Saturday, December 18, 2004

From Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-Legged Beasties...

...and also from unreasoning faith in the The Economist, O Lord, deliver us!

Marco has made the somewhat irresponsible comment that he prefers not to look at primary sources, instead trusting The Economist to judge material for him. He has also made the perhaps teensily hubristic comment that our ongoing discussion of the situation in Iraq has been a convincing victory for him, since I have been too busy to post a response :)

I am going to summarise arguments from last month, carried out on Marco's blog and by email, here.

* Everyone who wants to argue about the number '100,000' ought first to read the Lancet article.

* I have been accused of having an insufficiently hard-headed view of human nature, but the methodology of the study assumes that when you ask people a question, they will tell the truth. Respondents were told that the purpose of the study was to measure mortality before and after the invasion. Note that the only region showing a clear drop in reported mortality is the only formerly autonomous Kurdish region surveyed, where respondents are most likely to want to push the 'things are better now' rather than the 'things are worse now' worldview.

* The main point that I was trying to make is that the war-related mortality cannot be taken in isolation from the pre-war increases in mortality due to sanctions, and it is too early to call. There seems to be more uncertainty in pre-war Iraqi child mortality figures than I thought, but anyone who wants to argue about it ought first to read this other Lancet article. The figures in the more recent study do not tally with these, which means either: (1) I was blinded by spin, and there was no humanitarian crisis in pre-war Iraq; (2) Things were getting better under the UN's oil for food program, and the humanitarian crisis in pre-war Iraq was winding down; (3) The urban areas surveyed in the more recent study were more prosperous than less accessible rural areas suffering more badly from the health effects of sanctions.

But, I don't really want to argue about any of that stuff. I am only interested in that one eternal question: what should we do now?

What is the optimal way to move ahead in Iraq from here? That's what I want to argue about. Comments?


Marco said...

Quite clearly I believe number 2 to be the case. This was not clear to anyone before the war, but based on "most probable" analysis of various articles skirting around their various prejudices, the humanitarian crisis was winding down somewhat before the war. The only comment I would like to make in "what do we do now?" is that I think Australia should keep up with its involvement for what it's worth. I think in general, the powers that be seem to be tied in to the various processes without much room for discretionary decisions. I think with Iran, there is a greater case for making noises of some kind while the government is still deterable to some extent.

I didn't quite say that I trust "The Economist" to judge *all* material for me holus bolus, but that I especially trust its judgement when it means it also has to eat some humble pie, as in this case.

Dr. Clam said...

I agree that (2) is probably far more true than I thought, before the war started. And I congratulate you for keeping your contribution focused on what _we_ should do: we should certainly continue to support our nation's largely symbolic support for democracy in the Middle East.

Marco said...

I think plenty of people will remember Osama bin Laden in 2999, unfortunately.

Dr. Clam said...

Do you reckon? Quick, without looking it up, who sacked Constantinople?