If not war, then what?

This is the question that those of us who oppose the war get asked. And we must ask it of ourselves, too.

As a socialist, it pains me to say that capitalism is probably a large part of the solution. Drop the sanctions. Resume trade with Iraq.

Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying that capitalism and free trade may be the most efficient way of quickly raising the standard of living for the poorest people of the world. (No really–this does keep me awake. Ask Abi.) Capitalism in itself is no guarantee of the American ideal of “liberty” that everyone seems so worked up about, but it does bring about wealth. And wealth buys you clean water, sanitation, and healthcare. And that means you don’t have to worry that your baby is going to die from malnutrition, or diseases so curable the Western world has practically forgotten how to spell them.

At the same time, if we’re genuinely worried that Saddam Hussein poses a military threat to the rest of the world, we need to practice aggresive containment. By all means provide military aid and assistance to Iraq’s neighbours, but only so long as it is clear that the forces are for defensive purposes. Make it clear that attacking one of them is not a good idea.

But that won’t happen, because this war is no longer about oil. It was, once, but now it’s about stupidity, and machismo. Last year, Bush pursued a political strategy so aggresive that he left himself no way out. He has no way of backing down without losing face, and admitting he was wrong. For him, there is no choice any more. “No war” is just not an option.

And that’s just plain stupid. As all competent strategists know, and as Q summed up so clearly in The World is Not Enough , “Always have an escape plan.”