Arguments about war in Iraq

Last Wednesday, the I participated in a nationwide student walk-out protesting the coming war in Iraq. The protest was well attended with Rockefeller Chapel being filled to capacity (I’d estimate one thousand students participated). The best speaker at the rally was Poly Sci powerhouse John Mearsheimer. I’m trying to get a hold of the transcript of his speech. If I do, I’ll post it here.

Mearsheimer’s main point was that Saddam is a minor threat to global security. The strain that the Bush administration is putting on international relations stands to be much more destabilizing than the threat that Saddam poses. I really hope I can get a transcript of his speech, because he makes a very compelling argument.

Anyway, New York Times columnist Thomas Freidman published an editorial on the same day that echoed Mearsheimer’s opinion. Freidman, generally conservative and in support of Bush’s Iraq strategy, suggests that he would rather the US eat crow than make good on our overly aggressive posturing:

“Those, like myself, who have argued that removing Saddam is the right thing to do have to admit that the risks of doing so are rising so high, and the number of allies we have for the long haul becoming so few, that it may be impossible to do it right.

“We could still get lucky and find that Mr. Bush’s decision to begin this game of chicken by throwing away his steering wheel leads Saddam to cave or quit. The only other way out is a last attempt to forge a new U.N. resolution that would set specific disarmament targets for Saddam that, if not met by a specific date, would trigger U.N. approval for the use of force. France, Russia and China could say they bought time, and the U.S. could present Saddam with a united front — which is the only threat that might get him to comply without a war. Otherwise, brace yourself for the crash and hope for the best — because we’re all in the back seat.”

In other news, Thomas Barnett at the Naval War College published The Pentagon’s New Map, or “Why We’re Going to War, and Why We’ll Keep Going to War”. That’s some scary shit Tom. Basically, Barnett sees two kinds of countries in the world: those who play nice with globalization (the ‘Core’) and those who don’t (the ‘Gap’).

“Our next war in the Gulf will mark a historical tipping point—the moment when Washington takes real ownership of strategic security in the age of globalization…

“The real reason I support a war like this is that the resulting long-term military commitment will finally force America to deal with the entire Gap as a strategic threat environment…

“In sum, it is always possible to fall off this bandwagon called globalization. And when you do, bloodshed will follow. If you are lucky, so will American troops…

“If we map out U.S. military responses since the end of the cold war, (see below), we find an overwhelming concentration of activity in the regions of the world that are excluded from globalization’s growing Core—namely the Caribbean Rim, virtually all of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and much of Southeast Asia. That is roughly the remaining two billion of the world’s population. Most have demographics skewed very young, and most are labeled, “low income” or “low middle income” by the World Bank (i.e., less than $3,000 annual per capita)...If we draw a line around the majority of those military interventions, we have basically mapped the Non-Integrating Gap.”

And how successful have those military responses been? Not very, by my recollection. The US military isn’t so good at integrating countries from the Gap to the Core. I think there’s a fundamental economic reason for that as well: The globalized economy is largely a pyramid scheme in which developed nations enjoy comfortable standards of living because they are supported by the cheap labor of undeveloped countries.

Call me Marxist, but true global stability can only be achieved when nations are not exploiting each other for selfish economic benefit. Economic strife will not be alleviated by an imperialistic military. It will require a lifestyle change for typical Americans.

I’m skeptical that Americans will affect such an attitude since we despise being told what to do (and since laziness is a nature of individuals as much as war and exploitating are natures of nations). But intelligent citizens are realizing that foregoing our national interests in favor of global interests is ultimately in our best interests. Thus unilateral action against Iraq will in the end cause more international resentment and destabilization than it will resolve. International cooperation and compromise, on the other hand, would be in the best interests of the citizens of every nation.

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