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Thursday, January 13, 2005

 

War is not the default

As a short addendum to my comments below, regarding the consequences and responsibilities of speech in terms of actions and events on the ground in Iraq, I would like to draw out a significant difference between holding a pro-Iraq-war position and being anti-Iraq-war.

It is true that one can hold many motivations for being pro-war, as one can hold many reasons for being anti-war. The war could have supported out of patriotism, as part of the war on terror, as means of increasing American power in the region, as a humanitarian intervention, etc. The war could be opposed from a position of support for the Ba’athist regime, out of isolationism, out of a belief that the human destruction involved in war outweighs the humanitarian benefit, out of opposition to an increase in American power, etc.

Those who are anti-war are often accused of being ‘objectively pro-Saddam’. If this is the case, then it is also the case that those who are pro-war are ‘objectively’ in favour of all the consequences of this war. At first glance it appears that it is the case that either both are true, or neither is, and for the sake of productive argument it is better to hold the position that neither of these ‘objective’ truths have any value. However, despite the dominance of the anti-war is objectively pro-Saddam argument, it is more reasonable to argue that pro-war support for the consequences of this war. This is because there is a categorical difference between supporting a particular action and a particular path of history, and opposing that action, leaving a variety of alternate futures.

Those who support the war for reasons that are not the motivations of the prosecutors of this war must face the fact that the prosecutors of this war hold the power to shape the war according to their wishes, and any reshaping of Iraqi society will take place in similar accordance. Support for the war and subsequent occupation is not support for a future except that determined by those who hold the power over, and agitated for, this war. This is the future that is unfolding now, a future of civil chaos, human destruction and no progress, even retreat from, towards rapprochement between the Muslim world and the West.

Opponents of the war need not be pro-Saddam, as war is not the only anti-Saddam measure that could be taken by our governments. Supporters of the war often shout, ‘but what would you do?’ This challenge assumes that war is the default option in international affairs, only prevented by a comprehensive anti-war plan is presented. If war is the default option, then the responsibility for producing this plan would fall on governments as part of their duty to protect their citizens and behave in a humane and decent manner towards citizens of other nations. However, any decent person neither seeks a world of war as default, nor believes that such a world is the case, that war does not erupt between all nations simply through the relentless presentation of anti-war plans. The onus on planning must always lie with the agitators for war, and these plans must be meticulously worked, foolproof even. The facts of the war in Iraq suggests that the war plans were not as meticulous as required*, yet these arguments still prevailed. This suggests two things. First, that all other things being equal, the anti-war campaigners should not have been asked to present a water-tight plan that would produce a democratic and free Iraq, only a suggestion of one that, if necessary, could have demanded huge government expense and accepted a high level of human sacrifice. Such a plan would equal any Special Plan coming from Rumsfeld’s office. Second, that this US administration regards war as its principle and default diplomatic stance, or at the very least, treats such a devastating state of affairs as something morally unexceptional. And support for a war run by these people is support for an increase in the power of these people, something that no humanitarian should engage in.

*Again, this either suggests incompetence, which should involve resignation or sacking, or a level of negligence that has devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands, an act that is the greatest argument against claims that this is a humanitarian war.

Comments:
Andrew

I was very ambivalent about the war, but I know of no one who supported the war (some of whom could have used a course in critical thinking) who thought war is a default option. They genuinely considered it unavoidable.
 
Unavoidable in what way? It certainly seemed to be quite unavoidable for Iraq. But from a US and British point of view, the war in Iraq was eminently avoidable.

This reminds me of the Viz (a British humour comic) war issue. While the front page had the line (I paraphrase), "It's WAR! We're all going to die!", and had a cut out gasmask, inside there was a spoof of the standard tabloid coverage which described Saddam Hussein as being responsible for "a war he was too cowardly even to start".
 
"The onus on planning must always lie with the agitators for war, and these plans must be meticulously worked, foolproof even."

Why? this forgets the basic rule that all solutions are temporary. to try to dream up some grand unified theory of how the world works, giving us that proverbial lever with which to move the world, is an activity we leave up to various Leftists around the world. we on the Right live by a different dictum, especially in war. "never let the perfect be the enemy of the good." also, i like, "a good solution applied vigorously now is better than a perfect solution later."

those who stand outside this process and hurl abuse upon those trying to fix the situation are also forgetting "if you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem." thus you are rightfully branded as "objectively pro-Saddam." if you actions would have resulted in him staying in power (and they would have) he would have counted you as an ally. how would you like that one on your tombstone? Saddam considered him an ally.

so feel free to take up ranks with such fine people as Ramsey Clark. you can shout your innocence from the rooftops, but you are fooling no one. no one with an ounce of brain matter ever requires a plan to be "foolproof." it does have to be effective in the real world. welcome to the real world, where Saddam is in jail and free elections will happen in less than a month.

in related news, i really want to know why it is people who agitate for the removal of a brutal dictators, bring democracy to the masses, and spread the good word of the power of the people get called "conservative," while those who oppose us get by with "progressive." i guess it is all in the type of "progress" you are trying to make.
 
"[I]f you aren't part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

Yes, there's a reasonable statement if ever I saw one. The problem is, the solution [to Saddam's dictatorship] has been so inept one must imagine that the planners are criminally negligent, insane or just plain dumb. The alternative, of course, is that the war was not carried out in the interests of the Iraqi people, or even the American people, and that the human, financial and societal cost of the war are costs that can be, and have successfully been 'externalised'.

Imagine if the anti-war voices had been offered over $150bn (http://costofwar.com/) with which to bring about the peaceful liberation of Iraq. Imagine if their target was to cause less destruction than the war, with conservative death tolls for Iraqi civilians, never mind fighters on both sides, standing between 15,495 and 17,723. Imagine if they presented a plan that used these resources. They would have been laughed out of the debate. You want to spend $150bn, and you don't even plan to kill anyone with it!? Or, more accurately, you plan to spend $150bn, and you don't plan to spend it on expensive defence materiel!? What!? You plan to subsidise Third World health care (or any other such project)!?

Well, I know it would bring the promise of a better life to millions more people than bombing and killing could possibly do. But that's not what this is about at all.

Or, at least, they would say that if they were honest.
 
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