August 06, 2002

ANOTHER POST (ACTUALLY TWO) I DON'T HAVE TO MAKE: DOC SEARLS chronicles a drawn out debate (so I don't have to) over the war that started with Nick Denton's post on the need to shock Islamists with utter defeat, continued with Dave Winer making some comments about warmongering and playground bullies, and descended from there.

The problem, essentially, is that Dave came into this debate late, and he's not up to speed. He's a smart guy, God knows, and as entitled to an opinion as anyone, but a lot of people have been wrestling with these things in somewhat more depth. Vague, general statements about playgrounds and bullies are merely inapt analogies, not arguments. You can make an intelligent argument against invading Iraq. And -- here's the other post I don't have to make -- Jim Henley has done so. I think he's wrong, but it's a question of the weight you assign to various factors, which is something about which reasonable people can differ.

I don't really like the term "warblogger" and my use of it in reference to Nick Denton's original post was somewhat ironic, since Nick himself was rather skeptical of the war for a long time. But Nick's been thinking about the war, and blogging about the war, in a way that Dave hasn't been, so it's not really enough just to dismiss him with an inapt analogy.

Doc's take on the subject, once we get away from accusations of blowhardism aimed at warbloggers, is actually pretty much in line with what I think most warbloggers believe:

At its best, war is a lesser evil. That's it. If you have to crush a regime and its armies to end the far worse things they've been doing as we did to Japan and Germany in World War II, and to the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan your actions are entirely justifiable in the death-for-death and misery-for-misery moral economics of war. Inflict a lesser misery to end a greater one. End of story.

And that, exactly, is the story George W. Bush is trying to tell, apparently with insufficient success. But bless him for trying to do the right thing for the all the people involved, including the citizens of Iraq. . . .

What groups is it most okay to kill? And how does that okayness vary with our distance and difference from them?

The "warblog" crowd is hardly a testosterone-drenched bunch of Rambos. Personally, I'd love to live in the pre-September 11th world, when seemingly all we had to worry about was who had the best abs at the Video Music Awards. But that world, as it turned out, was a fool's paradise, as people were in fact plotting to kill as many of us as possible just two days later.

In answer to the last questions: What groups is it most okay to kill? The ones who want to kill us. And how does that okayness vary with our distance and difference from them? Not a hell of a lot. But there are a lot of people who currently believe that it's their divine mission on Earth to kill as many Americans as they can. And they think that's okay because of the "difference" they see in America.

Odd, then, that it's people who point this out who are accused of intolerance and warmongering.