THE HUMANITARIAN CASE FOR WAR….OR AGAINST IT….Should liberal hawks support the war? Or is it time to jump ship?

Matt Yglesias identifies the two key elements of discussion: (1) the value of the war purely from the perspective of national security, and (2) the value of the war as a way of kickstarting a wave of democracy in the Middle East.

All of us seem to agree that (1) is a good reason for war, but only barely. Saddam does pose a threat, but it’s a fairly distant threat and there’s reason to think that a policy of containment could be made to work for at least several more years. When you put this together with the larger damage the war will do to our international relations, the whole thing only barely passes the smell test.

But then there’s (2). Even though I’m only barely in favor of the war on its own terms, if it could be used as a way of promoting democracy and human rights in the Mideast, that’s enough to kick me well into the pro-war camp. The problem is, George Bush has given us precious little reason to think that he really cares about this. As Matt puts it:

So I support the Iraq policy that the administration says it has (though I still take issue with the way it has been implemented), but I oppose the Iraq policy that I believe they will, in fact, implement.

But why would you support the war if you think the administration is lying about its goals? What’s more, even if Bush is genuine in his desire to promote a democratic Middle East, he’s spent the past six months publicly and contemptuously excluding the very institutions and allies that give it a chance of working. All in all, the humanitarian goals of the war seem very distant indeed.

Sean-Paul Kelly is on the same page:

I’m so close to throwing the towel in on this one….this administration is tearing down an international system designed to prevent nations from acting in just this sort of way.

On the other hand, Dmitriy Guberman thinks us fence sitters worry too much about the personalities involved:

I see that too much importance is given to Bush’s, Rumsfelds, Wolfowitz’s, etc. personalities and how they’re not…nice?

Actually, I agree, and I’ve tried pretty hard not to oppose this war just out of reflexive dislike for George Bush. But I think it’s gone well beyond that.

And finally, Daniel Drezner, who unlike Brian Wesbury really is a professor at the University of Chicago, is just enjoying the fight.