Ordinarily, I only post articles on this blog. I tend to shy away from short pieces, links, and other such things. I couldn't resist printing this though. It is a complaint my student paper received to my article attacking weak arguments against war. You can read that article in all its glory here. I'd advise doing so, if you haven't already, so you can enjoy this complaint all the more. Below the complaint - which the paper published as a letter - is my response, which sadly they did not have room for. Without further ado:
Last week I had the pleasure of enduring Henry Hill’s flimsy excuse for an article on western foreign intervention and I was enamoured by the prevailing ignorance towards affairs in the Middle East. Maybe Hill is a devious media troll, revelling in the inevitable wealth of responses generated by his moronic interpretations; still, I had to write in just in case he really had been corralled by the deceits of the neo-conservatives.
Firstly, Hill flippantly equated attitudes towards Iraq and the current war in Libya. This is inherently misguided and a pairing that often occurs in the media narrative. The two present drastically different situations and many who were rightly against the former opposed the latter.
More to the point however, Hill presents a clichéd straw man of the arguments against Iraq with the usual buzzwords, oil, Imperialism but more astoundingly, implies that we were right to go into Iraq and our success in that part of the world legitimised further intervention. Perhaps Hill should be employed at the foreign office equipped with a map of the Middle East, a set of darts and a blindfold (just to make declarations of war a little more fun) so we can maintain our conflicts.
My response to the article may seem overblown to some but such an ill informed opinion of our recent interventions in the most politically volatile part of the world seem plainly offensive. Implying that the lives of Iraqis has been vastly improved by deposing Saddam is almost as stupid as believing that the motivations behind the conflict were based compassion for the Iraqi people. It is surprising to me that so many have failed to understand that the Iraq conflict represented the greatest example yet of the military-industrial complex directing US foreign policy. Iraq represented the triumphs of arms companies like Blackwater (now XE services) and private security firms, not the liberation of the Iraqi people, who are now forced to adopt daily suicide bombings as a part of life. Iraq was the privatisation of war in action. Perhaps our action in Libya is the right thing to do, but that remains to be seen. Iraq was not the right thing to do, and of that we were sure before the first pair of ‘boots on the ground’.
Enjoy that? I know I did. Below is the letter I wrote in response:
First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to respond! I've carefully read your letter, which is a greater courtesy than you paid my article, and I'm happy to clarify what seems to be our central problem. My article is not about the rightness of Iraq or any other war. Indeed, I dedicate a whole paragraph to clarifying that there are legitimate reasons to oppose war, and the entire article is urging people to use those arguments.
It is not about whether or not Iraq was a good thing for Iraqis (although I do hold that view) but rather that the arguments that war in the Middle East is 'hypocritical' or 'imperialistic' are very bad arguments because a war could be both of those things and still benefit the people of a targeted government. In short, they are not harms in and of themselves. It seems particularly fatuous to accuse me of picking on straw man arguments against war in an article whose express intent was analysing and demolishing weak arguments, but as stated above clearly you could not discern that theme.
The rest of your letter isn't really related to my article at all, but we can go through it quickly. I do not draw any comparison between Libya and Iraq whatsoever beyond including them both in lists of western interventions, which they both are. I do believe that the long term prospects of the Iraqi people are better now than under Saddam's rule. This is a view also held by many Iraqis - I recommend to you Republic of Fear by Kanan Makiya for a glimpse of what Saddam's regime was actually like. I do not believe that the Iraq War was motivated by compassion but it is a fallacy to presume that something has to have pure motivations to have good outcomes. The idea that the war in Iraq was simply the product of private enterprise is a ridiculous conspiracy theory.
Finally, it bears saying that your decision to personally attack me and grossly misrepresent my case, rather than try to engage with the actual argument put forward in my article, is simply further evidence of the very behaviours and weaknesses amongst a section of the anti-war debate that my article was actually about. Thank you for the demonstration.
Peace and love,
I hope it will be the considered view of my readership that, regardless of whether or not you agree with me, I got the better of that particular encounter.