Wednesday, August 07, 2002

More Den Beste fun:

Steven, sitting behind his computer, has made the assertion that:

I cannot prove what follows but I'm willing to bet money on it: since the inspectors were ejected, Iraq has been going full-bore on development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. I believe that they have substantial stocks of nerve gas, probably have weaponized anthrax but I do not believe they have yet produced a nuclear weapon.

He's very careful to caution that he doesn't know whether Iraq has these weapons, and I'll credit him for that... but throughout the rest of the entry, he proceeds from the assumption that such a thing has been proven, when (as I showed a few entries ago) it is not only not proven, but sounds like a fever-dream of the American right as they thrash around for an ends to justify the means of invading Iraq and removing Saddam. (They can't do it just because they don't like him... they need some sort of justification, however weak.)

The problem, in essence, is that he assigns duplicity to one side, but ignores the possibility of it on the other. He argues that Iraq pulled a "cat and mouse game" to prevent inspectors from seeing ongoing weapons projects, but neglects to mention that American authorities have been accused by rather a lot of non-Iraqis of using the inspectors as intelligence tools to prepare for attacks on Iraq. This is a perfectly valid concern on the part of the Iraqis, and on the part of the U.N.- doubts as to the impartiality of the inspectors reflect badly on the U.N., not just on the United States, and the U.N. doesn't want to be seen as a puppet of the United States. (well, any more so.) Yes, Iraq doesn't want American inspectors, but Iraq has a damned good reason and Den Beste should know it.

His argument that Saddam is somehow not subject to deterrence is equally weak: that Saddam will arm a terrorist group, and thus gain "plausible deniability". The weakness in this argument is actually encapsulated in Den Beste's own arguments, which show that the United States is looking for a reason to invade, and plausible deniability won't be enough to stop it. Stephen knows this, I know this, and there's no doubt whatsoever that Saddam knows this. And yes, Stephen, deterrence works for nukes, too. Nukes are the reason deterrence exists- chemical weapons were only "deterred" in WWII because of Hitler's distaste for them, and in WWI not at all. Saddam wouldn't nuke Washington because Baghdad would end up radioactive glass and he'd be slaughtered by Americans three weeks after the fact. Period. You can maybe argue that a genuine nut might launch without thinking, but Saddam isn't crazy, and while he's fond of foolish chances he's not going to commit the global equivalent of suicide-by-cop.

Lastly, his argument against containment "If we contain him, then he's free to continue to work to develop more and better weapons (including, eventually, nukes), and he's free to give them to others to use against us" is ludicrous on its face. Containment can include U.N. weapons inspections (sans American intel plants) in exchange for the lifting of the sanctions on "dual-use" products. It can also eventually include "regime change", if there's a compelling reason for Iraq to do so.

Stephen has been positioned by his fellow E.C. bloggers as some sort of political authority, based (from what I can tell) solely on the length of his postings and a close reading of Clausewicz. There's no doubt that Stephen is an intelligent guy and he's certainly a good writer. The arguments that this intelligence and authorial skill are supporting, however, do not warrant the attention any more than Nick Denton's "humiliation" argument did. Those who link to him uncritically are obviously doing it for the same reasons he writes these posts, and the same reason why the U.S. government is flailing around trying to justify invasion while the rest of the world looks on in horror: instead of starting with a question and using their critical faculties to come up with an answer, they've already got their answers, and (like in the case of this post) are desperately questing about for reasons to justify the already-decided answer. Rest assured that no matter the argument made, the answer is the same: we're going to invade Iraq because the American right wants to get Saddam.

Nothing more.

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