I was struck this weekend by the weird juxtaposition of stories surrounding a possible U.S. military strike at Iraq. As you know, I have made no secret of my fear that such an attack would work against our interests in the Islamic world. Whatever benefit we would gain by knocking over Saddam and the Baathist Party would be overtaken in time by the wrath of the Arabs generally, but specifically the young. I try to always think of two groups: the 15 year-old kid in Cairo just picking up his worldview and the 25-year-old graduate who doesn't have a job but spends his days drinking coffee and talking politics. What percent of either group would we have rooting for us in a war with Iraq, a war to take over Iraq and replace the Baathists with a government of our selection? I think we're nuts to even contemplate such a campaign.
That said, I was struck by two stories this weekend: 1) the Washington Post report that, due to the intense use of our ordnance in Afghanistan, we simply lack the materiel to go into Iraq and will lack it for more than six months; the Miami Herald story (I was down there) about how Israelis are prepared for a Scud attack from Iraq, how they're preparing with gas masks and with Arrow missiles that are capable of hitting Scuds at 30 miles up with enough time for a second try. This reminds me that the first target of Saddam if and when we strike will be Tel Aviv. Having given Israel the go-ahead to respond, that would put the United States into a war alliance with Israel. That could put the entire Arab world on the other side. So let's put all this together, gang.
Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's and CNBC's Hardball, is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of three books, including his Now, Let Me Tell You What I Really Think.