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August 25, 2002

Hitchens on Antiwar Right

I don't always agree with Hitchens, but on foreign policy I often trust his contrarian instincts. In this Observer article, he analyzes why war criminal Kissinger and assorted other traditional US conservative elites are hesitant about the war in Iraq and whether that is a signal to the left to rethink its opposition. But Hitchens recognizes that there is a form of intervention-- Saddamism without Saddam -- that is possible and likely with the Bush regime:

What the Iraqi and Kurdish democrats would like is American aid for and endorsement of their own efforts to replace the regime. And what they fear is what I also fear - a heavy-handed US attack which results in an Iraqi puppet government that is designed to placate the Saudis and the Turks. That, it seems to me, is where a principled critique of the war-planning might begin. But it's depressing to see the status quo Left preferring to parrot the arguments of pacifist realpolitik.
While I am staunchly opposed to military intervention in Iraq, the critique needs to be informed by a Hitchens-style analysis, not a simplistic "oil made us do it" explanation that flys in the face of opposition by many establishment figures.

Posted by Nathan at August 25, 2002 08:34 AM

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Nathan, I disagree with your point about oil. Afghanistan was not about oil, but Iraq would be. Afghanistan has no proven crude oil reserves. On the other hand, Iraq has 112.5 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves, second most in the world. Oil is the biggest reason why Bush wants this war. See Bill Keller's column in Saturday's "New York Times" for an admission by a war supporter that the war will help US oil business. The other reasons given for making war now do not add up. There is zero evidence of WMDs currently held by Iraq, for example. The oil explanation is the only one that makes sense. If Bush gets to fight this war, he will not allow any nascent "Kurdistan" to break off. Wolfowitz already promised the Turks that. This war would be fought for oil. This is a valid criticism of Bush's war plans and we should make it.

Posted by: Andrew Hagen at August 25, 2002 03:31 PM

There's always plenty of room for more intelligence and reason from the left, and Hitchens (if only for his great literary style) is worth paying attention to. But I think his characterization in the Observer piece of rampant "peacenik"-ism among the business and political establishment(s) is way off the mark.
There's certainly disagreement about pragmatic strategic issues (basically multi-lateralism vs. unilateralism), procedures (Congressional authorization vs. Executive fiat) and tactics of when and how.

But I don't see any fundamental departure among any of the figures (Kissinger etc.) he cites from a consensus view that "preemptive" invasion and overthrow of the Iraqi regime (and of essentially any regime perceived as a potential threat) is justifiable and likely inevitable. With the exception perhaps of Dick Armey (who's more of a libertarian type, and is questioning open ended interventionism on more philosphical grounds, sort of) all that's being debated among the figures Hitchens discusses are the hows and whens. So I think it's sophistry on his part to lump critics questioning the premises of premptive interventionism as annunciated in Bush Jr.'s State of the Union address, with Kissinger etc.

Interesting devil's advocacy perhaps, but wrong.

Posted by: Phil Leggiere at August 26, 2002 06:26 PM

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