Saturday, November 23, 2002

Second thoughts on Iraq Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

I suppose it's a bit surprising, but I am having second thoughts on Iraq, even after my disquisition on the subject some weeks ago. I still don't care much for the procedural objections, as I've never believed that anything the UN dictates can or should legitimate US policy, foreign or otherwise. No, my second thoughts all boil down to one thing: what will the occupation be like? Invasion is pretty much a done deal now, but what'll be the result? I used to think that the occupation would go smoothly, and we'd basically turn Iraq into a gas station & lookout post to keep tabs on the other dictators in the region. Now, I'm not so sure. I now think that: 1) We'll win in a cakewalk. (same as before) 2) The people of Iraq will be better off. If you care about human tragedy, starvation, etc. - the 500000 per year starving ostensibly because of sanctions but actually because of Hussein will stop dying, and Hussein's reign of terror will end. There really was never a strong humanitarian objection to invasion, and I think the leftwingers objecting on such grounds are delusional morons who don't realize that half a loaf is far better than none at all. (same as before) 3) Our problems will come during the occupation. The thing is, I think there's a nontrivial risk of the US forces in Iraq turning into another Israel, besieged by maddening low-level terrorist pinpricks that get saturation coverage. The terrorists won't be able to target American civilians, but they only need a few successes against the US forces to provoke a PR disaster and massive pressure for a pullout (e.g. Beirut truck bombing or Mogadishu). In terms of retaliation, the sort of impressive lethality that the armed forces can bring to bear is next-to-useless when reporters are around - especially those of the Fiskian antiwar persuasion. As we can't invade every terrorism-sponsoring country to cut off the money spigots, we'll probably experience quite a bit of terrorism once we really are the occupiers that bin Laden and his fellow travelers imagine us to be. I guess what I'm saying is that the 21st century United States does not have the stomach for imperialism. With a pliant, silent media and the ability to use all necessary force against terrorism, the occupation would likely proceed smoothly. But absent such guarantees, I think this might become ugly. The operative word is might . I don't know what will happen. I understand the arguments made in my previous post, and the main difference is that my estimate of the American will to retaliate against terrorism if cameras are around is quite a bit lower. As for what caused this evolution - I must credit Capital Influx's books on realist theory, and her insistence that I actually read said books. Realist theory is far more nuanced than I stated in that earlier post. And, uh, as for saying the theory was "intellectually bankrupt"? I was quite wrong about that...While I still disagree with some of its proponents (particularly on arms control) realism has stood generations of American policy makers in good stead, and has too many successes to dismiss out of hand. I'll probably post later about exactly how my previous critique fell short in some - but not all - areas, and how that influenced my position on Iraq. Now, the reading was a slow process [1] that tipped my scales back up towards uncertainty, but the tipping point came when I saw the nontrivial number of people who objected to the summary execution of known terrorists in Yemen on procedural grounds. Will we have the stomach to fire a Hellfire missile if it's a car full of four suicide bombers and a child as a human shield? If there are no cameras or reporters around - of course. If there are reporters around - I doubt it... [1] I did have experiments to run, after all - blogging and arguing all day is fun, but it's by no means my number one priority.

posted by godlesscapitalist | 11/23/2002 01:31:00 PM | |

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