Monday, April 23, 2007

Hitchens on Iraq -- An Experiment in Cognotive Dissonance

What do Christpher Hitchens and I have in common? We both supported the Iraq War largely for humanitarian reasons. I've long since abandoned defending the war, but over on Slate, Hitch -- desperate to salvage some of his spent credibility -- is pushing a new line of logic: Iraq would have imploded whether we invaded or not.

This hypothesis is appealing to folks like Hitch because it's unfalsifiable. We will never know what would have happened in Iraq had America left Saddam in power. In my view, the most likely scenario would be a North Korean style transfer from Saddam to one (or even both) of his sons, perpetuating that grotesque family dictatorship for another 30 to 50 years. Of course, it's also possible -- Hitch might say inevitable -- that Iraq would have descended into the anarchy that presently consumes it.

But here's where Hitch's logic goes awry -- without explanation or justification, he-posits that this hypotehtical post-Saddam Iraq was America's problem to fix! In his words:

I have never been able to overcome the feeling that Iraq was our ward and responsibility one way or another, and that canceling or postponing an intervention would only have meant having to act later on, in conditions even more awful and dangerous than the ones with which we have become familiar.

Let me try to overcome that feeling for you, Hitch. Iraq is not the 51st state in the Union. Had Saddam fallen and anarchy ensued, presumably the world -- and by world I mean Europe, the United Nations, and the collective 170 odd states that inhabit the globe -- would have rallied to take action, as the world has done for the most recent state crisises (in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, etc.) More importantly, if the U.S. in this imagined counter-factual scenario played a primary role in trying to save Iraq from itself, we -- meaning Americans -- would be seen as the good guys, rather than self-interested interventionist imperialists.

The Quiet American always feels that world is America's ward and responsibility. Christopher Hitchens is never quiet, and yet the Quiet American he has become.


Blogger gramsci said...

Hitchens' logic about Iraq imploding is not "new"... He used this argument even before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. And the United States did have a unique responsibility to Iraq given its history in the region, specifically, its implementation of "no-fly-zones" that protected the Shia south and the Kurdish north. While true that some countries evetually came around to defending human rights in Bosnia and East Timor, such actions came too late to save thousands and thousands of people from state-sponsored massacres.

3:46 PM  

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