January 04, 2004

Variables and Constants II

The recent fisking Steven Den Beste gives Fawaz A. Gerges is probably deserved. Gerges' proposals for internationalization of the occupation and an international tribunal for Iraq are probably cut from the same cloth as most of the other proposals out there to do the same thing, a form of ankle biting that drags the occupation and the tribunal to standard international level. SDB is correct in saying that's simply not good enough.

The problem is that when there are two possible parties that could change it is counterproductive to a priori assume that only one of them is to change. The unexamined variables are the international rehabilitation of the death penalty for Saddam's trial, reform of the ICC so that it is a supporting, not supplanting institution, and the creation of a multipolar world where the other great powers grow up and try to match the US by increasing their own capabilities, not mau mauing and ankle biting to take the US down to their level.

By treating the idea that the ICC, the 1st world elite attitude to the death penalty, and the international political strategy of France are constants and not variables, SDB concedes half the field of play to his intellectual opposition without a shot.

Take the death penalty, for instance. The Catholic argument against the death penalty is that a murderer held in a modern prison is no threat to society so society has an obligation to not take away the possibility of repentance and renewal for even the most sadistic murderer. He might change and somehow contribute to society, even from a life behind bars (don't laugh, prison lawyers, artists, and authors have done so in the past so it's not an argument without merit). But Saddam's very existence will always be a psychic wound to his victims and a rallying cause for his hard core followers. It is likely that Saddam would die of old age long before the last of his violent minions. When a man's existence on the planet creates the reality and conditions of violence, it no longer is just a question of an expensive campaign to save one soul. The shepherd may go after the lost sheep, but not exactly at the very moment when a wolf is ravaging the main flock, wolf first, lost sheep after.

The ICC, as a clerking, research, investigational, and education support group is not nearly as objectionable as a judicial body that steps in and supplants local justice. In fact, it might not be a bad idea both from the perspective of rebuilding national institutions and for a healthy dose of humility for the international elite. In fact, that's probably the kind of role that the US will be playing in Saddam's trial. I don't see any problems with passing the hat and internationally funding a french clerk going through Iraqi law alongside an american and iraqi clerk.

Finally, on internationalization of reconstruction, there is no reason to be unhappy with the idea if the combat capabilities of the new security forces, fairness to the various internal Iraqi factions, and leadership courage that would stay the course in the face of constant, low level casualties were there at an equivalent level to the United States. Our burden would be lowered as it is shared. If we faltered by electing a foolish president who reinstated cut and run as national policy, there would be enough others to take up our burden until we regained our political footing.

All three of these solutions are theoretically what Gerges advocated (though they are probably not) and it reframes the argument quite well when these alternatives are not preemptively taken off the table. It places a direct spotlight on ICC arrogance, EU elite cruelty masquerading as humanitarianism, and Axis of Weasels international infantilism.

Steven Den Beste let Gerges off easy by agreeing to only play on his half of the field. Take variables as variables, not constants and all of a sudden the other side gets a lot weaker.

Posted by TMLutas at January 4, 2004 10:54 AM