Kanan Makiya Responds

Kanan Makiya Responds

I support a war on the grounds that the current regime of the Ba’ath Party in Iraq is a criminal state that has gone beyond the pale even as judged by the very low standards of the Middle East region, and certainly of the international community. My position rests on the exceptional nature of Ba’athi totalitarianism in Iraq (and is therefore not extendable to all the nasty states that exist in the world). Moreover, it derives from the particular historical experience-dating back to the 1991 Gulf War-that binds the United States to Iraq. The outcome of that war, which left the dictator in place and precipitated one of the harshest sanction regimes of recent times, places an extraordinary moral responsibility upon the shoulders of the United States to finish that which it in a very important sense left unfinished. Such a responsibility might not exist were it not for that particular historical experience. One does not transport half a million men halfway across the world and then leave the people of a country, who were not responsible for their state’s outrage, broken and bleeding for ten years with no end in sight to the torment that they are going through.

I favor a UN inspection system with reluctance, only because I hope that it will give greater international legitimacy to what I think the United States ought to do. I do not think inspections will work, nor do I think the regime of Saddam Hussein can ever really allow itself to be totally disarmed. The idea that total disarmament is the same as “regime change” (an unfortunate phrase because it stops short of what the regime is being changed into) troubles me because it makes no sense and highlights just how deeply conflicted the Bush administration still is over the political objectives it wants to achieve in Iraq.

I don’t like the Bush preemptive war doctrine one bit. There are far more powerful moral arguments for overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein and replacing it with something better. The problem with the doctrine is that it substitutes an abstraction, a mere possibility, for the real suffering of the people of Iraq, which is a far more convincing reason to go to war.

I would oppose an antiwar movement and do my utmost to point out that its supporters were playing into the hands of one the nastiest regimes since the Second World War (according to a special UN report on human rights abuses in Iraq).

The United States should work with the democratic sections of the Iraqi opposition to build a radically new kind of Middle Eastern state, one founded on the rule of law and minority and individual rights. Such an opposition exists and is working today inside the Iraqi National Congress. Iraq is not Afghanistan. It is a potentially rich and already well-developed country with an extensive infrastructure, a highly literate population, and the human and financial resources to transform itself. With outside help it could chan...