Jonah Goldberg's argument on Iraq
—basically, that, as some Secretary of State or other said, we broke it, so we oughta fix it—is nontrivial. It lacks general appeal, though, and is probably a big vote-loser.
I think it quite likely that an abrupt U.S. withdrawal would be followed by some widespread violence, though I doubt it would rise to a Rwanda or Cambodia level of nastiness. There are so many groups willing to do violence to each other that the resolution, once the restraint of U.S. presence was removed, would likely be swift and Darwinian. If it was sufficiently swift, net fatalities might well be less than from another 5 years of occupation. It's a grisly calculus, I agree, but when people are as determined to kill, cook, and eat each other as Middle East Muslims are, there is a case for letting them get on with it—our own national interests duly allowed for, of course.
And the argument that moral responsibility for whatever happens rests on us is not clear to me. Where were our intentions not honorable? At which point during the last four and a half years were we trying to incite Iraqis to kill Iraqis? At which point were we doing anything other than try to help them—however clumsily and sometimes wrong-headedly—to get their act together as a nation? How long do we have to struggle with such efforts before our moral responsibility can fairly be considered to have been discharged?
Goldberg seems to be making an argument of unlimited moral responsibility. I doubt there is a market for that. Most voters, in their everyday lives, feel that if they make a blunder that causes someone distress, there is some finite and proportionate action they can take as recompense. That is the common understanding of moral responsibility. It seems, in any case, to have been the one that American voters applied to the horrors of post-1975 SE Asia. My guess is that they will apply it to post-2008 Iraq likewise.
Posted on 07/25/2007 8:47 AM by John Derbyshire