Sceptical libertarianism and opera

Location: France

July 21, 2004

I'm anti-war: advice for those who would like to change my mind

I'm not a pacifist. Part of me would like to be - the same part that would like there to be no prisons, no policemen and unlimited free opera tickets. But reality requires me to temper my idealism.

I should, therefore, be persuadable on the war in Iraq. I am a keen reader of the more left-leaning pro-war UK blogs, notably Oliver Kamm, Harry's Place and normblog, together with the occasional glance at Stephen Pollard. I remain unconvinced, and have come up with the following modest list of suggestions for those wishing to change the minds of people like me.

1. Don't accuse me of being 'pro-Saddam'
This argument is facile and insulting. I am no more 'pro-Saddam' than Churchill was 'pro-Stalin' because he did not advocate the invasion of the Soviet Union. 
The call to war in Iraq involves judgement. It is my judgement that the consequences of starting the war are worse than the alternative. Most of my pro-war friends would come to the same conclusion on North Korea, Iran, Burma or Saudi Arabia. So why is coming to this conclusion on Iraq tantamount to supporting torture? Worse, according to Oliver Kamm:

The supporters of war have a monopoly of morality on the subject. There is no reputable anti-war position.
If there is a reputable anti-war position on North Korea or Saudi Arabia (as Mr Kamm tacitly acknowledges), then there must exist a reputable anti-war position on Iraq.

2. Don't dismiss the lack of WMDs 

It seems now to be the accepted wisdom on  much of the pro-war side that the absence of WMDs is a non-issue. Even if Saddam didn't have them, the argument goes, he wanted them and would have got them at some point. So we were still right to get him and those who carp on about WMDs are hair-splitters. I can see the attractiveness of this line of reasoning, but its flaw is that it ignores political realities.
In the UK, the entire case for war was based on WMDs. Blair was careful to state that the war was not based on humanitarian considerations (this being a desirable side-effect). The damage that their non-appearance has caused is immense. It has made it almost inconceivable that such a war could ever be waged again. Does this not worry the pro-war side? No matter how much it might be needed in future, any future 'just' war has been made more or less impossible by Iraq. To me, this is the biggest internal flaw in the pro-war argument.

3. Attack the arguments, not those making them

The various sins of Michael Moore, George Galloway, Robin Cook, Douglas Hurd, Respect, et al, are interesting and worthy of discussion. However, they have nothing whatever to do with the justification of the war on Iraq and are completely irrelevant to my forming an opinion on that war.

4. Make your mind up on the UN

Had the UN taken a specific vote on the war, it would undoubtedly have voted against (Chirac had seen to that). I cannot therefore see how it can be argued that the war had UN support. So I am bemused by those who argue that the war was waged to uphold UN resolutions. Had the UN voted against starting a war, would these arguments have been no longer valid? I fear UN approval is a bit of a fig-leaf for pro-war arguments - only to be used when it goes in your favour (I admit that the same often applies to anti-war arguments, and I would criticise them for the same reasons). 

5. Keep going

The Iraq war is one of the most important issues of our time. Both sides of the argument need to be tested continuously. So let's make sure the debate continues. 


Blogger Levi9909 said...

Hi Inquisitor

I think we should always keep the UN out of our arguments. Did Zionism only start being a form of racism when the UN said it was? Did it stop being racist when the UN, under pressure from George Bush snr, overturned its resolution? Demanding UN support before imperialists take military action is foolhardy. The UN does give such support now and then and look at the genocide by sanctions campaign. Didn't that have the imprimatur of the UN?

21 July 2004 at 22:17  
Blogger Levi9909 said...

21 July 2004 at 22:18  
Blogger josh narins said...

#2. part B, the future of war.

F*ck yeah.

I'm not a pacifist.

I'm also of the mind that the oil/christian forces were _trying_ to set us up for another war, this time Sudan, but just this week Bush has "made up" with Bashir.

1 May 2005 at 03:19  
Anonymous Ben G said...

I fully aggree with The Inquisitor's post here.

I remain very critical and quizzical of much of the "stopper" mentality; but on balance I support the anti-war position for the very reasons you post above, coupled with an in-grained and perfectly justified suspicion of the motives of the Bush and Blair govts, and the inevitable effect that was always going to have on a post-Saddam Iraq (ie. neo-liberalism, oil companies making hay. etc.)

May I add a "6"?

"Don't censor those who argue against you; it makes your position look weak."

I read Harry's Place quite regularly, and agree with, well at least with some of it. Yet after a few pretty mild non-abusive rebukes to other right-wing posters I find myself locked out, banned from even looking at the thing, and with no warning either.

Little do they know I can look at it from another computer -ha haha!

15 August 2005 at 17:49  
Anonymous Ben G said...

They seem to have let me back now. And errr... maybe it was an accident on their part in the first place. If so, apolgies to HP!

The principle holds sound though!

15 August 2005 at 19:49  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

Tough to make a case if you don't explain why you are opposed to the defeat of a terrorist-sponsoring, terrorist-harboring regime crushing it's own people and violating a decade-old cease fire repeatedly.

21 June 2006 at 17:20  
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