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Calling their bluff

I'm probably not the first person to note this, but there's a great editorial in The New Republic this week shredding the arguments of anti-war types.

So we now have reached the conditions under which, according to the standards once urged by most liberals, the United States must disarm Iraq by force. Yet the moderate, respectable opponents of the war--those who claimed they would favor military action if other steps failed--remain, for the most part, unmoved. Their predominant view now is that the only thing preventing a bloodless disarmament of Iraq is Bush's precipitous rush to war. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle summed up this sentiment when he asked this week, "How are our efforts to deal with this threat helped by short-circuiting an inspections process we demanded in the first place?"--as if the inspections were being stymied by Bush rather than by Saddam. It is now clear that Bush's critics didn't mean what they said all along: The mask of nuanced criticism has been pulled off the moderate antiwar position, exposing it for the abject pacifism it truly is.

The editorials of The New York Times are a good showcase of the intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics. The Times is worth dwelling on not only because of its great influence but also because its opposition to war is carefully calibrated, closely matching the views of mainstream Democrats rather than those of angry street demonstrators. In fact, as the Iraq debate raged last fall, the paper's editorials professed to share the same goals as the administration. Last September the Times declared, "What really counts in this conflict ... is the destruction of Iraq's unconventional weapons and the dismantling of its program to develop nuclear arms." The Times stressed that Iraqis must cooperate actively, not merely fail to put up resistance, in order to avoid war. Iraq "must provide a full and accurate list of its unconventional weapons programs," the Times insisted on November 9. The following month it added that, to succeed, the inspectors "will need cooperation from knowledgeable Iraqis." Indeed, in its November editorial the Times explicitly sanctioned a unilateral war if Iraq failed to actively disarm: "If Baghdad violates any of these provisions [emphasis added], Washington should insist that the Security Council enforce its decision. Only if the council fails to approve the serious consequences it now invokes--generally understood to be military measures--should Washington consider acting alone."

The time to "judge Baghdad's overall cooperation and decide whether Iraq can be disarmed by peaceful means alone," the Times noted in late December, would be when Blix offered his report to the Security Council after the first 60 days of inspections. Now that moment has arrived-- and with it undeniable proof that Baghdad has not offered the active cooperation deemed essential by the Times. You might think, then, that the paper would cite its previous criteria and endorse war. Not at all. Instead, the Times has already raised the bar. An editorial published the day after Blix's report pleaded that "the inspectors should be granted additional time" so they can "produce evidence that would mobilize an international consensus for additional steps." This echoed the logic of the previous Sunday's editorial, which declared, "There are some threats and some causes that require fighting even if America has to fight alone, but this isn't one of them." Disarmament, which the paper previously called "the unwavering goal" and "the lodestar of American and United Nations policy," has been reduced to a mere preference to be undertaken only if or when international opinion embraces it.

There's much more. Go read it.

The strange thing, from my perspective, is how poor the arguments against war are. It seems clear to me that an attack on Saddam Hussein is justified and in the best interests of the country. Many disagree, and yet they are unable to make any arguments that are the least bit convincing; most aren't even logical. What does that mean? Am I missing something, or are these people simply being dishonest, raising phony objections because their real anti-Bush and anti-military arguments won't sell?


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Comments (1)


The mask of nuanced criticism has been pulled off the moderate antiwar position, exposing it for the abject pacifism it truly is.

TNR is giving the so-called moderate antiwar crowd much more credit than they deserve. If they are truly motivated by pacifism then why did they not oppose the US intervention in Serbia? It was not sanctioned by the UN (Russia would have vetoed any Security Council Resolution) and it was not motivated by any security threat to the US. The sole justification was that it was done for humanitarian purposes. Somehow that no longer matters when a Republican is in the White House. I guess humanitarianism means that we must stop Muslims from being killed by Serbs, but it is okay for Muslims to kill Muslims.


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