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JAMES K. GALBRAITH The Only Moral and Practical Option I n a new column in The American Prospect online, Richard Just and Nick Penniman prescribe “the only moral and practical option” for liberals quavering over the war. It is to begin immediately campaigning for a more ambitious, comprehensive and compassionate reconstruction of Iraq…while supporting the war effort that will lay the groundwork for such plans to be enacted. Just and Penniman state two grounds for their claim to have identified the “only moral and practical option.” The first is a call to consistency. Now that the war has started, they write, the liberation from Saddam Hussein’s regime is at hand. Liberals must support the rebuilding of Iraqi schools as much as they would the rebuilding of schools here at home. In the second argument, as it turns out, morality and practicality are a matter of votes: Well, we have news for our progressive friends. Dread isn’t going to fly with the majority of American voters and it isn’t progressive. In two months, US.forces will have liberated Iraq from Hussein’s rule. How will a temperament of permanent dread look then? Imagine the line George W Bush will land over and over again on the campaign trail “For those who said we couldn’t plant the seed of democracy in the Middle East, I say, ‘Never doubt the resolve of the American people.” Is this, then, where the liberals are? To have our views, our attitudes and our convictionsour very conception of moralitydictated, a full year in advance, by a prediction of a campaign slogan? Craven doesn’t begin to describe it. Just and Penniman’s argument is based on a point of view widely held in advance of the war, and expressed on March 16 by Richard Cheney: I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. ….The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but that they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that. There is no need to doubt the sincerity of this view. Nor do we have, even now, decisive evidence to prove it wrong. No one knows what the Iraqis really think. But, right or wrong, it has been proved totally irrelevant to the situation we now face. The fact remains that Iraq is presently governed by a very effective armed gang, The practical alternative is to oppose, to speak up, and to write against the war, to expose and illuminate the frightful choices we confront. Let us remind our leaders at every turn of their recklessness and miscalculation. The American public may reject us and support them. But let’s give them a choice. No one, in a situation as grave as this, will line up behind a platform of pre-emptive cringing. numbering in the scores of thousands. It will therefore continue to offer stiff resistance first to occupation and later to reconstruction, until that gang is destroyed, root and branch, by a far superior force. And, it is now clear, the application of that force, if it can succeed at all, must entail a horrific level of violence. In planning for this war, the military professionals faced a choice. As many did actually recommend, we could have built up a vast and overwhelming force, and reduced the country to rubble from the air before moving in. Such a strategy was widely anticipated by antiwar forces worldwide; it formed the basis of many advance condemnations. However, it was correctly judged, by our political leaders, to be self-defeating politically, in Iraq and in the wider world. The other choice facing Donald Rumsfeld was to strike fast, with prea fast-moving military force, bypassing the expected-to-be-friendly cities in the south and moving straight to Baghdad. But as strategy this entailed an elementary chess-player’s mistake. It did not take into account the reaction of the other side. The main flaws are now plain. First, the strategy left very long supply lines, exposed and vulnerable. Troops require water and tanks require gasoline. Without these, no force 350 miles from base will be useful for long. Second, defenders embedded in the civilian population can only be destroyed alongside that population. Thus the Iraqis could force the transformation of the second strategy into the first. And, being military realists, they have done so. The military dilemma is acute. Retreat is unthinkable. George Bush’s will figuratively execute any who quail. Therefore, the level of violence will be continued on page 20 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 4/11/03