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PEACE: Foreign Policy & Terrorism | January 6, 2003


An E-Mail to a Democratic National Committee Member 

Note: If the major goal is to prevent or minimize the loss of innocent human life, then for the prospect of waging war on Iraq, we are "damned if we do, damned if we don't" -- no wonder the polls of the American public are so ambiguous, barring "a smoking gun". Regardless, unless Mr. Hussein accepts the offer of exile and his successor is more cooperative with the UN, war seems inevitable; and terrorist backlash, over there and over here, highly likely. God help us. The following was written in response to a request to address more the domestic political aspects.

As good Democrats, our first concern is the good of our country.

As good Americans, we have two major concerns with regard to the situation in Iraq. First, does Iraq pose a real and present danger to our country and/or its allies, in either the short- or long-term? Second, does any action we consider advance the cause of freedom, which America was founded to represent and defend?

With regard to the first point, given the U.N. sanctions, no-fly zones, etc., Iraq does not seem to pose an imminent threat to us or our allies, at least to any greater degree than it has since it was driven from Kuwait. However, if the U.N. inspectors or our Administration officials (as in the upcoming State of the Union Address) unmistakably and undeniably reveal forbidden weapons of mass destruction, they -- and the lies that have hidden them from the international community -- would in and of themselves represent sufficient threat to regional and national security (as to our oil supplies) to warrant our military action, at least to remove them, preferably but not necessarily with allies -- I believe that position is consistent with majority American and Democratic leadership opinion.

If we wage war on Iraq, with or without such justification, Mr. Hussein will probably rightly fear for his survival in power (which is undoubtedly motivating the North Korean leadership to take its current, even more threatening and disruptive actions); and he will unleash any and all weapons at his disposal, undoubtedly including attacks on Israel, as to broaden the conflict and split our Arab and Muslim allies from us and perhaps even draw in Al Qaeda, with terrorist attacks around the world, including within the United States. That short- to long-term military and political danger should temper, but not rule out, any military response to any real and present danger.

In the long-term, the only righteous and prudent course for the U.S. is to work with the U.N. -- we will find ourselves in the position of being an international pariah, or at the very least forced to "go it alone" in even just causes in the future, if we hold other nations in contempt, regardless of whether their positions are aligned with ours or are even without merit. George Washington warned against "entangling alliances" -- we must never allow our nation to become habitually a friend or a foe to any other nation -- but our nation itself would not have come into existence without the help of allies overseas, each with their own motivations.

Finally, as to the cause of freedom -- the rallying call of the previous Gulf War ("Liberate Kuwait") and now what the President is appealing to our troops to defend ("Liberate Iraq") -- we must choose our battles wisely: Billions of people in the world do not enjoy the levels of freedom we (still) enjoy in this nation. Indeed, the Democratic Party, by being more properly associated with issues of civil rights (as by opposing the current excesses in the War on Terror) is in a better position to defend the ideal of freedom than the GOP. Historically, practicing effective diplomacy and trade as well as setting a good example have helped America liberate more nations than warfare: For example, most of Europe and Latin America owe their liberation in the 19th Century to the successful example of American democracy and industry.

In short, the polls reveal the American public, as usual, to be committed to American ideals, tempered by practical considerations: We should exercise force -- that is, kill and be killed -- if and only if necessary to protect America and her allies and/or to preserve and nurture our ideals, as embodied within the Constitution; and if we do wage war, we must give our troops our best material and moral support as well as our best judgment -- the President, as Commander in Chief, represents the people, the ultimate sovereign, whom we as a Party must appeal to with intelligence and respect, the best antidotes to inevitable emotional excesses (Along those same lines, even though we who are "in the know" politically are sophisticated enough to realize that many concerns expressed for such ideas as "freedoms" are perhaps more truly "lust for oil" or power, we as a mainstream Party will alienate more people than we befriend, and undermine all our positions, if we allow ourselves to embrace "iffy" speculations, as to motives of political or foreign enemies that we cannot know let alone prove for a certainty -- let the...[Far Left] or Far Right engage in the politics of paranoia; we have more than enough facts at our disposal to make our case).

Presently, the positions of the Democratic Party -- no war without verifiable proof of Iraqi violation of international law, and preferably no war without substantial international support -- reflect the legitimate concerns of the American public, perhaps even more so than the more prejudiced and go-it-alone positions of the Administration, which is not practicing civil liberties at home as well as it is preaching them overseas. Those are messages worth communicating, not out of some slavish pandering to polling but rather as being truly and proudly representative of what is best in America.

Finally, as important as the issue of war and peace is, the Democratic Party must focus more on domestic issues, if it ever wishes to regain majority power over any issues -- the GOP is on the verge of making a similar strategic error, as it starts focusing on things like tax policy and Medicare reform, where its policies are much less popular (and practical) than its positions on issues of national security. We can trump them on both accounts, if we listen carefully to the legitimate and heartfelt concerns of the American public and then address them sincerely and clearly.

The people want and need security: The Democrats can provide that best by letting people know that we sincerely care and will act accordingly -- heeding and following public opinion, or educating and leading the electorate, as appropriate.

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