Politics of war are local

As the nation’s electoral process brings us to the inevitable Judgment Day of November 5, it’s worth noting that the Bush administration is closer every day to making the decision to send men and women from Sacramento and other parts of California off to die in Iraq.

As Californians, we might want to focus on just what price will be paid if we do go into Iraq—with or without a coalition of international forces.

I firmly believe that my hard-earned tax dollars should go toward maintaining a strong defense and that the men and women who put their lives on the line every day in every corner of the globe are some of our best and brightest. I also believe that when all diplomatic, political and other options are exhausted, the use of military force, when deployed with a coherent and comprehensive strategy, must remain a viable option for the president of the United States.

One former four-star general testifying at the end of September before the Senate Armed Services Committee, however, likened the probable fighting in Baghdad to be at least as bad as “the last 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan.” What I, and I hope others across the Golden State, care about are: the lives of our brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors who may be sent off to fight a war that will be long and fraught with unimaginable horrors—biological and chemical weapons used against our troops on a very large scale; the annihilation of hundreds of innocent civilians in Baghdad and across Israel; and the creation of a generation of suicide bombers and terrorists whose sole mission in the future will be to inflict as much damage as possible to innocent civilians on American streets.

As former President John F. Kennedy once said, “We should never fear to negotiate, and we should never negotiate out of fear.” Saddam Hussein is a ruthless dictator, and Iraq sits geopolitically on top of significant oil reserves in one of the world’s most sensitive regions.

I hope the White House and Congress exercise their full measure of courage and wisdom in developing an international inspection effort with teeth. Then, if incontrovertible evidence genuinely exists about Iraq’s future intentions concerning its weapons or if there is a clear connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, the United States must marshal an international force to go in and take care of business.