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Commentary: Illogical Reasoning of a War Against Iraq

All Things Considered: March 13, 2003

Commentary: Logic of War?


The deliberations at the UN over possible military action in Iraq have featured thousands of pages of documents and hours and hours of debate, not to mention all the press conferences, Op-Ed articles and pure speculation that have filled the airwaves in the last few months. But even after all of that evidence and discussion, commentator Peter Freundlich still wants to express the trouble he's having trying to make sense of the argument to go to war.


All right, let me see if I understand the logic of this correctly. We are going to ignore the United Nations in order to make clear to Saddam Hussein that the United Nations cannot be ignored. We're going to wage war to preserve the UN's ability to avert war. The paramount principle is that the UN's word must be taken seriously, and if we have to subvert its word to guarantee that it is, then by gum, we will. Peace is too important not to take up arms to defend. Am I getting this right?

Further, if the only way to bring democracy to Iraq is to vitiate the democracy of the Security Council, then we are honor-bound to do that too, because democracy, as we define it, is too important to be stopped by a little thing like democracy as they define it.

Also, in dealing with a man who brooks no dissension at home, we cannot afford dissension among ourselves. We must speak with one voice against Saddam Hussein's failure to allow opposing voices to be heard. We are sending our gathered might to the Persian Gulf to make the point that might does not make right, as Saddam Hussein seems to think it does. And we are twisting the arms of the opposition until it agrees to let us oust a regime that twists the arms of the opposition. We cannot leave in power a dictator who ignores his own people. And if our people, and people elsewhere in the world, fail to understand that, then we have no choice but to ignore them.

Listen. Don't misunderstand. I think it is a good thing that the members of the Bush administration seem to have been reading Lewis Carroll. I only wish someone had pointed out that "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass" are meditations on paradox and puzzle and illogic and on the strangeness of things, not templates for foreign policy. It is amusing for the Mad Hatter to say something like, `We must make war on him because he is a threat to peace,' but not amusing for someone who actually commands an army to say that.

As a collector of laughable arguments, I'd be enjoying all this were it not for the fact that I know--we all know--that lives are going to be lost in what amounts to a freak, circular reasoning accident.

NORRIS: Peter Freundlich is a freelance journalist in New York. Tomorrow, we will hear a different view about the appropriate use of military force.

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