Guest Column: Thoughts on Iraq

Guest Column: Thoughts on Iraq

By Gaen McClendon

The intent of my letter to Mayor Doug Scott on Jan. 20 was to bring local focus to events developing between our government and Iraq’s. Encouraging our city council to take a public stand for, or against, our government’s position seemed reasonable in light of action taken by the city council of Chicago. It is my understanding that for the resolution to be brought to a vote, it must be sponsored by a member of the city council and be formally presented. I believe the city council will respond, but it will take some effort on behalf of citizens to encourage action. Why should citizens of this community care? What is at stake locally?

Obviously, Rockford plays no formal role in creating or implementing U.S. foreign policy. However, Rockford, and the region surrounding it, are certainly affected.

There probably isn’t a public or private institution in the area not staffed, in part, by military reservists. The absence of those reservists will be felt in many ways. This human capital is not an abstraction. These people are our co-workers and relatives.

I also stated in my letter to Mayor Scott that I am opposed to the use of military force to invade Iraq and end Hussein’s regime.

We should not be in the dilemma we face because it has been possible to deter Iraq. If deterrence had been tried, the 1990-91 Gulf War probably wouldn’t have taken place, and we would very likely be dealing with a more manageable situation. Prior to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, the Hussein government queried the U.S. about how we should react if he launched an attack against Kuwait. Saddam was told that the U.S. had no opinion regarding Arab-Arab conflicts. Iraq felt that an attack on Kuwait was justified because of that nation’s refusal to write off war debts incurred during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88, a war in which the U.S. supported Saddam. Iraq felt it had defended Kuwait against Iranian expansion and was entitled to compensation. Deterrence wasn’t attempted.

I’m in no way condoning what Hussein has done, and is doing. He is cruel, ruthless and an opportunist, but he is not a madman. He has been governing Iraq for more than 30 years. His course can be shaped. The West has 50-plus years of experience in the business of deterrence. We worked against a much more powerful adversary, and managed to keep military force available, but in check. He was deterred from using chemical weapons against coalition forces, Saudi Arabia and Israel by the threat of U.S. retaliation. In 1994, Iraq tried to force changes in the UNSCOM inspection process by mounting forces on Kuwait’s border, but the U.S. reinforced its strength in Kuwait, and Hussein backed down. Why are we now so willing to release military power?

The question of what happens after the war has not been very clearly addressed. We hear of plans for nation building in its aftermath. Given the ethnic diversity of the area, long-standing conflicts, and other factors, it doesn’t seem likely that the process will be successful, or will necessarily take a form that will benefit all concerned.

Call your alderman and tell him or her what you think.

Gaen McClendon is a teacher at Kennedy Middle School.

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