Within days, we will be at war. This will be the first war outside of the Americas that the US has incited aggression against a non-aggressor state. It is also the first war since Vietnam that the US has gone without a UN mandate, and without a broadly based coalition. History will show that combat will be most likely in our favor. We have the best military in the world- the best weaponry and the best-trained soldiers.

But wars are not won simply with bombs and guns. After Saddam Hussein is removed, the US and its allies will be responsible for rebuilding that country. The problem with that is that most powerful nation in that coalition is running deficits. The last time this country tried to rebuild a region following war while running in debt was right after the Civil War. Idealistic federal organizations tried to give the South what it needed to build a true democracy in which all of its citizen were respected. By roughly 1870, the North was broke, as was its will to rebuild the South. Soon Federal troops and federal funds left the region, thereby allowing the South to return to virtually the status quo before the war. Will the same thing happen with Iraq? This problem is further exacerbated because we have to continue rebuilding Afghanistan, an infinitely more sectarian state with a truly backward infrastructure. Can we rebuild both of them at the same time?

President Bush has stated that Iraq will become a working democracy, but our track record on that issue isn't good either. Following World War I, the France, Britain, the US, and Italy placed a republican form of democracy (meaning it has no monarch) in Germany. Called the Weimar Republic, it was so unpopular with the German people because it was viewed as imposed from the West. It also agreed to pay reparations which greatly reduced German funds for public works and to stimulate its economy. The Germans saw this government as the ultimate insult; it was not only imposed upon them but was also servile to the whims of other nations. It was just an easy step for them to embrace the demagoguery and play into anti-Semitism of Hitler than to live with such a humiliating democracy. Will the government we install in Baghdad be viewed as a Weimar Republic?

Further, it is generally accepted that the United States supports democracy throughout the world. However, there seems to be a double standard, a double standard that is not covered widely in the corporate media. If democracy were our goal for the whole world, why did we support Saddam Hussein's regime? Is it because he agreed with our policies at the time- a virtual puppet in Iraq? Is it the same reason why, in Chile, the democratically elected government of Allende was replaced by Pinochet, the ultimate free-market authoritarian? Why is that Kurds can be massacred in Iraq, and that be called a tragedy, while the same people in Turkey can be imprisoned, tortured, and murdered while the West turns a blind eye? And if the UN must have "teeth" in its resolutions to maintain its credibility, why is it that Israel can keep its settlements on the West Bank, even though they are in violation of the UN's resolutions?

Clearly, these inconsistencies are why the international community has such a low opinion of the US. It is true that we defeated Communism and fascism, but we did not do this alone. Terrorism, a much more abstract enemy, requires even more international support to defeat. Without NATO and other like -minded democracies on our side, then we will be perceived as international bullies, and that will provide the terrorists with the perfect excuse to attack us. I fear deeply that a war in Iraq will further radicalize the Islamic world, allowing Al Qaeda-like organizations to form. This is the antithesis of fighting a war against terrorism.

War will happen. We will win it. But can we win the peace?

Scottie V. Westfall, III