Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Well, this has to be one of the oddest things you've ever written, Josh. (Edit: Link fixed)

For those who didn't immediately follow that link or don't know what I'm talking about, Josh Michah Marshall has just written an article praising the "hawks" for their foresight in seeing the need to topple Saddam even as he criticizes their vision of doing so. Why is he advocating it? Well, actually, that's an excellent question. He admits that there is little to no evidence to suggest that Iraq was involved in 9/11, he knows that there are serious problems involved in any such invasion, he knows that the "hawks" here are largely basing their strategy on overly-optimistic theorizing about what such a war would entail, and he knows that these sorts of things historically can and do fall apart (and admits it grudgingly).

What he doesn't seem to know is exactly what he's advocating. Josh et al, listen when I tell you: if Iraq is not connected to 9/11, then the "war on terrorism" cannot be extended there without grave, grave consequences that I don't think Josh has figured out yet. The United States has repeatedly said that their war is with terrorists generally and Al-Qaeda specifically, yet they have found only the slimmest of ties between either and Iraq, ties much more tenuous than those between, say, Saudi Arabia and terrorism/Al Qaeda. Everybody knows this, internationally, so absolutely no one outside the United States would buy the argument that "he's going to help terrorists realsoonnow". What would they believe? They would believe the truth:

The United States is now willing and able to remove any and all regimes it doesn't like by whatever means necessary.

What kind of message does this send out? What kind of international reputation is the United States going to have? Aside from all that nonsense of "we'll go it alone if we have to", is the United States really willing to become an international pariah, feared and hated by anybody who isn't trying to profit from the size of their economy because of the right wing's obsession with Saddam Hussein? Iraq, for better or worse, is a sovereign nation that is not currently attacking the United States. It has a brutal dictator at the helm, yes; but so does a good chunk of the planet and most of Africa. Invading Iraq isn't even justified from the standpoint of preserving the oil supply, because the destruction of the Iraqi regime would turn the region into a powderkeg as everybody else wonders: "are we next?"

Iraq is an obsession of the American right. Partially that's for good reason, although Josh doesn't really seem to get into the festering obsession with the man that has only the barest connection with the weapons of mass destruction that he may be putting together. The obsession's causes are not something I'm going to explore (I'm no armchair psychologist) but it's definitely there, and it's definitely one of the most single-minded fixations that I've seen since the Terminator started chasing Sarah Connor. I'm not about to advocate though policing; they are free to hate Saddam as much as they wish. That doesn't mean they get to invade Iraq and kill American soldiers in order to satisfy it, though.

Josh certainly implies that they'd kill off a goodly number of soldiers, too:

The hawks' first priority is not how it is done or even that it is done right--it is ensuring that the opportunity to finish off Saddam does not, once again, slip away. More than anything else, they are animated by the desire to get America into the fight and committed, even if that means doing so without the full commitment of manpower and military hardware that may eventually prove necessary or fully apprising the American people of what they may be getting into.

This is sick. This is utterly sick and twisted. What Josh is saying is that these people are willing to lie, cheat, and kill; willing to completely undermine and mock the concepts that their country is supposed to be built on, willing to create another Vietnam or Somalia (the Powell Doctrine exists for a reason; a reason that these idiots seem to have forgotten) that sends American soldiers through a meatgrinder of their own countryman's construction, willing to prompt Saddam to use those weapons of mass destruction in order defend his regime(you don't think he will? Keep hoping, Pollyanna) all because they don't like him, and they never got the closure of having shot the bastard.

See, there's the problem here. Saddam is a bastard. A murderous thug. No-one would deny that. Just because he's a monstrous prick, however, does not mean that the United States can therefore invade his country, depose his government, install a government friendly to them (at least until they leave), destabilize the region, and prove not only that they're perfectly willing to piss all over the concept of national sovereignty (except when it's theirs) and collective security, all over their international reputation, all over their "moral clarity", and all over any future prospects of anybody else actually trusting the United States to not kill anybody it doesn't like. The darkest prophecies and most paranoid rantings of the "loony left" will be brought to vivid life; the United States will finally be the "imperial" force that the left has been trying (and failing) to label it as for years. It has failed because by and large the United States hasn't acted as arrogant or dominant as any past empires; it has been willing to work within the international system.

Invade Iraq, and that time is over. Invade Iraq, and the United States becomes an imperial power. Invade Iraq, and the United States shows it will destroy those who disagree with it. Invade Iraq, and America's military might is the only thing protecting it from the rage and scorn of the rest of the world. Invade Iraq, and the war on terrorism will inevitably become the war that everybody has been dreading, the war that I personally hope never to see but fear I will: the war of the United States against the rest of the world. Not perhaps in an "active battle" sort of way, but more like Hobbes' "state of war"; a state where nobody trusts the United States as far as they can throw them. No matter how much time passes or how many good things the United States does, the idea will always remain at the back of anybody dealing with the United States: "don't ever trust these bastards.

(And to forestall the inevitable rantings: I'm not anti-American. Even if I were none of what I say would therefore be true or not true, but I'm not actually anti-American. I am, however, interested in eventually coming out of this "war" in one piece, and invading Iraq makes that infinitely less likely.)

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