George Paine at Warblogging.com is one of my favorite war-obsessed webloggers these days. So it was interesting to see him respond to a critical email he received last night, from someone describing himself as a newly returned soldier in the 3rd Infantry Division: A letter from the Third ID.
As I read through that exchange, and as I read through the postings and discussions on various pro- and anti-war weblogs, it seems like the debate over the war’s justification comes down to one question: Was Saddam Hussein either directly or indirectly involved in perpetrating the 9/11 attacks? Or, if not, do you think he was likely to involve himself in such attacks in the future? If you answer that question with a “yes”, then you probably supported the war. If you answer “no”, then you probably didn’t.
The people who seem most confident in their positions for or against the war also seem to be the ones most sure about the Saddam-9/11 connection (or lack thereof). In the pro-war camp, I was struck by this item from 9/11 widow Christy Ferer, describing her participation in a recent USO tour in Iraq: A note of thanks to those who serve. Her account reinforces what I see on pro-war weblogs: for those currently or previously in uniform, the tight linkage between Saddam and 9/11 is pretty much a given.
For people who’ve never paid much attention to the world beyond the US border, the category “Arabic bad guys” is sufficiently all-inclusive to make this a non-issue. But others offer a more-nuanced version of the same position. Check out the opinion piece from righty weblogger Steven Den Beste that ran in the Wall Street Journal last week, for example: We won’t back down. Den Beste’s argument is a lot longer than Ann Coulter’s prescription for world peace (“we should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity”), but they share the same wellspring, which is the normal human impulse to see every major world problem as susceptible to the same, simple solution: just make everyone else in the world much more like me (at the point of a bayonet, if necessary).
See? Problem solved.
In general, simple solutions are a good thing. Einstein famously observed, “Everything should be made as simple as possible — but no simpler.” It’s the “but no simpler” part that worries me here. A “solution” that involves the forcible conversion (or extermination) of some 280 million Arabs seems, how shall I put it, cumbersome. As in, not going to work.
So I think we need another solution. It almost certainly won’t be as simple. But it will have the even greater virtue of actually having a remote chance of success.
Update: George Paine goes another round with his military correspondent: Continuing the correspondence with Third ID.