Truce over, I think. More excoriation of that small and peculiar subset of the world who both opposes the Iraq War and thinks that we are doing too much for Africa. But the real deal-breaker for me was this paragraph; possibly the single slimiest and sneakiest piece of equivocation I’ve seen for a while.
Even so, it is possible to argue that the Iraq war might have pushed a few more young men from the video-watching phase to the re-enactment — though it can’t be argued with any certainty. And so, prima facie, you can make out a self-interested case for standing back when New York gets attacked or a few Jews or Shia are exploded in some faraway place. (emphasis added)
This is the thesis that even George Bush is not bothering to defend any more; that it was necessary to invade Iraq because of 9/11. To not attack Afghanistan after 9/11 would have been “standing back when New York gets attacked”. The remark about “a few Jews” is presumably Dave trying to drip, drip away at this “only anti-Semites oppose the war” theme that was there in the Atzmon col a while ago. “Shia” might be a reference to Iraq itself, but those massacres happened in 1993/4, when Osama bin Laden was right at the bottom of the Terrorist Top Trumps deck so the issue of “standing back” does not really arise.
What Decent Dave does not appear to realise, let alone acknowledge, is that That Bloody War was a war of choice. Nobody made us do it. We chose to. In other moods, Dave defends this choice; we chose to do it for the sake of the poor ickle Iraqis. In yet other moods, Dave attempts to stand by That Bloody Prediction and claim that we had to do it, Saddam had a gun to our head. But never before have I seen him try to muddy the waters between the need to fight against Islamic non-state terrorists who want to kill us, and a war we fought against a non-Islamic state which posed us no immediate threat. Not very decent, Dave.
In the rest of the col, Dave plays the Decent Left’s strongest card (I see that the Times subeditors are still removing the word “mindless” from phrases like “liberal optimism”). And it’s pretty weak. The idea is that because massacres happened in places where we didn’t intervene (Srebenica is the topical one because of the anniversary, but Rwanda is more common), we could have stopped them by intervening. Set out like that, the missing counterfactual is a bit obvious, so you need to pour on the rage and emotion to make it work even a little bit; mentioning Douglas Hurd and “Tory pessimism” helps. But the fallacy is obvious; Dave even sums it up in the last paragraph but two and refutes it with the stunning argument “No.”. Liberal intervention gives you the “chance of changing the world”, but refraining from steaming in without a plan is much cheaper, in lives as well as dollars.
The irony is that the central point of Aaro’s column this week is correct. We cannot expect to be “left alone” if we don’t provoke them. Jihadis hate us for a variety of reasons and if we get rid of the existing ones, they will invent some more. But whatever the views of Jihadis, it was still a bad idea to kill a hundred thousand Iraqis and spend a hundred billion dollars with damnably little to show for it. Wars are not like Olympic Games or housing developments or aid programmes for Africa; if you fuck one up, it’s a lot more serious. The “spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction” is strong in Dave at the moment (every single Times col is full of metaphors for physical activity in Aaronovitch himself, some of them quite obviously sexual). And it’s an urge which is laudable in businessmen, unreliable in administrators and nine times out of ten downright disastrous in statesmen. Take some bromide already Aaro.