Down With OBL?

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New at Reason: Jesse Walker hits the links.

NEXT: Another Vote for the Initiative Process

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  1. nice piece, Jesse.

  2. Jesse Walker,

    One of the best articles you’ve written in some time. Its unfortunate that I cannot give you a glass of my family wine. 🙂

  3. I essentially agree.

    I only differ in how I would describe the bar for war triggering complicity. If Saddam was providing safe haven to Al-Qaeda in a way that significantly enabled their operations, we almost had to go to war, whether or not he actively participated in operations planning. This is how I view Afghanistan. Except there it was out in the open such that we didn’t need to depend on intelligence to know what was happening. Maybe Saddam was better at keeping a secret. Maybe the scenario is being fabricated. I don’t personally believe in going to war based on what our leaders (supposedly) know that we don’t. And in any situation, you have to look at all the pros and the cons.

  4. fyodor,

    Iran is harboring al qaeda. Pakistan (maybe not the government, but they are there) is too. Do you support war with them?

  5. I have to agree with the others, Jesse. A nice and fair-minded piece. See, I didn’t ruin your thesis at all with my premature exasperation.

    I disagree with your conclusion, however. The available public evidence does not show that Saddam Hussein’s regime was directly involved 9/11. Actually, it didn’t show that the Taliban were directly involved, either.

    I don’t believe that’s the decision rule for going to war. I think the “middle ground” you refer to is sufficient — that is, that there was some kind of operational relationship between al Qaeda and Iraq. Sure, a few exchanges of “hellos” and “don’t you hate that Bush/Clinton/Bush?” isn’t enough. But if Iraq served in any meaningful way as a source of funds, intelligence, weapons, weapons training, shelter, or other aid, whether used specifically in the 9/11 attacks or not, then it is an accessory to an avowed and dangerous enemy of the U.S. This justifies war against Iraq, if the probable benefits outweigh the probable costs.

    That’s the rub, isn’t it? Whether the outcome will justify the policy? Critics seem a catastrophe, I see mostly success. We’ll just have to see.

    Some make the fallacious argument that since other regimes have also served as accessories to al Qaeda, we shouldn’t have gone to war in Iraq and not elsewhere, or in Iraq before we went elsewhere. No, the right to do something is not a duty to do something. Iraq presented a unique set of circumstances: a costly U.S. deployment of troops already there enforcing what I considered to be a problematic embargo, Iraq’s history of regional militarism, a history of biochem and nuclear programs, a plot against the life of a U.S. president by Hussein’s cronies, pretty good evidence of Iraq’s complicity in the first WTC attack in 1993, the longtime suffering of the Iraqi people, the better-than-average prospects for a republican form of government there vs. other accessory states, a big reserve of oil with which to help finance reconstruction, a series of violated UN resolutions to supply some international legitimacy, and the list goes on.

    We’re not going to settle the debate about the war here, nor am I inclined to debate it, point by point, yet again. Just restating my different take on the publicly available evidence.

    The bottom line is that Jesse and others think we can realistically take actions that reduce our exposure and separate ourselves from the Middle East/Islamist crisis. For a variety of reasons — world trade, history, political inevitabilities — I don’t think we can. Thus, I see the choice in fighting terrorism as between a law enforcement model doomed to failure — in what is still a free society, we will never tolerate the kind of restrictions necessary to prevent terrorist attacks — and a military model that credibly threatens swift, decisive, and revolutionary retribution against any tyrant who even pretends to cooperate with al Qaeda and their ilk.

    So I don’t need a legally airtight case on the OBL-Saddam link to serve as justification. What is publicly available, and now listed helpfull in the Feith memo, is both necessary and sufficient (wink to JB).

  6. In response to Jesse Walker’s very good article, I echo and have nothing to add to John Hood’s excellent post above.

  7. John Hood sez: “This justifies war against Iraq, if the probable benefits outweigh the probable costs.”

    Just to follow up on that: you’ll notice that I didn’t say a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda would necessarily justify “war,” but that it would justify “intervention.” I’m obviously more open to war with Iraq if Saddam was [fill in boilerplate language here], but there’s still the separate issues of whether he could have been removed through another means (though if any point is moot now, it’s that one), and, as John notes, whether the costs of such a war are worth it.

    To draw a comparison: It’s obvious that there’s a very substantial overlap between the government of Pakistan (which has fully operational weapons of mass destruction) and Al Qaeda. It’s also obvious that there’s some really, really good reasons not to respond to that overlap by declaring war. You have to respond to it somehow, but war isn’t the best way.

  8. mork,

    Read what I said again. I’m talking about willingly enabling them to operate there. Unless I’m quite naive, Pakistan is not doing that. I haven’t heard that Iran is, either. Have you?

    And okay, let’s turn the tables. Were you okay with our invasion of Afghanistan? If so, how would you describe the difference between what they were doing and what I’ve described? As bad as the Taliban was, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that they actively participated in 9/11.

  9. Dang, I hate it when my post gets superceded by earlier posts that I didn’t see when I posted!!

  10. Jesse:

    It’s obvious that there’s a very substantial overlap between the government of Pakistan (which has fully operational weapons of mass destruction) and Al Qaeda. It’s also obvious that there’s some really, really good reasons not to respond to that overlap by declaring war. You have to respond to it somehow, but war isn’t the best way.

    Right spot on. Even I, a rampaging warmonger, would think it insane to intervene militarily in Pakistan despite their security services’ long history of footsie with OBL.

  11. Just got back from a workout in the gym where Fox News is on all of the televisions (surprise, it’s an Air Force gym). Anyway, they ran a story about the memo in which the story’s focus wasn’t on the memo, or even the contents, but rather on the fact that those darn liberal media outlets are ignoring this BREAKING STORY … and they fail to mention that the Weekly Standard, is owned by the same gentleman that owns elFoxo.

    🙂

  12. Well, damn guess I have to sort all this out.

    Recall that absent the Northern Alliance, taking Kabul was not part of the mission. Nor was deposing the Taliban, per se. Rolling up terrorist bases was the goal, along with capturing OBL.

    This was sane.

    There is also no good reason why the same model couldn’t have been applied to Iraq. Al Queda chem bomb maker in Northern Iraq — the gotcha of Powell’s UN fly-by — well then go in and KILL HIM. Deposing Saddamn need not enter into the picture. If it happens, great. If he rools the Guard out, we destroy it. If not, we’ll be back. I call it the Doctrine of Hot Pursuit.

    To me this is a helluva lot more scary to the bad guys — and effective — than tying down 8/10 of your combat power with an expensive — and possibly pointless — occupation of millions.

    Contra John, I’d rather have the 82nd, the 1st, and the 4th tear-assing across the tribal areas of Pakistan than manning checkpoints and building the West Bank, Sumerian division.

  13. John Hood just summed up the case for military action in Iraq as well as I’ve ever heard it done. I’m not sure I think it was a good idea, but he makes a defensible case.
    It’s good to hear non-hysterical debate for a change.

  14. Hood – I agree that the right to do something is not the duty to do something. I certainly think we had a right to topple Saddam, I just don’t think it was a good idea or a good use of resources.

    “and a military model that credibly threatens swift, decisive, and revolutionary retribution against any tyrant who even pretends to cooperate with al Qaeda and their ilk.”

    Again, I ask about Iran, Saudi, Pakistan and others. All tyrannical governments that seem to at least have some involvement with terror. That is one of my beefs with taking down Saddam. Doing that leaves us with no steam to go after others. So we leave plenty of tyrants who appear to be cooperating with al Qaeda standing. Some of them in my opinion much bigger problems than Iraq. I think the unevenness of the policy is a problem.

    fyodor – al qaeda has a relationship with Pakistani security forces. Iran admitted it had al qaeda members. I did support the invasion of Afghanistan. Not to get to the Taliban, but to get to bin-Laden. I think we have dropped the ball on Afghanistan for military and political reasons.

  15. I agree that John Hood’s case for war is much better than a lot of things I’ve heard.

    I just want to point out that starting a war because “the probable benefits outweigh the probable costs”, while certainly a rational approach, is a very controversial policy, for this reason: the outcome is often very unpredictable and indeterminate, and starting a war when there is no imminent threat has the immediate effect of ratcheting up the stakes to a point where there is no turning back.

    You might say: So what? As long as we make the appropriate cost/benefit analysis, we are still taking the best available course of action.

    But here is the crux: there is no obvious mechanism for making the cost/benefit analysis, and so in our system of government, ultimately it comes down to the judgement of one person, the President. And as a general matter of policy, one could argue that the dangers of giving the President discretion to wage war based on his judgement, when there is no imminent threat, outweigh the benefits. Or to put it another way, a general policy of not starting wars except when confronting an imminent threat is a more responsible strategy than gambling on the outcomes of specific “unnecessary” wars.

    I guess this is a “conservative” critique of the doctrine of preemption. What do y’all think?

  16. I agree alma. History is chock full of wars that did not go the way leaders (or anyone) thought they would. The after effects of war are also impossible to predict. Even now, months in, it is impossible for anyone to predict what will happen in Iraq 6 months from now. Would anyone be completely shocked if there was a large chem / bio attack against our troops? Or if the 4th generation guerilla tactics continued to escalated? If more foreign troops entered the conflict? Or if the whole thing settled down? The way this conflict shapes the world in 20 years is also difficult to predict. I would have mixed feelings about a simple cost/benefit analysis as a justification for war even if the analysis were accurate. Since war is one of the most unpredictable human endeavors I think cost / benefit is a risky game to engage in.

  17. Jesse,

    You write, “It was Washington’s war on Baghdad?the first Gulf War, then the sanctions, then this year’s invasion?that pushed matters to the point where Bin Ladenesque jihadists now descend on Mesopotamia to attack American soldiers.”

    Should we have let Saddam have Kuwait? If not, what should we have done?

  18. alma hadayn:

    I would tend to agree that your eminently-reasonable post is a decent explication of a conservative critique of pre-emption. The key part is this: “ultimately it comes down to the judgement of one person, the President”. You quite rightly point to potential problematic results of investing this power in one person.

    It naturally follows that whether one approves or disapproves of a particular war/no-war decision is highly influenced by one’s perception of the judgment and wisdom of the President who makes it. Hence the amazing correlation between people-who-don’t-like-Bush and people-who-were-against-invading-Iraq, and vice versa. If a President makes such a decision that turns out sufficiently badly that enough people downgrade these perceptions about him, he will be gone in less than 4 years.

    And that’s pretty much the way our system is supposed to work, actually. It sucks but it’s less sucky that most every alternative. (Ok, sure, it’s really Congress which has war powers, and there’s a whole conversation to be had there, although it’s worth noting that our Congress *did* evaluate the issue and *did* approve war powers for Bush in this case. People tend to forget that, for some reason.)

    One place I would part company with you (not that it matters, there’s simply a valid and honest difference of opinion here) is that I believe that in this day and age there *will* be times when a President *will* have to make war based on evidence which adds up to something less than Mathematical Proof of an imminent threat. I can envision times when I wouldn’t *want* a President to wait for Mathematical-Proof. So I would be dead against implementing any sort of hard-and-fast rule about it, nor can I really stomach the idea of turning it into (as many anti-war people seem to desire) some kind of huge public debate about Whether Something Is Sufficiently Proven To Be A Threat To Warrant War amongst laypeople who (frankly) don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. (Myself included) I don’t want wars/invasions decided by plebiscite and I assume neither did the founding fathers, else they wouldn’t have set it up the way they did with the President as Commander-in-chief – a constitutional (and admittedly completely undemocratic) role which seems to recognize the inevitability, however tragic and problematic it may be, of having one person make decisions in military matters.

    Another place I would part company with you, in this particular context, is when you characterize the escalation of hostilities with Iraq as “starting a war”. We have been in a de facto state of war with Iraq since 1991. Furthermore, if any Iraq-Al Qaeda ties do pan out (which was the subject of this post…), Hussein’s Iraq will have been associated with an organization which declared war on us in the late ’90s and *made* war against us in 2001. To say “I don’t think the Prez should as general policy be allowed to Start A War without proof of imminent threat” seems to ignore or blur certain potentially key aspects of the nature of the situation we found ourselves in with Iraq. As “general policy” that all sounds well and good but in the *particular* case of Iraq and given the history of 12 years of sanctions/bombings, what does it tell us? Not very much, frankly. Best,

  19. As Jesse says, it’s the “middle ground” that is at issue here, not whether Saddam had links to 9/11, which seems to be the most common claim of dismissal for critics of a possible Saddam/al Qaeda link.

    One possibility that struck me while reading the Hayes article is that perhaps Saddam reached out to al Qaeda for no other reason than to forge a non-aggression treaty, much as the Saudis had done. Hayes writes that UBL allegedly forbade al Qaeda from engaging in actions against Saddam to stanch factionalizing within the network. Such a non-aggression pact may have been the limit of Saddam’s interest in al Qaeda. Any bombmaking expertise, etc., granted al Qaeda may have just been favors quid pro quo for continued non-aggression. In plainer language, I’m suggesting Saddam may have been working with UBL just to protect his own ass, not to actively engage in terrorism against the U.S.

    Of course, to my mind at least, that doesn’t make Saddam’s removal any less justifiable; if the memo intelligence holds true, then Saddam was still aiding and abetting the enemy.

  20. Should we have let Saddam have Kuwait?

    Yes.

  21. “Should we have let Saddam have Kuwait?

    Yes.”

    doesn’t that beg for more than a 1-word answer?

  22. Libertarian theory says that proportionate force *may* be used *by private individuals* against aggressors. Governments are not private individuals. Furthermore, libertarian theory also forbids stealing from A in order to respond to aggression against B.

    Respectfully, Nicholas, this is not a statement of libertarian theory. Most libertarians are not anarchists. That means they favor the existence of a limited state with limited powers, one of them being to use physical force to punish, restrain, or deter rights-violators. Such force is carried out by duly authorized agents of the government, funded by coercively acquired tax dollars.

    A better libertarian argument against your interlocutors would be that Iraqis being transgressed against do not have a moral claim on the lives or fortunes of American citizens, even though trangressed Americans certainly would. I don’t happen to agree with that argument, but it is one grounded in mainstream libertarian thought, unlike your own.

  23. “”Should we have let Saddam have Kuwait?

    Yes.”

    doesn’t that beg for more than a 1-word answer?”

    No, I think it tells us everything we need to know.

  24. “big picture” wins for the most ironic name.

  25. John: you have a fair point, but I’d put it instead by saying that there isn’t really a single “libertarian theory”. Many libertarians, myself included, have a tendency to use the term to refer to *their own version*. I do try to avoid that trap, but I fell right into it in that last post, and I apologize for that.

    Whether minarchism or anarchism is more “mainstream”, and whether minarchists must treat a limited government as a positive good rather than a necessary evil, are vexed questions and probably not too relevant. Certainly minarchists and anarchists alike would agree with your “better libertarian argument”. Indeed, my bit about “libertarian theory forbids stealing from A to protect B” is the anarchist version of that argument; had I had the sense to modify it with “even if it’s OK to take from A to protect A himself”, it’d cover some of the minarchists as well.

  26. PNAC Infiltrator,

    That’s a pretty unique take on “consistent libertarian theory.” I don’t see libertarian principles as requiring me to support the growth of the warfare state here at home in order to promote liberty abroad. Especially when that warfare state has acted as often to suppress liberty as to promote it.

    If you create a state powerful enough to promote liberty on the other side of the world, it will in practice promote the economic interests of the parasitic classes that control the state, while using the promotion of liberty as a pretext.

    What happened to “well-wishers to the liberty of all, but guarantors only of our own”?

  27. Kevin: Well your argument is against creating a “warfare state” to support what is a moral action. If a mugger robs someone and then uses the procedes to buy a gun to use to stop someone from raping his sister, him stopping the rapist is still morally right.

    (warning, we are now moving into pragmatism as I am in theory against a “warfare state” — thought I am not sure what Kevin means by that!)

    As for evidence of this so-called “warfare state” in today’s situation I don’t see what you are talking about. We have a very tiny military compared to our population which costs (again relatively) very little. But certainly less than other programs. Nor do I see any incerase infractions against civil liberties (though we shouldn’t let our guard down!).

    And powerful military is completely different than a powerful state. Which is why the limited US was military superior to a multi-continental totalitarian regime such as the USSR.

    As for your quote — doesn’t seem to compute. If Iraqis are humans, they have rights. And if we are aware that someone is transgressing agains them, then we (people or states) have a DUTY to stop the agression. I am not sure if this duty still exists if we don’t have the awareness or means to stop it (or how much of both we need) – but that is delving way more into philosophy than you can do on this board.

    Keep in mind that personally I am not a purist, but more a pragmatist. My short point is that purists have to consider that there is a possiblity that the duty exists within their own libertarian theory to topple a regime that is committing genocide.

  28. Should we have let Hitler have Poland?

    Oh, I forgot, we did.

  29. When you’re talking about the morality of government action, as opposed to individual action, pragmatic concerns count as moral concerns. You can act with little regard for your own life, and be a hero. You can risk your life for an unlikely cause, and be celebrated for it. But when we’re talking about a government using military force, the risk and the chances of success are are relevant factors for the moral calculus, because the lives you’re throwing away are not your own to sacrifice.

    Is it moral to kill Saddam and his military? Among other proper moral considerations are, what happens afterward?

  30. joe: Our soldiers are volunteers. Or are you speaking of bystanders? In that case, I think we agree that bystanders should not be targeted and the goverment owes compensation to any accidental victims.

    what do you mean by afterward?

  31. PNAC Infiltrator,

    First, if you are implying that the lives of US soldiers should be considered expendable for purposes of US foreign policy because they volunteered, I would beg to differ.

    Secondly, other lives besides those of US soldiers are of course directly threatened by military action, both those of bystanders/civilians and those of the enemy’s soldiers, among whom you could surely find both those who back your enemy and wish you ill as well as those who would very much prefer not to fight but who lack uncoerced alternatives.

  32. Jesse Walker wrote, “If investigators ever uncover a joint effort between bin Laden and Hussein to kill Americans, they will have found a compelling reason to have intervened against Iraq.”

    I think a compelling reason has *already* been found.

    My understanding is that Saddam Hussein deliberated sheltered (even paid the salary of) Abdul Rahman Yasim, when Yasim was wanted after the 1993 WTC bombing.

    To me, conspiracy AFTER the fact is actually more damning than conspiracy BEFORE the fact. Before the fact, one can always say, “I knew Osama bin Laden (or Abdul Rahman Yasim, or Mohammed Atta, or Timothy McVeigh) was going to do something wacky, but I never dreamed he’d try to kill thousands of people.”

    So, to my thinking, if Saddam Hussein deliberately sheltered Abdul Rahman Yasim after the 1993 WTC bombing, this is as damning–if not MORE damning–than if Saddam Hussein conspired with Mohammed Atta prior to the 2001 attack.

  33. I am a true anti-statist
    The US State has got to go
    Which means I put a fuss
    When the US destroys a State
    Such as one run by Baathists
    That is anarchy

  34. should we let Saddam nuke Isreal?

  35. should we let him continue to murder thousands of people?

  36. John, as far as having the right to invade Iraq goes, their violations of the 91 cease fire were all we needed for a legal case, in the opinion of this anti-war type. I agree with you that the proper decision is based on projected costs vs. projected benefits, and that a right to invade is neither a duty nor a recommendation to invade. But I take a broader view of costs, to include our relationships with our allies. I also think the demonstrable dishonesty, self-delusion, and overall sleaziness of the Team Shrub needs to be taken into account when projecting benefits.

  37. You make the call.

    Who hired us to be the bouncer?

  38. Joe:

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. A few rejoinders:

    John, as far as having the right to invade Iraq goes, their violations of the 91 cease fire were all we needed for a legal case, in the opinion of this anti-war type.

    Perhaps in a strictly legal sense, but because we are talking about international affairs ? still a true state of nature ? I’m not all that interested in enforcing international law per se It has to related to something truly important and just. I do happen to think that the Gulf War was justified, but for those who don’t I’m not sure that Saddam’s failure to live up to the terms of the ceasefire would be persuasive. They may be more persuable on the issue of a direct threat to American lives or freedom.

    I take a broader view of costs, to include our relationships with our allies.

    A fair point, though I wouldn’t agree that the anger of France and Germany rises to the level of a problem. The French haven’t been close mlitary allies for decades. The Germans, like the Japanese, have been so pacified (thank goodness, really) that it seems likely their military contributions to the alliance will remain limited. Yes, there are ways to contribute other than effective military forces, but I’m not convinced we will lose their participation in the ones that matter. Plus, I am willing to wait and see for a while longer on what role the French actually played in the recent war (based on Tariq Aziz’s information, they and the Russians may have encouraged Saddam to think that the Americans would never actually invade, thus contributing to the success of the coalition campaign, and I’m not sure this was unintentional).

    I am more worried about the impact of the war and its aftermath on Russian behavior, Turkish policy, Eastern European liberalism, the Afghan theater, and, believe it or not, Korea.

    I also think the demonstrable dishonesty, self-delusion, and overall sleaziness of the Team Shrub needs to be taken into account when projecting benefits.

    I assume that all politicians will be guilty of self-serving rhetoric, spin, and the level of corruption inherent in any political process. I see no evidence that the Bush folks are any worse than any other, and would argue that they have been comparatively up-front and explicit in their goals and policies (don’t snicker, I said “comparatively”). Unless one is an anarchist (hail Somalia!) or a naive idealist (hail Galt’s Gulch!), one accepts unchangeable political realities and focuses on those that can be changed or employed for just, liberal, and republican ends.

  39. doesn’t that beg for more than a 1-word answer?

    I gave a one-word answer because I’m a little too busy at the moment to get involved in a debate over whether a 12-year-old war was a good idea.

    But here’s a slightly less brief answer. I don’t think it is the US military’s job to micromanage national boundaries on the other side of the world. It didn’t intervene when Libya invaded Chad, it didn’t intervene when Armenia invaded Azerbaijan (or was that the other way around?), and it shouldn’t have intervened when Iraq invaded Kuwait. In retrospect, when we can see the byproducts of that war, it looks even less defensible.

  40. We should just let big countries devour little ones whole? Think Europe circa 1940 – isn’t that a little dangerous?

  41. Please spare us the Hitler-Hussein comparisons. Iraq is not Germany, Kuwait is not Poland, and the US is much further from the Guf than France and Britain were from central Europe.

  42. Re John Hood’s case:

    It makes sense to punish foreign governments for “even pretending to cooperate with al-Qaeda” if you believe that state sponsorship is a key determiner of al-Qaeda’s power. If, on the other hand, you think al-Qaeda will operate pretty much the same whether or not it is in league with the rogue states of the world, then the benefit of such punishment becomes quite small. The costs of foreign wars, on the other hand– including liberty and money sacrificed, innocent bystanders killed, and new terrorist enemies potentially created– remain very high.

    Furthermore, it is far from clear from the available evidence that Iraqi involvement with al-Qaeda even rises to the “pretended” level. Given that, I still find it hard to see a good justification for invading and occupying what is, after all, a foreign country, which is not ours to invade and occupy except in genuine self-defense.

  43. No offense, but what the heck does ‘the other side of the world’ have to do with anything here? Europe isn’t the other side of the world, so intervention there was okay? Or do we let anybody do anything they want to anybody else until they come knocking on our door? It just seems horribly naive to me.

    International security arrangements would be a thing of the past, fine. Somewhere in the back of my brain, I would still be asking, “What about the reasons we came up with these arrangements in the first place?” A strict policy of no military action beyond our national borders has the effect of giving advantage to he who is the most willing to take. Free people everywhere get enslaved by idiotic tyrants with no fear of retribution.

    Something in the libertarian mindset denies the basic truths of foreign relations. Credible threat of harm to the enemy is the only thing that matters. The UN is impotent because it has no such threat. In fact, the US is the only country on the face of the earth that has a projectable military threat of any significance.

    Without the intervention of the US in Kuwait, do you really think it would have stopped there? What percent of the world’s oil do you want in the hands of Saddam? He doesn’t care about anything except the ability to cut his damned head off. He doesn’t care about trade sanctions because people will buy his oil, and it is HIS oil.

    When many libertarians talk about the results of intervention, all we hear about is the ill will we engender. What about the fact that Kuwait is still free. The people who hate us now hated us before. What they are mad about is that we restricted people who hate us from dominating others and gaining power. Why in the world would anyone believe that A) Saddam would be our pal if we let him do whatever he wants or B) That we want Saddam for a pal?

  44. “I don’t think it is the US military’s job to micromanage national boundaries on the other side of the world.” – Jesse Walker

    “the US is much further from the Gulf than France and Britain were from central Europe.” – unknown

    Who do you guys think you are kidding with this? The United States is distant from the Middle East in only the geographic sense. It may not be as closely involved as Britain was with Europe, for example, but it is completely impossible at this point, or even 20 years ago, for the US to construct a foreign policy of “leave them alone.” Get real.

  45. Let’s lay aside the Oil-Saudi connection, the fact he might have developed WMDs, the fact he invaded his neighbors, the fact he was in violation of the 1991 ceasefire agreement, that he might be harboring terrorists and the fact he was a vile, tyrannical, totalitarian dictator.

    Would the fact that he was murding perhaps a million Iraqis be moral reason enough to kill him and his followers under your vaunted consistant theory of libertarianism? (non-agression and all that — or do human rights of life, liberty and propert only apply to Americans???)

  46. Kuwait is free?

  47. In the midst of all this mindless and tedious Bush bashing, it’s fascinating that not a single Hit & Runner could be bothered with Howard Dean’s call for greater business regulation.

  48. Since both pro- and antiwar people are being so civil on this thread, I’ll tone it down a bit myself: I’ll concede that, if convincing evidence had been produced that Saddam provided significant support to AQ in planning and carrying out the 9-11 attack, I wouldn’t be kicking up a fuss about the war.

    Admittedly, as an anarchist, I can’t bring myself to actually ENDORSE any action taken by a state, just as a matter of principle. And there’s always a great danger that even a genuinely defensive action will be carried out in such a way as to maximize the interests of a country’s ruling class.

    That being said, so long as states exist, they will crowd out private efforts at organizing certain services, and will carry out (in grossly distorted form) services necessary even in a stateless society. And no state in history would with the ability to respond would have failed to do so after a provocation like 9-11. That’s why I didn’t get too bent out of shape about the Afghan war.

    The only answer, a highly unsatisfactory one, is to tolerate such actions by the state as among its least objectionable acts, until the state is replaced by a more satisfactory arrangement (the same way we are willing to rely on the USPS and sanitation company when they’re the only available alternatives). At the same time, we must make sure the actions are limited to the minimum reasonable requirement for territorial security, and not allowed to serve as a pretext for nest feathering or ongoing foreigh policy activism. And finally, the actions should (as Jesse suggests) be coupled with popular pressure to extricate the state from interventionism in volatile regions.

    This may not seem all that conciliatory, but hey, it’s me talking.

  49. To PNAC:

    the facts you mention certainly justify, in principle, killing Saddam and his followers. They do not justify invading and occupying his entire country, killing thousands of his innocent countrymen in the process. Killing Peter to save Paul does not advance human rights; and the job of the US government, if it has a legitimate job at all, is not to affirmatively secure human rights for non-Americans, only to refrain from violating them.

  50. Killing Peter before he kills Paul does advance human rights, and to do that requires invading Peter’s illegally held territory and possibly killing those that attempt to kill you before as you try to eliminate Peter the Genocide Criminal.

    According to your valunted and consistant libertarian theory, force must be used against those that agress. Saddam and his State was agressing toward millions of people. Constitutionally the President is Commander-In-Chief of the Armed forces, and with Congress’s blessing he legally used these forces to eliminate a band of Criminals with a mininum loss of life.

    You possibly make a pragmatic argument against this. But you can’t and also call yourself a pure libertarian moralist.

  51. Jason: I agree that credible threat of harm to enemies is a primary thing that matters, if not the only thing. I support retaliation against those who actually attack the US. But, given that we’d never want Saddam for a pal, why is it that we had to take him for an enemy? Why would it be worse for Saddam to control lots of oil than for the Saudi monarchs to do so?

    Plenty of free countries have done quite well with a strict policy of no intervention beyond their borders; think of the US before the stupid mistake of April 1917, or Switzerland for its entire long history. The other freedom-loving peoples of the world are quite capable of protecting themselves from idiotic tyrants; we Americans are not responsible for protecting them, and in any case we have enough to do protecting ourselves from tyranny at home.

    It is simply not true that “the people who hate us now hated us before.” There is no evidence that Saddam bore any aggressive intent toward the US before the first Gulf War. There is no evidence that the widespread hatred for the US in the Muslim world would have grown up without the substantial American military and political intervention in the Muslim world over the last several decades. Now that policy of intervention cannot be reversed overnight, to be sure; but in the end it must be reversed or we will simply keep creating new enemies.

  52. “I’ll concede that, if convincing evidence had been produced that Saddam provided significant support to AQ in planning and carrying out the 9-11 attack, I wouldn’t be kicking up a fuss about the war.”

    I don’t see it that way, Kevin. The war with Iraq, which I feel is fully justified based on what is known in the public record, has never really been about Iraq’s direct ties with Al-Qaeda. Sure, there likely are ties, even significant ones, but that’s a minor point and they’ve never been central to the war nor the Bush Administration’s position on the war. In fact, it’s amazing how many words are being wasted on what is essentially a sideshow, mostly by frantic anti-war folks who want to deny everything.

  53. PNAC: ah, so much is swept under the rug there with that phrase “a minimum loss of life.” Thousands of innocent bystanders killed is a “minimum” to you?

    Libertarian theory says that proportionate force *may* be used *by private individuals* against aggressors. Governments are not private individuals. Furthermore, libertarian theory also forbids stealing from A in order to respond to aggression against B.

  54. …and we don’t want totalitarians to HATE us, do we?

  55. Saddam invades Kuwait to recoup economic losses from Iran/Iraq war. Threatens and is poised to continue into Saudi Arabia.

    OBL, fresh from Afghanistan with his Muhajadeen, offers to protect his Sugar Daddy, Saudi Arabia.

    Saudi Arabia, thinking they need a bit more help, asks the US/UN for help. US/UN comply, kick Saddam out of Kuwait.

    US/UN decide not to remove Saddam, now have to set up shop in Saudi Arabia to babysit the lunatic.

    OBL’s bitterness from his Saudi snub multiplies when he sees the infidels allowed to set up shop in the Holy Land.

    OBL creates Al Qaeda to fight for him. Lead target, the US infidels that have taken the prominent role in the Holy Land.

    OBL declares war on the US, not just military, but all civilians, mainly because they have set up shop in the Holy Land and displayed aggression towards Muslims.

    US remains in Saudi Arabia as Saddam plays Dick-Dick-Doe with UN over his surrender conditions and subsequent UN resolution, and subsequent UN resolution, and subsequent UN resolution, and…

    OBL begins executing his war on the US with many attempted and several successful attacks.

    US response does little more than encourage OBL.

    OBL and Al Qaeda hit pay dirt with an extremely effective attack in Sept 2001.

    The majority of the world thinks the US is justified in going after Al Qaeda in it’s main hang out, Afghanistan.

    US goes after Saddam and is heavily criticized, internally and externally.

    Barring any direct connection between OBL and Saddam, was the US attack on Saddam justified?

    You make the call.

    Guy at a bar shoves another guy into a girl. Girls boyfriend gets mad at shoved guy and a fight starts. You’re the bouncer, you toss the girls boyfriend for throwing the first punch (OBL), you toss shoved guy for being invovled (Taliban), do you also toss the guy at the bar who started the whole thing (Saddam)?

    You make the call.

  56. “Contra John, I’d rather have the 82nd, the 1st, and the 4th tear-assing across the tribal areas of Pakistan than manning checkpoints and building the West Bank, Sumerian division.”

    Which 1st? Which 4th?

    I hope you are not seriously proposing that we lead with Infantry troops, to fight the enemy on his own terms where he has the maximum advantage.

  57. 1. Sadaam is a self-declared enemy of the United States.

    2. Sadaam exhibited willingness to utilize violence to achieve his objectives.

    These two facts together are fully enough justification for military action against Sadaam Hussein.

    OBL is unnecessary to this argument.

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