Waging war with a double edge sword

As I write this, more and more missiles and bombs continue to pound Iraq. Persian Gulf War II has begun, and so now I am compelled to pray. I pray for the safety of our troops and their families here at home. I pray for the protection of America and the safety of Americans, both here and abroad. I pray for the protection of the innocent in Iraq and the rest of the world. I pray for a quick end to this war.

Before the bombs fell, I had the luxury of skepticism. I never felt that the Bush Administration made a convincing case for a pre-emptive military strike against Iraq. But, now that the guns have started, it is time to stand behind our troops. These brave men and women–many of whom are Muslim, by the way–are right now, as I write this, risking their lives so that I can have the freedom to be skeptical. They deserve our support, and their families deserve our thanks and respect. And so I pray for a quick end to this war, so that our brothers and sisters in the military can come home safe and sound, and the Iraqi people, who have suffered for so long, can be finally be free from tyranny, oppression, and starvation.

Herein lies the problem. Part of me is afraid of a quick end to the war. I fear that a quick end will embolden the hawks in the Bush Administration to make the strategy of pre-emptive military action more commonplace in the future, and that makes me very afraid. I must stress in the most stringent manner that I am not rooting against my country. My partial fear of a quick victory does not mean that I wish for or desire a long, drawn-out conflict that will take the lives of hundreds or thousands of American soldiers. Such a situation would utterly devastate me.

Nevertheless, I fear that the hawks will point to a quick victory over Iraq as proof that pre-emptive military action works. I fear that America will be emboldened to “shock and awe” the North Koreans or Iranians–the remaining two members of the “Axis of Evil.” I fear that an overwhelmingly successful military campaign against Iraq will lead to more such American invasions in the future, which would be very bad, indeed.

It could increase resentment–already at unprecedented levels–against America around the world. It could further strain relations between America and her European allies. It could lead to more terrorist attacks against American interests abroad or, God forbid, another terrorist strike here at home. It could lead to the death of the international institutions that are vital to the maintenance of international order. Worse yet, it may convince other countries–India, Pakistan, North Korea, or China, to name a few–that a military strike against their enemies can work as well, which is a recipe for disaster.

Having said all that, however, I still pray for a quick end to the war in Iraq. The shooting will stop sooner, the troops can come home faster, and the liberation of the people of Iraq will be hastened. But a quick victory could be a double edge sword for America. I just hope and pray that our leaders will not use that quick victory as justification for the pre-emptive use of war to solve America’s future problems. For the last thing I want to see is that sword’s second edge come back and injure our country and our people.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and columnist for Beliefnet.com and Media Monitors Network (MMN)He is author of “Why I Love the Ten Commandments,” published in the book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press).