Monday, February 10, 2003

Loyal Opposition-Richard Hall has a good post thoughtfully opposing the coming war with Iraq. Before I critique his post, I'll respond to Hall's comment on my post a Methodist bishop's anti-war statement
When you say, "Liberal theologians underestimate the presence of evil and thus overestimate the power of diplomacy" do you have any particular theologians in mind? Seems like a bit of an over-generalisation to me.
A generalization, granted; I'll disagree with overgeneralization. I'd say, in general, that modern liberal theology downplays the fallen nature of man and makes human nature more reasonable than it is.
I don't think anyone mentioned "one world government" before you did, certainly I didn't read anything in the Bishop's statement that suggested any such thing.
That's a fair shot. The "transcend political ideology and national interests to act on behalf of the welfare of the whole human family" sounded like a plea for UN action, a UN with the ability to spend money on problems. Add that to her emphasis on UN approval smelled a bit too one-worldy to me. Now, on to Hall's essay of today.
The reasons most often publically given for the necessity of this war are that Saddam is a violent tyrant who oppresses his people, he possesses weapons of mass-destruction and that he is a supporter of international terrorism. What everyone knows, however, is that this war is being proposed as a direct result of 9-11. The link between the two is ingrained in public opinion in a way that cannot be accidental. Does anyone honestly believe that if there had been no 9-11 that there would now be 120 000 US troops in the Middle East? But if 9-11 is the real reason for the war, it is a pretty dodgy one. No one seriously thinks there was any connection between those hijackers and Saddam. But Osama escaped public humiliation and Afghanistan was insufficient to expiate the crime: someone has to pay. If Saddam is the wrong religion, he has at least got approximately the right skin tone and, let's face it, he's a pretty ghastly bloke. He'll do.
He's correct in that 9-11 has little connection to Iraq, but that the US and its allies are more willing to shed their children's blood to clean up things. It's a valid criticism; we'd have much less support for such a move two years ago than we do today; the Wolfowitz crowd wasn't overly popular two years ago. It doesn't invalidate the need to go in, but 9-11 does make it easier to sell.
Let's not pretend that the US and British governments have any problem with Saddam's regime. I'm not suggesting that they approve of it or like it, but the fact is that both the United States and the British have been happy to deal with him when it has suited them to do so. Saddam hasn't changed. His regime has always been odious and repressive. But in the real world of modern politics, governments can and do reach accommodations with such people. I don't like it any more than you do. I wish we didn't deal with Saddam and his like. But we do. As to those weapons of mass destruction: surely we have to wait for the inspectors to do their work. The French/German plan recently announced seems to me to have much to commend it. But I hope that the international community will be similarly stringent with other dodgy states. North Korea springs to mind. Israel has to be another candidate. While we ponder the danger of Saddam and his ilk possessing WMD, perhaps we should also ponder the fact that it isn't so long ago that our governments were approving weapons sales to him. When this present crisis is resolved one way or another, it is time to turn our attention to the evil of the international arms trade. The late Cardinal Basil Hume once likened the arms trade to the traffic in heroin, with more than a little justice.
The sins of the past don't justify inaction in the present; that's a frequent gambit of anti-intervention activists, playing to the dishonorable past of the US. The better question is to ask whether intervention is valid now, despite the mistake we made with Saddam in the 80s. We're talking about two decades since the US was selling stuff to Iraq-it's the Russians who supplied the bulk of the Iraqi armory.
I have no answer to the third of the reasons for this war, except that many governments have worked through terrorist groups to promote their interests abroad. The Soviets used to do it. The US has done it. Britain has done it. But it has never been used before, as far as I know, as a reason for war. The British experience in Northern Ireland is that it is simply not possible to defeat terrorism by military means. It may be unpleasant, even repellant, but terrorists have to be talked to eventually. Saddam may be a supporter of terrorism but rolling tanks into Baghdad won't make those terrorists go away.
No, but it might make them a tad less well armed. Terrorism in the name of a popular cause will often have to have both a military and political solution. However, I don't think al Qaeda's quite the IRA; I'd suspect that the average Muslim has less of an opinion of al Qaeda and it's worldview than the average Irish Catholic has of the IRA. The Troubles have a political solution-give the Catholics a bigger say in the Northern Irish government. There isn't a good political solution to al Qaeda and the Wahhabists, unless you're willing to force the world to convert to Islam. Like it or not, we'll have to fight this one back by culturally and spiritually making that brand of Islam unattractive and militarily and policewise roll back the people willing to bear arms against the infidel.

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