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Operation New Dawn: The Iraq War Debate Seven Years Later

Seven years after the start of the war, and more than eight years since the beginning of the build-up for war, there is still, perhaps, no more controversial topic in American foreign policy than the decision to invade Iraq during the spring of 2003.  American soldiers are still fighting and dying there and while it seems that the situation is slowly getting better, there is little to show that it is truly stable.

War divides public opinion in a way that few things can (apparently with the exception of universal health care).  Western liberal countries (e.g., USA, UK, France, Canada, etc.) have founded their societies on a belief in freedoms and rights that puts a very high value on individual life.  This creates the need for a complex rationale for war.  If life is valued, and war has the express purpose of ending many lives, then there has to be something of even greater value being created.  This difficulty of justifying or not justifying war can and is approached in many different ways.  However, the most productive way is to admit to some level of uncertainty and remain humble.  No one can know everything, particularly in situations as complex as wars, so avoiding overconfident statements and remaining open to rational debate is essential, even at the cost of struggling to create a forceful rhetoric.

To demonstrate this point, I want to look at the debate over the Iraq War among American and British Leftists.  It would certainly be possible to include some writers outside this group, but Leftists traditionally purport to value human life and equality more so than any other political mindset.  Additionally, writers outside this designation become superfluous simply due to the range of opinion within the Left.

In no way would I suggest that I knew then or even know now what the right course of action was in 2003.  At the time of the invasion, I was seventeen years old and was opposed to the war.  Now, after seven years, I’m just less certain than I was then.  This is not an argument about what was the correct route to take with reference to the invasion.  In it, I only hope to illustrate the proper way to approach the debate, and therefore also in future debates.

A Case against Blind Pacifism: Chomsky and Eagleton

A good place to begin is with those who were strongly against the Iraq War in part because they are against (any) use of American military power.  This opinion is typically attributed to the “Manichean” Left and the prominent figure of Noam Chomsky.

In a collection of essays published in 2007 as the book Interventions, Chomsky sets out his argument against the invasion of Iraq.  Despite how many in the Left have made it a point to reject Chomsky as part of the process of situating themselves within a group willing to debate [1], it cannot be said that his analysis is without merit.  He seems to understand the debate and even ostensibly agrees with the humanitarian defense for the war, namely that “an end to Saddam’s rule would lift a horrible burden from the people of Iraq.” [2]

But Chomsky also is prone to statements of conjecture and conspiracy that are unproductive in advancing the discussion.  In “The Hidden Agenda in the Iraq War,” he says that the U.S. attacked Iraq primarily for the strategic advantage of controlling the country’s oil. [3]  It is not worth getting into a long debate over why exactly the U.S. government decided to invade Iraq, but it is clear that many supported the invasion for reasons other than the control of oil resources.  Declaring oil to be the primary rationale only serves to belittle and demonize his opponents.

Because this sort of argument is particularly damaging to productive debate, and as a bit of an aside, I want to delve into how one might respond to Chomsky’s assertion.  The logical place to start would be asking the questions that arise from the Bush administration’s intent to leave Iraq in August 2003 and to avoid nation-building. [4]  Wouldn’t the control of oil resources be better protected by the continued presence of the American military?  One could easily see Chomsky’s rejoinder to such a question: the American military has been in Iraq now for seven years.  Of course, that logic leads us down another path.  Namely, we would have to look at the tens of billions of dollars it has cost America to rebuild Iraq. [5]   What purpose is there to controlling oil resources if those resources cost more money than they provide?

Chomsky would certainly have an answer for this question as well.  It might be something about Halliburton contracts or the $9 billion of reconstruction money that “got lost”, [6] but the content of his response is immaterial.  What matters is that we started discussing the purpose of the war in Iraq and have been diverted to talking about American greed.

The end of Chomsky’s essay “The Hidden Agenda in the Iraq War” demonstrates what is really at stake: Waging war to control Iraqi oil reserves “is a rational calculation, on the assumption that human survival is not particularly significant in comparison with short-term power and wealth.” [7]  This is, in fact, how Chomsky sees America.  It is a place obsessed with short-term gains and unconcerned about its stated objective of democratic freedom.

While no critique of the “anti-war” opinion would be complete without Chomsky, it seems pertinent to expand beyond the tired game of Chomsky-bashing to include another figure on the Left who is sympathetic to Chomsky’s stance.

Terry Eagleton is, perhaps, even more aggressive in his statements about the Iraq War.  In the conclusion to his book After Theory, he lashes out at the United States for its post September 11 foreign policy: “[The world was] that assortment of foreign nations who are to be bullied, bribed and blackmailed into abandoning their own supremely trivial interests and falling docilely into line behind the self-appointed Messianic saviour of the globe.” [8]  This is a simplistic overstatement of America’s relationship to the world.  Certainly, the United States looks out for its own self-interest and purports to stand for certain values, sometimes at the cost of other nations, but this is far from saying that its sole purpose is to bully other countries.  Eagleton acknowledges this by ending his book with a message of friendship for like like-minded writers in the U.S. [9]  Who then does Eagleton attribute this disdain for the world to?

Perhaps, he is only referring to the neoconservative portion of the government which seemed to be influencing the United States’ foreign policy in 2003 and who had “devoted their careers to restoring American military power and its projection around the world.” [10]  Certainly, Eagleton’s criticism does have some legitimacy if it is directed towards these people.

Perhaps, though, his target is a much larger group of Americans.  In fact, it seems, Eagleton’s target is the United States as a whole:

Not everyone, either relishes being lectured about freedom by an American political establishment for which such freedom means lending military and material support to a whole range of squalid right-wing dictatorships throughout the world, while maiming and destroying the citizens of other regimes which dare to threaten its own geopolitical dominance, and thus its profits.

He doesn’t stop there though.  He continues his tirade against the U.S. on the topics of human rights and anti-imperialism.

The connection between Chomsky and Eagleton is this: neither trusts the United States.  Both seem to view the U.S. as a corrupt, and even evil, state that seeks to impart misery and destruction on the rest of the world in order to gain power and money.  These statements are made by people who make no attempt to hide their disdain for America and American foreign policy.  They also drive right to their opposition to the Iraq War.  In his essay, “A Case Against the War in Iraq,” Chomsky builds a list of the possible calamities from the war and concludes his essay by saying:

The potential disasters are among the many reasons why decent human beings do not contemplate the threat or use of violence, whether in personal life or international affairs, unless reasons have been offered that have overwhelming force.  And surely nothing remotely like that justification has come forward.

Surely, any reasonable commentator would agree that the “threat or use of violence” ought to be avoided whenever possible.  But that is not the actual statement being made: by demanding the requirement of reasons with “overwhelming force,” Chomsky in effect negates any possibility of using force as a part of foreign policy.  Who in the end is to say what overwhelming force is?  The answer of course is decent human beings such as Chomsky himself and those who, like him, vehemently distrust the United States.  Others might say that the Iraq War had compelling reasons, but Chomsky denies this outright.

The Manichean Left is, though, entitled to its opinion.  And, on a personal level, I feel some sympathy for its cause:  I certainly have no wish to see innocent people killed in a preventable war.  However, both Chomsky and Eagleton seek to make an a priori case against all American military intervention.  This method is an attempt to avoid debate and therefore cannot be accepted.  If we are to develop a logical and informed decision about foreign policy and intervention, we cannot shut down the debate before it has ever begun.

A Case against Blind Aggression: Hitchens

It is not enough, though, to simply argue against those on one extremity of the issue.  A similar argument needs to be made against the “liberal hawks” whose support for the war became so bellicose at times that it seemed to be an attempt to drown out any real debate.  It would be possible to look at conservative or neoconservative support for the war instead, but a stronger case is made by the liberal hawks who are not necessarily closed off to intelligent insight or to some level of understanding of the opposition.  Yet, their very certitude in the correctness of the Iraq War remains their weakness.

Before continuing, it is important to take a moment to identify exactly who is being referred to as a liberal hawk.  Those who oppose the war often use the label to identify anyone who shows even the slightest support for the war.  This is misguided.  It is not necessary to condemn all supporters of the war in order to oppose it.  Doing so works towards the same undesirable aim of discouraging debate as Chomsky’s rhetoric does.  Instead of such an overarching classification, it is pertinent to direct this term at those who patently fit its critique: namely those who support an aggressive American stance and clearly contribute to building a public case for war.

Christopher Hitchens is probably the most obvious fit for this classification.  His essays from that time are collected in a volume title A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq.  In the introduction to his book, he clearly states his opinion: “I decided some time ago that I was, brain and heart, on the side of the ‘regime change’ position. [13][14]  In a way, it is refreshing to see how he emphatically states his convictions throughout the book.

On the other hand, his style often transcends conviction and approaches propaganda.  Conviction is fine if it is based on logical argumentation and a respectful stance towards the debate and those involved.  Hitchens, at the very least, transgresses against this second requirement: he describes the anti-war protests as “following some blithering ex-flower child or ranting neo-Stalinist through the streets.” [15]  This is not the only time that Hitchens lowers himself to ad hominem attacks.  He repeatedly characterizes those who oppose the war as weak-willed, fearful, or even friends and supporters of tyranny.  There is a case, when referring to the French opposition to the war, that Hitchens admits his tactics:

In a way, I regret having to argue at this ad hominem level with a supposedly sophisticated European diplomatist.  But what choice do I have, when he says that the ‘grave consequences’ stipulated by U.N. Resolution 1442 should indeed be grave – and should consist of further inspections? [16]

There is no need to debate the merits of further sanctions at this point in time, but it should be noted that many thoughtful people (some of whom will be discussed later) supported continued inspections and “smart sanctions” against Iraq in order to contain Saddam.

The root of this flaw, as I stated earlier, is Hitchens’ inability to doubt the need to invade Iraq.  This is evident in the way that he provides his justifications: “The third [reason to invade Iraq] is the continuous involvement by the Iraqi secret police in the international underworld of terror and destruction.  I could write a separate essay on … this; at the moment I’ll just say that it’s extremely rash for anybody to discount the evidence….” [17]  The problem is that Hitchens never provides such evidence.  He makes some veiled remarks about his “suspicions” about certain “coincidences”, but he never actually gives empirical evidence to support his theory because there is no solid proof that Saddam was working with al-Qaeda.

For example, one way that Hitchens tries to connect the two groups is by denying the secularism of Saddam’s regime by citing “the jihad speeches that he makes every week, the mosques that he builds – often profanely in his own name – and the money he proudly offers to Islamic suicide-murderers in Palestine.”  Each of these can be explained by means other than the existence of an Islamist government in league with al-Qaeda.   The mosques and jihad speeches could be a way that Saddam was “[co-opting] conservative Sunni imams in Iraq only to use them as window dressing.” [19]  This is not necessarily for the purpose of connecting with Islamist terrorist groups, but because Saddam used the Sunni elite in Iraq as his base of control.  Likewise, with regards to the funding of Palestinian suicide-murderers, it is no secret that Iraq was hostile towards Israel: it took part in both the 1948 and 1967 wars against Israel and never technically declared an armistice.  In fact, despite all of Hitchens’ claims to the contrary, it could be argued that “Saddam had always kept a wary distance from Islamist terrorist groups.” [20]  In Hitchens’ estimation, however, the suspicions to the contrary that he had were enough.

To continue arguing this point is only to get bogged down and forget the real purpose of this study.  Hitchens very well may be correct about Saddam.  The problem is that he rejects any possibility that he is not correct.  Like the anti-war side, Hitchens is so convinced of his opinion on the Iraq War that he does not even admit to the possibility of an alternative: “Fight them now or fight them later? These two choices are the only ones.” [21]  There is no debate in his mind; there is no discussion of what alternatives there might be to war.  This sort of stance is useful for generals ordering their troops into combat.  They need to say with absolute conviction that there was no other option.  For academics debating the value of the war and trying to find a logical consensus, this argument is poison.  It has no place in productive debate.

The Possibility of Death-Obsessed Mass Movements: Berman

After having whittled away the extreme positions that are unproductive in debate, there remains a core of thinkers who still strongly disagree with one another on both the purpose and the appropriateness of invading Iraq.

It seems reasonable to begin with Paul Berman, who agrees on many levels with Hitchens.  Berman’s support for the war was based on the belief that the U.S. is at war with a system of Islamofascism, which includes a wide network of groups in addition to al-Qaeda and those directly at fault for the September 11 attacks. When looking at the historical rise of Islamist groups, Berman’s argument has some real evidence to back it up: with Qutb’s writing in support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt influencing the goals of Islamist parties in Palestine, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, among others.

But Berman takes it a step beyond drawing historical connections.  In his 2003 book, Terror and Liberalism, he states his opposition to those who search for meaning behind terrorist attacks.  He says that their error is “an unwillingness, sometimes an outright refusal, to accept that, from time to time, mass political movements do get drunk on the idea of slaughter.” [22]  Therefore, a type of mass pathos and governing ideology connects Islamists groups even in the cases where historical events did not.

While this concept contains a useful observation about the connections between Islamist terrorists in various countries, it also contains a dangerous oversimplification of the real situation in the Middle East.  There are, in fact, distinct Islamist groups with particular goals and grievances.  Berman asks us to ignore these differences and causes because “radical Islamists were slaughtering people in one country after another for the purpose of slaughtering them.” [23]  If we follow Berman’s advice at face value, our options are limited to a war against all these groups, which does not allow us to attempt other, more place-specific solutions.

Even Hitchens recognizes the general value of differentiating between the groups: “It’s quite feasible to imagine Hezbollah or Hamas leaders at a conference table, and one has seen many previously ‘intransigent’ forces of undemocratic violence … make precisely this transition.” [24]  One group that Hitchens clearly does not make this allowance for is al-Qaeda. [25]  This suggests a certain realm of nuance that Berman’s original conceptualization does not allow for – namely that certain groups with localized political ambitions may be influenced by the “death-obsessed mass movement” [26] of Islamism, but are not necessarily incapable of diplomacy.  This opens the door for localized action instead of the universal war on terrorism that is required by the belief as Berman states it.

But how does this all relate to the Iraq War?  The answer lies in a simple equation.  Like Hitchens, Berman believed that the U.S. had fought the war against Iraq in order to fight al-Qaeda.  But why?  Not because there were necessarily direct relations between the two, but “because Baathism was one of the ‘Muslim totalitarianisms,’ the other being Islamism. … Like the war against fascism and the Cold War, it was an ideological war, a ‘mental war.’” [27]  This is where Berman’s belief in mass insanity really becomes problematic: the war is ever widening to include any groups that can be made to fit the classification he desires.

While Berman gives six specific reasons for his support of the war in a 2004 Dissent Magazine article titled, “A Friendly Drink in a Time of War,” it is notable that all of them return to his concept that intelligent, charitable people were misreading the situation: “Another reason: a lot of people suppose that any sort of anticolonial movement must be admirable or, at least, acceptable. Or they think that, at minimum, we shouldn’t do more than tut-tut-even in the case of a movement that, like the Baath Party, was founded under a Nazi influence. In 1943, no less!” [28]  In effect, the values of anti-colonialism, multiculturalism, and support of the oppressed that makes the Left fail to recognize its traditional foes.

If it were only an argument that reasonable people do need to remember that not all acts are rational, then Berman’s statements would be hard to find fault with.  However, he likens to Nazi sympathizers any who try to understand the possible grievances of these diverse groups. [29]  Resorting to such effects brings to mind Hitchens’ ad hominem attacks.  Berman doesn’t quite go as far with it, but he still creates a bit of a straw man out of those who would disagree with him.

With the aforementioned exception Berman makes a marked departure from the presumptuous nature of Hitchens’ argument.  Instead, Berman clearly states his misgivings about the coming war: “To endorse the war filled me with unspeakable horror and fear.” [30]  Even if his case for war occasionally appears to over generalize, Berman clearly understands that there are real costs involved and feels an appropriate misgiving about the reality of war.  This, of course, does not actually force him to change his position, but it opens him to certain points of debate.

A common complaint by those who opposed the war is the unilateral nature of the U.S. invasion.  Hitchens, in an effort to avoid debate, brushes the complaint aside: “Simply support the U.S. position against the Iraqi or Russian or French one and – presto – the U.S. position would no longer be unilateral.” [31]  Berman, however, when asked a similar question about internationalism, recognizes the real dilemma for concerned thinkers:

We have had to choose between supporting the war, or opposing it – supporting the war in the name of antifascism, or opposing it in the name of some kind of concept of international law. Antifascism without international law; or international law without antifascism. A miserable choice-but one does have to choose, unfortunately. [32]

Thus, Berman is able to stick to his argument without discounting and deriding the opposition.  It is an important point to make that this is the very aim of intelligent debate.  One must be able to recognize the intelligence of one’s opposition and still make a clear choice.

Wrong War: Amis and Bérubé

Turning back to the side of those who oppose the Iraq War, it is possible to see how the debate actually begins to function.  People can enter arguments based on very similar starting points, but a slight adjustment in focus can have them reach opposing conclusions.

This is clearly the case with Martin Amis, whose essays on September 11 and the Iraq War are collected in The Second Plane.  Early on, he states his sympathetic agreement with Berman’s “death-obsessed mass movement” theory:

It is impossible to read [Terror and Liberalism] without a cold fascination and a consciousness of disgrace.  … Contemplating intense violence, you very rationally ask yourself, “What are the reasons for this?” … It is time to move on.  We are not dealing in reasons because we are not dealing in reason. [33]

But while enthusiastically supporting this starting point in the argument, Amis does not reach the same conclusion as Berman.  Instead, as he says at the end of his book, Amis believed that “the West should have spent the last five years in the construction of a democratic and pluralistic model in Afghanistan, while in the meantime merely containing Iraq.” [34]  Clearly, Amis is able to feel disgrace about his search for reason without declaring this disgrace a fait accompli for all possible wars against despotism in the Middle East.

All of this returns to the way in which debate allows parties to weigh different values.  Amis’ disagreement with Berman’s strongly stated support for the Iraq War is based on a simple equation:

There are two rules of war that have not yet been rescinded by the new world order.  The first rule is that the belligerent nation must be fairly sure that its actions will make things better; the second rule is that the belligerent nation must be more or less certain that its actions won’t make things worse.  America could perhaps claim to be satisfying the first rule (while admitting that the improvement may only be local and short term).  It cannot begin to satisfy the second. [35]

It is worthwhile to take some time to consider this lengthy quote as it drives to the heart of the debate over the Iraq War.  First it is important to consider the validity of Amis’ “rules.”  One might ask the question “to whom must the belligerent nation justify itself?”  Nations are not individual identities.  Conservatives and those primarily concerned with national self-defense would certainly have a different understanding of the answer to this question than most thinkers on the Left.

For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume these statements be taken on their intended, humanistic level.  Hopefully, the war will make the world a better place not only for the belligerent nation, but in some general, international way as well.  In modern warfare, which is typically against governments perceived as illegitimate, the hope is often that the war will make things better for the citizens of the country.

The notable diversion between Berman and Amis comes from their relative focus on each of the two aforementioned rules.  Berman focuses his argument almost solely on the first rule.  His concept of fighting fascism is based on the idea that fascism is an inherently negative thing.  By ridding the world of fascism, Western democracies can reasonably expect to improve the world.

Amis, on the other hand, focuses his analysis on the second rule, saying, “We contemplate a kaleidoscope of terrible eventualities.” [36]  Most of the eventualities that Amis names (such as the possibility of an invasion leading to nuclear war in the Middle East) never came to fruition.  One, though, very nearly did: namely, civil war in Iraq.  The continual violence in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad was largely the work of sectarian groups who were all clamoring for power in the vacuum left by the collapse of the regime.  Added to this, there were real, historical injustices that turned one religious or cultural identity against another in the search for redress. [37]  Because of all the violence, the debate is still open on whether the war did improve things for the people of Iraq.

Michael Bérubé picks up where Amis’ argument leaves off.  Throughout the majority of his book, The Left at War, Bérubé chronicles the various stances on the Left during the aftermath of September 11.  In the chapter titled “Iraq: The Hard Road to Debacle,” however, Bérubé focuses solely on the problems of various Left responses to the Iraq War.

Bérubé, for his part, opposes the war with perhaps a bit more conviction than Amis.  Perhaps this is because he was writing a few years after Amis and could talk of real consequences rather than eventualities, but it isn’t the sole reason.   Bérubé rejects Berman’s argument about Muslim totalitarianisms: “Berman’s formulation would leave the United States … fighting a wave, an image that neatly manages to evoke an endless, futile war.” [38]  But regardless of this difference between Bérubé and Amis, they still ground their statements of opposition to the Iraq War in a similar place.  Like Amis, Bérubé can’t be said to hold any idealistic notions about the Baathists, but he recognizes that other issues might hold greater importance: “While we acknowledge the importance of Saddam’s capture, we believe that the invasion that made it possible did terrible and unnecessary damage both to international law and to Iraq itself, and that the war has not, on balance, made the Middle East or the world a better and safer place.” [39]  This clearly ties back to Amis’ “rules.”  Bérubé has done the math and, to him, the Iraq War is clearly a negative.

Earlier in the chapter, Bérubé sets out a number of arguments against the Iraq War.  He separates these into two general fields: principles and pragmatic reasons.  The principles include such things as “war in Iraq represented a disastrous diversion from al-Qaeda and Afghanistan” and “it would clearly violate international law.” [40]  The pragmatic reasons were generally just the economic and human tolls that the war would cost.

Put together, these two forms of reasoning allow for a unique formulation of arguments.  In addition to Amis’ two rules we might add a qualifier: namely, that both ideological and pragmatic reasons need to be taken into account.  No war can therefore be fought simply because it reflects solid moral reasoning.  Instead, it must be vetted in the world of real consequences and costs.  This finally, is why Bérubé supported smart sanctions and containment of Saddam over war: the pragmatic consequences were too overwhelming.

Barely in Favor: George Packer

Perhaps this last point seemed too obvious.  Certainly all writers and thinkers do not disregard pragmatic reasons.  Nor do they write without purpose founded in the principles they ascribe to.  But this differentiation becomes particularly interesting when looking at this last author.

Unlike the other writers discussed here, George Packer seems to aim towards impartiality in his book The Assassin’s Gate, [41] in which he chronicles his own experiences from the lead-up to the Iraq War until January of 2006.  It is a very personal record in which Packer recalls friends and acquaintances killed during the war and spends long passages describing people who played no role in the war other than experiencing it.  This book has the feel of a journalistic intent to record the actual events as they unfolded.

This does not prevent Packer from admitting his own stance on occasion.  The way that he declares his stance is unlike any of the others who wrote long treatises on exactly why they believed what they did.  Instead, Packer puts it in as almost an afterthought: “To give my position a label, I belonged to the tiny, insignificant camp of ambivalently prowar liberals.” [42]  The key word in this phrase is “ambivalently,” as Packer states in the surrounding discussion, he saw clear positives and negatives to the war and “never found the questions about it easy to answer.” [43]  More than anyone else discussed here, Packer was trying to stay open-minded.  He felt that he had to take a position, but also seemed unsure if his position was correct.

His opinion on the war became much clearer after he had been to Iraq and seen the war first hand.  One statement best captures his stance on the debate: “War is too blunt an instrument to be used when the chance for success is so slight.” [44]  Through the course of his experiences in Iraq, it is possible to see Packer move from his initially confused, optimistic view to a much more defeated and negative stance.  The initial openness allowed Packer to filter the real, not estimated pragmatic consequences of the war.

It is now four years after he published that book, and perhaps Packer might have something to feel positive about once again.  It seems that the situation in Iraq is getting slowly better and we can’t help but hope the recent elections result in a stable state of affairs.  But in saying all of this, I have perhaps not given Packer his due.  There is an even more haunting message in the final pages of his book, one that seems truer than anything else being said:

I came to feel that the most appropriate response to the events of the past few years was neither justification nor reproach, but simple grief for the hopes and sacrifices of Iraqis and Americans alike.  The Iraq War is not an argument to be won or lost; it’s a tragedy. [45]

Lasting Concerns: How We Debate

The wisdom of Packer’s final words is hard to get past.  Iraq is not a debate, it is a country: a real place with real people.  Now, more than ever, arguing about whether or not it was right to invade Iraq is useless.  That was a debate for eight years ago, before the invasion, before the momentum to invade had grown to be too much.  Now, all we can do is reflect back.

For this reason, I have made my best attempt throughout this essay not to speak substantively about whether we should have invaded Iraq or not, but instead about the way in which we address our debate.  Of course, there have been times when I’ve allowed myself to become bogged down in particular arguments and reasons, but the purpose throughout was to demonstrate, through detail, a lesson we might learn for future arguments.

Conviction has its place in today’s world, but it is the tool of generals, not of commentators.  We must allow ourselves to remain open to a range of possibilities.  Of course, within this range, there will be strong disagreement, but that is the point.  Once we know the substantive positions, we can begin to look into the pragmatic positives and negatives of the situation.

Hopefully, Iraq will become a stable and prosperous country in the coming years.  Perhaps this will mark Berman (and Hitchens) on the right side of history.  But this would not detract from the statements made by Amis and Bérubé in the least.  Their concerns needed to be considered carefully because even if it all works out well, it might not have.

Wars are necessarily tragic things.  They are often met with pomposity and celebration, but they are fundamentally composed of thousands of deaths.  There are justifiable wars, but they are few and far between.  For this reason, we need to discover a better way to debate, one that doesn’t allow hard-line approaches and encourages logical discussion.


[1]See: Berman, Paul.  Terror and Liberalism.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004.  Print. 144-152. and Bérubé, Michael. The Left at War. New York: New York University Press, 2009. 97-152. Print. 41-97.

[2] Chomsky, Noam. Interventions. San Francisco: Open Media Series, 2007. Print. 14.

[3] Chomsky 135.

[4] Packer, George. The Assassin’s Gate: America in Iraq. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. Print. 132.

[5] Packer 241.

[6] Packer 243.

[7] Chomsky 136.

[8] Eagleton, Terry. After Theory. New York: Basic Books, 2003. 223-27. Print. 224.

[9] Eagleton 227.

[10] Packer 64.

[11] Eagleton 225.

[12] Chomsky 16.

[13] Hitchens, Christopher. A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq. New York: Penguin Group, 2003. Print. 5.

[14] Hitchens’ term “brain and heart” here seems to echo the concept of “hearts and minds,” a term that was repeated  ad nauseum  in the following months, which essentially represented an attempt to win approval of the general population when faced with guerilla warfare.

[15] Hitchens 11.

[16] Hitchens 5.

[17] Hitchens 54-55.

[18] Hitchens 8.

[19] Packer 309.

[20] Packer 309.

[21] Hitchens 13.

[22] Berman, Terror and Liberalism 153.

[23] Berman, Terror and Liberalism 149.

[24] Hitchens 25.

[25] Hitchens 25.

[26] Berman, Terror and Liberalism 121.

[27] Packer 50.

[28] Berman, Paul. “A Friendly Drink in a Time of War.” Dissent Magazine Winter 2004. Web. 27 Apr. 2010.

[29] Berman, Terror and Liberalism 124-5.

[30] Berman, Terror and Liberalism 4.

[31] Hitchens 35.

[32] Berman, “A Friendly Drink in a Time of War.”

[33] Amis, Martin. The Second Plane. New York: Vintage Books, 2008. Print. 67.

[34] Amis 197.

[35] Amis 28.

[36] Amis 28.

[37] Depicted vividly in Packer 296-369.

[38] Bérubé 137.

[39] Bérubé 129.

[40] Bérubé 102.

[41] For an interesting counterpoint on this, see why Bérubé labels Packer a liberal hawk 140-145.

[42] Packer 87.

[43] Packer 6.

[44] Packer 461

[45] Packer 463

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