Eff's Rambles (Archive)

3/22/2004

If I could give any advice on how to make a persuasive contention, it would be to avoid the consistency argument.

The US supported the dictator Saddam in the 80s and now wants to undo the mess it caused.

The implication here is that the US has made poor, unethical decisions to the detriment of millions. The response to that is, of course, to ask if the policy of support was right at the time it existed, and for an explanation of what would have been better. There is the issue of the use of the CIA and weapons sales, or something near to that, that may have helped Saddam in his alleged attack on Halabja and the uncontroversal, as far as I know, attacks on Iranian soldiers with chemical weapons, at least. But that doesn't adequately demonstrate the policy of supporting Saddam to counter the threat of Iran as wrong.

The US's war has killed thousands of Iraqis and will kill many more. The UN should have been allowed more time.

The UN is now under a lot of scrutiny because of the controversial Oil for Food program. The program is far too complicated for me to understand, and to try to assign fault on any party, but what I can say is that it puts a pall over the organisation, weakening the very soundness of giving it a lot of control in Iraq, albeit no alternatives of its kind exist. I doubt this is a case where the US is innocent, but the larger story here is one of trust in the UN, and whether or not its handling of Iraq before the war was appropriate, and if it's the appropriate body to handle it now.

The US support of sanctions killed many Iraqis.

This seems to have some validity, as do many contentions against US policy. But let's expand on refutation to the previous contention by reminding ourselves of our own fallibility. Supposing the US did keep unecessary sanctions going, specifically when and where should sanctions be cut? It's easy to see how any form of sanctions can be detrimental to the lives of some of the people of the country to which they are imposed. Our fallibility is that we may have killed because of greed and narrow interest as Saddam did with terror on his own people. And that can go for any member of the UN Security Council, down to food couriers for humanitarian efforts. Death was an apparent enivitability for many Iraqis. Which death do you prefer: that by greed, a tyrant, or war?

Why shouldn't the US go into other countries with similar or worse records than Saddam if human rights is the litmus test for justifying war?

If one is going to cite how much worse another country's human rights record is than Iraq's, than they should also point out which country should be targetted first for "liberation." I'm aware the contention is that countries run the risk of quagmires and over extention by invading other countries for broadly applicable justifications, but the counter argument to the use of force in this context should be one of strategy, not just criticisms of moral inconsistency. Argue the alternative, don't just compare, i.e, North Korea to Iraq. Why not then turn around and say N. Koreans should not be "liberated" because Mugabe is "worse' and less dangerous to overthrow?

To me, the apparentness of the failures of the intelligence community; of the inadequacy of the argument tying Saddam to the threat of terrorism; and of being a serious threat in general to the US are far better contentions. It is true that the lives lost under Saddam are less theoretical than that of chaos some claimed would results from a war, the lost lives from which could only be estimated broadly. That's a point I've made before. But the danger of using war is inherent. So before we use it, we should prove its necessity by first proving what we've been using has failed, and not merely with theoretical dangers and past precedence as indicators of intent. In the end, the Iraqis suffered, as do millions as we all try to be heros. I wonder, just what do those people desire, not what doves and hawks claim they want.


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