Hitchens and the Sooner-Rather-than-Later Argument

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Mar 21, 2006 7:31 AM

Christopher Hitchens writes convincingly today, as usual, about the importance of the war in Iraq, and puts "civil war" into perspective:

Knowing that their own position was a tenuous one (a fact fully admitted by Zarqawi in his report) the cadres of "al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" understood that their main chance was the deliberate stoking of a civil war. And, now that this threat has become more imminent and menacing, it is somehow blamed on the Bush administration. "Civil war" has replaced "the insurgency" as the proof that the war is "unwinnable." But in plain truth, the "civil war" is and always was the chief tactic of the "insurgency."

He also uses an argument that sat surprisingly well with the Lefties I was hanging out with in NYC this weekend. (Austin one weekend, NYC the next. I know, I know, I'm a glutton for punishment.) I didn't bring Iraq up with them. I rarely do because genuine anti-war folks are so set in their beliefs on this issue and so angry about them that it rarely results in decent conversation. And, frankly, sometimes I'd just like to hang out and talk basketball or something.

But, much to my surprise, as one of my anti-war friends was lamenting our "occupation" of Iraq, my other anti-war friend said he heard an argument for the war on NPR (for real!) the other day that almost convinced him. It was this:

Everybody now has their own scenario for the war that should have been fought three years ago. The important revelations in "Cobra II," by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor, about the underestimated reserve strength of the Fedayeen Saddam, give us an excellent picture of what the successor regime to the Baath Party was shaping up to be: an Islamized para-state militia ruling by means of vicious divide-and-rule as between the country's peoples. No responsible American government could possibly have allowed such a contingency to become more likely. We would then have had to intervene in a ruined rogue jihadist-hosting state that was already in a Beirut-like nightmare.

Both anti-war friends pondered this argument for a few minutes, their expressions softened, their minds momentarily opened to a new possibility. It didn't last long, but it was there. I saw it, and it may stick around in the backs of their minds the next time Iraq comes up. Of course, these are very sensible, liberal friends who are willing to listen to my arguments on many issues, even if they don't agree. They're not moonbats.

I'm pretty sure this will not work with committed moonbats, but I thought y'all might be able to use this bit of information for future conversations about Iraq that might--just might-- be productive.