Saturday, June 18, 2005

A rebuttal of the antihumanitarian argument... 
...And the introduction of Moral Perspective Deficiency Disorder (MPDD)

Terrance has graciously responded to my rebuttal of his rebuttal of this post. Sorry for the delay, Terr...I hadn't noticed the response before. I should Technorati myself more often.

Anyway, here's the nut of Terrance's argument:

One of Jason’s links refers to the mass graves found in Iraq. I’ve written about them once or twice before, and I’m always a bit cynical when I see folks from the war party throwing up references to these mass graves as a justification for going into Iraq. I’ve even had one person refer to those buried in the mass graves, saying “those people want us there.” Yet I tend to think that those people might have wanted us there a lot more before they ended up in those mass graves, as opposed riding to the rescue more than 20 years too late.

Terrence's argument, at first glance, seems to be humanitarian. It's not. In practice, it is, in its essence, a fundamentally ANTIHUMANITARIAN position, made all the more objectionable because it cynically tries to clothe itself in humanitarian robes. In reality, it's reall an argument for the sellout.

I'm quite sure what the left would be saying had the Reagan Administration intervened against Saddam in 1988. I'm sure everything would have been all sweetness and light, and no one would have speculated about the whole thing being about oil. And the Soviets, who had a veto in the Security Council, even then, would have played right along.

If Terrence thinks intervening in Iraq was an option even then, he doesn't seem to understand the Cold War politics of the Middle East. Iraq was Moscow's closest ally, and was considered by many (Drew Middleton among them) to be a sattelite state of the Soviet Union. The Soviets would never have sanctioned an intervention against Saddam then. It just wasn't on the table. Even with the Soviet Union a shell of its former self, in 1990, it was exceedingly difficult to get the Russkies to buy off on intervening against Iraq in Kuwait - and part of the deal that got the Russkies to stay neutral was an agreement that Saddam would not be deposed - that the operation would stop with the liberation of Kuwait. Which was the case, until Saddam's viciousness against the Kurds and Shia just got too vile to ignore. (Which it wasn't. The west can ignore anything so long as the people aren't white and there aren't a lot of pesky cameras around).

(Incidentally, anyone who points to Rumsfeld's appearance in Iraq during the Cold War and spouts off about Saddam being "OUR man" pretty much demonstrates his ignorance of the relationship between Moscow and Baghdad during that time.)

Moreover, prior to 1991, there simply would have been no logistical basis from which to stage an intervention. (It's always easy to tell the argument of an amateur simply by considering the logistics involved).

The only way to defeat Iraq's tanks was with a mechanized force of our own. And fielding a mech force would have been impossible without a logistical base from which to do it. In 1991, it was King Khalid Military City. In 2003 it was Camp Victory and Camp Arafjan in Kuwait.

Who would have allowed us to tie up their ports, roads, and highways to topple Saddam in 1998? The Kuwaitis? Why? Saddam hadn't invaded them yet. The Saudis? Fat chance. Turkey? How are you going to get your army from Constantinople to the Iraqi border? And is the terrain favorable to a mech fight? How do you truck two full armored corps full of supplies all the way across the country? Think they'd be vulnerable? And what if the Russians decide to use their submarines to cut off the army while it was committed in Turkey?

The idea that it was logistically or politically feasible to intervene in Iraq in the late 1980s is so far divorced from reality as to be laughable.

So, having dispensed with that straw man, I move to Terrence's curious position that the humanitarian justification for intervention fails because Saddam had already killed so many people, and they were already dead.

I don't know where Terrence gets his crystal ball from - the one that enables him to somehow obtain a priori knowledge that Saddam, who had already launched perhaps 40 chemical strikes against Kurdish villages and who had already murdered hundreds of thousands, would not do so again - particularly since the Anfal campaign was not a one-off occurance. Saddam had already engaged in at least four major genocidal military campaigns BY TERRANCE'S OWN COUNT! (Three against the Kurds in 1983, 1986-1988, and 1991, and one against the Shia in 1991, not counting the millions killed in the war with Iran, which Hussein started.) I guess Terrance's prediliction to appeasement is infinite. I'm not so patient with people, and I probably would have figured things out by 1987 that Saddam was not going to stop of his own accord.

At any rate, while the scale of Saddam's trepidations had mellowed since 1991, his cruelty, by any account, had not. The only reason Saddam's murderous impulses had been kept in check during the 1990s was the fact that the US and the UK were stepping on his neck and ensuring he could not get an air cap over operations in the No Fly Zones - and made it clear that any incursions for the purpose of genocide would themselves be attacked from the air.

Somehow, though, Terrance is able to argue that Saddam's killing days were through in 2003, which is the lynchpin underlying the whole antihumanitarian argument.

Terrance then goes on to embrace the logical fallacy that since we have found it in our interests to deal with murderous thugs elsewhere, it is therefore somehow neccessary that we apply a consistent standard in Iraq.

And there are situations that could benefit from our humanitarian leaningings, and we don’t do the right thing when they’re happening right in front of us. We’re still allying with torturous dictators today, and give billions in aid to them...

Somehow, Terrance manages to invoke this argument without actually calling for a humanitarian intervention in those places he mentions. Which I guess is easy to do if you're held in sway by a morally bankrupt political philosophy which requires meaningful belief in absolutely nothing: You cannot argue that intervening in Iraq was wrong because you have not intervened elsewhere and then not call for broader intervention. Terrence just exposes this red herring for what it is: Those who argue along these lines are really not concerned for the people anyway.

And they say they're not concerned for the oil.

And so if they're not concerned with people, and are not concerned with the strategic interests of the U.S., then what in the world DOES drive their policy?


Yet somehow when our allied dicators do stuff like this along with killing hundreds of protestors, despite all of our rantings and ravings about Saddam’s “rape rooms” we don’t seem to think it warrants more than a good talking-to and hope for the best.

Funny, since this position Terrance criticizes is EXACTLY the default position any antihumanitarian such as Terrance MUST take vis-a-vis Iraq. If you aren't going to topple Saddam, then all you are left with is a "good talking-to and hope-for-the-best."

Which did so much good in the 1990s that Bill Clinton felt obliged to launch a massive series of air strikes.

The simple answer is that we ally ourslves with their oppressors when it suits our purposes, and we turn a deaf hear to their cries for help. That is, unless they are cries from the grave. Once dead, they may be safely “rescued.”

This is a great argument against the liberation of Auschwitz. There were already so many dead, you see.

What Terrance is missing is that while Saddam did murder hundreds of thousands, there are 25 million people still alive in Iraq. And most of them were damn glad to see Saddam gone.

As long as we’re shaking hands with torturous and murderous dictators, and caking our own with more blood in the process, don’t talk to me of decades old mass graves and a “shortage of moral perspective.”

He's referring to this statement by me:

Terrance does not seem interested in addressing the current recruitment shortfalls. And my post is not meant to address the current recruiting shortfall. The recruiting shortfall doesn't worry me all THAT much. My post was instead meant to address the current shortage of moral perspective, and the shortage of committment to REAL liberal values which exists on the left.

The idea that freedom is not worth defending at all is the real cowardice. The idea that having abandoned the Kurds and Shia once, that we should do it again, ought to be the real outrage.

And it is this faithlessness that I'd present with the white feather.

My argument still stands. Indeed, Terrence's argument simply confirms what I had been saying all along: The antihumanitarian left does not feel that freedom is worth defending, advocates abandoning the Iraqis to Saddam then, and now many of them advocate abandoning the Iraqis to Al Qaeda now. Democracy is not worth sacrifice, and Saddam's word is to be esteemed above those of the democratically elected leader of a free nation.

So I'll talk about the absence of moral perspective all day long. Especially when the leadership of the Democratic party is seriously comparing US troops to Nazis, gulag overseers, and Khmer Rouge, and argues that "this is worse than those six million Jews being killed."

THAT is overwhelming evidence of late-stage moral perspective deficiency disorder (MPDD).

Further, I don't even have to rely on decades-old bodies to illustrate Saddam's brutality. I've spoken to people who had their arms broken by Saddam's goons and who had their loved ones murdered just days and weeks before Saddam fell. I've spoken to people who were guests at weddings when one of Saddam's serial rapist sons drives up with his entourage and kidnaps his choice of young women at gunpoint.

MPDD it is.

Terrance would be on somewhat firmer footing on the WMD question than duking it out on antihumanitarian grounds. But he chose not to engage in that argument with his post.

Which is just as well, because the "See? He had no WMD argument" also fails because it assumes that a priori knowledge of Saddam's WMD status was knowable in the winter of 2002 - a postulate that is clearly false.

To argue that we should have taken Saddam at his word when his word had never been good for anything ever is to evince a breathtaking naivete.

The bottom line:

25 million people in Iraq are now free, and have a shot at a better life. No thanks to the antihumanitarian left.

Splash, out


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