Thursday, March 13, 2003

Answering Questions-I'm with Den Beste, I'm ready to get Iraq behind us. However, let's answer some of the basic questions on the table to help clear the air. Why are we doing this? There are multiple reasons, but the first reason is to remove from power a ruthless junta with access to oil wealth to spread his ambitions and to acquire more weapons. Is Saddam the worst dictator around? No, there are a lot of worse places to live. Zimbabwe, North Korea and Turkmenistan come to mind for dictators who can go ego-for-ego with Saddam. However, they don't pose as much of a long-term threat as Iraq under Baathist rule does. Does he have the nastiest set of WMDs? No, I think the North Koreans have him beat there. We can assume the North Korean have a few nukes as well as more mundane WMDs to pull out as well. However, North Korea has largely limited itself to low-grade terrorism for the last half-century, while Iraq has invaded three of its neighbors and fired missiles at a fourth within the last quarter-century. Iraq has the most pernicious combination of ruthlessness, current malicious capabilities (and the willingness to use them) and the resources to acquire more of the same. That makes Saddam Bad Guy #1. Note that it isn't just Saddam; the upper echelons of his Baathist regime will need to go as well and a democratic government installed. Democracies can do some stupid things, but invading their neighbors isn't usually one of them. That's the second reason for an invasion, to set up a democratic government. We're unlikely to get a stable and peaceful Iraq by merely letting Saddam get a Mediterranean villa and left Henchman X take over. A quick and clean war will be in the Iraqi people's best long-term interest, for currently, their oil wealth is being wasted in propping up the Baathist regime and buying an army of conquest and terror. Should we do the same to help the people of Zimbabwe or Burma or other countries with nasty dictators? Probably, but the motives there are purely humanitarian and harder to sell. Here, we get democracy as collateral benefit for making the Middle East a safer place. Does this help with the battle against al Qaeda? Not that much. There seems to be some al Qaeda cells working inside Iraq, but the connection is tangential. However, we'll have set a standard for our ability and willingness to kick butt and take names, so countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia will think twice before actively or passively helping al Qaeda. Will this cause more terror?Hard to tell. In the long run, it will help by cutting off one source of help and putting other countries on notice. In the short run, a cell or two might do something, but they might have done something anyways. al Qaeda's fight's not about Iraq; there's a bit of Islamic brotherhood, but the Wahhabis don't think much of Saddam's largely secular government; Saddam's about as Islamic as Jacques Chirac is Christian. Is this a just war?- I think so. We're stopping a major source of evil. We will win; fighting a losing battle's not the question. We can do this with a minimum of damage and the good caused by the war will most likely outweigh the damage caused by it. We've essentially exhausted any diplomatic means of doing the job. That means it's clobberin' time, but we'll clobber smart, trying to get at the command infrastructure rather than bomb in general. How can we judge others countries when we've got so much baggage in our country's past? Since the Cold War, we've largely been on the side of the angels. There was quite a bit of "he's an SOB, but he's our SOB" games that went on in the 50s-80s, but that is in the past. Since the UN isn't with us, isn't this war immoral?Are the French, Russians and Chinese governments the repository of moral wisdom? The French aren't exactly the epitome of morality, a majority of Russians think that Stalin was a net plus for the country and the Chinese Communists seem unlikely to have God on the hotline. Just because something doesn't get past the UN doesn't make it moral. In fact, getting passed by the UN is too often a sign of a proposal's immorality. We have a broad coalition of countries, broader than the ones who oppose us. It isn't unilateral; if anyone's being unilateral in this mix, it's the French. Isn't it about oil and Dubya's Texas connections?Not really; his Texas buddies would prefer things stay unsettled and oil prices stay high. This will do a number on oil producers in the US. It is about oil in the sense that Saddam has oil wealth to buy all kinds of arms to better terrorize his neighbors. Why didn't we do this sooner? Good question. Going to war's not fun. You don't know exactly how things will turn out. The rationale had to be strong enough to push past all the questions.

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