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The Peacenik Top 10

A look at the ten most popular objections to war and some common-sense responses to them.

11:00 PM, Mar 5, 2003 • By FRED BARNES
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THOSE OPPOSED to military action in Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein, destroy his weapons of mass destruction, and liberate the 24 million Iraqi citizens under his control cite at least 10 objections to going to war now. These objections range from the arguable to the totally absurd. Let's examine them.

(1) Rush to war. This is a favorite of congressional Democrats. But the rush is more like a baby crawl. Iraq has been in material breach of United Nations resolutions since a few weeks after the Gulf War ended in 1991. New resolutions have been approved, inspectors ousted, and the United Nations made to look impotent. President Bush has taken all the steps asked of him before going to war: getting the approval of Congress, getting another U.N. resolution (with perhaps yet another on the way), and building a coalition of supporters. He's hardly rushing.

(2) It's a war for oil. The United States could buy all the oil it wants from Iraq by lifting the sanctions and helping to reconstruct the Iraqi oilfields. It's the French and Russians who have oil deals with Saddam and thus are fixated on that issue. They don't want a war that would upset those deals.

(3) War with Iraq will bring more terrorism. This is a hardy perennial. It was claimed before the Gulf war and the Afghanistan campaign--and when bombs fell on al Qaeda and the Taliban during Ramadan. Rather than more terrorism, removing Saddam will bring more respect for the United States. Terrorists will be increasingly fearful.

(4) The Arab street will erupt. Another perennial. This is often predicted but rarely happens. A swift, decisive victory over Saddam will quiet the Arab street. So far, only the American street has erupted--against the French and Germans.

(5) Bush is doing it for his dad. President Bush the elder stopped short of deposing Saddam in the Gulf war and to this day believes he did the right thing. So do his top aides, such as national security adviser Brent Scowcroft. Instead, they agreed to a truce with Saddam conditioned on Iraq's full disarmament. Also, consider the source of this charge: Martin Sheen.

(6) Attacking Iraq would be unprovoked aggression. No, it wouldn't. Andrew Sullivan has pointed out a significant fact: There was no peace treaty, only the truce, so the state of war resumes when the conditions are violated. By attacking now, the United States would be ending the war, not starting it.

(7) Containment is working. The problem is the right threat is not being contained: the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Sure, with U.S. troops and U.N. inspectors in the area, Saddam won't attack Jordan or Syria or other neighbors. But he could slip chemical or biological agents to terrorists without anyone knowing. And that's the threat.

(8) America doesn't have enough allies. What? Forty or so isn't enough? Is the case for war weakened in the slightest by the absence of the French or the Angolans? No. And despite what Democrats like Howard Dean say, a war with Iraq would not be "unilateral," which would mean the United States would be acting alone.

(9) Win without war. That's a nice goal. Unfortunately, it's Saddam's goal. With no war, he wins and emerges as the new strongman in the Middle East, forcing people to come to terms with him.

(10) Bush is seeking a new American empire. This is a favorite accusation of Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the man who once recited the Gettysburg Address in Donald Duck's voice. I'll let Secretary of State Colin Powell answer this one. When hectored by a former archbishop of Canterbury on this subject recently, he said: "We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last 100 years . . . and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in." Well said.

No doubt opponents are capable of coming up with new arguments against war with Iraq. They'd better do so soon because so far they haven't convinced anyone outside the reflexively anti-Bush crowd.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.