Thinking about war in Iraq: an introductory student guide

In his speech to the United Nations Sept. 12, President George Bush made clear that the question is not whether we do something about Saddam Hussein, but rather what we do about Saddam Hussein. While President Bush called on the United Nations to act, he made clear the United States will judge the U.N.’s efforts, and if the U.N. does not respond adequately, the United States will act unilaterally. In other words, the United States will decide, and it will decide in the next few months.

The decision of whether or not to invade Iraq is one of the most important political decisions facing our country, and the world, right now. Its impact on world politics and the U.S. economy will persist for decades, reshaping the map of political alliances, and defining how the United States exercises its economic, military and political dominance in the world.

The choice to be made

The public debate thus far has focused on whether or not Iraq has, or is very close to having, nuclear weapons, and whether the Iraqi government has broken its promises to the U.N. But these are likely not the most relevant questions. Few dispute that Saddam, Iraq’s leader, is a ruthless dictator who is intent on staying in power, regardless of the consequences for his own people.