Thu Mar 6, 2003

A Few Quick Ones

Seen while blogging around:

  1. Sean-Paul Kelley has a post on the risks and rewards of invading or not invading. It’s a bit hard to parse—sometimes he’s writing about probable risks and payoffs, other times he’s writing about definite costs and benefits. One of his risks of Invading is “Possible US use of nuclear weapons.” Ack. That these are even on the agenda is a sign that the new category of WMDs has successfully permeated public discourse. Remember: There are no such things as WMDs. There are only (a) Very nasty chemical and biological weapons that, on a good day, can kill about as many people as regular bombs; and (b) Thermonuclear weapons, which are a completely different kettle of death.
  2. One of the rewards of invasion Sean-Paul lists is “Democratic institutions emerge.” I know he’s only rapidly summarizing, but that phrasing reflects a lot of commentary on democracy-building in Iraq. Democratic institutions aren’t like lizards. They don’t hide under rocks waiting to emerge. They don’t exist in Iraq and will have to be built. Anyone who thinks they can be put together in relatively short order after an invasion doesn’t know what they are talking about.
  3. Speaking of which, David Adesnik’s long post tried to rebut the concerns of Kevin Drum and other shakily pro-war liberals. I’m not sure it suceeds. David feels that containment and inspections are not feasible beyond about a year. Instead, the feasible option is invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the subsequent promotion of democracy throughout the entire Middle East.
  4. I think a lot of Hawks are hoping Iraq will be the anti-Vietnam. The victory will be so quick and overwhelming that the anti-war crowd will evaporate in the glare of a successful operation. If the invasion’s going to happen anyway, then this would be the best short-run outcome (short wars are better than long ones) but lpossibly the worst long-run outcome (a militarily successful president is a militarily emboldened president).
  5. In the meantime, officials, and the President, continue to talk out of the side of their mouths about assassinating Al Qaeda operatives, torturing them if captured, wondering about first-use of nuclear weapons in Iraq and encouraging some kind of backlash against people from nations that don’t support the war. There’s a name for the kind of state that does that sort of thing in the service of its ideological goals, and it ain’t “World Beacon of Democracy.”
  6. Meanwhile, the normally sober Eugene Volokh thinks that one reason for not mandating “smart guns” is the “significant (10%? 20%? who knows?) probability that at least some time in our lives, our homeland will be attacked, possibly with sophisticated anti-electronic weapons, and civil order will break down.” He moves from the reasonable statement that “there’s a nontrivial chance that in my lifetime, there will be some terrorist or military attack on the place that I live” to the regional armageddon scenario in the space of a paragraph. Wow. Whichever side you’re on, it seems clear that the gun control debate is like LSD in the 1960s. It has the potential to ruin the minds of a whole generation of society’s brightest people.