December 23, 2003

Norm Geras Explains Why He Supported the War on Iraq

Norm Geras explains why he supported the attack on Iraq:

normblog: For those of us who supported the war - well, for me at any rate - the ending of the Baathist regime is not just an incidental side-effect of what happened. It is the main story. I therefore don't accept that the war was 'overall reactionary'. I think that the freeing of the Iraqi people from a decades-long political darkness was - as Ken himself appears to allow - 'progressive'. It was a boon, a great release for the Iraqi people, a national liberation, no less; and then, more than this, an opportunity for the region and the world. Therefore, I don't regard support for the war as 'abstracting these effects from their context' - as if the context was already pre-defined by something else precisely more general, with the progressive 'bit' being merely by the way. It's a skewed version of what the war was about, WMD and all the rest of it notwithstanding. I would hold this view even if I thought (as in fact I do not) that George Bush and Tony Blair fought the war for wholly cynical reasons. To give a crude analogy here: if someone burgles a house and her only motive in doing so is greed, I will approve of her action if, in order to bring off the burglary, she finds she has to release a terrified family from the grip of a bullying, violent and child-abusing patriarch. I will not think that what happened was overall bad because it was - 'in essence' - a burglary; or worry, in my approval, about the burglar going on to burgle others. If she does, we can disapprove of - and oppose - that.

One thing about this--very good and well written--paragraph leaves me puzzled: why does Geras believe that the desire to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein was a significant factor in U.S. government planning?

Posted by DeLong at December 23, 2003 09:00 AM | TrackBack

Comments

Shorter Norm Geras: the ends justify the means.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on December 23, 2003 09:07 AM

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I wonder if he is willing to repeat this to the families of soldiers killed or wounded, who signed up to protect THEIR country and ITS freedom. He sure seems willing to send them.

Better yet, why isn't HE over there risking HIS life?

And what about the families of the 3,000 killed on Sept. 11? What about the promise to hunt down the people who did THAT? What happened to THAT? Why did we pull our resources away from that, and why did we do it when we did it? And what about protecting us from the people who did that? Where did that whole idea go?

Posted by: Dave Johnson on December 23, 2003 09:11 AM

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The reason Norm Geras believes this is because, like many conservatives, including the editors of the Weekly Standard, the National Review, and others of less national renown, believe that "their" President, George W. Bush, secretly agrees with them, and is only giving the rest of the world that wink-wink nudge-nudge routine because he has to. This belief is incontrovertible by any normal evidentiary technique, and it is a bipartisan self-delusion of long standing. Remember Toni "Bill Clinton is the first African-American President" Morrison?

It is an unfortunate but unavoidable side-effect of the increasing personalization of the office of the presidency, which is an unfortunate and entirely avoidable side-effect of the lavish and utterly unwarranted level of coverage the president, in his personal capacity, receives in the media.

But if Mr. Geras thinks that his interpretation of the Iraq war is commensurate with a liberal or progressive philosophy, he needs to read more Kant and less Machiavelli. Or at least some Michael Walzer.

Posted by: Mark S. on December 23, 2003 09:24 AM

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As with Afghanistan and, indeed, the Soviet Union, I have to say that we don't know the outcome yet. The outcome could be a protracted civil war, or it could be a new Saddam. In all these cases we can ask: did we liberate the Iraqis (Afghans, Soviets)? Or did the U.S. just defeat The Soviet Union, the Taliban, and Saddam?

I'm not saying that defeating those three political regimes was not a good thing in itself, but it doesn't count as liberation until the subject populations are significantly better off. Even in the case of the USSR the results seem inconclusive so far.


Posted by: Zizka on December 23, 2003 09:44 AM

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Geras speaks of a "progressive" act, and I suppose it is at least a temporary victory for liberal values of a sort, but the costs are not mentioned, eg. $166 billion and counting, 500 American dead, 1000's wounded, hostility toward us throughout the world, the American combat force tied down unable to respond to real threats, an impoverished, deeply indebted, largely unemployed population with no infrastructure our wards for a long time? What if the intervention proves just to increase instability and hatred?

Posted by: BobNJ on December 23, 2003 09:50 AM

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I don't read that as saying that Geras cares if the desire to liberate the Iraqi people was _any_ factor in US government planning.

He thinks it was a good think. And he offers a pretty strong analogy.

And it is a pretty good argument. When it comes right down to it, do we think that the world is better off with Saddam in a cage?

I take issue with how this was done, and the priority of doing it, and the lies that were told. And I have a lot of problems with what I see as the 'real' reason (well, one of the 'real' reasons), which I believe was to specifically attack the structures of international law and civil society.

I believe that attacking 'old europe' and NATO and the UN were as important to this administration as was attacking Saddam.

But again, Geras is arguing that even if they were all cynical bastards, that freeing the Iraqi people was good.

Posted by: Rich Gibson on December 23, 2003 10:00 AM

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The "desire to liberate" (intentionality) is not necessary to Geras's argument. Positive outcome is sufficient. Similarly, in Geras's view, the intent to liberate is not necessary, only the liberation itself. This would seem to vitiate process arguments around manipulation of intelligence, preordaining the outcome of "debate", and deceiving citizens and their legislative representatives.

OK. Just one question: "Where's my country, dude?"

Posted by: Les Jones on December 23, 2003 10:00 AM

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By this reasoning, we shoulc now invade North Korea. The regime there has caused comparable suffering, and may really have WMD. But, of course, they don't have any oil, aren't near Israel, and don't have any personal history with la famille Bush.

Posted by: msf on December 23, 2003 10:01 AM

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This guy is just plain wrong about the ethics stuff. A burglar who, in pursuit of a crime, manages to do some good, is still a burglar. If doing good came at any expense or risk to the burglar, then it is a mitigating circumstance, but it doesn't make the burglary a good thing. This is the problem with having a less penalty for attempted murder than murder (or in some cases, drug possession for personal use, for god sake). It puts outcomes at the same level or ahead of intentions. If the intention was to get Saddam out, then the war should have been sold on that basis. If the intention was to get rid of weapons he didn't have, ... well, we've been through that argument before. At the heart of Bush's responsibility to the US public is to serve our interests and keep us safe. To the extent that more US lives have been lost in Iraq than would have been lost if we had not invaded, he has shirked his responsibility. To the extent that invading a Muslim country has inflamed even more violent anti-American sentiment, he has done worse than shirk his responsibility.

So far (and we are pretty far along now), it looks like Bush was playing three card montey with his Iraq war rationale.

And, oh, by the way, if making life better for Iraqis was the plan, then why didn't we plan for making life better for Iraqis? Water, medicar facilities and supplies, electricity, jobs, schools, security, institutional structure -- these were all afterthoughts. Take over Iraq first, then worry about Iraqi welfare - is that the behavior of an administration with the welfare of Iraqis foremost in its thinking?

Posted by: K Harris on December 23, 2003 10:03 AM

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I don't read that as saying that Geras cares if the desire to liberate the Iraqi people was _any_ factor in US government planning.

He thinks it was a good think. And he offers a pretty strong analogy.

And it is a pretty good argument. When it comes right down to it, do we think that the world is better off with Saddam in a cage?

I take issue with how this was done, and the priority of doing it, and the lies that were told. And I have a lot of problems with what I see as the 'real' reason (well, one of the 'real' reasons), which I believe was to specifically attack the structures of international law and civil society.

I believe that attacking 'old europe' and NATO and the UN were as important to this administration as was attacking Saddam.

But again, Geras is arguing that even if they were all cynical bastards, that freeing the Iraqi people was good.

Posted by: Rich Gibson on December 23, 2003 10:05 AM

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"I'm not saying that defeating those three political regimes was not a good thing in itself, but it doesn't count as liberation until the subject populations are significantly better off. Even in the case of the USSR the results seem inconclusive so far."

I would argue that it does count as liberation, but the crucial question is whether the effort is ultimately justified. As you said, are they significantly better off? Suppose for a moment we had a tyrannical dauphin usurping the seat of power in the United States. Would it be more profitable for all involved to allow the political process to run its course (to election/death/revolution) and work all diplomatic angles? Or, should the EU simply invade and occupy DC with a governing council composed of effete Georgetown neo-cons?

The natural response from a MBF would be "consider September 11th", but then, that abandons the humanitarian element entirely (not to mention the phantom menace of WMD).

Posted by: Draeton on December 23, 2003 10:05 AM

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I don't read that as saying that Geras cares if the desire to liberate the Iraqi people was _any_ factor in US government planning.

He thinks it was a good think. And he offers a pretty strong analogy.

And it is a pretty good argument. When it comes right down to it, do we think that the world is better off with Saddam in a cage?

I take issue with how this was done, and the priority of doing it, and the lies that were told. And I have a lot of problems with what I see as the 'real' reason (well, one of the 'real' reasons), which I believe was to specifically attack the structures of international law and civil society.

I believe that attacking 'old europe' and NATO and the UN were as important to this administration as was attacking Saddam.

But again, Geras is arguing that even if they were all cynical bastards, that freeing the Iraqi people was good.

Posted by: Rich Gibson on December 23, 2003 10:10 AM

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In the final analysis, it is fine to argue that an intervention is necessary despite the cost. But, intervention without consideration for the political and social impact in the aftermath has been demonstrated to be a politically and morally bankrupt policy.

Posted by: Draeton on December 23, 2003 10:10 AM

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I don't read that as saying that Geras cares if the desire to liberate the Iraqi people was _any_ factor in US government planning.

He thinks it was a good think. And he offers a pretty strong analogy.

And it is a pretty good argument. When it comes right down to it, do we think that the world is better off with Saddam in a cage?

I take issue with how this was done, and the priority of doing it, and the lies that were told. And I have a lot of problems with what I see as the 'real' reason (well, one of the 'real' reasons), which I believe was to specifically attack the structures of international law and civil society.

I believe that attacking 'old europe' and NATO and the UN were as important to this administration as was attacking Saddam.

But again, Geras is arguing that even if they were all cynical bastards, that freeing the Iraqi people was good.

Posted by: Rich Gibson on December 23, 2003 10:15 AM

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Just one comment on the analogy: an earlier commenter described it as a 'strong' analogy. I would offer instead "vivid" because, while it makes Geras's case in a powerful way, it nevertheless begs the question, as all analogies do.

To wit: Geras's analogy only works if the burglar commits a greater good in pursuit of a modest evil. This situation is analogous only insofar as one believes (already) that the liberation of the Iraqi people was worth the deception, intentional and unintentional, the souring of relations with other parts of the world, and the cost to American credibility for future operations, not to mention the more visible and immediate cost in terms of blood and treasure.

This position is a philosophically defensible one, in its way (though not, again, in the progressive way). But it is not bolstered appreciably by the analogy, vivid though it is.

Posted by: Mark S. on December 23, 2003 10:15 AM

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I don't read that as saying that Geras cares if the desire to liberate the Iraqi people was _any_ factor in US government planning.

He thinks it was a good think. And he offers a pretty strong analogy.

And it is a pretty good argument. When it comes right down to it, do we think that the world is better off with Saddam in a cage?

I take issue with how this was done, and the priority of doing it, and the lies that were told. And I have a lot of problems with what I see as the 'real' reason (well, one of the 'real' reasons), which I believe was to specifically attack the structures of international law and civil society.

I believe that attacking 'old europe' and NATO and the UN were as important to this administration as was attacking Saddam.

But again, Geras is arguing that even if they were all cynical bastards, that freeing the Iraqi people was good.

Posted by: Rich Gibson on December 23, 2003 10:20 AM

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The "desire to liberate" is not necessary to Geras's comments. Only the positive outcome(liberation) is required. He separates the "meaning" of the war from the intent of its perpetrators. He would support the war even if the motivation of Bush and Blair were wholly cynical.

Given the proselytizing for democratic capitalism of the neocons' arguments around the war, it is incorrect to say there was no intent to transform Iraqi society, or overthrow Saddam. However, the intent is not necessary.

This view seems to be gaining strength: "Who cares about WMD (you wimps), we done good. Our cause is righteous, whether we meant it to be or not. It's time to move on and forget about why or how we got into the war. We have to focus on the possibilities for bringing peace, stability, and democracy to the mid-East. And sanitizing this breeding ground for terrorism."

This argument attempts to pre-empt process issues like deliberate manipulation of intelligence, pre-ordaining the outcome of the "debate" on war, alienating the international community, and misleading (lying to?) citizens and their legislative representatives.

Just one question for Mr. Geras: "Where's my country, dude?"

Posted by: Les Jones on December 23, 2003 10:25 AM

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Geras: "I will not ... worry, in my approval, about the burglar going on to burgle others. If she does, we can disapprove of - and oppose - that."

What amazing, irresponsible bullshit. What a stunning abdication of civic responsibility. It makes it sound as if these things just happen and then we decide whether or not to chide our leaders about them.

War supporters are asking us to reward the accidentally heroic burglar with more burglary tools and sit around watching as she[*] breaks into a few more houses, because she might end up saving more children there, too... though, as Geras admits, she has no actual interest in doing so. And if instead she kills the children this time, then we can "disapprove." Though actually we didn't mind this time when she happened to kill one of the kids to save the other three... not to mention the two who had already died when she laid siege to the house to starve out that terrible father.

[* Nice feminist touch, that. How can you argue with a heroic female burglar/warmonger deposing a violent patriarch? What the hell is this, a Hollywood comedy with Renee Zellweger?]

Oh yeah, and apparently the burglar's accidental heroism means we should now give her custody of the kids, and prevent the local authorities from having any say in the family's well-being, since they had short-sightedly tried to prevent burglaries.


Describing this as "the ends justify the means" is only half right. "Ends" doesn't mean "what happens in the end" - it means "goals." But Geras is (deliberately, I think) blurring that distinction. It's not just that happy side effects help to make up for corrupt goals... like "we were wrong, but thank God some good came out of it"... he's saying that they make the corruption entirely irrelevant, and that we should reward the people who were pursuing corrupt goals and give them a chance to do it again.

This has gone beyond stupid into evil.

Posted by: Eli on December 23, 2003 10:30 AM

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Jeffrey Sachs sez it was about the oil, and furthermore, D.Cheney has energy independence confused with oil independence.

http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1071251737971

"The US is playing out Mr Cheney's fantastical vision of national security - one in which a future struggle over scarce and vital petroleum resources must be won by force of arms. It should be replaced by a level-headed and internationally co-operative strategy of economising on petroleum demand and developing energy alternatives that are cost-effective and environmentally sound. Mr Cheney's view is technologically naive and politically disastrous. And yet it has become the strategy of the world's most powerful country."

However, I'm not sure neocons et al, would argue that it wasn't about the oil, per se -- as in: you can't control terrorism, without having leverage against nations that breed, if not sponsor, terrorism. While Saddam's connections with Islamist terrorists remain dubious, I wouldn't underestimate being right next door to Saudi Arabia and surrounding Iran (if in fact we do control the Afghan and Turkmenistan border).

Moreover, the threat of WMD (or the potential thereof), the toppling of a brutal regime and the liberation of "the Iraqi people,"* complemented this goal. Of the host of reasons, the first has turned into a sideshow, whereas the second has been cheered and the third is now being played out. Are we really liberators or are we colonial occupiers and infidel oppressors?

In other words, I don't think any of the multiplicity of reasons for attacking Iraq has been necessarily wrong, although it has seemed rather disorganized and incoherent at times. Indeed, I think it makes sense from the perspective of Middle East (and Central Asian) "transformation." BUT, it does seem as though the priority of the administration was in deposing Saddam first and controlling their reserves to let other theocratic regimes in the area know we mean business.

SO, it'd be a shame and I think tragic if we let that get in the way of genuine reform to benefit "the Iraqi people," of which I think more resources and effort should be diverted and devoted.** That's how we win "hearts and minds"*** and where we earn our goodwill. And although that's less tangible "leverage," I think it's the kind of leverage that ultimately counts the most.

* http://businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/dec2003/nf20031218_6058_db046.htm
** http://fareedzakaria.com/articles/newsweek/111703.html
*** http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB107213437945607800,00.html

Posted by: CC on December 23, 2003 10:37 AM

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zizka has it right.

I'm tired of hearing that the Iraqi people are better off without Saddam Hussein, when we don't know what their situation is or will be. And yes, Saddam was terrible, but things can always, tragically, be worse.

Posted by: Tom Slee on December 23, 2003 10:47 AM

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Forgive me, but I cannot take seriously a man (a) whose "research interests include Marxism, the moral philosophy of socialism, normative political theory, aspects of so-called anti-foundationalist thought, the Holocaust, and crimes against humanity"(*) and (b) publishes the crap that Brad has reprinted.

Where was he during the ten years while Iraqi people have been suffering the embargo for nothing!?

The Baath Party and Saddam Hussein would have been ousted long ago by Iraqis themselves, maybe with some help from neighboring countries, as well as US, had it not been for the embargo!

(And it is also a sad mistake now to let slip through the cracks the international food aid to North Korea!)

Over and out on Iraqi and environs local politics -- I am burned out on national/regional issues.


(*) From his web page Univ. of Manchester:

http://les.man.ac.uk/government/about/staff_profiles/norman_geras.htm

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 23, 2003 11:00 AM

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"of whom" :D cheers!

Posted by: CC on December 23, 2003 11:01 AM

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"of whom" :D cheers!

Posted by: CC on December 23, 2003 11:04 AM

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"of whom" :D cheers!

Posted by: CC on December 23, 2003 11:04 AM

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"of whom" :D cheers!

Posted by: CC on December 23, 2003 11:07 AM

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Are we to be offing ALL brutal dictators, then? Our "allies" Pakistan and Uzbekistan had better watch out! What about all of the trouble in Africa, Myanmar, Timor, and elsewhere? Aren't these the same folks who complained when we bombed Milosevic becuase it wasn't in the U.S. Strategic interest? Why all of the lies??? Why not say we attacked Iraq in order to protect our "wholly dependent on foreign oil" economy from being held hostage WHEN (not really if) there is an Islamic revolution in Saudi Arabia? This war IS about OIL.

Why is it more palatable for 464 Americans to give their lives to free Iraqis from a dictator, that for them to die to keep wealthy Americans in the money?

Posted by: fasteddie on December 23, 2003 11:22 AM

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What makes this a "very good and well written paragraph"? It's pretense to logic and ethical thought? To be well written, wouldn't blurring the intended meaning of words like "action" ("I will approve of her action"), so that it is not clear (by intent perhaps?) whether the action approved of is the theft (war) or her liberating abused children (toppling Saddam). It is not the action he seems to be approving of, but the result, but he says it is the action. That ain't good writing, its confusion gussied up with good grammar. So what's so great about the writing here, unless it is to approve of the same old "Lying Liars...." twisting of language that Rush Limbaugh and Baby Bush can't seem to leave alone.

Posted by: K Harris on December 23, 2003 12:00 PM

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Posted by: Les Jones on December 23, 2003 10:00 AM:

"The "desire to liberate" (intentionality) is not necessary to Geras's argument. Positive outcome is sufficient. Similarly, in Geras's view, the intent to liberate is not necessary, only the liberation itself. This would seem to vitiate process arguments around manipulation of intelligence, preordaining the outcome of "debate", and deceiving citizens and their legislative representatives."

I think that his rationalization is falls into the category 'never mind the WMD's - think of the Iraqi people!'. Which became necessary, of course, when it turned out that there were no WMD's - not some, not a few, but none. And no factories, etc. A level of error which staggers the mind, unless it wasn't an error.


The only mildly creative thing about his argument is that he also gets to say "never mind everything that we were told about the WMD's; all of those questions are irrelevant!".

Posted by: Barry on December 23, 2003 12:42 PM

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I don't read Geras to be saying that he thought the liberation of the Iraqi people was a "significant" part of the Bush/Blair planning. He does say that he does not think the war was fought for "wholly cynical" reasons, and that even if it was, he would support it.

For myself, I would say that the ends sometimes justify the means, but it depends on what specific ends and means are at issue.

I mean, to take an easy case, if Glorcon the evil martian space invader was willing to invade Stalinist Russia prior to the Ukranian famine, and we had reason to believe that Glorcon's invasion would cost about 50 innocent collateral damage lives, about 100 semi-innocent soviet conscript lives, and that Glorcon would then spend the next two years trying to build up a Stalin-free civil democracy, I would have to support it, even if I knew that the invasion would be a violation of international/interplanetary law, and even if I knew that Glorcon was only doing it for a domestic political advantage.

Posted by: J Mann on December 23, 2003 12:47 PM

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Describing this as "the ends justify the means" is only half right. "Ends" doesn't mean "what happens in the end" - it means "goals."

Thanks for the correction--of course you're right, and as you correctly point out, the actual position is far more corrupt and dangerous than my glib characterization of it.

Posted by: Tom Hilton on December 23, 2003 01:08 PM

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I think that people who supported the war as a means of ousting Saddam were making an implicit assumption about the good faith of the administration, namely that the administration's committment to insuring a stable, democratic successor govt for Iraq was worth trusting.

But this is an administration without good faith. They will cut and run to preserve their re-election chances.


I think it's quite likely that the eventual outcome for Iraq will be civil war, dictatorship, possibly Islamic govt. Maybe it will be a 'better' regieme. Maybe not. Bringing civil society through war is a dicey proposition. Civil society is fundamentally about peaceful modes of resolving social conflicts, so war, as experience and policy, is in some sense the antithesis of civil society. This contradiction is never acknowledged by war supporters.

Of course there is the additional irony of the unelected Bush administration being the democracy advocate. Hypocrisy, anyone?

Posted by: camille roy on December 23, 2003 04:33 PM

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I'm not the only one repeating myself here, right?

But while we DID get rid of the Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, and while the American military DID humiliate and destroy the Iraqi military, the question still remains open as to whether we liberated the Iraqis or not. Right now they're still hiding in their homes amidst rampant banditry, rape, etc.

And my bet is that in a year or so the people who are now telling us that the various other rationales for the war "don't make any difference" -- since we've liberated the Iraqis -- will be telling us that the actual fate of the Iraqis doesn't make any difference either. (That's already happened regarding Afghanistan).

Incidentally, is Geras an analytic philosopher? Their specialty seems to be making points about serious issues by means of cute, wildly-hypothetical examples.

Posted by: Zizka on December 23, 2003 08:20 PM

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"I'm not saying that defeating those three political regimes was not a good thing in itself, but it doesn't count as liberation until the subject populations are significantly better off."

Leave it to a "progressive" or "liberal" to completely ignore the populations of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, East Germany, etc.

No, Zizka, we (most of us, anyway) *can* already say that the breakup of the Soviet Union was a good thing. We *can* already say that defeating the Soviet Union's government was a good thing. But then, the *rest* of us understood that the Soviet Union was an "evil empire." It was only (clueless) "liberals" and "progressives" who didn't know that.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on December 23, 2003 10:42 PM

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J Mann: So, who ever piles up the fewest bodies wins the moral clarity award?

For those of you who are so satisfied to see Hussein gone ask yourselves a couple of questions: Where was your sense of moral outrage in August, 2001? Were you demanding the invasion of Iraq "right now" at that time? Should we invade N. Korea tomorrow?

Honest answers, please.

Sorry for the brevity--I have more houses to burgle. So far three robberies, lots of fear and anxiety, not one good result, not much money in it either (damn that Clint Eastwood). Look for the publication of this study in a scholarly journal on sale at your campus shortly.

Posted by: bobbyp on December 23, 2003 10:44 PM

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"For those of you who are so satisfied to see Hussein gone..."

First a question for those who are NOT "so satisfied to see Hussein gone"...what in the world is your problem?

"Where was your sense of moral outrage in August, 2001? Were you demanding the invasion of Iraq 'right now' at that time?"

???

You mean the fact that many people recognized, after September 11, 2001, that violence and brutality in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world couldn't be confined to that region, makes taking out Saddam Hussein somehow *less* valid?

"Should we invade N. Korea tomorrow?"

No...for many reasons.

First of all, North Korea has a democratic neighbor in South Korea. The government of South Korea, being democratic, is a legitimate spokesperson for its people. The government of South Korea, to my knowledge, doesn't support invasion of North Korea (mainly because anywhere between 10s of thousands to millions of South Korean civilians would likely be killed). This is mainly because, unlike Iraq, where Saddam Hussein and his sons were taken out BEFORE the acquired nuclear weapons, North Korea already has such weapons.

Second, the U.S. military and U.S. government are already significantly involved in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ousting two totalitarian dictatorships and helping to rebuild two countries into democracies is requires significant resources.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on December 23, 2003 11:22 PM

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Leave it to a MBF to respond to what was not said. I said something about the USSR specifically, and Bahner asks why I didn't say something about the USSR's satellite nations.

The reason why I didn't mention the satellite nations was because, as Mark was careful to say nice and loud, the point I was making wouldn't have been true of the satellite nations. So I didn't say it that way.

"Second, the U.S. military and U.S. government are already significantly involved in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ousting two totalitarian dictatorships and helping to rebuild two countries into democracies is requires significant resources." Isn't that what we're asking about -- wqhether that's happening or will happen? Begging the question again.

Posted by: Zizka on December 24, 2003 07:37 AM

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"Are we to be offing ALL brutal dictators, then? "

I have no major problem with that. I do support picking them off one at a time instead of trying to take them on all at once together.

One advantage to offing them serially rather than in parallel may be that some brutal dictators may see the light and make efforts to get off the list. Ghadaffi for example.

And invasion may not be the only option for "offing" such. There is a non-government program for sending clockwork powered transistor radios into North Korea, for instance, to help spread news into that closed society. Were all the oppressed to recognize that each of them is NOT alone, and that the "enemies" their own leaders warn them about are anxious to help establish a new leadership ... then internal reforms might be accomplished. We seem to moving along that road with Iran. (Anybody know where I can get illustrated rhyming Farsi-language editions of Dr Suess's "Yertle the Turtle" to send as gifts to the children of Iran?)

It would not hurt my feelings if Fidel Castro died suddenly from some CIA-arranged "accident", as was suggested in the Kennedy era. Or is it too soon to tell the outcome of the people's revolt that replaced a brutal dictatorship of the right wing Batista that lasted less than four YEARS with a progressive socialist proletarian dictatorship that has lasted, so far, nearly five DECADES and from which, on average, thousand of people each year try to flee?

I can be placated, however, much more simply. If brutal dictators were, rather than being replaced in their own nations, were simply refused membership and a vote in the United Nations, and denied financial support from the World Bank, I'd consider that progress had been made. HOWever, pledges to "work with the UN", when that body includes so very very MANY such scum bags, fail to engage my support.

As someday it may happen that a victim must be found, I have a little list. I have a little list of society's offenders who might best be underground[1] and who never would be missed ...


[1] The "spiderhole" may have been a septic tank. Apt, that.

Posted by: Pouncer on December 24, 2003 09:31 AM

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When I saw the second plane crashing into the World Trade Tower I turned to a stranger next to me and said "This is Pearl Harbour!" It is, but in a completely new kind of war, different from all previous ones. My main objection to the Iraq war is that it is an irrelevance, distracting effort and attention from the REAL problem. The most urgent problem was Al-Quaida, the second one was North Korea, Iraq was far in the rear. As for disgusting tyrants: Saddam was, of course one; but the world is crawling with disgusting tyrants, in Asia, Africa, South America....As long as resources are limited (and by giving absurd tax cuts to the richest), Bush made them even more limited) one has to choose ones priorities. And not alienate possible allies with insolent behaviour towards them. The question is not only one of morality: the most important fault of the Bush administration is its crushing incompetence. And Saddam's capture does not invalidate my judgement.

Posted by: Tom Schwietzer on December 24, 2003 03:45 PM

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Dear Mark Bahner:

Thank you so much for your reply. In response I offer the following:

"First, you wrote, "a question for those who are NOT 'so satisfied to see Hussein gone'...what in the world is your problem?"

Several problems here: (1.) I asked for honest answers, not rhetorical questions; (2.) Rhetorical questions deserve answers only in the spirit of which they were asked; and thus (3.) I don't have a problem, Mark. So what's yours?

"You mean the fact that many people recognized, after September 11, 2001, that violence and brutality in Iraq and elsewhere in the Arab world couldn't be confined to that region, makes taking out Saddam Hussein somehow *less* valid?"

In the context of being aware of the regime's total disregard for humanity ever since Hussein seized power over twenty years ago--I would answer yes, the widespread moral blindness to Hussein's barbarism prior to 9/11 casts doubt on the authenticiy of your outrage now and certainly makes your case less valid. You will have to back up your assertion here that brutality in Iraq "couldn't be confined to that region", a totally nonsensical assertion. People have been aware that the violence in the ME could spill over into other areas since Munich in '72 (before SH came to power, I might add). Where have you been? Come 9/11 and you suddenly got religion?

Should we invade N. Korea tomorrow? I asked:

You replied no for a variety of reasons from the realistic (N.Korea is armed and dangerous) to the absurd (we are stretched too thin). As if, once Iraq is a democracy and the troops come home, N. Korea would be next on the hit list. Ridiculous. I don't believe it for one second.

You further imply that the Bush doctrine is inoperable if the subject bad guy has deliverable nuclear capability. This notion mocks the very idea of Bush's pre-emptive doctrine (which I assume you support). You undermine your own case here.

In summary, I can only conclude that your evaded answering the first two questions entirely. Your answer to the third one demonstrates the absurd lengths defenders of this policy will go to find justifications where there are, in fact, none.

The goalposts never to cease to move for the defenders of this misguided policy.


Posted by: bobbyp on December 25, 2003 07:04 PM

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