As Congress reconvenes this week, the possibility of war with Iraq looms larger than ever. I believe the Constitution clearly requires a declaration of war by Congress before a military invasion of Iraq can take place. I also believe that Congress and the American people need to engage in a sober and thorough debate over the wisdom of such an invasion before we commit our young soldiers to a new war in Iraq. At a minimum, the following questions should be carefully considered:
Why do so many knowledgeable military experts, including former generals Anthony Zinni, Brent Scowcroft, Norman Schwarzkopf, and Colin Powell, caution against war in Iraq? These men understand the geopolitics and military realities of Iraq and the Middle East from their service during the first Bush administration. Are the brilliant military minds of a decade ago suddenly irrelevant? Note that those who actually have experienced war are the most reluctant to call for war, in stark contrast to the mostly non-veteran pundits clamoring to “take Saddam out.”
Is Iraq a real danger to us, or have the war hawks wildly exaggerated the threat posed by this impoverished third-world nation?
Do you personally feel strongly enough about Iraq to leave your home, family, and job to join the war? If you are beyond the age of military service, would you want your children or grandchildren to do the same? After Pearl Harbor, almost all Americans would have answered yes to this question, but do we really have the same national unity and clear sense of purpose when it comes to Iraq?
What would you give up at home to provide the billions of dollars necessary to prosecute the war? Would you support a huge tax increase, or give up your Social Security benefits for a decade? I know many Americans would be happy to sacrifice, but we should be honest about what this war might cost us and judge whether its worth it.
Everyone wants a regime change in Iraq, but who exactly will replace Hussein? Will we support a handpicked successor who later turns on us, much like bin Laden did after we funded his resistance to Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? Remember that the Kurds, our supposed friends in northern Iraq, have fundamentalist factions that are aligned with bin Laden and are allegedly hiding al Qaeda. We risk replacing the secular Hussein regime with a more fundamentalist Kurd regime that hates western values.
How long will we be in Iraq after Saddam Hussein is ousted? Will we be nation-building for decades, as we almost certainly will be in Afghanistan? We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes made in Korea and Vietnam by entering another conflict without clear objectives and a definite exit strategy.
Does an invasion of Iraq play into bin Ladens hands by turning the entire Islamic world against us? Will an Iraq war expand into a Middle East war against Israel? Will Islamic terrorists mount attacks in America and around the world to protest the war?
If we are justified in attacking Iraq, what about the dozens of other countries that pose much more of a threat to us? Why arent the war hawks calling for an invasion of Iran or especially Saudi Arabia, which harbored most of the September 11th terrorists?
With American forces stretched thin in the Middle East and the administration preoccupied, will China take the opportunity to invade Taiwan? Will India and Pakistan engage in a full-fledged war? Will adversaries like Russia consider us weakened and move against us?
Finally, do the American people, and not just a handful of advisors to the President, really want this war?
All of these questions, and many more, need to be asked and answered in a full and robust congressional debate.