The Issues

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin - Green Bay
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Either energy is serious, or it isn't. If it isn't, then stop blathering about conservation and changes in lifestyle. If it is serious, than controlling energy amounts to controlling people, and you may have to fight to prevent someone controlling your energy resources.

The Emir's Faucets

The Emir of Kuwait, we're told, had solid gold bathroom fixtures, or maybe they were platinum, or plutonium. While I was in Kuwait, I met people who had been tortured, had spent months in hiding, and had had friends and loved ones disappear or be killed. Just exactly what is the relevance of the Emir's plumbing?

Why Didn't We Finish the Job?

We did. The UN mandate for Desert Storm was to expel Iraq from Kuwait. What part of that didn't we do?

So why didn't we go on and topple Saddam Hussein?

Why don't we just let the generals fight the wars? Clausewitz once noted that "war is politics conducted by other means." The only reasons rational nations fight is for political ends. Irrational nations fight for adventure or plunder perhaps, but then rational nations have to fight to defend themselves against them. So war is inherently political. If you want a war free of political constraints you want what never was, never will be, and never can be. While we're at it, I'd like an absolutely unrestricted research budget.

The last general who got to fight a war absolutely on his own terms was probably Napoleon. He'd probably have been much better off if he'd had a politician reining him in and giving him reality checks.

Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are Still Repressive

Nobody elected us to remake these countries in our image. That was never our mission.

The Media

Ever since the Gulf War, the media has been cringing in embarrassment over the way they were "handled" by the military. There are two main reasons why:

So while many media critics lament the "uncritical" reporting during the Gulf War, my perception is that between the inherent excitement and fast pace of the events, plus adroit work by the military, for the first time in many years the media covered an event solely by reporting the facts largely devoid of ideological spin. The Gulf War was reporting done the way it ought to be done if the media were doing their jobs properly.

A good indication of how the media would like to have handled the conflict was the way one network tried to get permission to film inside the facility in Dover, Delaware where bodies would be returned. The military refused access and were upheld in court. Exactly what information would filming there have provided the American public? How bodies are processed for burial? Any funeral director can tell you that. The number of casualties? Maybe, if there were any suspicion the casualty figures were being faked. But there are too many ways to spot fakery to make that an even plausible scenario. We're just too open a society. There is no information whatsoever to be gained by filming inside the facility; the only purpose of doing so would be to create emotional impact. Creating emotional impact takes us outside the realm of journalism and into the realm of entertainment or political advocacy. Both are protected by the First Amendment but they don't carry the same aura of sacredness as informing the public. The government is obliged to help keep the public informed; it's not obliged to keep them entertained or to provide material for political activism.

The Embargo

We're causing immense suffering to the people of Iraq by continuing the embargo.

Excuse me. Who's causing the suffering? It wouldn't be Saddam Hussein by any chance? And it wouldn't be the Iraqi people, who allowed him to come to power and are doing nothing to get him out?

We also caused immense suffering in Germany during World War II. The suffering was caused by the actions of Adolf Hitler, who was allowed to come to power by the German people, and who failed to take effective action to remove him once his policies had proven disastrous.

Does this seem harsh? Ask yourself two questions:

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Created December 30, 1999, Last Update December 30, 1999