Re: Go Read Yglesias

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I'm really starting to believe it's happening again. I didn't before, but this weekend's news about Rice's refusing an offer from Iran to negotiate more inspections in favor of an UNSC resolution is another sign that they're using the diplomacy to line up the casus belli. Fuck.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 11:58 AM
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"using the diplomacy to line up the casus belli" s/b something more like "going the diplomatic route in order to reach a diplomatic impasse that they can then use as a casus belli and an excuse to destroy international organizations that are inconvenient for them."


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 12:00 PM
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Those of us who wanted to use the "Social Security" no no no strategy last time (although it wouldn't have been called that since it had never worked then) have to hope that things are different this time. And I think they might be. Gotta try.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 12:08 PM
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I agree. War is the result of failure. You don't win wars, but rather, end a period of complete failure.


Posted by: Central Content Provider | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 12:15 PM
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I think that Rebublicans are wrong that a war in Iran will gin up their numbers. Bush has a 32% approval rating largely because people see what a fiasco the Iraq war was.

Yglesias is right that the democrats should just say "no" and try to stop the Iran war. This is a good start.


Posted by: Joe O | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 12:59 PM
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Good for Reid. And maybe we could have a little bit of "Our best guess is that it'll be several years before Iran might have nukes. Bush will be releasing a lot of intelligence that says otherwise, but can you trust anything that comes from him? We don't even know how the administration got it wrong on Iraq, because they refuse to look into the question."

It might need a bit of a professional speechwriter to fix it up, though. Joe D?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 1:17 PM
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As always, I was way ahead of the curve on this.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 1:21 PM
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Me too.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 1:36 PM
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From the post linked in 5:

On Wednesday, Republican National Committee spokesman Tucker Bounds said the president has not ruled out military action in Iran.

Does anyone else think it's weird and distressingly telling that the quote about military action came from the RNC and not from, say, the State Department? One might almost suspect that they were looking at going to war as a political consideration!


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 2:13 PM
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Matt Weiner and Adam Kotsko have blogs?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 2:14 PM
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9 -- Yes! I read that and was thinking, who gave Mr. Bounds the authority to speak for the admin?


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 2:15 PM
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Who said anything about me having a blog?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 2:16 PM
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10 -- Wouldn't they like you to think so.


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 2:16 PM
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Sigh. If only you read their blogs.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 2:58 PM
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OK, consider the bait taken. This statement by Yglesias is hyperbolic and false:

It's part of a considered, and wrongheaded, view of America's foreign policy which holds that reaching diplomatic agreements with "evil" regimes is always a bad thing. (my emphasis)

The polemicist who ascribes universal claims to his opponents might as well errect a giant neon sign reading "strawman under construction." That's what Yglesiais is doing here, and, as it happens, it's an extremely consequential mischaracterization. Those crazy neocons, vaguely defining "evil" regimes (love, love the scare quotes by the way!), and then uniformly denying the value of diplomacy. Indeed, that does sound foolish.

How about this claim: some regimes have a track record of consistently reneging on signed diplomatic agreements, and subverting the diligence and monitoring conditions of those agreements. When dealing with these regimes, the only cooperation one can expect is just whatever the momentary pressure of force will compel. For these regimes, there is every reason to doubt the efficacy of "agreements" (and here I will deploy my own scare quotes).

Were the surrender conditions Saddam Hussein signed after Gulf War I agreements, or "agreements?" Could one expect him to make meaningful deals on WMD and proliferation, or not? And if not, were the monitoring conditions that could be put in place likely to be useful and sustainable? These are matters on which reasonable people can, of course, disagree. Likewise people can differ on whether a firm and solemn commitment by Iran to not develop nuclear weapons is in any way useful, or whether the only trust that can exist just equals the confidence one has in the inspection regime that will be instituted.

What reasonable people should not do, however, is duck the question. Or act as if shifting the burden of proof answers the question. I guess as a recommendation for political kabuki "only when Bush rules out the military option will I engage on what a positive option might be" may be great advice for the Democrats to follow (although, obviously, it isn't). But it's a pretty dreadful line of argunent if we're just folks on the internet engaged in a collective search for the truth.

Also, just a brief word on "wanting war" and "wars of choice." Can I register my extreme exasperation with these rhetorical tropes? We haven't had a war of national survival since the civil war; they have all been wars of choice. It's also true that war is harmful to children and other living things. Maybe that fact helps some people decide whether or not it's a good idea to bomb Serbia, put troops in Darfur, invade Iraq, fight the Korean war, evict Hussein from Kuwait, bomb Iran's nuclear plants, fight the Vietnam war, or topple Noreiga. It sure doesn't help me.


Posted by: Baa | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:03 PM
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It might need a bit of a professional speechwriter to fix it up, though. Joe D?

I'm retired, but I'll write him a show tune if it'll help us back from the edge of the KrazyKliff.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:15 PM
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Baa, That was an incredibly appalling and amoral comment. WMDs in Iraq? Really?


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:18 PM
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Having read Yglesias' post, I partially agree with baa's accusations of strawmen. You can't just assert that 'those people are out to ensure diplomatic failure as a pre-casus belli (button ring).' That's the sort of thing that would generally need to be proven.

But we don't need to believe that the adminstration will *never* trust regimes they believe are *evil*. (Which doesn't really sound that insane. How often do you trust a liar?)That said, I think we do have pretty good reason to believe that the adminstration's general modus operandi in the Middle East isn't to look for reasons not to take military action. They lied on Iraq. We know that, they know that. And now they're laying out the exact same script. Iran will fail to comply with the higher bar of regulations and inspections, we'll have a reason, etc.

To assume good faith this time would seem to be overly credulous. Even if we were to assign their views a great amount of charity -- and this is directed at you, baa -- don't we have ample reason to believe they're lying?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:22 PM
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Kotsko, if you don't see how the invasion of Panama was just like fighting the Axis powers after Pearl Harbor was bombed, well then, I don't know how to help you.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:23 PM
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Those crazy neocons, vaguely defining "evil" regimes (love, love the scare quotes by the way!), and then uniformly denying the value of diplomacy. Indeed, that does sound foolish.

How about this claim: some regimes have a track record of consistently reneging on signed diplomatic agreements, and subverting the diligence and monitoring conditions of those agreements. When dealing with these regimes, the only cooperation one can expect is just whatever the momentary pressure of force will compel. For these regimes, there is every reason to doubt the efficacy of "agreements" (and here I will deploy my own scare quotes).

So, what's the substantive difference between what MY said and what you said? That he described regimes which the administration regards as impossible to usefully reach diplomatic accomodation with as 'evil' and you don't? Because the administration's usage is in line with MY.

For these regimes, there is every reason to doubt the efficacy of "agreements" (and here I will deploy my own scare quotes).

Were the surrender conditions Saddam Hussein signed after Gulf War I agreements, or "agreements?" Could one expect him to make meaningful deals on WMD and proliferation, or not? And if not, were the monitoring conditions that could be put in place likely to be useful and sustainable? These are matters on which reasonable people can, of course, disagree.

One thing that reasonable people cannot, at this point, disagree about is that Iraq was effectively disarmed through sanctions and an inspections regime through the period between the two Iraq Wars. In saying that, I make no claim that Hussein was a nice man, or an honorable one, or a trustworthy one. But an inspections regime effectively kept him from having nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Given that fact, I'm not sure why you put forth Hussein as if he were an argument for the inefficacy of options short of war to control proliferation.

Also, just a brief word on "wanting war" and "wars of choice." Can I register my extreme exasperation with these rhetorical tropes? We haven't had a war of national survival since the civil war; they have all been wars of choice.

How many of those did we start? Not so many. The moral calculus of whether to participate in war that's been started by another party (as in Bosnia, or Darfur) in the hopes of minimizing total suffering, or whether to respond when attacked and when one's allies are attacked (as in WW II) is entirely different from deciding whether to start a war that would not have happened without our unprovoked attack.

And for this:

It's also true that war is harmful to children and other living things.

That is a disgusting rhetorical maneuver -- trying to reduce the humanitarian costs of war to something that hippies worry about, not serious people. (If you meant anything else by bringing up a 60s slogan in this context, do tell.) Do something for me, would you? You're sitting in a pleasant, comfortable office, right? Picture a person in your office. Now picture that he's horribly burned, and bleeding. Crying, begging for the pain to stop. Now not crying so loudly, because he's getting weaker. And now not moving at all. Picture that happening to ten people. Now to a thousand people.

And now tell me that I'm unserious for thinking that the death and pain and suffering caused by war is the primary moral consideration in deciding whether to start a war; and that given that inevitable death and pain and suffering, that the answer should always, given any other possible option, be no.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:27 PM
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18 gets to the heart of it, and has governed my opposition to every move since Afghanistan, including that. There is no sense arguing about whether any of these things might have been done by a reasonable, trustworthy government; that assumes the point at issue.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:27 PM
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Well, the Bush regime has a pretty consistent track record of cooking the evidence that opposes whatever policy they think is politically advantageous: war in Iraq, "abstinence only" sex ed, evolution, global warming, torture. For such a regime, is it not reasonable to doubt their assessment of the efficacy of diplomacy?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:31 PM
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"Evil": Not scare quotes, but actual quotes. Bush called Iran "evil," along with a couple of other regimes, and he has certainly shown a reluctance to engage in any sort of constructive negotiations with any of those regime. Remember his argument in the debate that we shouldn't negotiate bilaterally with North Korea because "that's what they want"? Doing something effective (and nothing has been more ineffective than Bush's actual NK policy) is less important than not doing what North Korea wants.

It sure doesn't help me.

I trust you don't mean that literally. The evil of war in itself isn't a decisive argument against any war -- that's just reject total pacifism -- but we all have to agree that the "burning up lots of innocent people" thing is a pro tanto bad thing about any war, and provides a considerable argument against it. So someone who, like Friedman, argues for an unnecessary war on the grounds that, gee, it might have salutary on the local political culture, is a complete moral moron. And, "We should fight this war now because it's possible that we might not be able to maintain the inspections that are currently showing that Saddam is 15 years away from threatening anyone but those subjects of his who will be totally fucked in case of war anyway" -- also not great. ("People are currently being killed in great numbers anyway," as in Darfur, Kosovo: better.)

So yeah, the burden of proof is shifted. There needs to be a good reason to go to war. There needs to be a really good reason to go to war given that any war is going to be run by the same people who screwed the pooch so royally this time around. Oh, and any claims about Iran's nuclear program getting results soon -- they bear no epistemic weight whatsoever, since Bush's folks would be making them regardless of their truth. (They're coming right out and saying they want the war for its political benefits.) So question answered: There is not a good enough reason to go to war.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:35 PM
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rejecting total pacifism


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:38 PM
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Um, I got a little overheated. If I may, in place of my last comment, simply adopt this paragraph of Weiner's?

The evil of war in itself isn't a decisive argument against any war -- that's just reject total pacifism -- but we all have to agree that the "burning up lots of innocent people" thing is a pro tanto bad thing about any war, and provides a considerable argument against it. So someone who, like Friedman, argues for an unnecessary war on the grounds that, gee, it might have salutary on the local political culture, is a complete moral moron. And, "We should fight this war now because it's possible that we might not be able to maintain the inspections that are currently showing that Saddam is 15 years away from threatening anyone but those subjects of his who will be totally fucked in case of war anyway" -- also not great. ("People are currently being killed in great numbers anyway," as in Darfur, Kosovo: better.)

Which essentially makes the points I wanted to, but without the whole sounding unhinged thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:50 PM
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Reverse pwn! Actually, I didn't think LB's comment was really over the top; death, pain, and suffering bad. (And I left out "effects" after "salutary.")


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:54 PM
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You did not get a little overheated, and this after all, is the Theresa-Neilson-Hayden-ness of it all: what's wrong with any of us if we don't sound unhinged?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 3:58 PM
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That he described regimes which the administration regards as impossible to usefully reach diplomatic accomodation with as 'evil' and you don't? Because the administration's usage is in line with MY.

Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were described specifically as 'evil', but I'm pretty sure that word was tossed around a lot after 2001, and certainly many conservatives think that some governments (China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan to name two) are evil but that war is a bad idea against those regimes for a variety of other reasons (not always honorable).

So it just seems false to say that the thought process is 'evil' [-- cook evidence [-- war. It's more that the thought process is I,I,NK --] war.

Um, can we be nice to baa? I sorta have a blog-crush on him and it would be good if we weren't mean, since he argues in good faith and is usually pretty funny.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:00 PM
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Actually, there is significant evidence that the threat of the US and its allies attacking Iraq again had some influence on Iraq's behavior. They did not eliminate weapons programs just because they were afraid that Kofi Annan would say something mean about them.

That is a disgusting rhetorical maneuver -- trying to reduce the humanitarian costs of war to something that hippies worry about, not serious people.

One rhetorical maneuver deserves another. Yes, war is terrible. However, that does not, as you would have it, end the discussion. Indeed, it adds little if one rejects--as I do--your assumption that anyone who supports anything the Adminstration has done in Afghanistan and Iraq is evil and that such persons have no concept of war is about.

I do not see a nuclear-armed Iran as something (absent other facts) I would ever consider going to war over. Indeed, I would not impose trade sanction or take any other beligerent act. And if I thought that the Administration actually intended to attack Iran, I would be terribly concerned. That said, saying that there can be no discussion of what to do in Iran until the US unequivocally declares that it would never use any sort of military force is simply silly. As noted above, many of the lesser sanctions or means of persuasion available do not have much meaning if you know that in the long run, little or nothing will happen if they tell us to go screw ourselves.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:02 PM
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We can certainly be nice to baa -- I'd hate for him to stop commenting, for the basic reason I stated earlier today (i.e., who else is there to argue with) and with the additional fact that he is almost always entertaining, cogent, and informative. Doesn't mean that that last comment didn't cause a red mist to form in front of my eyes, though.

And who is 28? You didn't sign.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:04 PM
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Plus, I read baa a lot more charitably: if body count of innocents is going to be our primary criterion for action, then we're almost never going to be able to determine whether we're justified in warring.

Innocents always get killed, and straight body count-body count comparisons are nearly impossible to justify. (Supposing that we knew that we could invade Afghanistan and thwart six terrorist plots that would kill 18,000 Americans total, but we will kill 10,000 innocents and impoverish 150,000. Do you know how to do the math on that? I don't.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:05 PM
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your assumption that anyone who supports anything the Adminstration has done in Afghanistan and Iraq is evil

Bzzzt. Thank you for playing.

Seriously, if you want to talk with me about this, work on your accuracy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:06 PM
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There's some evidence that the Bush administration isn't entirely serious about good-faith diplomacy with Iran. And, mind you, it's hard to know which voices coming out of Iran have the upper hand.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:06 PM
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28 is me. Don't know where my name went.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:06 PM
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whether we're justified in warring.

This phraseology strikes me as equivocal, and importantly so; baa did the same thing. I'm not talking about 'whether we're justified in warring', I'm talking about whether we're justified in starting a war, as we did in Iraq, that would not have occurred without our attack. At that point, the 'innocent body count' gets quite a bit easier to calculate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:10 PM
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I will be happy to be nice to baa so long as that is compatible with the more important goal of explaining why we must take the position "No war on Iran. At all. Don't even think about it."

Ideal, maybe (and I mean maybe) some outcome that we could obtain by bluffing Iran with the threat war would be better than one we could obtain by taking the option off the table, as the cool kids go. But even so, I think the options at best rank thus:
1. That
2. Saying right now that we won't go to war with Iran
3-999,999. A bunch of other things, including the "My Humps" video
1,000,000. Actual war with Iran
So I think it's important to strive to commit ourselves to not going to war, right now, rather than running the risk that in trying to set up some bluff we* actually will find ourselves at war. After all, this is another case where the Iraq analogy doesn't cut in your favor. Maybe Saddam did a bunch of things different because of the threat of force, but since we wound up going to war anyway, they didn't matter. We'd have been better off with no threats, no compliance, and no war.

*And when I say "we" I mean me and you. I think Bush and his friends actually want a war. That is, what JM says in 33.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:15 PM
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I'm talking about whether we're justified in starting a war, as we did in Iraq, that would not have occurred without our attack. At that point, the 'innocent body count' gets quite a bit easier to calculate.

How so?

Simple example, let's say France decided to attack Hitler in 1937. Which body count do we measure? The "innocent" Gernam soldiers and civilians killed to get rid of Hitler? The tens of millions--mostly civilians--killed in the Second World War? How, exactly, is this calculation a simple one?


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:19 PM
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Again with the more measured, rational, and clear than I'm managing to be. What Weiner said.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:20 PM
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One presumes that one of the considerations in military strategy, whether the war is upon us immediately or not, will always include civillian casualties. (I certainly hope that we don't just assume that if we're attacked, we can kill as many as we want, y'know?) The acceptable innocent casualty bar is lower, perhaps, when we as a nation are not already at war, or if it's a pre-emptive strike.

If you think 'never start a war' is a moral maxim, fair enough; but I think that going into Darfur was damn near compulsory, and I'm not going to be able to argue that it had anything to do with an American vs. foreign body count.

So yeah, justified in warring.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:21 PM
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I'm not sure they actually *want* a war with Iran, Matt. That would be a crazy crazy thing to want, although I'm not ruling that possibility out.

I've personally been leaning towards the theory that the administration ruled out serious negotiations, and without that option, they just kicked the can down the road, kinda hoping that something would come along to clarify the policy. Unfortunately, that something came around in the form of Ahmedinejad and uranian enrichment.

Now we all seem to be locked into stupidity, barring some very fancy behind-the-scenes diplomatic work.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:26 PM
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OK, so just how many of us never-start-a-war hippies would have opposed going into Darfur? I know I wouldn't have. So Cala, why do you think we, that is of course, this government, didn't do that?


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:28 PM
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We'd have been better off with no threats, no compliance, and no war.

I respectfully disagree. Obviously, it is hard to prove either side of an argument over this.

in trying to set up some bluff we* actually will find ourselves at war.

I agree to the limited extent that since (in the absence of other facts) I could never justify going to war with Iran just because they had nuclear weapons, it is vital to make sure that the threat of war is so explicit, so "do 'X' or we will attack," that we run the risk of having our bluff called. However, that is a far cry from making clear at the outset that no matter what Iran does, we never will use force.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:29 PM
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I like Baa; I don't think anyone's being mean. Stiff argument isn't mean.

One rhetorical maneuver deserves another.

Oh, come on.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:31 PM
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37: There's trying to form a foreign policy based on precognition, which is impossible, and then there's having some realistic sense of what is likely to happen.

In Iraq, there it was overwhelmingly likely that war, as I said above, 'would not have' taken place in any reasonably short time horizon without out attack. For France in 1937? I'm afraid my 20th C history is too weak to remember exactly what had transpired by then; if your point is that France might have been able to prevent WW II (or, cause it to take place differently) with less loss of life by attacking Germany, I suppose an argument could be made that if it could have been known with certainty that war was coming one way or the other, that such an attack could have been justified. Knowing with certainty that an attack is coming, after all, is the historical standard for a pre-emptive strike.

That doesn't have a lot of relevance to either our conduct toward Iraq in the past, or to the way we're talking about Iran now.

And Ideal? Did you read my 32? How many arguments have we had about these topics? Are you honestly going to stand by the way you characterized my position? Because it's a nasty, unpleasant lie.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:34 PM
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41: Oh, come on. All I'm saying that 'no body count is acceptable if a war isn't started already against us' is a standard that no one outside of pacifists holds, Darfur being a prime example. Innocent casualties are one of many factors.

I am not, of course, saying something ridiculously retarded like 'Dumb hippie, if you won't invade Iran that means you won't invade the Sudan!!!11!!' I just don't think the justification adds up to straight body count, pre-war or during war, and I don't think it's equivocating to say that

I assume it's because the government doesn't give a shit about what happens in Africa if it's not threatening American security, and the U.N. shied off calling it genocide so no one had to get involved.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:35 PM
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If you think 'never start a war' is a moral maxim, fair enough; but I think that going into Darfur was damn near compulsory, and I'm not going to be able to argue that it had anything to do with an American vs. foreign body count.

The point is that there's a war going on in Darfur already -- we wouldn't be starting one. We'd be trying to end one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:35 PM
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40: I'm not sure that they want a war, but I think that some influential people in foreign policy circles have always wanted the war on Iraq to be followed by a war on Iran and one on Syria (in some order). We know now that they were committed to war on Iraq from the beginning, after all. In short: I think our leaders are crazy, or deeply unserious anyway.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:39 PM
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I'd forgotten how quick you all are. I can't do this justice, as I'm at work. More later this evening.

But for now, I guess I'll say this to LizardBreath's response. The intention of the "children and living things" comment was not that concern over the humanitarian costs of war is weak or unserious. Rather those costs are transparently obvious. Mere invocation of the atrocity of war, does not, for this reason, help me distinguish good(?) wars from bad ones. So too, I find distinguishing some wars as wars "of choice" equally unhelpful. Who would "choose" war, as one chooses a candy bar? Who denies that war means death and pain? No one.

But maybe there was also a less kindhearted suggestion in my use of that phrase "harmful to children and other living things." Maybe it is also the case that because war is so obviously terrible, I sometimes suspect that references to the atrocity of war, or suggestions that one's opponents "want war," signal not moral concern, but rather a cheap attempt to seize the moral highground. Did LB's further suggestion that I should imagine a scene of agony while "sitting in my pleasant, comfortable office" reinforce this suspicion? Why yes, it did.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:42 PM
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How many arguments have we had about these topics?

For a host of reasons, including, but not limited to, avoiding seriously derailing this thread, I am not going to list the unpleasant things you have said about Republicans in general or the Administration, or to me, in the arguments we have had.

That said, I agree that you did not write that everyone who supports what the Adminstration has done in the middle east is evil. I was silghtly overstating to make a point. A sin you seem much more willing to excuse in yourself than others.

Later.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:44 PM
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And now I've seen all the concilatory statement, and feel bad...


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:46 PM
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Not American vs. foreign body count, though, LB. *We're* not at war with Sudan. Are we justified in starting a war to save non-American lives? Is that different than being justified in warring?

And if we're counting intraregime body count, then I think we'd have to count the Iraqi populace who died under Saddam, too, wouldn't we? (FWIW, I think we should; I just think it pales compared to the damage we've done ourselves.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:47 PM
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45, 46, etc.: There are situations in which I think going to war is justified, and some of those might count as "stopping a war." Like, was Pol Pot actually engaged in war against his populace? It's not clear. But it still would've been OK for Vietnam to depose him, even if there hadn't been military provocation. I might say something similar about the North Korean regime if war there weren't totally infeasible, nukes or no nukes.

BUT I don't like having these discussions anywhere near Iran. There may be some circumstances in which we'd be justified in starting a war. Iran? Not one of them.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:47 PM
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Who would "choose" war, as one chooses a candy bar? Who denies that war means death and pain? No one.

Then how did we end up at war with Iraq? Someone wanted to go to war in Iraq with no serious reason for believing that the humanitarian costs of not going to war would be greater than the costs of going to war.

Damn straight I am seizing the moral high ground. Before I am interested in listening to another word from you on this topic, I want your theory as to how some serious person in the administration came up with a serious reason for thinking that the burning thousands of people to death was going to be less of a bad thing than whatever ill-effects they believed would come from not attacking Iraq. Unless you can convincingly make that argument, then yes, I am going to believe that this war was chosen, as one would choose a candy bar, and that the people who decided to take us to war don't give a damn about other people's death and pain.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:51 PM
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48:
It all comes down to respect for judgement. I don't in fact think that this government thinks about the costs of war enough. I would once have thought "Who would 'choose' war..." a sufficiently effective rhetorical question, now I'm not so sure.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:53 PM
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Not American vs. foreign body count, though, LB. *We're* not at war with Sudan. Are we justified in starting a war to save non-American lives? Is that different than being justified in warring?

Who other than you has raised "American vs. foreign body count"?

And if we're counting intraregime body count, then I think we'd have to count the Iraqi populace who died under Saddam, too, wouldn't we? (FWIW, I think we should; I just think it pales compared to the damage we've done ourselves.)

Sure: it's just that at the time we attacked, it was nowhere near comparable to the damage we were certain to do.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:54 PM
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That said, I agree that you did not write that everyone who supports what the Adminstration has done in the middle east is evil. I was silghtly overstating to make a point. A sin you seem much more willing to excuse in yourself than others.

I'd say apology accepted, but it doesn't quite seem justified by your tone.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:55 PM
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On that I agree. Iran is a fucking bad idea and not one motivated by, say, stopping genocide.

The closest thing to a good argument I've heard for warring Iran is:

1) If we don't prevent them from acquring nukes, Israel will declare war out of self-defense.
2) That willstart WWIII. Our warring probably won't.

But, like, that seems wayyyy too farfetched to be on the table as a serious casus belli.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:56 PM
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26 and 27 get it exactly right: 21 is not unhinged at all. I'm sick of people talking about war in a sanitized way: "We're going to kick Saddam's ass" and such. We have killed and maimed tens of thousands of people in Iraq, and no one can explain why. The U.S. media won't show photos of the people we've killed and maimed because that would upset Americans too much. Tough shit: we should be upset, and should understand exactly what's being done in our name.

Many of the same people who claim to be "pro-life," and who get all anguished about killing a blastula or poor Terri Schiavo, support this obscene war. WTF? As the button I wear says, "Killing one person is murder. Killing 100,000 is foreign policy." If Aileen Wuornos was a "monster" (the title of the movie about her) for killing eight guys, what is Bush -- a mega-monster? Somehow most people seem not to consider war at all commensurable with other forms of homicide.


Posted by: Frederick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:57 PM
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baa: Did LB's further suggestion that I should imagine a scene of agony while "sitting in my pleasant, comfortable office" reinforce this suspicion? Why yes, it did.

Yo, LB asks the rhetorical questions. Your incisive remarks come after colons.

Cala: And if we're counting intraregime body count, then I think we'd have to count the Iraqi populace who died under Saddam, too, wouldn't we?

I think only the ones who were going to die, not the ones he'd already killed. I think d-squared said somewhere that, you might really despise Suharto of Indonesia for killing so many people in his original coup (I've seen 500,000-1m cited, though the front-page results are from sources I don't necessarily trust), but that wouldn't give you a reason for deposing him now. East Timor is another matter, though we didn't have to depose Suharto to stop that.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 4:59 PM
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In 58, "21" sb "20."


Posted by: Frederick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:03 PM
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Of course the math is hard to do on these questions -- that's why they call it moral calculus.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:06 PM
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There is a wealth of written material on Just War Theory, which seems to be the moral background to those arguing against war in Iran (and elsewhere).

I've read only Walzer on the subject, but he was instructive and I agreed. I don't have my copy of Just and Unjust Wars with me, but here's a taste of some good Walzer:

How can we, the opponents of murder, fail to resist the practice of mass murder—even if that resistance requires us, as the phrase goes, to get hands dirty (that is, to become murderers ourselves)?How can we, the opponents of murder, fail to resist the practice of mass murder—even if that resistance requires us, as the phrase goes, to get hands dirty (that is, to become murderers ourselves)?

By his measure, I'm fairly certain that:

-Sudan: just for us to intervene
-Iran: unjust for us to intervene


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:09 PM
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And if we're counting intraregime body count, then I think we'd have to count the Iraqi populace who died under Saddam, too, wouldn't we?

This is a little problematic, given that a number of the deaths under Saddam occurred with our tacit consent, or at least with our previous knowledge. And also there truly is a difference, politically speaking (if war is, after all, "politics by other means") between an essentially stable situation, albeit one in which terrible human rights abuses are occurring, and a clearly unstable and escalating situation (e.g., Darfur) where the intervention of an overwhelmingly superior army might actually *stop* the fighting long enough to hopefully create an opportunity for less violent solutions to the problem.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:12 PM
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LB, you're right, no one besides me mentioned American lives. I'm not quite sure what this proves. We were talking about being justified in starting a war as if it were meaningfully different than warring, cause I was being sneaky and trying to pull one over on someone, or something, which made me think that no war was going on (because then we're not starting one), and absent that, it seems that American lives lost or threatened are among the main considerations for the involvment of the American army.

I just don't think there's much of a distinction, (or that in the absence of any war, all lives lost if we go in and war count as innocent lives) between the justifications for starting a war and the justifications for joining a war that isn't ours. Assuming we have good reasons for starting the war, I don't think it just boils down to body count.

And the main reason I don't think that is not because I want a reason to invade Iran, but because that kind of calculus seems to lead me to conclude that the American army can go in anywhere as long as we don't kill more people than their government was plausibly going to.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:15 PM
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I think Weiner got that right in 59 -- you have to look at probable deaths going forward, not at deaths in the past.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:16 PM
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I don't think it just boils down to body count.

FWIW, neither do I. But the question of whether one is going to do more harm than good is one that should be taken seriously, however "harm" is measured. It seems clear and obvious to me that attacking Iran at this point is going to do a *lot* more harm than good, just as attacking Iraq did.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:19 PM
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Before I am interested in listening to another word from you on this topic, I want your theory as to how some serious person in the administration came up with a serious reason for thinking that the burning thousands of people to death was going to be less of a bad thing than whatever ill-effects they believed would come from not attacking Iraq.

Ok, I take back feeling bad.

You, not Tony Blair, not Michael Ignatieff, not John McCain, not Paul Wolfowitz, care about human suffering. None of the reasons that motivated these people could have been held by the members of the Bush administration. These people chose death and agony like a candy bar. Listen to yourself, for heaven's sake.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:24 PM
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66: I *am* taking it seriously. Which is why I think that there's more than body count, but I don't think that it's just a straight harm calculus, either. I mean, hell, there's a lot of nastyass regimes out there, and I'm sure we could depose a fair amount of them, install puppet governments, with less loss of life than will happen if we don't.

But I don't think that counts as a just war.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:29 PM
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Shorter baa: "I'm more concerned with people impugning the basic decency of powerful politicians than with the death of innocents."


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:30 PM
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See, that's what I mean by being mean. This isn't a fucking dialogue.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:35 PM
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baa, I can't find it right now, but Hilzoy had a great post about how being serious about something meant thinking about it clearly. If you aren't willing to think about it clearly it means you're not really serious. The upshot being that the Bush Administration, who substituted wishful thinking for careful planning throughout, wasn't actually serious about winning the war.

Its application to this case: Paul "no history of ethnic strife" Wolfowitz doesn't really care about human suffering, no he doesn't. If he did, he would actually learn a fact or two about a country before he started invading it. Some people may care so much that it stops them from thinking straight, that may be what happened with Ignatieff and Blair and other actual liberal hawks. But: war is bad shit which should be avoided without a really good reason, and a lot of people have shown themselves unable to appreciate that. Maybe that'll hurt their feelings, but I don't mind hurting their feelings if it means they'll think a little harder before the next time they start getting people killed.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:37 PM
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64: I'm not quite following your point here (and sorry for calling you equivocal. I should, better, have said 'failing to make an important distinction.') In weighing the humanitarian costs of war, particularly on the 'people burning to death' front, the most important distinction is between war and peace: in a state of war, many people are burned to death, eviscerated, and otherwise die in agony; during a state of peace, relatively few people do.

So when you are considering starting a war, rather than beginning to participate in an ongoing war, the humanitarian scales are tipped way, way over in one direction. Your reason for starting a war has to be good enough, from a humanitarian point of view, to justify moving from peace to war, and causing the inevitable thousands of agonizing deaths. And there's almost no reason good enough to do that.

When the question is whether to intervene in an ongoing war (or an ongoing condition within a regime causing suffering literally comparable to war), the scales don't start out all the way to one side -- the question becomes whether military intervention can ameiliorate the currently unbearable state of affairs.

I think we probably don't disagree about much of this -- I'm not sure where, or if, we part company.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:39 PM
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Not much, LB. I just don't think the calculus is all that different, except that you don't have a baseline assumed body count. There aren't a lot of situations in which it would be good to start a war, but I think we add up the calculus roughly the same whether we're starting it or debating options when we continue it. It's just that the threshold is much harder to overcome when starting a war.

I just took 'equivocating' as fighting words, because it is for a philosopher.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:43 PM
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64: I think the difference between starting a war and joining one in progress might mostly boil down to "how many people will die anyway?" -- where that stands in for whatever bad effects you like. I'm kind of with Hobbes here -- states of war are such bad shit that even living under a repressive government is usually better.

Part of it is that I doubt that we really could depose too many nastyass regimes and put in democracies instead. Most peoples will bridle under invasion; and war will give lots of unsavory characters the chance to try to seize power, and start trouble; so deposing a regime and putting in a better government would usually involve more death and harder work than it might seem. Nonviolent measures would probably do more good.

(Interestingly, the big recent case where US invasion led to democracy was Panama, which has to be about the worst excuse for a casus belli the US has had since about the Mexican War. I'd be interested in a bit more analysis of what went right there.)

[on preview, totally pwned by 72-3, but posting anyway]


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:47 PM
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But look, lots of people supported the war in Iraq. Many of them were centrist liberals, as Matt notes.

I don't think it's fair to say of them that they didn't care more than a candy bar about Iraqi lives. Even if they weren't thinking straight or clearly. I'm not sure that's fair of the Bush administration either. It's probably at least two candy bars and a barrel of oil, and a messiah complex.

I like hilzoy, but if we define thinking clearly as 'getting the right answer even when being lied to', well, hell. Who meets that standard? And to paint everyone as not caring about Iraqi lives more than a candy bar is inflammatory and really fucking uncharitable.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:49 PM
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68: Oh, I wasn't saying that you don't take it seriously; I was agreeing with you, and then going on to reiterate/expand the question of "body count," which I am agreeing with you is too narrow in and of itself. I also agree with you that deposing dictators /= just war, although I honestly doubt that most stable dictatorships kill more of their own people than an all-out war would. But of course that's just a vague feeling rather than any kind of demonstrable fact.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:49 PM
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There are rumors that we've already started some shit by arming and infiltrating the ethnic minorities in the Kurdish, Baluch, and Arab regions. And then there's all that using the MEK as a cut-out. Those aren't cats that can easily be put back in the bag.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:51 PM
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I guess it depends on the mess and whether you count distributing the AIDS vaccine as lives saved. Totally besides the point though.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:52 PM
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I think this is the post of hilzoy's Weiner was trying to reference, and it says exactly what I want to say.

No one, who supported this war with full knowledge of the facts (i.e., that any risk to us from Iraq's supposed WMDs was invented), was serious in caring about the loss of life. Because if they had been serious about that, they wouldn't have supported the war. I have heard no plausible argument that the humanitarian result of invading Iraq could possibly have been preferable to the humanitarian result of not invading Iraq. You can say all you like that I'm being unspeakably rude in claiming that hawks didn't value the pain and death they were seeking to inflict, you can say all you like that there must have been some reason that invading Iraq was acceptable from humanitarian terms, but what you can't seem to do is come up with an argument that could be accepted by anyone paying attention in the slightest as to what that reason could have been.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:52 PM
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75: But the difference between citizens who supported the war and the administration is that we were misled. By the administration. In other words, they knew that the rationales they were offering were false; and though I'll argue that we *should* have known those were false, I'll also accept that a lot of people were willing to believe the administration because, after all, it was the U.S. White House, and would they actually *lie* about trying to get the country into war?? Well, now we know they would, and did. So while the "no more than a candy bar" thing may be hyperbolic, it isn't *just* hyperbole; there is pretty clear evidence that the Bush administration did not care a whole hell of a lot about what the consequences of the war were likely to be, nor did they try really hard to think about it. I remember Rumsfeld at a press conference, when pressed on whether or not we might destabilize the country, saying breezily that we'd be "greeted as liberators" and essentially dismissing the question as one not worth considering. That bespeaks a real callousness.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:57 PM
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And in partial concurrence with Cala's points, the single most annoying conversation I had during the run-up to the Iraq invasion was the argument I had with the serious boyfriend of one of my best friends during which he went ON and ON about the Iraqi children suffering under sanctions and about how alleviating such suffering provided a positive moral argument for invading Iraq. My attempt at pointing out that said children would probably not fare well in a war did not move him to second thoughts. He would probably self-identify as left-leaning.

(That argument happened on the first fucking night I met him. You would think he'd try to be a little more rational and conciliatory with his girlfriend's long-term female friends. Of course, we all later found out that he was a cocaine addict.)


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:58 PM
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But how many people had full knowledge of the facts? That's an awfully high standard to avoid candy bar land. I mean, even Be/lle supported the war, and the latest round of apologies aside, I don't think she was tossing candy bar calculi around.

It's also totally plausible that one could believe now that invasion was still a matter of security. I think that's nuts, but I think that's different than saying that someone just was so racist that the deaths of people didn't matter to them since the people were brown. And I sure as hell hope so, because I think I have a much better chance of convincing someone that the casus belli was nuts than I do convincing them to give up the candy bar.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 5:58 PM
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I don't think it's fair to say of them that they didn't care more than a candy bar about Iraqi lives. Even if they weren't thinking straight or clearly. I'm not sure that's fair of the Bush administration either.

I like hilzoy, but if we define thinking clearly as 'getting the right answer even when being lied to', well, hell. Who meets that standard? And to paint everyone as not caring about Iraqi lives more than a candy bar is inflammatory and really fucking uncharitable.

I mean to (and sort of did -- see the words 'with full knowledge of the facts') to draw a firm distinction between the people who were lied to, and the people who were lying. (If you (referent of 'you' here being indefinite) want to quibble about lying versus knowingly relying on cherry-picked and invented intelligence, but maybe really believing it, go crazy.) Some decent people appear to have been fooled. I don't really see how that happened, except that baa's argument (that is, the one he's still making) that the people advocating war must have taken the humanitarian costs seriously because it's too horrible to think that they wouldn't have is a convincing one, and I think it swayed a lot of people. People who do care about the humanitarian costs.

But that excuse isn't available to the people on the inside, who did have knowledge.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:02 PM
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82 before 80. Still, I'm disinclined to think that no one cared at all about Iraqi casualties. That is, I think that the administration honestly believed that Iraq was a serious threat, just not in the WMD route. (I do think that the administration valued Iraqi lives less than American lives. I'm sure that's a moral flaw, but I don't know if it's a plausible one for a politician not to have.)

Maybe I'm wrong, but if that's the case, then why the fuck are we over there? Oil? Why can't we just buy that? It can't be for the sunshine. Revenge for Gulf I? I don't know. Economic gain? Hahafuckingwhatnow?

Maybe I'm beyond nave.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:06 PM
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I honestly doubt that most stable dictatorships kill more of their own people than an all-out war would. But of course that's just a vague feeling rather than any kind of demonstrable fact.

The first sentence is probably right. In 2004, Human Rights Watch issued a report concluding that the war in Iraq could not be justified as a humanitarian intervention. The report has a thoughtful discussion of when military intervention is justified on humanitarian grounds.


Posted by: Frederick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:10 PM
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Maybe I'm wrong, but if that's the case, then why the fuck are we over there?

Domestic political advantage? Pie-in-the-sky fantasizing about rearranging the power structure in the Middle East, in a manner that is willing to trade an awful lot of lives for a highly speculative possible good outcome?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:11 PM
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Oil. Revenge. Halliburton. Bush's desire to be a "war president." And, I think, a lot of really stupid ideology that refused to even consider opposing views because no, I honestly think they don't give a flying fuck what damage they do as long as they consolidate power.

Really. I hate to believe those things, but I don't see what else to believe any more.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:15 PM
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That 36% is looking a lot like an advantage.... how incompetent can these guys get?

I think the latter question is probably right, though, except they probably didn't believe the 'highly speculative' part.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:16 PM
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From the hilzoy post, I just can't wrap my mind around this:

The officials didn't develop any real postwar plans because they believed that Iraqis would welcome U.S. troops with open arms and Washington could install a favored Iraqi exile leader as the country's leader.

Wow. I think given this, as per Cala's 75 [on preview: and 82, 83], maybe nobody at all outside the Administration can be held accountable for supporting the war. I figured I hated the Administration as much as anyone, but I never for a moment thought that they would JUST. NOT. PLAN. for the occupation.

And I have to say, the people in the Administration who didn't plan: they didn't care about war, suffering, and the pain you cause. How could they be so casual? Or maybe this goes beyond not caring, it seems absolutely psychotic to me.

So, no one outside the Administration could've predicted that they'd fuck up Iraq this badly. But now we know.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:16 PM
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As for why, I think it's some combination. Wolfowitz was into the pie in the sky, Rove I don't think has ever thought of anything besides consolidating power, a bunch of people (e.g. Rumsfeld) had an idée-fixe about Iraq for a long long time, put them together and they got Bush's ear. And then, take it away Colbert:

The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday.

Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:21 PM
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I figured I hated the Administration as much as anyone, but I never for a moment thought that they would JUST. NOT. PLAN. for the occupation.

Don't you remember Rumsfeld saying we'd be greeted with flowers in the street??? That was the moment when I thought, "holy shit, we are So Fucked." And then Mr. B. and I had an argument when the war started about what would happen when the infrastructure was destroyed, and he said that we'd be more careful than that and surely were prepared to deal with it, and then there was no water in Basra and he shook his head and said that he was sad to find out that I had been right.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:22 PM
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90: Don't forget Cheney.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:23 PM
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Maybe it's a hubris tragedy. Really, how seductive would it be to believe that you, you had the chance to remake the Middle East, and while there would be lots of death and agony now, in twenty-five years, you, you will have ended the threat of fundamentalist Islam for everyone, and you can do it right now because the American people will let you and you are the last remaining superpower. You could make Rome look like a blip in history, if you just have the guts to stay the course.

Pretty seductive.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:24 PM
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89: These guys literally do not let themselves get confused by facts. Whatever the issue, they know what's right, and treat facts that call their position into question as annoying irrelevancies. The PNAC had long ago concluded that taking over Iraq was a great idea and that our troops would be greeted with flowers and chocolate. Once the PNAC people got into power, they weren't going to let themselves be dissuaded by a bunch of naysayers in the State Department.


Posted by: Frederick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:26 PM
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Re my 94, see Neal Gabler's article in the Los Angeles Times, "George W. Bush's Medieval Presidency":

The difference between the current administration and its conservative forebears is that facts don't seem to matter at all. They don't even matter enough to reinterpret. Bush doesn't read the papers or watch the news, and Condoleezza Rice, his national security advisor, reportedly didn't read the National Intelligence Estimate, which is apparently why she missed the remarks casting doubt on claims that Iraq was trying to acquire uranium from Africa. (She reportedly read the document later.) And although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld hasn't disavowed reading or watching the news, he has publicly and proudly disavowed paying any attention to it. In this administration, everyone already knows the truth.


Posted by: Frederick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 6:33 PM
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I know it's unpopular, but I really do recommend that people read Packer's The Assassins' Gate for insight into how and why it happened. Yeah, he's a punk toward people who were right prior to the war, but his account of the unrealistic expectations is still interesting.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 7:07 PM
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I think Cala is right in 93, which explains why she's kind of wrong elsewhere. I mean, every political actor who isn't motivated by simple greed or maybe by genocidal rage is in some sense well-intentioned. They all care about suffering on some level; they're all striving towards their idea of the good, it's just that some of them conveniently construe the good as whatever will aggrandize their power and self-concept most. So in some sense Bush & co. cared about Iraqi suffering, but not enough to think hard about what would minimize it, as LB and Hilzoy said well. And that bar is not high enough that they deserve an ounce of charity. This wasn't an honest mistake, it was an ongoing, motivated self-delusion to allow them to get what they wanted. It's not different, in terms of its effect on the world, then just wanting to mow down Iraqis for the hell of it. It's *somewhat* different in terms of intent, but not different enough. It's like the difference between raping someone thinking "she really wants it" and raping someone knowing she doesn't. The candy bar was believing in their grand manipulation of the course of history, and they did appear to care about it more than human suffering. Revealed preference, yo.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 8:53 PM
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Maybe this is hopeless, but here goes.

The paragraph below is the point of my first post.

Some regimes won’t respond to diplomacy and don’t keep their agreements. This is a sad fact of the world, not the postulate of some partisan politics. The question, then, is which regimes are like this, and what to do with them. Maybe Iran isn’t such a regime. Maybe even if it is, the facts are such that no country should ever, ever, consider military action against them to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons. Those are reasonable positions. If we’re all involved in a search for truth, however, those positions should be argued. Maybe, as a matter of political tactics, opponents of military action in Iran should not engage in any discussion with their opponents until they’ve gained various concessions. I suspect that is in fact losing political tactics (any plan beats no plan), but fine. My small point was that Ygelsias combined advocacy of evasive tactics with a strawman of his opponent’s position in a way that enables him to gloss over what his recommendation actually is. That’s not a useful way to engage in truth-seeking conversation.

Maybe this is a misreading of Yglesias. Maybe this wasn’t a topic anyone wanted to discuss. Maybe Bush and his henchmen are so evil, and his partisans so filled with bad faith, that nothing but political stagecraft remains, and talk of truth-seeking conversations is beside the point. Ok, we don’t have to have that conversation, but I would have thought the general sentiments unobjectionable.

I also quite concur with Matt and Cala’s general points that it’s fine to say all that I say above, but this cuts little ice as a policy matter if you think the Bush administration is just systematically mendacious. I wasn’t trying to take a position on this, simply because there are too many disagreements on matters of fact to make discussion in the setting of a comments thread useful. Also, many thanks to them for keeping the discussion on these points classy.

Then there was the section of my first post that started us down an ugly path. I confessed exasperation with the rhetoric of “war of choice” and “wanting war.” I think these phrases frequently express nothing more than moral vanity. I stand by that. I also think moral vanity becomes less lovely when it substitutes for argument. I stand by that too.

I don’t want to needlessly offend Lizardbreath more than I already have, but it’s something of an astonishing move to instruct your interlocutor to “imagine suffering.” And maybe if one signs on to several empirical claims with respect to the Iraq war, it makes sense to go about demanding as a condition of conversation an explanation of how the Bush administration is not universally composed of moral monsters. To me, these seem signs of a conversation completely off the rails. If people don’t see that, there’s probably no way forward.

Last, let me just treat one more issue Matt raised. Yes, the horror of war creates a prima facie argument against war. The problem is that for most cases under discussion, that isn’t decisive. Knowing that the burden of proof is against violence doesn’t suffice to distinguish the good wars from the bad ones. That’s all I meant.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 9:29 PM
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I agree that there are some problems with Yglesias's rhetoric, but I don't see how he's "gloss[ing] over what his recommendation actually is"; his recommendation, which he has expressed frequently (and with which I agree), is that the US should not initiate military action against Iran. He's pretty vague on what we should do, but since he's arguing that the current crisis is wildly overblown it doesn't really matter to him--the more pressing issue is keeping us out of war.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 9:51 PM
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The candy bar was believing in their grand manipulation of the course of history, and they did appear to care about it more than human suffering.

Jean-Luc Godard in "Notre Musique" (2004):

Killing a man to defend an idea isn't defending an idea. It's killing a man.


Posted by: Frederick | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 10:14 PM
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96:"but his[Packer] account of the unrealistic expectations is still interesting."

Late to chime in here, but I seem to be the only I know to retain some skepticism. That Wolfowitz said "There was no history of ethnic strife" does not mean Wolfowitz really believed what he said. In fact, I find it quite difficult to believe that Wolfowitz was so ignorant or deluded.

The failure as incompetence due to positive thinking, willful delusion, unrealistic expectations but good intentions is the most flattering explanation available, and I do not trust the likes of Packer as an authority that will force me to accept it.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 10:15 PM
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baa, Elsewhere, Matt has outlined his case for the concrete reasons why war with Iran is a bad idea and would in fact be the worst possible outcome. More specifically, here. The post under discussion builds on the conclusions reached in that prior essay. In a format such a blogging, I don't think he can fairly be expected to lay out all of his premises and reasoning in every post.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 10:16 PM
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When I say "the likes of Packer", I am talking about the professional foreign policy establishment.
MY criticizes Nossel & Ross. I have been arguing with Steve Clemons. Everybody hates the "liberal hawks" like Beinart and Berman. My impression is that there are extremely strong limits to the kinds of criticism allowed, to the degree of disagreement permitted in order to stay in that club. Nossel and Berman must be able to dine with Richard Perle, or they might as well move to Trinidad.

And discussing the motivations and justifications for war, both before and after blood has been spilled, even long after, must be done very very carefully.

If we do attack Iran, having a record that describes Bush as imbecilic or pernicious for doing so I think will remove you from access and influence to power forever. Thus the Beinarts and Pollacks and Nossels. And Packers.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 05- 1-06 10:41 PM
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I don’t want to needlessly offend Lizardbreath more than I already have, but it’s something of an astonishing move to instruct your interlocutor to “imagine suffering.” And maybe if one signs on to several empirical claims with respect to the Iraq war, it makes sense to go about demanding as a condition of conversation an explanation of how the Bush administration is not universally composed of moral monsters. To me, these seem signs of a conversation completely off the rails. If people don’t see that, there’s probably no way forward.

I am somewhat cooler than I was yesterday afternoon, so here goes with a more moderate reply. Yes, it is an astonishing move to ask your interlocutor to contemplate the suffering their position (or, rather, the position of those they support. I'm perfectly willing to allow ordinary citizens who supported the war off the hook on the ground that they were deceived about the facts) has caused. It is a move that becomes appropriate, on the other hand, when one is unable to follow any argument from the premises available to them to the conclusions they arrived at that incorporates due concern for that suffering.

For those actors who brought the US into war with Iraq, I can see no legitimate argument that took them from the information they had available (that is, knowing that Iraq was not an acute danger to the US or to any other country), to the decision to attack Iraq, that implies that the human costs of war were considered.

Baa: If you can see that argument, starting from "Iraq has no weapons that pose any danger to us, and won't for the indefinite future" and ending with "Nonetheless, the costs of not attacking Iraq are high enough that it is worth killing many tens of thousands to avoid those costs", I'm willing to listen to it. It's possible that it exists, and I'm just not seeing it. But in the absence of such an argument, a claim that the argument must exist, because if there is no such argument, and the administration didn't consider the human costs of war, then they all must be moral monsters and that is self-evidently absurd, isn't convincing. If it's self-evidently absurd to say that the human costs of war weren't considered, show me some evidence that they were.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 7:49 AM
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The argument does, of course, exist. It goes like this:

(a) If we overthrow Saddam and install a liberal regime, it will produce ripples of liberalization throughout the middle east.

On its face, this is a non-crazy argument, and one that I can see being justified—as, for example, when Niall Ferguson used to make it. I can imagine a president devoted to proposition (a), aware that proposition (a) might sound too abstract and complex to the population, willing therefore to lie or at least fudge about WMD to make the case for (a), and now haunted by the deaths he caused, staring in the mirror at 3 AM and muttering, "uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."

But we know that's not the whole story. There is also

(b) Actually, a "liberal" regime isn't good enough; we need a democratic regime.

This is where things begin to go off the rails, because while you're making the case to the public, (b) sounds great, but you know in your heart of hearts that democracy in the Middle East is a huge gamble.

But we know the argument actually went further, because you assuaged your fears about gambling with

(c) People all over the world, irrespective of their experience and traditions, prefer market capitalism and liberal democracy to all other forms of social organization. Their desire for these forms is like a great, pent-up floodtide, dammed only by repressive institutions, so that if we simply knock a hole in the dam, democracy and markets will rush forth and sweep over the land.

Now, to me that's crazy talk, but I can see the attraction of believing it. And if you believe it you can justify not planning for the occupation and you can still justify what's going on in Iraq today. You just have to hang in there, continue to knock away the existing obstacles to freedom, persuaded that if you do, it will magically burst forth from native sources.

As it happens, my own understanding of human nature leads me to suspect our leaders are not wandering around their offices clutching casualty reports and saying grimly "What infinite heart's-ease must kings neglect, that private men enjoy!" Rather, the language of toughness is so ingrained in our cultures of leadership, they are more likely turning their faces away from the endless "bad news" from Iraq, and saying with Joseph Chamberlain, "you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs."


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 8:33 AM
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105: You (or rather, the administration, given that you're not making this argument) are missing a crucial step -- that we had the practical capacity to install even a liberal dictatorship, much less a liberal democracy, in Iraq, or even that we had good reason to think that there was a respectable chance of doing so.

Or, come to think of it, you're not missing it -- it's your step (c). Which is so self-evidently blitheringly stupid (I can think of a whole lot of power vacuums throughout history that weren't spontaneously filled by liberal democracies -- how about you?) that anyone relying on that kind of nonsense to justify the human costs of starting a war is either, in the words baa prefers, a 'moral monster,' or is too stupid to make himself a sandwich with anything sharper than a plastic spatula.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 8:41 AM
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When I read the PR fairy tale about George Bush being so passionately in love with democracy, as though he's a modern-day Rousseau or Thomas Jefferson, it's all I can do to not throw up. The contempt he's shown for the democratic processes in not only Iraq and the U.S., but in places like Palestine, Venezuela, Bolivia, and even Iran (where the hard-right president was overwhelmingly elected), indicates that either he's caught up in a massive loop of self-delusion or he's more knowingly cynical and amoral than even I'd care to imagine. In either case, it's an abyss I can't stare into for too long without becoming deeply upset.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:02 AM
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Don't forget Turkey, where Paul Wolfowitz suggested that if the parliament wouldn't get on board with the war on Iraq the army should encourage them.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:08 AM
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True! Turkey.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:09 AM
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in places like Palestine, Venezuela, Bolivia, and even Iran

Don't forget Iraq. The idea that Washington gives a rat's ass about democracy is absurd and almost completely without supporting evidence. What our government's overriding concern has always been is establishing governments that are friendly toward American corporate interests, quite without regard to any constitutional niceties.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:11 AM
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I agree, (c) is blitheringly stupid. But it is what a large percentage of Americans believe.

Joey D, you know and I know that the president doesn't believe in democracy in any consequential way, but you and I are pragmatists: we think that a person can only hold a belief if that belief is a blueprint for action. The president thinks he can hold a belief if he affirms that he holds the belief. (Does that make him an idealist? Philosophers, help.)


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:12 AM
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Don't forget Iraq.

I didn't.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:14 AM
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112: I'll be damned. No, you didn't.

Where am I? Who are all you people?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:15 AM
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Oh, and in defense of Niall Ferguson (not that he needs my help) we do have the capacity to install a liberal dictatorship in Iraq. For all that we spend on military capacity—and we spend about half of all the money spent in the world on military capacity—it's a minuscule proportion of our GDP. We could afford to spend much more. Likewise the percentage of our population in uniform is minuscule.

So you can plausibly argue that we could have installed a liberal dictatorship in Iraq, and we could have run a proper occupation. It would just have meant being honest with ourselves about what we were about, taxing ourselves to pay for it, actually projecting the cost and putting it in the budget, and probably conscripting people.

Which is as much as to say, we couldn't do it. But another people possessing the resources that the United States has, but a very different political culture, history, and ruling class, could do it.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:18 AM
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And what is this extraordinarily complicated thing I find in my back pocket?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:18 AM
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Us? We're the unserious, never-start-a-war hippies.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:19 AM
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115 to 113.

But does Ferguson deserve your defense? There was no practical prospect, given the actors involved, that installing a liberal democracy in Iraq would actually happen. To use a military cliche that gets thrown around a lot, hope is not a plan. Even if the thing you're hoping for is possible, just believing that it would be great if it happened is not a plan.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:22 AM
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Again, in fairness—and I feel compelled to reiterate, I am just being fair; I have been disagreeing with Ferguson on this point since 1998—the argument is slightly more sophisticated than hope. The argument is,

(a) the only power in the world today with the capacity to behave as Great Britain did in the c19 is the US.

(You have to stipulate that you, on balance, approve of the UK in the c19. Let's not have that argument, let's continue to have this argument.)

(b) in fact the US has more capacity to behave more independently than the UK in the c19, on strictly material terms.

(c) so all the US has to do is pull up its socks and put on the mantle of empire (yes, okay, I meant, "take up the white man's burden", Rudyard).

As far as this goes, it is correct. Where it falters is of course that the actual Americans living in America today can't pull up their socks because they can't see over their fat bellies, and no amount of neo-Victorian exhortation is going to get them out there and stuck into the sordid business of civilizing the wogs. If that's what you want them to do. Which I personally don't. But I hope you see the point.

I reiterate, I am simply trying to be fair to the argument. If you asked me, what should we be doing in the interest of world peace, I would answer, we should be trying to compose a new, great-power, Bretton Woods and Dumbarton Oaks system that recognizes modern loci of power. But that's not the argument we're having, is it.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:31 AM
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That's fair enough, but the 'hope' I was referring to was Ferguson's hope that the current government of the US would be at all likely to devote a serious effort to what has been contemptutously referred to as nation-building. I'd agree that it's not unrealistic to think that, if we were ruled by people who agreed with Ferguson, that we could have the practical capacity to do what he suggests (and I'm not entirely without any vestige of sympathy for the benevolent imperialism he's advocating) but his belief (and I'm taking his position from your descriptions -- I'm vaguely familiar with his name, but not enough to be engaging with him directly) that his position had any resemblance to the likely manner in which the Iraq war would be conducted seems unconscionably deluded.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:38 AM
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his belief ... that his position had any resemblance to the likely manner in which the Iraq war would be conducted seems unconscionably deluded.

See, I think this is a question of degree, rather than of kind. I.e., yes, you can't seriously have held the position that Bush was Disraeli, Yankee-style. But the extent to which we were bent on doing this ass-backward has been shocking, I think even to people who opposed the administration from the get-go. I never thought the war was a good idea, but like Mr. B (I gather from upthread comments) I kind of thought that the professional soldiers would be able to make much of it right, once they were in control. I did figure that there would be a time-limit on their ability to keep things clamped down and stable, but I never guessed that the time horizon would be essentially nil.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:43 AM
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Some regimes won’t respond to diplomacy and don’t keep their agreements.

I'm not sure I accept this premise. I would say rather, as Tia's saying in 97 basically, that *all* regimes won't respond to *some* diplomacy, and won't keep *some* agreements. In some cases, this problem is more extreme than in others; largely, it's worse in dictatorships, where one person or a small group of decision-makers are entirely in charge of the nation's course, and where there are no domestic structures in place to accomodate dissent or resistance. And I think the problem is that all people have the capacity for self-delusion in the service of some vision of the world, as Tia's saying.

So it seems to me that the solution is to figure out, okay, what is so-and-so's vision of the world, and is it possible to use that, rhetorically, to gain a handle on their actions and influence their decisions? In some cases, not: for instance, if the view of the world of X leader is that America is evil, then there is probably no way for America, at least, to negotiate with them. (This is the problem with the rhetoric of "evil," imho.)

I don't know enough about Iran to have an opinion about how best to negotiate with them; I do know enough about the Bush administration to have real qualms about its ability to see the world through any lens other than the one it wants to be true. So I don't have an answer to the problem of Iran's nuclear intentions, other than that I don't trust the Bush administration's argument in favor of war, and I think that it should be taken off the table until there is evidence, which currently I don't see, that it's necessary to consider it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:52 AM
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ee, I think this is a question of degree, rather than of kind. I.e., yes, you can't seriously have held the position that Bush was Disraeli, Yankee-style. But the extent to which we were bent on doing this ass-backward has been shocking, I think even to people who opposed the administration from the get-go. I never thought the war was a good idea, but like Mr. B (I gather from upthread comments) I kind of thought that the professional soldiers would be able to make much of it right, once they were in control.

Here, we get back to the moral seriousness point, and what I mean by all of the overheated rhetoric about people burning to death and dying slowly and painfully. Sure, it wasn't unreasonable to think that there was a decent chance that the aftermath of the war would be essentially a decent, competently run military dictatorship under the US military, and such a dictatorship mightn't be a bad place to live, so long as it held up -- post-war Germany and Japan did okay. I thought the post-war period was going to turn out much better than it did, too. I didn't think it would turn out well -- I was expecting civil war, or something approximating it, whenever we finally pulled out, but I thought the immediate aftermath would probably be okay.

But when you start making bets on how something is going to turn out, you need to look at the stakes. And the stakes here are great piles of blackened corpses. Once the stakes are that high, you need better than a decent chance that things are going to turn out all right, you need something approaching certainty -- anyone who thought we had anything like the level of certainty necessary to make this bet was either awfully deluded about the facts, or wasn't taking the stakes terribly seriously.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 10:13 AM
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122—yes, well, we are in agreement here, except inasmuch as I would say, the extent to which the risk analysis went awry is only completely evident in retrospect. Where's baa or Idealist to argue?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 10:30 AM
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Erm, if I would guess, feeling outnumbered and traduced. I do feel bad about the intensity of my tone in this regard -- I can completely understand not wanting to engage with someone who's been arguing as I've been arguing -- but I can't figure out how to make the substantive points I'm trying to in a gentler fashion.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 10:38 AM
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LB, for what it's worth I largely agree with you.

I'm inclined towards the general view that the Bush administration have proved themselves incompetent liars to such a degree that the very fact that they favour some course of action or another is damn near prima facie evidence that that course of action is stupid, or venal, or both.


Posted by: Matt McGrattan | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 10:54 AM
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Here I am!

I'll concentrate my response on LB:

A couple of points on your position, although we seem to be well on to Ferguson. First, you seem be relying on a very strong separation between what the Bush administration knew and the reasons available to them, and what other war supporters knew and the reasons available to them. That’s what enables you to look at Ignatieff, Makiya, Blair, etc. - people you acknowledge as decent - and still maintain that it’s reasonable to think Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/etc. chose war like a candy bar. (which really is about as evil as it's possible to be)

I don’t think the facts support that strong separation. As it happens, on the topic where the distinction between “administration knowledge” and “Ignatieff knowledge” is most plausible -- the presence of chemical and biological weapons stockpiles -- it’s hard for me to care about that difference. If we discover a big cache of Sarin gas tomorrow under Saddam palace #23, I doubt anyone would change their mind on the advisability of the invasion. Nor should they.

Second, here are four arguments:
1. Sanctions against Hussein will not keep him contained. Eventually, he will subvert them fully and get nuclear weapons. This is a reason for deposing his regime by force.
2. Saddam Hussein keeps on subverting his surrender conditions from Gulf War I. This is a reason for deposing his regime by force
3. Saddam Hussein is an exceptionally aggressive, unpredictable tyrant who commands an important and powerful state. His actions, or those of his successors, are likely to cause suffering over the coming years. This is a reason for deposing his regime by force.
4. Saddam Hussein runs a sadistic police state which inflicts enormous suffering on its citizens. This is a reason for deposing his regime by force.

Different people gave different weight to these arguments. Some even ruled out one or more of these arguments entirely (as you seem to do with argument one). Likewise, different people made different estimates of the likely costs of war, and yes, bodies, both charred and not, actually was something people thought a great deal about. Nonetheless, one could think the force of these four arguments, or some subset, sufficed as justification for deposing Hussein. Drawing this conclusion does not imply or require insensitivity to human suffering. I don’t exactly know what more evidence you want here: it’s a transparently obvious point.

There could be other evidence, of course, that justifies the “laughing over human lives” depiction of the US administration. Maybe we have evidence that the thought process of “the Bush administration” is entirely different from what I described above, and indeed was insensitive to human suffering. Maybe we want to argue that botching the occupation, or botching it in the way the administration did, just equals having no concern for human suffering (not your argument, but Matt’s via Hilzoy). Maybe we want to argue that because it was obvious the results in Iraq post-Saddam would be so bad for Iraqis that those who wanted to depose Saddam were unserious about human life. (not, as I recall, an argument largely in evidence in the run up to the war). Though I personally don’t find the evidence for these arguments compelling, I could see reasonable people holding them. What I can’t see, however, is a reasonable person thinking these arguments are obviously true. They aren’t obviously true. They don’t look anything like the type of argument that can be obviously true. They are highly complex positions with lots of hard to verify empirical claims and lots of moral moving parts (When does an error become incompetence become insensitivity to human suffering? What if incompetence was caused by defense department actors really thought the State department wasn’t committed to de-Baathification, would that be exculpating? etc., etc.,etc.)

So here’s what we have:

1. Lots of obviously morally serious people advocating deposing Saddam, with the knowledge that this would cause human suffering
2. Not a lot of relevant difference in knowledge between those people and the Bush administration
3. A host of reasonable, non-evil arguments for deposing Saddam, even if it that action causes human suffering
4. A series of plausible, but not obviously decisive arguments that despite 1, 2, and 3, the Bush administration, or some of it, nonetheless decided to depose Saddam for evil reasons, or with such light-mindedness that is tantamount to evil intent.

Given this state of play, how should we regard the claim that the Bush administration is composed of moral monsters? How should we regards the even stronger claim, that opponents of the war care about human suffering in a way war supporters do not? I would suggest we should regard neither very favorably. I will be happy to supply more inflammatory condemnation of these claims and those who advance them it if that will be helpful.



Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 3:01 PM
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First, you attribute a position to me that I haven't taken:

That’s what enables you to look at Ignatieff, Makiya, Blair, etc. - people you acknowledge as decent

I haven't named any of those people with approbation. I don't acknowledge anyone as 'decent' on this issue, unless they were deceived as to the facts. Blair, almost certainly, was not and is not. I don't find your error offensive, but it's characteristic of your argument as a whole: "Person X is a decent person. Person X favored the war. Therefore, arguments for the war must be morally respectable, regardless of whether they can be stated in any comprehensible form incorporating due consideration for the human costs." I don't accept that as an argument -- I prefer to examine the positions people hold, and decide from those positions whether the people in question acted in a morally respectable fashion.

1. Sanctions against Hussein will not keep him contained. Eventually, he will subvert them fully and get nuclear weapons. This is a reason for deposing his regime by force.

No it isn't. The administration knew or should have known that Iraq was nowhere near actually getting nuclear weapons. This is not a morally defensible reason for abandoning the tactics short of war that had been keeping Iraq from attaining nuclear weapons, and instead unnecessarily burning, maiming, and otherwise killing tens of thousands of people.

2. Saddam Hussein keeps on subverting his surrender conditions from Gulf War I. This is a reason for deposing his regime by force

This isn't even an argument. What about that subversion necessitated painfully slaughtering tens of thousands of people? What bad thing, in relation to your argument (2), did anyone expect to be avoided by the killing of tens of thousands of people? (Yes, I'm deliberately being a prick by harping on the suffering and death. But that's the point. An argument that doesn't still look legitimate when you pose it next to a heap of blackened bodies is not a sufficient argument for starting a war.)

3. Saddam Hussein is an exceptionally aggressive, unpredictable tyrant who commands an important and powerful state. His actions, or those of his successors, are likely to cause suffering over the coming years. This is a reason for deposing his regime by force.

What, here, do you mean by 'likely'? Given the sanctions regime, the no-fly zones, Iraq's status as a diplomatic pariah, etc., the chances of Iraq successfully taking aggressive action against a neighboring country in the near term was pretty much nil. It is simply not true to say that such aggression was 'likely' in any sense sufficient to burn people alive in the hope of preventing it.

4. Saddam Hussein runs a sadistic police state which inflicts enormous suffering on its citizens. This is a reason for deposing his regime by force

This is your nearest approach to a valid argument. The first sentence is inarguably true, and the second would be true with the addendum "and replacing it with a preferable regime that would impose less suffering." While I will not here state all my reasons and evidence for believing the following, it is clear to me both that we have not done that, and that those responsible for planning and carrying out the invasion did not act in a fashion that could be reasonably expected to do that.

Nonetheless, one could think the force of these four arguments, or some subset, sufficed as justification for deposing Hussein. Drawing this conclusion does not imply or require insensitivity to human suffering. I don’t exactly know what more evidence you want here: it’s a transparently obvious point.

Apparently not.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 3:28 PM
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I guess I did assume you were willing to credit some war supporters as decent. If not, I think youre even farther off the reservation. Kenan frickin' Makiya supported the war. He didn't support it because he was "deceived" about WMD. This is almost a reductio of your position, and if you don't see that, it's your problem.

On the arguments. These are meant to be "pro" reasons for wanting Hussein out. Obviously, these must be balanced against the costs of getting Hussein out, and the likely costs/benefits of other options. I don't really get why you think trying to browbeat people by invoking heaps of bodies is a useful way forward. All the options for dealing with Iraq had human suffering at the end of them. Stop acting like you're the only one who cares. It's juvenile.

On 1: So Bush should have thought Iraq could never acquire nukes under a sanctions regime? He should have thought that the measures necessary to mainatin effective sanctions + leaving Saddam in place would obviously cause less suffering than deposing Sadam by force. Why should he have thought these things? They aren't true.

On 2: I think enforcement is the cost of having effective international agreements, yes. You have heaps of balckened bodies. Well, what if it cost one blackened body to enforce the no-fly zone? Would that be OK? When does it become "heaps?" I think: when you want to browbeat your opponents.

On 3: Look, you can make an argument for kicking the can down the road. But it isn't obvious that Hussein was going to stay restrained long-term because of sanctions. If you admit that, you have to admit that if a) the regime is irreformable, and b) think sanctions are going to fail, there's at least a pro-argument for getting rid of the regime. Maybe when it's weak is better for everyone. Better in the sense of fewer of those heaps of bodies.

4. Well, glad to see that humanitarian intervention is still on the table.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 4:12 PM
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You should also admit that he was old, baa. 66, at the time of the invasion. It's not a very good measure, but the CIA Factbook says that life expectancy at birth in Iraq is now a little over 67. Evil may be immortal, but evil men aren't.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 4:16 PM
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Look, you can make an argument for kicking the can down the road.

This is what it all comes down to. Yes. You can make an argument for kicking the can down the road. The argument is that we can't predict the future, and that this whole 'heaps of bodies' thing? Is really, really bad. It is very close to being the worst thing there is. So any solution, or course of action, that involves even postponing a war, is better than one that precipitates it, unless you can be sure that the delay is making things worse. Because if you can put the damn war off for long enough, there's a chance that it doesn't have to happen at all. I assume Churchill is one of your heroes -- with all the talk about how he was no appeaser, he's the one who said that it is better to jaw-jaw than war-war. Not starting from the premise that war is a last resort makes anything you say about war profoundly morally obtuse.

None of the reasons you've put forward approached being an emergency. For none of them was there decent evidence that the only way to avoid the feared bad outcome was to go to war.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 4:22 PM
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baa, if it is confirmed that Valerie Plame was working on Iran's nuclear program when the Bush Administration gratuitously blew her cover, will you admit that they are not actually serious about the nuclear weapons issue? What would it take? And the "oh gosh, they might have developed nuclear weapons in a bunch of years when sanctions broke down" line is, for lack of a better word, totally fucking unserious. Lots of things might happen, this one just simply wasn't worth killing the number of people we killed over it. Not even on the radar. Ditto 3.

Argument 2: This war was part of ensuring effective international agreements. Pull the other one.

As for humanaitarian intervention, if we're judging the Bush Administration's good faith, heres a link for you. Or is it impolite browbeating to mention their actual record?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 4:24 PM
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Not to interrupt the candy bars vs. heaps of bodies fight. But hilzoy's argument has been bugging me, because I think hilzoy's argument is incorrect. Let me try to restate it:

1.If you undertake an action, and that action leads to horrible consequences, that is proof that you did not care seriously about the consequences.

This seems to be the position in the literary bit hilzoy quotes. It's a cute aphorism, but like most aphorisms, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Consider: I pack my two adorable children into a car. I am driving, and we are in a horrible accident where they are burned to death. Since I undertook the driving freely and I knew there was a minute risk of this happening, does that mean I didn't care about my children? Hardly. (And if you think this example is nasty, the first time I wrote it, it was about abortion.)

But a modification suggests itself, and indeed, hilzoy expands upon it:

2.If you undertake an action, and through your own incompetence, that action leads to horrible consequences, that is proof that you did not care seriously about the consequences.

Better, but still not good. Now I load my small children into the car, but now I'm driving on an icy road. I'm not good at driving on ice, but I do so anyway. Can it be said now that I don't care if they die, because if I did I wouldn't have driven on the ice? Don't think so. What if I knew that ice was treacherous and I sucked at driving on it?

Okay, one more:

3. If you undertake an action, and are willfully negligent in executing it competently, that is proof that you didn't care seriously about the consequences.

I think this is the fairest reading of hilzoy's argument. This seems to hold up a lot better. Now I'm loading my kids into a car while I'm drunk and I know the brakes are shot. Now it seems like a fair question would be Didn't you think of the kids?

Okay, where am I going with this.

First off, the fact that Iraq turned out horribly doesn't itself suggest that the administration didn't care about Iraqis, even if it was through their own incompetence. 1) and 2) don't seem to hold up.

What we need is to show that the bungling of the Iraq war meets 3). I think hilzoy, in the bulk of that post, provides a lot of evidence for that.

But I also think that by the time we get to claim 3), the charge of negligence does become something on which reasonable people could disagree. I don't disagree, as it turns out, but let's be clear: the fact that Iraq is a fucking mess now and the administration was incompetent doesn't itself show that no one in the administration gave a damn about Iraqi lives unless we think 1) and 2) are good ways to reason.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 4:47 PM
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So any solution, or course of action, that involves even postponing a war, is better than one that precipitates it, unless you can be sure that the delay is making things worse.

I don't think this is true. Indeed, if we're in a world of consequentialist expected value analysis -- which is the zone of argument you seemed most comfortable with -- it's in fact false.

Look, doing consequentialist analysis of war and peace decisions is really hard. But what isn't cool is to suggest that those who come up with the a different answer are evil people. Even though I know thought experiments never work in a comments thread, I'll try one. Imagine that in 2001 some Iraqi was planning a revolt against Hussein. And imagine that he has such good knowledge that he can predict with high confidence that he will succeed, that the cost in death and suffering will be exactly that we have seen in the coalition intervention, and the state of play after would be precisely what Iraq has now. In short, consequentialist results the same, and known in advance, but an internal, not an external actor. Would this man be a moral monster for starting his revolt? If you think so, then fine you can call George Bush a moral monster, and me too, for that matter. If not, maybe you will at least begin to see why the question is a complex one. But you'll probably just reject the hypothetical as uniformative and move on. Oh well.

SCMT -- that's a fair point. I think if Uday or Qusay had looked at all tractable, that would have made a difference to me, at least. Also, Hussein swum every day.

Matt, it's hard for me to believe anything about the Plame scandal is going to convince me of anything. That said, I'll read the article. Abu Grahib. Yes, it's very, very bad. No it is not the pocket refutation of a humanitarian argument for the invasion of Iraq. But you knew that right? In fact, maybe that's the evidence I need that I'm doing nothing in this thread but getting people frustrated and angry. Someone else can have the last word.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:08 PM
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Sorry, the last word comes after I say "woo-hoo" to Cala's 132!


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:09 PM
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I think the problem with 132 is that the analogy is flawed. Because the action in the analogy--driving--is neutral in terms of intent and effect, whereas the action in the case under discussion--war--isn't. Perhaps a better analogy is, there's someone in your neighborhood that you know is a convicted child rapist, and you have children; are you justified in killing him pre-emptively to protect your kids? I think most people, and certainly the law, would say "no." Unless, of course, he were breaking into your property or you saw him inviting your kids into the car. Otherwise, your suspicion that he *would*, if possible, attack your kids isn't grounds enough for killing him.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:18 PM
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I don't think the analogy is fatally flawed, B. The question is 'do dire consquences automatically throw the actor's integrity into doubt?' A straightforward 'yes' seems to be wrong unless we presume that the likelihood dire consequences automatically mean that actor's integrity is suspect, but we can't beg that question.

You're right that intent & harm figure into the equation more in war than in the car example, obviously (though intent does figure in both cases in 3), which I think is the right reading of hilzoy). But I think we could make the argument work for a close analogue of a pre-emptive war, self-defense la the Mayes case. (Quickly, for 1): Cory Mayes fires at what he presumes is an intruder in his home at night, but it turns out to be a cop. On 1), he'd be just as a guilty as if he intentionally shot the cop. &tc. What we hope the jury proves is 3), not 1). )


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:37 PM
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I should also point out that while the distinction between 2) and 3) isn't blurry, how to judge the evidence is.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:39 PM
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Cala, I agree with your analysis of the Sayers quote (Kantians, sheesh), but:

by the time we get to claim 3), the charge of negligence does become something on which reasonable people could disagree.

I just don't see that. The bit I quoted in 89 keeps coming back to me, and it leaves two choices:
a) everyone who says that sort of thing is lying (including this guy, we ain't talking anonymous sources here)
b) the Bush Administration was negligent in preparing for the occupation.
It's intellectually arrogant to think that reasonable people can't disagree with you, so I'd like to see a decent argument for a third alternative. But for the life of me I can't.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:39 PM
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I think baa's hinted at some intellectually defensible positions for why the administration might have thought it was a good idea to war. I think they're wrong, but I think they're not indefensible.

But yeah, I haven't seen a defense at all of the lack of post-invasion plan; I'd be interested to see one to see if there's one only because I can't fucking believe that no one thought it might be hard to occupy Iraq.

The closest I heard was something in conversation about two years ago, somewhere, where someone said we had the sketch of a plan, but they figured they'd have time before 'mission accomplished' to develop it once they could better judge the situation, and then we won the first phase too fast.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:48 PM
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Back to the safer ground of moral philosophy maybe, I think the distinction between cases of 2 and cases of 3 can be blurry. How thoroughly are you obligated to check your abilities (or the relevant facts) before going on to act? It can depend on how much you care; or on how good a judge you are of how well you've checked your abilities; or on whether you ought to have decided to act already instead of checking things over some more; etc. etc. And when considering these questions, I think it's a hard question as to when a bad consequence is due to forgivable incompetence and when it's due to wilful negligence.

(What you said about the Mayes case is a bit gnomic; but as I understand it, your point is that Mayes took an action that was bound to be harmful, and that had bad consequences, but in order to condemn him we need to prove that he was wilfully negligent in not figuring out that it was a cop he was shooting at, and that's what we hope the jury [or a new jury] will consider?)


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:54 PM
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yeah, I haven't seen a defense at all of the lack of post-invasion plan

You're forgetting my (c).


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:59 PM
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(Yes on Mayes: I didn't feel like typing it all out.)

I think the distinction isn't that blurry, if only because we can recognize it in a court: X, Y, and Z constitute negligence, A, B, and C, do not. What's at stake is where the action falls. But this is just definition twisting, since I agree with I think it's a hard question as to when a bad consequence is due to forgivable incompetence and when it's due to wilful negligence.

I just don't think it's the case that mere incompetence is a sort of non-serious negligence.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 5:59 PM
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I just want to say that Cala's 132 is a very useful contribution and, I think, gets at what baa was arguing when he said "What I can’t see, however, is a reasonable person thinking these arguments are obviously true. They aren’t obviously true. They don’t look anything like the type of argument that can be obviously true."

I, also, think the arguments are true, but they require evidence, not just moral intuition (this isn't intended as a criticism of LB, just an appreciation for how much Cala's comment illuminated the disconnect between LB and baa for me).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:17 PM
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141: OK, I haven't seen a non-crazy defense? I mean, Mark Steyn is literally saying now that we should invade Iran, topple the regime and then just leave them to anarchy, so the Iranian people will get to choose the kind of government they have. But people like that should be in a nice comfortable place where they're only allowed plastic cutlery.

Cala, I don't like philosophical arguments from "We draw this distinction in the law," because the law requires (and rightly so!) us to draw all sorts of sharp distinctions where there may be blurry underlying facts -- "mature enough to make decisions yourself," for instance.

So I think I might still say that there's actually an ontological blurriness here, not just an epistemic problem in figuring out what's going on. Not that incompetence is harmless negligence, but negligence is "you really shoulda known better" incompetence, where the blur is in the 'really'. If you didn't mean to draw the ontological/epistemic distinction, then this is just definiton-twisting.

(Notice how one of those sentences was kind of jargon-free? I want a cookie!)


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:27 PM
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Fair enough. I'm not sure I have a well-worked out position here. I just think you need more than big incompetence (2) to get to negligence (3), and I think you could have a clear cut definition and lots of fuzzy instances.

(I suck at epistemology because you guys all run around wondering whether you have hands, which is when I steal the cookies and scamper out of the room.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:33 PM
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Actually, we're pretty well agreed that we have hands these days, the question is whether we know it, and how.

Where'd those damn cookies go again?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:36 PM
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Ontology vs. Epistemology again!

FIGHT!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:40 PM
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"Do hands really exist?" = not such a great improvement over "Do we know we have hands?"

(BTW, go read Yglesias.)


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:43 PM
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Can we stop the UN from cutting the funding?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:48 PM
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You? Me? The government? I don't know.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:50 PM
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Maybe we need a big blogrelief thing like everyone did for Katrina.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:54 PM
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I'm going to pretend that Yglesias titled his article after Sleater-Kinney's song "Entertain". And, since it's Yglesias, I'd say there's about a 50/50 chance that I'm right.

You all do know that I'm going to see Sleater-Kinney in about THREE HOURS, right?


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:55 PM
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It really is astounding how much money we're spending in Iraq. Someone with a better grasp of international finance should provide insight. But as I understand it, many countries (including China and some of those Asian "tiger" countries) are saving their money by buying up US dollars, assuming it's a stable investment (like your grandma who buys you US Bonds).

This heavy buy-up of of USD$ gives us a good credit rating, but in reality, if the Euro stays strong, we might be staring down some pretty hefty credit-card bills, as it were.

Is that about right?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 6:58 PM
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Mind running that through the Stanleyfilter?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 7:08 PM
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I'm trying, but google has no pictures of a tiger eating the ice cream of an adorable child.

Oh wait, this approximates the economic argument I was trying to advance.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 7:17 PM
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Oh, wow. As of today, one US dollar will get you 1.1069 Canadian dollars. That's quite an improvement, from a Canadian POV. Not so much from a US POV.

In related news--ie, news that would make my cantankerous Yukoner relatives happy--the price of an ounce of gold is above $650. Which is crazy. It was at $400 about a year ago, and I thought that was hysteria. Pity my grandad never taught me to work a sluicebox.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 8:06 PM
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Yeah. The boyfriend is happy, because he gets paid in Canadian dollars (and it was $0.67 on the dollar not so long ago), obviously, but wants to spend them here.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 8:19 PM
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Wait! The strapping Canadian boys have us on the economic advantage, too?!?! Panic!

Apo! Idealist! baa! Uh, other dudes who might actually join: to the wall-and-net-building machine!!!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 8:23 PM
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Too late to be a very relevant comment, but we're governed by straw men, and baa voted for them. Asking for rational argument at this point is lunacy.

Those guys don't work that way. Baa is no longer in the real world, if he ever was.

The Bush administration is impossible to parody and impossible to slander. When Baa goes to hell I hope he spends all eternity trying to get a straight answer from Fleischer / McClellan.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 8:41 PM
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(and it was $0.67 on the dollar not so long ago)

Oh, I know.

This all is making me think that I ought to look into what happened with my grandad's most unintentionally comedic Christmas present ever: shares in some crackcrazy goldmine. We used to get six-cent checks (Canadian dollars!) every year. The stock certificates were really pretty, though.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 8:56 PM
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If it turns out you're a billionaire, will you take us out to lunch?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:05 PM
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Sure!

Although I think it's much more likely that my dad sold our shares for whatever he could get long before we reached majority or were paying attention. Those six-cent checks were an important lesson of some sort, though.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 9:30 PM
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LB asks what argument could make Iraq worth all those piles of bodies? This assumes that pro-war people assumed that there would be such piles of bodies, or should have assumed so. But, almost no one expected the aftermath to be this bad. So in doing whatever sort of moral calculus there is, this has to be taken into effect. Proponents of the war believed the aftermath would be fairly rosy, and the question here is this was, basically, criminally negligent. Underlying this question is an assumption that things could not have turned out better in Iraq. One can hold this position, but, do you allow for reasonable disagreement? If yes, then you would have to alter your calculus of the morality of the Bush team for that. You can, of course, argue that the incompetence stems out of unseriousness of planning, which itself is a moral failing. There's something to this argument, but it's not overwhelmingly convincing. Insufficient planning of the war may have worsened the situation a bit, but I don't think it was determinate on what happened. Pre-invasion planning of post-invasion aftermath will always be of quite limited use. Playing it by ear is necessary. It seems to me that the Bush team probably would have screwed up the plans anyway, and they certainly screwed up some of the playing-it-by-ear stuff. They can't exactly be morally condemnable for negligence if their best-faith effort wouldn't have significantly changed things.

So, I don't think the Bush team believed that their actions would inflict so much pain, and, further, in so far as they are wrong, I believe this was a failure of imagination and intelligence, not the result of moral callousness.

To fully reply to LB, not only did the Bush team think Iraq wouldn't be nearly so bad, they also believed that a whole host of good things would result. A tedious list:

a) Overthrowing Saddam would be easy and fairly painless.
b) It took the US out of the morally bad uncertain position of enforcing sanctions
c) A government could be formed to govern Iraq fairly easily and without much pain
d) this would protect US oil interest, reducing future pain for US citizens, and perhaps even being a long-term defensive goal
e) It would project US force into the mid-east, which could be good for all sorts of reasons
f) It would act as a flypaper to attract terrorists there instead of the US
g) It would inspire other middle eastern people to push for democratic reform, and in the process make the world safer for the US
h) the benefit we did to Iraq would inspire warm, fuzzy feelings towards the US among middle easteners, helping out in the hearts and minds campaign against terrorism
i) We woulld no longer have the nagging worry of an unpredictable, and possible eventually nuclear, Iraq
j) We would be in a stronger situation to deal with a nuclear Iran; they would probably be cowed by our success in Iraq, anyway.
k) In fact, the whole world would have been awed by our success in Iraq, and we would have struck real fear into those who might think of attacking us
l) Our resilient allies, once they saw how swell things went, would trust us more and like us more
m)We'd control, sorta-behind-the-scenes, oil flow, strengthening our influence vis-a-vis the EU.

I really do believe that people like Wolfowitz and Feith and Cheney believed a number of these things, if not necessarily all of them.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 10:07 PM
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Man I'm really tired, and in all the editing of that comment, I forgot to edit the tedious list. Mentally edit as seems reasonable.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 10:08 PM
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But the basic point remains: If you're starting a war in which you're going to overthrow a country's government, you don't get to assume all of those nice things. You should know that you're going to get a lot of people killed -- maybe not as many as they have and will got killed, but still a lot of people.

So this: Underlying this question is an assumption that things could not have turned out better in Iraq is false. The assumption is that war is going to kill people in numbers, and any reason for starting a war has to be commensurate to the inevitable deaths.

As for the failure of imagination and intelligence, such a failure on such a grand scale is a form of moral callousness. If you're going to start a war you've got to be fucking serious about it. Drawing up a list of all the kewl things that could happen (and I really do think you have their thought process nailed there) is not serious. You have to think as hard as you can about what the effects will be. It's no excuse that they believed their own bullshit.

As for the reasonable disagreement thing -- well, what's the reason? The evidence for the unreasonableness of the war/occupation planning is fscking overwhelming; look at Hilzoy's post again, remember what happened to Shinseki, remember what happened to Jay Garner when he rejected fucking privatization. What reason did they have to think that the occupation would go well? That Wolfowitz hadn't done his homework? How did they think they'd inspire a wave of reform while calling for a coup in one of the most democratic Muslim countries? etc. etc.

baa made heavy weather of the idea that reasonable people could disagree about the Bush Administration's conduct. But most of his argument was bootstrapping -- we know reasonable people can disagree because look! all these people are disagreeing! and the evidence that they should be taken seriously? because they're reasonable people! and they agree with all these other reasonable people! Somewhere this actually has to ground in some actual reasons that are commensurate to the suffering that war causes. And pie-in-the-sky stuff about all the good things that could have happened, and grumblings about the terrible things that could have happened in twenty years without a war, don't cut it.

When LB pointed out that baa's actual reasons were totally inadequate to a serious decision to go to war, his feelings seemed to be hurt, but you know; the solution to that is to stop making inadequate arguments.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 2-06 11:25 PM
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we know reasonable people can disagree because look! all these people are disagreeing! and the evidence that they should be taken seriously? because they're reasonable people! and they agree with all these other reasonable people!

I saw baa as getting hung up on the claim that the Bush administration is evil, and indeed, maybe anyone who voted for Bush in 2004 is t3h 3v1l, and responding out of frustration. I mean, it is a pretty large group of yes, otherwise reasonable people called amoral, evil, and caring no more for Iraqi lives than a candy bar. And given the seriousness of those charges, yes, one possible defense is a character defense.

That said, I think we're getting distracted. Suppose I assume that the Bush administration had the best muddle-headed intentions toward Iraq (and reading the whole linked article you provided, Matt, it seems that's it's false to say they didn't plan at all for reconstruction, but rather that they planned badly -- I don't see how you could slash the budget for reconstruction unless you had one), and now we hear the same sort of drumbeat towards Iran. One way to argue against invading Iran is to yell that the Bush administration is evil, wants to war (n.b., keeping an option on the table isn't the same as wanting it), and is crafting a careful plan to ensure that we do war.

Another way, and one with a much lower burden of proof, is to point out that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and even in candyworld where everyone smiles, this administration hasn't shown they have the ability to manage a birthday party, let alone a war, let alone pre-war diplomatic footwork. And more importantly, bungling the pre-war footwork may commit us to a war we can't afford to fight. And if they're willing to believe lists a)-m) that Michael mentions, then they ain't living in reality and they shouldn't be supported.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:30 AM
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LB asks what argument could make Iraq worth all those piles of bodies? This assumes that pro-war people assumed that there would be such piles of bodies, or should have assumed so. But, almost no one expected the aftermath to be this bad.

Michael -- My basic factual premise is that the above quote is false, as a matter of things that we know to be true about war generally. The 'piles of blackened bodies' don't come into play because the aftermath of the war was so poorly planned -- we killed thousands of people in the first weeks of the war in 2003, in the part of the war that went well.

This isn't an argument for complete pacifism. It's a statement that when you go to war at all, you must have a reason that is compelling enough to override the inevitable death and pain you will cause.

I do not believe that there is any serious disagreement that those who started this war believed that total casualties, on both sides, would be under several thousand, at the least. That means that, for anyone to support the war, they have to take a position, at the minimum, morally equivalent to: "In order for a chance at the benefits I hope for from this war, I would be willing to lock the doors of a high school gymnasium with a well-attended game going on, pour lighter fluid around the foundation, and throw in a lighted match."

Now, there are benefits great enough to make that the right thing to do -- saving two or more high school gymnasiums full of people from the same fate, and on up from there. But if you're going to do something like that, you need to be awfully sure of the benefits you're going to get.

Instead, your list of proposed benefits (which is, I agree, what people were probably thinking) is a bunch of pie-in-the-sky stuff about how the diplomatic situation is going to be nicer after the war. None of it is facially impossible -- a reasonable person could legitimately think that many of the things on your list might have happened as a result of the war. But none of it was anywhere near certain. And anyone who would be willing to torch a packed high-school gymnasium on the basis of those kind of odds, is either operating under a very different moral code than any I can comprehend, or is just not paying attention to the facts in front of them.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:51 AM
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I mean, it is a pretty large group of yes, otherwise reasonable people called amoral, evil

Not actually proof that it's an inaccurate description. Unless we're making the hate the sin, love the sinner argument. Or agreeing that support for Jim Crow or any number of a parade of horribles wasn't wasn't immoral, because so many people did it.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:09 AM
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LB, what you're saying makes perfect sense to me. An argument for war can be made that doesn't factor in your points, but such an argument would be amoral.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:13 AM
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One way to argue against invading Iran is to yell that the Bush administration is evil, wants to war (n.b., keeping an option on the table isn't the same as wanting it)

But we now know that they wanted war on Iraq long before they stopped pretending that they were trying to avert it. I don't particularly care about the word "evil," but I think it's fair to say and important to note that the Bush Administration is not arguing in good faith on Iran.

And I won't pretend to know anything about political strategy, but when addressing the question "Is it a good idea to leave the option of war on the table?" I think it's relevant that the GOP seems to think that war fever will help them politically, and that they have RNC operatives making pronouncements about the government's plans on this.

But I do agree with the second paragraph, entirely. The administration does want nice things to happen, probably, it just doesn't seem to put any effort into figuring out whether its actions will have those nice effects. So the important point is that thinking that nice things a-m will happen is not an excuse for your conduct, given that doing any homework would've cast doubt on it. (BTW, when I say "no plan," I'm thinking of stuff like the no phase 4 plan here; there were government officials trying to come up with plans, but the top people seem to have ignored them.)

So, yes, don't trust them with anything delicate. But don't assume their good faith either.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:14 AM
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One way to argue against invading Iran is to yell that the Bush administration is evil, wants to war (n.b., keeping an option on the table isn't the same as wanting it), and is crafting a careful plan to ensure that we do war.

The bolded portion above is an argument I've seen made a couple of times, and I think it should be picked apart a little. We aren't talking about keeping the option of war on the table -- the option of war is always on the table. So long as we have a military capable of warring, we have the option of war at all times, if the reasons are good enough. What we're talking about is whether we should actively threaten war, as we are starting to, in this context.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:20 AM
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No, not proof, SCMTim, but I think it shifts the burden; you have more work to do if you want to claim that half the country is a bunch of racists than you do if you want to prove it of (say) the KKK.

Matt, I agree that the administration wanted war with Iraq. I think it might even be fair to say that the U.S. has been looking for a reason since 1991. But that's not the same as 'whenever the administration decides someone is evil, then they ramp up to war', which I think is the hyperbole that got baa on all of this ranting.

None of it is facially impossible -- a reasonable person could legitimately think that many of the things on your list might have happened as a result of the war.

How much more certain do we need to be? A lot of smart people (and even ogged had a post-mortem on the case for war and if I remember the comments, we were split two years or so after the fact on what was wrong with the argument), even a lot of Democrats were for the war. Now, we're talking about torching gyms full of prom queens here -- was there any good reason to think that the evidence we had on WMDs aspired to that level of certainty?

Look, I'm remembering the arguments that people like Be/lle and others had made, and WMD was *never* the whole shebang. Instead, it was often one of several factors, and certainly the main case we made to the UN. But as I recall, a lot of that evidence was very shaky. I don't think even an Iraq that didn't have receipts of canisters of gas in the U.S. would get to that level of certainty.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:28 AM
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So long as we have a military capable of warring, we have the option of war at all times, if the reasons are good enough. What we're talking about is whether we should actively threaten war, as we are starting to, in this context.

Yet Yglesias, who you say is right on this and whose views you recommend, says that Democrats should resist all discussion on this topic until war is taken off the table.

All he needs to do is say that, no, he's not going to start a war with Iran, but he does want to deal with the nuclear issue. With war taken "off the table," then we can have a conversation about diplomacy, the UN, sanctions, isolation, etc., etc., etc.

Indeed, you are a collaborator if you want to leave war on the table.

Until then, folks need to decide whether they want to collaborate, wittingly or unwittingly, with the people pushing us toward war or whether they want to fight them.

Is war on the table or not? Because your last post, is right--war is always on the table, but it is unwise (or worse) for us to be threatening war in this situation. However, that directly contradicts your initial post, against which some of us have been arguing, including on the very grounds which you now adopt.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:36 AM
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I think the argument that you can't call all of these people evil is a red herring (and I note that most of the expansive claims about who it is that opponents of the war are calling evil comes from people here defending the decision to go to war). I don't care about any individual person's moral standing, unless I have some reason to care for them personally.

The argument I'm making is that the decision made to go to war was, in light of the facts known at the time, an immoral one -- either not considering the human costs of war, or being careless about the reasonable valuation of the benefits versus the costs. I'm not particularly interested in judging the moral stature of an individual war supporter -- I can see circumstances under which it would be easy to overvalue the possible benefits of war given that one was not oneself responsible for imposing the costs.

There isn't any validity to an argument that 'decent people thought this, so it must have been a decent thing to think'. Decent people make mistakes. I certainly do. Generally decent people do bad things. I certainly have. The question is whether the decision to go to war can stand as a moral decision in its own right, and if not, if we should trust the people who made the initial mistake and who show no signs of regretting it or understanding that it was a mistake to start down the same path again.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:43 AM
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You know, I understand that the argument at hand is a philosophical and logical one, and that we all care about these things, and that caring about these things is important. But I also can't help but think, this morning, my god, here we are arguing over whether it's fair to call Bush & co "evil." And it feels kinda gross to be getting so hung up on not calling a group of the most powerful people on earth Bad Names when they're responsible, intentionally or not, for enormous death and destruction that's not likely to end any time soon. It feels kinda like arguing over whether it was very nice of so-and-so to shout at the man who drove into the crowd of people and killed dozens, because after all, it probably didn't mean to do it.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:45 AM
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173: Sorry for leaving room for misinterpretation. My point is that 'taking war off the table' -- that is, as Yglesias meant the phrase, taking the threats of war off the table, is not irrevocable. There is no reasonable fear that we will have lost the option to go to war at some time in the future if we don't threaten it now.

Arguments, therefore, that even if war doesn't make sense under the current circumstances, that we must threaten war now so that we retain the option of going to war if it makes sense under different circumstances, are ill-founded to the extent that anyone is making that argument.

I apologize for having used the same phrase in different contexts and with different meanings, and thereby confusing you as to my meaning. I hope the above has clarified my intent.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:49 AM
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Cala makes this statement:

Another way, and one with a much lower burden of proof, is to point out that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and even in candyworld where everyone smiles, this administration hasn't shown they have the ability to manage a birthday party, let alone a war, let alone pre-war diplomatic footwork. And more importantly, bungling the pre-war footwork may commit us to a war we can't afford to fight. And if they're willing to believe lists a)-m) that Michael mentions, then they ain't living in reality and they shouldn't be supported.

If she believes that, or would be more comfortable with that being the argument to leave belief out of it,
then she and I have no disagreements.

It happens that I do believe the darker things that LB, Matt W, Frederick and others have been saying, but I've long since decided that the italicised portion above encapsulates the argument we should be using to convince our fellow citizens, who might not share our other views, to effectively oppose the war. And that we can make that argument in complete good faith.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:55 AM
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I don't really have time to participate in this thread, I just wanted to say that the right description of the Bush admin's actions in the car analogy is that somehow it took a year to get in the car and turn the keys, and there was a film crew and a huge protest camped outside the car urging the mom not to drive on the ice. And for the entire year the mom continually refused to get her brakes checked (the mechanic was down a non icy patch of road in the other direction), because there was another group of people whispering in her ear that moral courage demands she drive on the ice, she didn't need brakes and wouldn't she be a hero when she accomplished it. And she had no actual pressure to get where she was going. In that case I think it is fair to say that if she had cared about her children, she would have at least investigated the brakes option more carefully, if not decided to stay home altogether.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:57 AM
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177: I do agree with this, and with Cala on this -- I've been in argument mode, and haven't been highlighting points of agreement. My only concern with this argument is that it is very easy for it to drift into "It was a mistake. Well, it was a reasonable mistake. Well, come on, no one could predict the future, anyone could have made the same mistake. If you don't trust us to go to war again, it's not because of concerns over our ability, because we've just said that anyone would have made the same mistake. It's because you're a Bush-hating bigot." I think it's vital not to let the anti-war position get softer than 'The Iraq war was an unreasonable mistake, that an administration that was both competent and morally serious would not have made.'


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:02 AM
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LB, thanks, because I was getting confused whether war was on, off, or passed out under the table.

173: Fair point, but then why the need for the rhetoric that hawks (not just Bush) must be evil-minded? If you shout at everyone in traffic who causes an accident as an awful person who killed people quite a lot of people are going to dismiss you as that crazy person who can't see that no one knew that the brake cable would snap, and why the hell should we listen to a crazy person? I think baa and Idealist are reasonable people who probably can be talked into not supporting this jaunt in Iran, but I'm pretty sure we don't get there if we start off with 'evil' rhetoric.

Why do I think this? Well, christ, we're on what, 178 comments now? This is kind of like calling all liberals traitors. It's nice pleasant meat for the base, gives everyone something to feel angry about, but you probably ain't going to convince a single liberal to consider your position when you start off by calling them all al-Qaeda sympathizers.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:09 AM
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I don't pay, I think that's the best statement of my position. I just don't like having to make a harder claim ('The administration has evil intent') when an easier claim is available and more plausible ('Oh hell no don't give these guys an inch on war they've fucked up enough.') and more likely to convince people.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:13 AM
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Unfogged threads aren't where I hang out to be politic.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:14 AM
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Also, there's nothing shrill or unhinged in suggesting that the Bush foreign policy team, and particularly Bush himself, are living in a dream world in which they are the conquering heroes. Extraordinary power and flattery will do this to people very easily. Honestly, it's amazing that more of our presidents haven't sat in the Oval Office, imagining themselves to be the holy blessed reincarnations of Charlemagne and Napolean and Alexander the Great.

baa makes the argument that Bush couldn't possibly be living in a whole other moral universe; that's probably because baa, as a normal guy who interacts with other normal guys, can't envision the mindset of the most powerful man in the world being drunk on power and flattery, believing himself to be (by his own description!) Jesus Christ's agent on earth, here to redeem the world from evil. This sounds nuts to us, of course, because it is. But Bush obviously thinks of himself this way; the evidence for this is legion. He is not a responsible human being, capable of grappling with the difficult moral issues inherent in sending troops to their death and dropping bombs on cities.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:17 AM
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I do, because there's lot of other places on the 'net just to vent about dumbass policies. And all of them have pretty shitty comments threads.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:18 AM
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I don't think the value of discussion here arises from people being artful or calculated, though. I'm not saying those are bad things to be, here or elsewhere, but there's also value in just trying to tell the complete truth as you see it. Further, there may be some political value in taking on the mantle of "extreme" so that other people can seem "reasonable" next to you.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:25 AM
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I would like it enshrined in our discourse that war is no joke, it requires very good reasons and very careful planning, and that it's bad to go to war without both those things. That's LB's point as I see it.

(baa, I think (a) can take care of himself and (b) isn't persuadable. Ideal I don't want to attack on this basis at all; it sounds like we're in agreement that we don't have good enough reason for war on Iran, and disagree only about the wisdom of making threats, standing pat, or opposing war right now. I think the last is necessary because we need a counterweight against the Bush administration, but I certainly wouldn't say that Ideal's a bad person for holding his position.)


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:26 AM
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What's inside the hearts of the officials of this administration is completely irrelevant to me. What matters is the tangible, real world results of their policies and ideology. And regardless of whether they are a byproduct of staggering incompetence or a sworn allegiance to Beelzebub, those results have been unqualifiedly evil.

I know the numbers are impossible to pin down accurately, but let's assume 40K civilian dead in Iraq. Percentage-wise, this would be roughly equivalent to 400K dead in the United States. Against a country that had not only never attacked us, but had no capability to attack us, nor was in any danger of acquiring that capability. And now they show every indication of gearing up for an encore next door.

The fact that the main thrust of pro-war argumentation has devolved to "but Saddam was more evil" only bolsters the point. The clown brigade in charge can't be trusted to make a ham sandwich, much less competent, moral foreign policy. Any approach that hampers these monsters' abilities to continue their carnage is fine by me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:47 AM
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As LB’s argument gets more refined, the less convincing I find it . Here’s what I understand it to be:

The Iraq war was an immoral war because it failed the just war criterion of proportionality. Given the known facts, and other options, no justification in hand and no consequence with a reasonable chance of coming to be warranted a war that would cost 5-10,000 lives (a high school gymnasium’s worth.) Moreover, this was obvious at the time. Thus, anyone who chose the war is evil.

That’s the argument.

Given that this is the argument, here are three moves that its proponents need to stop making:

1. Arguments about botching the occupation. These are irrelevant. Even had the occupation been handled as well as could possibly be expected, the war would still have been disproportional and immoral.

2. Arguments about WMD ‘lies.’ Maybe this is my faulty moral intuition, but I would not imagine a war that was obvious disproportional, unjust, and evil if it cost 10,000 lives becomes hunky-dory if had Iraq had a stash of chemical weapons. Who the hell cares that much about chemical weapons? It doesn’t matter if you were deceived or not about this: Iraq could have possessed lots of chemical weapons, and the war still would be immoral.

3. Arguments about unilateralism vs. multilateralism. Again, who cares? The war was disproportionate. Involvement of French and Russian troops wasn’t going to make the war more humane. Involvement of French and Russian troops wasn’t going to reduce the body count. And I’d really love to understand the argument that involvement of French and Russian troops was *obviously* going to prevent ethnic militias and Al Queda squads from murdering policemen and blowing up civilians.

Given that this is the argument, here is an interesting implication:

An equally “costly” internal rebellion against Saddam Hussein would have been equally immoral and unjust. Disproportionality is not an argument that respects agents. We have just heard that nothing that could be expected to be gained by deposing Saddam by force was worth a war that caused 10,000 deaths. That’s equally true if, instead of being an external invasion, it had been an internal rebellion. There are only two ways, then, that a person who holds LB’s argument above can think an internal revolt against Hussein would be permissible. First, the consequentialist expected value calculation comes out more favorably (fewer likely deaths, better state of Iraq post) if the force is internal rather than external. Second, an internal actor (a Shite militia, perhaps) has a non-consequentialist just war claim that was not available to the coalition. I think both these positions are dubious.

Is that implication a reductio on LB’s argument? No. No more than is the fact that “undeceived” supporters of the war include numerous people who have done more to relieve human suffering that 99.9% of all men living, and certainly more than anyone on this thread. Neither of these points reductios. They should, I think, throw some cold water on the simply astonishing claims being thrown around here.

Last, on hurt feelings. Please. Would I hang around this place if I cared about that? What amazed me, and continues to amaze me, is that a comment suggesting that certain criticisms of the war expressed a bit of moral vanity (war ‘of choice’, people ‘wanting war’) actually triggered an escalation of moral vanity.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 9:58 AM
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An equally "costly" internal rebellion against Saddam Hussein would have been equally immoral and unjust.

In a philosophy seminar, perhaps, but not in the real world. Any uprising against Hussein would have been bloody, given the military/security forces at his disposal, but it would be self-defense against a brutal regime under which the rebels were forced to live. Our invasion can IN NO WAY be painted as anything remotely resembling self-defense.

An enormous qualitative difference exists between a people overthrowing their government and a superpower swaggering around the globe, employing high-altitude bombing and armed occupation because, uh, because, uhhhh, because Saddam looked at us funny.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 10:09 AM
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Arguments about WMD ‘lies.’ [stuff about chemical weapons]

The lies about WMD included lies about nuclear weapons; the yellowcake, the aluminum tubes, the reconstituted nuclear weapons [programs], lots more. Some people still are bamboozled about Iraq and nuclear weapons. So let's not have any "would it matter if Saddam had chemical weapons?"; those lies are bad enough, but the consequential lies are about nuclear weapons, since that's the reason you yourself have cited as something that might have contributed to a justification for war.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 10:34 AM
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baa:

Would I hang around this place if I cared about that? Does someone need a hug? Seriously, though, I hope no one's hurting your feelings.

What amazed me, and continues to amaze me, is that a comment suggesting that certain criticisms of the war expressed a bit of moral vanity (war ‘of choice’, people ‘wanting war’) actually triggered an escalation of moral vanity.

I guess I see what you're saying. I think it's a mistake to worry about whether the Administration is evil or not. I have a pretty soft sense of morality--really easy cases, I'm happy to treat as "evil," but only because everyone more or less agrees that the label is appropriate, and so the term gets used as badge indicating that we don't really need to treat justifications for Action X seriously.

That said, I think anti-Iraq war types get drawn into these sorts of arguments because pro-Iraq war types keep making what seem to me to be fatuous moral arguments. To wit, Insty:

Of course, if we seized the Saudi and Iranian oil fields and ran the pumps full speed, oil prices would plummet, dictators would be broke, and poor nations would benefit from cheap energy. But we'd be called imperialist oppressors, then.

To me, that seems like self-justifying White Man's Burden crap. To him, it's a serious argument that should be treated as an accurate description of possible motivations. Beyond bizarre. But what am I to say other than, "I'm distrust self-serving justifications, and suspect that they don't accurately state the real reasons for Action X"? Weak tea.

Yes, it would be better, I think, if we just made the case that the Administration is filled with morons and supported by such. But some number of people we need to convince need moral explanations. So we give them to them, and hope we win.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 10:41 AM
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Second, an internal actor (a Shite militia, perhaps) has a non-consequentialist just war claim that was not available to the coalition.

I'll grant you the consequentialist just war theorist isn't better off, but most just war theories I'm familiar with are non-consequentialist. And there are two claims off the top of my head for an internal revolution that an outside actor does not have.

First, a greater assumption of risk. The U.S. mainland has borne no risk at all in starting this war, and it's pretty unlikely that New York will look like Baghdad any time soon. This gives the U.S. too much freedom of action; we can bomb pretty much without consequences. What does this lead to? The internal actor has to live with the consequences directly, and so may be in a better position to have correct intent than the outside actor.

This doesn't mean that an external powers can't justly topple an oppressive regime, it's just that it's conceivably a harder road to navigate than the internal actor.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 10:43 AM
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Fair point, but then why the need for the rhetoric that hawks (not just Bush) must be evil-minded?

I just don't like having to make a harder claim ('The administration has evil intent')

Thus, anyone who chose the war is evil.

Given that one facet of this conversation is that the arguments I and others are making are too harsh to convince anyone, can we note that the vast majority of the time such claims were made on this thread, it was by someone resenting them, rather than someone affirmatively making them. I got baited into conditionally accepting baa's 'candy bar' metaphor in 53 (I'm not disavowing what I said in that comment, but I wouldn't generally put it like that), but that's not the bulk of what the discussion has been about.

If this conversation has been unacceptably judgmental toward war supporters, which bits of it, specifically, do you think are out of line?

What amazed me, and continues to amaze me, is that a comment suggesting that certain criticisms of the war expressed a bit of moral vanity (war ‘of choice’, people ‘wanting war’) actually triggered an escalation of moral vanity.

You know, baa, you came into this conversation, on your first post, insinuating that believing that the human costs of war were insufficiently considered by war supporters in itself constituted moral vanity. At that point, accusations of moral vanity lose all force. It may be morally vain to believe that the death, pain and suffering caused by war should be the primary consideration in deciding whether to go to war. And to think that for those reasons, any decision to go to war should be approached with the utmost of fear, and regret, and only after every other possible option has been exhausted. And to believe that those who took us into the Iraq war did not share in these beliefs. If that's moral vanity, there are worse things.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 10:51 AM
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In 189, baa seems to me to be saying (in summary of LB): The war as fought by the US versus Iraq is disproportionate, and therefore immoral. Then he adds, therefore an armed uprising by Iraqis versus their government, which was similarly bloody, would be disproportionate and immoral. But I don't think this follows at all. We call our invasion of Iraq "disproportionate" because it was out of proportion to the putative offenses committed by Iraq against us. This does not mean an uprising would be out of proportion to the offenses committed by the Iraqi government against its citizens; they are two different sets of offenses.


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 10:58 AM
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Basically every warblogger I read is guilty of not really giving a damn about the victims of war. Read Jeff Goldstein and his commenters screech about how "white guilt" is holding us back from bombing the crap out of Iraq and showing the insurgents who has the truly large penis. Or Reynolds go on about how we should invade Iran and Saudi Arabia, take over the oil fields, thereby increasing production, lowering prices, bankrupting dictators, and bringing propserity to poor Middle Easterners -- BUT UNFORTUNATELY PEOPLE WOULD COMPLAIN ABOUT US BEING "IMPERIALISTS" and so we can't do that.

So I am not inclined to give very much benefit of the doubt to war supporters. Am I just not reading the right people?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:07 AM
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after every other possible option has been exhausted

As far as this goes, I have some sympathy with the response, "Every possible option? That's a lot." But the point is, we don't need that to condemn the war on Iraq; we just need that the reality-based reasons for going to war on Iraq were nowhere near good enough for a decision to go to war.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:12 AM
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Of course, if we seized the Saudi and Iranian oil fields and ran the pumps full speed, oil prices would plummet, dictators would be broke, and poor nations would benefit from cheap energy. But we'd be called imperialist oppressors, then.

Well, yes. Because we'd be imperialist oppressors. When you go invade and annex other countries in order to expropriate their natural resources, THAT IS THE DICTIONARY DEFINITION of imperialism, you halfwit.

Jesus H. Christ, this guy has tenure?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:14 AM
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As far as this goes, I have some sympathy with the response, "Every possible option? That's a lot."

Fair enough. Every reasonable option, maybe?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:23 AM
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198: For sure.

Barbar, for all the nasty things I've said about baa, he's definitely more reasonable than Insty (Scott Lemieux: "would have to become considerably more rational to be described as 'nutty'") and Goldstein. So, better can be done.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:31 AM
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Wait, Glenn Reynolds? The same guy on Unfogged's blogroll?


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:33 AM
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Check the mouseover text on the link.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:41 AM
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Oh, I know. Ogged and his damned balanced media diet. I don't read any blogger to the right of Julian Sanchez and I'm awesome.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:43 AM
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I think TMK is on to something in 194.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:47 AM
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200:

I guess a link is not a recommendation.

By the way, that was a nice piece you posted about the Star-Spangled Banner, and who we should really despise.

Couldn't have been the Dept of Education in 1919, though.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:49 AM
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I will continue to make unsuccessful attempts to hurt baa's feelings.

What I'm thinking about these days is: Will Bush bring about an Iran crisis with the intention of helping the Republicans win the Congressional races, and, if so, how can he be resisted? As for the first question, I'd say it's 50-50. As to the second, probably nothing can be done, because Democrats are worthless. And the people here are Democrats, interested in maintaining a dialogue with the Republican criminal organization and its punks.

By now people should be more interested maintaining a dialogue with Noam Chomsky -- no one here worries about hurting his feelings. He was right on the Iraq war and will be right on the Iran war, and baa was and will be wrong, but somehow baa has conned the bunch of you into thinking that he's the reasonable one of the two. Baa lives in an imaginary world in which the Republican Party is run by reasonable people. Unfortunately, all of the reasonable Republicans he's thinking of are dead or retired by now.

And once the Iran war starts, what I will be worrying about will be the degree to which Bush uses his war powers and Patriot Act powers to help the Republicans along.

But here we're worried about whether or not Matt Yglesias, now an ultra-leftist, exaggerated a bit and was mean to Bush.

Well, Matt learned something the first time around. Josh Micah Marshall learned something. Kevin Drum learned something. Baa didn't and won't, and he's dragged you into a pointless, silly debate. Give him the gold medal for disinformation framing if you want to, but there's no reason to argue with him.

One of the specific things these guys learned is that it's a disastrous mistake to take anything the Bush policy team say at face value. Another is that it's a mistake to take people seriously when they are pushing a dishonest, tendentious idea of "reasonableness" and "seriousness." And finally, they may even have learned that "don't ever agree with hippies about anything" is not a valid rule. Though I doubt it, really.

As I've said before, I like Unfogged for the snark and chat, and when serious issues come up I usually try to keep my mouth shut. But once in awhile I slip.

And for the record, this is the moderate, temperate statement of my views on these questions.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 11:57 AM
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197: And, like, it wouldn't work like that. Invade Saudi Arabia and Iran and we have a ginormous mess on our hands, not the discovery of a land flowing with oil and honey.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:02 PM
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And that's what I like to call a Pwmerson.


Posted by: Joe Drymala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:06 PM
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This does not mean an uprising would be out of proportion to the offenses committed by the Iraqi government against its citizens; they are two different sets of offenses.

Just war theory does allow, however, for invention on behalf of others. Protection of the innocent, etc. The Sudanese militias haven't done anything to the U.S., but I don't think it would be a disproportionate response if we were to send in troops. Proportionality refers to universal, all-things-considered kinds of costs.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:14 PM
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205 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:18 PM
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Thank you, John Emerson. (Which is to say, "209!".)

(And where you had you gone, Johnny Emerson? Our comments turned their lonely eyes to you....)


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:23 PM
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You're right, IDP, it was the U.S. Bureau of Education.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:24 PM
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I've been travelling and have intermittent internet access. Not to worry. I missed Bitch's meetup too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:28 PM
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Yeah, whatever the Bureau of Education was or did.

Does anybody care about 204: who s/b whom? or is that stuff dying.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:29 PM
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Yes! re: 209


Posted by: Matt McGrattan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:41 PM
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Not to worry.

I have this intermittent fear that I will fall under a bus, and nobody here will know what happened.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:44 PM
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But LB, I did clarify rather directly that no, I don't think worrying about the human consequences of war makes you a big sissy. I really don't think that; it would be an awful thing to think. I meant the clarification as an apology for implying that. If that's what set you off, sorry. That said, you have been making remarkable claims about the immorality of lots of people, and how obvious that should be to everyone. Indeed, the claims you are making are so extreme that I can't believe you hold them. Is the argument I identified in 188 in four sentences in fact your argument? A simple yes or no will suffice.

To everyone else, it's kind of non-responsive to a hypothetical to say: "in the real world, we don't have that hypothetical." Yup. The claim *I think* LB is making is that purely on humanitarian grounds the exchange of suffering for benefit in the current Iraq was is such to make that war immoral. And that this was true before the occupation was botched. That's a strong claim. I think it's wrong. And I think people are signing onto that strong claim because actually have other considerations in mind (non-consequentialist just war theory concerns like the ones Apo, Modesto and Cala note). That's really fine, but it is not the argument I take LB to be making.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:47 PM
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It is true that war is an awful state of affairs, not to be undertaken lightly, but it's also true that the quality of life under Saddam was pretty bad, and people are sometimes willing fight, kill, and die over a chance to improve their quality of life. While that quality hasn't improved yet, it doesn't mean that choosing several years ago that it was worth fighting for was a wrong or immoral choice. Also, US ("UN") sanctions against Iraq were causing an awful lot of deaths, which would have continued. Remember that 2 very high level UN officials resigned in protest over the "genocide" caused by the sanctions.

Of course, any power change would eventually have to deal with the ethnic tensioins in Iraq. An internal revolution, while likely to be seen as more legitimate by a certain proportion of the population, would also likely have led to an even bloodier aftermath because of these sectarian rifts.

I don't think that war in Iraq was bound to be morally bad no matter what. There are too many other things in the calculation besides simple deaths. And of the deaths I'm worried about, I'm worried more about civilian deaths. The deaths of soldiers may be tragic, but I don't worry about them being morally wrong.

One of the biggest reasons we've failed in Iraq is that we simply did not have enough troops. And here I have a question I hope someone can answer: we know that Shinseki, and Powell, thought we needed more troops. Obviously, they've been proved right. However, at the time, what were the other generals saying? If Shineski and Powell did not have the backing of the other generals, it's probably unfair to say that Rumsfeld was morally negligent in not taking their advice. He was wrong not to, but if he was indeed receiving other advice, then he was simply incompetent.

The way the war was pitched also presents a fair number of opportunities to call the Bush Team immoral. It appears now that Zarqawi was not killed after 9/11 in order that the Iraq/Al Qaeda connexion could be made more forcefully. I don;t think the Bush team was very different from past administrations in making this type of Machiavellian calculation. But, they bungled it, and now what was at the time mundane manipulation of the public by our political leaders has turned into criminal negligence. (I guess I'm taking a moral consequentialist view here. If they'd wiped up Zarqawi shortly after the invasion, their scheming wouldn't have been so important.)

Also, their deliberate playing on the fears of the US public in order to drum up support for the war raises moral concerns. But, again, this seems to be a continuation of how the US leadership acts towards the public, so, while it's wrong, it's a bit difficult for me to get worked up over. And, as noted, WMD, even nuclear, were probably never a chief reason to go to Iraq. Which is why, I think, Bush made a big joke about this at the correspondant's dinner in 04. Not simply because he think's he's an aristocrat and doesn't share our worries (although a bit of that), but because he didn't view them as that important anyway.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:48 PM
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It is hard to work up any appetite to engage with those, like baa, who still want to defend the Bush administration's actions.

Those individuals who were persuadable, have been persuaded already, and if one isn't persuaded already, given what we know about the pre-war and post-invasion conduct of the Bush and Blair administrations then one is never going to be persuaded. Not only never going to be persuaded but cannot be persuaded.

I'm inclined to see that as a moral and intellectual failing on the part of those holding out for the pro-invasian/pro-Bush/pro-Blair position. If it wasn't a moral failing then -- and I'm inclined not to be charitable and probably do think it was a moral failing then -- it's definitely a moral failing now.

And since it's pretty much impossible to say much other than bandy insults -- given the afore-mentioned unpersuadibility -- it's hard to work up the energy for it!


Posted by: Matt McGrattan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:50 PM
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I think Baa's summary of LB's argument is unfair: she's explicitly taken pains to distinguish between those *in* the administration who have no excuse for "not knowing" (and who, indeed, appear more and more to have deliberately lied) about the situation in Iraq pre-war, and those who supported the war because they believed the (lying) administration. That isn't a claim that everyone who supported the war is evil by a long shot.

At the risk of being an asshole, I *do* think it's fair to say, though, that--given what we now know about the administration's mendacity leading into the war, their apparently willful refusal to plan for less-than-ideal outcomes, and their current saber-rattling--it's kinda dodgy, on moral grounds, to be worried about being fair to them, or to urge people to give them the benefit of the doubt *again*, more than one is worried about the probable outcomes of starting yet another war in the middle east.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:50 PM
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Yeah, we should leave instructions: "In the event of my death or incapcitation, I direct _____ to post to www._____.com a statement in the following form, to wit:
Please be informed that the regular commentator known to you as ________ has..."


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:51 PM
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I forgot a point I meant to return to: although, conceptually, overthrowing Saddam was not bound to be morally wrong, was it bound to have severe moral troubles as the Bush team was pushing it? Of course the answer to that is Yes.


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:54 PM
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Oh, and re: Baa's other point -- that it's reckless to describe all those who voted for Bush in the last election as morally lacking.

Bollocks. Anyone who voted Bush or Blair at the last opportunity DOES deserve moral condemnation and I don't see why we ought to tiptoe around that fact.

It may be, that as a matter of political expendiency, we oughtn't say those things. That isn't remotely the same thing as believing it to be untrue.


Posted by: Matt McGrattan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 12:59 PM
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Hmm. Now I'm actually curious, baa. I take the following (from #188) a restatement of a just war argument.

The Iraq war was an immoral war because it failed the just war criterion of proportionality. Given the known facts, and other options, no justification in hand and no consequence with a reasonable chance of coming to be warranted a war that would cost 5-10,000 lives (a high school gymnasium’s worth.) Moreover, this was obvious at the time. Thus, anyone who chose the war is evil.

I don't know anything about "just war" theories, or the like. But I would think that the Catholic Church does, and I think that it said the Iraq war was not a just war. Are you saying that the Church is making hopelessly strong claims? (Why do you hate Catholics, baa?)

It's entirely possible I'm wrong about the Catholic Church's position, the seriousness with which it treats "just war" theories, etc.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:05 PM
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I guess I'd argue, bphd, that "lied" issue isn't really relevant if a) the war was massively disproportionate, and b) the main thing people were being lied to about was the presence of chemical weapons. I mean, it's not a *very* disproportionate war if the presence of WMD tips it over. It's doesn't seem to me like a "burn 10,000 people to death" type of difference. Here's the counter example to think about. We find a big cache of sarin gas tomorrow -- so the Bush crew was right about that part all along. Would you be satisfied? Would you feel much better about the administraion? I don't think LB would. I know I wouldn't. I already think the adminstration highly culpable for poor post-war planning. Finding out the WMD claim had better foundation is like a drop in the bucket compared to that. The reasons Michael gives are *much* better reasons for thinking Bush evil than LB's argument. And watch out Michael, from what you've said you may turn out to be evil too!


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:07 PM
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those, like baa, who still want to defend the Bush administration's actions.

1. Baa, do you "still want to defend the Bush administration's actions"?

2. Would you now, believing that "the adminstration [are] highly culpable for poor post-war planning", support an administration plan to invade Iran?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:18 PM
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Yeah, we should leave instructions

That actually, seriously occurred to me.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:22 PM
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The lied issue is relevant given that we live in a democratic republic. If they found Sarin tomorrow, it wouldn't matter to me, no--because the Bush crew being proved "right" would be a mere concidence, a stroke of luck; it's very clear that not only did they *happen* to be wrong, they pretty much *knew* they were wrong (or should have done), and lied anyway. If I tell you I'll pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today and I am broke, and I don't pay you, and then six months later I find $5 on the sidewalk and give it to you, that doesn't absolve me of bullshitting you in the first place, and you're not likely to loan me money again.

I do think that the administration is highly--even criminally--culpable for a total lack of post-war planning. But I also think that they are criminally culpable for starting the war in the first place, because they either did so in bad faith (which I believe, but cannot prove) or they made the case for war in bad faith (which I know to be true), thereby failing to obey more than one of the moral imperatives for a democratic nation going to war: to do so only as a last resort, to inform the populace about the reasons for war, to allow people to debate the merits of this particular war, and to not put lives at risk without these things.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:22 PM
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re: 277

Yeah, exactly.


Posted by: Matt McGrattan | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:42 PM
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There goes McGrattan with the time travel again.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:45 PM
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Slolerner,
Thank you for clarifying. No, I don't want to absolve Bush. On the post war: knowing what I do know would I still support the invasion? That's still a very, very hard call for me to make, honestly. And the reason it is hard is because so much depends on how Iraq turns out in 3, 5, and 10 years down the line. I still hold out the hope that even with the much-worse-than-expected (by me, at least) course of the occupation, getting rid of Saddam can still be a net gain for Iraqis.

Bphd, you are making a different argument from the one LB is making. Her argument does not involve Bush being mendacious/illiberal. Her argument involves the cost of war being disproportionate to any expected benefit. Your claims about how much we should trust Bush now (namely, very little) seem fine to me. I'll agree that Bush is culpable for the way he presented the case for war, and that's an important par tof judging him. But that's just not the argument that LB has made.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:51 PM
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Is the argument I identified in 188 in four sentences in fact your argument? A simple yes or no will suffice.

No.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:53 PM
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so much depends on how Iraq turns out in 3, 5, and 10 years down the line

I'm not sure that there is any argument I hate more (though I usually see in, per Kaus, using a twenty year increment). Is there any policy, any policy at all, that can't be justified at decision time on that basis? That we'll judge the worth of a highly speculative plan by what happens well after everyone who has had any part in the plan is dead? I mean, are we sure that the Cultural Revolution was all bad? Shouldn't we wait another fifty years, and then decide?

NB: Does not apply to increments of three and five years.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:56 PM
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Baa, I think you misread my question, which was, knowing what you now know about Iraq, would you support this administration running an invasion of Iran. For this question, you can't wait three years, or maybe even one year. You have to reach a decision—support or not—knowing what you know today.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 1:59 PM
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How 'bout those Mets?

Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 02:04 PM
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McGrattan, am I your favorite Unfogged blogger?


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:04 PM
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Tia, are you trying to break up the Beatles?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:05 PM
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278!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:06 PM
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Oh, God, am I stupid.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:06 PM
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Yes.


Posted by: God | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:07 PM
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Slol, remember that you never have to admit to not getting a joke, because whatever you said while you didn't get it can be passed off as cryptic wit. That's my strategy.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:15 PM
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you never have to admit to not getting a joke

Yes, but if I never commented when I didn't have to comment.... well, you see what I mean.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:19 PM
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Re: 231. Glad to hear it. Someday maybe you can email me and explain what your argument actually is, because that's exactly what I thought it was. I mean that in all seriousness, I'm not trying to be cute.
Re: 233. No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't support invasion of Iran in almost any situation I can imagine.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:20 PM
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To expand on my 232:

First, the 'Thus, anyone who chose the war is evil,' is way off from anything I've said. I've repeatedly drawn the distinction between people who, with full knowledge, caused the war, and those who, without such knowledge, supported it. You seem to understood my references to 'full knowledge of the facts' as limited to meaning 'undeceived about the likelihood that Iraq had chemical weapons'; that's incorrect. It includes, for example, someone with the honest but mistaken belief that we had the skills and capacities to prosecute the war in a fashion that would produce less suffering than it prevented. A decent person could have believed that: I'm sure some did. (Further 'is evil' is a stupid thing to say. I have no idea who is or who is not evil. I can look at things people have done, and say that they have done things that I consider immoral, but that doesn't tell me whether they are or are not 'evil'. I've done things that I consider immoral.)

On the arguments that you don't want to hear me make: I don't follow the logic under which, because I think the human costs of the war were disproportionate to any reasonably hoped for good effects, I am thereby disqualified from also objecting to the tactics used to garner public support for the war. The decision to go to war in Iraq was morally wrong. The deceptive tactics used to convince the public to support the war were also morally wrong. I don't trust Bush (or whoever the decisionmakers in the administration are) for two reasons: (1) they seek out military action in a manner that strikes me as profoundly morally unserious, and (2) they lie about their reasons. There may be an incompatibility between those two grounds for not trusting this administration, but I don't see it.

But LB, I did clarify rather directly that no, I don't think worrying about the human consequences of war makes you a big sissy. I really don't think that; it would be an awful thing to think. I meant the clarification as an apology for implying that.

I guess I didn't take it as an apology. I understood your clarification (48?) to continue making the point that it is morally vain to believe that there is any meaningful difference between the attention paid by opponents of the Iraq war to the human costs of that war, and the attention paid by the instigators of that war. Given the frivolousness demonstrated by those instigators in, for example, those comments of Michael's that you've commented on with respect, I don't think your position in 48 is supportable.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:21 PM
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I wouldn't support invasion of Iran in almost any situation I can imagine.

Howzabout airstrikes?


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:23 PM
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And to 241: Well if you're going to be like that, then what was with asking for a yes or no response?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:24 PM
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230: Of course we're not making exactlly the same argument; we're not the same person.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:29 PM
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I suspect because prior re-explanations of your position confused him more.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:29 PM
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Oh, and I forgot to gripe about this sentence as well:

Given the known facts, and other options, no justification in hand and no consequence with a reasonable chance of coming to be warranted a war that would cost 5-10,000 lives (a high school gymnasium’s worth.)

I would say 'sufficient' chance of coming to be, rather than 'reasonable' -- some of the hoped-for outcomes from the war might possibly have happened, and I can't accurately judge the degree of possibility. I am certain that none of the outcomes that could possibly have the war were sufficiently certain to justify it ex ante.

And this ties back into your attempt to disqualify me from making any arguments about the larger factual situation. I'm not a pacifist; I can conceive of a justified war. If Iraq were such that I thought that there were any chance that a quick, comparatively low casualty war might precipitate its conversion to an acceptably liberal democracy (say, if the Velvet Revolution had required some outside military assistance), I can imagine such assistance, involving some of the heaps of blackened bodies I have been repeatedly and drearily invoking, being justified. But such a belief with respect to Iraq strikes me as ridiculously deluded.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:35 PM
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And this ties back into your attempt to disqualify me

This came out more contentious than I meant it -- it's just that you seem to be arguing against my position in a fashion that includes treating it as completely isolated from any other argument relating to the war.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:41 PM
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221: My just war theory is rusty, but you're right that the Catholic Church said it wasn't a just war.

For a proposed action to have a chance in being a just war (ignoringe execution of the war) requires six criteria to be fufilled:
1) The cause of the war must be just. Protection of the innocent, punishment for a grievous offense, the like.
2) The motivation of the warring power must be that just cause. If you're fighting for economic gain and you happen to save a few people, that doesn't make it a just war.
3) The warring power must have the authority to do so, and notify its enemy of its intentions. Basically, if you want to act as the arm of God, make sure you have the authority to do so, and give the other guy a chance to repent.
4) War must be your last resort.
5) The proposed war must be proportional to the offenses committed or the innocent threatened, etc. This is the consequentialist part, but basically, you can't level a country for insulting a diplomat, you can't kill a million to save a thousand, etc.
6) The war must have a reasonable probablility of success. If you can't pull it off, don't waste the lives.

So, there's other things, in the prosecution of the war. And there's some exceptions -- you might be justified in war that doesn't fulfill six if you're a small threatened group that has to resort to terrorism or guerilla fighting in order to survive. But the Iraq war, even under the most charitable reading, fails pretty spectacularly. We got 3). We get maybe half a point for 1).

But what's weird is how much lip service the administration paid to making it *look* like it was a just war. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced all the WMD parade before the UN was to try to shore up 1)-5), and I think I'd be a lot happier if they'd just spent the time on 6) instead.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:43 PM
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Hey, thanks. I have been throughout this discussion working off my recollection of just war theory, which, while I am not Catholic, strikes me as the best framework for deciding when a war is justified, but I didn't make the effort to go refresh my recollection of it. Having the 6 points laid out like that is great.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:54 PM
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It's not easy knowing what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Intentions and knowledge are not always blazed on the forehead.

Stories are the key. We can ask whether a story has narrative truth, whether the characters are acting plausibly, whether their motivations appear sufficient.

I look at that list of motives in 163 and think "no way." Not only are those insufficient for the actors involved, they're incongruent to what was being said.

We invaded Iraq to fight terror: Saddam had nuclear and biological weapons and money which he was about to share with those who directed the 9/11 hijackers. We had to fight them over there so we wouldn't have to fight them here. It was the next step in the war on terror. Terror. Terror. Terror. TERROR!

Now that we know that those weren't the real reasons, my inner Hercule Poirot wants to ask "so what were the real reasons?"

War isn't good for living things, but it can be very, very good for some of the undead: those spirits not embodied, but incorporated (usually in Delaware). War among the oil fields is likely to be very good for two groups: (a) defense contractors; and (b) those who own other oil reserves.

Two groups are particularly well connected with high administration actors: defense contractors (e.g. Halliburton) and those who own oil reserves (Exxon, Saudi Arabia).

Greed. Now there's a motive even Peter Wimsey can understand.

Lust for power is another good motive. Another group can be expected to do well in war: the executive branch. War is a great reason for expanding executive power.

The nice thing is that it doesn't matter if the war goes well. It doesn't matter whether the plans are realistic. Whether the war is short or long, botched or a model of planning and execution, three groups will do well: defense contractors, oil companies, and the executive branch.

I'm sure there's a fictional detective who has said 'don't listen to what they say, watch what they do." By that standard, this looks a lot like a whole lot of dead burned maimed people because of greed and lust for power.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 2:56 PM
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I don't follow the logic under which, because I think the human costs of the war were disproportionate to any reasonably hoped for good effects, I am thereby disqualified from also objecting to the tactics used to garner public support for the war. The decision to go to war in Iraq was morally wrong. The deceptive tactics used to convince the public to support the war were also morally wrong.

Baa isn't arguing that you can't make both of these arguments, but just pointing out that their separate. The mismanagement of the runup to war doesn't effect your consequentialist perspective of whether or not the war was worth it.

The sort of bloody conflict we're seeing in Iraq probably was inevitable, even if we didn't catalyze it. As Apo has argued, even so, there's a real worth to not being there. And this is costing a lot of money. And we've lost a lot of goodwill worldwide. All good arguments for why Bush should never been allowed to do this.

But, the sanctions were a less bloody but probably nearly equivalent evil to what's happening in Iraq now. They were tolerated by us and the rest of the world because they avoided violence, not because they weren't evil. Still, *I* was pretty upset about them.

And it's certainly possible that the (probably) inevitable bloody conflict in Iraq is considerably better because of our presence than it would have been otherwise. However, it also seems increasingly likely that we have only managed to put off for a time the inevitable bloody civil war. Still it's not immediately obvious to me that Iraq would have been better off in the long term if we hadn't invaded. (And, of course, the simple fact of this uncertainty is a condemnation of team Bush. After all of our efforts, it would certainly be nicer if it was clearer that people were better off.)


Posted by: Michael | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 3:12 PM
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>I suspect because prior re-explanations of your >position confused him more.

Yes! Also, I assumed that you were sick of the whole thing. If you aren't I'll be happy to respond more.

This does seem like one of these comment thread rat holes where ultimately the argument was between two positions that ultimately neither interlocutor thought they were defending...


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 3:37 PM
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Well, yes. Most of my rhetorical insistence on the heaps of dismembered bodies sprang from an impression that you were mocking a concern with the suffering caused by war as a primary concern (which, you know, it really does have to be). Given that I was, you know, wrong to think that, consider the tone of pretty much everything I've been saying ratcheted down a couple of notches.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 3:42 PM
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Isn't it you, LB, who believes irrationally that all disagreement is really based on misunderstanding?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 3:48 PM
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That's a completely egregious misrepresentation of my position.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 3:50 PM
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No, wait, that is right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 3:50 PM
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I guess I find a lot of people effectively pointing towards Dulce and Decorum Est as a pocket refutation for war. Maybe I don't want to mock these people, but I do want to suggest that it's a pretty bogus argument, as it basically has as concealed premise that those supporting war they aren't aware how bad it is.


Posted by: baa | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:00 PM
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baa's right: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:07 PM
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Barbar, for all the nasty things I've said about baa, he's definitely more reasonable than Insty (Scott Lemieux: "would have to become considerably more rational to be described as 'nutty'") and Goldstein. So, better can be done.

OK, sure. But my impression of the pro-war crowd is that it tends to fall into 3 groups:

1) The people with the actual ability to initiate wars -- Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, and so on. These people obviously lie through their teeth and should have zero credibility. People who don't acknoweldge this should also have zero credibility.

2) The warbloggers -- Goldstein, Reynolds, Marc Steyn, etc. These people are raving lunatics who often have surprisingly large fan clubs. One of the commenters at LGM made a great point -- for these people, war is therapy, and "war for oil" would actual be a considerable moral improvement. Anyway, the main point is that liberals are bad. Times are getting desperate for these people though, because we're seeing them resort to stuff like "Bush is a bad President because he's too liberal" and "Bush could totally lower gas prices but anti-American liberals think imperialism is bad."

3) People like baa, who seem like reasonable, intelligent people, and tend to restrict themselves to arguing ridiculously small positions like "It's not possible to mathematically prove that it was totally crazy to have supported the Iraq war; also, there's no way that the no-war-in-any-circumstance hippies can be right."

I'm not even sure what my point is anymore. Oh yeah, and it ticks me off that the "reasonable" anti-war person has to tiptoe around the stigma of agreeing with Noam Chomsky, but someone like baa, by virtue of his not being a drooling lunatic, is insulated from being in the same camp as people like Insty and Goldstein. End rant.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:08 PM
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Rats.


Posted by: The Modesto Kid | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:09 PM
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261 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:11 PM
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re: 261 and 262

I agree. Consensus has been acheived!!! Left and right brought together by LizardBreath's brilliance.


Posted by: Idealist | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:17 PM
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I think dolce et decorum is actually a pretty good refutation of any war entered into unnecessarily, for instance, this one. The argument seems to be: it is wrong for old people to order young people to die unnecessary, horrible deaths. It is. Is it the unversality of the argument that renders it, somehow, illegitimate? I'm afraid I don't follow.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:18 PM
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258: And I suppose I see a lot of people making arguments and taking actions that don't indicate that they are considering how bad war is. Dulce et Decorum Est is the argument that war shouldn't be entered into frivolously or lightly -- it should be a last (reasonable) resort. I don't think it's bogus to say that anyone who is supporting a war that is not a war of last resort, as Iraq doesn't, is being frivolous if they don't have some very, very good and convincing reason why in this specific instance they should be allowed to do this terrible thing. We never got that reason for Iraq.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:19 PM
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[ahem] Isn't it you, LB, who believes irrationally that all disagreement is really based on misunderstanding?


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:28 PM
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I guess I find a lot of people effectively pointing towards Dulce and Decorum Est as a pocket refutation for war. Maybe I don't want to mock these people, but I do want to suggest that it's a pretty bogus argument, as it basically has as concealed premise that those supporting war they aren't aware how bad it is.

It's only a bogus argument if the premise is refuted/refutable. A caricature (and so unfair, yes, but I'm doing it to try to make a point, not to just be snarky) of what you've just said goes something like "Yeah yeah sure, we'll stipulate that war is bad. Now let's discuss the important factors in making this decision."

That is, it seems to trivialize the badness of war by saying, basically, that "everybody knows that", when there's evidence pointing to the conclusion that everybody doesn't actually acknowledge or seem to be aware of it.

It's certainly bad faith to automatically assume that someone who supports the Iraq invasion isn't aware of the gravity of war, but it's not bad faith to come to that conclusion after seeing plenty of evidence for it.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:43 PM
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Oh crap. Sorry!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:44 PM
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OK, I'm drawing a line in the sand here: Anyone who leaves comment 277 gets the business.


Posted by: Matt Weiner | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:47 PM
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but I've been working so hard for the business, and now you're just going to give it away?


Posted by: -text | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 7:50 PM
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The -text is not the true text.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 05- 3-06 8:31 PM
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If I swoop in and leave comment 277 does that mean that Unfogged collapses into some comment singularity?


Posted by: Matt McGrattan | Link to this comment | 05- 4-06 1:08 AM
horizontal rule