Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will War's Idolaters Ever Just Shut the Fuck Up?

Martin Bright in the Spectator
Incidentally, I now think the invasion was indeed an error: carried out at the wrong time, by the wrong coalition for the wrong reasons. But where I do agree with the “decents” is that those who opposed intervention in 2002/3 were arguing for the murderous Baathist regime to stay in power. This should remain on their conscience just as the murderous consequences of the invasion are on the conscience of those who supported the war.
(via Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, via comments at Aaronovitch Watch)

Martin Bright's assertion that those who argued against the war were arguing for preservation of the Baathist regime is simply idiotic. False logic, false dichotomy.

First, it is patently obvious that the intent of the two sides was different, and the difference is essential. The pro-war brigade intended that the 'coalition' go to war. (I'm tempted to say they wanted a war. That might be unfair, though not in the case of the Dick Cheneys. It both fair and accurate that a significant portion of them wanted to see Arabs killed. Whether Martin Bright is among those genocidal racists I do not know. Daniel Pipes, Ann Coulter and their ilk certainly are.)

The anti-war activists expressly (1) advocated other techniques for achieving 'regime change (if that really was the goal of war's advocates — it wasn't), or (2) argued against war on the grounds that the consequences of war would be disastrous (which has proven true), or (3) argued that Bush & Co had not only failed to make their case but had likely misrepresented the facts (at best) or lied outright (which has also proven true). This is by no means an exhaustive list of the arguments against the war. The second argument is unambiguously one of accepting the lesser of two evils — by no stretch of the imagination an argument for the continuation of the lesser evil.

Let's take an example from ethics and popular entertainment. A person is threatened with the murder of her child if she does not surrender secret X — the nuclear launch codes that will enable terrorists to kill vast numbers. Any of us can easily imagine the person herself desperately arguing that she cannot surrender the codes. I do not imagine many, if any, saying that she is arguing for the murder of her child even though a consequence of her following the line of her own argument will be the child's death. You might as well suggest that, because she won't surrender the codes, she is killing her child. And of course, the weak-minded right-wing did indeed take this line of un-reasoning from 2001 on — that those not "with us" were "against us," those against the war were for terrorists. Utter nonsense, bordering on actionable libel.

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