Denial Ain’t Just A River In Egypt

The entire debate on Iraq seems to grow more and more a debate between people who are looking at the evidence and those that are trying to live in an illusory world where Saddam Hussein isn’t a threat. The arguments against war in Iraq seem to become more and more desperate as time goes on, despite the fact that they’re crumbling moment by moment.

There’s the argument that an attack on Iraq would be a gross violation of international law, which ignores the fact that this is in response to a true violation of numerous UN orders. I’m honestly beginning to think that international law only matters to some when it’s going against the US or Israel. Saddam can build all the nukes he want and slaughter whomever he chooses – because as wel all know, George W. Bush is the real enemy. If one is going to make this argument, than the UN being unwilling to back up their resolutions with force means that they’re irrelevant. As Hobbes once astutely said, covenents without swords are but words, and resolutions without force are nothing more than ink on a page.

Then there’s the head-in-the-sand notion that Iraq isn’t actively seeking nuclear weapons. Look, anyone can use mere common sense and see that Saddam Hussein is a real threat. At this point, given the overwhelming evidence from multiple sources the only way you could argue that Saddam Hussein isn’t racing to get a nuke is by blatantly ignoring the vast preponderance of evidence to the contrary. (Which some people seem to still want to do.)

Given that, the next step is to say that Saddam Hussein can be contained through conventional notions of deterrance. Once again, this is a gamble that isn’t worth taking. First of all, I’m not at all willing to risk hundreds of thousands of lives betting on the mental stability of Saddam Hussein any more so than I’d trust a mental patient with a gun. Sure, there’s a chance that he’s rational enough not to use it, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to blindly trust that assertion. When potentially millions of lives hang in the balance, going on that is foolish to the extreme.

Even if Saddam Hussein is perfectly rational, and that’s a shaky assumption at best, there’s no way that deterrance will work. Let’s say Saddam sends his Republican Guard into Saudi and takes the Saudi oil fields. All he has to do is threaten to nuke our troops or a major American city, and we’re highly unlikely to take the risk of hundreds of thousands of people dead by stopping him. We’d have to respoid by attacking Iraq with nuclear weapons. So either we engage in a pre-emptive invasion or we radically increase the risk of turning all of Iraq into a permanent wasteland. Clearly the moral calculus is on the side of preemption.

The anti-war crowd has persued a shotgun style of argument in which they send as many flawed counterarguments as they can in the hopes that one of them will stick. There are arguments about the cost and scope of a war that are legitimately important to address, but to say that the threat is non-existent or that this whole idea is nothing more than an exercise in empire building ignores the real motivations and reasoning behind this action.

2 thoughts on “Denial Ain’t Just A River In Egypt

  1. If you’re going to respond to my articles, you could at least do me the favor of linking to me.

    And your argument against deterrence is ludicrous. It’s not about the mental stability of Saddam Hussein (and wasn’t the cold war exactly that sort of bet during Stalin’s lifetime anyway?) but on the entire Iraqi regime… even if he passes down the order, there’s no guarantee it’s going to be obeyed.

    It’s also not about that silly idea that he’ll somehow invade someone and dare the U.S. to retaliate. If he attacks someone conventionally, then they (or their allies) can repel him conventionally. If he threatens to use a nuke in response to that, then the U.S. will guarantee that he’ll get nuked to glass. His nuke becomes of precisely zero use as leverage except in the case that he’s doomed anyway. Which, of course, is the entire point of the concept of national sovereignty in the first place… so that nobody is ever put in that situation, and does something desperate due to it.

    And yes, the U.S. would most certainly take that risk. They’d have to, or the rest of the planet would know that the U.S. isn’t planning on using its weapons and would act with impunity. The U.S. has to communicate with absolute certainty that the use of a nuclear weapon *will* prompt a response. If Saddam doesn’t know that, his advisors (whose own asses are on the line) will no doubt be quick to tell him.

    To say that “deterrence can’t work” misses the point that it has worked, does work, and will continue to work. It requires careful husbandry, but the U.S. has got pretty good at that over the past half-century. And if deterrence doesn’t work, then we should drop everything and go into Pakistan Right F*cking Now, because the subcontinent is doomed.

    Honestly, Jay, your seem to be projecting the weakness of your own recycled talking points.

  2. By the way, we aren’t living in a Hobbesian state of nature. That’s the entire point of the international system in the first place. Nations that try to free-ride that system or disrupt it face serious consequences. Including Iraq. Including the U.S.

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