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Why I support the War in Iraq

I am, (very) generally speaking, a liberal (I’m often referred to as a ‘flaming liberal’ by my friends and neighbors, but I live in Kansas, and how far left of center do you need to be to be ‘flaming’ in a state that removed the theory of evolution from the high school science curriculum?).

So, why do I support the invasion of Iraq? 20+ years of working in corrections. (Hang with me on this one. It takes a while to develop, but there is a tie-in.)

After 20+ years as a counselor, a probation officer and now a supervisor in a correctional facility I know one thing: There are truly evil people in the world and it is basically irrelevant how they got that way.

In sociology, the emphasis is to find societal causes for crime. We (yes, I’m a sociologist by education) have actually done a pretty good job. We have shown that poverty, discrimination, education, etc, etc, all have an effect on crime. We can tell you, at a societal level, what we could do to reduce crime in the future. What we can’t do very well is explain why, of two individuals in similar situations, one becomes a criminal and one doesn’t. We also aren’t real good at solutions (i.e. effective tactics to elicit change in individual criminal behavior.)

Correctional research shows that there are psychological approaches which are effective in eliciting change in individual criminals. Generally, they involve changing the thought pattens and belief structures of the individual, because criminals think differently than non-criminals.

Criminals, in general, believe: they are smarter than you, that they won’t get caught, that if they do get caught they can promise or intimidate their way out of consequences, that they are singularly unique and therefore entitled to whatever it is they want because normal rules don’t apply to them, that their situation is not their fault, etc.

Effective correctional practices do not focus on psychotherapy and/or non-directive approaches (most criminal just love an opportunity to tell you all about how someone else screwed them up) or on improving self-esteem (in spite of what they think you want them to say, criminals generally have quite a high opinion of themselves). Effective correctional practices also expend very little effort on ‘accidents of history’ like age, race, gender, whether the criminal was beaten or molested as a child (not that they are ignored…) because these facts are ‘static variables’ and as such, no matter how much effort you put into it, the fact that they are as they are and happened as they did can not be changed.

Instead, effective correctional practices focus on changing the thought process in the here and now.

What does this have to do with the Liberation of Iraq? Simple: Saddam Hussein and others of his ilk are criminals. I’m not talking about international law, war crimes, or crimes against humanity (however valid these may be). I’m talking about criminal thinking patterns.

Think about Saddam Hussein’s public behavior and statements. He clearly thinks he is smarter than his opponents. He clearly thinks he can intimidate or negotiate his way out of consequences for his actions. He clearly believes he is entitiled to do as he pleases. And he is more than happy to blame us for the problem.

Meanwhile, what are we doing? Well, we’ve just spent the last decade teaching Saddam that his perceptions about himself are correct.

Many liberals expend a great deal of effort talking about what we shouldn’t have done and why we are to blame (i.e. a sort of sociological perspective.) I personally agree that American foreign policy has routinely sucked, that we wrongly and regularly support brutal regimes in the name of stability instead of working for positive change, and in general, we have often just made a hash of things.

Unfortunately, in the here and now, that is irrelevant. These things are static variables. No amount of talk about what we should have done and who is to blame will change where we are now. And no amount of hand-wringing, good intentions, and wishful thinking will change Saddam’s beliefs about what he can get away with and if the beliefs don’t change, the behavior won’t either.

So, I think we (the ‘world’ and the UNSC in general and the US in particular) have 3 basic choices.
1) We can admit we really don’t care that much and that we weren’t really serious, save everyone a lot of time, trouble and money and just pack up and go home.
2) We can continue as we are, making dire threats, but failing to back any of them up and thereby reinforce the notion for Saddam (and others of his ilk) that there really aren’t any consequences for his actions.
Or 3) we can administer the consequences as promised.

Simply because there is no other available option which will elicit the required change, I believe #3 is necessary.

Two other notes which are decidedly un-liberal, probably due to my Jacksonian heritage (see Den Beste on Mead on the Jacksonian tradition):
1. War is a bad thing, but it is not the worst thing.
2. in law-enforcement circles, officers are often told not to ‘draw down’ on someone if they have no intention of and are unwilling to fire their weapon. It escalates the situation and makes you look silly at best, and gets you dead at worst. Obviously, we (meaning the International Community through the UNSC) have ‘drawn down’ on Saddam Hussein for the past decade, making us look silly (at best).

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