The LP is Asking Wrong Questions on Iraq
- The Libertarian Party is Asking the Wrong Questions on Iraq
Ty Pollak (March 1, 2003)
Somebody has to say it, and so I will: The Libertarian Party is
wrong on Iraq. I will not make a case why we should attack Iraq -- I
won't even say whether we should or should not. However, I contend
that the LP is asking the wrong questions on Iraq. The LP is
incorporating the politics of partisanship and avoiding the real
issues in this whole debate. In their anti-war fervor, the LP's
position more closely resembles that of the spoiled 20-something
chanting "down with capitalism" while wearing the latest Tommy Boy
jeans. In the process, they are in danger of further distancing
themselves from the American voters and being branded as just
another hippie opposition group.
Before I continue, let me be clear here. I am not saying that the LP
should sacrifice its principles in order to appeal to conservative
voters. Far from it. However, the LP should be committed to honestly
assessing the real issues in the War on Terror and Iraq, and not
just distribute anti-administration dogma appealing to emotion
rather than reason. The LP should be encouraging a real debate on
how to reconcile a policy of non-intervention with the reality of
terrorists working to develop methods to kill millions of Americans.
Whether this is the case or not in Iraq may be debatable -- but
dismissing the threat completely is irresponsible. We've seen what
19 men with boxcutters can do -- now imagine terrorists with
anthrax, smallpox, nerve agents, or nukes. It's not a pretty
In this article, I'll address the 10 questions the LP is challenging
Bush to address (as outlined on the LP homepage):
LP: (1) Isn't it possible that invading Iraq will cause more
terrorism than it prevents?
Geoffrey Neale, LP National Chair, asks, "The al-Qaeda network has
explicitly threatened to murder innocent Americans in retaliation
for a U.S. raid on Iraq, why hasn't Mr. Bush addressed this
This is a ridiculous question because al-Qaeda has already murdered
3,000 innocent Americans -- and before we had any plans to attack
Iraq. Is Mr. Neale now suggesting that questions related to our
national security should be decided by a terrorist network dedicated
to destroying our way of life? I'm not saying we should or shouldn't
act, but we should certainly NOT need al-Qaeda's blessing. And I
believe the administration has addressed the possibility of
increased terrorism, as the nation's defense forces have been on
heightened alert for several weeks now.
Certainly, long-term increases in terrorism are a factor we must
consider. Historically, however, it is when the U.S. shows weakness,
not strength, that terrorists become emboldened to act against us,
as was the case in the 1970s and 1990s. Terrorism against Americans
decreased markedly after the U.S. strike on Qaddafi's terror
facilities in Operation EL DORADO CANYON in April 1986. In the
1990s, attacks against the Khobar Towers, the USS Cole, the African
embassies, and the World Trade Center (not 9/11) were all met with
half-hearted responses intended for show not effect. Thus, the
result was a growing, not shrinking, terrorist network plotting to
LP: (2) If Saddam is really a threat to the Middle East, why do his
neighbors seem to fear him less than the U.S. government does?
"None of the countries bordering Iraq have been clamoring for the
United States to protect them from Saddam," Neale noted. "So how can
Bush argue that Saddam poses a threat to a nation halfway around the
First of all, who doesn't think Saddam is a threat? Did you ask
Kuwait? Israel? Qatar? Bahrain? Turkey? The Iraqi Kurd's? The Iraqi
people? There are plenty of countries that support U.S. involvement.
But even if there were ZERO countries wanting us involved, that's
not the issue anyway. America's purpose in disarming Saddam should
be to protect America, not regional powers that already hate
democracy and the West. So the question is flawed from the outset.
As for the second part, again I remind you of 9/11. A small group of
men armed with just boxcutters were certainly a threat half-way
around the world, would you not agree? Again I'm not saying whether
we should or shouldn't attack, but Mr. Neale's question is
irrelevant in the debate.
LP: (3) Why do you maintain that Iraq poses a more immediate threat
than North Korea?
So you think that N. Korea is the bigger threat? Where were you
before N. Korea got nukes -- the ones we helped them build as they
lied to the world throughout the 1990s. Is the LP saying that N.
Korea is a threat now that we let them lie, we didn't confront them,
and they developed nukes under UN inspectors' noses? And their
response is to let Saddam continue to lie, avoid confronting him,
and continue inspections? Is this a consistent argument? Hardly.
Fact is, the easiest way to disarm a country is before they have
nukes, not after. Would the LP rather we wait until Iraq is a bigger
threat than N. Korea (meaning they have more nukes, by their
rationale), and then address the threat? The N. Korea question is
merely politicking by the Democrats and the LP. If Bush said, fine
you're right, let's invade N. Korea first, then Iraq, would Mr.
Neale be happy? Likely not.
Moreover, this question shows a naivete about the conditions of the
two countries. N. Korea is saber-rattling because they are in dire
economic straits and are likely seeking American aid in a deal. If
N. Korea acts too aggressively, they will hurt their own cause by
creating a climate favorable to greater U.S. involvement in
northeast Asia and they'll lose the economic aid they need (a good
argument why global welfare makes the world less safe, by the way).
The Middle East is just the opposite. Saddam isn't saber-rattling.
He's hiding his sabers, in fact. It's not a show for handouts, as
he's been in a perpetual state of war with one or another of his
neighbors or internal population groups for the last 20 years, and
terrorists are certainly in a real war with America as well. The
idealogical motivations versus economic motivations should be dealt
As an illustration of the silliness of the N. Korea argument,
imagine if you had high cholesterol and one day you broke your foot.
The high cholesterol might kill you someday, but your foot hurts now
and can be treated now. Would you not see a doctor about your foot
because the high cholesterol is the bigger threat anyway? Again, I'm
not saying we should or shouldn't act, but the N. Korea argument is
an excuse, not an argument.
LP: (4) Why do you believe a U.S.-led "regime change" will do any
more good in Iraq than it did in Panama, Haiti, or Bosnia?
"Like previous presidents, the Bush administration promises to
topple a tyrant and liberate the nation," Neale observed. "But if
the history of U.S. intervention is any guide, Bush will merely
replace one dictator with another."
Again Mr. Neale misses the point. The real issue is protecting
Americans, not nation building. The goal is to remove a dictator who
has tried to develop weapons of mass destruction for the past 15
years and has even used them on his own people, and would not mind
seeing them used on us. If his successor continues to build WMDs and
seriously threatens our security, then we should remove him, too.
Again, whether Saddam poses that threat or not may be debatable, but
the argument that his successor may be just as bad is no argument.
Just a side note, we elect new Presidents every 4 years, and
historically, each one is about as bad as the previous one, but we
still hold the elections anyway.
LP: (5) You say Saddam has refused to comply with U.N. weapons
inspectors. Does that mean that you intend to subject Americans to
U.N. mandates in the future?
That's the first reasonable thing the LP has asked so far. We're in
danger of creating a monster if we rely on the UN argument to attack
Iraq. The only argument to go or not to go is whether America's self-
defense requires it or not. UN mandates are ancillary and are only
useful in that they may help us build a coalition to get the job
done quicker, with less loss of life, and resulting in a more stable
LP: (6) You point out that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction
that "could" be turned over to terrorists. But couldn't the same be
said of Pakistan, North Korea, and dozens of other nations? And do
you intend to launch pre-emptive strikes against them as well?
Another fair question. Obviously in the case of Pakistan, the U.S.
government has been working very hard to develop a relationship to
fight terrorists. My response to your question would be that we
should do what's necessary for our self-defense, on a case-by-case
basis. Foreign affairs is not one size fits all.
LP: (7) Won't attacking Iraq make Saddam more likely to launch a
biological or chemical attack?
Anything is possible in war, that's why it should never be entered
into callously. But there are ways to mitigate the risks, such as
parallel attacks on chem/bio sites and disruption of Iraqi command
and control networks. Pulling your gun on an intruder in your home
may increase the risk that somebody might get shot, but doesn't mean
your self-defense is immoral. Again, I'm not saying an attack is
moral or not, I'm just making the point that risks of war do not
negate the justification of war. Even peace has its risks.
LP: (8) Considering that many of the September 11 hijackers were
Saudi nationals not Iraqis why haven't you publicly accused the
Saudi government of sponsoring terrorism?
The principle "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" may apply here.
Confronting the Saudis now would make use of their airspace and
airfields more difficult. In addition, the U.S. would be in a much
stonger position to deal with the Saudis after our resolve has been
demonstrated, and the Iraqi power vacuum has been created, giving
the U.S. a big carrot to offer the Saudis in exchange for their
increased crackdown on terrorist supporters. I won't defend the
Saudi government, but keep in mind that the Oklahoma City bombers
were Americans, but it wasn't the U.S. government behind it. The
argument that "he's doing it, too" is about as effective as it was
in third grade.
LP: (9) Why have you stopped mentioning the name of the one
individual who has been most closely linked to the 9/11 attacks:
Osama bin Laden?
I suppose once Osama kicks the bucket, the world will be safe? This
argument is the ultimate lack of reason. It is like asking why
arrest a murderer when the FBI's top ten are still at large. It also
shows a lack of understanding of where to put your resources. You
use your resources where they can best provide a return. We can use
our conventional military to face another conventional military in
an environment suited to our advantages in Iraq, or we can use it in
the most inefficient manner possible by scouring mountain sides with
hundred of thousands of troops to maybe find one person with no
weapons, little command and control capabilities, and possibly even
near death anyway. Which makes sense?
And besides that, who says we've given up on bin Laden? Nobody said
finding him would be easy. But don't think that once he's found,
Americans will be any safer than they are today.
LP: (10) Finally, Mr. President, if your Iraq policy is so
successful, why are Americans more afraid than ever?
This is no argument. First of all, Americans are not more afraid
than ever. Americans were more afraid on September 12, 2001.
Americans were more afraid when they had to inspect their mail for
deadly anthrax in 2001. Americans were more afraid when they went to
war with the world's only superpower in 1775. On the contrary,
Americans were very unafraid on September 10, 2001. But obviously
that sense of safety on September 10th was no measure of our
Resorting to worn-out, irrational arguments is not an adequate
response for a party that wishes to be taken seriously at the
national level (or as seriously as Democrats at least). The LP must
help formulate solutions and make recommendations as to how we can
improve our national security. I think the LP already has the right
ideas to make America a safer place, and at a lesser cost than we
are paying today. But these ideas are taking a back seat as the LP
regurgitates recycled arguments that should be far beneath the Party
If these 10 questions were meant to make the LP's case against an
attack in Iraq, they failed miserably. The case seems to be (1) N.
Korea is worse, (2) Al-Qaeda will get mad, (3) Iraq's neighbors
aren't upset, (4) Saddam's successor might be bad, too, (5) Saudi
Arabia is bad, too, (6) bin Laden is bad, too, and (7) people are
scared. I'm very disappointed to see that none of the LP's
principles were included as part of their arguments.
The Party of Principle? Not on this issue.