people do not realize how many conservatives are against going to
war in Iraq.
A strong majority of nationally syndicated conservative columnists
have come out against this war. Just three of many examples I could
give include the following:
Charley Reese, a staunch conservative, who was selected a couple
of years ago as the favorite columnist of C-Span viewers, wrote
that a U.S. attack on Iraq: "is a prescription for the decline
and fall of the American empire. Overextension — urged on
by a bunch of rabid intellectuals who wouldn’t know one end of a
gun from another — has doomed many an empire. Just let the
United States try to occupy the Middle East, which will be the practical
result of a war against Iraq, and Americans will be bled dry by
the costs in both blood and treasure."
Paul Craig Roberts, who was one of the highest-ranking Treasury
Department officials under President Reagan and now a nationally-syndicated
conservative columnist, wrote: "an invasion of Iraq is likely
the most thoughtless action in modern history."
James Webb, a hero in Vietnam and President Reagan’s Secretary of
the Navy, wrote: "The issue before us is not whether the United
States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as
a nation are prepared to occupy territory in the Middle East for
the next 30 to 50 years."
It is a traditional conservative position to be against huge deficit
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a very short war
followed by a five-year occupation of Iraq would cost the U.S. $272
billion, this on top of an estimated $350 billion deficit for the
coming fiscal year.
It is a traditional conservative position to be against the U.S.
being the policeman of the world. That is exactly what we will be
doing if we go to war in Iraq.
It is a traditional conservative position to be against world government,
because conservatives believe that government is less wasteful and
arrogant when it is small and closer to the people.
It is a traditional conservative position to be critical of, skeptical
about, even opposed to the very wasteful, corrupt United Nations,
yet the primary justification for this war, what we hear over and
over again, is that Iraq has violated 16 U.N. resolutions.
Well, other nations have violated U.N. resolutions, yet we have
not threatened war against them.
It is a traditional conservative position to believe it is unfair
to U.S. taxpayers and our military to put almost the entire burden
of enforcing U.N. resolutions on the U.S., yet that is exactly what
will happen in a war against Iraq.
In fact, it is already happening, because even if Hussein backs
down now it will cost us billions of dollars in war preparations
and moving so many of our troops, planes, ships, and equipment to
the Middle East.
It is a traditional conservative position to be against huge foreign
aid, which has been almost a complete failure for many years now.
Talk about huge foreign aid — Turkey is demanding $26 to $32
billion according to most reports. Israel wants $12 to $15 billion
additional aid. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia want additional aid
in unspecified amounts.
Almost every country that is supporting the U.S. in this war effort
wants something in return. The cost of all these requests have not
been added in to most of the war cost calculations.
All this to fight a bad man who has a total military budget of about
$1.4 billion, less than 3/10 of one percent of ours.
The White House said Hussein has less than 40% of the weaponry and
manpower that he had at the time of the first Gulf War. One analyst
estimated only about 20%.
His troops surrendered then to camera crews or even in one case
to an empty tank. Hussein has been weakened further by years of
bombing and economic sanctions and embargos.
He is an evil man, but he is no threat to us, and if this war comes
about, it will probably be one of the shortest and certainly one
of the most lopsided wars in history.
Our own CIA put out a report just a few days before our War Resolution
vote saying that Hussein was so weak economically and militarily
he was really not capable of attacking anyone unless forced into
it. He really controls very little outside the city of Baghdad.
The Washington Post, two days ago, had a column by Al Kamen
which said: "The war in Iraq, likely in the next few weeks,
is not expected to last long, given the overwhelming U.S. firepower
to be arrayed against the Iraqis. But the trickier job may be in
the aftermath, when Washington plans to install an administrator,
or viceroy, who would direct postwar reconstruction of the place."
Fortune magazine said: "Iraq – We win. What then?"
"A military victory could turn into a strategic defeat. . .
. A prolonged, expensive, American-led occupation . . . could turn
U.S. troops into sitting ducks for Islamic terrorists. . . . All
of that could have immediate and negative consequences for the global
Not only have most conservative columnists come out strongly against
this war, but also at least four conservative magazines and two
conservative think tanks.
One conservative Republican member of the other Body (Sen. Hagel)
said last week that the "rush to war in Iraq could backfire"
and asked: "We are wrecking coalitions, relationships and alliances
so we can get a two-week start on going to war alone?"
The Atlantic Monthly magazine said we would spend so much
money in Iraq we might as well make it the 51st state. I believe
most conservatives would rather that money be spent here instead
of 7,000 miles away.
It is a traditional conservative position to be in favor of a strong
national defense, not one that turns our soldiers into international
social workers, and to believe in a noninterventionist foreign policy
rather than in globalism or internationalism.
We should be friends with all nations, but we will weaken our own
nation, maybe irreversibly unless we follow the more humble foreign
policy the President advocated in his campaign.
Finally, it is very much against every conservative tradition to
support preemptive war.
Another member of the other Body, the Senator from West Virginia,
Senator Byrd, not a conservative but certainly one with great knowledge
of and respect for history and tradition said recently:
"This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming
battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign
policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the
world. This nation is about to embark upon the first test of the
revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate
time. The doctrine of preemption — the idea that the United
States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that
is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future
— is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self-defense."
The columnist William Raspberry, again not a conservative but one
who sometimes takes conservative positions, wrote this week these
words: "Why so fast. Because Hussein will stall the same way
he’s been stalling for a dozen years. A dozen years, by the way,
during which he has attacked no one, gassed no one, launched terror
attacks on no one. Tell me its because of American pressure that
he has stayed his hand, and I say great. Isn’t that better than
a U.S.-launched war guaranteed to engender massive slaughter and
Throughout these remarks, I have said not one word critical of the
President or any of his advisors or anyone on the other side of
I especially have not and will not criticize the fine men and women
in our Nation’s armed forces. They are simply following orders and
attempting to serve this country in an honorable way.
Conservatives are generally not the types who participate in street
demonstrations, especially ones led by people who say mean-spirited
things about our President. But I do sincerely believe the true
conservative position, the traditional conservative position is
against this war.
John J. Duncan represents the 2nd District of Tennessee.