I had a brief correspondence with Kim Oserwalder today, based on a comment I left on his site. After writing it, I realized that it set out my core views on the war, and the central argument I felt brought me to support it. I’m putting our messages up here, and understand that he’s putting them up on his site, we’ll collect our comments and see what happens.
Subject: Re: War
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 16:47:42 -0500
First, let me make it clear that I am a recent and reluctant convert to the ‘war’ camp. I’m deeply suspicious of the honesty and competence of the current Administration (although the last was no picnic in the park either, and Gore would not, I believe have been better – I’m no fan of the DNC).
The position (you have to make a case for acting) is not unreasonable in the abstract; but in the less-abstract world, you have to weigh the consequences of _not_ acting against the consequences of acting.
And the consequences are material, and real.
I’m not a Den Beste ‘war with Islam’ believer; but I do believe that there are elements in the Islamic world that want a war with us.
And I do believe that we need to defeat them…both with arms and with alms.
And while I wish that we had not done the things we have done – created and supported tyrannical oligarchies in the Middle East – we did them, and you and I bear our share of the responsibility for those actions (LES MAINS SALES). And having done them, and looking at the consequences of what we’ve done – to create a reservoir of rage that threatens us, people in the Middle East, innocent people in many parts of the world where enraged Islam is at war – doesn’t mean that we should commit suicide to try and atone for the wrongs we have done.
So we are left with two bad choices…Fortress America, and war. I choose war, because first, I believe that if we don’t have it now, it will come to us soon enough, and that the war and our response to it will be even more horrible…I have used the word genocide, and I don’t think I’m far off…and second, because I believe that the overall weight of human suffering – death and horror, not ‘lower standards of living’ – that will fall over the rest of the world if we don’t act are more than I could bear.
That’s how I’ve wound up where I am.
What I expect from those opposed to war is another path through the problem; some facts and ideas that don’t leave us pinned in this bad fork.
When I criticized you, _that_ was what I was looking for.
Thanks for writing, and thinking, and caring about all this. I have three sons and I lose sleep every night over this.
From: kim email@example.com
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2003 13:03:17 -0800
Subject: Re: War
First, let me say that I feel that since it is your side that is proposing to kill many thousands of people, the onus is on you to offer convincing arguments. It is up to my side to respond only by saying “yes, that is sufficient to convince me that you may be right,” or to say “no, your argument is insufficient to justify killing the innocent.” That’s all there is to it. Any discussion can only concern WHY we think that your arguments are insufficient, which is objective. You hunt, while I have difficulty killing ants in my kitchen. (No judgment is intended.) It is easier to convince some to kill then others. So to say that my argument is weak is incorrect. My argument (killing is bad) may seem simplistic, but it is the only real argument, and the only one that there can be. All other anti-war arguments are incidental.
I get very impatient listening to Bush administration’s reasons for war. The idea that any country be asked to “disarm” — especially one with such highly sought after natural resources — is laughable. A “disarmed” country is left completely vulnerable, and I can understand any reluctance to rely only on the goodwill of others. Only when they give us the real reasons for invasion can any real debate begin. In the future (unless we change our course) there will be plenty of leaders that we dislike, and many will have nuclear weapons. We will need to formulate some plan for dealing with them that doesn’t involve killing. We may as well start now. Maybe we should try to have a foreign policy that doesn’t make people around the world want to kill us. I don’t know if this is even remotely possible, but we should feel obligated to give it a try.
At this point I think that all discussion on this topic has been superficial. I would like to hear someone try to make a really good case for invasion. I would like to hear some pro-war person explain that yes, we can’t stop at Iraq, we will go from there to Iran, Syria, etc. We won’t have a choice but to dominate the whole region. Explain that yes, there will be more terror incidents on our own soil if we invade, but that is the price we pay for our high standard of living. Some Americans have to die so that others can be well off. Acknowledge all these things and then explain why this is preferable.
And on the anti-war side we need to acknowledge that not invading means that we may have to except a somewhat lower standard of living at some point in the future (as the currency for oil is converted to euros rather than dollars,) but that is the price we pay for our reluctance to kill children. (50% of the population of Iraq are under the age of 15.) The anti-war side has to acknowledge that we may be trading our nice cars, computers, college educations for our offspring, etc. (although I don’t think the effect will be so drastic, if we are clever about things) for the privilege of not killing and dying in the Persian Gulf.
I can’t really find anything here that I disagree with.
You seem to be saying that attacks such as Hiroshima and Dresden are justified, because they had the effect of shortening the war and thus possibly limiting casualties.
This is correct, once a conflict has started. Don’t you think that this is a good argument for not letting armed conflicts start in the first place?
Thanks for contacting me. I enjoyed reading these. They are good and thoughtful pieces, but I don’t think that they argue in favor of the pending invasion. If you do write something, I hope you will let me know. I remain open on this question, despite what it may seem — especially considering this: http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/RRiraqWar.html.
kim osterwalder http://www.freepie.org/
(edited slightly for spelling and grammar)