Nine Questions

What with Dubya and Tony Blair now promising startling revelations in the coming weeks (what exactly does a dossier look like?), I’d like to join those who are encouraging the President to answer the following questions (courtesy of the editors of The Nation):

1. Why engage in a risky and potentially calamitous invasion of Iraq when the existing strategy of “containment”–entailing no-fly zones, sanctions, technology restraints and the deployment of US forces in surrounding areas–not only has clearly succeeded in deterring Iraqi adventurism for the past ten years but also in weakening Iraq’s military capabilities?

2. Why has the Administration found so little international support for its proposed policy, even among our closest friends and allies (with the possible exception of Britain’s Tony Blair), and what would be the consequences if Washington tried to act without their support and without any international legal authority? Isn’t it dangerous and unwise for the United States to engage in an essentially unilateral attack on Iraq?

3. Is the United States prepared to accept significant losses of American lives–a strong possibility in the projected intense ground fighting around Baghdad and other urban areas?

4. Is the United States prepared to inflict heavy losses on Iraq’s civilian population if, as expected, Saddam concentrates his military assets in urban areas? Would this not make the United States a moral pariah in the eyes of much of the world?

5. Wouldn’t an invasion of Iraq aimed at the removal of Saddam Hussein remove any inhibitions he might have regarding the use of chemical and biological (and possibly nuclear) weapons, making their use more rather than less likely?

6. Are we prepared to cope with the outbreaks of anti-American protest and violence that, in the event of a US attack on Iraq, are sure to erupt throughout the Muslim world, jeopardizing the survival of pro-US governments in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and further inflaming the Israeli-Palestinian crisis?

7. Can the fragile American economy withstand a sharp rise in oil prices, another decline in air travel, a bulging federal deficit, a drop in consumer confidence and other negative economic effects that can be expected from a major war in the Middle East? And what would an invasion mean for an even more fragile world economy and for those emerging markets that depend on selling their exports to the United States and that are vulnerable to rising oil prices?

8. Even if we are successful in toppling Saddam, who will govern Iraq afterward? Will we leave the country in chaos (as we have done in Afghanistan)? Or will we try to impose a government in the face of the inevitable Iraqi hostility if US forces destroy what remains of Iraq’s infrastructure and kill many of its civilians?

9. Are we willing to deploy 100,000 or more American soldiers in Iraq for ten or twenty years (at a cost of tens of billions of dollars a year) to defend a US-imposed government and prevent the breakup of the country into unstable Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite mini-states?