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Sunday, September 22, 2002
The Rock and the Hard Place revisited
 
Josh Marshall gives voice to some sentiments that I'm all too familiar with:

There's also an issue people don't like to talk about, but which is an undeniable reality for many. Military action is easier to contemplate if it's being planned by political leaders who you support and whose values you share. One might say this is mere partisanship, agreeing with what politician X wants to do because he's a member of your party or vice versa. And there's always some of that. But it runs deeper. Following political leaders into war requires a deep measure of trust on a variety of levels: trust in their judgment, trust in their analysis of factual information that can never be shared with the public, and so forth. If your general sense of an administration is that they're not trustworthy or that they don't share your values it's difficult not let that color your opinions. Of course, to some degree it should color your opinions. But it's important to evaluate these questions as much as possible simply on the merits. And I've tried to do that to the best of my ability in my writing about Iraq on this site over the last several months.

It truly is difficult to know where to draw the line.

I believe that a nuclear or biologically armed Iraq would present an existential danger to the U.S. and Israel. I believe that an Iraq so armed would be able to deter the U.S. from action, and would thus destabilize the region. I believe that the current sanctions regime is both ineffective and morally unjustifiable due to the decade of suffering it has brought to the Iraqi people. I believe that a properly administered U.S. occupation would beneficially transform the region.

At the same time, I believe that George Bush is manifestly corrupt, deeply ignorant and shamelessly arrogant. I believe that the moieties of the administration's record are giveaways to the president's rich friends and bald blunders.

The threat is clear and present. Yet the motley collection of incompetents running the show are almost sure to botch the operation. In the end, the question of the hour is: Which is worse, a nuclear and biologically armed Saddam free to flex his muscle around the Middle East, and give tasty tidbits deniably to whichever terrorist group strikes his fancy, or a botched U.S. follow-up to a conquest of Iraq that most of the international community opposed?

Reluctantly, I have to conclude that the former is the greater evil. But it's a terrible call to have to make.
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