Thursday, February 20, 2003

Iraq, America, and the Bomb. Amid the anguished muddle over Iraq, there does not exist the perfectly constructed argument either for intervention or against. With that flaccid endorsement, let me recommend Jonathan Schell's cover essay in this week's issue of the Nation, misleadingly titled "The Case Against the War."

Schell's piece is obviously flawed. He accuses the White House of oil greed, then does a double-reverse backflip designed to show that even if he's wrong, he'll be soaking his teeth at the nursing home before anyone can prove it. ("Even if it were true -- and we won't really know until some equivalent of the Pentagon Papers for our period is released -- that his Administration has been using the threat of mass destruction as a cover for an oil grab ...") Much of his argument is along the lines of, well, since the world is going to hell anyway, who are we to stop Iraq from contributing to that hell?

But Schell makes one overriding, and important, point. Since 1946, he notes, the world has been in increasing danger because of nuclear proliferation. Iraq today is -- at worst -- the fourth-most dangerous country in terms of developing and spreading nuclear-weapons technology. The worst, in Schell's well-informed view: our friends the Pakistanis.

Rather than dislodging one tyrant, Schell writes, what we should be doing is beginning a new effort to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Including our own.

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