US policy toward Iraq: An argument and a call to debate

Bill Dalsen

The events of the past weeks have shaken our nation and our world as we’ve witnessed the force of an inimical superpower pitted against the defiance of a deceptive dictator. Out of the uncertainty spawned by nebulous evidence, conflict, passion, and determination, our fiduciaries in Congress emerged supporting a resolution that will either guide this nation into war or will so embitter our people as to prevent it.

My purpose is to explain this pivotal resolution—its contents, its power, and its ramifications—so that there might be a foundation from which we can debate the future actions of our government.

This resolution requires that two criteria be fulfilled for force to be authorized. First, the president must determine that continued reliance upon diplomatic efforts will compromise our national security, or will hinder the United Nations’ efforts to enforce Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions. Second, the president must also determine that the use of force against Iraq will support the world’s efforts to stop international terrorism.

After these criteria are met, the president may use force “as he determines necessary and appropriate to: (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq,” and “(2) enforce all relevant [UNSC] Resolutions regarding Iraq.”

This resolution also requires the president to report progress toward any actions taken pursuant to the use of force, and also to report progress on “efforts that are expected to be required after [the use of force],” namely, those mentioned in section 7 of the Iraq Liberation Act (I will explain this presently).

What does this resolution mean? I contend that this resolution empowers the president to engage in a preemptive strike against Iraq, with the political objectives of overthrowing Saddam Hussein and subsequently replacing his regime.

My conclusion is based upon two facts. First, it is evident that this resolution grants President Bush broad powers (all “necessary” force) to enforce broad concepts (e.g. “national security”); President Bush has already determined that we must preemptively strike Iraq, and he invokes the troika of national security, the “war on terror,” and the legitimacy of international law to draw his plan closer to reality.

Second, I cite the obscure reference to the Iraq Liberation Act. This 1998 Act states that the official US policy toward Iraq is one of regime change, and that the US will support the creation of a democratic state in Iraq after internal forces overthrow Saddam (this Act does not condone US military strikes to overthrow Saddam Hussein).

By passing this resolution, our Congress illogically merges the old and the new: President Bush’s doctrine of preemptive strike is paradoxically linked to a non-military commitment to build a democracy in Iraq; in fact, they “expect” to rebuild Iraq.

Our policy has therefore dramatically shifted: rather than offering passive support for internal revolution in Iraq, our congress and our president now endorse the active (i.e. preemptive) use of external force first to depose Saddam Hussein and then, supposedly under the authority of the Liberation Act, to rebuild Iraq as a democratic state; we will no longer wait for Iraq to implode, but we will instead apply sufficient pressure to cause its collapse.

Now that our nation’s policy is clear, we can ask if we ought to pursue it. Do we have just cause to fight Iraq? Can we rebuild two nations at once? Is our policy of preemption sound and necessary, or are we merely carried away to war by the spirit of self-righteousness recently described by Reverend Coffin? I hope that this information empowers you to respectfully and openly debate this matter.