|Jeff I completely missed your post and it seems you have some thoughtful responses. I will attempt to address them:|
[referring to my empirical analysis of Iraq] John, this is a much clearer and concise statement of why we should intervene in Iraq than anything I have ever heard from our government. It speaks to actual facts and discusses the need for regime change. However, I do not remember any mention of the necessity and moral right for pursuing regime change was ever clearly articulated by our government and instead, we were promised documented evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction - something that turned out to be completely false.
I sympathize with this because it is true the Bush administration did a horrible job of communicating their rationale for regime change in Iraq. It promised it would find weapons of mass destruction when it didn't need to make such a promise, the fact that Saddam Hussein had a track record of obtaining, using and seeking WMD was good enough, and that he routinely violated UN resolutions where the burden of proof was on him to demonstrate he had gotten rid of them (while funding his jihadi proxies killing Westerners). We don't really know why he couldn't account for stockpiles of weapons we knew he had in the past and had no record of their disposal, so the question is what happened to that WMD? Did he get rid of them? And if so why did he do is best to conceal that? Or did he give them to another country? Or was he trying to prop up his image in the Arab world as the lone Arab leader taking a stand against the evil American empire? Who really knows. As time passes we may get more information to explain the behavior.
But, I don't believe that poorly communicating a rationale for war must mean that the war is unjustified. Nor do I think its fair to say the evidence did not support the accusation Saddam had WMD before the invasion. I believe it would have been careless to come to any other conclusion. For example, suppose you had a pedophile that left prison but on the condition he wore an ankle bracelet tracker and had to promise he didn't get on the internet and that parole officers had the right to inspect his computer at any time to make sure he was complying with the agreement. Then suppose the police come, and the pedophile refuses the parole officer access to the computer. It immediately raises suspicions, "why isn't he letting me in?" The officer thinks. So he gets a court order demanding he have access to the pedophile's computer. The pedophile grudgingly agrees to access, but on a limited basis (for a few minutes), the parole officer comes in and sees on the computer evidence someone accessed a web browser program, then the pedophile immediately grabs the keyboard and says "ok that's enough, get out". At that point, there's just too much circumstantial evidence to ignore. This is what similarly happened to Iraq before the invasion. Weapons inspectors were stonewalled by Iraqi authorities, they had evidence of past Iraqi WMD programs and now the Iraqi's behavior was suspicious, leading them to believe they were hiding something they didn't want the inspectors to see. I think you might see how someone can reasonably come to the conclusion "hey these bastards are hiding WMD from us"
If reasonable people end up formulating what you call "conspiracy theories" for the actions of our government, there is no need to look further than the misdirection our government creates in its attempt to pursue its course. The government shows time and time again that it neither respects the intelligence of its citizenry nor the members in other branches of government. If the government made a statement like the above and followed it up with a clearly articulated plan of how it would prosecute its interests (again, not something that we were given), then people could still agree or disagree about that course, but there would be none of this subterfuge and manipulation that we actually get.
And I believe that's a fair criticism.
What you call "conspiracy theories" are typically just attempts by people to reconcile what the government says with what it actually does.
I agree that a lack of transparency, or making what are seemingly bogus arguments can lead some to leap towards conspiracy theories, but that does not justify the leap. Conspiracy theories themselves are seemingly bogus arguments, with just a cursory glance at them they reveal to be easily falsified by a few salient facts. But again even if the Bush administration made promises it couldn't keep, or promises it didn't need to make for the justification for war, it doesn't mean there is no legitimate rationale for the war.
Hamas i[s] funded primarily by Saudi Arabia with significant funds from Iran [...] And Iran is the only government that supports Hezbollah.
I don't think these are inconsequential observations. If the real aim for invasion in the Middle East was to end Islamic terrorism, why didn't we do something about Saudi Arabia or Iran? Was it a mater of expedience or something else?
I believe the conditions made it easier to justify war with Iraq given its history with the UN than it would have for war against Saudi Arabia. I think there was a better opportunity with Iraq to try and turn it into a democratic republic (whether that is a realistic goal is for another thread), which would have made it the only Arab democracy. That would make a profound impact on the culture in the middle east. Terrorists are fueled by a hatred for Western values, and what better way to take that fuel away then to help a large Arab nation become a democracy with at least a partial recognition of western values? We could have just taken the ridiculous "nuke em all" approach that I've heard some Objectivists use, or we could take progressive steps that could help change the culture of the Middle East rather than take an unrealistic and barbaric strategy of total annihilation. Steps like replacing a large Arab dictatorship with a pro-western government.
Steve raises concerns about the cost-benefit results of the war, is this prima facie unreasonable? I do not think so.
No it's not but that's not why he objects to it. It's not for a benefit-cost reason he objects to war in Iraq, it's because according to his intrincisist view of what constitutes self-defense, Iraq would have literally had to have a standing army ready to storm the shores of America. A completely moronic approach to self-defense. A threat to our interests does not require it be just a threat to American soil (Thomas Jefferson didn't think so either and used the Navy to attack the Barbary Pirates of Africa after they had blackmailed American commercial ships sailing in the Mediterranean, demanding money in exchange for not seizing commercial American ships and turning their crews into slaves, something that Steve would according to his moral code would have objected to) a threat to our interests could also be a threat to shipping lanes that we depend on for trade, it could be a threat from a proxy (Saddam supporting Hamas, Hezbollah), etc.
While historically interesting, I do not think that the positions of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson with respect to foreign policy in the 17th century is relevant to today's world. John is correct that it requires a different strategy completely when a nuclear bomb can be smuggled into the US in a cargo container or launched from a rocket and delivered in minutes, instead of having to deal with a two-month long transit of the Atlantic ocean and the destructive might of a musket. We now live in an international age and the interests of people in various countries are becoming entwined in numerous ways. Just as businesses in a given industry tend to consolidate due to natural forces as the scope, reach and complexity of that industry expands, so too will government policies between nations continue to become interrelated and merge towards a common structure as peaceful trade expands across the globe. The ideal of isolationism is dead in the 21st century and the US needs to formulate a rational foreign policy that clearly announces to the world that we do not seek to build an empire but instead are interested in voluntary free trade with any and all people. We should announce the terms under which the US is willing to work together with others and what sort of treatment we expect from others in return. We should clearly articulate exactly how we then intend to protect our interests at home and abroad so that our position is clear to all people. And finally, we should act in a wholly consistent manner in support of our stated goals and policies.
Jeff I agree with this. And might I point out that the greatest economic interdependence that exists for the US and the most peaceful and stable relationships are those with other democracies. In fact no two democracies have ever gone to war with each other.
(Edited by John Armaos on 8/18, 9:30pm)