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Friday, May 21, 2004

OH I KNOW THE FEELING . . . Good Iraq wobblers column in the current Speccie by James Delingpole:

Anyone who has ever smoked will be familiar with
that awful sinking feeling you get when, one by one,
your fellow nicotine-addict friends start to quit.
United you feel strong, happy, immune to the
finger-wagging of health fascists and probably even
to lung cancer, secure in the knowledge that for all
their minor defects, tabs are basically great and
possibly better than sex. But as the number of smokers
in your circle dwindles, so too does your morale. You
feel depressed, insecure, let down. You start
wondering whether maybe it’s not time that you too did
the cowardly thing and went over to the other side....
At the moment I’m feeling much the same way about the
Iraq war.

Oh yes, that's a feeling I can relate to only too well. He even mentions Andrew Sullivan's wobble that I had started complaining about just a few days ago. Obviously he feels my pain. What annoys me most about the turn-rounds is that they are so fickle in their convictions, which they had a lot of time to form. The Iraq war debate raged for almost a year before the invasion and has continued for almost a year since. It's not like opinions on the matter were formed on the quick. To now start retreating because the whole affair was badly managed or because the media images from Iraq these past weeks have been increasingly ugly is a little immature, if not mildly childish. I know someone's going to complain this is hypocritical of me because I had my own wobble but the ultimate point of my wobbles is that the practical policy on the ground in Iraq needs to be changed. A point I’ve made before here and here.
Anyway, back to Delingpole's article: Read all of it, it's well written. He concludes with a familiar argument, that I was and still am highly sceptical of:

Rather, the Iraqi invasion happened and ought to
have happened because it is part of a long,
ambitious but very necessary campaign to tip a
wavering Islamic world towards stable, capitalist,
peaceful, liberal democracy.
. . .
The pacification of the Middle East is not going
to be quick, easy or pretty. No one ever said it
would be. But to those pea-brained, isolationist
chicken-lickens of the media who ask what it all
has to do with us, here’s a very simple explanation.
It’s to lessen ever so slightly the chance that the
next time you or I get on to a bus, a train or an
aeroplane, the very last words we ever hear are a
bearded but otherwise ritually shaved man in a
headband yelling, ‘Allahu akbar.’

This is an argument that is very popular with the pro-war camp. I remain to be bought. I too supported toppling Saddam on terror related grounds – see here for my summary on the Saddam-terror argument - but I think this is getting it slightly wrong. The West can't decide Islam's future anymore than it can abolish global economic inequality or the drugs trade. Islam's adherents will decide that future, not just because it should ultimately be only their right, but more importantly because only they can.
In sum none of this makes the conclusion wrong that Saddam needed to be toppled and Iraq needs to be put on a path to democracy. It's just that for me the argument underlying the conclusion is different.

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