WASHINGTON--The first line of the founding work of Western literature--Homer's ``Iliad,'' a war story--announces a tale of passion: ``Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles.'' America's critics cannot truthfully charge that rage or any other passion fuels America's remarkably measured and patently reluctant resumption of the war against Iraq--the 12-year war, the war of 17 U.N. resolutions.
In 1914, at the dawn of the modern era of world politics and of a 75-year war, the English poet Rupert Brooke expressed Europe's almost ecstatic welcoming of war. He thanked God for the chance to plunge into war's healthful adventure, ``as swimmers into cleanness leaping.'' America's critics cannot truthfully charge that on Wednesday night there was in America any trace of a similar delight in war.
On March 14 the London Daily Telegraph reported that a large British air force was poised to attack Iraq ``from nine countries, most of them Arab nations that have secretly agreed to provide bases while publicly voicing opposition to an Anglo-American invasion.'' British forces are known to be based in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ``but the rulers of five other Arab states have asked that their role in the coming war be kept as discreet as possible.'' Critics of American ``unilateralism'' cannot square their criticism with such facts, including the likelihood that Australian special operations forces have already been active in western Iraq.
Five hundred years ago Machiavelli acquired a reputation for amorality by saying, among other uncomfortable truths, that it can be moral to use violence to economize violence. America's critics will credit neither the probability that a war of disarmament will purchase a large reduction of future violence, nor the fact that American war plans reflect remarkable attempts to use military technology to minimize violence.
Retired Air Force Gen. Richard Hawley, a senior Pentagon staff officer during the Gulf War, warns that Dwight Eisenhower's axiom has not been repealed--the axiom that war plans are fine, until the fighting starts. Still, Hawley says the war plans call for tactics to serve the political goal of suppressing Iraqi military resistance to allied attempts to decapitate the Iraqi regime.
From the post-Civil War Reconstruction, to Versailles in 1919, to the futile Vietnam ``peace accords,'' to the appallingly mishandled end of the Gulf War, America has, to say no more, a blemished record in the matter of ending wars. Today's allied plans are for fighting in a way that facilitates Iraq's postwar recovery by minimizing damage to physical infrastructure, and even to the bulk of the Iraqi military.