Is the Bush Plan for the Middle East Worth the Cost?
After the U.S. pre-emptively invaded Iraq and overthrew the Hussein government, I heard endelss renditions of how much "better off" the Iraqi's were without Saddam Hussein. As it became clear that there was no imminent threat from Hussein, and that he had no "weapons of mass destruction" to launch at a moment's notice at the U.S., I heard various versions of "you are a supporter of Hussein" and don't you think the Iraqi's are better off?" Now there has been an "election" in Iraq, and what is being spun as a firestorm of "democracy" in the Middle East, and I hear "maybe Bush was right." I wrote an article earlier titled The Ends Justify the Means, that is what is happening here.It is beyond troubling that the mantra of "good comes out of it" makes atrocity and lawlessness acceptable. While I feel it is debatable that "democracy" and "freedom" are the outcome of the Bush administration policies, let's say that they are. Two questions burn to be asked. One, is it worth the cost? Two, was it the only (or even least damaging) way to get to the "desired" end?
The Ends Justify the Means
Was the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of its legal government "worth" the loss of U.S. credibility and voice? Was it worth the cost of the virtual destruction of a nation, the killing and maiming of thousands, the result of making Iraq a "terrorist magnet" and on a course for civil war? Was it worth the cost, of lying to the people of the United States and the world? Or even $300 billion in US tax dollars (with no end in sight)?
Let's step back and look at the "ends justify the means" in a different light. Hitler, the Nazi's, and the Holocaust are virtually icons of evil. But there were things that came out of Hitler's regime that one might argue are "worth the cost." Let's look at some examples from the brutal "medical" experiments in the death camps of Germany.
- Treating freezing and hypothermia
Were these "advances" worth the cost? Would you think they were worth the cost if you or a family member was tortured or died in these experiments?
How about those other "advances" such as rocketry, the harnessing of the atom?
Were they worth the cost? After all, good came out of it. So while Hitler was mis-directed, ultimately (after millions of deaths) he must have been "right."
The issue is not whether "desirable" outcomes can result from bad actions or events. The question is whether one can legitimate the bad events even if there are "desirable" outcomes. Could the outcomes have occurred by following a different path? While in some cases it is impossible to answer that question as we can't go back in time and try a different way, I suspect that in most instances the answer is "yes."
There is always the question of who pays what costs. In the Nazi "advances" the direct victims paid a terrible cost. One might even say that the citizens under Hitler's rule played horrendous costs in terms of their humanity and lives.
Certainly Japan paid a horrendous cost with the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, though the U.S. continues to argue that the action "saved American lives."
In U.S. history, the practices of slavery on one hand, and the intentional genocide of Native American tribes on the other, form the basis of "what America is today." Was there another way?
Those who have, and are now arguing, that the Bush strategy might be effective, are slipping into a simple, and (in my opinion) false argument. If the end game of the Bush strategy is to "democratize" the Muslim world, is the only way to do that by throwing all rules and law out the window? Is the only way to that end, to declare imperial rule with pre-emptive use of force, and an "anything goes" military strategy? Is the only way to that end to engage in death and destruction, torture and abuse, fear and occupation? Can you "democratize" at the end of a gun, or depleted uranium munitions? And if you do, what are the real outcomes of that?
For those not busy waving the flag in the press, it is clear that the likely result (at least for some period of time) of the U.S. approach to "liberation" is massive civil war and chaos. That is already happening in Afghanistan, and it is well on its way in Iraq. It is speculated to be the likely result in Lebanon as well.
Meanwhile, the U.S. sinks deeper into the "anything goes" mentality because the "cause" is "good." I am outraged by the increasing speculation on the part of the so-called liberal media that "maybe Bush had it right after all" (Bill Maher, and Capitol Hill Blue for example).
As the U.S. stretches to expand and enforce a vision of empire with the U.S. at the helm; starts again the nuclear (and other wmd) arms race; openly uses military assassination squads; sets up prisons around the world; creates and supports government use of propaganda against its own citizens; what do we lose? Is it worth what we "gain?" I do not see that any of this is making the world safer. Assuming the stated purpose for all these depredations is the true goal.
I am haunted by the vision of freedom and democracy that is seen as expected and desirable by the Bush administration. I can't help but flash back on Rumsfeld's response to the question of looting and destruction in Baghdad after the toppling of Hussein. He said something to the effect that "freedom was messy." One might ask how that expression of "freedom" is dealt with in the United States. Do the police stand back and let it happen? "Oh well, that's freedom."
Lawlessness, chaos, death and destruction. Civil war, insurgencies, production of nuclear weapons. Torture, loss of rights, "disappearing" people. The loss of truth, credibility, and common civility. That is the Bush path. The cost is too great, and it is not the only, or even most "efficient" way to get to the stated goals of safety and democracy.
There are a number of sayings that come to mind:
Such platitudes hardly apply to the global situation where we are creating the ill wind, making the clouds of war, and busting every egg. The path we are on is not stirred up by either nature or "god." The path we are on is created by people. We could make a different path, and I feel we desperately need to do so.
3/19/05 Westphal, CHB, Reconsidering the unthinkable
Wolf, Uncommon Thought Journal, The Ends Justify the Means
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