William F. Buckley

The wires are heavy with the question of Iraq. The defeat of Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut was a call to outright defiance by Democrats running for re-election. They have been warned now, by the unforgiving, that they must reject the war in Iraq and labor with the single end in mind of returning American troops and dissolving U.S. commitments.

Arguments are made for staying in and completing the mission. Norman Podhoretz, writing in The Wall Street Journal, does his illuminating best to make the case. National Review posts a symposium giving the views of a half-dozen students of the contest. The Weekly Standard publishes a robust defense of the Iraq venture written by William J. Stuntz, who is a professor at the Harvard Law School. He reminds his readers that in 1968 Eugene McCarthy practically defeated incumbent president Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, bringing on the end of his presidency.

"On any plausible scale of strategic value," Professor Stuntz writes, "Iraq today easily beats Vietnam in the late 1960s or Korea in the early 1950s. America has three enemies in the Middle East today: secular or Sunni Baathism, violent Sunni jihadism, and violent Shiite jihadism. ... All three are dangerous because all have imperial ambitions; each seeks not control of a small piece of Middle Eastern real estate but regional hegemony -- even, in the case of the jihadists, world domination. Needless to say, all three hate the West."

The moral argument can't be conclusive, and nobody is arguing that it should be thought so. But it isn't right to ignore it. Here is how it figured in another context.

"I am convinced that (ours) is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement ... has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the (native) people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor. It has played havoc with our domestic destinies. We are spending $500,000 to kill every (enemy) soldier ... while we spend only $53 a year for every person characterized as poverty-stricken in the so-called poverty program, which is not even a good skirmish against poverty.


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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