I’ve had a few people either contact me here, via e-mail or in person who have tried to use the argument that the war with Iraq is a deterrent against others who would move to attack us. The most often noted example of this is Libya.
I don’t buy this argument for a number of reasons but a couple stand out. First, of all, the concept that Libya moved to normalize relations with us because they feared being next on our list is preposterous. Both sides had talked of normalizing relations for a long time before the Iraq war. It also does no good for fans of the administration to suggest that the war was the deciding factor for Libya. Why? Because if this is even remotely true it also means that the administration no longer gives a damn about its claim of promoting democracies in the area. Libya is anything but a democracy and yet we gladly accept them back into our good graces? The only reason we’re talking to them at all is oil and money. Same story as usual.
The second reason I don’t buy the deterrent argument is that it’s been clear from the start that it’s been anything but a deterrent. Instead it’s been nothing more than a huge irritant to the rest of the world. Where North Korea and Iran were once perfectly comfortable in their positions now what they see is an unpredictable, chaotic, common-sense-lacking administration at the top of our government. That’s done nothing but cause them to ramp up their offensive and defensive capabilities and with it comes the inevitable stress of such moves for all involved.
There’s a fine line between being viewed an easy target and that of a crazy tyrant. There was a nice period there where we straddled the line between them quite well. Now we’re very much perceived to be on the the less stable side of that line.
Now the situation is exacerbated even more with the conflict in Israel. Everyone around the world is worried about what path we’re going to take and that makes people we don’t trust very nervous. Is a nervous North Korea what we’re really after here? Nervous people often make the wrong choices folks. The assumption that nervous people just back down just isn’t accurate.