Political Triple Play

As a rule, I try to stay away from political commentary, particularly when my audience is largely unknown (I’m an expert at preaching to the choir). That, and living in the D.C. area, one is bombarded with the misconception that our entire mind-set revolves around politics. Yesterday, however, we had a news trifecta that warrants at least passing note.

First was a series of antiwar demonstrations held here in Washington (along with others around the country), commemorating International Human Rights Day. Second was the capture by the Spanish military of a North Korean ship carrying Scud missile parts to Yemen. And third was the formal announcement of the Bush administration’s new “preemptive strike” policy toward rogue nations threatening the United States.

Unlike Atlantic Editor-at-Large Michael Kelly — who last year condemned pacifists as “objectively pro-terrorist” in a Washington Post op-ed column — I believe that the proliferation of dissenting opinion is not only desirable, but necessary in a free society (funny thing, that First Amendment). An unusual things about these particular demonstrations was that they comprised several groups of widely disparate origin, rather than a single, organizing sponsor. At the risk of exposing my unending hypocrisy, I’m going to make a sweeping generalization anyway: The underlying message was peace for peace’s sake. While that’s certainly a noble goal, I think it undermines what could be a more effective argument — peace in this particular case.

I don’t for a second believe that this war has anything whatsoever to do with stopping Saddam Hussein’s weapons program. Oh, that’s the excuse, and on one level, action can certainly be justified — Iraq has repeatedly flaunted the UN Security Council’s resolutions. But really, nothing’s changed recently to warrant immediate action. It seems clear that the administration, being unable to capture or kill Osama bin Laden (despite administration espousals to the contrary, this antiterrorist “war” is inextricably tied to that goal in the public mind), needs a new target.

The second news event seems to drive this point home even more: A near-nuclear power supplying arms to a nation far more closely tied to the terrorist threat, in fact if not officially. I’ve no doubt the spin will make this event out to be further evidence of the need for action against Iraq, despite the lack of real connection between the two. Such action against Saddam Hussein may in fact be necessary, and the United States may be the only nation that can take it (“With great power must come great responsibility,” as Stan Lee put it). But it’d be nice if just once the powers that be could be honest about their motivations.

The third event — rumblings of which we’ve heard about for some time now — is the real unknown in all of this. In case you hadn’t guessed by now, I tend to oppose just about everything this administration does. But here I take a step back and let better debaters take over. Yes, this sets an extraordinarily dangerous precedent worldwide — any nation-state (or any independent organization, for that matter) could use this policy as moral justification for attacking not only the United States, but any other target it quarreled with, without real provocation. But this gets back to my original point: Honesty. In reality, if we faced an imminent threat, we would do whatever was necessary to eliminate that threat. Normally, that wouldn’t extend to large-scale (even potentially nuclear) attack, but if that were required, I don’t think we’d shrink away from the possibility. Add to that the absolute belief among some of our enemies that — by divine will — they would be able to completely cripple the American response, and after-the-fact retaliation is no longer a deterrent. It’s damned ugly, and it’s no doubt destabilizing on a global scale; I sure as hell don’t “trust” the current administration to make that decision correctly. But at least they’re being honest about the situation and what they may have to do about it.

We’re in the middle of another ice storm in this town. In more ways than one.


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