President George W. Bush has committed more than 200,000 troops to the Middle East and more are on the way – GW student-reservists among them. The troops will participate in what now seems to be an inevitable war with Iraq. The United States has issued ultimatums and cannot afford the political damage caused by appeasing Iraq in its game of brinksmanship. Nor can it allow countries like France, Russia and China to achieve international political victories at America’s expense by obstructing actions the administration has committed itself to.
Furthermore, the cost of demobilizing at this point would hurt the economy more than if the war were carried out – the Bush administration has no plans of shutting down the war machine.
As it seems war is unavoidable, it is important to analyze why so many Americans, students in particular, are still not in support of the administration. The issue is not justification; it is the Bush administration’s inability to convey this justification in a convincing, truthful manner.
Bush has sent mixed messages to the country and the world by pursuing international diplomacy with the United Nations while simultaneously continuing unilateralist “we will go it alone” rhetoric. Every meeting of the Security Council, according to Bush, is its “last chance” to prove the council’s necessity and effectiveness. His bullying has caused countries to take opposing stands to save face. He has failed at diplomacy and is unable to win over his doubters.
Much of the war continues to be sold on the notion that there is a clear and present link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, which is thin at best. There has been little to no proof that this alliance exists besides empty claims and some roundabout reasoning. The Bush administration continues to bet that the Iraq-al Qaeda connection will be enough to lure the mass majority into support of war. Bush should know better than to bet the farm on his weakest hand, especially when he has much better cards to play.
The majority of students want to believe that the administration is doing the right thing for the country, but it is hard when even the most out of touch student feels they are being conned. The government would be better off telling people the truth about the war effort – there are in fact very legitimate reasons for war.
Iraq is not the “immediate” threat the administration makes it seem. There are other countries such as North Korea that pose a more pressing danger to national security. Bush should explain how Iraq is at a point where it can be prevented from becoming the nuclear threat that North Korea is. If nothing is done, Iraq will eventually get the weapons it needs to attack the United States or its allies.
Bush could stake more of his case for war on how tyrannical Hussein’s regime really is. He is a war criminal – if captured he will be tried at the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity exceeding that of Slobodan Milosevic, who was successfully expelled from power and convicted in 1999. Bush should demonstrate how Hussein systematically oppresses his people – a war could liberate the Iraqis and create the first truly democratic Arab/Muslim country. This could produce extremely positive effects on the region and Arab attitudes toward democracies.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons why war is not necessary, but war is no longer a question of if, but when. There is a case for war, but Bush is not making the right one. The administration has admirable goals in mind, but its inability to convey this is Bush’s downfall. Political communication majors take note, even the noblest of crusades can be undermined by poor public diplomacy.