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War's Uncounted Costs

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As someone who supported the war for mostly different reasons than the Tribune [Hot Type, January 6], and who now believes he was mistaken, I'd offer a different analysis. If the United Nations was to be believed, the prewar policy of "containing" Saddam Hussein was killing approximately 50,000 Iraqi kids per year. Even before 9/11, the United States had three basic options: keep a weakened Iraq in place as a realpolitik counterweight to Iran (at the cost of all that human misery, regardless that Saddam was stealing the oil-for-food money), removing the economic sanctions and giving Saddam a multibillion-dollar blank check to rebuild his conventional army (once the fourth largest in the world), or removing him. Looking back now, while one could make a case that the war will result in less death than the previous status quo, that's not the given it once appeared. Moreover, the war has negatively affected humanitarian intervention elsewhere. For one thing, the military has balked at even the smallest proposals (e.g., Liberia) because they are stretched so thin in Iraq. For another, we've lost the political will. There was no moral justification for not imposing a "no-fly zone" in Darfur, but calls for such action were muted. I believe part of that was that it would seem to support President Bush: when the UN won't act, there are times we have to. The silence was shameful (and the CYA lip service given to various failed Darfur-related bills in Congress doesn't change that), but in retrospect it was predictable. Look at the effect intervention in Somalia had on Rwanda. Geopolitics is too messy to do a straight tally of lives in Iraq and judge the war on that standard, though in a better world it wouldn't be.

Jonathan Krit

Chicago

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