Friday, July 02, 2004

Shell Game

So it took a number of editorials and Op-Eds (which of course bled into the hard news sections) to show that 2 shells with sarin STILL don't qualify as a threat. How about 12? U.S. Says Poles Find Old Sarin Shells in Iraq. 1 gallon in 1 shell can kill 60,000 people.

Of course the point is that Saddam was a non-contained persistent threat in his efforts to acquire these types of weapons. We needn't find stockpiles to prove he was a potential threat. Just ask him, or maybe "Chemical-Ali", or maybe thousands of gassed Kurd & Shia civilians.

I had yet another discussion the other day about whether the war was justified, and came to somewhat a conclusion. The issue is of marginal cost. Certainly the $87B cost, <1K soldiers deaths, and <10K civilian deaths are not big numbers at all.

Now that civil war, hundreds of thousands of civilians dead, and millions of refuges (all predicted) have not happened, two reasons given why the war was bad are that
- US image has been hurt in the world's view
- The US has been distracted from the broader war on terror.

For the former, I would argue that people that see American action in Iraq as bad because it did not "follow international law" (despite 17 broken UN resolutions) isn't really that important. What is important here is that we continue to kill terrorists. I do not believe that extremists are just moderates “gone bad” by something that pushed them over the edge. You might have had some folks in Europe who liked Clinton but now hate the US war in Iraq, but this has little connection to people willing to die for their religion. I despise efforts to justify terrorist actions by linking them to a moderate past or an action taken by the other side. The point: the people of consequence (the terrorists) don't need another reason to hate America. Some of our once great allies are only proving the uselessness of cold-war era relations as our enemies change. [Also, go here to read about one interesting potential reason for their actions.]

As for the distraction, I would say what needs to be shown is that we have been so distracted by the war in Iraq that the opportunity cost of having terrorists escape in places like Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia is GREATER than the benefit of invading Iraq.
The benefits to be tallied:
- No more weapons programs
- The "fly-paper" strategy, where the war is attracting martyrs in large numbers to Iraq where we can kill them more easily and with less risk of American deaths (verses a domestic terrorist attack). Note this also counters the second argument above.
- The humanitarian benefits are enormous.
- Libya shows the first step of a reverse domino-theory and hopefully a democratic state in Iraq will pay further dividends.

So, would we have Osama if we didn't invade? Can you show that the lost opportunities are greater than the list above? The answer is probably ‘no’ on both counts. This means it is basically a useless argument.

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