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Iraq as Humanitarianism

By Matthew Yglesias on October 2, 2006 at 11:29 am

"Iraq as Humanitarianism"

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Eric Posner throws down in The Washington Post demolishing the “humanitarian” case for the Iraq War:

Saddam Hussein was an especially bad tyrant, and Iraqi civilian casualties attributable to the U.S. intervention do not yet equal what he was able to accomplish, albeit over a longer period. The Kurds and many Shiites are better off. And many Iraqis continue to think that the war was worth it, according to polls.

But polls do not reveal the opinions of dead Iraqis. The humanitarian effect of the war has been at best ambiguous against the baseline of the containment period that preceded it, and if current trends continue, the overall effect will be that of a humanitarian disaster.

Many people blame the humanitarian costs of the war in Iraq on the Bush administration’s execution of it. This view is a psychological crutch that allows defenders of humanitarian intervention to keep the ideal alive for the next, presumably competent, administration of a President Hillary Clinton or John McCain. But complaints about this war are not noticeably different from complaints about earlier wars, where small mistakes (identifiable as such with the benefit of hindsight) resulted in enormous harm.

Posner goes on to make a broader argument I don’t really agree with (though I do agree with part of it) so this gets to be a rare case where I say read the excerpt, not the whole thing!.

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