Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Standing aside. In this sad post Norman Geras says why he now feels that if he had known the human cost of the Iraq war he would have stood aside from supporting it.
Measured, in other words, against the hopes of what it might lead to and the likelihoods as I assessed them, the war has failed. Had I foreseen a failure of this magnitude, I would have withheld my support. Even then, I would not have been able to bring myself to oppose the war. As I have said two or three times before, nothing on earth could have induced me to march or otherwise campaign for a course of action that would have saved the Baathist regime. But I would have stood aside.
(To head off fruitless debate, he says that this change of mind predates the Lancet report.)

There's a subsequent, related post here.

Well, you can't get much more honest and heartfelt than that. But it seems to me that the course of action Norm now says he wishes he had taken founders on the difficulty of distinguishing between acts and omissions. "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

As for the rest, in which Norm touches (inevitably) on World War II, I have sometimes been haunted by the thought that the Holocaust would not have happened if appeasement had continued. Maybe a smirking, confident Nazi Germany would have been just another hateful dictatorship, making an accommodation with the British Empire eventually, and with the Soviets as they did, and expelling the Jews to Uganda. Maybe, if it makes any sense to assign a probability to a counterfactual, that is a fairly probable counterfactual.

But then I let my counterfactual imagination continue into the evolving future of a world where Hitler's aggression is rewarded and the democracies are humiliated (not least in their own eyes). In this world the dictators, not just Hitler, know that they have but to push and their fantasies can become real. When that is so, why not kill all who offend you? Why not conquer your neighbour? It worked before. And now those who might have stood against you are weaker. Part of that weakness is shame.

One of the few things differentiating the international structure of our world from from the early stages of that world is that the Iraq war took place.

(I slightly expanded and clarified this hastily-written post on Wenesday evening.)