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Conditional support

January 25th, 2003

Steven Den Beste at USS Clueless writes.

If we fight, and if we win, and if we win rapidly, and if the rate of American casualties is low, and if the overall casualty rate is low, and if afterwards plenty of evidence is uncovered about Iraq’s WMDs and Iraqi involvement in terrorism – all of which I now think is quite likely to happen – then people will look back and see this as an example of leadership, and they’ll be right.

Well, yes, especially if as Den Beste also predicts, the invasion produces a democratic government in Iraq and if this is the beginning of full-scale democratic reform in the region. Granted these eight or nine “ifs”, I would support an invasion, and, should the invasion take place and produce these outcomes, I will admit that my opposition was based on an incorrect assessment.

I can’t see though, how the ultra-confidence of Den Beste and others in a quick, complete, nearly bloodless military victory squares with the insistence that the war has to start in the next couple of months before the weather gets too hot for fighting. The only obvious route to a quick and easy victory arises if Saddam’s armies mutiny and refuse to fight at all, and presumably hot weather will not reduce the chances of this. More generally, if we agree that a change in the weather will upset everything how can we rule out some other unforeseen contingency of the kind that wars have produced since time immemorial.

Although not strictly relevant to this post, I think it’s worth noting at this point that, even in purely military terms, a decision to go to war without letting the UN process reach a conclusion will have substantial costs, by curtailing any Turkish involvement and therefore foreclosing the “Northern option’.

Update My blogtwin, Tim Dunlop, quotes the identical para from SDB, then says “Well maybe, but I count six big ‘ifs’ in that paragraph…”. The BlogGeist strikes again, right down to turn of phrase!

Further update Steven Den Beste replies here, dismissing the northern option of an invasion from Turkey. I don’t have any basis to doubt his expertise on this, but this option certainly got plenty of apparently well-informed press. In the previous post he says, that he’s puzzled by the sharp swings in rhetoric coming out of Washington (me too!) and gives an exhaustive list of possible interpretations. He goes for misinformation, as he has in the past. I prefer the view I’ve been putting forward for some time, that Blair can’t persuade his Cabinet to dump the UNSC and join a US invasion. So there’s nothing new here that’s likely to change prior beliefs. Nevertheless, it’s well-worth reading Den Beste’s presentation of the alternatives.

Yet further update Kevin Batcho shares my analysis, pointing out the threat posed to Blair by Gordon Brown.

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