More On War Doubts

I feel somewhat like I’ve been flogging a dead and rotting horse for the past few days, but I want to get to Joshua Micah Marshall’s reasoning for moving to the anti-war side. Mr. Marshall is one of the most thoughtful lefty bloggers out there, along with Sean-Paul Kelley in terms of intellectual honesty and investigative writing.

Looking through his post, there’s a lot that I agree on. However, I think there’s an crucial gap in his logic. Marshall quotes an old column of his in which he argues:

If Saddam were to accept a truly robust inspections regime–one which would allow the inspectors to roam the country more or less at will–we will have achieved our aim of neutralizing the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. But, of course, when he doesn’t agree–and he won’t–then we will have forced our allies to confront the reality of Iraqi intransigence head-on. Some may still oppose our imminent military action. But others might join us, and that will make us stronger.

That is exactly what the US has done. We’ve tried to create an inspections regime that has just that freedom in the efforts to get the rest of the world on the same page.

Yet there are three reasons why this strategy did not work in November and it will not work in the future.

The first is the nature of the weapons inspectors. It is becoming clear that Hans Blix regards his job to be in forestalling military action against Iraq rather than enforcing UN Resolution 1441. Dr. Blix does not have the cojones to challenge Saddam in the way he needs to be challenged. It is clear that UNMOVIC is a joke, and that Iraq’s efforts at disarmament are strictly symbolic. Unless you had someone with the willingness to confront Saddam (and try getting that person through the UN Security Council) inspections will continue to be a sham.

Then, there’s the issue of Saddam’s compliance. While the idea of coercive inspections is tempting, unless Saddam is willing to comply, the inspectors simply can’t do their job. If we had a truly coercive regime, we’d essentially inform Saddam that we will bomb any facility that isn’t inspected to our liking. Again, try getting that through the UN Security Council.

The final and most critical line of attack I have against this argument is the notion that the UN gives a damn about Iraqi disarmament. France, Germany, Russia, and China all do business with Saddam Hussein. All of them have vested interests in keeping his regime afloat. That means that they are hardly objective about anything that might harm those interests.

Mr. Marshall believes the diplomatic costs of this war no longer justify it. However, in the end, I don’t see a valid option that 1) contains Saddam effectively and 2) doesn’t create the same kind of tension in the UN Security Council we’re seeing right now.

Finally, Mr. Marshall has this to say:

I think we need to pursue this goal for the next several months and keep ratcheting up the pressure, knowing that we may have to go to war at a later point, even when weather conditions and so forth aren’t ideal. (One tack we might try — and I mean this only half in jest — is to tell particularly the French but also the Germans and the Chinese and the Russians that if they’re so enamored with the current situation which has been brought about by an overwhelming display of American military might, they need to start footing their share of the bill.)

Is this a good solution? No. And I’m not certain how long we can sustain it. But I think, as I said yesterday, the gains we’re going to make by doing this (and I still think they would be substantial) will be outweighed by the costs, even the costs entailed by shifting our policy. It’s a very close call. But I owe you a straight-up answer. And that’s it.

Now granted, if Mr. Marshall were correct, that would be a good plan. But as I’ve shown, there’s scarce little evidence to suggest that would be case. The entire plan is predicated on the acceptance of nations who have entrenched interests in keeping Saddam around and diminishing US power. They’re not going to go along with that any more than they would be willing to go along with war as it is.

Furthermore, I agree with those who say that the bigger long-term threat is North Korea. Time is not on our side. We can’t maintain this level of pressure on Iraq if Pyongyang decides to up the ante. Our best option is to finish with Iraq, disarm and remove Saddam Hussein, then devote as much attention as we can spare to North Korea. We can do both if we must, but not effectively.

I agree with Mr. Marshall – we’re taking a big risk for this strategy. Where I disagree is in his assessment that there is a better way. If we had all the time in the world, we could potentially work on playing diplomacy with the EU. However, I’ve the feeling that it would prove counterproductive in the end. Europe wants Saddam left alone and the sanctions lifted so TotalFinaElf can have full access to the Iraqi oilfields and Russia, Germany, and China can help Saddam build up his military to Gulf War levels. They don’t want coercive inspections because that would interfere with such plans. Nor do they really want any outcome in which America can claim a credible foreign policy victory because it would weaken their position – a position that is staked upon opposition to American power.

I would rather force the issue and pay the price now then run the risk of having some of Saddam Hussein’s anthrax end up in the Mall of America and still face the haughty wrath of the French. At this point, we have to face the facts: war is simply our least negative option.

12 thoughts on “More On War Doubts

  1. By most measures, the level of urgency with North Korea is Bush’s own fault. The gun-to-your-head foreign policy undertaken at the 2002 State of the Union address backed the North Korean guard dogs into a corner, so they have little to lose but to respond with every ounce of ferocity they have in them. When Bush outlines a three-headed “axis of evil” and then seeks to destroy one of those heads, the other two have little incentive to play fair. Perhaps the mess with North Korea wouldn’t have escalated to what it has if the tough talk was restricted to internal chats with Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell rather than broadcasted worldwide in a political act of hubris intended to enflame Americans to rally behind the administration.

    Also, you elude to why Iraq is such an imminent threat and that delay of any sort runs the risk of armageddon for us. Why?

  2. North Korea has made the choice to produce nuclear weapons illegally, threaten it’s neighbors, commit gross human rights violations, and sell weapons to rogue states and terrorists. and guess what, this was before the “axis of evil” was called for what it is. you son’t talk too soft to a communist regime, or else they might not hear you through their plugged ears. Bush, as usual took a far out stance inorder to get people to notice it, or haven’t you noticed that there was inaction before he brought it up?
    Did you mean imminent, or immediate threat? Saddam’s Iraq might not pose an immediate threat, in that at the moment, there doesn’t apear to be a threat. But well, any country that uses oil prices and sales as the primary reason for invading another country, then after being driven out refuses to fully cooperate with the countries that are trying to ensure they follow international law… plus of course the fact that they have used WMDs on their own peoplein the not too distant past. well, that would stand a good chance of being an imminant threat to the places where our citizens are, unless I need to remind you that at our military lead the force that stuck out the arm and wacked them, right back across the border the last time. Terrorists don’t differentiat between the soldier with the Gun, and the citizen with the cell phone and laptop. so, immediate threat, maybe no, imminant threat, well, that is more debatable, but the threat is there. tis best to kill the dragon whilst he sleeps, lest he awake and the fight become less favorable for those of who dare stand against it.

  3. You say Bush needed to take a “far-out stand” to get North Korea to notice us and we were woefully inept at handling them up to that point. Are we better off today for having publicly shined the spotlight on them? I say definitely not.

  4. then what would you suggest? the world in general does not notice something unless you hit it over the head with it, such is international politics, if we had been quiter about itthe North Koreans would have simply ignored us, the communist controlled country has a habit of letting quiet diplomacy from us fade away. that, and the fact that the UN wouoldn’t have even noticed it if there hadn’t been an uproar about it, such is the ineptness of the international society of debate, which is sadly what the UN has turned into. ineptness by the US started with the clintonian inability to play ball in the foreign relations field, the good old Tomahawk diplomacy, was clintons way of handling things quietly, and well, we all know how well that turned out. so loud sometimes uncultured talk by Bush is much better than the “quiet” diplomacy of clinton, the most recent person to compare with.

  5. “If we had a truly coercive regime, we’d essentially inform Saddam that we will bomb any facility that isn’t inspected to our liking. Again, try getting that through the UN Security Council.”

    I don’t know why we didn’t try to get that through the Security Council. It would have divided the anti-war camp.

  6. The suggestion that current situation with North Korea can be attributed to Bush is clearly the product of an indolent mind more interested in consuming and propagating leftist propaganda than pausing even for a moment to think. The situation is a result of the continued existence of a nation lead by men that respect neither the lives of foreigners nor their own citizens, much like the party in Orwell’s 1984, a group whose only aim is to leave a bootprint on the face of humanity. A failure to detect and halt the developement and production of nuclear arms is blood on the hands of both this administration and its predecessor, and the necessity for ridiculous diplomacy that we see today. Though the current approach amounts to little more than the appeasement of terrorists the presence of devestating weapons necessitates such an approach in interest of not eliminating Seoul or Tokyo in a single day. For this very reason it is imperative that Iraq is dealt with now, when the technology that a nation posseses exceeds its moral developement disaster can and will ensue.

  7. Relations with North Korea would most likely not be as troubled as they are today if Bush hadn’t applied such a broad “axis of evil” foreign policy towards his political enemies. I wouldn’t think that would even be a point of contention given that we’re trying to prepare for one war, but the guy who knows he’s next on the hit list isn’t sitting in the corner and waiting quietly for US troops to rain down upon his empire. If North Korea wasn’t so publicly exposed to be in the scope of the US rifle, perhaps we could handle existing military operations first without Kim John Il constantly trying to upstage us. Kim is clearly an evil man, but by spelling out in no uncertain terms that his head is the next to go to the guillotine after Hussein, we give him all the more incentive to play his hand now while we’re preoccupied with other priorities (as logically flawed as our list of priorities is).

  8. your point is? just sit on our asses and let the bad guys die of old age, after long and notorious reigns? the fact that norht korea didn’t have the pole as far up it’s ass right after the axis of evil speach should tell you someting. Pyongyang got diplomatically agressive, not after that usage of words in a speach, but after they were caught trying to reach their hands into the nuclear cookie jar. that’s a big difference. they would have let us think what we want, if they hadn’t been caught, but now they are like the robber who steals a car to escape another crime. they are stirring up more trouble than they need to. If the US is the unreasonable one, the country to go it alone into war, then why are the North Koreans the ones who refuse to allow the talks to be multilateral?

  9. I’ve stated my position at least twice on this issue just in this thread, but I’ll try to restate again in language that hopefully even you can comprehend. If we had chosen our battles one at a time rather than showed our hand to three countries we intended to destroy one-by-one, North Korea would most likely not be acting with the level of desperate aggression they are now when the know they’re next. And perhaps then, we could at least concentrate on completing a military victory in Iraq first (as foolhardy as it is) and not be forced to shrug off North Korea as a “regional threat” that are Japan and South Korea’s concern and certainly not ours.

    When Bush claimed last year that Iraq, Iran and North Korea were an “axis of evil” that had to be stopped for the preservation of the free world, but backtracks today saying only one of those nations poses a global threat and the other is merely regional, he comes across as weak, indecisive and opportunistic now. Whatever way you to try to spin it, the “axis of evil” hubris of 14 months ago has backfired, and we are forced to downplay the threat North Korea poses to us today because of it.

    So to answer your question…do we sit on our asses? No. That’s what Bush is doing while Kim Jong Il plays Russian Roulette with us because Bush has his plate full with Iraq. Instead, we put Iraq on hold (or forget about it all together) and start paying attention to the more imminent threat coming from North Korea.

  10. so you mean to say that they would blow off the whole thing about us finding out they have a Nuke program and telling the world about it, if we hadn’t called them a mean name? Good Lord, that is pretty stupid. The issue would have come out when the Nuke news did anyway, so I really don’t see your point, sure the wording Might have been different, but you know as well as I do that the situation would be the same. do you really think putting them in the spotlight would help? they have already said that any UN action would be considered an act of war, or can’t you read those big words? And you know the world would cry of us to handle it multilaterally, and that would mean UN. Well, I guess we could really turn them into an imminent threat, by putting our full attention on them. Lovely, and then we can see a war fought between the UN and a nation on the edge. purely lovliness. The North koreans want attention right now, and when they get it, they just get angry, so, i don’t really see the point in letting them get too much attention at the moment.
    “and start paying attention to the more imminent threat coming from North Korea.”
    So, you admit that Iraq is an imminent threat? or did you get so heated up by your own writing that you put in “more” when you really meant that Iraq isn’t an imminent threat?

  11. Calling them a mean name??? We pointed them out as three countries we were gonna crush in military conflict, and we’re already starting to crush one of them. Knowing your country is next to be destroyed by US troops is the real motivation of NK…it has nothing to do with being called a “mean name”.

    And if you actually had read what I wrote, you would have noticed I had said NORTH KOREA was the imminent threat…the threat I suggested we focus our energies on and ignore Iraq(the “un-imminent” threat) for the time being.

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