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Required Reading for War Protestors
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Anyone interested in protesting military action against Iraq needs to first read this review by Tish Durkin in the New York Observer. Then they need to go read the book it reviews, The Threatening Storm by Kenneth Pollack.

But for now, answering the questions that Durkin raises via Pollack should suffice.

On options:

The options are not a) engaging in a terrible, variously costly, internationally dreaded war, or b) leaving the people of Iraq to their own oil, the rest of the world to its own beeswax, and the United Nations to its vaguely alleged task of more patiently mitigating the eclectic horrors of this regime. Rather, the options are a) engaging in a terrible, variously costly, internationally dreaded war, or b) leaving Iraq to its own misery, the world to the ramifications of a militarily resurgent and politically triumphant Saddam, and the United Nations in a state of even less ability and inclination to do a thing about him.

On anti-war "arguments":

Not, it bears noting, that opponents of the war ought to be confused automatically with people of conscience. As the "no-blood-for-oil" crowd sometimes forgets to mention, there is no shortage of brutally self-interested doves, and they presumably will greet everything in this book with the same "feh!" with which they’ve greeted every other proof of treachery that Saddam has offered since he was ordered to disarm after the Persian Gulf War. More thoughtful readers, however, will note that many—not all, but many—of what pass for antiwar arguments are not arguments at all, but assumptions. It is these assumptions that this book is most useful in flattening.

On the illusion of containment:

For starters, there’s the assumption that the international policy of containment of Iraq was going along perfectly well, thank you, until the U.S.—mad as hell after Sept. 11—put its cowboy hat on and decided to ride roughshod over it. As Mr. Pollack is not the first to note, international efforts at containment have long been losing traction, and Saddam’s efforts at circumvention have long been gaining it. Take the sanctions (please!). Particularly since 1996, when the establishment of the so-called "oil for food" program theoretically allowed Saddam to trade oil for humanitarian goods—and practically allowed him to do a lot more than that—well, the average sieve would be mortified to have half so many holes in it. It is bitterly hilarious that the so-called "world community" should plead for patience with the so-called "U.N. system" when members of that community have been doing everything possible to undermine that system for years.

On American fairness and responsibility:

He also disentangles the question of whether the U.S. is significantly to blame for Saddam’s having obtained the damnable weapons in the first place (it is) from the question of whether the U.S. can now legitimately call for his ouster (why not?). This reveals another strong point: Although the book certainly examines the question in terms of American interests, it doesn’t see the region through red-white-and-blue-colored glasses. There is a major difference between concluding that war in Iraq is the best of a bunch of bad options, and concluding that American foreign policy in the Middle East over the past five or six decades has been just ginger-peachy. Mr. Pollack doesn’t try to deny or minimize the fact and impact of U.S. support for Saddam throughout and after his 1980-88 war with Iran, which was then viewed as American enemy No. 1 in the region. Nor does he try to pretend that America’s involvement in Iraq can be seen in isolation from America’s involvement or non-involvement elsewhere, most notably in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Well hell, I've quoted most of it now, but it's still worth reading the whole thing.

If the anti-war bunch can't provide reasoned, balanced, mature answers to the questions raised in Pollack's book, then they are nothing more than the marginalized fringe they protest so loudly that they are not.

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