05 February, 2005

Devil's advocacy

I had an interesting conversation after my kung fu class this morning where I found myself arguing against the anti-war position. It's not uncommon for me to swap sides in a debate out of irritation at weaknesses in someone's arguments (since, after all, knowing how to think is more important than knowing what to think). But this did underscore for me how conflicted I am about the fundamentals of the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq. If, in spite of the terror of occupation and bombing, in spite of the American's efforts to manipulate events in Iraq to their benefit, the end product is a stable and relatively democratic regime, how will I feel about it? And I don't consider this to be a mere flight of fancy - it's a real enough possibility. Things may turn out okay. And if they do, then what? Does that mean that the ends justify the means? That it is morally acceptably, maybe even correct, to use force to depose dictatorships and replace them with democracies?

The facile answer is a clear "no", which is the response I'm supposed to give as an anti-imperialist. But the waters seem a bit muddied, to me. Yes, the intent in Iraq was mistaken, and at every step the Bush administration has demonstrated that they do NOT understand what democracy means, that they will push American advantage in disgusting and underhanded ways. But I've never seen a convincing refutation of the idea that inaction is morally indefensible, that allowing dictatorships to persist is tantamount to supporting oppression. And if the effective result of George W. Bush's interventionist policy is not imperialism, but rather the replacement of the bad with the good, on what leg does the anti-war argument stand?

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