Posted by Thomas Nephew on January 14th, 2003
Continuing in “book review-why was I out” mode, a book that was partly responsible for my blogging hiatus was The Threatening Storm, by Ken Pollack. The subtitle is “The case for invading Iraq.” To my discomfiture, he makes the case very well. In a nutshell: the one thing worse than a big war now is a bigger one later. Pollack is persuasive that that prospect is highly likely, should Hussein acquire nuclear weapons. To consider that a grave danger warranting military action is not to demand “absolute security” a la million moms marching, as Jim Henley charges somewhat unfairly. It’s grounded in a particular analysis of a particular unchecked dictator and his regime and the resources within his reach. There is a particular real danger there, and one that the United States has the power to do something about. It’s true that may encourage others to accelerate their weapons programs. So I waver about the war. But I don’t see how anyone can be very sure either way.
I meant to stay brief on this. So I’ll not try to reconcile the position I’ve come to with my prior posts on the subject too much. It can’t be done completely: I’ve changed my mind to a large degree. There has been a reasonably good faith effort to engage the United Nations, to wait the thing out, to give Hussein every chance to end his weapons programs. Even the German intelligence agency estimates Iraq will have nuclear weapons within a few years (so I don’t quite understand that government’s militant pacifism on the subject — although there seems to be some discord between Schroeder and Fischer on the subject recently).
I continue to agree with war skeptics on this: for our own sake and the sake of our standing in the world, I think it would be best that the case be clear, that a “smoking gun” be revealed. Best, but not absolutely necessary: I accept that Iraq is a big place, and American military and intelligence organizations are not omnipotent in finding something an absolute dictator does not want found. If the Bush people are as certain as they claim, a “smoking gun” should be doable, perhaps as a final card that reveals some “assets and methods” or whatever the intelligence phrase is. If it’s not doable, then that should be explained, and the continued push towards war should be explained as well. That could be done. American voters are grownups (generally speaking). We can handle the truth.
UPDATE: I tend to use this blog as a personal link library to articles. A well-written counterargument by Mearsheimer and Walt, not directly addressing Pollack but taking up many of his arguments, appears in the latest “Foreign Policy.” Thanks to Peter Praschl of Le Sofa Blogger for the link.