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We Might Get More Bang With Our Bucks

Forget war. Start writing checks. In the long run, we would save big.

September 26, 2002|ERWIN CHEMERINSKY | Erwin Chemerinsky is a visiting professor at Duke Law School.

War in Iraq is projected to cost $100 billion to $200 billion. Surely there are other ways to achieve President Bush's desired result--removing Saddam Hussein from power, or at least denying him weapons of mass destruction--with far less money and without the inevitable human tragedy of a war.

Is there any price at which Saddam Hussein could be bribed to leave, for example? For $1 billion, or even $5 billion or $10 billion, Hussein might well be persuaded to step down rather than engage in a war that he's sure to lose.

Could a huge bounty on Hussein's head, say $1 billion or even $10 billion, end his rule without an American invasion that could trigger his use of whatever weapons he possesses? Some in the palace guard might turn on him if the price were right.

Could the scientific talent in Iraq, those who have the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, be bribed to leave? In all likelihood, there are at most a few dozen people in the country who have the technical knowledge to build weapons of mass destruction. Through intelligence information and weapons inspections, they could be located and offered huge sums to defect.

For a small fraction of the cost of a war, Iraq could be flooded with weapons inspectors who could look in every nook and cranny of the country and find any weapons of mass destruction.

Imagine sending 10,000 weapons inspectors, an absurdly large number and enough to turn over every imaginable stone in Iraq. If each was paid $100,000 a year, the cost would be $1 billion. Even paying all of their expenses and keeping them there for 10 years would cost less than 10% of the cost of a war and without the risk of killing thousands.

Moreover, an invasion of Iraq would result in significant casualties and increase the risk of Hussein unleashing weapons of mass destruction, the very thing the war is trying to prevent.

Such options may seem silly at first, but on reflection they illustrate how many alternatives less expensive than war are not being considered, such as feeding starving people around the world.

A war on Iraq doesn't make rational sense.

But why aren't the Democrats asking these questions? Why aren't they pushing for consideration of a much larger range of options?

In 1962, faced with nuclear missiles just 90 miles from the U.S. shore, President Kennedy refrained from the use of force, pursued other strategies, and tragedy was averted.

Kennedy acted rationally; it's time for the Democrats and the country to insist that Bush do the same.

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