Monday, February 10, 2003

Last War Post For Now

For those of you who follow Integrity -- are there any such people these days? -- you know that I've been thinking about this just war question a lot. Same today. In part, because I've been wondering if I was too testy in an email to Emily Stimpson and over on Mark Shea's site earlier today. If I was, I apologize to both of them.

But I've been bothered by a trend that I've seen recently. When talk of a conflict with Iraq began, most of St. Blog's, I would say, approached the idea with caution. There was a flurry of debate then around the unilateral question. But you got the impression that everyone saw this as a difficult question. Now that many are convinced that war is necessary (not everyone is making the argument that it meets just war standards, but most are), some have lost sight that, although the case that Saddam is a bad man and an oppressive dictator may be overwhelming, the case for war against Saddam (especially invasion and regime change) isn't cut and dry. I readily recognize that my doubts about whether action would be just may be wrong. Why pro-war types can't do the same is baffling to me.

So when several people, including some bloggers I respect quite a bit, took the "I can't believe you aren't convinced!" approach to responding to me or took a cheap shot like Mark's comment that the idiocy of war opponents is a compelling argument for the pro-war side, frustration grew. (As an aside, I recognize Mark was being sarcastic. There are plenty of idiots on the anti-war side. I don't deny that. But how long do you think it would take me on google to find a group advocating that we raze or nuke Bagdahd? Idiocy isn't limited to one side of this.) Frankly, even if I was for the war, I would think that it was part of my Catholic duty, in pursuing and hoping for peace, to seriously consider arguments against the war. You don't have to be convinced by them.

Other examples have bugged me. Take this piece by David Frum. Scroll down to the description of Jessica Matthews' alternative to invasion, which is a combination of limited military strikes and increased diplomatic and inspection efforts. Here's Frum's "analysis":

Saddam stays in power forever; we bomb and strafe Iraq forever. We’d inflict hundreds, maybe thousands of Iraqi civilian casualties – present ourselves to the Arab world as an imperialist power of occupation – and all without loosening Saddam’s grip on power, without offering the Iraqi people any hope for a better life, and without discrediting Saddam-style radical Arab politics. Mathews has brilliantly managed to find a way for the United States to suffer every single one of the risks and disadvantages of an Iraq war – while forgoing any hope of gaining any of the benefits of victory. If this is the best alternative (and it almost certainly is), then let the invasion begin!"
How convenient. He just assumes that every bad result that could happen will. I could do the same about an invasion and a regime change. For once, I would like some who take a pro-war/invasion/regime-change position admit that we are all speculating about the consequences that will flow. It seems unfair to grant every positive result when talking about invasion but assume every negative one for other options. Stopping short of regime change and invasion hardly constitutes appeasement or inaction. Who said that we should be sitting on our hands if we don't invade?

Of course, today Novak's piece was published. Personally, I was disappointed . I had been hoping he would give me a nugget that I hadn't heard yet to get me over my question about the imminence prong. He didn't. It was well written, but nothing new.

I think Robert Gotcher captures it right in his summary of Novak's argument, which is basically what I discussed in my post on "The Nuclear Question" below: the hypothetical possibility that Saddam could attack us with WMD, because of the vast amount of damage that that would inflict, outweighs the fact that our evidence (i) isn't clear on how close Saddam is to actually having WMD and (ii) is based on broad assumptions and speculation that Saddam would use such weapons if he had them. Now maybe this is all fine in the case of Saddam. But I'm looking for some principles for accepting that rationale and understanding where the brakes are in the system now being proposed for determining whether the threatened damage is grave, lasting, and certain. Maybe it's in all the little bits that people littany about how evil Saddam is. Clearly, there is something about his regime and how close he may be to achieving WMD that is making people overlook that they are advocating overthrowing another nation's government by force on a speculative harm (as serious as it might be). But can you articulate the case succintly so we can apply the principle to the next situation?


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