Opinion: Daily Journal

On War and North Carolina

WASHINGTON – As the Senate prepares to debate a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Iraq, I’m visiting the nation’s capital to do some John Locke Foundation business – and thinking about the impact of the coming war on North Carolina politics.

By the way, I would commend to your attention the Locke Foundation’s excellent and concise web site on the international situation, which can be found at www.NorthCarolinaAtWar.com.

Paul Chesser from the Carolina Journal staff makes sure that the site is updated each weekday with news, analysis, and commentary about the war on terrorism, with a special emphasis on North Carolina-based military units and political leaders. We try to scan a variety of information sources to give readers a sense of what’s going on.

In recent weeks, we’ve featured articles from the state’s largest newspapers; national newspapers such as The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times; international news sources from the United Kingdom, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Middle East; and columnists whose opinions on Iraq and war range from neoconservative and hawkish Bush supporters to paleoconservative and libertarian Bush critics.

As much as we have tried to get North Carolinians reading and debating these issues, I’m not yet convinced that the international situation and the potential war in Iraq are at the forefront of the political discussion. We have some Republican lawmakers and politicians loudly proclaiming their support for the president’s policy (which is likely good politics in our state, I think) and we have the usual kooky suspects on university campuses who want to refight – or more properly to re-not-fight – the Vietnam War.

Where’s everybody else? I happen to think it wise to intervene in Iraq, as soon as possible, to forestall the development and deployment of dangerous weapons and to eliminate what appears to be a safe haven and training ground for terrorists, including some linked to al Qaeda. I also think that building a decent, secular, and democratic state in the Islamic Middle East would have salutary effects for U.S. interests and the progress of freedom in the world. I am not sure, however, that such a result is possible, or how one might best accomplish it.

Basically, then, I am ready to see more public debate about how we are to intervene, with what military and nonmilitary means, and what to do if the squishy European Left and the totalitarian Third World Left don’t go along with us. This should happen immediately, before the election, as there is no more important issue in U.S. Senate and House races than the conduct of foreign policy (hint: this is the main constitutional reason why we have a federal government in the first place).

Some will say that it is unfair to Democrats, who don’t enjoy as much public support on these issues as Republicans, to stage such a wide-open debate in the last month of an election campaign. I say that not to discuss such a momentous decision in a political context would be the height of irresponsibility and of manipulation of voters.