Tuesday, April 1, 2003

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Memo to the antiwar movement

Dear protestors,

Hey, great job with the anti-war rallies. You're unquestionably a valid social movement that's tough to ignore -- especially when blocking traffic. However, the polls suggest you could be doing better.

I'm on the other side of the fence, and I've been critical of some of you lately, so I'll understand if you take my advice with a grain of salt. However, I believe there is a genuine debate to be had about the current war, posrtwar reconstruction, and the future of U.S. foreign policy. While I support Operation Iraqi Freedom, I'll admit to some Mickey Kaus-style qualms about the grand neocon strategy, so I'd like to see some vigorous opposing arguments to be made.

However, even if you can amass large numbers for street protests, it won't matter unless you have good arguments. And, to be blunt, some of your arguments are just God awful. Maybe they appeal to the anti-war base, but they'll turn off the rest of the country, which should be your target audience. So please jettison the following two arguments (I'll add more when I see them):

1) "Saddam is a creation of the United States". One of the mantras of the antiwar movement is that the U.S. armed and aided
Saddam Husssein
, and now we're reaping the whirlwind. It's basically an extension of the "we created bin Laden" argument.

It's certainly true that the U.S. was friendly to Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980's. However, relative to other states, we were positively standoffish. This chart of arms sales to Iraq from 1973-1990 makes it clear Saddam Hussein is a creation of Russia, China, and France. Oh, and here are the approximate figures for Iraqi imports from the permanent Security Council members for 2001, under the auspices of the Oil-for-Food program:

France-- $650 million
China -- $225 million
Russia -- $220 million
U.K. -- $100 million
U.S.A. -- $50 million

This is just the official stuff -- it doesn't count illicit arms purchases or smuggling.

U.S. culpability pales in comparison to France, Russia, and China. Saddam is their creature, not ours. Don't try arguing otherwise.

2) "Bush is Hitler" Hyperbole like this is guaranteed to generate cheers from anti-war protestors, but it just convinces everyone else of that the anti-war movement is idiotarian and should therefore be ignored. [C'mon, how prevalent is this?--ed. Click here for one example. Last week, I heard the head of Chicago's anti-war group make this exact point -- as well as argue that the U.S. created Saddam]

If you want to be taken seriously, disavow the Hitler analogies. Claiming that dissent is being stifled and the government is acquiring dictatorial powers just makes you look like sore losers.

posted by Dan on 04.01.03 at 12:57 PM