[SPORK] Gordon, please help us out, here...

Gordon Mohr gojomo@usa.net
Sun, 23 Mar 2003 20:23:39 -0800

Jeff Bone writes:
> Gojo,
> Rather than taking potshots from the sidelines at the various 
> "arguments" presented here (which are all of admittedly dubious quality 
> and merit, mine included - John Hall particularly makes me froth at the 
> mouth, which I regret) perhaps you could enlighten us.  Take a stand, 
> you know.
> What exactly is your position on the current situation?  Particularly:

On the one hand, why does my position matter? 

For the most part, I (and my society) has delegated the handling of 
this issue to specialists: the federal government and the military. 
Though I generally think very little of the federal government, one 
of the few things that it is clearly well-suited to do is face-off 
against the other thuggish and manipulative organizations around the 
world which are called "national governments" and/or "mobs" and/or
"terrorist movements". 

Though I could quibble with much of Bush's foreign policy, in its
grand design it seems both serious and reasonable to me, so I'm 
comfortable letting it go its way, checked (as it should be) by the 
legislature, opposition party, and media, as we see its tangible
results develop over time. 

Only if that policy runs totally amok, or when especially egregious 
lines of argument are advanced in discourse, do I have any interest 
in nudging actions and discussion in a slightly different direction 
by "taking a stand". Otherwise, it's not my area of expertise or 
responsibility. Hence, only occasional "potshots" make sense to me.

On the other hand, since you asked nicely:

There are many criminally illegitimate governments in the world which
deserve drastic reformulation. Any group -- be it domestic opposition, 
concerned neighbors, distant great powers, or international alliances -- 
which can muster the will to take down one of these regimes with a 
reasonable chance of instituting an improved government is OK in my 

In 2003, as in 1776, it should still be self-evident that when 
governments become destructive to the life, liberty, and happiness of 
those governed, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them. 
Violence is also appropriate when the illegitimate government is brutal
and there is no other way to dislodge them. I am thankful that the 
French did not wait for approval from the "international community" 
before assisting the American revolution, even though their intentions 
were far from pure. 

Further, as has been amply demonstrated over the past century, it is
exactly those degenerate regimes which trample their people's rights
who also export war and terrorism to other parts of the world. Most 
recently, in 2001, we saw that a radical superstitious mob with just a 
little bit of state sponsorship and forebearance can kill thousands in
a single day. With further innovations in tactics and technology, the 
potential damage such groups could do will only rise. So we will 
eventually have to drain  every fetid pool of oppression and antimodern 
hatred worldwide if we are to minimize domestic megadeath events. (And 
remember, such events do more damage than the initial death and 
destruction: if they occur too often, other aspects of our open and 
diverse society may crumble.)

The case for taking down the Baath mob which has ruled Iraq for 35+
years is overwhelming. They massacre their own people; they start wars;
they violate all their agreements at the end of those wars; they seek
to develop superweapons, they sponsor terrorists with cash and other 

The "link" which stands out in my mind isn't between Baathist Iraq 
and Al Qaida, but between Baathist Iraq and Taliban Afghanistan,
and it need not be a link of direct cooperation -- instead it is one of 
category. Baathist Iraq is of the same class of regime as Taliban 
Afghanistan: oppressive, retrogressive, promising disaster to the
outside world. Perhaps it would help to think of this as being like
law enforcement "profiling", but on a national scale -- and based on
actual reprehensible state behaviors that have been proven over and 
over again to be the precursors of international menace. Further, 
with Iraq's history of interest in superweapons, if a nontraditional 
attack emerges from Iraq, it may be far more destructive than four 
hijacked civilian airliners. 

Finally, the first Gulf War hasn't really ended if the agreements 
ending it aren't being fully implemented by Iraq. We don't need
fresh reasoning, provocation, or a doctrine of "preemption". We're
not starting a new war, we're finishing the last one. The last 13
years of US-Iraq conflict will be a single chapter in the future's
history books. 

So anyone who believes Gulf War I was legitimate should find the
current conflict legitimate as well. And let's imagine for a moment 
the world if we *hadn't* fought Gulf War I, or if we had accepted 
French or Russian "compromise" proposals for ending the Kuwait
occupation without significantly constricting Iraq's postwar 
activities. Iraq would be flush with oil wealth, with the largest 
military in the Middle East and plenty of fresh (Russian and French 
supplied) weaponry. If Iraq's own chemical/biological/nuclear 
programs hadn't hit paydirt yet, they'd have plenty of money and
influence to buy terrifically dangerous weapons from North Korea,
China, rogue Soviet remnants, and so forth. The only hope of 
containing that kind of Iraq would be an even larger, permanent
ring of US bases and defense guarantees in the Middle East than 
we actually had through the last decade -- and that would have 
generated even more resentment, terrorism, and pan-Arab fetishizing
about the Baath regime as their local champion.

We dodged a major threat by fighting Gulf War I; it's too bad we
settled, for whatever reasons seemed necessary at the time, for a
contained Baath regime rather than a total replacement. The costs 
of that containment have been tragic for the Iraqi people, living 
under totalitarianism and sanctions, and yet still don't provide 
the level of safety we need, now that we've seen the example of 
the Taliban/AlQaida attack. To continue the Iraq containment policy 
would be cruel to the Iraqi people, but to lift it while the Baath 
regime survives would recklessly endanger the rest of the world. 
Only finishing Gulf War I can remedy the dangers to the world and 
the Iraqi people.

Even if the war leaves Iraq with only typically crappy government, 
Iraq's people will be better off -- and many more lives will be
saved over the next few years than are lost in the war. America
and Iraq's neighbors will face less risk of war and terrorist
attacks. World trade in an essential commodity (oil) will be less
subject to the manipulations of regional military standoffs and
more amenable to long-term planning.  

Other nations will take more seriously their duty to avoid exporting
violence, and we will have greater degrees of freedom in dealing
with the whole mess of Middle Eastern nations: Syria, Iran, Israel,
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt. 

There will still be terrorism; some of it will even trace directly
back to this conflict: the resentment it generates, the forces and
technologies it disperses, or cases like Timothy McVeigh or John
Muhummad where our own fighters go astray. But because another one
of the major swamps where sophisticated terrorism breeds will have 
been drained, and the ultimate failure of organizations employing 
such attacks will have been demonstrated, the severity and frequency
of major/megadeath attacks will be reduced -- with concommitant
benefits for the preservation of our open society. 

We will be safer, wealthier, and more free every time regimes like
the Taliban or Baathists are toppled. 

That should cover it.

- Gordon

> (1) What do you think the actuals "goals" of this conflict are?
> (2) Do you believe that the war is "just," i.e. its goals noble?
> (3)  Do you believe that coercive application of military force is 
> necessary to those goals?  Appropriate?
> (4)  Do you believe that the war is "justified," i.e. an adequate case 
> has been made for it?
> (5)  Do you believe that the current American foreign / military policy 
> is in the best interests of Americans?
> (6)  Does this war make us safer?  More prosperous?
> (7)  Do you believe that the benefits of achieving these goals outweigh 
> the costs?
> (8)  What do you think the long-term diplomatic / economic / security 
> consequences will be?
> (9)  How should we - American individuals - react in order to enable 
> the best outcome, at this point?
> A few of the central issues, please feel free to elaborate beyond those.
> jb