Iraq Intervention is Unconservative
John J. Duncan
by Rep. John J. Duncan
House of Representatives, September 10, 2003
There is nothing conservative about the U.S.
policy in Iraq.
Conservatives have never believed in massive foreign aid. Our occupation
of Iraq has become the largest foreign aid program in the history
of the world.
We are building or rebuilding thousands of Iraqi schools, giving
free health care to Iraqi citizens, and even making back payments
to the Iraqi military and Iraqi retirees.
Last week I read that we are sending 60,000 soccer balls there.
Our Founding Fathers could not have foreseen this in their wildest
Conservatives have never favored huge deficit spending. We are now
told our deficits will reach an astounding one trillion dollars
counting this fiscal year and the next.
Supporters of the war scoffed at predictions that we would spend
$200 to $300 billion in Iraq over the next 10 years.
Now, by the most conservative estimates, not counting many things
that should be counted, the Iraqi operation will cost us $167 billion
in just the first two years.
And because we are in such a deep fiscal hole already, we will have
to borrow all these billions we are spending there.
Conservatives have never believed in world government and have been
the biggest critics of the United Nations.
Yet some prominent war supporters, while criticizing the U.N. in
one breath, would say in the next that we had to go to war to enforce
all the U.N. resolutions that Saddam Hussein had violated.
If this is not world government, then what is? And why should we
put almost the entire burden of enforcing U.N. resolutions on the
U.S. military and American taxpayers? That is not conservative.
Conservatives have been strong supporters of national defense,
not international defense.
Senator Robert Taft wrote: “No foreign policy can be justified except
a policy devoted…to the protection of the liberty of the American
people, with war only as the last resort and only to preserve that
Conservatives have never believed that the United States should
be the policeman of the world.
President John Quincy Adams, in one of his most famous statements,
said: “America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”
Presidents Washington and Jefferson both warned against permanent
or entangling alliances with other countries.
Now, we have been in Korea for 50 years, spending over $3 billion
a year to “protect” that nation, in spite of massive anti-American
demonstrations there. We are still in Bosnia even though President
Clinton promised we would be out by the end of 1996. In fact we
have a military presence of some sort in almost every country.
Most traditional conservatives believe we would not have nearly
as many enemies around the world if we followed a non-interventionist
foreign policy and did not get involved in so many religious, ethnic,
and political disputes in other countries.
The so-called Neo-Cons have great power but really are a small minority
of American conservatives, if they are conservative at all.
The syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer wrote recently: “Critics
of the war against Iraq have said since the beginning of the conflict
that Americans, still strangely complacent about overseas wars being
waged by a minority in their name, will inevitably come to a point
where they will see they have to have a government that provides
services at home or one that seeks empire across the globe.”
A very small minority of very powerful Neo-Cons have apparently
dreamed of war with Iraq for many years. They got their wish. But
what they may have thought would be their crowning achievement may
instead lead to their downfall.
So many people in the U.S. and around the world feel that they were
misled about the need to go to war in Iraq that they almost certainly
will be much harder to convince the next time around.
Saddam Hussein was a very evil man, but he had a military budget
only about 2/10 of one percent of ours and was never any real threat
to us. Everyone knew we would win the war quickly and easily.
But Fortune magazine, in its November 25th issue,
long before the war started, published an article entitled “Iraq
We Win, What Then?” The article said a “military victory
could then turn into a strategic defeat” and that an American occupation
would be “prolonged and expensive” and “could turn U.S. troops into
sitting ducks for Islamic terrorists.” These predictions have turned
out to be deadly accurate.
The great conservative columnist Charley Reese 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 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 both in blood and treasure.”
Where are we now? The September 1 Time magazine said “an
Iraq in which civil servants are murdered while aid workers live
under armed guard is not a success.”
William Pfaff, in a column in the International Herald Tribune
in late August, wrote that “there is no victory in sight, not even
a definition of victory” and that “killing fields” have now opened
“that no one knows how to shut down, with American forces themselves
increasingly the victims.”
Shortly thereafter, Adil Allawi wrote a letter to the Editor of
the Financial Times. It is interesting because he was an
opponent of Hussein’s who has been forced to live outside of Iraq
for 30 years.
Mr. Allawi wrote: “Replacing a U.S. occupation with a U.N. occupation
will only create a different target for the bombers….The root of
the violence is that Iraq is occupied by a foreign power. There
is no real vision of how that occupation might be transformed into
a representative government. Iraqis should be providing their own
security but I cannot see how they can risk their and their families’
lives for a fuzzy promise.”
No nation has even come close to doing as much for other countries
as has the United States. Yet despite hundreds of billions in oversees
spending, the National Journal last December said “signs
of resistance to U.S foreign policy leadership are growing, as is
widespread resentment about the long shadow the American Goliath
casts across the globe.”
In that same issue, columnist William Schneider wrote: “Throughout
the Middle East, anti-Americanism has grown along with U.S. influence….The
lesson: Great power breeds great resentment.
Almost all conservatives applauded and were enthusiastic when President
Bush, as a candidate, said that he opposed nation-building and that
we needed a more humble foreign policy. Over 80% of House Republicans
voted against our interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo.
I strongly supported President Bush in the 2000 election, and I
will support him again in 2004.
My party unity scores were the exact same in both 2001 and 2002
91%. My ratings from the American Conservative Union were
the exact same for both 2001 and 2002 92%. It is unusual,
and it was unintentional, to have the exact same scores two years
in a row, but these ratings clearly show that no one can fairly
question either my loyalty to the Republican Party or my conservatism.
I represent a district that has voted Republican for Congress and
President since the founding of the Republican Party. Yet
now there are many life-long Republicans who are wondering why in
the world we are borrowing billions to rebuild Iraq when there are
so many people unemployed and so many needs here at home.
I have expressed my views in regard to Iraq without once ever criticizing
President Bush. In fact, I continue to believe that this war came
about because he is surrounded by big government Neo-Cons in key
foreign policy positions rather than traditional conservatives.
Many, possibly even most, Republicans in the House have expressed
misgivings and concerns about our policy in Iraq but have reluctantly
gone along with the White House.
Now it is politically correct for most on both sides of the aisle
to repeat noble clichés like “we have to get the job done” and “we
must stay the course” and the American people “must be willing to
make the sacrifice.”
Well, we should all be asking why. It is clear that the Iraqi people
do not want us running Iraq. They only want our money.
Neo-con interventionist foreign policies are only breeding resentment,
creating even more enemies, and putting our children and grandchildren
into a financial black hole so deep they may never get out.
In 1967, Russell Kirk and James McClellan, in a book called The
Political Principles of Robert A. Taft, wrote that Taft,
while no pacifist, believed that “every other possibility must be
exhausted before resort to military action” because “war would make
the American president a virtual dictator, diminish the constitutional
powers of Congress, contract civil liberties, injure the habitual
self-reliance and self-government of the American people, distort
the economy, sink the federal government in debt, break in upon
private and public morality. The constitutions of government in
America were not made for prolonged emergencies; and it might require
generations for the nation to recover from a war of a few years’
No matter who is President, almost all the leaders of the Defense
Department, the State Department, the National Security Council,
and our intelligence agencies are going to advocate more and more
involvement in foreign affairs, even those which should be none
of our business or even where there is no threat to our vital interests.
This is because all their power and glory and, most importantly,
their funding are determined in large part by our involvement in
the affairs of other nations. These people are not seen as men and
women of action and as world statesmen unless they urge that we
do more and more in other countries.
Unfortunately, we do not have many Calvin Coolidge’s leading these
departments and agencies today.
I wish more of our leaders would heed the advice of President
Kennedy who said in 1962: “We must face the fact that the United
States is neither omnipotent nor omniscient that we are only
six percent (now four percent) of the world’s population
that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind
that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity
and that therefore there cannot be an American solution to
every world problem.”
There is nothing conservative about the U.S policy in Iraq.
John J. Duncan represents the 2nd District of Tennessee.