The likely ramifications of war
It has been several days since the start of the war in Iraq. The President has had his way. We have spent much of the last year quarrelling over the legitimacy of this war. There is evidence in support of it and evidence against it. I have been skeptical from the start, but I believe that it is now time to support our troops even if we disagree with the policies that they are the tool of, hope for a quick victory, and address a more pressing question: how will this war affect the American people?
I would like to address this question by examining three aspects of a post-Saddam America: President Bush's reelection, domestic sentiment toward the war, and the war's effect upon United States' international image.
The war will be a hit or miss for the President. If our armed forces are victorious and the President is successful in maintaining the war on terrorism as the major issue going into the next election, he will be a shoo-in. If the post-war regime change looks bleak and costly, Bush will pay dearly at the polls. Everyone likes to win a war, but no one wants to feel burdened by it. With our ever increasing deficit spending and mounting war costs, not to mention post-war nation building costs, which we will surely pay the vast majority of, we should anticipate significantly exacerbated fiscal troubles for the federal government and debts that our generation will be paying in taxes for the foreseeable future. If the war is resolved too soon, we become embedded in the reconstruction process during prime campaign time, and the democrats succeed in making our nations finances a major campaign issue, the President should expect to encounter difficulty in seeking reelection.
What effect will the war have upon domestic attitudes toward it? It is my opinion that it will do little to sway most people's opinions, whether they are pro-war, anti-war or of a moderate leaning to either stance. If we overwhelm the Iraqi's quickly, pro-war hawks will continue to sing the same song they have been singing for a year. People against the war did not have qualms with our ability to win it so their opinions are unlikely to change.
The only people whose opinions will likely be affected by the war are moderates with limited knowledge of the war. They will be more likely to adopt a pro-war stance if we win, seeing the victory as a signal of legitimacy, and more likely to adopt an antiwar stance if we lose, seeing the loss as a sign of an improper use of force.
No matter what the outcome of the war, our international image is unlikely to improve. The world seems to view the United States as an untamable hegemony, a bully. While it would be difficult to deny that our unparalleled military force has gone to our heads it is unfair to see our call to arms as being too completely illegitimate whether or not one agrees with our motivations. The United States is a sovereign nation as are all members of the United Nations. We are entitled to take unilateral actions even if they are intensely unpopular. Nations violate U.N. resolutions constantly, and despite France's strong objections to our use of force against Saddam, it is undeniable that they had economic interests consistent with Saddam maintaining power in Iraq. Also, we must be fair in our judgment of the United States; if France or any other nation were in the United States' position of power they would most likely take actions that would result in their being perceived as bullying other nations. The situation with Iraq is not the first time that European nations have been critical of the U.S. but more often than not they usually end up capitulating with our wishes anyway as they are normally in their interest.
Saddam Hussein is and has always been a problem, even when we supported him. The War will most likely rid us of him. Is war the best course of action? This remains to be seen. It is reasonable to be skeptical of the President's motivations. Whether or not our intentions are truly altruistic or not will be put to the test in postwar Iraq. Will we remain in Iraq until we have fully and properly healed Iraq's political wounds or will the president withdraw our forces when nation building goes out of fashion politically? No matter what the outcome, we must be cautious of giving the president too much credit for a win. No matter who the President is it seems safe to say that our military force would easily overwhelm that of any third world dictatorship.