Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Okay, not finally.
There's a good piece on Slate: liberals who supported the Iraq war before it started debating whether they still do. It's a good lineup; so far, they have Jacob Weisberg, Ken Pollack, Tom Friedman, George Packer, and Paul Berman. Worth reading.
Ken Pollack wrote the book - literally - on the case for war against Saddam based primarily on WMD. It was a major reason why I was a strong supporter of the war, though that was never the only reason. Pollack is a Democrat and a former Clinton official, by the way. Anyhow, it's very interesting to read his thoughts now that we know his assessments - and those of most of the world's intelligence services - were way off, and in the opposite direction from what the Cheney-Wolfowitz crowd thought.
It's also always interesting to hear from Tom Friedman. I agree with him on what the stated reason, the moral reason, and the real reasons were for the war. I think the real reason was (and remains) reason enough to go to war for the sake of national interest, and the moral reason was (and remains) justification enough for our right to go to war. (Saddam was an outlaw. "Outlaw" means you are outside the law - the law offers you no protection. You are fair game. No one's obliged to kill you, but anyone is free to do so.) But I was always skeptical of Friedman's "right reason" for war: the need to remake an Arab country into a liberal democracy in order to "drain the swamp" that generates terrorism. I never thought Iraq was a good candidate for "first Arab democracy" because, among other things, Iraq isn't a real nation. I happen to agree that the massive failure of Arab civilization is the "root cause" of Mideast terrorism, and that the rejection of liberal democracy has a lot to do with that massive failure. But I didn't think the Iraq war was going to be that likely to result in a liberal, democratic Iraq, and I still don't. I think Friedman's "right reason" was Paul Wolfowitz's "real reason" for war, but not anyone else's.
But I have to take issue with Paul Berman. He's obsessed with totalitarianism as the template for Islamism for one reason: a lot of his friends, who fell for the last round of soft-totalitarianism (Communist sympathizing) are now falling for the Islamists. But the terrorists don't look much like the Communists - or much like the Fascists or Nazis, except in the scope of horror they hope to unleash. They look more like the anarchists of the 19th and early 20th century. Anarchists with much more powerful weapons at their disposal. That makes them much tougher to fight. This conflict may be as large in scope as WWII or the Cold War. But it won't look anything like those two wars because the enemy is different - just as the Nazis and the Soviets were, in the final analysis, rather different from each other.