Blogs > HNN > Grievance Explanations and the Politics of Fantasy

Jul 13, 2005 2:47 pm


Grievance Explanations and the Politics of Fantasy



I know I'm repeating myself at this point, but let me state the point as crisply and concisely as I can, so that no one has the excuse of having missed it in one of my characteristically over-long posts.

If you think that the London attacks were caused by the US/UK invasion of Iraq, and regard this as evidence why we shouldn't be in Iraq, you're saying that had we not gone to Iraq attacks like London would not have happened.

Sort of. When we weren't in Iraq, we had a sanctions/inspections/no-fly policy that killed tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. That policy didn't lead to a bombing in London; it merely led to two bombings of US installations in Saudi Arabia, two embassies destroyed in East Africa, one bombing of a US naval vessel, the attempted destruction of the river crossings into NYC, the attempted destruction of LAX--and 9/11. So if you don't think we should have invaded Iraq, and think we should have stuck to our old policy, you have to face the fact that the old policy "caused" 9/11 etc as surely as the occupation "caused" London.

If you don't think we should have had sanctions/inspections or a no-fly policy, you must have no objection to full-scale Iraqi development of WMD. So if those WMD had been developed, you either need to say "Iraqi WMD development--no problem!" and show why it wasn't, or explain how Iraqi WMD development would have been precluded without sanctions, inspections or war.

If you think we shouldn't have liberated Kuwait at all, and shouldn't have gotten involved with Iraq at all, you should explain what policy options there were had Iraq threatened the Saudi (or other Gulf) oil fields.

So which policy do you want? The one that led to London, the one that led to 9/11, the one that would have led to a nuclearized Iraq, or the one that might well have led to the Iraqi hijacking of the Saudi oil fields?

Or is it that you want the policy option that consists in the fantasy that you don't have to think about stuff like this?



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Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Oscar,

Read the post more carefully. You're not arguing with me, you're arguing with the people I'm opposing.

Did Iraq "cause" the London attacks? That is the claim I am opposing. Well SUPPOSE they did.

In THAT sense of "cause," sanctions caused 9/11.

Now you are disputing that the counter-factuals work that way. In other words, you disputing the propriety of THAT sense of causation. Good. So am I. But then why aren't you disputing that Iraq caused London? It's the same sense of causation, and the same notion of counterfactuality. It's just that one is convenient to adopt for those who oppose the Iraq war, and the other is fatal to adopt--for the exact same people.

There is a raging double standard here, and it amazes me that people can't see it. Everybody thinks that the counterfactuals are so utterly, utterly complex...UNTIL we get to Iraq, when they become so transparently obvious.

So 9/11 could have happened regardless of Iraq policy--but London HAD to happen BECAUSE of it. Coherent? That is the combination of claims I'm disputing.

You can't have your counterfactuals both ways. Either they're complex both ways around, or simple both ways around. You can't just choose complexity or simplicity in an ad hoc way.


Irfan Khawaja - 8/4/2006

Thanks.


N. Friedman - 7/14/2005

Irfan,

You have written an exceedingly intelligent article and post.


Peter Cresswell - 7/14/2005

Crisply and cogently argued, Irfan. Very well said.


Oscar Chamberlain - 7/13/2005

"When we weren't in Iraq, we had a sanctions/inspections/no-fly policy that killed tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. That policy . . . led to two bombings of US installations in Saudi Arabia, two embassies destroyed in East Africa, one bombing of a US naval vessel, the attempted destruction of the river crossings into NYC, the attempted destruction of LAX--and 9/11. "

To borrow a phrase from my misspent youth, say what? If your point is that your counter-factual is as simplistic as some others in opposition to current policy, then OK. But what follows--and in particular your penultimate paragraph--suggests that you do see what happened in such simplistic terms. That worries me.

The fact is the road to 9/11 was contingent upon many things. 9/11 and Iraq do cross in one area: bin Laden's statement that the presence of US forces in Saudi Arabia was one motive for the jihad. However, many US actions that could have avoided 9/11 were independent of Iraqi policy. If the elder Bush and Clinton had been more interested in Afghanistan perhaps the that training area could have been eliminated. If clinton had been more vigorous in pursuing bin Laden things could have been different; if Bush the younger had been more concerend about terrorist threats pre-9/11 it might have been disrupted.

And hey, I haven't even gone back to the 1980s, our policy toward Afghanistan, and our favoring secular Iraq over fundamentalist Iran in that ghastly 8 year war.

You want people opposed to our Iraqi policy to discuss alternatives in a serious coherent way. That's reasonable. Many don't. But you need to do the same.