Towards A Good Samaritan World

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Geoffrey Wheatcroft thinks that:

It might be the moment for an Englishman opposed to the war to explain why, for some of us here, Blair comes out of Iraq not better than Bush but much worse.

First, Wheatcroft explains Blair's reasons for going to war:

[Blair] knew that Washington was going to invade in any case, and he believed that 'it would be more damaging to long-term world peace and security if the Americans alone defeated Saddam Hussein than if they had international support to do so.' So he told one London journalist, telling another that he was worried about an American drift toward unilateralism and that his mission was to embrace Bush so as to 'keep the United States in the international system.'

Here's why he thinks this is a bad reason:

The harder these arguments are looked at, the more curious they seem. You don't say: "My big brother is a crazy kind of guy. On Saturday night he likes to get blind drunk and drive through town at 90. It would be more damaging to peace and security if he acted alone than if he had my support, so I'll go along with him for the ride." Either Washington was doing something wise and virtuous, in which case it should have been supported for that reason, or not, in which case should have been restrained and, if necessary, opposed.

But if "Washington was doing something wise and virtuous," that is NOT a sufficient reason for the British to get involved. If Brits want Saddam gone, and they know that the Americans can remove him by themselves, why should the Brits sacrifice their blood and treasure to bring about something that will happen anyway? Blair's reasoning presumes that toppling Saddam is a good thing, and gives a reason for British involvement. But the reasoning makes sense even if you think that the Iraq War is, all things considered, a bad idea, in the sense of not being worth the costs and risks even though it's a good cause, it still makes sense for the British to be involved if the Americans are going to do it anyway, and the effects will be less bad if the British are involved, than not. Of course, if the Iraq War were really like drunk driving, the British should be involved. Maybe Wheatcroft thinks it is, which doesn't do much credit to his judgment. But Blair didn't think so, of course.


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