Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 24, 2003
By: Kevin Drum

THE WORST ARGUMENT EVER....So I'm noodling around over at Atrios' site and come across this: "The Worst Argument Ever." Sounds juicy, so I click the link and am whisked to the estimable Charles Dodgson's site where he quotes someone saying:

As much as I'm unhappy about how the Bush administration has mishandled everything, backing out now could have disastrous consequences. And so we liberal hawks hold our noses and hope for the best.

But....that sounds oddly familiar. Yes, hold on, it's coming back to me now: it sounds familiar because I said it.

And it's the worst argument ever! I should be pleased, I suppose. Unfortunately, this weekend I committed the heresy of suggesting that The Bell Curve was racist nonsense but that the concept of intelligence itself was nonetheless an important one and got clobbered for it. Now this. I'm beginning to fear that I'm in danger of being tossed out of the liberal club.

Which would be a shame, since I sure as hell don't have anywhere else to go. What's more, I'm really, really tired of George Bush, the war, the French, and everything associated with it. But let's see if I can put my fingers to the keyboard for just a bit more about it.

Honest, though, just a bit. Here's my problem: my sense from reading the anti-war left is that they don't really take the danger of terrorism and unstable states seriously. I do, however, and I think the evidence indicates that humanitarian policies alone won't solve the problem. In the case of Iraq, the history of the past decade pretty clearly shows that the world doesn't have the stomach to keep up containment for long an option that strikes me as vaguely immoral anyway so if we back off now Saddam will be back in business within a couple of years. My guess is that this could be pretty dangerous.

On the other hand, my sense from reading the pro-war right is that they have a fantasy that all our problems can be solved via military force. In fact, the very idea of investigating root causes is tantamount to an indictment of terminal naivet from the likes of Andrew Sullivan or Glenn Reynolds. Overall, it's pretty obvious that the majority of the hawks have no serious interest in the long, tortuous, and multilateral job of promoting democracy and tolerance in the Middle East, and it's not clear that the American public does either.

So what to do? There seem to be damn few people in the middle ground, who agree that Saddam needs to be taken care of but are also in favor of sticking around and truly working in a humanitarian way to improve life in the Middle East.

As for me, I just don't know anymore. I'm hardly in favor of the horrible and incompetent war that George Bush seems to have in mind, but, frankly, I think that simply pulling out would also be disastrous. Basically, the whole mess is terminally depressing and my Prozac prescription seems to have run out, so I think maybe I'll take the afternoon off and go see a movie. Perhaps The Quiet American would be appropriate.

UPDATE: Thanks, Matt. As he says, there's at least one other argument for war that's worse than mine.

Kevin Drum 11:47 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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