Fareed Zakaria wrote an interesting article in Newsweek a few weeks ago about Iraq. He’s in favor of war with them, by the way. One thing he pointed out was, yes, there are significant risks, dangers, and other negatives if we were to go to war. What anti-war people seem to not even realize is that there are potential benefits also. Besides the cynical oil price thing. I dunno, it’s all about cost-benefit analysis, and if you refuse to take into account everything, it’s hard to have a reasonable discussion about it.
Anyway, the one thing he said that I found really interesting was this – how else are things going to change? Yes, a possible danger is that it will inflame the Arab world. The thing is, the Arab world is pretty inflamed already and there’s very little reason for them to be this way. Al Qaeda grew during the Clinton administration – what was the U.S. doing to make them so angry? Weren’t particularly “imperialistic.” Some would argue we were *too* isolationist in situations like Kosovo. It’s really just Israel, but didn’t the U.S. try to broker some deal between Israel and Palestine? Can’t remember. At any rate, U.S. supporting Israel hardly justifies the level of anger towards the U.S.
The point is, what do people propose the U.S. do to make things better? The pre-G.W. status quo clearly isn’t a solution. Al Qaeda kind of bears witness to that. So to not propose doing anything different is clearly the wrong thing, one criticism I have of the anti-war camp. So what? End sanctions against certain countries? Most of the bombers were from Saudi Arabia, whom we have no sanctions against (I think). Support a Palestinian state? Didn’t we try to broker this already? Pull out troops? But in retrospect, wasn’t a key fault of Clinton’s the fact that he didn’t take out what was going in Afghanistan earlier? Was leaving Afghanistan alone the right thing to do? So these solutions just seem like things we’ve already done in the past and it didn’t work, so it just seems naive to think it will work in the future.
So Zakaria’s point I believe is that real progress in the Arab world will require regime change (I think including Saudi Arabia) to more open and democratic societies. So for him, even recognizing the risks of going after Iraq now, he’d rather take his chances with that than with anything else. And I think that’s somewhat compelling, even if I haven’t articulated it very well.
As for me, I think I have the same opinion on both war with Iraq and ending taxes on stock dividends. I think they’re both good ideas, but bad timing. War because again, it just sets a dangerous precedent. Not just pre-emptive but pre-pre-emptive. Worrisome to me. With the tax thing, I read some more about it and I think it would have a real salutary effect on the economy. But it’s a long term thing and the short term concerns and cuts should go elsewhere. I think Greenspan said as much. Anyway, my take, even though no one cares.