"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

The Great Cross-Blog Debate

My favorite anti-war-blog, Stand Down, and the NZ Bear have organized a cross-blog debate on the war. Warbloggers will be answering the anti-war-blog community's questions and vice versa. You can visit either site for the questions if you want to participate, which I encourage you to do if you blog.

1) If you were President of the United States, what would be your policy toward Iraq over the next year? What advantages and disadvantages do you see in your proposed policies versus the current path being pursued by the Bush administration?

Aggressive containment and reinforced inspections, primarily. These policies have a much greater real chance of protecting the American homeland and our allies from attack than launching an invasion, while at the same time saving massive amounts of human life, economic resources and the reputation of America as a just force in the world.

A good secondary objective would be to overhaul the sanctions mechanism to truly focus it on containment and positive engagement rather than punishment. For instance, we could increase the availability of equipment for water sanitization and other public-health concerns. This could be the beginning of independent economic and cultural ties between businesses and citizens in Iraq and America. As the President is font of noting, the people of Iraq are not our enemy. It's time we put our money where our mouth is on that point.

2) Is there any circumstance that you can conceive of where the United States would be justified in using military force without the support of the UN Security Council --- or does the UN always have a veto against US military action for whatever reason?

Of course the UNSC doesn't have a "veto" over American decisions. If there is a credible and immanent threat to national security or an opportunity to use limited force for a just end that the Security Council for some reason did not want to endorse, then we might be justified in making unilateral choices. However, invasive military action by any nation against another is a threat to international peace and prosperity. Such action must be demonstrated to be the will of the world if we are to be credibly working towards international cooperation and lasting peace.

3) American and British military force has allowed Northern Iraq to develop a society which, while imperfect, is clearly a freer and more open society than existed under Saddam Hussein's direct rule. Do you agree that the no-fly zones have been beneficial to Northern Iraq --- and if so, why should this concept not be extended to remove Hussein's regime entirely and spread those freedoms to all Iraqis?

The "no fly zone" concept is an excellent example of aggressive containment. However, it is in no way comparable to an invasion. It is also worth noting that northern Iraq and central Iraq are very different regions with very different populations and will require very different means to eventually liberate them.

4) Do you believe an inspection and sanctions regime is sufficient and capable of keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of the Hussein regime --- and should this be a goal of U.S. policy? In what way is an inspection/containment/sanctions regime preferable to invasion? Civilian casualties? Expense? Geopolitical outcome?

I don't think it's a possible goal to keep all weapons of mass destruction out of the Hussein regime's hands. The most important thing is to deter the regime from taking aggressive action, be it with conventional weapons or WMD. Secondarily, we must restrain them from creating a large cache of chemical/bio weapons and from attaining nuclear capabilities -- these are threats to national and regional security. Unless the regime can be eliminated peacefully (e.g. exile, reform, bloodless coup) rigorous inspections are our best option in the pursuit of these tasks, as it's very unlikely that any large-scale operation could continue while a strong inspection and monitoring program is in place.

As for the reasons which inspections are preferable to invasion, all of the above. Additionally there are the issues of US military casualties, responsibility for rebuilding Iraq, generational repercussions, increased risk of immediate terrorist attack on America, providing fodder for terrorist recruitment, and a greater probability that any WMDs in Iraq could get loose.

5) What, in your opinion, is the source of national sovereignty? If you believe it to be the consent of the governed, should liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein's regime be U.S. policy? If so, how do you propose to accomplish this goal absent military action? (And if in your view the sovereignty of a state does not derive from the consent of the governed, then what is the source of sovereignty?)

National Sovereignty rests in the recognition of the world. Sovereign status is conferred via the consensus of other sovereigns. Vociferous internal dissent (up to an including civil war) tends to reduce the validity of a sovereign, but in essence the test of sovereignty is whether or not it is respected by the outside world.

Ideally the legitimacy of sovereignty is grounded in the consent of the governed ala the classic social contract, but in reality this is too fuzzy a concept to hang soverignty on. When does a government lose the consent of the governed? An argument could be made, for instance, that Mr. Bush -- failing to capture the popular vote in 2000 -- does not have the consent of the governed. I'm not going to make that argument, but it does highlight the blurry nature of this concept.

That being said, I do think it should be a US policy goal to liberate the Iraqi people from dictatorship. The best means to do this is through cultural and economic engagement backed by containment and deterrence. This is how we brought down the USSR. It's how we're dealing with China. It's hopefully how we'll deal with North Korea. There's no reason that the same methods won't work in Iraq. The only salient difference between Iraq and the Soviets or Chinese or N. Korea is that we clearly enjoy complete military supremacy, and as such we could easily "win" in a war. Just because we can doesn't mean this course of action is in any way preferable to the alternative.