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War: Pro and Con
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ezra Klein reviews the arguments George Packer said had been made for and against the Iraq war...
For War

1. Saddam is cruel and dangerous.
2. Saddam has used weapons of mass destruction and has never stopped trying to develop them.
3. Iraqis are suffering under tyranny and sanctions.
4. Democracy would benefit Iraqis.
5. A democratic Iraq could drain influence from repressive Saudi Arabia.
6. A democratic Iraq could unlock the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.
7. A democratic Iraq could begin to liberalize the Arab world.
8. Al Qaeda will be at war with us regardless of what we do in Iraq.

Against War

1. Containment has worked for 10 years, and inspections could still work.
2. We shouldn't start wars without immediate provocation and international support.
3. We could inflict terrible casualties, and so could Saddam.
4. A regional war could break out, and anti-Americanism could build to a more dangerous level.
5. Democracy can't be imposed on a country like Iraq.
6. Bush's political aims are unknown, and his record is not reassuring.
7. America's will and capacity for nation building are too limited.
8. War in Iraq will distract from the war on terrorism and swell Al Qaeda's ranks.
Ezra Klein seems to acknowledge that pro-war arguments #1 [Saddam is cruel and dangerous] and #3 [Iraqis are suffering under tyranny and sanctions] were correct, while "literally every element of the anti-war case has been proven correct". Fair enough. I'd quibble with some of the pro-war characterizations, but he's fundamentally correct.

Don't those arguments also apply to intervention in Sudan?

The butchers in Sudan are "cruel and dangerous", and the Sudanese people are "suffering under tyranny and sanctions." On the other hand, (1) those internal problems can be contained within Sudan, (2) we "shouldn't start wars without immediate provocation and international support", (3) we could "inflict terrible casualties", and so could the Sudanese government and the militias, (4)a "regional war could break out" among African nations and "anti-Americanism could build to a more dangerous level", (5) democracy "can't be imposed on a country like [Sudan]", (6) the next Presidents "political aims are unknown, and [their] record [on military execution] is not reassuring", (7) "America's will and capacity for nation building are too limited", and (8) war in Sudan "will distract from the war on terrorism and swell Al Qaeda's ranks."

And for that matter, don't many of the same anti-war dynamics - risk of anti-Americanism, difficulty of imposing democracy, lack of will and capacity for nation building - apply in Afghanistan, as well?
 
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As for Afghanistan, there is one argument for war that was absent when it came to Iraq: Those who were responsible for 9/11 came from there and were there.

And the best reason for not invading Iraq is not even on the list: invading would open a sectarian can of worms within the country.

There is a video that came out within the last few days of an interview with Cheney from 1994 wherein he made a great case for not invading Iraq. And with regard to the reasons he cited, none of them really changed between 1994 and 2003. There certainly wasn’t enough in the way of any changes to justify invading and occupying Iraq.

Saddam was not Al Qaeda. Repeat: Saddam was not Al Qaeda.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out in 2003 that invading and occupying Iraq was a bad idea. Indeed, at the end of Gulf War I there was a consensus that it was the right decision. There certainly was no significant call on the left or right to go all the way to Baghdad and occupy the country.

The Bush administration used 9/11 to gin the country up for invading Iraq. That much is clear. What is less clear is why in 1994 everyone agreed that occupying and rebuilding Iraq would be a bad idea, but by 2003 the those on the right thought it wouldn’t be a problem at all.

In other words, when Cheney flip flopped on the wisdom of occupying and trying to rebuild Iraq, why did basically everyone on the right do the same thing? That’s what I don’t understand. Even if one thought that after 9/11 Saddam presented a new kind of threat, why was there complete silence from the war’s supporters regarding the dangers and difficulties that had been so obvious less than a decade earlier?
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
All terrorism is not Al Queda. Repeat: All terrorism is not Al Queda.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
All terrorism is not Al Queda. Repeat: All terrorism is not Al Queda.
Yes, and, what’s your point? There are literally hundreds of terror organizations out there.



 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
"We shouldn’t start wars without immediate provocation and international support."

I don’t think this has been proved correct, at least not the second half. I don’t think the war would be even a tiny bit different with a UN resolution and the support of the French.
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
Actually, as I re-read this, I’m not sure I agree that any of this is right:

For War

1. Saddam is cruel and dangerous. [true]
2. Saddam has used weapons of mass destruction and has never stopped trying to develop them. [I don’t think this is untrue either. As I recall, the evidence is pretty good that he was trying to maintain his WMD capabilities, even if he didn’t have the actual weapons]
3. Iraqis are suffering under tyranny and sanctions. [true. And Ezra’s snarky "our sanctions" acutally demonstrates one of the reasonably good reasons for the war. The sanctions regime was increasingly untenable. We would eventually be faced with the choice of going into Iraq, or lifting the sanctions and letting Saddam do as he pleased. In other words, I think this war was probably inevitable.]
4. Democracy would benefit Iraqis. [untrue?]
5. A democratic Iraq could drain influence from repressive Saudi Arabia. [not really tested]
6. A democratic Iraq could unlock the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate. [not really tested]
7. A democratic Iraq could begin to liberalize the Arab world. [not really tested]
8. Al Qaeda will be at war with us regardless of what we do in Iraq. [how is this untrue???]

Against War

1. Containment has worked for 10 years, and inspections could still work. [This is proved true? I don’t think that word "proved" means what he thinks it means. See comments above on 3]
2. We shouldn’t start wars without immediate provocation and international support. [I don’t think the second half is true. See comment 4]
3. We could inflict terrible casualties, and so could Saddam. [I’m not sure this was ever in dispute]
4. A regional war could break out, and anti-Americanism could build to a more dangerous level. [Verdict is still out on this one]
5. Democracy can’t be imposed on a country like Iraq. [probably true]
6. Bush’s political aims are unknown, and his record is not reassuring. [True in moonbat central, I suppose. If you really believe BushLied, I guess this is true, if you think the fact that the was was an intelligence screwup of epic proportions doesn’t necessarily lead to the "fact" that Bush Lied, this is still in question]
7. America’s will and capacity for nation building are too limited. [Very true. Several conservatives voiced this concern as well. Its why I thought the war was a bad idea.]
8. War in Iraq will distract from the war on terrorism and swell Al Qaeda’s ranks. [Second half true, first half = mindless lefty drivel]
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
I have to say I mostly agree with Sean, but I also agree with Jon’s point about Sudan and Afghanistan.

As for mk’s point about al Qaeda’s residence, how does that change anything? Outside of revenge, how does it affect any of the arguments above? Let us say it was proven that Saddam had bankrolled 9/11. Wow, the war is justified. Does that materially change the war or anything else about it? No.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://www.asecondhandconjecture.com
Let us say it was proven that Saddam had bankrolled 9/11. Wow, the war is justified. Does that materially change the war or anything else about it? No.
It would change everything!

We would owe NOTHING to Iraq if this were true and we killed their government over it. As it is, we owe EVERYTHING to Iraq, precisely because we had to fall back on "regime change" as our primary justification for invasion and occupation.
 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Just to be clear, I agree with Jon about Afghanistan and Darfur. I just think Ezra is more wrong than Jon gives credit for.
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
As for mk’s point about al Qaeda’s residence, how does that change anything? Outside of revenge, how does it affect any of the arguments above? Let us say it was proven that Saddam had bankrolled 9/11. Wow, the war is justified. Does that materially change the war or anything else about it? No.
And let’s assume that it was proven Saddam was an alien from outer space. It’s an equally implausible assumption. And by the way, even in 2003 it was crystal clear Saddam did not have and would not have had anything to do with 9/11.

The fear that in 2003 Saddam represented any kind of threat to the United States that would have justified invading, occupying and rebuilding Iraq was without any substantial basis. Saddam was at best a half-hearted Muslim. He was a politician, in the worst sense of the word, not a zealot or idealist. Anyone who took 8 to 10 hours to understand Saddam’s history, biography, interests, methods, and regional ambitions - and, more importantly, a history of Iraq - would have easily concluded that he did not represent a threat that required going into Iraq, regardless of the weapons he supposedly had.

The war was never justified - particularly given the likely and easily forseen cost/benefit ratio to the United States. Even proposing that it could have been is foolish; such a proposal ignores so many basic facts that the exercise is completely meaningless.

The sad thing is that you have to make the "yeah, but what if" argument in the first place. If people had done their homework, we wouldn’t have to be discussing the argument. We wouldn’t have had to boroow a trillion dollars from the Chinese, and would likely be as eqully safe, if not more so, given that we could have used our forces in Afghanistan.

The point is that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, which would have been the only justifiable basis - for several reasons - to take on the burden that is rebuilding Iraq. Public support, a moral jusitification, a response to an enemy who has hit us first and who will likely hit us again - these are reasons to go to war and why nations win wars. Why do supporters of our efforts to socially engineer Iraq not understand this simple concept?
 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
1941: Democracy cannot be imposed on a country like Japan.

Now show me evidence available at that time that I am wrong. In fact, using 20/20 hindsight is the only reason people would claim Japan could be democratized successfully by outside forces.




 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Fact: we are in Iraq....that is all.
 
Written By: josh b
URL: http://
I think many are missing the point. Darfur is like Obama’s talk about invading/attacking Pakistan...it’s all just talk designed to show that at some theoretical/symbolic level Democrats are tough. "Yeah well we’re for running away in Iraq, but that’s only because Chimpy McShrubhitler screwed it up, but we’re all for going to Darfur." I would argue that the REALITY is that once in office Hillary/Obama/Edwards will do nothing more that Bush has done in Darfur, talk, posture, call on the UN and World Community to "do something", but no they won’t actually DO anything themselves.

This is all a ploy designed to make you think that the front-runner Democrats aren’t soft on defense, they’ll act, as proof look at our statements on Darfur, but once in power they won’t act. So the details and theory really don’t matter, because this is all posturing, sound and fury signifying nothing. And as such it doesn’t need rigourous analysis, pro or con, just like one really doesn’t need to parse, "Where’s the Beef" or "New and improved", because they are only slogans. None of this is "The Long Telegram" or the "X article" in Foreign Affairs or Marshall’s speech at Harvard in ’47. It is all much more like Churchill’s speech in Fulton that gave us "The Iron Curtain," but no policy.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Containment has worked for 10 years? Worked for what? Ask the Iraqi people if it was "working." Klein you are an insufferable *ss!



 
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
Containment has worked for 10 years? Worked for what? Ask the Iraqi people if it was "working." Klein you are an insufferable *ss!
Worked pretty good if you were a palace contractor, Kojo Annan, or a number of German, French, and British politicians/journalists.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
mk,

Uh, who argued that Saddam was responsible, nobody here, and certainly not me. Cap at least got my point. Re-read and start over. My point had nothing to do with arguing about whether the invasion was justified, it had to do with whether justification changes much once shots are fired. Afghanistan and other places still face the same potential issues whether the rationale was just or not.

Cap,

You might have looked at it that way, but most people wouldn’t just as in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld always wanted to go in, take out Saddam, leave some people in charge and leave.

Lack of WMD was not the reason we stayed. We stayed because most people felt that if you invade it makes sense morally to stabilize them. Strategically we wanted a democracy, and we didn’t want terrorists and other bad actors to move in. That was operable reasoning regardless of the WMD’s. You can argue it shouldn’t have been viewed that way, but it was. Look at Afghanistan, we stayed even after destroying the Afghan camps. If all there was to it was the striking at those who hit us we would have already left there, and we wouldn’t go anywhere else. Thus, your explanation may show wisdom, but it doesn’t address why we acted the way we did in reality.
 
Written By: Lance
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
Forget the humanitarian drivel. Forget international support or condemnation. Ignore the UN. If we are going to send our guys into a country to spill their blood and die for something, make sure it is in our national interest. Here’s the question we should ask ourselves.

If we took a giant saw and severed the nation, location, or region from the earth’s crust, then plunged it into the magma, how would it affect our lives?

If the answer is, it would do us great harm or great good, it is in our national interest to intervene there.

If the answer is, it would not affect our way of life substantially, it is not in our national interest to intervene.

In the case of Iraq, a nation with the world’s second largest reserves of crude oil, it is clearly in our interest.

In the case of Afghanistan, eliminating Al Qaeda’s sanctuary from which they planned and executed the attacks of 9/11 and before, it is clearly in our interest.

What do we get from Sudan? A little oil and some textiles. The DOW wouldn’t move a point either way.
 
Written By: Arch
URL: http://
And for that matter, don’t many of the same anti-war dynamics - risk of anti-Americanism, difficulty of imposing democracy, lack of will and capacity for nation building - apply in Afghanistan, as well?

John, - and I am not stating an opinion on whether we should intervene in Darfur - I can answer this for you in thirty seconds.

The difference between Iraq and Darfur is that we have no intention of overthrowing the government in Sudan. And the implicit premise is that we are capable of twisting Sudan’s arm to the point where they will not militarily directly oppose us, i.e., blow us up.

Now you have a peacekeeping mission. Not an invasion/occupation/counterinsurgency.

One hundred percent different ballgame.

Did none of this really occur to you?

Are you going to update now that you have an answer?
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
And the implicit premise is that we are capable of twisting Sudan’s arm to the point where they will not militarily directly oppose us, i.e., blow us up.
Glasnost,

Part of Bush’s premise was that he could twist arms of Iran, Syria and Saudi so that they would allow this to be a peaceful occupation. He was wrong, so are you.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
The difference between Iraq and Darfur is that we have no intention of overthrowing the government in Sudan. And the implicit premise is that we are capable of twisting Sudan’s arm to the point where they will not militarily directly oppose us, i.e., blow us up.

Now you have a peacekeeping mission. Not an invasion/occupation/counterinsurgency.
I understand the distinction, but I don’t think it’s a distinction that really addresses the problems outlined. Ok, so we want to pressure the current government to behave and establish a stable, pluralistic situation in the country. Well, that’s where were are with Iraq now.

The intractable social, cultural and political problems make creating stability and peace in Iraq through military involvement very difficult, perhaps even impossible. But if we insert ourselves into internecine conflicts in Sudan, we’ll be able to create a peaceful situation and leave a pluralistic government behind?

Perhaps, but I’d merely point out that the underlying social, cultural and political problems in Sudan are not going to go away simply because we’ve pointed a gun at them. Just like in Iraq. Terrible things are happening in Sudan, but do we want to drop the US military in the middle of another civil war?

No, you’ve named a distinction, but it’s a distinction without a difference.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
Now show me evidence available at that time that I am wrong. In fact, using 20/20 hindsight is the only reason people would claim Japan could be democratized successfully by outside forces.
Nobody is arguing that the Iraqi people can’t eventually evolve into a democracy. What’s being said is that the Iraqi people have enough social, cultural and political problems that US military intervention cannot wipe them away and replace it with democracy.

Government just isn’t good at this sort of thing. It can contribute incentives to change in the right direction - as it did in Japan, which was fairly unified and passive - and it can even create the security space for a society to implement democracy. But if the society doesn’t value democracy enough, no amount of military intervention can create and maintain it.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://QandO.net
"We shouldn’t start wars without immediate provocation"

Wait until they hit us first, and then retaliate while we fix whatever is destroyed here.

"War in Iraq will distract from the war on terrorism and swell Al Qaeda’s ranks."

So what is al qaeda doing right now? Sitting back waiting for us to leave Iraq? I hadn’t noticed their ranks "swelling" since they have been getting killed wholesale.
 
Written By: jows
URL: http://
Glasnost,

Part of Bush’s premise was that he could twist arms of Iran, Syria and Saudi so that they would allow this to be a peaceful occupation. He was wrong, so are you.


You left out Iraq. The prime mover of the insurgency are Iraqis. Your right, there’s no guarantee that Sudan would cooperate. But as the situation looks right now, in the real world, they don’t appear to be preparing to oppose it with bullets.

Since we’re not going in to take out the Sudanese government, the Sudanese government has incentive to cooperate - to avoid being taken out.

The situation is more comparable to Iraqi inspections than the Iraqi invasion. And the Iraqi inspections *happened*. And they *worked*.

Again, this is the argument. My feelings on Darfur are mixed, so I don’t have a clear opinion. But the situation that we’re going into in the various cases, and the goals that have been set, aren’t the same.


 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Well, that’s where were are with Iraq now.

The intractable social, cultural and political problems make creating stability and peace in Iraq through military involvement very difficult, perhaps even impossible. But if we insert ourselves into internecine conflicts in Sudan, we’ll be able to create a peaceful situation and leave a pluralistic government behind?

Perhaps, but I’d merely point out that the underlying social, cultural and political problems in Sudan are not going to go away simply because we’ve pointed a gun at them.


Iraq would be a lot less of a problem, domestically, if we weren’t getting blown up, even if we were still failing to fix the problems. There’s a better chance in Darfur that no one will take on a fight with us, even if our efforts to fix the problem are similarly incomplete and flawed.

The problems won’t go away, but they may be mitigable - South Sudan as an example.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://

 
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