Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More on Ramsey Clark and US Foreign Policy

In his post below, Mike wrote: "[L]iberal internationalists like myself would certainly concede that some U.S. military interventions have been unjustified, unwise and/or illegal under international law." Actually, one can agree with everything Mike says in his post even if one changes the word "some" in the above sentence to "almost all" and notes that some sins of omission (Darfur, Rwanda) are almost certainly worse than some sins of commission (Iraq, Vietnam)--though the ultimate body count in the ongoing disasters could tragically go either way in a contest that no one wants to win.

Again, even if one thinks that US foreign policy has been an unending stream of disasters and missed opportunities, Clark is still wrong and Saddam and Milosevic are still evil. Sadly, Clark makes the argument that Bush and his cheering section ascribe to everyone who disagrees with the war--that we're not happy to see Saddam out of power. Of course, any humane person would be glad to know that Saddam is no longer able to inflict horrors on the Iraqi people. That does not mean, though, that it was acceptable to do what we did to remove him from power, nor does it mean that we can blithely discount the evils that are being visited on the Iraqi people now. "But don't you agree that Saddam was evil?" turns cost-benefit analysis into benefit-only analysis, with anything that is a "good thing" justifying any means of achieving it.

It is always uncomfortable to reduce these questions to a crude utilitarian calculus, but that is what Bush's enablers have implicitly done. If they are to claim that the invasion and continued occupation are "worth it," they are implicitly weighing something against the mounting deaths and dismemberments (of both soldiers and civilians), the dislocations of thousands of families, the cost in dollars, the damage to the rule of law in the US and elsewhere, the US's loss in international standing, and all of the other consequences of this illegal invasion. In order to weigh such things rationally, though, one must be reality-based. Realistic analysts have given up on the flowering of democracy in the Middle East rationale, and the "fighting them over there so they don't come over here" rationale is a conveniently unfalsifiable argument. (If they don't attack in the US, then Bush is right. If they do attack in the US, then Bush is right, too, because it would obviously have been worse if we weren't fighting them over there.)

These are just my views of the consequences of Bush's decisions. In a democracy, we vote to express our views on whether to continue or to change policies. Apparently, that doesn't work, either.