If you read my "Rush to War" piece, you know how much of a threat I think Saddam Hussein is and that I believe the United States is not justified in going to war with Iraq. But it looks like we're going to go to war anyway, so I think I should look at it constructively and not just be so contrary.
Since the end of World War II, the United States has fought four wars and had numerous other military interventions.
In three of the four wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf, a US ally was attacked and either was about to be or was already defeated. In none of them did we go in alone. In the fourth, against al Qaeda (and incidentally against the rogue Afghan government of the Taliban) we were attacked directly.
Of the other interventions, Lebanon (twice), the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Liberia, Bosnia, Somalia, Kosovo, Uganda, the Philippines, the Ivory Coast, and many others, we went in for humanitarian purposes, peace keeping, or to protect or evacuate American citizens and other foreign nationals -- with the sole exception of Panama.
Not once since World War II has the United States declared war. We went into all four of the wars on Presidential order, with the approval of Congress. It gets a bit squirrelly, but an argument can be made that while we were in a war in the first three, we weren't at war, so a Declaration of War wasn't required. In the fourth, al Qaeda is a sub rosa organization, not a nation, so there is no national entity to declare war against. Remember, there was a great deal of debate following the attacks on September 11, 2001 about whether or not they were criminal in nature and should be handled by police organizations. The advocates of military force, with whom I agreed, won out and we went to war with al Qaeda.
Now President George W. Bush wants to go to war with Iraq. He says Iraq is a clear and immediate danger to the United States, that Iraq will attack us and/or provide "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD) to al Qaeda or other terrorists to use against us.
He produces no proof, only largely unsupported allegations. Iraq, as I have noted elsewhere, has no delivery system capable of attacking the US with its WMD. Several intelligence agencies throughout the world have said they have found no evidence that Saddam is doing anything more with al Qaeda members than allowing them refuge inside the borders of Iraq. Then there's that little noted complication of al Qaeda and most if not all of the other Arab-Islamic terrorists being religiously motivated, while Iraq has a secular government. Remember, the Arab-Islamic terrorists seek the overthrow of all secular governments and establishment of their brand of strictly conservative Islamic governments. (The Taliban, which worked closely with al Qaeda, was that kind of strictly conservative religious government.)
Yet President Bush says Saddam Hussein presents a clear and present threat to the United States and we must go to war with Iraq to protect ourselves.
All right, Mr. President, go to Congress and present your proof. Convince Congress that we must go to war. Ask Congress for a Declaration of War as required by the Constitution.
If Saddam Hussein doesn't present enough of a threat to the United States to justify a formal Declaration of War, then what is the justification for going to war with Iraq?
Without a Declaration of War, the motivations of the US will always be suspect: Did President George W. Bush make war for personal reasons ("...this is the guy who tried to kill my dad")? Was the war to divert the attention of the American people from the economy? Was the war fought to gain control of the massive Iraqi oil reserves?
If we're going to do this -- and it looks like we will -- let's do it the right way -- declare war.