IRAQ: Why American Muslims Oppose the War on Iraq

Dr. Robert D. Crane

Posted Mar 2, 2003      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
Bookmark and Share

March 1, 2003

I.  General Approach

Muslims in America oppose the Administration’s unilateral preemptive policies because they are undermining American moral leadership in the world, which is needed after 9/11 more than ever in the war against terrorism.

II.  Grand Strategy

The best comprehensive or holistic strategy in addressing the threats to America’s interests in the world and to the security and prosperity of Americans at home is to shift from the threat mentality of the Cold War with Communism toward an opportunity mentality designed to bring out the best in the world rather then merely to oppose the worst.

Rabbi Michael Lerner did not use these words but he made the point anyway in his Tikkunmail of February 28, 2003, “Why Can’t We Stop the War: A New Strategy.”  He lamented that our reaction to 9/11 focused entirely on the question: “How do we protect ourselves from hidden enemies who are driven by hate and can strike us at any moment and will, unless we wipe out everyone who has had any connection with them.”  Instead, Rabbi Lerner says that we should have asked, “What has gone wrong with a world that produces people who are so filled with anger that they are willing to kill themselves to strike a blow at the symbols of American economic and military power.”

The strategy of patriotic Americans should be to avoid and oppose those few radical managers of the peace marches, certainly a small minority of the marchers,  who are trying to marshal the anarchic and rejectionist energies of moral people in a campaign against America.  Instead, we should call for positive strategies so that America can become the leading force in the world for justice and democracy as part of a common vision for enlightened American self-interests and the interests of all the nations of the world.

III.  Strategic Goals

The art of strategy, as distinct from tactics, is to wage battles in order to win a war, not to win battles.  The war in which President Bush says we are now engaged is against terrorism.  Our aims should be to counter any threat that Saddam Hussein may pose to his neighbors in ways that will most effectively combat terrorism, and avoid actions against Saddam that will aggravate the terrorist threat.  Muslims therefore support the following strategic goals for America:

1) Re-establish trust in American values and good intentions

The major casualty of the current U.S. strategy for unilateral preemption is trust in America?s good intentions, because leadership in bringing the enlightened values of America?s founders to the world scene is possible only if America is seen to be practicing these values both at home and abroad. 

2) Rule of law through international institutions

The principal contribution of America to the world is its commitment to the rule of law.  This includes commitment to strengthen the international institutions that serve this purpose. 

The U.S. government should counter Saddam Hussein in ways that will strengthen, not weaken, the United Nations and various regional organizations.  The Administration claims that the failure of the majority in the U. N. Security Council to agree with U.S. policy causes disunity and makes the United Nations irrelevant.  We should consider to what extent our insistence that unity requires agreement with U.S. policies causes disunity and makes the United States less effective in countering terrorism and less relevant in the world of the 21st century.

    Regardless of whether the United States ends up using military force to destroy Saddam Hussein?s power, a major objective should be to bring him and his henchmen to trial before the new International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, just as we should have aimed to bring Osama bin Laden to justice in Afghanistan, rather than merely to ?get him dead or alive,? like the gunslingers in the Old West.

    The effort to use the attack on Iraq to create a new international law based on American unilateralism, as first announced by Henry Kissinger on August 12th, 2002, undermines the rule of law.  This new strategy deliberately undermines the entire network of international institutions that the United States has helped to establish over the past half century in the pursuit of conflict resolution and both political and economic justice.  It also undermines the role of law as normative guidance for human affairs in the pursuit of human responsibilities and rights.  In this sense it undermines the legal systems of all the great civilizations of humankind and thereby turns the United States into what the elites in almost every country of the world now consider to be a rogue state.

3) Humanitarian responsibilities

The recent effort to justify a war on Iraq on the basis of humanitarian concerns falls flat in world opinion because no-one, and I mean no-one, trusts the Administrations?s good intentions.  On January, 2003, perhaps in order to help Tony Blair politically in England, President Bush told the troops in Texas that they were going to liberate an enslaved people.  If this were the real concern, why have we waited so long to do so, and why did we equivocate so long in Bosnia and do nothing in Rwanda?  And why do we ignore the enslaved people of other countries, especially China?  If we were really concerned, we would have attacked Iraq when it started to gas the Kurds.

If the United States is really concerned about human welfare it should work get the support of both global and regional institutions before it attacks other countries.  International law has progressed to the point that no country can claim any longer that its domestic policies, either against individuals or communities, including nascent nations like the Palestinians, are exempt from international censure.  But, the use of force to correct crimes against humanity committed by any country?s government should be subject to international approval and not merely to a coalition of those who are afraid to oppose America.

4) Countering terrorism

Those who use violence against innocent people in order to pursue political agendas with which America disagrees, which is a good working definition of terrorism in the modern world, must be stopped.  But this can not be done through overwhelming the world with American military power.  As the Political Counselor of the American embassy in Athens, John Brady Kiesling, wrote to Secretary of State Colin Powell in his letter of resignation from the Foreign Service (NYT, Feb 27, 2003):  ?Have we indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming military power is not the answer to terrorism??

The key to countering terrorism is to exert pressure on the government of Israel, if only a shadow of the pressure being put on the government of Iraq, to build a federation of free peoples in the Holy Land, whether of one state or of two states with equal rights and opportunities.  Until the United States does this, no amount of education on how wonderful America is will have the slightest impact on the hearts and minds of the global electorate.

The Administration sometimes seems to equate opposition to American foreign policy with evil.  One cannot directly counter evil, however defined, but one can help overcome it with good.  This general principle applies also to terrorism.

5) Managing weapons of mass destruction

The obsession of the Administration in eliminating weapons of mass destruction from unreliable countries, i.e. from countries not in alliance with America, as well as from non-state actors, is a utopian dream and therefore cannot be a serious objective of American foreign policy.  Such an objective, which amounts to a war against technology and human ingenuity, is no more possible than eliminating evil, or war, or poverty.

If Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and/or is developing them, which clearly seems to be the case on both counts, the official CIA assessment forecasts with great confidence that he would use them only if attacked.  Therefore, to attack him is counter-productive.

There may be some very low-level risk that Saddam Hussein would give weapons of mass destruction or the necessary wherewithal for production to terrorists.  This eventuality also is rated as neglible by the CIA, because, as a quintessential survivor, Saddam Hussein must fear terrorists, who almost universally want to overthrow established tyrannical governments.  He would give such weapons to terrorist organizations only as a last resort in response to an American attack.  Osama bin Laden several years ago offered to assassinate Saddam Hussein, but the CIA refused to cooperate, and Saddam Hussein never forgets who his enemies are.

The strategic goal of America?s enlightened self-interest in reference to weapons of mass destruction should be to manage them rather than to eliminate them.  This calls for beefed up regimes of intrusive inspection under U. N. or regional auspices.  This might also call for reliance on regional organizations to sponsor such inspection regimes, such as an organization of Arab states to monitor proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to any threatening states in the Middle East.  The United States might provide the technical know-how, paid for primarily by other countries, but should not resort to radical do-it-yourself measures.

IV. Conclusion

In conclusion, I need only quote from my booklet, The Grand Strategy of Justice, The Islamic Institute for Strategic Studies, Policy Paper No. 3, April, 2000, 83 pages, which in the chapter entitled ?Grand Strategy Against Terrorism,? reproduced part of President Reagan?s most ground-breaking approach to foreign policy, partly written be me and delivered by President Reagan on February 22, 1983.  On page 29, I write:

[President Reagan?s] basic thrust was to emphasize our ?responsibility to work for constructive change, not simply to preserve the status quo.?  ?History,? he declared, ?is not a darkening path twisting inevitably toward tyranny. ? It is the growing determination of men and women of all races and conditions to gain control of their own destinies.?  In this foreign-policy manifesto, President Reagan showed his courage by recognizing the Palestinian nation and asserting that satisfaction of this ?people?s legitimate rights is a fundamental objective of our foreign policy.?

President Reagan called American policy-makers, both Republican and Democrat, to recognize, as he put it, ?the central focus of politics ? the minds, hearts, sympathies, fears, hopes, and aspirations not of governments, but of people ? the global electorate.?  He concluded, ?The American dream lives ? not only in the hearts and minds of our own countrymen, but in the hearts and minds of millions of the world?s people in both free and oppressed societies who look to us for leadership.  As long as that dream lives, as long as we continue to defend it, America has a future ? and all mankind has reason to hope.?

The courageous foreign service officer of twenty-years experience trying to sell American policy abroad, John Brady Kiesling, warned about the global threat of American solipsism.  This word comes from the Latin words solus, meaning ?alone,? and ipse or ?self,? and in combination refers to the theory that the self can be aware of nothing but its own experiences and states, i.e., that nothing exists or is real but the self.  In extreme cases of autism, the person who suffers from this malfunction of the brain can not relate to anything outside oneself, including even one?s own mother?s love, and eventually must be institutionalized because the profoundly autistic person cannot function or survive in the world.  This malady or disease in milder forms is spreading rapidly among American children in our modern culture and threatens our society.  One might argue that it has spread from the extreme wings of the Republican Party to the president himself.

John Kiesling represents almost every American ambassador throughout the world when he writes in his principled letter of resignation designed for both his boss, Colin Powell, and Powell?s boss, George W, Bush:

We have a coalition still, a good one.  The loyalty of many of our friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over a century.  But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is justified than that it would be perilous to allow the United States to drift into complete solipsism.

I urge you to listen to America?s friends around the world.  When our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry.  And now they are afraid.  Who will tell them convincingly that the United States is, as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the planet