It is hard to know what to say. At this moment, it looks as if our country is headed into a “war of choice” that we should not have chosen. When you read this issue of Dissent, we will be at war, or there will have been a war, or not. The moment for opposition to the war itself will probably be over. Once the fighting begins, I shall hope for the early fall of the Ba’athist regime. “Regime change” is not a good reason for war, but it had better be a consequence of it. A deal with second-tier Ba’athists, at the expense of Iraqi dissidents, would be a political and moral disaster.
Assuming that there is a war, the first issue for the left must be the conduct of the battles. The way the war is fought will be the most immediate indication of the Bush administration’s plans for its aftermath. If our strategy and tactics are designed to minimize civilian casualties, even if this entails greater risks for American and British soldiers, we will send a hopeful signal to ordinary Iraqis. If we kill large numbers of civilians, we won’t look like much of an alternative to Saddam Hussein.
The second issue for the left is the political and economic reconstruction of Iraq. Afghanistan is a sorry precedent, and nothing in the administration’s work-up to the war inspires confidence in its commitment to the vision of its own ideologues: a liberal, democratic, federalist Iraqi state. Maybe that is a millennial vision;...
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