Saturday, December 18, 2004

Iraqi Reconstruction

I must state at the outset that this post is not about the reconstruction of the Iraqi state and infrastructure, though that would be interesting- I am inclining more and more to the view that what will be required for stability and the establishment of democratic institutions is Iraqi deconstruction, i.e., the dismemberment of an artificial state into three separate entities.

Instead, this post will be an attempted reconstruction of my as-yet-and-probably-forever missing document, 'Valid Arguments against the War', from March 2003. Rather than reconstructing it word for word in the best free-wheeling textual criticism style, as if I was seeking to prove Shakespeare was a Jehaovah's witness, I will describe what it was like in broad brush strokes:

The animating principle of the author appears to be a fear of global nuclear war leading to the destruction of civilisation and possibly the human species. The desire to avoid the reoccurence of the situation of 'Mutually Assured Destruction' that suffused his childhood and warped his personality is paramount in his concerns.

He begins by letting off a little steam by arguing that most of the arguments given against the war either are not relevant, or are not arguments at all. An example of the first are that people will die in an invasion: of course people will die. People are dying now because of the effects of sanctions; is it better to die in a hospital of a post-operative infection easily controlled by unavailable antibiotics, or to be hit by a rocket-propelled grenade? The question has to be, how many people are dying now, how many people will die if nothing is done, how many people will die if something is done. An example of the second is to keep saying that the West supported Saddam in the 80s, as if this is relevant to what we should be doing in 2003. We supported Stalin in 1941-5.

The author then quotes three arguments against the war that he considers valid and respectable, which may be summarised as follows:

(1) It could all turn out really, really, badly. By 'really really badly' the author envisions something along the lines of a limited nuclear war between Israel and Iraq, with cities turned into lakes of fire and vastly more civilian deaths then Saddam could have caused in another twenty years, plus a permanently poisoned and maimed relationship between the United States and the rest of the world. This is the best reason not for going to war to make China safe for democracy; it was the best reason not for going to war to make Iraq safe for democracy; and it was predicated on Iraq's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction. It did not come about, hurrah!

(2) It could all turn out really badly. By 'really badly' the author envisions the US stuffing up the invasion and subsequent reconstruction to such an extent that Iraq is left either a failed state, or a rabid Islamic republic in the Iranian orbit. This argument is still a valid one. We shall see, we shall see. The most significant downside of this outcome, in the author's view, is that it would impede the establishment of worldwide US hegemony and hence increase the risk of Mutually Assured Destruction happening again in the lifetime of his grandchildren.

(3) It could strike a fatal blow to the Post World War Two World Order. The author does not consider this a major tragedy, but recognises that the PWW2WO is a real acheivement, a considerable advance on the Pre-WW2WO, and that others have a legitimate right to feel strongly about it and to urge sacrifices in its defence.
This does not seem to have come about, either: NATO and the UN are still here, if a little more dysfunctional, and will probably limp through to the end of the second Bush administration without collapsing entirely. The camel's back will bear a few more straws.


Marco said...

I guess here if we reflect back for just a moment, "our" argument that the humanitarian justifications for war were strong, seem to have been turned upside down, at least for the short term. Wars being wars, "we" should have expected that there would be a higher death rate in the short to medium term, than with SH trying to make out to his population that he is the good guy: "its that nasty UN with its sanctions, and the US with its bombs that are the real enemy". It seems he had and still has at least all the Iraqi sunni population still believing that. That leaves me with "my" argument that the strategic(ie new world order) reasons for war were sufficient without the WMD arguments, or the Humanitarian arguments. Therefore, my only sore point is that having agreed that the US leading the war was ok, I still wished that they had a different approach, tactics and training than which they demonstrated.

Dr. Clam said...

I agree with you. The New World Order reasons- the establishment of Orbis Americana to avert a repeat of Mutually Assured Desturction, preferably before my children can be drafted- were sufficient to make me a supporter of the war, even without the humanitarian justifications.