Who is right, and who is ... perhaps also right.
14 April 2003, 12:24 PM
There has been a lot of loose talk lately (which I won't link to, so you can't find out how well-written and persuasive it is, or on the other hand whether it exists at all) about how the anti-war faction has been proven wrong by events.
Now, first of all, events don't always prove advice wise or foolish, as it's always good to be lucky, but not good to rely on luck. That's a general statement, by the way, not necessarily specifically applicable to The War.
More important, this loose talk betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of the anti-war movement. Not that I understand it all that well, but it seems to me (please correct me) that there are four different camps:
The pacifists: These are both the hard-core it-doesn't-matter-what-the-objective-is-or-if-we-achieve-it pacifists, and the the-only-practical-answer-in-the-long-run-is-love pacifists, neither of whom will be proved wrong by events, as they are simply passing a moral judgment. It's a basic principle, and as such not susceptible to concrete proof.
The Bush-haters: This group doesn't acknowledge Bush has any legitimacy to invade, based on a variety of aspects of Bush's history and the history of his group of advisors. Also, there are people in this group who feel very strongly about Bush's domestic policy; they attend anti-war rallies as part of a general protest against Bush. Some of this is rational, some is irrational, but it isn't going to be proved right or wrong by events in Iraq.
The Where's-the-Threatistas: These are only in favor of war to protect US national security, and didn't think that Iraq under the Baathists was a threat. They, for the most part, didn't believe that Iraq had any effective means of using chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons against Americans, either directly or through terrorist links (which many didn't really believe existed). They also, for the most part, felt that any possible threat was not imminent. If they have been proven wrong, I haven't noticed it.
The At-What-Costniks: These are the people who feel, on the whole, that an invasion of Iraq was a good idea, and that they support the right to intervene either because they saw an imminent threat or for humanitarian reasons, but felt that the cost, in dollars, blood, and diplomatic capital, was too great. Some of them estimated that cost higher than others, and some of them placed greater or lesser weight on the various aspects of that cost (I, for instance, am more worried about Global Repercussions than about the dollars, although I am sure going to be cranky when we "can't afford" bridges and libraries). For some of them, the main issue was the Butcher's Bill, and I think most of those expected it to be much higher (and are relieved to be mistaken). As for the rest, the accountants haven't really seen the Rebuilding Bill, and the Diplomacy Bill is never easy to tot up, but they both could be a lot less than I thought.
I break these down as if most people broke down their responses in logical terms; I am well aware they do not, on any and all sides of an issue. Most people who called themselves anti-war are in more than one of these groups; some are in more than one of the mutually contradictory ones. Also, very few people are going around saying "I was wrong about this"; so to the extent that the proof exists, it is not very persuasive. Perhaps it never is. But to say, in a lump, that the anti-war movement has been proven wrong, is to totally misunderstand the opposition to Bush's policy.