Nov 252002

Alan Reynolds in The Washington Times, via Radley Balko, through some complex blogging chain that I’m too lazy to reconstruct, makes this anti-war argument:

Those who claim to be certain Iraq has a formidable arsenal of fearsome weapons also express inexplicable confidence that those weapons pose no danger to U.S. troops. They declare that an invasion will be fast and easy. “I guarantee it will be over within 10 days,” says Mort Zuckerman of U.S.News. Such assurances that Iraq is a feeble military power contradict the rationale for war namely, the assertion that Iraq is in possession of terrifying weapons. Iraq may be a dangerous predator or an easy prey, but it cannot be both.

Radley labels this “the Hawkish Paradox.” Even if we grant the implicit (and obviously false) assumption that any “fearsome weapon” that could kill a lot of civilians could also kill a lot of well-prepared and equipped soldiers, Dovish Paradox would be equally apt. Doves may argue that he has these weapons and will use them against American soldiers if attacked, inflicting severe casualties, but not against American civilians, because he is a rational actor. Doves may argue equally that he doesn’t have these weapons and thus poses no threat to us. Neither of these positions is cogent, but neither is prima facie illogical. What doves may not do is argue both positions at once.

Same with hawks. Zuckerman is perfectly entitled to say the war will be over in 10 days provided Zuckerman does not simultaneously argue for Iraq’s fearsome arsenal. Reynolds notably fails to produce such a quote from Zuckerman, and even if he did it would indict only Zuckerman, not hawks in general. In reality there is no paradox here at all, for hawks or doves. The author merely illustrates the necessity of taking a view.

Radley calls this “maybe the best anti-war argument” I’ve seen yet, which makes me wonder what the bad ones are.

  2 Responses to “The Dovish Paradox”

  1. The bad one is, "Dude, you don’t know for a fact that Saddam has WMD, and he hasn’t used them yet." That’s the party line. Obviously, the problem is that waiting for him to use them is intolerable, and finding out whether he has them has been made impossible by his shenanigans. Oh, another good one is that the U.S. has WMDs, so it should be invaded, too.

  2. The "hawk" position is not, or should not be, that the war will be quick and easy. Rather, it is, must be, in Churchill’s words: "Victory — victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however hard and long the road may be; for without victory there is no survival." That is where I stand, and nothing less will do.

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