August 18, 2002


If We Must Fight . . . (Zbigniew Brzezinski, August 18, 2002, )
There is a right and a wrong way for America to wage war. Obviously, if it is attacked, America must respond with all its might. The same is true if an ally is
attacked. But the issue becomes much more complex if a threat, but not an attack, is involved. America must then consider carefully the consequences of its actions, both for itself as the world's preeminent power and for the longer-term evolution of the international system as a whole.

The United States may have to go to war to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq because the potential nexus between conspiratorial terrorism and the weapons of mass destruction that Hussein is said to be producing cannot be blithely ignored. But war is too serious a business and too unpredictable in its dynamic consequences -- especially in a highly flammable region -- to be undertaken because of a personal peeve, demagogically articulated fears or vague factual assertions. [...]

Ultimately what is at stake is something far greater than Iraq: It is the character of the international system and the role in it of what is, by far, the most powerful state. Neither the White House nor the American people should ignore the fact that America's enemies will, whatever happens, do everything possible to present the United States as a global gangster. Yet without a respected and legitimate law-enforcer, global security could be in serious jeopardy. America must thus walk a fine line in determining when, in what circumstances and how it acts as such in initiating the use of force.

If we're going to be portrayed as a "global gangster" regardless of what we do, then why not follow the most efficient course of action, rather than trying to appease our enemies? And if Saddam is continuing his drive to produce weapons of mass-destruction then what can this phrase mean "what is at stake is something far greater than Iraq: It is the character of the international system"? How many Israelis would have to die in an Iraqi attack before Iraq became more important than the "character" of the "international system"? Maybe most importantly, if the "character" of that system is such that we leave a Saddam in place when we have justification and means to dispose of him, then is it a character we should seek to preserve? Posted by Orrin Judd at August 18, 2002 10:02 AM
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