Iraq, Syria, and Uncertainty

Today’s New York Times reports that the fall of the Baathist regime in Iraq has given heart to dissidents in Syria. That’s exactly the sort of thing the “neocon” architects of the Iraq invasion were hoping for. Like the end of the Iraqi tryranny, it has to be, on any reasonable accounting of the costs and benefits of going to war, an entry on teh credit side.

I wish that those who criticize the war were more willing than they seem to be to acknowledge its benefits, as I wish that those who still think it was a good idea were more willing to acknowledge both that the fear of a major Iraqi WMD program was central to the argument for war as it was actually made at the time and that it has proven in retrospect to have been seriously overestimated.

What the anti-war and pro-war sides have in common is an almost total unwillingness to acknowledge what seemed obvious to me: this was a hard problem, with no obvious right answer. No which side you were (or are) on, there are patriotic, humanitarian folks who know more than you do about the problem who disagree with you. If that were better understood, there might be a little less vitriol in the conversation.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

3 thoughts on “Iraq, Syria, and Uncertainty”

  1. I Agree

    I agree with Mark Kleiman that there is too much vitriol in the conversation about the War in Iraq. I don't think that the vitiol will lessen. It will only increase since the decision to go, and consequences of, the

  2. The Balance Sheet

    Mark Kleiman's blog seems to be having a problem with its permalinks, but this entry is too goot to miss, so I'll quote it in full. Today's New York Times reports that the fall of the Baathist regime in Iraq…

  3. More on "L'affaire des foulards 2004"

    From Political Theory Daily Review, we have a defense of the French ban on headscarves, turbans, and skullcaps, by a member of the commission responsible for the original recommendation. It's well worth reading, especially for anyone who plans on argui…

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