2002 November 01 Friday
Salman Rushdie: Liberal Argument For Regime Change

Salman Rushdie says the suffering and oppression of the people of Iraq deserves more attention.

In this strange, unattractive historical moment, the extremely strong anti-Saddam Hussein argument isn't getting a fraction of the attention it deserves.

This is, of course, the argument based on his 31/2-decade-long assault on the Iraqi people. He has impoverished them, murdered them, gassed and tortured them, sent them off to die by the tens of thousands in futile wars, repressed them, gagged them, bludgeoned them and then murdered them some more.

Saddam Hussein and his ruthless gang of cronies from his home village of Tikrit are homicidal criminals, and their Iraq is a living hell.

There is a thread of anti-war rhetoric that is based on the idea that regimes have legitimacy just because they exist. This statist argument treats governments as rights-possessing entities by placing more importance on the survival of regimes above the rights of individuals. While Rushdie starts out taking a position that is an effective counter to that argument he still ends up falling back on it in a later paragraph:

The complicating factors, sadly, are this U.S. administration's preemptive, unilateralist instincts, which have alienated so many of America's natural allies. Unilateralist action by the world's only hyperpower looks like bullying because, well, it is bullying. And the United States' new preemptive-strike policy would, if applied, make America itself a much less safe place, because if the United States reserves the right to attack any country it doesn't like the look of, then those who don't like the look of the United States might feel obliged to return the compliment. It's not always as smart as it sounds to get your retaliation in first.

Well, is bullying always bad? Are there not regimes in this world that it would be beneficial to bully? Do regimes have rights? Then there is his "any country it doesn't like the look of" comment. What is he talking about? The US is expending its effort trying to oust governments that are involved in WMD development or the support of terrorists or both. Does Rushdie think we shouldn't view governments that are hostile to the US and which develop WMD and support terrorists as enemies?

As far as "natural allies" are concerned, what exactly makes a country a natural ally? A strong desire to fight the same enemies seems like a necessary characteristic of a natural ally. By that definition the US does not have many natural allies. But the US does have a great many fair weather friends who are willing to try to convince us not to do things that many Americans believe are necessary for our security.

Rushdie's lack of mention of the strategy of preemption is clearly an intentional avoidance of the arguments of the pro-war camp. What is not smart about preemption? If an enemy regime has hostile intentions, if it treats its own citizens like serfs or slaves, and if it is development weapons of mass destruction then how is the US harming its own interests by taking out that regime? It is disappointing that Rushdie, like so many on the Left, ignores the argument for preemption. The argument is compelling. You can read my collection of posts on preemption here.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 01 09:42 AM  Cultural Wars Western


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