That Whole Rigamarole

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Cross-Blog Debate Answers

1. Attacking Iraq has been publicly called a "pre-emption" of a threat from Saddam Hussein's regime, whose sins include launching regional wars of aggression. Do you think there is a clear and reliable difference between pre-emptive and aggressive warfare, and if so, what is it?
Yes. Let’s define some terms, though. Pre-emptive warfare: attacking an enemy that poses a clear threat to the safety and security of the nation before the threat is realized. Aggressive warfare: warfare in pursuit of political goals other than defending the safety and security of the nation. So the straight answer to the question is: “One has the component of defending the nation from a threat, the other does not.”
But I suppose that the implication of the question is that the impending war with Iraq is really aggressive warfare, despite the claims of the Administration that it’s pre-emptive self defense. There is probably no way for the general public to know with certainty, a priori, which is the truth. If one trusts the Administration (as I do) then one is prepared to take them at their word, especially since their word squares with years of history and the present facts as I understand them. For example, if the war was simply to get the oil flowing, the easiest way would be to play along with UN and lift the sanctions.
I can’t imagine that people really think we will seize the oil fields in Iraq and give them to ExxonMobil. That would be political suicide, which is something that elected governments actively avoid. Fascist dictators have no comparable brake on their aspirations.

2. What do you feel are the prospects that an invasion of Iraq will succeed in a) maintaining it as a stable entity and b) in turning it into a democracy? Are there any precedents in the past 50 years that influence your answer?
Post-war Iraq could be a mess of tribal contention, or it could turn into a stable democratic regime. There’s no reliable way to know in advance which it will be. We can observe that the long-term trend is for more democracies on the planet. People used to suppose that Asians weren’t compatible with democratic governments, but obviously they are. In the wake of the collapse of communist governments in eastern Europe, people were not sure if there would be stable governments in places like Poland and Romania. That entire region seems to have done much better than many were expecting. So democracy can take root under difficult circumstances, no question.
But besides all that, we need to kill Saddam Hussein to help ensure the safety of our population and the people of Iraq. We can worry about what happens after, after.

3. How successful do you think the military operations and "regime change" in Afghanistan have been in achieving their stated objectives? Does this example affect your feelings about war in Iraq in any way?
My assessment is that those activities have been very successful indeed. They have undoubtedly preserved thousands of Afghan lives. They appear to have put a serious crimp in al Qaeda’s style. The number of casualties for the allied forces at work there seems remarkably low given what they have accomplished. These successes give me hope for similar success in Iraq.

4. As a basis for war, the Bush Administration accuses Iraq of trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, nuclear), supporting terrorism, and brutalizing their own people. Since Iraq is not the only country engaged in these actions, under what circumstances should the US go to war with other such nations, in addition to going to war with Iraq?
We should go to war with those other nations when other options for preserving our national interests appear to be inferior. There are many, many factors affecting that evaluation, including political support and military realities. The use of force against, for example, Iran may prove to be unnecessary. The people there may in the process of deposing their Islamist masters. We should let them try. Moving several thousand troops in next door will help buck them up.
Going to war with North Korea may involve the destruction of Seoul by artillery barrage and God only knows what else if they have a nuke or two. We need to tread very lightly there, and consult with our allies in South Korea and Japan. China may also be helpful.

5. The Bush Administration has issued numerous allegations about the threat represented by Iraq, many of which have been criticized in some quarters as hearsay, speculation or misstatements. Which of the Administration's allegations do you feel stand up best to those criticisms?
My personal bugaboo is VX nerve agent. Saddam was known by the UN to have tons of the stuff, and it’s not accounted for. I’m not aware that any sane person has denied those facts. That weapon alone is sufficient in my mind to do what we are about to do, given Saddam’s reckless history. It’s sufficient to kill many thousands of Americans, and it’s not that hard to deliver. These attacks could take place in America tomorrow, and Saddam could deny involvement, and the anti-war people here and around the world would demand still more proof and forbearance. The proof may be impossible to obtain, and our forbearance has been officially exhausted (see resolutions of the US Congress and UNSC Resolution 1441.)

That was really pretty easy. I can’t imagine why everybody doesn’t agree with me!


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