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Why we really went to war

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, November 3, 2003

You know that “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was plagued by controversy from day one because of its so-called “illegitimate” grounds. I am here to tell you that this operation was fought for a different reason than what we were told.

After months of debate and discussion, my conclusion is that it was not really about liberating the Iraqi people from a tyrant, nor about eliminating a psychopath before he could use weapons against Americans, nor about the oil. True, these may indeed be effects of the war, but they are not the cause.

The war in Iraq is an attempt to set in motion a process that will slowly and discreetly trigger the collapse of an enemy far more dangerous to America than Saddam Hussein: Islamic Fundamentalism.

I am a firm believer that the United States must always pursue all peaceful alternatives before resorting to war. However, Islamic Fundamentalism and American Democracy cannot peacefully coexist. Why? Because there are absolutely irresolvable differences in their most basic belief systems.

As Americans, we place our highest value in the liberal idea of freedom. Of all the things we hold dear, it is our freedoms – like the ability to pursue any career you want and the power to speak your mind without persecution – that we are most determined to protect.

We believe we possess the unalienable right to choose our own actions, whether they be right or wrong, for better or for worse, out of selfishness or out of altruism.

Advocates for Fundamentalist societies are strikingly different in their views, for they place virtue above freedom as the supreme objective. Whereas Americans often cite the Judeo-Christian belief in God’s gift of free will to man, the Muslim faith focuses predominantly on the purity of the soul and submission to God’s will.

Therefore, Fundamentalists reject our basic assumption that we have a right to choose, for if we choose evil, then we are rebelling against God. Consequently, leaders are willing to abolish individual freedoms in order to try to preserve virtues.

The key to understanding the dilemma between the American Democratic and Islamic Fundamentalist worlds is that the two sides are judging each other by different moral codes. Yes, there are many notable overlaps, but the one distinction that I have outlined is critical.

It means that although their naming of the United States as the “Great Satan” may seem absurd to us, if we draw back and look at it from their perspective, this judgment is indeed logical and valid. “Freedom” permits Britney Spears to exploit sexual lust to gain popularity. Would not our society be more pure if this was prohibited? Would this not be what God wanted?

I sympathize with the Fundamentalists because they are fighting for their most sacred beliefs, just as we are. However, my sympathy does not extend insofar as to tolerate the notion that murdering thousands of Americans is an acceptable way to promote one’s moral code.

Indeed, I have concluded that a freedom-based society is closer to God’s will than a virtue-based society, because forced virtue is not true virtue.

Requiring a woman to wear a veil may make her appear humble publicly, but it does not necessarily make her heart so. Sure, freedom means that some Americans will choose to commit evil acts. However, many will not. It is these individuals, who have the opportunity to choose evil and refuse it, who demonstrate true virtue. Obeying God’s will means nothing unless one has the power to disobey.

War is tragic, but we struck when we did because we saw an opportunity to prevent a much greater tragedy. Peaceful coexistence would be preferred, but such a peace is impossible as long as the Fundamentalist moral code requires that they destroy the un-virtuous and our own demands that we give freedom to the oppressed.

Sure, we can wait until the impending clash breaks out into an all-out religious world war, the scope of which the world has never seen. Or, we can try to deal a quick deathblow, saving countless lives on both sides.

We attacked Iraq because establishing a stable democracy within the Middle East will demonstrate to Muslims that Islam can exist in a democracy, though not in the Fundamentalist form. In Iraq, dissention existed but had no voice, Saddam’s arrogance about his weapons gave us legal justification, the economy was eager to grow if given expert management and it is the most secular of the Fundamentalist societies.

We are offering freedom to a country that has the natural and human resources to be a successful democracy, hoping that it can now serve as an example for the rest of the Islamic world. If it does succeed, the Islamic Fundamentalists calling for jihad will find their voices falling on deaf ears.

Instead of fighting against America, the citizens of Fundamentalist nations will rise up and the oppressive regimes that rule them will crumble into the sands of the desert forever. World War Three will be averted. If our transformation of Iraq succeeds, we may never know just how many lives we have saved.

Greg Parnell is a sophomore political science and economics major who tackles issues independently from a single party’s platform. Contact him at gparnell@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The Observer.