Mark sent me this
today, and I’m really not sure what to think about it. No,
that’s not fair; I’m really not sure what to think about the
whole proposed war on Iraq. I’m exactly, precisely sure how
much prosletising I’m going to take from any group backed by
with the collective moral authority of a bowl of
href="http://www.coolwhip.com/">cool-whip, who think that
href="http://www.moveon.org/winwithoutwar/">this stupid crap
is a good idea. Here in technical-competence-land we call that a
“Denial Of Service Attack”, not a protest. Informing people of your
opinion is one thing; deliberately making it impossible for them
to do their damn jobs is entirely another. Is it too much trouble
to ask you to do more than fill out a god-damned form letter if
it means that much to you, dumbass? Christ, and you wonder why you
come across as a bunch of pretentious, self-absorbed losers.
Excuse me. As I was saying, I am deeply uncertain about the current
move, and stagnation of that formerly full-court-press, towards
war with Iraq.
The following statements are beyond debate:
- Saddam Hussein is an extraordinarily bad guy, a mercenary,
butchering despot of the highest calibre currently available on the market.
- The first thing that Hussein does with weapons of any kind,
“mass destruction” or not, is to use them to kill a lot of the
locals, typically Kurds.
- He’s a lot better at
than anyone else is at finding them.
- The U.S. has bent over backwards, and arguably bent over
forwards, to accomodate the insistence on Congressional approval,
U.N. resolutions, arms inspections, international support, you name it,
even though they clearly know and have known for some time exactly what
- Hussein’s ties to Al-Qaeda, while not direct, are reasonably well-established.
- Let me reiterate the point, again, that Hussein is a
butcher. That’s a big deal.
On the other hand, the following points are also, I think, beyond
- The U.S. leadership has a lot of deeply personal history wrapped
up in the previous, or perhaps “ongoing”, war with Iraq.
- There’s an awful lot of oil in Iraq. And the only thing the western
world likes more than cheap oil is reliably cheap oil.
- The U.S. has been involved in a low-grade war with Iraq for a decade.
- Though this is billed as part of the war on terrorism, there were
no Iraqis among the World Trade Center suicide bombers. Further,
U.S. presence in the Saudi holy lands was given as one of the main
motivations for those attacks.
- Building-to-building urban warfare is just about the ugliest and
costliest-in-civilian-lives kind of warfare out there and Baghdad
is, well, a big city.
- This whole
And Awe” thing is really, really vile, and the people pushing
it are so enthusiastic about it that it’s hard not to think
of the “Yes, Mein Fuhrer, I mean Mr. President” bit from
I don’t know what to think. The Shock And Awe “strategy”,
if you want to call it that, is very strongly
href="http://www.suck.com/daily/99/01/11/">reminiscent of the
Vietnam War which didn’t, if you cast your minds back, go all
that well. But that’s only a proposed strategy and there’s lots of
those around, like Ari Fleischer’s Alice-In-Wonderfully-Optimistic
“Single Bullet” idea. Being as far as I am from genuine intelligence
data, the moral imperative of a preemptive strike is not something
I’m equipped to gauge; It’s not obvious to me that Hussein has,
or has ever had, ambitions outside his immediate neighborhood, but
I live in a society that like it or not depends on oil and lots
of it, and the question of whether or not appeasement works is a
It’s not at all clear to me that less Iraqis are going to
die if we (Yes, we. Don’t think Canada won’t get in
line when go time rolls around) go to war than would if we
left Hussein in power, especially if he was left to get that
whole bioweapons thing right. But on the other hand, to quote
href="http://www.klio.org/mlk/">Mike Kozlowski, “I was just
idly wondering which of the many pieces of anti-Saddam fact out
there now will turn out later to be pure fabrication, in the way
that the ‘kicking babies out of incubators’ thing in the first Gulf
I do think that when a country, or the leadership of a country,
is plainly involved in the large-scale deaths of its own citizens,
that it’s a hell of a lot easier to get everyone together to put the
boots to that country if they don’t have nuclear weapons. If that
weren’t the case you’d better believe that North Korea, who spent
billions on their military while begging for international aid with
things like food and heating oil, would be a solved problem. Trouble
is, without the U.N. that’s clearly mob justice. Trouble is,
with the U.N. involved odds are pretty good that
will happen, and that lots of people are going to die
anyway. It’s not hard to imagine Kofi Annan giving silent thanks
for the fact that Death, Famine and Pestilence don’t have a vote
in the General Assembly, so that they won’t have to spend two years
trying to build consensus to send grain to Ethiopia.
And, to cap it all off, I don’t know if bombing a country into
submission from basically orbit and then rolling over them with
unstoppable, hugely overarmed ground forces actually constitutes
going to war, any more than beating a child constitues getting into
a fight. It’s clear that a straight up old-school land war is going
to see Iraq get walked on, up until the urban warfare starts. And
really, there’s really only one way for a much weaker, poorly-armed
or badly understaffed opponent to fight back against that kind
of overwhelming direct force. What that way is will be left as a
painfully obvious exercise for the even-marginally-astute reader.
The worst part of all this is that when it gets right down to it,
both the pro- and anti-war rhetoric making it into the mainstream
and “independent” media has been so incredibly, offensively stupid,
so so deja-vu-grade-reminiscent of Grade 8 english class
debates, that I have a hard time believing that the world is run
by fully-formed adults. It’s like watching Adam Sandler hash out
foreign policy with Eric Cartman. We need to go to war because
“Saddam Hussein is Evil”? That’s a great reason, if you’re
a twelve-year-old running a D&D campaign. When looking for
weapons, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”? Bitch,
please. I tried to use that to get out of cleaning my room once. On
the other side of the fence, I’m just astonished at the number
idealists who think that they’re making a point when all they’re
really doing is making a noise, a noise that’s barely intelligible
when it amounts to using a human-rights argument to support leaving
a brutal dictator in power. “War in Iraq will destabilize the Middle
East!” What the hell are you on? Have you looked at the Middle East
lately? Like, in the last two thousand years?
So I don’t know. It’s crystal clear at this point that the U.N. is
a case study in how to completely bone idealism by turning it over
to bureaucratic management, and that dealing with the countries that
flagrantly violate U.N. resolutions by passing more resolutions is
not what you’d call a productive strategy. In fact, this whole
thing might well be that this is what I suspect it to be, that
being bald-faced imperialism on the part of the U.S., but that the
practical result of it might end up being that the world is a better
place anyway. The U.S. is certainly saying that they’re down with
the the whole Marshall-Plan-style rebuild-and-reestablish after the
war’s over, and who knows, might actually mean it. With the number of
lives clearly at stake maybe doing the right thing, or at least the
wrong thing with enough positive side effects, for the wrong reasons
is the right way to go.
I’d like to take a moment to tell you how far the actual state of
the world diverges from the way I think it should be.