should exhaust diplomatic methods of containment. Because Iraq will attack only if provoked and cannot attack the U.S. mainland at all, a preemptive strike is the only way to guarantee American casualties. Iraq refused to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to enter the country in 1998 but has agreed to readmit inspectors with some restrictions. The inspectors' presence effectively deterred Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction until 1998, and there is no reason to believe that inspections would fail to deter Iraq in 2002.
The U.S. is now pressuring the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution requiring Iraq to remove all restrictions on inspectors, which Bush could use to justify military action if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein refuses. France and Russia are resisting because they, along with some non veto-wielding members of the Security Council, firmly oppose military action in Iraq, even if Hussein maintains restrictions. A unilateral attack would therefore stoke the international flame of anti-American sentiment.
The United Kingdom and Israel are the only countries that have expressed strong support. Israel has indicated its intention to respond militarily if attacked by Iraq, as it was in the Gulf War. If Israel responds, other Arab countries are likely to join the war in support of Iraq. This broadened war would decrease regional stability, thereby achieving the exact opposite of what the U.S. desires in the Middle East.
Speculations about Bush's motivation for war with Iraq include restoring his father's legacy and tapping the vast oil reserves in northern Iraq, but war is not justified by personal gain or economic imperialism. War is not justified by pretensions of enforcing international law; war is not justified without first exhausting attempts at diplomacy; war is not justified without a credible threat. The U.S. has neither the right nor the incentive to attack Iraq.
Ben Meiselman. Ben Meiselman is a senior in the Communication Arts Program at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. He enjoys playing sports, especially baseball. Ben is seventeen years old, born May 16, 1985. He has played the trumpet since fourth grade when he began … More »