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Thursday, March 20, 2003
The leftist case for war
It may seem somewhat pointless to continue to rehash the argument over whether to go to war, but I just read this piece and it was quite good. A leftist challenges other leftists to support the liberation of Iraq.
And yet, I wonder: Is it possible that some of the most vocal and visible elements of the left are vulnerable to a similar charge? Whether George Bush or his father or Al Gore or Bill Clinton is president -- in one basic sense, that is immaterial. Conditions in Iraq are what they are. With war now upon us, the deeper issue is about the relationship of American and European leftists to the people of Iraq, about our obligations to aid them in enormously difficult circumstances, and about the best means for doing so.

In the months leading up to war, the old paradigms of alliance and opposition have shifted strangely, or fallen apart. Though it is rarely visible in news accounts, the left is deeply divided. A huge and outspoken block of antiwar leftists finds itself allied with old soldiers of the Gulf War era, like retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft. Others once identified with the radical left, like the writer Christopher Hitchens, find themselves allied with George W. Bush, one of the most conservative presidents in the post WWII era. But the pro-war leftists, perhaps because they lack the numbers and a dramatic venue, are almost completely overshadowed by the antiwar leftists who can turn out millions for demonstrations around the globe.

In most every argument against the war, whether it is posed between friends over drinks or by the presence of 100,000 people at a wintry demonstration, there comes a crucial moment: "I'm not defending Saddam," the argument goes. "I know Saddam is a ruthless tyrant. I know he has committed terrible human rights abuses. But ..." What follows "but" is often a withering critique of Bush or the United States, Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar, or Silvio Berlusconi. Hidden in this argument is a curious dynamic: The words "ruthless dictator" and "human rights abuses" have been uttered so many times that they are like a dead key on a piano. They have lost their emotion and their power to convey anything close to the reality of ruthless dictatorship and human rights abuses.
One by one, he demolishes each of the leftist arguments against the war:
  1. Conflict can be solved without war.
  2. We can't solve all of the world's problems. The popular variant: Why Iraq? Why now? Why not North Korea?
  3. We have to let the Iraqis solve their own problems.
  4. Invading Iraq will give rise to a new legion of terrorists.
  5. We have to let the U.N. weapons inspectors finish their job.
  6. This is a war for oil. The general variant: Bush does not have the right motive for war.
  7. The U.S. is guilty of gross hypocrisy because it backed Saddam in the war against Iran and helped him rebuild after the Gulf War.
Even though the war has begun, it never hurts to remind ourselves why we're fighting, so go read this. It's a good reminder that people with very different politics -- the writer "consider[s] Bush and his closest advisors dangerous" -- can come to the same conclusion on a given issue.

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