Monday, March 31, 2003

War Aims

What are our war aims? In the beginning, it was billed as a continuation of the war on terror. Then it was the suppression of a producer and a purveyor of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD), a euphemism for chemical and biological weapons that are known for their unreliability as weapons and unpopularity in the world community. Somewhere in there was mixed the idea that eliminating Saddam would be a great help to the innocents in Israel who were the favorite targets of terrorists who depended upon Saddam for cash and weapons. Bush and company made quite a few explanations for their readiness to go to war, including the liberation of the people of Iraq, but as the war has begun, that is the only war aim that one hears these days. The antiwar left has seized upon this vacillation as proof that Bush and Co. have been less than honest about the war, even though they have been unable to posit an alternative explanation of Bush's thinking that makes any sense at all. But such vacillation is no condemnation at all. in fact, this is a pretty common phenomenon in warfare.

Abraham Lincoln would never have gone to war to free the slaves, yet within a year of the commencement of hostilities this was the primary purpose of the continued prosecution of the Civil War. FDR had nothing against Hitler until the Japanese attacked Hawaii, yet he declared war on Germany immediately anyway. Certainly helping the Jews was not even on his radar scope, and Russia was our strongest ally in that conflict. In Viet Nam, the so-called "Domino Theory" was the raison d'etre of our entrance into the conflict, yet was not heard about for the last few years of hostilities, nor even in the Congressional debates which followed our withdrawal, as the administration sought to fund aid to support the regime in the South.

So it is not unusual for this nation to wait until after a war has begun, to settle upon a single, overarching reason to continue the conflict. In this case, our primary war aim has become the liberation of the people of Iraq. There is nothing to apologise for in this, and no reason to backtrack in our resolve to win the war and install the tools for the people of Iraq to create a government of their own. And if we do this, and there rises in Iraq a government by and for the people of Iraq, we might, we just might, be seen as having done the right thing.

We just might be able to please the Arab street, that is. Bush and Co. will never be able to please the self-hating American antiwar left. They will have to be dragged, licking and screaming, into the 21st Century.