I’m posting this column of mine for several of my friends to see, over 7 years after it was originally published in the April 11, 2003 print edition of Business First of Louisville. I think it will surprise some of them to see that I doubted the war in Iraq from the start, even before it became clear that Iraq’s feared WMD capabilities and Al Qaeda links were likely overblown, unintentionally or not.
The First Punch
Even back then, before we knew all that we knew now, the war didn’t sit well with me. And yet, at the risk of looking like a typical anti-war or anti-Bush zealot, I felt like I needed to point out the one key issue that worried me about the war in Iraq — the fact that it was America’s first “preemptive” war. Of course, looking back from October 2009, I can find many more reasons to question the war.
Regardless, according to my editor at Business First, this column generated more email responses from readers than any other “Getting Ahead of the Curve” column EVER had before. I think I still have a file of the most interesting responses and I will try to post them on this blog, too. Also keep in mind as you read it that my ‘audience’ was supposed to be the ‘young professionals’ among Business First’s readers. I no longer qaulify for the adjective of ‘young,’ but I don’t yet qualify as ‘old’ either! Whether or not the adjective of ‘professional applies to me is for others to decide. 🙂
For the first time, Americans are involved in a war that we started.
Right now, people in Iraq are fighting (and dying) for my right to write this column, for Business First’s right to print it, and for your right to read it. There’s no way we can make it up to the spouses, parents and children of those men and women who don’t come back. But we should still try.
As young professionals who grew up without the draft, most of us haven’t served in the armed forces. I haven’t either. That means, unless a loved one is over there right now, it’s hard to fully com-prehend what they’re doing for us.
Every day, I pray that the evil regime in Iraq collapses, ending the war and allowing freedom to reign in the Persian Gulf. No one wants to win this war more than I do.
Yet, something’s still bothering me. This war is different from every other war that we’ve ever fought. We’ve crossed a line and too few people have noticed. It’s a line with awesome implications about the role our country has taken for itself in this new century.
Please don’t take me for one of those throwbacks who carry signs and chant slogans they learned from their hippie parents. There’s no rusting Volkswagen bus lurking in my garage. Vietnam is long over, and Iraq is certainly not another Vietnam.
However, I’m also not someone who follows a president without thinking about where he’s leading us. If I were a soldier, I’d proudly fight for my country. But I’m just a private citizen, pondering his country’s evolving role in the world.
So, what’s bugging me? In a nutshell, it’s that, for the first time, we threw the first punch. Think about it. In every other war, we were responding to an attack on our allies or ourselves. From the village greens in Lexington and Concord, to Pearl Harbor and the 38th Parallel, to the jungles of Vietnam and the sands of Kuwait, we didn’t fight until the bad guys hit us first.
As bad as he is, this time, Saddam didn’t hit first, like he did in ‘91. While there may be a connection between Iraq and Osama, don’t kid yourself. We’re not fighting in Iraq to root out Al Qaeda terrorists, as we are in Afghanistan. We’re fighting a separate, evil regime that we perceive as a threat, to us and to its own people. Big difference.
Yes, I know the world has changed. Our fears are no longer red coats with muskets or even communists with tanks. They’re atomic, biological and suicide attacks on our very homes and our way of life — first punches that are much harder to wait for, no doubt. And yet, the decision we’ve made, for the first time in our history, is that we will now attack them before they attack us.
In doing so, we abandoned the United Nations, albeit after trying desperately to convince them (rightly in my opinion) that our case for invading Iraq was just. We also ignored the protests of several of our allies, whose spinelessness was very disappointing (especially since my own last name is of French origin).
Bottom line, we’ve taken international law into our own hands. We’ve appointed ourselves as the world’s policeman and issued our own search warrant. We’ve decided that we’re judge, jury and executioner, dissenting world opinions be damned.
As someone who has visited many foreign countries, I can say that this makes a lot of people outside the United States very nervous. As much as I appreciate my own freedoms and don’t want to see any more towers burning, this gives me pause, too.
It also raises some very tough questions. Do we attack North Korea next, since their nuclear capabilities far surpass Iraq’s? How long do we stay in Iraq and how much do we spend rebuilding it after we kick Saddam out? After this war is over, do we simply recede back within our borders and tell the United Nations, our wayward allies, and the rest of the world that everything should just go back to the way it was?
I haven’t yet arrived at my own answers. What do you think? Should we be the world’s police? Should our sons and daughters now fight and die for the whole world’s freedom, regardless of other countries’ votes or wishes? Are we “the new world order?”
Support our brave soldiers today. Then ponder when, where and why we will send them in harm’s way tomorrow — a thought that’s just as important.
RUSS MANEY is a former columnist for Louisville Business First and Louisville SNITCH. Please use the ‘Comment’ feature on this blog to comment on this article. Or, if you prefer, send your comments to me at email@example.com, but know that I may then post them on this blog.