President’s address will be one-sided

Tonight, in his State of the Union address, President George W. Bush will attempt to prepare the country for war in Iraq. He will rightly note that Saddam Hussein is a bane to his people, a menace to the countries of the Middle East and a global threat with a predilection for weapons of mass destruction. He will state that it is this country’s moral duty and a matter of national security to remove this despot and hazard from the world stage. Finally, Bush will properly note that our country’s armed forces will perform professionally and admirably in this second Persian Gulf war. After the address most media commentators will state that Bush has framed the issues surrounding the upcoming war simply and effectively and that Americans will support the president’s decision to go to war.

However, how would Americans feel after the State of the Union address if Bush also mused on the more troubling issues surrounding the upcoming war in Iraq? For example, a sober Brookings Institution scholar has estimated that up to 5,000 U.S. soldiers and 10,000 innocent Iraqi civilians will die in the upcoming fight. Further, despite U.S. insistence of their existence, no evidence of weapons of mass destruction has been found by U.N. inspection teams. Additionally, the CIA contends that “Baghdad, for now, appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks Ö against the United States Ö (However) (s)hould Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.” Moreover, by rushing to war without evidence of weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration is alienating previously staunch allies such as France, Germany and South Korea. And, after the war is over, the U.S. military might find themselves, as Thomas Friedman has noted, occupying “the Arab Yugoslavia, which will take a great deal of time and effort to heal into a self-sustaining, progressive, accountable Arab government. And, therefore, any nation-building in Iraq will be a multiyear marathon, not a multiweek sprint.”

Tonight Bush will present the American people with positive aspects of an upcoming war. The next day’s polls will show that we responded favorably to his pep talk. However, we need to look beyond the uplifting rhetoric and carefully reflect on the consequences of a war in Iraq. It means U.S. military casualties; excessive Iraqi civilian casualties; rapidly escalating anti-Americanism across the globe; severe cooling of relations with our allies, especially if no evidence of weapons of mass destruction are found; war and reconstruction costs in the range of $200 million to $1.5 trillion as estimated by William Nordhaus, the noted Yale economist; destabilization of governments across the Islamic world; and a higher probability of weapons of mass destruction attacks in the United States. While war might be necessary, Bush should not mislead us, for all of the benefits the world will receive from Hussein’s removal, the upcoming war in Iraq could make the world more dangerous, not less.