Orin Kerr nails it over at the Volokh Conspiracy, which is as good a time as any to launch into a discussion of my own anti-war feelings.
This post summarizes my opinion on a lot of the arguments we’ve seen on both sides. I believe that Bush wants to invade Iraq in order to expand American presence in the region. I think he also believes, quite accurately, that Saddam is a very bad leader and that regime change in Iraq will be a net good for the world — but that’s not the primary reason, it’s a nice side effect.
I don’t think the United States should be imperialistic. Despite my anarchistic leanings, there are things about this country I’m very happy about. Lots of ‘em, in fact. I think those things are worth defending. One of them is that we don’t go to war for the sake of improving our own lot. We defend ourselves, but we do not go out and preemptively invade other countries.
Why’s that so important? Because any rational moral calculus must make sense no matter which sense you’re on. In other words, moral arguments that rest on the privileged place of America among other nations are doomed to fail. This isn’t just a philosophical point. It’s a practical necessity, because there is absolutely no guarantee that we will always occupy the practical privileged place. It’s in our best interests to construct an international consensus that doesn’t depend on our superior military position. I don’t want my children to be facing a world in which China is the preeminent military power, and in which the US established the precedent that the preeminent military power can do whatever the hell it wants.
Therefore, while I think Saddam’s overthrow will be a net good for the world, I think it would be intensely stupid for the United States to go too far in the direction of unilateralism.
Now, I also think that in the end it won’t be unilateral. So far, while Bush has talked a good game, he hasn’t done anything without UN approval. This isn’t really a surprise. He can’t wage war on Iraq without support, and in particular Turkish support, and he’s not going to get that without another United Nations resolution. (Yes, another one.)
While his tactics in the UN will, in the long run, work, they’re also burning good will among our fellow nations. That’s a bad idea not because of fear of retribution, but because sometime in the next ten years we’re going to have to deal with the serious problem of India and Pakistan. I don’t worry much about Iraq’s nuclear weapons, or even North Korea’s. I worry about what the admitted nuclear states of the Indian subcontinent are gonna do. That really sorely needs attention, and it’s not going to be solved with force of arms. Brinksmanship works, but the price is diplomatic flexibility later, and we should be concerned about that.
Consider that everyone in the UN is aware that, as Bush says, failure to follow through with the resolutions concerning Iraq will be severely damaging to UN credibility. But Bush is deliberately ignoring the other half of the equation: giving in too easily to US demands will also damage UN credibility. He knows perfectly well that the UN can’t appear to be simply an arm of US policy. The UN knows that Bush wants war on Iraq in order to strengthen the US position in the Middle East. When you get right down to it, Bush has the UN between a rock and a hard place — which, again, will get him his short term ends but may cause problems in the long term.
OK. So, I am personally in favor of overturning Saddam’s regime. I am not in favor of doing so in order that the United States might extend its influence in the Middle East. We do not gain any safety from this; the long-term threat to the United States is not from any state or army, but from in-country terrorism which does not rely on long range missiles or the backing of nations. It’s a war of conquest, and up until now, that hasn’t been part of United States policy.