November 10, 2002
OUT, OUT, DAMN SPOT:Slave State: WHY SADDAM IS WORSE THAN SLOBO. (Robert Kaplan, 10.10.02, New Republic)
Where are all the humanitarian interventionists now? After all, throughout the 1990s they beat the war drums for military intervention against Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, who is responsible for the deaths of only one-quarter as many people as Saddam Hussein. In the vast network of prisons, torture chambers, and poison-gas fields of Iraq and its border areas, Saddam bears responsibility for the deaths of a million people. He instigated the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988, during the course of which I watched one of his handpicked generals poke the dead body of an Iranian teenager--killed by chemical weapons--while explaining to reporters that it was like using a spray can to kill mosquitoes. [...]
The last time an American leader faced this kind of domestic and international opposition and stood fast against it in order to break down the walls of tyranny was in 1983, when President Ronald Reagan deployed Pershing missiles in Western Germany against the advice of the liberal foreign policy establishment and many world leaders. Disarmament demonstrations raged in the United States and in Europe, but Reagan would not yield. Thus, he helped convince a sclerotic Soviet Communist Party that a new, more dynamic kind of leader in the Kremlin would be required to deal with him, and so Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power.
Reagan's decision to deploy the nuclear missiles--a turning point in the cold war--could not by itself be defended by any universal morality, but it had a vast and profound moral result. The same will be true of an invasion of Iraq, just as it was of our invasion of Afghanistan. Make no mistake: This is a Reaganesque moment. For years intellectuals have pined for simple and consistent moral leadership on life-or-death foreign policy issues, leadership that does not cleverly parse words or twist and turn in the winds of politics and opinion polls for the sake of a tactical career advantage. Well, now they've got it. All of them, not just the neoconservatives, should support President George W. Bush's and Prime Minister Tony Blair's proposed humanitarian intervention in Iraq.
There's a really interesting dynamic that's developed on the Left, over a long period of time, which would seem to hold that interventions which serve our own interests are de facto illegitimate. That is to say: if Saddam ran a country in Central Africa and were killing his people, but were no threat to us or our interests otherwise, the internationalist humanitarian Left would support putting and end to his reign of terror. But, because Iraq has oil and threatens Israel and other U.S. allies, they are suspicious of, if not outright hostile to, the idea of dealing with him. This nonsensical dichotomy would appear to reflect a deep rooted self-loathing that would be extraordinarily dangerous were it allowed to become the basis of American policy, which may be why voters don't trust Democrats when it comes to national security. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 10, 2002 6:25 AM