Politicians and pundits can and do argue over the proper role of government, but virtually everyone?from conservative to liberal?will agree that public safety is a core state function. Our leaders are supposed to make policies that are most likely to keep Americans safe at home and abroad. So an important question to ask in the wake of the war against Iraq is: are we safer than we were before?
- Media reports indicate that “enlistments” in Al Queda have soared in the wake of our invasion—an entirely predictable result.
- We have put the leadership of countries in the Middle East that have previously been helpful—Jordan, Egypt—in a real bind, as popular opinion in those countries has swung against the U.S. The ability of those leaders to cooperate in the War on Terrorism has been significantly compromised.
- The ability of international institutions to mediate potentially dangerous conflicts (never as robust as we might wish) has been badly damaged. NATO and the UN are weaker, and the risk that local conflicts will escalate to the detriment of U.S. business interests and travelers has grown.
- The Bush Administration’s new doctrine of “preventive” attacks can be used to justify virtually any invasion, further destabilizing the globe.
Sadaam Hussain was an evil man. Many Iraqis are safer now that he is gone. But the world is full of tyrants and human rights abuses. (Ironically, Amnesty International reports that some of the worst are members of the “Coalition of the Willing.”) If the government had asked us if we were willing to make the world substantially more dangerous for Americans in order to make it safer for the Iraqi people, would a majority have supported this war? Let’s hope so, because that is the bargain we have made and must live with.