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The Looking Glass War

Peter Freundlich

All right. Let me see if I understand the logic of this correctly. We ignored the United Nations in order to teach Saddam Hussein that the United Nations cannot be ignored. We’ve waged war to preserve the United Nations’ ability to avert war. The paramount principle has been that the United Nations’ word must be taken seriously, and if we’ve had to subvert its word to guarantee that it is, then, by gum, so be it. Peace is too important not to take up arms to defend. Am I getting this right?

Further, if the only way to bring democracy to Iraq was to vitiate the democracy of the Security Council, then we were honor-bound to do that too because democracy as we define it is too important to be stopped by a little thing like democracy as they define it.

Also, in dealing with a man who brooks no dissension at home, we cannot afford dissension here: We must speak with one voice against Saddam Hussein’s failure to allow opposing voices to be heard. We have sent our gathered might to the Persian Gulf to make the point that might does not make right, as Saddam Hussein seems to think it does, and we twisted the arms of the opposition in order to force it to agree to let us oust a regime that twists the arms of the opposition. We cannot leave in power a dictator who ignores his own people, and if our people, and people elsewhere in the world, fail to understand that, then we have no choice but to ignore them.

Listen, don’t misunderstand. I think it is a good thing that the members of the Bush Administration seem to have been reading Lewis Carroll. I only wish someone had pointed out that Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are meditations on paradox and puzzle and illogic and on the strangeness of things, not templates for foreign policy. It is amusing for the Mad Hatter to say something like “We must make war on him because he is a threat to peace,” but not amusing for someone who actually commands an army to say that.

As a collector of laughable arguments, I’d be enjoying all this were it not for the fact that I know—we all know—that lives will continue to be lost in what amounts to a freak circular-reasoning accident.

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