President Bush on Sunday gave the international community one day for diplomacy before the United States and its allies begin military action to disarm Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
Sunday’s announcement by Bush and the leaders of Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom put the United Nations on notice. After a year of speeches, debates, inspections and reports, Bush said, the United States is ready for action. You’re either with us or against us, is the proclamation laid down following the Azores summit. This was amplified Monday when the U.S. and Britain yanked a new U.N resolution on war from the Security Council to head off a French veto.
This is serious.
If war is inevitable, our government and residents on the home front must offer their undivided attention. Military action brings the prospect of uncertain outcomes and many questions.
How long will it last?
Who will take over Iraq after Saddam is ousted?
How long will a U.S. military occupation last?
How will the Middle East react to democratic reforms in Iraq?
What will be the future role of the United Nations in Iraq? What about France?
Is war coverage going to interrupt the NCAA basketball tournament?
How much should the U.S. invest in rebuilding Iraq after the war?
Should French and Russian oil exploration contracts be voided after the war?
Unfortunately, we Americans have engaged in too many “after the war” discussions while taking for granted the thousands of troops now staging to enter Iraq on a moment’s notice. While we have the best trained and equipped armed forces on earth, war is still a dirty business where the ultimate sacrifice is a common occurrence.
America learned at First Manassas 142 years ago that war is not a spectator sport. It is not a video game nor a reality television show. We don’t place bets with Las Vegas odds makers on the outcome and we don’t create office pools on how many days Saddam Hussein remains in power.
War is fought by real people, and men and women die. If war is inevitable, as the President says, we must hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. We must be willing to see this conflict carried out with goals for victory to ensure peace afterward.
Living in an area with a large military population, almost everyone has family or has close friends who are preparing for combat. Americans still have fresh memories of the first Gulf War when U.S. and allied troops drove Saddam’s soldiers from Kuwait while crippling Iraq with minimal casualties though we had our share.
With good fortune, this war will be as short as the 1991 conflict. But until this hope becomes reality, we must remember that wars are fought with bullets and bombs rather than words and bravado.
All wars great and small are serious.