Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Anti-Iraq War Arguments Part I - The Loser Arguments

(I know everyone else has already done it, but I'd like to catalogue the anti-war arguments. There are actually a few good ones, but I'll save those for later in the week. Today has been a long day, so I will stick to the rotten fruit, which is either easy to knock from the tree or already in puddles on the ground, depending on how far you want to take the metaphor.)

1. The War Is About Oil. This one is too easy. The war isn't about oil in any significant degree. (a) The simplest and easiest response is that if we wanted oil, all we would have to do is lift the sanctions, which we haven't done. (b) Most people who present this argument don't have any explanation of how the US will "steal" the Iraqi oil. Presumably, the British, the UN, the Iraqis, et al, would notice. Instead, on call-in shows and the like, some shrill-voiced protestor will just start shrieking "Isn't it obvious? Look how many oil executives are in the White House." I'll bet you now that the interim Iraqi government will sell its oil on the open market, and will work with oil companies from around the world. If I'm wrong, I'll admit it. But if I'm right, I hope you admit you're wrong too. (c) Presumably, at least some oil companies would prefer that Iraqi oil stays locked up in Iraq, raising the price of the oil these companies are drilling from elsewhere in the world. It's not clear how lowering the price of the commodity they sell would benefit them. (d) Granted, it is in the US and world interest not to let a homicidal dictator conquer the other nations in the most oil-rich area in the world. However, Saddam doesn't exactly have the right to conquer surrounding countries, so I don't think this is unreasonable.

2. Violence Is Never a Solution I can't believe that most people who say this have thought it through. If you are really against Britain defending itself against the Nazis, and against the Jewish ghetto uprisings during World War II, and if you really believe that Britain was wrong to use force to stop slave ships that it caught on the high seas during the nineteeth century, and if you were opposed to the use of force in Bosnia, then you are a true pacifist. If so, I think you're wrong, but your argument is at least logically consistent. I will let you go on your way, and never vote for anyone who shares your beliefs.

3. Bush Hasn't Shown Enough Evidence that Saddam Has Weapons of Mass Destruction This is just a smokescreen. Everyone I know who has thought about the issue thinks that Saddam has WMD and is intentionally lieing to the UN and the world in order to keep them. As the Weekly Standard helpfully pointed out, we know that from 1991 to 1998, Saddam was not only disarming, he was actually developing more WMD. Today, Iraq simply denies that those weapons ever existed, and can't explain where they went. The only way to believe Saddam is to believe that after developing weapons for 7 years during inspections, then kicking out the inspectors, Saddam just decided to disarm in secret, and is unwilling for some unknown reason to show us the evidence of his secret disarmament program.

4. Bush Hasn't Shown a Link to Al Quada This is true, but irrelevant. Bush's primary points are (1) Saddam has displayed a consistent determination to acquire WMD, (2) Saddam is a meglomaniac tyrant who cannot be trusted to use WMD responsibly, (3) Saddam has been deliberately breaking his obligations under his cease-fire agreement and UN treaties, and (4) the people of Iraq will be better off when Saddam is gone. Bush hasn't shown a link between AIDS and Al Quada either, but he's fighting AIDS.

5. I Just Don't Think Bush Has "Made the Case" Yet This is my biggest pet peeve. It doesn't mean anything except that you are not convinced, for reasons you can't explain. Tell me what "case" do you think Bush is obligated to make, and why do you believe he hasn't made it, then we'll talk. (It's not enough to say the burden is on Bush to justify war. The White House has explained a number of reasons for potential war - unless you at least explain what standard you're applying, we can't have a further meaningful discussion.)

6. Bush Doesn't Care About Iraqi Civilians (or Children) This is the least consistent argument against the war. If you are concerned about Iraqi civilians, then explain to me (a) how many Iraqi civilians will die if we leave Saddam and the sanctions in place (answer - many); (b) how many Iraqi civilians will die if we leave Saddam in place and drop the sanctions (answer - very many); and (c) how many will die if we attack with a lighting campaign and get him out. (Answer - probably fewer). Answer (a), (b), and (c) again for all civilians in the world.

For some reason, not one of the people making the civilians argument seems to grasp that (for example) our campaign in Afghanistan saved many many more civilian lives than it cost. Before we went in, it was hard for women to get medical care, people were being tortured and killed, and the Taliban weren't even allowing the world to distribute free food to all of the people in the country. Now, things are better. Not perfect, but if you want to count civilian lives, count the ones who would die from inaction.

7. Attacking Iraq Is Hypocritical This is stupid. Neil Stephenson has a great passage in The Diamond Age about how in the late 20th century, moral relativism rendered hypocrisy as the only determinable sin - since you can't say that someone's actions are wrong on their own, all you can say is that someone is inconsistant with his own beliefs. I'll address the specific cases of this argument (we supported Iraq; what about North Korea; what about US WMD) tomorrow.