Friday, January 16, 2004

Check out the "liberal hawks" debate in Slate. Since I include myself in this category, let me say that I still think it was the right decision. Back in March I decided that while I wouldn't have gone to war at the same time and in the same manner as the Bush administration, the status quo in Iraq was no longer tolerable. Yes, I was wrong about WMD, but I still don't think that the Bush administration engaged in deliberate deception. At worst, they went with worse case scenarios without acknowledging that they were doing so and without discussing less pessimistic interpretations. But in the aftermath of 9/11, I think the margin of error for such assessment was vastly narrowed.

Furthermore, the WMD argument was never the clincher for me. I was always far more persuaded by the humanitarian arguments. The combination of Saddam Hussein's brutality and UN sanctions had made Iraq into Hell on earth. I have little doubt that this war saved Iraqi lives. In addition to the 3000-5000 people Saddam killed in any given year,the sanctions were increasing the mortality rate of children under 5 by upwards of 50,000 a year. That's 50,000 dead children every year vs. a high end estimate of 10,000 civil casualties in the war. I know this some this kind of calculus morbid, but I find 50,000 dead children even worse.

In addition and despite all of the post-war chaos, I remain optimistic about the prospects for Iraq and the region. Many problems remain, but the economic and security situations are improving. The same is true politically. What country in the Arab world has the freest press? Iraq and . . ., well Iraq. What country in the Arab world plans on holding free elections in the next 12 to 18 months? Iraq and . . ., well Iraq.

Finally, for all the Bush administration predictions that didn't come true, I have to say that the critics of the war did even worse. Even if you include all of the post-war casualties, the cost to the US and the Iraqi civilians was very low. There have been no humanitarian or ecological disasters. Very few from the "Arab street" have streamed into Iraq to fight the US invaders or launched terrorist attacks against the US. Indeed the Arab street has been very quiet since April 9.

Yes the costs have been higher than I predicted, but the benefits still outweigh them by far.

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