Friday, November 17, 2006

TNR on the Iraq Mistake

This editorial is good, though not exactly ground-breaking. They're pretty much right, though that'll be ignored for many reasons, including the fact that TNR-bashing has become a favorite activigy in the leftosphere. Drum's response is uncharacteristically uninformative...he seems to be just phoning it in on this one.

I actually agree that TNR should put out a big piece on exactly why they were wrong in supporting the war...but it's obvious enough, really, to anyone who isn't already a committed anti-TNRist. In fact, I've defended the position that they (and many other liberal, non-Bushie war supporters) articulated. It doesn't go down well with the rabidly anti-war left, which wants to believe that no intelligent, well-meaning person could possibly have defended this war. But, then, there are some people you just can't reason with. (Imagine how insufferable and immune to reason the right would be if we really had been greeted with flowers and candy, and if the mission really had been accomplished in one month. It was always obvious, they'd say. Only a moron or a Saddam-lover could ever have denied it, they'd say.)

In a way I understand lefty irrationality on this one. The war was undertaken for such bad reasons, and defended on the right with such terrible arguments, and opponents of the war were treated so badly by the right, and the war was botched so badly, that the level of anger in some parts of the left is so high that they just can't think clearly about this issue. Try to talk about this with some lefties, and it's like flipping a switch--the vituperation pours forth in a torrent, their reasoning faculties shut down, and anything even vaguely resembling civil discussion becomes impossible. Not all lefties, of course--but if you don't know any lefties like this, then you've got a very different sample than I do.

Pro-war liberal hawks made a mistake--a mistake with terrible consequences. But they were weren't stupid and they weren't evil. They knew that Bush was lying and cheating, and they knew that he was leading us to war for the wrong reasons. But they recognized that Saddam was evil, and that this would be our only chance to free Iraq from his tyrannical rule. If Democrats ever suggested such an invasion for genuinely moral reasons, they'd lose every election for the next 20 years. So it was hold their nose and support the invasion, or continue to watch the people of Iraq crushed under Saddam's boot.

I'm a liberal hawk. I went back and forth on the war issue in the lead-up. I agonized over it. As I've said before, I ultimately opposed it, but for reasons which, to this day, I believe to be questionable. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I'm not an idiot. I'm not evil. I wasn't fooled by any of the administration's WMD BS. Had the invasion happened a month before it did, I'd have probably been a supporter at the time of invasion.

What pro-war liberal hawks didn't reckon with, of course, was the massive incompetence of the Bush administration, and their disastrous mismanagement of the peace. Of course many people now want to assert that only an idiot could not have forseen that.

Well, you know how the discussion will go from here on out, so I won't bother.

Funny how everybody's so smart about things, though, after all is said and done.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Perhaps you'd be interested in the perspective of someone who actually saw the sausage being made at TNR:

1:17 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I respect Ackerman, and think that TNR is worse without him. And I was eager to read something informative...

But I don't see anything in the piece you link to that tells us anything important. Maybe he'll write something more substantial on this at some point.

But it's not clear how it will matter--TNR's stated reasons for supporting the war were good, so, unless they're stated reasons were not their real reasons, it's hard to see what Ackerman could say that would affect anything substantially.

One thing that could: if he means to say that dissenting arguments weren't seriously considered. That'll matter in some way.

3:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TNR's stated reasons for supporting the war were not good. The unstated assumption behind TNR's brand of liberal hawkery is that the best way to save lives and increase the general wellbeing of people around the world is through military action. As such, any kind of invasion plan suggested against a dictator, no matter the motives or competence of those proposing it, becomes THE LIMTMUS TEST of one's concern for humanitarian issues. If you don't think that unleasing the rather unsubtle and breathtakingly inefficient might of the American military, with consequences unforseeable (except for massive death of innocents: that's a given) is the best and most salient way to reduce the worldwide surplus of misery, you might as well be Henry Kissinger or Charles Lindbergh. That's bullshit. Besides the fact that military action is always a double-edged sword when it comes to improving the lives of people in the country attacked (freedom and prosperity for those who don't lose a limb during the shelling), it's also a tremendous use of resources that could, with a little imagination, be put to use in ways that save lives and improve living standards without the mess of "collateral damage." Say, for example, a massive infusion of money into the treatment and prevention of AIDS and malaria, micro loans, development, hell let's give that Jeffry Sachs idea a try. Money has gone into those programs, but it is a drop in the bucket of that which as been spent in Iraq. I would argue that the invasion of Iraq has ended up increasing the misery of people in Iraq, but even it if had succeeded at decreasing it, it still would have been a jaw-droppingly inefficient use of resources compared to other, non-military, programs. Don't you wonder, even for a second, Winston, if this fetish for military intervention as humanitarian cure-all has more than a little to do with geo-politics? That folks like Marty Peretz weren't just thinking about the plight of the Iraqi people, but also the strategic situation of the U.S. and Israel in a post-Saddam middle east when they endorsed Bush's war? These are important questions, because one thing Iraq should teach us is that a war is unlikely to produce net-positive humanitarian goals if those goals are not a priority of those carrying out the war.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

TNR's editors wrote:

Should we have known that the key assumption underlying our strategic rationale for war would prove false? By early 2003, it was becoming clear that at least two pieces of evidence the administration cited as proof of Saddam's nuclear program--his supposed purchase of uranium from Niger and his acquisition of aluminum tubes for a supposed nuclear centrifuge--were highly dubious. By mid-February, Mohammed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announced that his agency's inspectors had "found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities in Iraq."

So, the editors of TNR admit that before the invasion of Iraq it was clear that:
1) The existing evidence suggesting (for it was no stronger than suggesting) that Saddam had an active nuclear program was known to be questionable.
2) The inspectors on the ground who should have found some signs of a nuclear program were finding nothing.

In retrospect, we should have paid more attention to these warning signs. But, at the time, there seemed good reason not to.

These must be good reasons, to trump the evidence.

After all, Saddam had tried desperately to build a bomb before the first Gulf war.

True, but not relevant to his then-current efforts. And, before the Gulf War Saddam had the money and resources he needed, while post-war he had much more limited money and more-concerted efforts to prevent Iraq from getting critical components.

Saying "Saddam tried before and may be succeeding now, even though it is harder for him than before and even though there is no direct evidence he is trying now" is not "good reason" to start a war and kill innocent men, women, and children.

While there was no proof he had revived this nuclear program in the '90s, he acted like a guilty man--relentlessly impeding inspections, even though such behavior perpetuated the sanctions that ravaged his people and made him an international pariah. Even after he allowed IAEA inspectors to return in late 2002, he denied them unfettered access to Iraqi nuclear scientists--although, by then, the cost of noncompliance was more than just continued sanctions; it was war.

Of course, this behavior allowed him to try and keep up his tough-man image inside Iraq, an image very helpful for his retention of power.

So, TNR is saying that "Even though his behavior may have had motives unrelated to a bomb program, we were right to view his actions through the presumption he had an active bomb program, even in the absence of any direct evidence." This is not a "good reason" to start a war and kill innocent men, women, and children.

And, beyond Saddam's past history and current behavior, there were the claims of American --and foreign--intelligence. In October 2002, the National Intelligence Estimate, the combined assessment of America's various intelligence agencies, stated that "all intelligence experts agree that Iraq is seeking nuclear weapons." We know now that some experts didn't agree, but few outside the administration thought so at the time.

We had anonymous reports from within the intelligence agencies that they were being forced to cook the intelligence. We had the current inspectors asserting that there was no evidence that Iraq had a credible effort to build nuclear weapons. We had our allies (e.g., France, Germany) asserting that the case had not been made that Saddam was actively seeking nuclear weapons. The fact that these were "outside the administration" does not discredit them in the least. In fact, it enhances their importance as a counterbalance to the group-think of the White House.

So, TNR is saying "because those who showed that we had good reason to doubt our intelligence reports were not in the administration," TNR could ignore them. This is not a "good reason" to start a war and kill innocent men, women, and children.

Indeed, even most opponents of the war assumed Iraq was trying to build a bomb.

It is not obvious that this statement is true. Even if true, it shows that the case for war was a weak one. That weak case for war had to be balanced against the know costs of the war, including the deaths of innocent people and substational desctruction; the destablization of a likely-unstable nation (already fragmented along kurd/non-kurd lines); the generation of significant anti-american sentiment among Arabs and the Middle-East.

The known cost was death and destruction -- maybe a "little" (although it is not "little" to those who suffer), maybe a lot. The known cost was potential civil chaos. The known cost was inciting depp anti-american backlash. And, there was still no direct evidence to support the core reason for invading Iraq.

And yet, TNR decided that, because Iraq might be trying to build nuclear weapons, in the face of all direct evidence to the contrary, it was worth placing thousands of American lives -- and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives -- at risk.

Now they say
We feel regret--but no shame.

Others, faced with the same information chose correctly. TNR did not. And now TNR is not interested in understanding why they were wrong. TNR is not interested in understanding how to avoid being so wrong in the future. TNR is set to be rah-rah cheerleaders for the next bad idea that will kill innocent men, women and children.

I am not impressed with TNR's non-apology. Drum asked "In fact, I can't really figure out why they wrote the editorial." As best I can tell, TNR's editors want us to know that the recognize how bad it is in Iraq, and that they intend to do it all over again, should the opportunity arise.

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't support the Iraq war, but I see why some people might have thought Iraq posed a threat or that the war was worth it for humanitarian reasons. I disagreed. But come on. Was Tony Blair either immoral or an idiot for signing on to the war? Was John Howard? Was Bill Clinton an idiot to make the US's official Iraq policy regime change or to believe that Iraq had WMD and posed a threat? Anti-war holier-than-thous have got to answer these questions honestly.

And what's the point of continuing to tell people "I told you so"? What good does this do?

8:59 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Quoting Matthew C:

"The unstated assumption behind TNR's brand of liberal hawkery is that the best way to save lives and increase the general wellbeing of people around the world is through military action."

There's a missing quantifier in that statement.

Are you asserting:

1. They think the best way is ALWAYS to use the military


2. They think that the best way is SOMETIMES to use the military


The standard interpretation of a claim like yours would be 1...but I want to make sure you're really saying what you seem to be saying before we proceed.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


We're actually on the same side on this aspect of the issue. The WMD/national-defense case for war was very weak. So weak, in fact, that serious people who weren't administration sycophants only bought it at all against a background presupposition that Saddam probably already had 'em. That's a background presupposition I shared, actually, and said to one friend of mine just before the war: "There is virtually no doubt in my mind that Saddam has bio/chemical weapons."

However, I never thought the WMD case was the real case--esp. since Saddam had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11--and I never thought that the WMD case was TNR's real reason for advocating invasion. During the lead-up to the war, it seemed to be the humanitarian case that primarily drove TNR's position.

*IF* that is true, THEN my defense of TNR is, I believe, sound.

So, my position:

1. There were good humanitarian reasons for advocating the war, even though those reasons seem to have motivated relatively few people.

2. It was rational to have the background belief "Saddam has bio/chem weapons" (and maybe some proto-nuke stuff).

3. It was, however, about as obvious as it could get that the administration was wildly spinning the evidence re: WMDs

4. TNR's real reason for advocating invasion seemed to be humanitarian

Now, if I'm wrong about either 1 or 4, then my defense of TNR is in jeopardy.

However, your response here will (and probably should) be:

"Fine, even if TNR had SOME good reasons for advocating invasion, it doesn't excuse them from failing to call 'bullshit' on the administration's bad reasons for going to war."

I'm very sympathetic with that position...but the problem is that TNR DID call 'bullshit' on that case...repeatedly, vociferously. So the question is, it seems: did they do it soon enough?

One thing to remember here, incidentally, is that there WERE good reasons to think that Saddam had bio/chem weapons. The fact that the admin *made a bunch of shit up* doesn't change that.

I haven't addressed some of your points directly, and another, post-caffiene reading might completely sway me to your side.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I shared your belief in #2 at the outset, WS, it was the blindingly obvious truth of #3 that made me question it.

The way I figured it, if something's true, you don't generally need to make shit up to support it . . . and considering that the Bush administration did little to support #2 except make shit up, I ended up reconsidering my own previously held belief.

I think it's that connection that many war supporters missed: If there's a perfectly good, rational, convincing, moral reason to go into Iraq, why is the administration feeding us horseshit?

12:16 PM  
Blogger Tony D said...

I think it’s important to remember that the reason the US went into this conflict and the reasons we have for trying to see through to the best possible outcome are two entirely different issues.

We went in out of fear over the urgings of an administration that was using half baked intelligence.

The reasons we should stay are many:
1)As a representative republic, like it or not we all share the responsibility for having upset the balance of power in Iraq. We have a moral responsibility to the people of that country to try and restore order. This brings up the point of Sadam himself. Yes we hated him, he was a tyrant BUT he seemed to be capable of doing what was needed to keeping Iraq’s warring factions off each other’s throat.

2)Regional stability is threatened without some power present to keep some sort of lid on things. This is where the oil issue comes in. In case anyone has failed to notice it needs to be said that our economy is still pretty reliant on oil flowing freely from this region. Until we come up with some renewable technology that replaces oil security in this region matters to us. Now what are the odds that an administration closely aligned with the oil industry is going to work to replace oil? Not good is it. Anyway if anyone is interested take a look at this: .
This goes back to a Clinton initiative in 1993.

3)Lastly, I’ve got jump on the fear mongering bandwagon and say that it wouldn’t be the best of situations to let Iraq’s oil wealth fall into the hands of the terrorists. Lots of reasons here and if I have to explain them well the point is likely mute.

Anyway that’s it in a nut shell. We here in America have a lot at stake in this conflict but seeing this is in no way an endorsement of the Bush administration’s initial reasoning (or failure of reasoning) that got us into Iraq in the first place. For Christ sake these guys have, beaten up the intelligence community, lied to us, been led by neoconservative theology over the advise of generals and pretty much screwed the pooch in Iraq at every turn. Now if only they would commit a sexual indiscretion we could impeach them.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Another issue which cannot be de-linked from the prudence of going to war is competence:

Remember, you go to war with the Administration you have, not the Administration you wish to have.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Jeez, good points all around, it seems to me.

I'm particularly struck by Anonymous's *bon mot* about going to war with the administration you have... Heh heh. Freaking wish I'd thought of that line...

More on that in a sec.

FWIW, some thoughts on Myca's point:

This may have been an issue in which too much philosophy blinded me to something I should have seen.

The orthodox view on these matters, as I understand it, goes something like this:

we should assess the available evidence for p, and, if there is bad evidence we should discount that...but just because someone offers some bad evidence for p, that should in no way undermine the strength of the good evidence for p.

Now, the common-sense response in a case like this may be more like yours--Smith is bullshitting me about this conclusion, so that casts a pall of doubt over even the good evidence he offers.

At any rate, those who reason as you did ended up believing the truth, whereas those who reasoned like I did generally ended up believing important falsehoods (most relevantly: we should invade [though I rejected that for other reasons]).

Actually, I think this turns out to involve a really tough question...I'm still inclined to defend my strategy, but it's hard to argue with success. YOUR success, in this case...

One small point about the humanitarian case:

An administration might bullshit us in such a case even if there are good humanitarian reasons to go because if an administration came out and said "we are going to war for purely humanitarian reasons" there'd probably be a rebellion. Clinton tried that with Yugoslavia, and the Republicans about ate his lunch for him. Americans always seem to want some varying mixture of moral rectitude and national interest.

But that's probably not relevant here b/c I doubt this admin. was motivated much by humanitarian concerns.

1:36 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I think Tony D is exactly right about making sure we recognize that there need be no link whatsoever between the reasons for going to war and the reasons for staying...though I'm not sure I can stand to admit that we need to stay b/c of oil.

Re: Anonymous's point about competence...I simply don't believe that we had enough evidence of administration incompetence before the war to support the conclusion that they were too incompetent to conduct it. How could we know that they'd fail to employ any recommendations of the Future of Iraq project? I had about as low an opinion of these guys as one could have, but even I thought it was a stretch to say they were too incompetent to be trusted in this matter.

The full extent of their incompetence only emerged after the pooch was already screwed.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Winston, (I hope this doesn't get lost amidst the deluge)

My position is that a.) TNR brand liberal hawkery is vociferous in its endorsement of military-intervention-as-humanitarian-duty. b.) they are not nearly as sanguine about non-military uses of American resources for humanitarian purposes c.) since U.S. resources are finite, it stands to reason that resources used on military intervention cannot be used for any other purposes and therefore TNR sees military intervention as the primary tool of American humanitarian efforts.

Also on the "always" or "sometimes" point: how come TNR never gets a wild hair up their ass for any non-military humanitarian missions? It's not like there is ever a bad time to bring those kind of issues up. If I had a platform as supposedly influential as TNR, I would be banging the gong weekly for comprehenisve AIDS, malaria and curalbe disease treatment, water treatment, etc etc, instead of jumping on the bandwagon whatever some criminal administraion might be in charge to gin up self-serving outrage at a tin pot dictator of choice, then ptoclaim it to be THE humanitarian issue of the moment.

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know about 'influential', but one thing TNR isn't right now is widely read, at least compared to its past figures:

The Nation is now the most widely subscribed-to opinion publication, followed pretty closely by National Review.


9:30 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Egad, _The Nation_ and _The National Review_...God help us all... If we ever move to _Mother Jones_ and _The Weekly Standard_, we're all doomed...

I actually agree that TNR should put more emphasis on non-military humanitarian stuff--but they DO push those programs fairly often. Their advocacy of such programs, however, doesn't get much attention.

Similarly, their pro-intervention arguments in other cases haven't gotten this kind of attention--Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Darfur, Gulf War Episode I (of course their various authors frequently disagree...but I suppose we should focus on The Editors...).

But what's got the left's panties in a wad is, let's face it, their stance on Iraq.

The question, I suppose, is:
How often does TNR advocate military intervention for humanitarian reasons as opposed to other humanitarian programs?

As a *fairly* long-time reader of TNR, I can virtually guarantee you that they advocate such non-military programs far more often.

1. To know for sure, we'd have to go back and count

2. It's a bad test, since non-military programs are warranted more often, so that'd make TNR too easy to defend. The DO, it seems, expend more pages on the military stuff...but so does everyone else, pro- or anti-.

Also, though, 3:

It's not the other stuff the left is mad about. It's Iraq. So we really ought to be clear and honest about that.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, Winston, The Nation and NR certainly have their own problems, but to pretend that TNR is some paragon of political reasoning is merely wishful thinking:

Maybe it's lost a lot of circulation for a reason?

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But the Iraq-as-humanitarian-mission argument illustrates just what is wrong with that mindset: in a world with epidemic AIDS in Africa and millions dying from diseases that are EASILY preventable (two dollar misquito nets could drastically cut African malaria infections), it strikes me as helluva goofy to seize on a potential invasion of Iraq proposed by a pack of incredibly shady characters (including Dick Cheney, who had opposed toppling Saddam just ten years earlier...during a period when Saddam was butchering thousands of Kurds and Shiites after the uprising we encouraged and Donald Rumsfeld, who had gone to meet Saddam at Reagan's behest and assure him that the U.S. didn't give a damn about his human rights record) as the humanitarian issue of the day. And considering the massive amount of resources that would be expended in an Iraq invasion, it would be reasonable to assume that any other big humanitarian initiatives would be placed on the back burner.

11:21 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, I agree, but--and, remember, I went through all this reasoning myself at the time--the thinking can go like this:

Bush & co. are NOT going to intervene *anywhere* for humanitarian reasons, they are NOT going to address AIDS in Africa seriously, they are not going to address third world hunger or the Congo or any other humanitarian cause with anything like serious effort and resources.

But they DO want to take out Saddam and end the sanctions nightmare.

So, since they were never going to do anything else worth a damn, but they DID seem hellbent on doing this ONE GOOD THING--and one thing that it seemed they had every intention of sticking with to the end... even though they were doing it for all the wrong reasons...

Well, again, I put it to you: supporting it was in no way crazy.

Again: I occasionally supported it myself

7:45 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Anyway and just for the record... I don't think TNR gets it right anything like all the time.

I just don't think people are fair to them on the war issue...mostly b/c many liberals don't think very clearly about the war issue.

You want to talk about dumbness at about their weird Israel fetish. WTF is up with that sh*t, anybody know?

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'd be the first one to say that I
've read some incredibly brilliant stuff in TNR, but it strikes me as accurate that they have a blind spot on Israel policy, and it's contributed to what I feel is a real drop off in its overall quality the past few years.

It's frustrating to be constantly bombarded with the paradigm of Likud=Israel, a perspective that has informed much TNR content the past few years. Frequent reading of The Forward and Israel Policy Forum yields the realization that a greater latitude of opinion is permitted re: Israeli policy WITHIN ISRAEL than it is within the United States. Crazy that.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's why I parenthetically pointed out the involvement of Cheney and Rumsfeld, two figures who had actively intervened on behalf of Saddam during periods when he was killing far, far more Iraqis than he was by 2002. It stands to reason that people who have shown no interest in promoting human rights during decades upon decades of involvement in foreign policy, people who had ignored atrocities by friendly rulers, had allowed Saddam to brutally supress a rebellion that they helped foment, WOULD NOT BE PROPOSING AN INVASION OF IRAQ FOR HUMANITARIAN REASONS. And, if humanitarianism is not a priority, its going to lead to the kind of senseless slaughter we have been seeing for the past four years. Rumsfeld planned the Iraq invasion with the mindset of showing off his new, supple high-tech military doctrine...which not only lead directly to the choas and looting that set the stage for the downfall of the country, but lead to the "Shock and Awe" air campaign that killed tens of thousands of the people we were supposed to be saving.

As for TNR and Israel, I've got two words for you: Marty Peretz.

12:12 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...


For the five millionth time: Nobody in his right mind thought that Bush & co. were invading for humanitarian reasons. Hence your caps are puzzling.

Let me repeat fo the five million and first time:


I don't understand how we can not be clear on that by this point.

Now your argument has mutated into yet another form:

If Bush & co. didn't invade for humanitarian reasons, then they couldn't be trusted to conduct the war and the aftermath in a way that would meet the humanitarian goals.

We've been through all this before, and I'd just be repeating myself yet again if I were to address this one...but I'll do it if you really want me to...

Yup. Peretz does seem to be the lead hypothesis re: the Israel stance. TNR seems to attract writers who are hard to control (in more ways than one), though...and that's what puzzles me about all of them toeing the line.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, that's my position. You don't need to respond to it. I just think it's unreasonable to assume that a war waged without concern for humanitarian ends will be waged with humanitarian means. And "hoping for the best" is downright immoral when you're gambling with other peoples lives. If the Iraqi people decided that they would risk their lives to be rid of Saddam's tyranny, it is their choice to make. For Americans to blithly say that their deaths will be "worth it in the long run" when those making the decisions will share none of the pain, terror, loss and death, well, it's a long way from righteous.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, again, we've been through all of this before, but:

ALL wars America engages in now are supposed to be fought with humanitarian means. We are supposed to fight only in accordance with the constraints associated with *jus in bello*.

So there should never be any worry whatsoever about us fighting a war in an unjust/inhumane way.

The real worry should not have been about the means of war fighting, but, rather, about the reconstruction of Iraq after the war.

But we had the reports of the Future of Iraq Project, AND a democratic and stable Iraq was in the interest of even the Bushies, who were fighting the war on some bizarre kind of national defense grounds. So, again, though they didn't share our humanitarian goals, they shared other goals which should have insured the achievement of the humanitarian goals.

As for making the decision for other people, I've addressed that point before. We often have to make such decisions for other people. The SWAT team doesn't refrain from storming the house b/c they don't have explicit permission from the gunman's hostages. The people of Iraq were unarmed and incapable of throwing off their oppressor, and also incapable of asking us for help. All we can do in a situation like that is ask what we ourselves would want under such conditions.

Finally, there WERE, in fact, polls conducted by organizations that specialize in taking such difficult polls. And those polls showed that the Iraqis preferred a short war to continued rule by Saddam (but preferred the latter to a long war). Unsurprisingly, about the same as we might want, again confirming the wisdom of making decisions for others when they're incapable of doing so.

So, though I respect your position Matthew, I have to say that, yet again, we are led to the conclusion that there were reasonable (though, perhaps, sub-optimal) grounds on which liberal hawks could have supported the war.

(though not all of them supported it on these this doesn't say anything about THOSE reasons, whatever they may have been.)

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good to see your war on straw continues unabated. It'd be interesting to read a post where you don't actually bring up the boogeyman of people - who knows who because you never back up accusations with real links - who's primary focus is yelling and screaming at those who don't admit (ADMIT, DAMMIT!) that the war was an *obvious* mistake. You bring up the false mirror of "imagine things in the looking glass, THEN you'd be sorry", which is - of course - idiotic because, well, that reality DOESN'T exist except in your imaginations as a weapon of "who you see as idiots" destruction.

Still, it's good to see some constants in the world.

P.S. the whole "I turned against the war at the last minute so I'm actually anti-war" is really rich. Probably one of my favorite dodges of all time because turning against the war *as*we're*driving*into*Baghdad* is simply an ass covering motion when the tea leaves become obvious.


12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


While I don't agree with the previous Anonymous' attack on your intellectual honesty, I do believe your SWAT team analogy fails on the following grounds:

We don't engage the SWAT team in operations which are generally assumed to result in significant collateral damage unless the situation is sufficiently exigent. Of course nobody would object to them busting in when the hostage takers have guns pointed to the heads of the hostages.

The salient point as regards my original comment is that there was no imminent genocide, ethnic cleansing or incipient mass murder that was inderdicted in the case of Iraq, as there is assumed to be in your SWAT team case.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

As for the previous Anonymous, he's such a mentally defective dildo that I it would be a waste of electrons to blow him to hell. So why waste the time?

But, then, anybody who's followed this discussion so far knows how far he's got his head up his ass.

I WILL mention, however, that by repeatedly pointing out that I finally concluded that the war was a mistake about a month (3 weeks?) before the invasion (having changed my opinion several times), I am not trying to CMA...rather I'm trying to support the claim that even someone reasonably smart, reasonably well-informed, and extremely well-intentioned could support the war on humanitarian grounds. In the end I didn't do so, but I damn near did. It's not a CYA move--it's a "there but for the grace of God go I" admission.

Jesus. The level of comments around here is usually so good that I tend to forget what abject morons inhabit much of the internets...

2:59 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

As for the latter Anonymous,

I respect your position, but I've been through this one lots of times before, and just can't bring myself to do it again.

Quickly: if a group of people has been enslaved and is being systematically oppressed, slowly starved, and occasionally killed, the situation is basically the same as the gunman case.

It's a question of costs vs. benefits. Me, I'd want to be rescued. Oppinions differ. But launching a rescue operation is far from a crazy thing to do. And that's the point--it wasn't obviously wrong.

So far as I can see, that (relatively minimal) point has withstood all arguments up to this point.

3:02 PM  

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