Positive Steps Throughout Mid-East Show Invasion Wasn’t Necessary


There have been a flurry of good events in the Middle-East lately, including the elections among the Palestinians, the Lebanese movement to oust Syrian troops, Egypt’s intention to have elections of some kind, and the courage of the Iraqi’s to vote in the face of suicide attacks. The Bush Administration deserves credit for some correct moves on these issues, including pressuring Syria to withdraw, objecting to Egypt’s suppression of dissent, and pushing to complete the Iraq elections.

Some are suggesting that these events are positive effects of the war on Iraq and justify it. However, rather than justifying it, these events prove that it wasn’t necessary. They show that the Middle-East has been ready for some time for serious efforts to oppose oppressive regimes and push for more control by the people. That we should, all along, have been making much greater efforts to apply that pressure and to stand up for our principles.

For years various human rights groups and individuals, including myself, have been calling for the U.S. to wean itself from Mid-East oil (so it can afford to stop being hypocritical) and confront the lack of human rights in these authoritarian regimes. I’m glad George Bush has come around to at least some of these ideas, though starting off with an unnecessary war is a backwards way to go at it.

It would also give us a great deal more credibility if the administration wasn’t inconsistent in applying our principles, by holding detainees indefinitely as neither prisoners nor criminals, and by giving a wink and a nod to torture, among other errors.

However what is most important is what lesson we take away from this, what pattern we set for the future. The lesson that unprovoked war is good would be a terrible pattern.  The lesson that such a war was unnecessary and that we should have done a better job of standing up for our principles all along, would serve us well.

The war carried numerous price tags that are much too high, in lives, in wasted resources, in lost U.S. leadership on human rights and the orderly conduct of international affairs, in good will in the world. These positive events in the Middle-East neither required this war, nor do they change that fact that the Bush administration’s spinning of the evidence in order to sell the war, and committing an unnecessary and unprovoked war are wrong.

Invading Iraq and bringing elections did put additional democratic pressure on the Middle-East, but that is no more the way to do it than is beating a child to get him to earn better grades. If he starts getting better grades, that just says that one was failing to guide him in appropriate ways in the past. The improvements may be good, but using such methods have negative consequences that will come home to roost in the long run, and are, oh by the way, just flat wrong.

Further, understanding that it is dangerous to combine the belief in a worthy goal (democracy and liberalization) and the belief that the end justifies unnecessary violence and inhumane treatment (unprovoked war, and permanent detainment and torture), is the primary lesson of the greatest tragedies of the last century.

Next time, more on that lesson.