Friday, November 07, 2003


The assumption that events will conform to a preconceived model is a failing to which neoconservatives are notably vulnerable. Part of this may be Marxist residue that never quite washed off. The intellectual descendants of Trotskyists, the neocons find the idea of revolution from above, in which intellectuals and ideas play the crucial role, instinctively appealing.
That's gotta sting.

Over at Slate, it seems the big names are doing the rhetorical back-to-basics routine: restating the arguments for going into Iraq, along with the old concerns about what happens if something goes wrong. At least now we're actually grounded in reality, rather than somebody's wishful thinking version of it. (Most of are, in any case.)

I was actually glad to see Matt Welch take a shot at (!!) Christopher Hitchens on Reason's Hit & Run blog. Hitchens is great and all, but he seems to say nothing new in his piece justifying the war. (It seems a prerequisite for smart Hitchens critiques to start, "Hitchens is great and all but...," so there you go.) Not saying anything new isn't bad, but worse is the implicit defence of government deception, not to mention a few straw man arguments like this: "Before the war, it was a staple of anti-interventionist argument that Saddam was too well-armed to be attacked...." Um, I don't remember anybody saying that.

Meanwhile Slate editor Jake Weisberg can get away with big-picture arguments like the article quoted at the top of this post, even though we've heard it a hundred times before, because a) he's the editor and he can write what he wants, b) he's right c) experience has sort of proved him right.

I haven't read Bush's recent speech, but from what I read, it's one of the good ones. He talked about the ways in which -- if our side wins this war -- the lives of millions of people, not just in Iraq, will improve. He called for a transformation of political systems across the Middle East, including in Egypt (although Saudi Arabia got some mysterious props for changes already, supposedly, under way). Horray for that in any case.

Argument like this are the reason I almost thought the war was a good idea. But today, I have to wonder. Even if you buy this rationale wholesale, hasn't too much already gone wrong? Haven't we made too many enemies? Seems to me you'd want to try spreading democracy by making friends, not by alienating huge segments of the various populations. Isn't there any point at which the costs (having the entire world see the U.S. as an imperialist bogeyman paying the price for its own hubris) don't simply outweight the gains (democracy in the Middle East) but make those gains well-nigh impossible?

We shouldn't be thinking that way because we want it to be true. We don't. At least I don't. But we should be thinking that way to ensure things don't go horribly wrong. Again.


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