dithering about iraq

As anyone who got the 2002 CD mix knows (see hidden tracks on discs
1&2), I periodically call a local public radio talk show called
"The Conversation" to share my thoughts. Today’s show
was about Iraq–how we debate it, how the anti-war movement behaves,
whether the President has been persuasive, that sort of thing.

I called in to represent people People Who Can’t Make Up Their
Minds. Stand with me, Fellow Ditherers!

Now, those who know me or read what I write on this site (Hi Vid)
might expect me to oppose this war, since I’m generally repulsed
by this administration’s statements, their policies, and their attitude.
And I will say, to the extent I support this war, I do so _despite_
this administration, not because of it.

There’s just a lot to consider. Here’s an abbreviated list of things
that need to be taken into account when contemplating this issue,
in no particular order: the cost of the war and the impact on our
economy, the propriety and likely effects of putting "preemption"
into action, the possible effects of continued dithering and inaction
towards the ever-declining Middle East, the chances that a U.S.-installed
democracy will work in Iraq, the possibility that Iraq will use
its WMD if we attack, what WMD Iraq actually has or might produce
if left alone, the effect of this conflict on the North Korea situation,
the nature and effectiveness of inspections, the cost of rebuilding
Iraq after we boot Saddam, the possibility that this is part of
an administration foreign policy that is bigger and more sinister
than war-supporters understand, etc. etc.

I don’t think that anybody who reads extensively on these issues,
reads varying points of view on them, can truly emerge from that
intellectual inquiry with a shrill, monochromatic "Yes"
or "No" position. It’s just enormously, enormously complicated.
War in Iraq would be a huge gamble, the biggest in a generation.
Nobody knows how it will turn out. It’s a time for substantive discussion,
investigation, and debate, not for shouting slogans back and forth
across the _Crossfire_
table.

If pressed to the wall, I still probably come down in opposition,
for a simple reason: I don’t think Saddam presents an immediate
threat. He can be contained for a while longer, dealt with later
(assuming events don’t intervene to deal with him before then).
War’s a big fucking deal, and it shouldn’t be undertaken without
overwhelming reason. And there’s a lot of stuff going on in the
world (North Korea’s STATED intent to develop nukes comes to mind)
that could use a lot more of our attention.

Still… the Middle East is slowly but surely sliding down the
toilet. This is not religious bigotry or cultural imperialism, it’s
just fact. By almost any measure–economic or civil libertarian–regimes
in the Middle East just suck. They oppress their people and bribe
the world with oil. The entire region is filling up with more and
more unemployed, pissed-off, easily manipulated people who, as we
have see all too clearly, are more able to harm us than they once
were. We need to do something to halt and reverse this slide–not
just for our sake, but for the people of the Middle East’s sake
too. The left should not let it’s "respect" for other
cultures make it stupid. Life sucks over there in ways that, if
it was in the U.S., would have the left up in arms. If it keeps
going in the direction its been going for the last few decades,
that region will end up threatening the safety and security of the
entire world.

It’s a huge if, but maybe, just maybe, we can get a decent regime
set up in Iraq. Maybe, just maybe, we can get some stable self-rule
and economic development going. Maybe, just maybe, we can show the
world that it is possible for a healthy government to take root
in the Middle East. They desperately need an indigenous example
to follow.

Of course, of course, of course: this has to be done carefully
and well and with extraordinary sensitivity and intelligence, and
this administration has not shown any particular signs of tactical
geopolitical brilliance. We have to get in, set up a stable gov’t,
and get the hell out. We have to support them but not "occupy"
them and piss the whole region off further. It’s very tricky, to
say the very least.

And of course, we should accompany this with unstinting support
for Iranian reformers, and for any glimmers of democracy we can
find in that part of the world. Invasion should _not_, obviously,
be our go-to tool for reforming other countries.

However, despite protestations of "imperialism" from
the left, we’re the most powerful country on earth, and what we
do has untold consequences, even if what we do is refrain from invading
someone. What lesson will the terrorists learn if we bluster this
much, push things this much, and then back down? What lesson will
Saddam learn? I hate to be pushed into a position by the shithead
chest-beating of hawkish dinosaurs in an administration I loathe,
but… there it is. I think we’re past the point where we can back
down without disastrous consequences.

I think it might even be nice, actually, if we get a non-U.N. coalition
together to do the job. It might be nice if France and Germany join
forces, do less bitching and more actual force-building, and "Old
Europe" becomes a balance on America’s power. Not because America
is "evil," but because Americans are human, and unrestrained
power is a bad thing in anyone’s hands.

But…

Still…

Although…

And so it goes.