Monday, March 17, 2003

You may have noticed that I rarely, if ever, comment on the impending war or the situation in the Middle East. It's not that I don't find these matters interesting; everything in the world is interesting to some extent. It's that I would need to do a great deal more studying before I would be able to comment without a feeling of utter presumptuousness. And even then, I would find it impossible to comment on the "future of the Middle East" or the "role of the United States in the world" or any of the similar subjects that occupy so much attention these days.

That may sound a bit silly. In the world of blogs, people offer half a dozen opinions a day on subjects about which they know nothing except what they just stumbled across on some other internet site. But that, to my mind, is the problem with so much commentary about the war. I've read quite a few blogs, and quite a few op-eds, and I would guess that 98% of the people commenting on the war literally have no idea what they are talking about in any meaningful sense; the other 2% are limited to offering an educated guess on a few narrow issues like "how fast will we win."

Just to be clear, I'm not talking about blogs that link to this or that story on troop movements and such. I have in mind the writers/bloggers who predict that Iraq will become a model democratic nation that will shine like a beacon throughout the Middle East (although there aren't very many writers/bloggers who venture more than a hesitant hope on this point). Or those writers/bloggers who predict that the Iraq war will only inflame anti-American tension throughout the world, provoke more terrorism, and in the end harm America's interests. If there's one thing that I'm sure of, it's that no one who comments on these issues has the faintest clue what will happen.

Does that sound too harsh? Perhaps. But consider these questions: Who, in 1929, could have plausibly and justifiably predicted the world-wide conflagration that would ensue shortly thereafter? Who, in 1945, could have predicted that within a comparably short period Germany and Japan would be America's allies? Hardly anyone, and certainly not the people who would have been blogging at the time, had the technology existed. Such broad questions about the state of world affairs are just too complicated, with too many variables, for anyone, no matter how well-informed or brilliant, to know what will happen.

I support the war because, from what little I know, Saddam is a very bad man who is or will be a threat to us. That's about it for me: He's evil, and we need to kill him. As for the long-term collateral consequences, whether in Iraq or the Middle East or Europe or wherever, I have no idea. Neither does anyone else.

UPDATE in 2007: Needless to say, I now wince a bit at the final paragraph above. In retrospect, it is no longer as clear as it then seemed that Saddam "will be a threat to us."


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