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Jed Hartman on Military Action and Iraq
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Sometimes the polarization of views brought about by particular issues or events makes you wonder if there are any moderate, reasoned people around anymore.

If you spend enough time reading stuff at sites like Stand Down, or stuff on the other side of the spectrum, like Cold Fury or Little Green Footballs, you can easily forget that there even are moderate views out there.

That's why it was refreshing to read Jed Hartman's entry on prospective military action against Iraq.

I admit that this question is a difficult one; I have no good data about whether the inspections can/will be effective. For that matter, one of the elephants in the living room on this topic is that the status quo for the past decade over in Iraq has not really been a situation I'm entirely comfortable with: as I understand it, the sanctions have not really done a very good job of addressing the problem, and I'm not thrilled about (what I hear of) the ongoing low-level US military action out there over the past decade. And yet, whenever I start to wonder about whether a war could actually be an appropriate response here, I start thinking about two other facts: first, as lots of people have said, I see no reason to believe that anything will improve substantially after such a war (we don't have such a good track record with the governments we install after we help overthrow an existing government); and second, as fewer people have noted, war results in a lot of dead people.

Jed's at least approaching the issue with a clear head and a fair amount of balance. He's capable of summarizing opposing views without ridiculing or belittling them.

And toward the end, he quotes Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor, noting that the book is deft enough to have competing philosophies on complex political and military issues. He concludes:

One thing I liked about this book was the sense of just how hard it is to know what the right thing to do is, when faced with a set of unappealing choices.

Again, it's refreshing to hear someone, especially someone in the writing community, to express a balanced viewpoint. He makes the essential point: There are often no good choices, only the lesser of evils.

I realize I sometimes come across as hardened or entrenched in my viewpoints, especially when arguing against those who are especially polarized themselves. Against an extreme voice, a moderate voice often sounds extreme itself.

I don't know what the right answer is in the case of Iraq. I think if everybody knew exactly how things would play out it would be an easy decision. But we don't know, and it's not.

It could very well be the case that containment is the best option, and that Saddam's rule will atrophy and collapse on its own in short order. It could be that a war would make things vastly worse, for the people of Iraq, for the people of the region, and for the people of the world. There's every likelihood that America would bungle the democratization of Iraq, or worse, wouldn't even try. And war in Iraq could spark a regional conflagration that might lead to a third World War.

If we didn't go to war, we might never know what the consequences would have been. On the flip side, if we don't take action, Iraq may or may not be successful in developing nuclear weapons. They may or may not share the technology with other dangerous regimes or terrorists in the region, and nukes may or may not be used as an umbrella of aggression for Iraq to reinvade neighbors such as Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. Nukes may or may not be used as a terrorist weapon against the U.S., and they may be used no matter what we do.

I obviously have a prevailing viewpoint on these matters, and I make no apologies for espousing them here. But realize that those views are tempered with healthy doubts, as should any reasonable person's.

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