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March 22, 2003

Reality

American Peace Activist Shocked Back To Reality (from Para Pundit). Also check out See men shredded, then say you don't back war. Now, I'm not going to say that the US government is invading Iraq for humanitarian reasons-how stupid do you think I am, George Bush the elder famously stood by and shut his eyes to slaughter and mayhem throughout southern Iraq 12 years ago. But from a perspective of compassion and ignoring the Realpolitik implications, it should be a no-brainer. Anti-death penalty activists often assert that those who favor the right of the state to kill should watch someone being executed. If they can't stand it, they shouldn't support the death penalty (pro-life activists make the same case when they display fetuses to people). Well, peace activists should perhaps look at pictures and listen to the tales of atrocity before they go out and march "for the Iraqi people." This is the most common refrain that I hear from the peace activists, that they are doing it "for the Iraqi people," and not their own righteous ego.

Let me qualify this by noting that I don't care about the Iraqi people that much. I always thought sanctions were pretty stupid, but I never marched against them or wasted my time over this sort of stuff. My concern is for friends and family first, Americans second, and the rest of the world later on. As you can see, I'm not a big believer in universal love a la Mo-Ti. If you read this blog my concern with the Iraqi invasion has more to do with the reprecussions that it might have for the American polity, not that we'll cause more suffering for the Arabs and Kurds. Gods know they've been through enough already that to "suffer" surely has a different meaning for them.

Nevertheless, living in an affluent town filled with liberals, the hearts have been bleeding all week. "For the Iraqi people," "War never solves any problems," "There has never been a good war," "We should find an alternative." Stop feeling, and think, just for one moment. We can't alleviate most of the world's suffering and barbarity, but if this act of gross-foreign-policy myopia (according to some) makes a difference, shouldn't you put the silly red paint bottle away and wash your hands for gods' sake!

On a personal and disturbing note, there is a woman that I am familiar with at the local Starbucks. She's a retiree from Brooklyn and I've heard her talk about how all her cousins were killed in the Holocaust. The other day, she was reading The Nation and ranting on about how war only causes more suffering and no war was ever a good war. I realized that if she couldn't get the dots, well, perhaps there is no hope for the Looney Left*.

* I'm not asserting that the United States intervened because of the liquidation of the Jewry during World War II. I have read that the allies strangely didn't bomb the camps and it seems clear that the liberation of the few Jews left was a side-effect of the wider war. Nevertheless, better a war save them then negotiations and inspections, no?

Posted by razib at 02:18 PM




The groups that have always hated us will always find reasons to continue to do so. Al queda wouldn't stop trying to get nuclear weapons if we didn't go into Iraq. If this war is quick, the US will be in and (except for some peacekeeping forces) then out. The world press can interview the Iraqi people and get detailed accounts of the 'noble' regime of Hussein. Both of these factors will mitigate a great deal of the antipathy many common Muslims feel to the US in the long run.

Posted by: -R at March 22, 2003 02:42 PM


I recall that Churchill started off his history of WWII by calling it the most avoidable war in history. He lists a long list of blunders that led up to war with Germany. Early on, he supported being tough on Hitler not to cause war, but to avoid it.

And certainly the Pacific half of WWII was avoidable. America (provoked is possibly too strong) egged Japan on because of our own expansionist policy in the Pacific. And now just look at how much good having the Philippines has done us since.

Stopping the Holocaust was a lucky side-effect of war. Then again, the Holocaust probably never would have occurred had it not been for the treaty of Versailles which drove the German people into Hitlerís hands.

I support our current war at the moment. But I do think it should have been avoided long before it became inevitable. Itís a long series of half-measures that have led to this. We shouldnít have lifted a finger to help Kuwait unless we intended to go into Baghdad from the start (and no one in their right mind did a decade ago). We shouldnít have created the current sanctions regime without an endgame; i.e. making sure Saddam was out of power one way or another within some specific time period. And we werenít prepared to make that commitment either.

But now weíve made our own plate, and Bush is doing the right thing to eat it. Liberating the Iraqi people is a fine side-effect of this war, but not the cause. The cause of this war is the fact that weíve made Saddam hate us, and we canít let a threat like that continue. He wasnít a threat to us in the 1980ís when he had far more weapons (and was actually using what weíre calling WMDs) and was just as despotic. No one is worried about the Pakistani despot a little ways away who recently almost had a nuclear war with India. And itís because we havenít done anything to make him hate us.

I hope the liberation thing works. But from a humanitarian standpoint itís still too risky of a bet to justify anything. If we really want to help people, we could accomplish a lot more cheaper with some serious nation-building in South America or Africa. We could even make ourselves loved if we were willing to be duplicitous about it.

And as a final note, Bush bungled the entire UN thing. Thatís almost enough to put me off this war. The world didnít need to hate us for doing this. Moreover, I have this little feeling that heíll make a bigger hash out of post-War Iraq than heís making from post-War Afghanistan. And if that happens, ten years down the road we might just be dealing with the equivalent of Saddam II. Iraqís scientific ability and industry isnít going to go away. The capacity to make WMD will remain. The question is whether or not itíll want to manufacture and use them on us.

Posted by: Thrasymachus at March 22, 2003 03:09 PM


Um, one small thing: the holocaust, which is to say, the industrial slaughter of European Jewry (and others) didn't start until late 1941. And it didn't really getting going with Fordesque death camps until 1942 - remember, a death camp and a concentration (ie prison) camp are two very different things. So ... no one could have gone to war to 'stop' the holocaust, the war having started in 1939

Posted by: Gerry at March 22, 2003 07:30 PM


uh, facts be damned! :) strictly true, but in my defense, the general point probably holds. lindbergh did get in trouble for fingering jews as the primary push behind defeating the America First movement and getting us involved in the war....

but i don't think anyone would ever have gone to war to stop the holocaust in any case. if the germans had not been aggressive and decided to liquidate the jews within the boundaries of german/austria i suspect that the world would debated and protested, but those jews that didn't make it out (75% of german jews actually did because they saw what was coming unlike polish jews) would have been toast. nevertheless, if america had gotten into the war earlier, a side effect would have probably been fewer casualties overall-jewish or not.

Posted by: razib at March 22, 2003 07:42 PM


Thrasymachus,
A lot depends on what sort of government comes into power in Iraq post-Saddam..if the US tries to do what it did in Chile with the sole intention of monetary gains, then hatred for the US is only bound to increase.
While I dont believe one word of the reasons given for invading Iraq, getting rid of Saddam and his sons is a blessing for Iraqis. ..akin to the jewish liberation form Hitler.
Will America control Iraqi oil ?..of course..but then the Iraqis have the option of electing a government that does not support american oil companies..whether or not that requires a revolution on the lines of the overthrow of the Shah of Iran is a different matter.
Will the world hate Americans more ? ..they do with every passing day..and its not Bush's bungling that is to blame..as long as Americans keep believing everything they see on CNN and not bother to learn about the world outside, the more likely they are to support American foreign policy...was Saddam a threat to the the US ?..no more than a rogue organization like Al Qaeeda..his missiles could reach Libya..but America ?..not unless North Korea/China transfers technology to them ...would Saddam work with Bin Laden ?..their ideologies are so different that its highly unlikely in spite of their common hatred of the US..

Posted by: Pawan at March 23, 2003 06:56 PM


Pawan:
"was Saddam a threat to the the US ?..no more than a rogue organization like Al Qaeeda.."

Come on, dude. It's been a year and a half, but we really can't dismiss groups like al Queda anymore- no matter how rogue or not they are.

"..his missiles could reach Libya..but America ?..not unless North Korea/China transfers technology to them ...would Saddam work with Bin Laden ?..their ideologies are so different that its highly unlikely in spite of their common hatred of the US.."

I am support the troops, but, like Razib, I am fairly apathetic otherwise about this war.

Having said that, I think it is very possible N. Korea or China would ultimately have given that type of tech to Saddam. They've shown little restraint thus far in doing what was in their best interests financially.

Second, Saddam may have completely different ideologies from bin Laden, but I doubt that would have stopped him from helping an enemy of an enemy. What that help may have entailed is the only thing that would be in question. Maybe it would have only been money and not conventional weapons or worse. But, even money would be terrible for an entity like al Queda.

Posted by: -R at March 23, 2003 08:05 PM