Wars have unintended consequences even for those who win them. Before the U.S. invades Iraq, let us give careful consideration to unintended consequences.
The possibility is real that a U.S. invasion would stir up one billion Muslims at a time when the U.S. has run out of both money and belief.
Government edifices in the Middle East are built on a political fissure. Secular rulers lack the support of large and fervent percentages of populations that are influenced by mullahs and Muslim schools. An American attack on Iraq could further compromise the Pakistani, Egyptian, and Saudi Arabian governments, leading to their eventual overthrow.
Saddam Hussein is bad news. But is removing him worth the risk of delivering large populations and Pakistani nuclear missiles into the hands of hostile Islamic governments? Before invading Iraq, the U.S. should be certain that an invasion will not play into radical hands and unite the Middle East against us.
Israel, too, is at risk. Whereas one of the goals of the invasion of Iraq is to reduce threats to Israel, the threats will increase if secular governments topple. In order to protect Israel, the U.S. could find itself at war with much of the Middle East.
Does the U.S. have the economic and cultural strength for such an undertaking? Few policymakers realize U.S. weaknesses. In recent decades the U.S. has lost much of its economic, cultural, and psychological strength.
Twenty years ago when I was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, the U.S. trade deficit was due to oil imports. Today the U.S. has a $350 billion annual deficit in manufactured goods. Millions of well-paying manufacturing jobs, including engineering and development jobs, have been exported to China, India, and other low cost countries.
America's loss of jobs that provided middle class incomes and upward mobility, together with the annual importation of millions of poor and unskilled immigrants, have dramatically reduced our economy's income growth potential. The loss of high productivity jobs and the importation of low productivity immigrants cannot be rectified with monetary and fiscal policies. Lower per capita real income growth is the price the U.S. pays for exporting jobs and importing people.
American employment no longer generates the income to support America's share of world consumption. Foreigners finance our consumption by their willingness to hold dollars. Lower U.S. growth potential will reduce foreign willingness to hold dollars.
A dollar declining in value would make it difficult for the U.S. to pacify the Middle East and defend Israel. A declining dollar would also raise the cost of the foreign manufactured goods on which the U.S. has become dependent.
Militarily and economically, Iraq is no match for the U.S. But if the invasion stirs a Muslim hornets' nest, the U.S. could find itself embroiled in a wider and prolonged conflict that is beyond its economic means.
Stomach for conflict also requires belief, but the U.S. is culturally and psychologically hollowed out. The U.S. is no longer a homogeneous or united country. Politics are organized along race and gender lines. White Americans, especially males, are under assault as "hegemonic oppressors."They are demonized in the universities and media and discriminated against in university admissions, employment, and promotion.
A prolonged U.S. conflict with Muslims will be cast as a "white man's war against people of color." The vast inflow of immigrants from the third world and Muslimized native-born blacks have no commitment to Israel. The white majority has been politically and culturally marginalized to the extent that the U.S. cannot control its borders. A marginalized majority cannot sustain prolonged conflict.
The U.S. faces a terrorist threat for two reasons: immigration and the security arrangement with Israel. Before risking stirring up the Middle East by invading Iraq, the U.S. should hold an unemotional debate on immigration and on the commitment to Israel.
If the U.S. is to maintain its security commitment to Israel and if no political and economic accommodation can be made with Arabs that would reduce their hostility to Israel, the U.S. must close its borders and prepare for war with the Middle East.
Paul Craig Roberts is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.
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