So far, I've had five pieces of non-comment-box correspondence about the “Oliver Kamm Is Getting Sloppy” post.
One, from a non-partisan US voter, might best be summed up as “ouch”. To which my answer is: if Oliver Kamm wants to go around beating up the idiots in school, he'll have to deal with it when the class clown points out that Oliver's forgotten to put his trousers on.
An instinctive Bushie wrote to say nice things about the post and agree with its main point. She also expressed disappointment that the original piece in The Times did nothing to back her instincts with any worthwhile argument. To which my answer is: I feel your pain—but I don't share it.
Yesterday morning, a Kerry supporter wrote to express his disappointment that I didn't make the case for Kerry, and, in his email, made a reasonably good case himself. He subsequently wrote to make a kind, but completely unneeded, apology for his earlier message. I must answer his question of why I haven't declared for the challenger.
I believe that, if I were an American citizen, I would probably vote for Kerry—with reservations.I believe that the presidential race will not be as close as it looks now, and that Kerry will win it. (Even Mark Steyn has been reduced to saying in an uncharacteristically pleading way “I still think Bush will win” [free and worthwhile registration]) I believe much of what I wish Kerry hadn't said during this campaign can be dismissed as posturing. I believe that the Right-leaning 'Blogosphere writes a lot of shit about Kerry. (You only have to go back to the intern-story-that-wasn't to see how things were going to run on the Web and the old media.)
Would I be able to defend these beliefs in open debate? No. So I'm not going to tell my American readers how to vote. I'm just going to hope you don't make fools of yourselves exercising your right to do so.
I would also like to make a clarification in the light of GSTQ's gracious response. I apologize in advance for doubling up my tenses, but I want to make sure everyone understands that I was wise both before and after the event and I will continue to be wise, even if a loaded, second-hand Minuteman silo is found hidden under Saddam's empty Winnebago. [Hey, kids, check out the Cold War theme park!]
I did not and do not discount all arguments for war on Saddam relating to WMD. My problem was and is with certain logically flawed constructions and the unjustified confidence with which certain people built on them. I have been a longstanding supporter of pre-emptive, humanitarian military action. Members of the anti-war lobbies have re-written history to exaggerate the importance of WMD arguments in public justifications of intervention in Iraq, but many in the pro-war lobbies offered the “Stoppers” easy points by failing to look at parts of their own case as critically as they did aspects of their opponents'. Ironically, one of the main reasons for this was that their opponents failed to see those real weaknesses themselves. This saddens me because it has made it that much harder for us to do the right thing in the future.
The fifth email said “Thank you”. It wasn't from Oliver Kamm.
And finally, on the subject of the rigorous and mature discussion of WMD and the Iraq war, I would like to take this opportunity to say “Wankers!“
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Here is the follow-up to the 'Blog entry Harry pointed at (posted before Harry linked to my original). Here […]
Since the BBC News piece quotes both Michael Howard and Menzies Campbell, shouldn’t the last word of your post be in the plural?
Thank you, Patrick. It was a pleasure for me to make your suggested revision.
In my not-very-expert opinion, the whole WMD arguement in favour of war was emphasised by the politicians in order to sell the war to their public, which was (and still is) immensely resistant to the idea of war under any circumstaces until or unless the threat is imminent and obvious. In an earlier age (one thinks of 1940) this was risky but just about possible. In an era of nuclear/biological weaponry it is not.
I suspect, and only the history books will confirm or confute it, that Bush/Blair believed their intelligence services, mostly because they wanted to! Whilst we would all wish our secret services to get it right, personally I am glad that they erred in the ‘right’ direction. I worry that in some future crisis, to avoid even more censure, they will keep ‘mum’, in which case it may well be their (and our) last mistake!
I admire Oliver Kamm and find most of his analysis to be extremely rigorous, but I have always disagreed with his (and now your) view that wars waged in favour of humanitarian or democratic action are somehow admirable. They are not! Wars should only ever be waged in order to further or protect national interests. I have always believed (and sincerely hoped I’m right!) that Bush/Blair waged their war because of their fears for the future of Saudi Arabia and their desire to ensure that the ‘west’ has a military base in the heart of the middle east. The fall of the house of Saud is likely to beggar us all!
Incidentally, Oliver Kamm insists, rightly I think, that Blair/Bush always had the legal right to attack Iraq for that country’s failure to comply with UN resolutions, though that was unlikely to cut the ice with their respective populations who are, on the whole, so soppingly wet, stupid and ignorant that when the first dirty ‘nuke’ goes off in London they’ll scream blue murder because the telly won’t work and they’ll miss the next episode of Big Brother!
I think you’re totally wrong, David: the WMD argument was never meant to sell the war to the public; it was to sell the war to the UN. Had Bush and Blair been concentrating on the people who elected them, rather than the confederacy of despots that is the UN, I think we’d have seen much more mention of human rights and much less (if any) of WMD. And I think the public would have responded pretty positively to that.
Squander Two joins a large club of people who think I’m wrong. Alas, I can only respond in like terms in expressing my incredulity in his belief that Bush/Blair cared a fig for what the UN believes. The former, eager (and quite rightly so) not to have his foreign policy hog-tailed by the UN only allowed Blair to push him into it so that his only ally could appease the ‘soppies’ in his own party.
Squander Two implies that the great British public might have risen in arms to defend human rights in Iraq, but I trust he will forgive my scepticism! With the assistance of lies, scares, and good old-fashioned agit-prop, our fellow citizens were bamboozled into a war undertaken for reasons of real politik that they would never understand or approve in a million years. Personally I am glad it happened but I doubt whether it will happen again for some time. I can only hope that it is sufficient time for our security and intelligence and special forces to get their acts together so that they are ready to deal with the extremely real threat that looms over the coming years