Rat's Nest
Bloggage, rants, and occasional notes of despair

Does this make me Locke?

Demosthenes (whose real name is almost certainly not "Valentine Wiggin") at Shadow of the Hegemon comments unfavorably on the Joshua Marshall article at Washington Monthly, "Bomb Saddam"?  After reading Marshall's article, I can't see what (from his point of view) he finds to comment unfavorably about.

OK, that's not entirely true.  Marshall's article is largely couched in terms of our institutional ignorance of the consequences of attacking Hussein's Iraq.  Before we do it, he says, we should be damned sure that we know what we are doing and what's likely to come of it.  There are people who have such knowledge -- not a certainty of the outcome, which nobody in this floating world can have or should be expected to have, but the knowledge whereby hey can say, "This is very unlikely, this is less likely but still possible, and this so unlikely that no reasonable man could be condemned for leaving it out of his planning".

This is what Demosthenes dislikes so much about Marshall's article.  Marshall has a different view of the moral issues.  The desired outcome of a military attack on Iraq would be an Iraq -- indeed, a whole Middle East -- dedicated to human rights and the rule of the law at home, and to non-intervention (and especially not to financing Islamofascism and Islamokazis) abroad.  Marshall finds this outcome unlikely in the extreme.  But, he is willing to find a way to make this outcome more likely.

Demosthenes is not.  He writes:

What would they believe? They would believe the truth:
The United States is now willing and able to remove any and all regimes it doesn't like by whatever means necessary.
What kind of message does this send out?

And of course, the answer is simple:  that the United States is now willing and able to remove any and all regimes it doesn't like by whatever means necessary.  The next question, of course, is:  why don't we like the regime?  Because we conceive that it may block the free flow of cheap oil?  Or because it is brutal and vicious, uncaring about the amount of death and suffering that it causes so long as the thugs in charge of it may stay in power?

Demosthenes takes the isolationist republican position:  that the U.S. should be the friend of liberty everywhere, the champion only of its own (although Adams was certainly using a peculiar definition of the word "friend" when he said this).  The outcome of this position was seen in during the Hungarian uprising in 1956; after much brave rhetoric about freedom, Eisenhower and his minions watched, dry-eyed, whilst Russian troops murdered Hungarian freedom fighters.  It may be convincingly argued, of course, that we were incapable of intervening in that conflict without unleashing events that would have had far more disastrous consequences.  Eisenhower was not unaware of this, however; he was not pulled up sharply by a sudden awareness of the strategic realities of the situation.  That being the case, he ought to have shut up.  The judgment of history will be harsh on him for this; it was not an instance of a well-meaning but ignorant man bringing about what he could not foresee.

The isolationist republican situation is, and always has been, a dream:  to believe that the U.S., merely by refusing to offer any faction any aid or hope, can indeed be seen as "the friend of liberty everywhere, the champion only of its own", and that America and Americans will therefore be held harmless in everyone else's judgment.  It should be remembered that, when this noble-sounding sentiment was first annunciated, we had the British fleet's skirts to hide behind, and that there sound geopolitical reasons to believe, American Revolution or Anglospheric unity aside, that the British would be loath to see the bayonets of Napoleon's or Bismarck's armies used on American soil.

Demosthenes might to well to remember his namesake's (the Card character, not the Athenian orator) "Hierarchy of Exclusion".  The raman is the alien that we can talk with; it is immoral to use force against him.  The varelse is the alien that we can't talk with; against him nothing is possible save war to the knife, and the only excuse for not exterminating him today is that we'll be in a better position to do so tomorrow.

Saddam Hussein is varelse.  There are many others out there.

John "Akatsukami" Braue Tuesday, May 28, 2002