Bush's Iraq Attack Risks Reaction
By Bill Burkett with Mike Hersh (c) 2002
As the Bush Administration rushes headlong into war, we should pause and consider the law. International law doesn't support an attack on Iraq, but I am concerned with an even more basic law: Isaac Newton's laws of physics, specifically the one stating: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."
I have argued with the senior members of the Bush team since 1996, insisting that preventive war was not an option for the United States. The Preventive War concept is a WARHAWK product which, in my opinion, is totally foreign to the principles the Founding Fathers established for the USA.
This concept is based upon a posture of unchecked power and paranoia which violates 225 years of American principles and traditions. An unprovoked attack would establish a major world precedent which will neuter any future US efforts to achieve and maintain peace. Once we invoke this doctrine, we can never again credibly decry rogue states' abuse of power. In short, we would become one the "bad guys."
History teaches us the folly of "preventative war." It almost always backfires. Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany plunged Europe into World War One - and his nation into ruin - by attacking his neighbors in the name of defense. Imperial Japan awoke a slumbering giant and assured its own demise with its "preemptive strike" at Pearl Harbor. In a World of only one superpower, any unprovoked military attack by the US risks alienating our allies and fomenting an international realignment in which we stand alone against the World.
The Bush administration is marching carelessly onto a slippery slope. As the lone super power, the US has no military or economic peer. This is an aberration. Throughout history, power settles into balance as nations align and ally to protect themselves. If the US acts as a "rogue" nation, deemed a threat to world peace, other nations will develop 'coalitions' and 'alliances' to counterbalance that threat for their own political and economic security.
The debate about Iraq is really not about Saddam Hussein. It is a debate about countering the threat of the US challenges to the rest of the World. We are watching the formation of informal unions, and alliances based significantly on religion and tribe, geography and common and uncommon bond.
The United States has become the aggressor through this talk of preemptive first strike policy and has escalated itself into the major threat to peace in the World. Most troubling, the Bush is alienating our allies in Europe and the Middle East. European newspapers first reflected disdain for the arrogant policies of the Bush Administration. Now, the leaders are becoming more vocal and aggressive in their verbal assault on the Bush foreign policy.
This will also provide pressure upon the economic trading partnerships with our allies. The policy of first strike indirectly places pressure upon every relationship since it undercuts the strength of alliances which are all built under the principle of 'defense' as opposed to offense.
The bonds of religion quickly bind those of Islamic faith. Muslims within every nation of Europe, Asia, Africa, South and North America became defensive whenever they were blamed as a religion for threatening the United States under the image of the World Trade Center bombings of 1993 and 2001. This threat based upon religion is without national statehood and must surface through political structure. It will surface throughout the coming decade in more polarized heads of State throughout the World.
It doesn't have to be this way, and until recently wasn't. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US did not establish itself as a threat in any region of the World. However, the US was significantly involved in upsetting the balance of power in Southwest Asia both aiding Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran and supporting anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan as the USSR was falling. American meddling in the region continued.
The collapse of the Soviet 'bear' significantly contributed to Bush I's scheme to encourage Iraq to invade Kuwait. I believe Bush I pushed this through a series of diplomatic encouragements and mixed messages. I am totally convinced that our response to Iraq during Desert Storm would not have occurred during the Cold War.
Desert Storm began the domino effect, as our friends and foes feared increasing American aggression. Perceiving US designs and seeking a counterbalance, the nations of the world converted the "Ugly American" stereotype into the image of the "Hated American."
Quietly, below the radar of World politics, coalitions and alliances are informally forming to counterbalance the potential American threat. While each nation respects American economic power, our frightening imperialistic potential continues to expose us as a potential threat and adversary.
The Clinton Administration generally leveraged US power to promote peace, attempted to walk the narrow Carter line with its insistence on respect for human rights. All the while, the Republican Congress beat the drums of war. Now, with another Bush Administration, the world watches American headlines with increasing trepidation. They fear the unmistakable signs of a Bush policy seeking World dominance via economic might and wanton military actions.
Bush II brought home the reality of US unilateralism. Reagan's lone gunman rhetoric belied his close reliance on allies like Margaret Thatcher, and the first Bush Administration wove together a wide coalition for action in the Persian Gulf. This Bush is not like his father.
W. Bush betrays no compunction against walking away from the world and going it alone. Bush rebuked treaties and shunned the cooperation and support of close allies. Now, the world sees Bush the younger as rash, impetuous, and disrespectful of their needs and interests.
Example: Bush identified the Kyoto Protocols as threatening domestic special interests which favored him and vice versa. The treaty focused upon environmental concerns that Bush discounts. But Bush's abrupt withdrawal from the Kyoto process signaled that the US crossed the line from legitimate national interest into imperialism, and US imperialism threatens others' national sovereignty.
Bush - like Reagan before him - announced US would not honor the World Court. Again, the difference is while Reagan blustered, Bush is blundering with one provocative action after another. While it is true that smaller nations played significant roles developing the World Court, it maintains its founding motivations: a preference for peace and a deterrent against aggression. Bush's ominous opposition to the Court implies preference for aggression.
Bush sent the loudest international message when he repudiated alternative means for settling international disputes. The World Court only clips the wings of the American Eagle if our national posture relies on military aggression. Therefore Bush II delivered the message clumsily and with a vengeance; casting a dark shadow of US imperialism over nations still riding the fence.
No nation, coalition or alliance of nations can contest our military might. That is our strength, but also a real weakness. Our true power flows from our economic vitality, not through force of arms. Mighty as we are, we cannot enforce our will on six billion human beings through violence or intimidation, but they can retaliate against us if we try.
Our economic power is tenuous and based upon our superior ability to produce and deliver goods throughout the World. It rests upon our demonstrated ability and potential to produce and deliver economic value, rather than sell natural resources such as oil. Our power relies on world trade. This strength is therefore intangible, rather than based on solid realities like gold or oil, and is easily squandered. By over relying on military might, Bush is squandering our true strength.
Who will suffer first? American farmers have carried peace on their shoulders throughout the last half of the Twentieth Century. This imminent attack is already hurting wheat and corn exports. Facing drought without a helping hand from the Bush Administration, farmers are the first victims of this coming war. They will not be the last to suffer, however.
American workers and consumers - already under pressure, will begin to feel the pain of Bush's policies. The futures markets are already poising for War. Oil prices are rising through the roof. Shortages of the American grain and protein crops - caused by extreme and prolonged regional droughts - keep forcing up prices. High inflation might compel the Federal Reserve Board to decrease money supply, increasing interest rates, further hampering the US economy.
Our economic malaise will spread like a cancer. Our balance of payments, already in decline, will fall more rapidly. The value of the US dollar will erode, and we will follow the descent in economic power recently suffered by the Japanese. Recently, the Clinton Administration effectively wielded our economic strength. Thanks to Bush's brash lumbering provocation, our rivals will collude to counter and undermine our power.
The commodity most at risk from Bush's bellicosity is peace. World trade requires peace to flourish. Our trade and our economic vitality rely on international tranquility and good will. We should heed the history of the USSR, a state which relied on militarism and intimidation at the expense of its commercial interests until its economy imploded. We should shun that path.
The Bush Administration budgets $400 Billion for the military - not even accounting for this full-scale war against Iraq. These are $billions we cannot use to retire our national debt, invest in education and R&D, shore up Social Security, or rebuild infrastructure. These are $billions taken from taxpayers' pockets which cannot support the already sluggish economy.
Isolationist policy, once entrenched, is not easily undone. Snobbery and bullying will alienate other nations, and provoke long-term payback. Tacit exclusion from world marketplaces will accompany our fall from geopolitical grace, leading to a long, hard economic decline. Even with this loss of power and prestige, former friends and allies will still shun us as a threat.
We simply cannot afford Bush's approach fiscally, legally, or geopolitically. As Newton explained: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." We would be foolish to ignore this immutable law.