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Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Where the pro-war Left is just as bad

Over at Harry's comments, some rightly protest at the feebleness of those left-wing arguments against the Iraq War centred around the motivations of its supporters - that it's all about enriching Halliburton and satisfying the Project for a New American Century or whatever. But you only have to read the exchange below to see the equal feebleness of those left-wing arguments in favour of the war which are centred around the motivations of its opponents. This idea, promoted by the usually agreeable Oliver Kamm and Harry Hatchet, that opposition to a war to remove Saddam Hussein and support for his continued rule over Iraq are identical positions really should be beneath any supporter of the Iraq War to argue. But for whatever reason, for many it certainly doesn't go without saying that one can support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power without believing it to be the job of the British Army to do it, just as one can quite easily support the assassination of Abdel Aziz-Rantissi without believing his killing to be a responsibility for which British troops should risk their lives.

If you're not a leftie, you should automatically be able to distinguish between opposition to government action and opposition to the thing government does. Ann Coulter has described very well the ridiculousness of the situation Americans liberals have created by blurring this distinction:

If Republicans opposed the National Endowment for the Arts, they were said to hate art. If Republicans opposed the Department of Education, they were said to hate teachers. If Republicans opposed the Environmental Protection Agency, they were said to hate the environment. Opposition to the government spending money on anything was invariably attacked as hatred for the thing money was to be spent on.

And this is hardly a situation peculiar to America. Conservatives and libertarians all over the democratic world have scorned the idea that if one doesn't support the state doing X it must logically amount to opposition to X. Why Morgoth and other self-proclaimed conservatives cannot apply the same logic to state action against Iraq, I don't know. Opposition to the use of state power to remove a nasty dictator is no more support for that dictator's continuation in office than a preference for private charity over government welfare is a desire to starve the poor.

But further, this is not a distinction right-wingers alone should make. In practice, every sane person recognises it. No thinking person wants to go to war with every dictatorship in the world. Most of those who are pro-war with Iraq are anti-war when it comes to Syria or Libya. Do those people support the continuing rule of Bashar al Assad or Colonel Gaddafi? Logically they must, if those who opposed war with Iraq wanted Saddam to stay in power.

I am reminded of that old phrase in defence of religious disbelief - that everyone is athiestic about most of the gods that men have believed in, and the athiest just happens to believe in one God less than the Christian. Everyone is anti-most of the wars that could be fought against the world's brutal dictators: the anti-Iraq war crew just happened to be anti-one more war than that.

I supported the Second Gulf War, and on balance I still think it was the right choice. But those who took the position I did should argue their case honestly and fairly, not in terms of state-worshipping liberal platitudes that logically force one to choose between supporting war with every dictator and supporting those dictators. That is not the choice when it comes to Libya, China, North Korea or Syria, and it wasn't the choice when it came to Iraq.

UPDATE: See also Murray Rothbard's 'Let's invade the world!'.

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