Introduction: Drums of War, Calls for Peace

Introduction: Drums of War, Calls for Peace

How Should the Left Respond to a U.S. War Against Iraq?

We sent the five questions printed below to a group of editors and friends in November, as the UN Security Council was debating the restoration of the Iraqi inspection regime. They responded knowing that they would not be read for a couple of months-writing for a quarterly sometimes requires a degree of political courage. We are grateful to all of them.

There has not been a lot of courage visible in the Iraq debate so far. The U. S. government hasn’t had the courage to provide the American people with an honest assessment of the risks involved in the war it has been threatening. Our European allies were not prepared to act independently of the United States to establish a strong inspection system; as I write, their commitment to make the system work (rather than to pretend that it is working whatever happens on the ground) remains radically in doubt. Many opponents of war here at home and in Europe have been unwilling to acknowledge the brutality of the Iraqi regime or the dangers posed by its weapons of mass destruction. The leaders of the Democratic Party wanted only to escape the dilemmas of war and peace so that they could talk about the economy (which they then failed to do in any effective way).

For myself, since I should share the risks of my colleagues, I want to see the inspection system work-and work in a way that represents a triumph for the UN, which has not had many triumphs, and which could be destroyed by a failure here. I would support a UN war to enforce inspection; I would not support a U. S. war for “regime change” (though I don’t deny that the Iraqi regime needs changing). I could not support a peace movement whose purpose or effect is the appeasement of Saddam Hussein. But I believe strongly in the need to oppose the “National Security Strategy” of the Bush administration and its doctrine of preemptive war.

The Questions

1. Do you support an American war against the current Iraqi regime? If so, under what circumstances? And should this be a war for disarmament or for “regime change”?

2. Do you favor a UN-imposed inspection system for Iraq? Would you support the threat or the use of force to impose and sustain such a system?

3. What is your view of the Bush administration’s new doctrine of preemptive war?

4. If there is a war, would you join an antiwar movement? Of what sort?

5. What are, what should be, the long-term goals of the United States in the confrontation with Iraq?

Read the responses: Marshall Berman, editor Mitchell Cohen, Todd Gitlin, Stanley Hoffman, Kanan Makiy...