The War So Far

Does the president know what he's doing?

In an address to the Senate on February 12, chastising his colleagues for being "ominously, dreadfully silent," Senator Robert Byrd (D–W.Va.) stepped up and offered some ominous and dreadful words himself: "This coming battle...represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world." It was the Bush administration’s policy of preemption that he was attacking—"the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future." Senator Byrd had no takers in the Senate for a sustained and serious debate. War began on March 19.

Not surprisingly, American support for war with Iraq grew as hostilities began (76 percent on the first day, according to a CNN/Gallup poll). That level of support, which has held steady for the first weeks, can hardly be sustained for an "unnecessary war," as Bryan Hehir put it ("An Unnecessary War," Commonweal, March 28), unless it ends very quickly.

Americans see too much of the combat and the "collateral damage" to put to rest grave misgivings about the decision to go to war in the first place, even if most want to show support for U.S. and British troops. Twenty-four-hour media and Web coverage from every conceivable point of view...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.