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Sunday, February 23, 2003

Forceful opposition.

"We need a complicated campaign against the war, whose participants are ready to acknowledge the difficulties and the costs of their politics," writes Michael Walzer in the March 13 New York Review of Books (Update 3.5.03: now on-line). "The right way to oppose the war is to argue that the present system of containment and control is working and can be made to work better. This means that we should acknowledge the awfulness of the Iraqi regime and the dangers it poses, and then aim to deal with those dangers through coercive measures short of war. But this isn't a policy easy to defend, for we know exactly what coercive measures are necessary, and we also know how costly they are" — not only to Americans, who will foot the bill, but to Iraqis as well.

First, the existing embargo. . . Second, the 'no-fly' zones. . . Third, the UN inspections [which] will have to go on indefinitely. . . But the inspections regime will collapse, as it collapsed in the Nineties, unless there is a visible readiness to use force to sustain it. And this means that there have to be troops in the vicinity. . .

But internationalist liberals also need to be thinking long-term as well, and this is where Walzer's essay is most helpful:

[W]e need a campaign that isn't focused only on the war (and that might survive the war) — a campaign for a strong international system, organized and designed to defeat aggression, to stop massacres and ethnic cleansing, to control weapons of mass destruction, and to guarantee the physical security of all the world's peoples. . .

Today, the UN inspections regime is in place in Iraq only because of what many American liberals and leftists, and many Europeans too, called a reckless US threat to go war. Without that threat, however, UN negotiators would still be dithering with Iraqi negotiators, working on, but never finally agreeing on, the details of an inspections system. . . Some of us are embarrassed to realize that the threat we opposed is the chief reason for the existence of a strong inspection system, and the existence of a strong inspection system is today the best argument against going to war. . .

Liberal internationalists can't just criticize American unilateralism:

This is what internationalism requires: that other states, besides the US, take responsibility for the global rule of law and that they be prepared to act, politically and militarily, with that end in view. . . When we campaign against a second Gulf War, we should also be campaigning for that kind of multilateral responsibility. And this means that we have demands to make not only on Bush and Co. but also on the leaders of France and Germany, Russian and China, who, although they have recently been supporting continued and expanded sanctions, have also been ready, at different times in the past, to appease Saddam. If this preventable war is fought, all of them will share responsibility with the US.

Also in the March 13 issue, Israeli liberal Avishai Margalit's essay on the real threat: "Radical Islam of the sort promoted by bin Laden is and should be regarded as the enemy. . ." He thinks the US is getting its priorities mixed up: "Terror as propaganda-by-action counts on one thing: the overreaction of its victims. . . The governing principle should be: Do not overreact. Acting against Iraq is a glaring example of overreacting." (Update 3.5.03: Now on-line.)

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 23 February 2003 at 12:52 PM

Previous: Those aren't ugly Americans abroad.
Next: Hawks and tough doves.

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