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March 15, 2006

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Matthew

It should be noted this paper is written without the benefit of hindsight, by and large, presumably to show the choices facing policy makers (this is most obvious in the calculation of Iraqi costs of the war, when it uses the 1991 war to try to predict them).

CB

Good post, being for or against the Iraq thing was far too often nothing to do with the actual facts, more the worldview. I was for it, and remain in support of Iraqi democracy, and there are people who were very much against the war, but who now support Iraqi democracy as well, and we manage not to tear each others throats out while they shoutl 'Bliar' at me, and I shout 'Saddam lover' back at them.

Chris Williams

Given that the bad effects of the status quo ante bellum were largely down to US/UK imposed comprehensive economic sanctions, this particular cost/benefit comparison does stick in the craw somewhat. "We were starving loads of them to death, but we've stopped that, and started shooting a smaller number of them instead. How nice is that?"

'Containment' was enthusiastically pursued for a decade, and whenever me and my mates pointed out that it was in practice a crime against humanity, we were met with indignant denials. Then lo, they decided to have a war, and suddenly discovered that the sanctions were, after all, a bad thing.

It is of course more complicated than that, as can be seen from the archive here:
http://www.casi.org.uk/

kerry miller

"'Containment' was enthusiastically pursued for a decade, and whenever me and my mates pointed out that it was in practice a crime against humanity, we were met with indignant denials. Then lo, they decided to have a war, and suddenly discovered that the sanctions were, after all, a bad thing."

Of course the sanctions were a bad thing. But are you proposing that the sanctions could just have been lifted and the Baath regime left to just do its own thing?


What is notably not discussed in the paper is that the US really had *no choice* but to topple Saddam as the first step in democratising the entire Middle East. It wasn't simply a matter of the economic costs and benefits or even of the humanitarian benefits. It was a cold strategic decision not fully understood by most of the US foreign policy establishment. Hence the Bushies had to focus on non-existant WMD's and a possible direct threat to the US.

The reality was that the continuation of tyranny and autocracy in the Middle East was just no longer a viable policy for the US. It was absolutely necessary to launch a process - a very messy and painful process - which would destabilize the entire region but eventually result in stable bourgeois democracies throughout the region.

That was the only sensible approach to 9/11 and Iraq was the best place to begin.

I supported the war from the left because I'm in favour of the overthrow of fascists like Saddam. I wasn't going to oppose it just because the US was doing it - as was the knee jerk response of almost everyone on the left.

However I can understand why so many people did oppose it, given the lies that were told at the outset - which to me made sense, given that Bush et al
(a)needed to continue to maintain its image as an almighty superpower
(b) were unlikely to win support from Congress for a war of liberation
(c) needed to convince the American people that Iraq was a direct military threat at the time (which it wasn't)

The real reason for the war was a switch to a broader long term and strategic policy of bringing fundamental social, political and economic change to the entire Middle East in order to drain "the swamps" that breed terrorism and anti-Americanism.

These swamps were something the US had previously found quite acceptable and had actively maintained. The end of the Cold War changed all that and they were no longer necessary or desirable.

Maynard Handley

"The reality was that the continuation of tyranny and autocracy in the Middle East was just no longer a viable policy for the US."

Which is, of course, why
* the US has done absolutely NOTHING about democracy in Saudi Arabia,
* continues to shower Egypt with money after its recent sham democracy rituals
* is Libya's best friend ever since they promised they wouldn't build nuclear weapons
* appears, every day, ever more willing to condone a new dictator taking over Iraq, just as long as he keeps the place under control and the oil flowing

dsquared

I'm sorry, I missed the bit where "containment" was costing so much that it was a big driver of the entire US budget deficit?

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