After the Iraq War
Copyright 2003, John P. Hussman, Ph.D.,
With regard to the war itself, the expectation for a U.S. victory in Iraq within hours has clearly given way to more cautious expectations. What has not changed is the eagerness to look beyond the war, toward peace, stability, economic growth, and buoyant financial markets which are widely expected to be the fruit of this conflict. This eagerness is problematic. To believe that a war of this nature actually ends with the cessation of open conflict, or to base forecasts of its consequences on that belief, is to take a profoundly narrow view of history, politics, and economics. Indeed, the most predictable outcome of such conflicts is the rise of figures who use hate and resentment as platforms for ideologies bent on “purification.” Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and bin Laden all fall into this pattern, to name only a few from the past century. The day that this war ends will undoubtedly be a day of victory for America. The policies that we adopt on the day after will determine the meaning and duration of that victory.
A final comment. In some of the news coverage surrounding the war, the death of humans is described using phrases like “mopping up.” This is tragic. Both we and our enemies are made of the same substance, which is humanity, and all human life is precious. It is one thing to punish evil acts, which is essential, and another thing to dehumanize those that we fight. The most heinous acts in history have always been committed by those who are willing to view their enemies as something less than human, to be eliminated when they become a liability. We should fight the willingness to do this, even in our words.
Suffering, ignorance, pride, and anger are all ulcers that create openings for the hatred and dehumanization of one’s enemies. The capacity for this is not only in our enemies, but also in us, because it is an element of human nature. It takes both strength and insight to punish evil without transforming our own suffering into hatred, and without forgetting that our enemies are human, and also suffer. Justice and defense are certainly not incompatible with compassion. If this compassion is not reciprocated by our enemies, then it is one of the things that do truly make us different.
With gratitude, admiration, and prayers for our troops, and sorrow for the lives lost on both sides of this war.