07 November 2007

Iraq War: Round #3

The Objectivist
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
November 4, 2007

The Theist presents a clear case for continuing the Iraq War. He notes that even if our initial reasons for going to war were mistaken, we should still continue the war because doing so is now in our interests. He argues that the incredible costs should not dissuade us from continuing the war because we need to destroy Al Qaeda. If we don’t, he claims, we make it more likely that we’ll be hit with future terrorist attacks, particular catastrophic nuclear ones. The Theist probably would broaden this claim to include attacks involving other weapons of mass destruction, but for simplicity we’ll focus on a nuclear attack.

Continuing the Iraq War actually makes such an attack more likely. Occupying an ethnic-terrorist organization’s homeland (view homeland broadly here) makes it more likely that the organization will attack you. By “ethnic-terrorist organization,” I mean a terrorist organization that is tied to an ethnic or religious group rather than pure ideology. A Marxist terrorist group is an example of an ideological one. Don’t believe me? Try to come up with more than a handful ethnic-terrorist attacks when the target wasn’t occupying or helping to occupy the terrorist’s homeland. If you can’t, you haven’t thought this through.

This pattern has certainly characterized recent Middle Eastern terrorism against the U.S. Al Qaeda’s various attacks included its attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia in 1995, the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000, and the 9-11 attacks. All occurred when we had a major military presence in Saudi Arabia and vast influence in Iraq. An earlier attack, a suicide bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 resulted in the deaths of 241 American servicemen. Again, there was a significant U.S. military presence in Lebanon. Thankfully, in roughly four months, President Reagan withdrew the Marines from Lebanon.

In addition, the war makes Al Qaeda’s continuing existence more likely. The war continues to poison our relations with Iran and Syria and strains it with Pakistan. All this makes it more likely that other countries will tolerate Al Qaeda as a means of putting pressure on us to get out of the Middle East and playing to crowds who are increasingly hostile to the U.S. As a side note, we need not even stop giving Israel $2.5 billion plus a year in welfare because by itself this is unlikely to trigger a catastrophic terrorist attack. Whether there are other reasons to do so is a discussion for another time.

Even if continuing the war lessened the risk of attack, although only to a small degree, the expected benefits are swamped by the costs. A recent Congressional Budget Office estimate puts the costs of the Iraq war at roughly $1.92 trillion dollars. Remember that in this country the poor and lower middle class suckle on others’ taxes. In 2005, the bottom 50% of taxpayers paid roughly 3% of the income taxes. That is not a typo. In 2004 the bottom fifth of households got roughly $31,000 in benefits above what they paid in taxes and the next fifth got roughly $18,000. As a result, if the war is paid for by 50% of the citizens, then it costs each of these taxpayers $13,000. It costs dual-income couples $26,000. Would you vote for a plan in which Bush and company lessened the chance of a catastrophic attack, although only to a small degree, if you had to write a check for $26,000 to pay for it? Even if the check is less because some of the bill has already been paid, the cost is still outrageous.

In addition, The Theist ignores other dangers that the continuing war poses. Money spent on the war might be better spent securing our borders against illegal aliens and tracking down the roughly 20 million already here. Given that four of the 9-11 terrorists were illegal aliens, one might think this is a good step.

In addition, our continuing presence makes it likely that we’ll get caught between the Shiites and Sunnis and perhaps also between the Turks and Kurds. If we use a heavy hand to stop these conflicts, we’ll create fertile grounds for terrorist groups to recruit. In addition, the combination of Iranian support for terrorists in Iraq and their attempt to develop a nuclear weapon results in our creeping ever closer to a bloody and expensive war against them. Our withdrawal reduces these various risks.

The decision to pour money and lives into Iraq makes us less safe. Even if the war made us slightly safer, the expected benefit is swamped by the massive costs. The war also runs the risk of getting us caught between sides in a civil war and a war between neighbors. It also makes a bloody and expensive war with Iran more likely.


J. said...

Interesting take. By the way, you might be interested in the Wounded Warriors Project. It's a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness for U.S. troops severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. It really puts a face on the cost of this conflict. Here's a link:



The Objectivist said...

Thank you for the helpful link. One other argument is that our interventionist policies have resulted in our being present in other countries for years to come. See, e.g., our presence in Korea and Japan. Plus, if Kosovo gets carved out of Serbia, then the latter was absolutely right to think that they had a civil war on their hands and the U.S. (without Congressional approval of any sort) backed the Kosovar rebel groups.

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