Another Modest Proposal

There are several proposals floating about how to deal with the “Iraq Problem”.

One wrong-headed one was released in December 2002. It suggested that the US arm and support Iran to engage in regime change in Iraq. It argued that because Iran was Shi’ite (like the majority of Iraqis), because Iran had no record of supporting Saddam Hussein (unlike the United States), it was in a better position to invade, occupy, and otherwise liberate Iraq than the United States was.

The wrong-headedness of this proposal should be obvious. The US isn’t interested in regime change! Its interests are far more principled: the US is against Weapons of Mass Destruction and International Terrorism.

Unfortunately, since these are the goals, the approach proposed by the US administration is also wrong-headed. That proposal is that the US invade and occupy Iraq, thus seeing to it that Iraq is disarmed and that a terrorist like Saddam Hussein is removed from power.

I offer a much more efficient way of dealing with both problems of WMD and international terrorism. Like the United States, I will be very selective about which terrorists I target and who I do not want to have WMD. Specifically, my proposal deals only with:

1) The terrorism of al-Qaeda 2) The (perhaps) weapons of mass destruction of Iraq 3) Possible WMD in other axis of evil countries: Iran and North Korea 4) The Colombian guerrilla groups 5) The Palestinian armed groups

My proposal does not deal with:

1) US-supported dictatorships and tyrannies (like Saudi Arabia) 2) US-supported regimes that arm and support paramilitary forces that engage in terrorism (like Colombia) 3) US-supported countries that possess weapons of mass destruction and are engaging in military occupation and ethnic cleansing (like Israel)

These situations are of no interest. They do, however, point to my simple proposal for solving the above five problems once and for all. Because our concern is only for weapons of mass destruction by certain countries and terror-tactics by certain groups, all we need do is give the countries and groups in question a different tactical option! Let me explain:

Al-Qaeda: If al-Qaeda had the option of bombing innocent civilians from the air, cutting off their food supplies, dropping cluster bombs and daisy cutters and fuel-air bombs on them, as the United States did in Afghanistan, they would certainly use these weapons instead of the suicide bombings they have employed. This would kill thousands of innocent civilians, but the US campaign in Afghanistan proved that killing innocent civilians isn’t bad—it’s the way you kill them that’s the problem.

Iraq, Iran, and North Korea: Likewise, Iraq would have no need to develop a nuclear deterrent if it had the kind of air superiority, naval power, and conventional firepower that the United States is about to unleash on it. Why would a small, poor country from the axis of evil ever deal with dangerous weapons like biological, chemical, and nuclear agents when they could have 200,000 of the most highly armed and trained soldiers available to invade an enemy? Armadas of aircraft carriers at the ready? Squadrons of fighters and bombers?

Colombian guerrillas: The Colombian guerrillas kidnap civilians for ransom in what they call the ‘collection of revolutionary taxes’. They also tax the drug trade. But if they, like the Colombian paramilitaries, had access to arms, training, and coordination from the US-supported Colombian military, they would not need to go to such lengths for revenue. It’s true that the Colombian paramilitaries also do kidnapping, engage in drug trafficking, and (unlike the guerrillas) engage in chainsaw massacres. But none of these things matter—we are trying to stamp out a particular tactic by a particular group! By making aid and funding available to the Colombian guerrillas, we are likely to see a decrease in kidnapping for revenue. Furthermore, if we gave these guerrillas access to the means of chemical warfare, in the form of aerial fumigation planes that currently spray coca (and other) crops in Colombia and war helicopters to protect those planes, the guerrillas could use them against their enemies instead of using the kinds of guerrilla tactics we hate. And who knows? If we made chemical warfare and military aid available to the unions, women’s groups, afro-colombians, and indigenous, they might use these favourable tactics instead of the nonviolent mobilization that they have been using, which we hate so much that we have our paramilitary auxiliaries punish it with death.

The Palestinians: This problem is particularly easy. Since we have no problem with killing civilians by F-16s, bulldozing homes, shelling homes and buildings with artillery, using tanks, helicopters, and armoured personnel carriers against civilians, killing just a few each day, we should make all of this weaponry available to the Palestinians. Given these options, there is no way they would resort to the hated tactic of suicide bombers. Even less likely is the prospect that Palestinians might engage in nonviolent resistance and negotiation, the most dangerous threat of all, and one that must be suppressed at all costs.

Now, some bleeding-heart liberals might argue that none of these applications of my proposal will diminish the amount of violence and atrocities committed in the world. But if they did so, they would be arguing that better-armed, state-sponsored terrorists were worse than poorly-armed, retail terrorists. This is obviously nonsense, since the former are our friends and the latter our enemies. My proposal is what the business literature calls a ‘win-win’, because it turns the latter into the former.

These bleeding-hearts might answer by saying that terrorism is terrorism, no matter who does it and no matter who the victims are, and that terrorism is wrong. But that’s called ‘moral equivalence’, and ‘moral equivalence’ is something very bad, and like George W Bush said, sometimes a leader has to ignore what the people say and want in order to protect them. That is what he said, isn’t it?

Justin Podur was a bleeding heart, naïve antiwar protester before he came in touch with the serious hard realities of foreign policy.

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