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An Intelligent Dissenting View on Iraq

Recently I’ve not been known for calling attention to thoughtful opposition to the Iraq war, mainly because there’s been so little of it (David Tucker’s reservations to the contrary). However, as the bombs fall on Iraq, a friend called my attention to this article, by Paul W. Schroeder, professor emeritus of international history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I recommend it to anyone who supports the war, if only to prove that at least some anti-war opponents are capable of doing more than mouthing bromides that are too simplistic for the average bumper sticker. Try to ignore the fact that it appears in Pat Buchanan’s nativist, isolationist rag.

Full disclosure: Paul Schroeder was my graduate adviser at Illinois, and one of the wisest and most learned individuals I’ve ever met--particularly on the subject of international affairs. The very fact that he opposes the war is not enough necessarily to change my views on Iraq, but certainly sufficient to make me subject them to serious scrutiny.

Discussions - 5 Comments

I’m not sure what others would think, but a casual glance at Prof Schroeder’s article strikes me as a true-blue Anglo Tory’s view of current events as opposed to American conservative angle. His thesis seems to be that "the law of unintentional consequences" will strikes America back disastrously, and secondly, America should perish the thought that it can remove terrorism using this way. This is what you will come up with when your view on current affairs has its ground on the 17th to early 20th century Great Powers balance of power history.

Not particularly new arguments to me (I have seen them here in New Zealand already, although not to the same level of precision) and I think Victor Davis Hanson has dealt with these points already. It depends on whether the classical Greece and Rome (VDH’s area of expertise) or Great Powers balance of power has larger relevance today.

PS: I think Matthew Parris, a former British Conservative MP who opposes the war, has very similar arguments.

I had come across that article when that issue of the magazine came out, and I thought it provided a great deal of insight on the subject of war with Iraq. I have also read that Professor Schroeder has supported war in several instances in the past, so it is even more interesting about his stance on this war. When I showed that article to my Political Science professor (he is a liberal, but very fair-minded and knowledgeable about major issues, and about foreign policy), he had it saved, and included it on a list of recommended readings for the next semester.

And, as a conservative student and a second-generation immigrant, I do not find Mr. Buchanan’s magazine, The American Conservative, to be "nativist", or "isolationist" - quite the contrary, in fact. It presents viewpoints on the vital foreign and domestic policy issues of the day from the perspective of political realism (rather than utopian idealism), and provides a refreshing alternative to the usual commentary that comes from many of the Beltway "conservative" publications.

The first thought provoking anti-war argument I have seen. Here are three (very simple) rebuttals for Prof. Schroeder:
1. The double standard for "the west and the rest" is a paradox solvable under the following assumption: sovereignty by definition carries rights and responsibilities, therefore, it is not granted as a matter of course. In this way, Iraq fails to count as a sovereign state because it has not met certain responsibilities (ie "human rights").
2. The claim that "equality among states" and "balance of power" traditions are "fragile" is false. If we grant current US action is contrary to international and historical taboos, then it must be emphasized that taboos are flexible and adaptive (like social structure in broad). Point in case: the context of the US war involves both France’s attempt to construct a counterbalance to the US (through alliances) and coallition success made possible only by recognition of, for example, the sovereigny of Turkey. Attempting to efface these taboos would be like "trying to kill fleas with a hammer."
3. Finally, the author’s paranoia over Israel reveals the problem inherent to the imerialism claim. The paradox of the far left (and right) these days has been the dual claim that the US is both fighting Israel’s war and acting hegemonically. Suffice it to say, current US interests (as represented by the administration) are not in harmony with Israel’s (eg conditional support for a Palestinian state) nor are they entirely imperialistic (eg a coalition is in place and that coalition involves Kurdish elements).

What he’s trying to say is that the only people capable of formulating and INTELLIGENT dissenting view of the war are his former teachers. Nice.

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