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Wednesday, April 02, 2003
 
I saw this post over at N.Z. Bear, and felt obliged to comment. It turned into quite a rant, so I'm doing my four dozen readers the service of reprinting it here. Bear asks:

I've been noodling a piece about the current state of peace protesters, and the shift in meaning that occured between protesting to prevent a war, and protesting a war that is already in progress.

But frankly, others have done it already, so I'd be retreading old ground. So instead of doing that, and putting words in the mouths of those opposing this war, let me just ask a simple question:

What do you want?

I'd really like to know. And I'll leave it at that, as I don't want to prejudice the question any more. But please, if you oppose (or opposed) attacking Hussein's forces in Iraq, I'd like to hear your "What I would do if I was President" speech. What actions would you take, and how would those actions be better (in whatever way you choose to define 'better') than the course we are pursuing today? And if you feel really intellectually honest, in what ways would your approach be worse?


No offense, Bear, but I think the question is unfair. Bush got us into a fight we opposed. But the damage has been done. We're in too far to stop now. Doing so would seriously blunt the threat of our using force, should we really need it someday.

I think a lot of the continued protests are expressions of anger, of pure protest. People are angry because of the war, so that's what shows up on their signs. Many people would like it made clear that they would not have chosen this course of action, and do not wish to be tarred with it. (Paradoxically, their actions could actually be good for the country, as they indicate to the international community that not all Americans are (by their lights) bloodthirsty imperialists, and will give us some benefit of the doubt instead of opposing us reflexively.)

What do I want? At this point, the only rational course is to get it over with as little bloodshed as possible (which may be quite a lot). Maybe the proper course is to wait a bit, and bring in truly overwhelming ground forces and supplant 'shock and awe' with 'grim inevitability.'

We need to get out there and talk to the countries we've pissed off. They're not going anywhere and everything we want to accomplish wil be a lot easier if there is cooperation among nations. Make concessions where necessary. Actually listen to their points of view, while explaining that our one inflexible point is that we finish the job in Iraq.

If Iraq is not materially better off after our intervention, we will have failed. Meaningfully commit to a thorough rebuilding of Iraq--$10 billion/year for five years, minimum. Not business investment, just straight-up directed resource transfer. Make restitution to the families of dead and injured civilians. Invest the time and money to find competent, clean local leadership and maintain just enough presence to keep rival groups from killing one another. Find and punish the truly odious, then establish (and fund) amnesty courts a la South Africa. Sow the seeds of civil society. Do what is really required to make Iraq a "bastion of democracy."

That's what I'd do.