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Top ten lessons of the Iraq War

Peter Quaranto | Tuesday, March 16, 2004

As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Iraq war this Saturday, I find myself reminded of the powerful lines from Deuteronomy: “Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw. And lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life.” We must not let the lessons of the past year vanish or we are doomed to repeat them. Hence, to expedite this, I submit my top ten lessons of the Iraq war. 10. Iraq is pronounced “eee-rak” and not “eye-rak”Sure, most Americans, including our President, have still not learned the correct pronunciation, but many grammatical hearts have been changed. Some may say that phonics is not important, but how would they feel if the world started calling America “Amyerica.” World peace begins when we all get hooked on proper phonics.9. The United Nations deserves more respect During the march to war, the United Nations was often branded inadequate, inefficient and corrupt, yet with the lack of weapons of mass destruction found, Hans Blix deserves some love. Can Mr. Blix get a witness from the congregation?8. Dictators end up in unlikely placesAs expected, the U.S. military won the war swiftly and disposed of the inhumane regime. Who would have thought, though, that the last episode of “Where in the World is Saddam Hussein” would take place in a small, underground hole next to a farm? It was certainly amusing to picture some 19-year-old from Kansas finding one of the world’s most ruthless dictators in a hole. Only in the 21st Century.7. Fox News killed the Radio Star Alright, I just wanted to make a reference to the classic song, but seriously, Fox News represents the death of the informed American citizen. In a poll conducted post-war, more people who watched Fox News than any other televised news station had wrong information about the war. Wrong, not biased.6. Protesting in a 9-11 world is not a sinThroughout 2003, protesters were deemed anti-patriotic, anti-American and anti-war on terror, but as the fog of war clears, it is becoming more apparent that we need voices to check the actions of the President. Congress sure dropped that ball on this one. Protests may not be as American as baseball, but they sure deserve a place at the table.5. Pure utilitarianism is alive and wellIn post-war justifications, many war advocates have claimed that the war is justified if the Iraqi people are better off than they were under Saddam’s regime. This new ethical approach to war, known by some as pure utilitarianism, is certainly hopeful. Throw the traditional elements of Just War Theory out the door. Throw legitimate authority out. Throw right intention out. Throw last resort out. Not to mention accounting for the dignity of the U.S. soldiers and Iraqis that died. 4. God does not only bless AmericaAt the beginning of the war, there was rhetoric, in the Manifest Destiny tradition, that America was the great savior nation destined to bring freedom and democracy to the world. I am certainly not a hardcore realist, but to think that any nation can have such pure and virtuous goals is ludicrous. This savior complex blinds us to the global realities that we must be aware to promote peace and security.3. March Madness is out of controlAs the war began and unfolded in March of 2003, there was a fog of nationalism, patriotism, militarism and many other “-isms” that made it very difficult to sort out the facts and make sounds judgments. We were gripped by the culture of war, which changed our lives and our world. War has a life of its own and we learned that this life can be uncontrollable amidst the madness.2. Preemptive war is not the same as preventative warPresident Bush appealed to the holy doctrine of preemption to justify war, but the glorified “imminent threat” never materialized. In doing so, we set a standard that could justify an Indian war on Pakistan and mythical preemptive wars throughout the globe. International peace and security demands clarity on the differences between preventative and preemptive war.1. One size does not fit allSince Sept. 11, the Bush Administration has painted reality black and white and now as the election heats up, both sides are using simplistic rhetoric that avoids the complexities that are so apparent in the fight against terrorism. If the Iraq war taught us anything, it taught us to be more cautious and more astute when we look at the world. It taught us that we live in complex times.If nothing else, the Iraq war taught us that the world we live in, a world of terror, poverty and oppression, is more complex than our minds can truly grasp. A world of such complexities requires complex, comprehensive long-term solutions that will only come when we humble ourselves to work with the world, rather than against it.

Peter Quaranto is a sophomore political science and international peace studies major. His picks for the Final Four are Kansas, Pittsburgh, Duke and Connecticut. Go Blue Devils! Contact him at pquarant@nd.edu.The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.