Iraq Debate: Argue the Other Side

Trying to argue the other side of a debate can be a useful check on yourself, I find.
My actual view: Disarming Iraq by force is an unpleasant, but necessary action.
The best arguments of those opposing “regime change”:

  • Imminent threat has not been established. What’s the hurry? If Israel felt threatened by Iraqi WMD, she would’ve gone in and taken them out herself.
  • The risk of terror attacks and the deployment of WMD is dramatically increased by this action, not decreased.

My best one is that if we can actually achieve peaceful disarmament it will help us in the future with the UN, disarmament, and ratification for necessary military action.

The precedential value of a peaceful resolution with disarmament is great, IMO. But, I hate Saddam - my gut tells me he will cheat in the end.

I disagree with the increased terror argument. I think that ball started rolling a long time ago. When the WTC was hit the first time we entered the new era of large-scale terror attacks here in the US as fast and hard as they can bring them. Besides, it’s a religion of peace - how many people can be waiting to become terrorists that haven’t already? Who really wants to die for Saddam and Usama.

The first point is apalling to me. Israel is capable of defending itself. Posters here have said that israel could kick our ass. We aren’t using bases there or troops from there but we consider this a reason for invasion? I suspect this point does have validity and it is beyond me why. If we are doing this in the interest of Israel we could at least sign them on. It’s not like the Iraqis don’t already take this as a given.

The second point is a no brainer. If we go to war the other side and its sympathizers will be more likely to attack us. That is some real detective work there.

They said who could kick whose ass now? I don’t believe that for a moment, and I’d like a cite for someone saying Israel could defeat the US on these boards and not joking around.

Second, I don’t think Israel’s participation is a given at all. In fact, I find it highly unlikely that the US will ask them to help. They will most likely be asked to just stay put.

Actually, Henry Fescue the point is that if Iraq was really a huge threat to the US, it’d be an even bigger threat to Israel. The fact that Israel hasn’t felt compelled to attack Iraq in the past 20 years indicates that Israel feels less threatened by Iraq than the USA does.

I’ve thought about this idea myself, Cap, but hesitated to suggest it, because the stakes of the debate seem so high. On the one hand, it feels frivolous for us to treat the Iraq question like a some sort of high-school debate topic, but on the other, the issue polarizes opinion so strongly that it might be of value for everyone involved to sit down and try to see it from the opposite perspective.

Here are some of the strongest arguments in favor of war, from my view:

Saddam Hussein heads an brutal dictatorship that imprisons citizens without trial and routinely employs torture. Criticism of the regime is not allowed, and citizens of the country are quite literally hostages of their own government. Hussein’s regime oppresses the Shi’a (sp?) in the south and the Kurds in the north. He has gone so far as to gas civilians in his attempts to repress Kurdish uprisings, and is therefore a war criminal. In the past he has shown a marked disrespect for the standards of international law, attacking first Iran, and then invading Kuwait to settle a drilling dispute.

The Iraqi regime oversees an aggressive chemical and biological research program, in direct violation of UNSC mandates and its own cease-fire agreement. If not for constant international vigilance, this program would also probably include research into nuclear weapons, which would put Iraq in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (of which it is a signatory) as well. (In fact, before the inspections began, Iraq was in violation of that treaty.) Iraq’s attempts to acquire or build weapons of this nature threaten the regional balance of power, particularly in relation to Iran, and fuel a regional arms race, forcing neighboring states to develop similar weapons as a matter of defense.

Iraq has displayed a steadfast determination to continue with these programs in the face of intense international pressure. Iraq’s defiance of UN resolutions on this issue exerts a constant strain on the material resources of international community, which must spend billions of dollars a year keeping an eye on him. This money could be better spent. In addition, it has necessitated the imposition of economic sanctions which have in their turn brought terrible suffering to the citizens of Iraq. Hussein’s intransigence in these matters has also led to a stalemated, low- intensity military conflict which has steadily drained lives and resources in the region for over a decade, and does not seem likely to end without some form or armed conflict, sooner or later.

At the same time, the international community is fractured, indecisive, and weak with regard to Hussein’s regime. The Security Council is paralyzed by internal disputes, and while the various nations on the Council bicker with each other, seeking to safeguard their own short-term national interests, the people of Iraq continue to suffer.

We have three choices, and two of them are unacceptable. We can continue as we have; but that is unacceptable. We can retire, and allow Iraq to continue on its present course; but that is unacceptable. Or, we can remove the Iraqi regime from power, by force. Since the UN seems unable to come to terms with the this last option, which is nevertheless the only palatable one, then the US must do so, either on its own, or in a coalition of the willing.

So… how’d I do?

Israel has bigger issues to deal with than Iraq. And the US won’t ask for Israeli help over Iraq because it would serve to destabilise the Middle-East even more.

Btw - Israel could never kick American ass. Okay - sorry - they have destroyed a US warship before now - but the Israeli army is almost entirely paid for by the USA. Currently running at around $10 billion for this year.

Mr. Svinlesha, that was one of the most succinct and reasoned posts I’ve yet seen in favor of military action. Got a link to what you really think? : ).

Wow, Mr. S, be careful you don’t convince yourself. OK, thanks to you I’m a hawk again. I was wavering, but you’ve convinced me.

But, were I to take the other side, I would contend that you have left out some possibilities in your group of three. Maybe there could be substantial change in the Iraqi disarmament posture. Perhaps it has a necessary military component, onerous on the US military and the international community. But it may not require war. Maybe we have finally reached a military posture that Saddam feels is credible and he will cooperate.

Beagle said Israel could kick our ass so we would have to nuke them here
Sam Stone says it with seriousness here

I find it unlikely that Israel will do anything to help either. That is why it apalls me when people infer that part of our reason for going to war with Iraq is for the benefit of Israel. Israel doesn’t need us to defend them from Iraq.

And they would not kick our ass if it was done properly. Mass the troops for a middle east invasion just like we are doing now, and without warning and by huge surprise sieze control in Israel. They would never know what hit them. Then settle the issues created by Israel that have caused this whole mess to begin with.

Saddam Hussein heads an brutal dictatorship that imprisons citizens without trial and routinely employs torture. Criticism of the regime is not allowed, and citizens of the country are quite literally hostages of their own government. Hussein’s regime oppresses the Shi’a (sp?) in the south and the Kurds in the north. He has gone so far as to gas civilians in his attempts to repress Kurdish uprisings, and is therefore a war criminal. In the past he has shown a marked disrespect for the standards of international law, attacking first Iran, and then invading Kuwait to settle a drilling dispute.

President Bush assumed power by a Rebublican coup. He imprisons without trial or right to counsel. He executes prisoners. Criticism of the regime is not allowed during his speeches. He aids NATO member Turkey in its suppression of Kurds and in the outlawing of even the Kurdish language. Only veto power of the UN Security Council has prevented the US and Turkey from having the Kurds declared terrorists. Bush has shown utter disrespect for the standards of international law most recently the World Court. Bush first attacked and then invaded Afganistan when not one of the World Trade Center hijackers came from Afganistan.

On the attack Israel thing. No, bad idea.

I don’t really think Israel could defeat the US in a war. I was trying to be dismissive of the idea of the US turning on a democratic ally. You want to moderate our policy somewhat, fine. Talk about reducing our military aid, fine. Talk about attacking Israel, wtf?

Hank, you are the same guy who would never attack NK?

Or, are you pretending to be the opposite of that guy? This is already too confusing.

Okay, lemme take a stab at this… dons anti-war fedora

Okay, let’s take this in turn. We’re supposedly going to war against Iraq to remove WMDs, right? But we have no evidence of anything absolutely concrete. We have a few warheads which could, theoretically, maybe, deliver a chemical payload. We have some really nice aluminum tubes. We have a half-dozen other things that maybe-kinda-sorta could be used in WMDs, but that’s it. Nothing, and I mean nothing, that Saddam has could be used against the US - he just doesn’t have the means to deliver. And he knows that the US would turn him into a bone-flecked smear of radioactive jam if he made a serious attack against us. He’s crazy as the proverbial shit-house rat, but he hasn’t lasted this long by being stupid. Saddam clearly poses no direct threat to us.

And terrorist links? Please. We know he supports Hamas, but Hamas has no beef with us - he can pay off suicide bomber families until the cows come home. There are no credible ties between the Iraqi government and any terrorist organization which poses a threat to the US. Osama himself hates the guy, by virtue of the fact that he’s a secular infidel. Further, Saddam knows that Osama hates him. Why in the holy hell would Saddam give weapons to the man who calls for his head on a pike?

Now, one could argue that Saddam poses a direct threat to his neighbors, and this is true. However, this threat has been contained for over a decade now, all without the necessity of war. Last time Saddam got out of line, we executed one of the most efficient military strikes in modern history, and hammered his troops without breaking a sweat. If he gets out of line again, we’ll do the exact same thing.

It’s just not worth it. If we invade, Saddam will likely draw us into urban warfare, jeopardizing thousands upon thousands of Iraqis - not the soldiers, but the civilians. We’re going to save them from Saddam by killing them? Further, if Saddam does have WMDs, guess who he’s going to use them on? Yup, that’s right - American troops. Are we willing to sacrifice so many of our own for this little Iraqi adventure?

The way we should approach this is to simply encourage the Iraqi opposition, as we should’ve done after Gulf War I. Let them take Saddam out, and develop democracy on their own in due time. Iran is ready to make the transition from Islamofascist dictatorship to democracy on its own, and no invasion was ever necessary. With the right support, the same thing can happen in Iraq. We need to be more patient, and continue to let the UN weapons inspectors do their jobs. We can get rid of Saddam peacefully, and without angering the entire Muslim community even further. Give peace a chance, eh?

Ugh, I feel dirty now.

I didn’t say I would never favor action in NK. I was speaking for the present situation.
And WTF is right. That is exactly what everyone would say. That is the beauty of it. No one would expect it. The element of surprise.

Within Israel lies the key to the whole ball of wax. The proliferation of WMDs in the middle east begins with Israel. The Palestinian problem begins with Israel. The reason for terrorist attacks on us begin with Israel. All of our tenuous relations in the middle east begin with Israel.

The single largest problem in the middle east is the refusal of Israel to solve the relations problems in the region. They have the power to do it. No one can deny that. They don’t have the will to do it.

AcidKid! Beautifully said. I wish there were more people like you on the board when I left. I’m back just to argue war.

War orphans make great terrorists! We are threatened because of our abusive (a euphanism, I know) foreign policy, and a continuation of our policy will only inflame more people against us.

I have a great quote that I’d like to share:

“Our overriding purpose, from the beginning through to the present day, has been world domination- that is, to build and maintain the capacity to coerce everybody else on the planet: nonviolently, if possible; and violently, if necessary. But the purpose of US foregin policy of domination is not just to make the rest of the world jump through hoops; the purpose is to facilitate our exploitation of resources.”

-Ramsey Clark, formrer US Attourney General

Cap. Caustic, I respect that you are exploring the other side of the debate. Keep on looking ,man.

Oh, that’s easy. I have no problem seeing the other side, and am actually rather sympathetic. To wit:

That sumbitch needs killin’.

Believe me, I’ll be quite happy that Saddam’s contraband will be destroyed and future development forestalled. I just think the consequences of taking miltary action–as opposed to the alternative means of seeking the same outcome through other means–will be counter-productive to our long-term interests in the region and at home.

Mr. Svinlesha, your argument did not convince me at all. All it says is that Saddam is an asshole, but come on, we already know this. And there are plenty of other asshole leaders around the world, killing innocent people, that the U.S. doesn’t care about. The question is not “is Saddam a brutal dictator?” Of course he is, but the real question is “what are the U.S. government’s true intentions?” It is important to remember that back in 1991, Bush Sr. inspired the people of Iraq to rise up against Saddam. He also told them they would have U.S. support. The Iraqi people wanted - and tried - to rise up, but guess what, the U.S. took off just in time to let lots of Iraqis die.
The government didn’t care about Saddam as a brutal dictator then, and they don’t care now. All they want are stable oil prices. On top of this, even if Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, which they don’t since even an incredibly thorough investigation found none, the only way they would use them is if they were attacked. You say the U.S. should go against the UN? Do you think the UN are a bunch of idiots? Come on, they know exactly what the U.S. wants which is why they don’t support war. The war that you support is going to cost many lives - Iraqi and American, just so you don’t have to pay an extra couple dollars when you fill your gas tank. If the U.S. goes to war now, it will be the stupidest war they have ever fought in history.

Surely the OP is asking for what we really think the best rationale for the opposite conclusion is, not simply parroting those who disagree with us. It’s painful to realize that the best arguments for the invasion are generally not the ones being raised by the Administration, meaning to me that they’re not only going to do it but will waste the opportunity to gain from it. Even with that, the balance would still be tipped far over in the side of resuming the successful approach of the last 12 years.

So here goes: As minty, our evidence that Texans can be sane, succinctly says, Saddam needs killin’. The best reason to do this is to eliminate a brutal dictatorship, in the name of humanity. Come to think of it, that’s the only reason based on facts and not on hypotheses about what he could do or wants to do. Granted, the US doesn’t have much of a record here in recent decades, outside of the Kosovo and Bosnia interventions (which the same people now beating the drums were just as vocally opposed to then - for pretty transparent reasons, too). Nevertheless, we do have a record of maturing in our motivations that can be built upon.

To have legitimacy as an act by the civilized world in the cause of humanity, though, it would have to look like one - and Bush blew that right from the get-go with this unilateralism crap, so it’s not a real motivation and there’s no reason to expect him to follow up.

With Saddam gone (a big assumption - this is not going to be as easy as many hope or expect), the reconstruction and democratization of Iraq could take place. But that, too, would have to be an act of the civilized world, each taking a role in the effort, to have legitimacy in the eyes of the people whose minds we’re trying to change. Bush hasn’t shown any interest in that, either - since his comment in the campaign that he doesn’t believe in nation-building, and followed by his antagonization of the very countries that would have to be called on to participate. And yes, the occupation and genuine, hearts-and-minds reconstruction will be necessary, and lengthy, and expensive (not a penny of it in the budget Bush just submitted, though) - if Saddam is simply found and killed, there is no reason to think the next guy won’t be just as bad, and those lives will have been wasted.
Other reasons? Not the imminent threat (to any other country) stuff - that’s hypothetical at best, and based on a very thin thread of evidence, and counterindicated by the last 12 years of actual experience. Plus, if he really has the nasty stuff, it’s waiting to be used on the invading forces.

Not the sponsorship of worldwide terrorism stuff - there’s even less of that, and more reason to think otherwise.

Not to avenge an assassination attempt - that’s not supported by anything at all, really.

To gain control of the oil fields? Can’t discount that one, especially given the backgrounds of Bush and his regent, Cheney, but you’ll not hear it raised as an argument, since that gets into cost/benefit analysis and that fails.

Not reaffirming the UN’s authority - Bush has never shown evidence that he gives a good goddamn about that unless it’s to support him, anyway.

So cross almost all the purported reasons off the list, and go with the one that Bush has no apparent commitment to, or even has thought much about.

Perhaps everyone participating in this experiment should start their posts by identifying where they themselves stand in relation to the issue at hand. For those who don’t know, I have argued aggressively against a unilateral US war against Iraq for several months now. My last post, above, was an attempt to argue the opposite case. I mention this because a couple of posters appear to be under the impression that I sit on the other side of the fence, i.e., that I’m pro-war. I am not. Also, I’m not sure if Acid Kid and Colinito are playing devil’s advocate as well, or responding to my last post in terms of their own real position on these questions.

Having said that, I will, for the duration of this thread, continue to take a pro-war stance, for the purpose of exploring how a morally legitimate basis for military action can be constructed. I don’t know if I can explain why I would do this; it has something to do with my belief that, in order to take a serious, considered stand on the question of war, one must be able to see both sides of the argument. In other words, if you can only see the value of your side, then you’re being partisan, rather than objective. So, I agree with Elvis: the idea behind this exercise is not to simply reiterate, or parrot, the arguments of the opposite side, even though you don’t believe them. Rather, the point is to seriously consider those arguments posed by the opposition that you think may have at least some merit. That’s why my last submission didn’t contain pro-war arguments that I feel are really hollow, such as, for example, the argument that Iraq constitutes a serious threat to US territory/civilians, or that the Iraqi government is somehow conspiring with Al-Qeda. Thus, I would say to El Jeffe that if you don’t believe the arguments you’ve posted in this thread have at least some value, then don’t post them. (And as a side note, if you cannot seriously consider alternatives to war without feeling dirty, well, I feel sorry for you. Clearly, a person with such bias is hardly worth listening to, belonging, as it were, to the “my mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts” section of the peanut gallery.)

In a thread entitled Post-Powell’s address – Smoking Gun Redux ,” started by the inestimable Mr. Beagle, I’ve argued strenuously against war. I think my posts start at the bottom of page 3 and continue to the end, in case you’re really interested.

Dude, that’s seriously fucked-up. Here I spend hours arguing against the war, and seemingly convince no one; but then I submit one post arguing the opposite, and in a matter minutes I win a convert.

That sux.

Seriously, what good would it do for us to extend the inspections regime, in the long run? Even if Saddam finally agrees to co-operate for the time being, what are we going to do? Sooner or later we must declare that all the weapons are destroyed, and withdraw; and as soon as we do, Hussein is completely free to start over again. Or are we going to simply maintain a significant military force in the area, and regularly impose inspections, until Saddam is replaced? And what of his potential replacements, reportedly even worse than he is? What about the Iraqi people, suffering without rights or democracy under his brutal dictatorship? Shall we simply leave them to rot, then?
Acid Kid:

Hmm…you seem familiar to me. Didn’t we meet in a thread about Buddhism a few months ago?

Some of the tactics employed by the Republicans in the election stand-off may have been unethical, but the Bush presidency is not the result of anything like military coup. Let’s remember that at the end, Gore conceded the election to Bush. In fact, Bush represents a significant and vocal portion of the US populace, even now – arguably the majority.*

If you are referring to the Al-Qeda prisoners at Guantanamo, their status is undetermined as of yet; they are arguably prisoners of war. Bush certainly doesn’t imprison his political opponents, on the other hand, or he’d have to put about half the country in jail.

All in all, despite his flaws, it’s fairly unreasonable to equate Bush with Hussein, if that is your aim.

Regardless of your stance on the death penalty, you must nevertheless allow that it reflects the will of the people, not the whim of George Bush. The death penalty is an expression of American democracy; if a majority of Americans were against it, it would be illegal. If the Texas courts had not condemned certain criminals to death, in accordance with the laws of the state, Bush would not have been able to confirm their sentences.

When Bush arbitrarily arrests Michael Moore, imprisons him without trial, tortures him, and eventually executes him, solely on the basis of his criticism of the Bush administration, then I may be willing to buy your analogy.*

If you mean that critics of Bush aren’t allowed to jump up and interrupt him while he’s giving the State of Union address, then, well, gee, I guess you’re right. Can criticize him, his policies, or anything else, at any other time, though. This point’s just lame, let’s move on.*

Well, look, taken as whole: first, if you’re going to point an accusing finger at Bush, you might as well remember to point it at the rest of Europe as well. Bush cannot be held responsible for the composition of NATO, can he? Secondly, what is your suggestion here: that, in order to be morally consistent, if we bomb Iraq we should bomb Turkey too?

I agree that the Turks repress the Kurds, and that this repression is scandalous. But so what? Many states pursue policies that I think are scandalous. Russia bombs Tjechnia (sp?), China locks up practitioners of Falun Gong. These are criminal acts, as far as I can see, but both countries also sit as permanent members of the UNSC.

We can’t tackle the entire world. Different situations call for different tactics. But in the case of Iraq, where we actually can do something, then why shouldn’t we? I’m afraid your argument, taken to its logical conclusion, would leave the US completely paralyzed in the sphere of world affairs.*

Well, hell. You know that I sincerely agree with your claim, above, and even as devil’s advocate, I can’t find a counter-argument. Score one point for the good guys.*

9/11 was planned and executed by members of Al-Queda, who were operating primarily out of Afghanistan, under the auspices of the Taliban government. When requested that they release bin Ladan for extradition and trial, they refused.

The Taliban government was one of the most brutal and repressive in the world. So is the Iraqi regime. I cannot figure out, for the life of me, why it is that the left, supposedly proponents of democracy, equality, and human rights, consistently finds itself defending regimes that are anything but equal, democratic, or human rights conscious. The arguments against war are, inevitably, arguments that also support the oppressive Iraqi regime, and seek to prolong the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Are you sure your position isn’t just some kind of knee-jerk anti-Americanism, rather than a measured consideration of the issues?