The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

War-whooping Post's Iraq revisionism

Robert Kagan of the Carnegie Endowment weasels under hed and dek Whether This War Was Worth It: In Analyzing Iraq, Consider the Effects of Having Done Nothing in the cause of justifying ex post facto the rag's cheerleading of the Iraq invasion.

Kagan is not the first to seek to elide two fundamentally different questions:
  1. whether the invasion was justified (at the point at which it occurred); and

  2. whether the effects of the invasion were, on the whole, favourable or not.

To test that these are fundamentally different, one need only analogise a guy who - literally - bets his farm on a horse race, and wins.

When he goes home to his wife, do you think she will praise his acumen?

Even - which, as the lawyers say, is not admitted - Iraq and every other country is better off now than if the invasion had not happened, that cannot be used as a justification for the invasion.

It's pure snake-oil salesmanship, from the same family of fallacies as the law of averages [1].

Conveniently for those in and around USG who have further invasions in mind, a judgement based entirely on results has nothing to say about the question of the legality of the invasion. A thousand years of development of international law cast into the dustbin of history - a Genghis Khan policy for the third millennium!

Now, one can argue that international law had already been discarded - by Clinton and his decision to make war on Serbia without UN authorisation or other legal justification. If Clinton can invent the spurious ground of humanitarian intervention, why should the class of spurious grounds remain closed?

And, since the invention of spurious grounds is permitted, why not cut the crap, and not bother with grounds at all?

(It does not help that, amongst those most opposed to the Iraq invasions, were moronic lefties who cheered Clinton's bombers on their way to Yugoslavia without a thought about the precedent that was being set [2].)

The descent into international lawlessness of the last decade can be validated by adopting the Kagan view. Or, if they wish, the leading powers can decide to treat the impostors of humanitarian intervention and pre-emptive (or preventative) war just the same, and return to the status quo ante.

Meanwhile, whilst Kagan's (lack of) Law applies, pro tem, we are relying on the sages of Pennsylvania Avenue and Foggy Bottom calculating that provoking a war with Iran (with the IAF flying tonight with bunker-busters) or North Korea would have results so catastrophic that even these cakewalk Pollyannas of blood and iron can't square their (let me be generous!) consciences with pushing the button.

  1. The version that suggests that the fact that a fair coin has come up heads nine times increases the likelihood that, on the tenth toss, it will come up tails.

  2. The gag about ringing bells and wringing hands seems apposite.


Kagan might defend his piece thus: the Post asked me to write on the was it worth it? question, no doubt, because that's the question asked now in the polling. Nothing in the piece preempts a judgement that the invasion was both illegal and not politically justified by the facts known in March 2003.

In other words, that being worth it - what one might call the L'Oréal test - was, on its own, not a sufficient condition to justify the invasion.

Does the context permit such an interpretation? I should coco!

And Kagan's rap-sheet on Iraq clinches it!

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