Thursday, September 12, 2002

Scott Ridder

On Fox News today David Asman conducted an exellent interview of Scott Ridder, the former Marine Officer and head of the missile inspection teams for UNSCOM in Iraq. Not only was Asman's interview exemplary, but Ridder's performance was outstanding. Last month I would have said that he was a sellout, a seeming traitor to his country. Stories of Iraqi cash and high placed Iraqi friends were on the web and in the papers. Today he explained himself. And his explanation fits what we know of the facts. If he's telling the truth, he's a patriot of the highest order.

The problem with a rational approach to social problems is that sometimes the facts and rational logic go against what one feels. Where I sit is with Israel, and an American victory in Iraq is the best hope for the future of my people. But where do I stand, when the subject matter is the prospect of a preemptive attack, open warfare against a nation because we believe that their leader will share his weapons technology with terrorists?

I've been studying this question a lot lately, reading books like Samuel P. Huntington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, and Bernard Lewis' towering history The Middle East. Pondering and searching for the answer to the two questions that are the most important: do we have the right to attack, and what would be the result of a victory over Iraq.

I can find no instance of preemptive warfare in the histories, except for two cases. One is where the party attacked was clearly getting ready to start its own war, and cases of blatant expansionist imperialism. Nations have usually waited for, instigated, or falsified a triggering event. The Gulf of Tonkin incident comes easily to mind. Whether or not those North Vietnamese gunships fired or not, that was our story, and we stuck to it. Last year we could have invaded Iraq instead of Afghanistan and we would have had at least the thinnest veneer of justification. But do we have one now?

I know some who say that we need not have to explain ourselves, that the "World's last (or only) superpower" can do whatever it pleases, as long as our motives are pure. The Iraqi people deserve this, or even welcome it. Hogwash. The Iraqi people would obviously welcome freedom, but I am just as sure that they won't welcome warfare in the streets of Baghdad.

And what would victory look like? Would we be safer? Richer? Not in the least. There will always be whackos who will kill innocents. Skim almost any page in Rohan Gunaratna's Inside al Qaeda and read about nests of these lunatics in practically every corner of the globe. The killing will not stop when we liberate Iraq. Huntington speaks of a "pig in the Python" demographic bulge in Islamic countries that will feed the killing machine until "the third decade of the 21st century."

Well, now that I've laid out why we shouldn't attack Iraq, I'll tell you why we must. Because this Islamic Jihadist movement is a recurring, cyclic theme of Middle Eastern history. Because the only thing they respect if force and blood. Ours or theirs. Blood must be spilled. We are lucky that we have the chance to strike first. 9-11 is all the excuse we need. What should we do, wait until a nuke goes off in Washington or New York? And so what if Iraq is not implicated in 9-11? They were involved in many other attacks. The fact that Saddam decided to play it cool a few years ago should not rob us of our vengeance, nor our opportunity to show the world, in no uncertain terms, that American lives may not be taken. That Israeli lives have value as well. That the Jihadi ideal of world domination and theocracy shall not be realized in this lifetime. And they will never understand that we really mean no harm, that we will withdraw from all liberated countries once we have emplaced liberal democratic regimes in their homelands, until we do so.

So there. I can brag on zero base thinking all I want, but in a pinch, where you stand accounts almost entirely for where you sit. Logically, this one's a toss up. They may just hate us more for the war. Oil might go over $50. We could even lose. But what is the sense of being so powerful if we can't get our way on the world stage? And more important, are we a declining civilization, or is the world going to become a better place through American leadership? I'll bet on Bush's Unilateralism, rather than Clintonian Internationalism, any day.