Thursday, April 26, 2007

Would He Say This?

[posted by Callimachus]

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about the Sudanese government. It is brutal. Ruthless. A regime that butchers its own people to secure its own power. It has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams ....*

They're bad guys. The world, and the Sudanese people, would be better off without them.

But I also know that Sudan poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to its neighbors, that the Sudanese economy is in shambles, that the Sudanese military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community it can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, it falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war to secure Darfur will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Sudan without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

... The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

It's the heart of Barack Obama's Iraq speech, of course, with only the names changed. Ask yourself if the circumstances are essentially different than those he opposed when confronted with the difficult choice of what to do about Iraq in 2002. Is a humanitarian justification for sending Americans into a battlefield ever valid without overriding national interests also at stake?

And while you're at it, you might wonder why so many of the same people who are eager to see America throw its weight around to protect the suffering innocents of Darfur are at the same time shaping a narrative that says the people we will leave behind to be butchered like goats in Iraq when we withdraw, according to their demands, more or less deserve to die because they were fool enough to cast their lot with the "imperialist" occupiers against their own culture and nation.

And while you're at it you might wonder how those people expect us to fight the inevitable al-Qaida offensive and insurgency that will greet us in Sudan -- or any other place American troops set foot in South Asia or North Africa -- after they've declared to themselves and the world that we cannot fight, and have no will to defeat, such tactics as they will bring against us. The current war is in a place called Iraq. That is a geographical fact, not a military one. This war is waiting for us everywhere, any time. If we don't learn it sooner, we will have to pay dearly to learn it later.

The West has made a mistake so ancient Lycurgus warned the Spartans against it: It has fought one enemy too often, with too little will to defeat him, and thus taught him how to beat us. If we don't defeat "them" there, it's no certainty "they" will follow us home. At least not at once. But you can be sure they will follow us elsewhere.

While you're at it, you might wonder what kind of foreign policy speeches Democratic White House hopefuls would be making today if Saddam still were in power, mocking and taunting and scheming, playing the U.N. like a sideshow sucker and merrily filling those mass graves.

While you're at it, you might wonder what sort of rage the Arab-language media and autocratic regimes in Islamic lands would be whipping their clients into with images of Iraqi children starving or dying for want of embargoed medical technology.

* [The first elipsis, by the way, is the phrase "developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity." I omitted it because I don't think anyone is accusing Sudan of those things, so it obscures the parallel I'm calling attention to. It is not particularly relevant to the bigger question Obama -- and I -- ask, which is what wars are worth fighting and how do you recognize them, because its weight goes to the side of the argument that Obama swiftly rejects.

His phrase is judiciously worded -- certainly better so than most of what the White House said in those months, and it's close to what I felt was accurate at the time on those matters.

But I think it's worth noting here, incidentally, since it shows the weight of the things Obama, and a great many others, considered and rejected when forced to choose on Saddam. It was a tough call, and it does no service to those who made it to pretend it was a no-brainer because everyone but neo-con fools knew in 2002 Saddam had no WMD capacity and never would.]

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