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  xThursday, October 10, 2002

(continued from the previous post)

Taking this action unilaterally, without the support of the U.N., Iraq's neighbors in the Middle East, or Muslims around the world, will only serve to reinforce the impression that we are a domineering bully, and will likely foment new anti-American sentiment (and terrorism) for generations to come. We will have cut one head off the Hydra, but 10 more will appear in its place.

In the worst case scenario, attacking Iraq could provide the impetus to unite the various anti-American movements currently divided among different extremist sects and terrorist organizations throughout the Muslim world, bringing about the Muslims vs the West global conflict Osama bin Laden aspires to trigger. That scenario becomes even more likely if Saddam elects to fire missiles at Israel during the conflict. Arial Sharon has made clear that (unlike during the Gulf War) Israel will retaliate if attacked by any adversary. The sight of U.S. and Israel together are attacking an Arab Muslim state would provide some truly high-octane fuel for the anti-America fire.

Taking this action without a mandate from the U.N. will undermine the rule of international law and compromise America's moral authority. This appears to be of little concern to the Bush administration, but after such an attack we would be ill-equipped to argue with any other country on the planet who, at any point in the future, wants to attack a neighbor it dislikes and bring about "regime change."

Since we'll be doing this on our own, we will bear the financial ramifications of this action alone. The original Gulf War cost about $60 billion to execute, and the U.S. was eventually reimbursed most of that cost by our allies. This will be a more extensive, costlier campaign. Factor in inflation and a conservative estimate of the cost will run toward $100 billion, with no hope of reimbursement this time. Also, factor in the staggering costs of nation-building in postwar Iraq. You can throw the so-called "Powell Doctrine" out the window. If one of our stated aims is to plant a sustainable democracy there (as we did in Japan following WWII), we will have to remain in the region at least 20 or 30 years, probably much longer. So we're looking at a final tab that is probably incalculable, but which will certainly run into the hundreds of billions. I doubt that the wobbly American economy can support that kind of giant, long-term burden. And a weak economy poses a greater immediate threat to the health and well-being of most Americans than Saddam Hussein.


(continued in the next post)