[eDebate] Korcok/Lewis debate

Ryan Bach solistus
Sun Aug 5 16:33:21 CDT 2007

I've stayed out of the firefight thus far, but there's only so many times I can listen to MK call everyone who's anti-war an idiot before I feel the need to jump in.

I'm not going to go line-by-line on the clusterfuck of a "debate" so far.  Let's start with an RFD of sorts from the debate thus far (arrogant, perhaps, but no more so than the debate has been already):

I'm going to assume that the topic is: Iraq is better off now than they would be if we had not invaded.  Both sides are going off topic a bit, but both sides seem to agree that this is what is actually being debated.

MK has one offensive claim: that there has been a net decrease in deaths in Iraq thanks to the invasion.  JL has defence on this with the sanctions argument.  MK claims the stats are bullshit, but neither side has convincing evidence that provides a mechanism for improved life expectancy or decreased child mortality.  Call me a crazy leftist, but it seems like lifting sanctions on medical equipment would have a more direct, positive effect on health care than military action.  I challenge MK to provide a more credible mechanism.

But let's give MK the benefit of the doubt and disregard the "lift sanctions" CP.  Let's even, for the sake of argument, grant him the dubious child mortality and life expectancy stats.  It really doesn't matter to the debate, because:

JL has a pretty devastating argument, to which MK's only response is irrelevant.  The sectarian violence going on in Iraq today was clearly not happening in pre-war Iraq, and is a pretty huge standard of living decrease.  MK responds with something about responsibility and killing the terrorists.  This is not relevant to the debate.  The question is not whether the US or AQ in Iraq are more responsible (honestly, are you setting the argumentative bar that low for yourself?); it's whether or not Iraq is better off now.  I don't give a shit who you BLAME for the violence; the violence is occurring, and that's bad.

To give further benefit of the doubt to MK, let's assume that child mortality and life expectancy stats outweigh terrorist violence daily throughout the country.  I find that hard to stomach, personally; why should we look at mortality rates for one age group only, and why does the number doctors tell people they will live to outweigh actual human deaths?  It still doesn't matter to the debate, though, because:

JL has MORE offence that MK is flat out conceding.  I refer, of course, to the argument about water, electricity, etc.  A third of the country is homeless and foodless, and the vast majority of the population lacks consistent access to food, water and electricity.  I can't recall whether MK's response was that he was uninterested or that JL is an idiot, but unless I missed an entire post there was no on point rebuttal to this evidenced claim.  This is what we call an easy way out, folks.  I "pull the trigger" on the lack of infrastructure throughout pretty much the entire country.  This is a situation that is clearly much worse, and outweighs child mortality and life expectancy stats pretty handily (I'm pretty sure the THIRD OF THE POPULATION living in homeless destitution will have health problems that, on average, outweigh a 1.9 year life expectancy increase).

Now, to stop giving MK all this benefit of the doubt and throw in my own responses:

I've already said my main piece on his statistics.  I don't see a credible mechanism by which the invasion itself could be responsible for this improvement.  Are you claiming that we have net improved the health care system in Iraq?  We bombed more hospitals than we've built, did we not?  It certainly makes sense to me that lifting sanctions on medical equipment could have this direct effect.  If we do consider counterfactuals ("the US should have simply pressured the UN to lift the sanctions"), it seems that MK has no argument left whatsoever.

More on counterfactuals: MK ignored JL's arguments about how badly we botched this invasion from a military perspective.  Military experts like Gen. Powell said we needed overwhelming force to stabilise the country, so the neocons dismissed them.  Political advisors and analysts saw that we would need local control quickly and should take advantage of the existing command structure.  The neocons completely dismantled the government without a plan to replace it, and most of the country is in chaos now.  If MK is held to the specific invasion plan rather than just "liberation" in general, he's even more screwed; it's pretty damn hard to claim with a straight face that this invasion was carried out effectively.  We only control 40% of the captial, for fuck's sake!

Oh, and the "leftists slash the military budget, that's why we were unprepared" claim is complete, utter bullshit.  Our military budget is HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS A YEAR, more than the next SIXTEEN biggest spenders combined.  If we can't maintain an army capable of occupying a mid-sized country with a decrepit military on that budget, something is seriously wrong.  Oh, wait, something IS seriously wrong: billions and billions of dollars go to pie-in-the-sky research projects being carrier out by military contractors.  Oftentimes, these ridiculous projects are just excuses for these companies to do R&D on more modest goals (specific components to the new design that could be useful in actually practical designs, for example) with government funding.  I'm not gonna bother hunting for sources, because my argument here doesn't rely on the specifics; 500 billion should be way more than enough, period.  Israel spends less than 9 billion USD a year ( http://www.thejerusalemfund.org/carryover/pubs/20010130ib.html ) and has lost one war in its history (Lebanon, which was botched so horribly as to tank the PM's approval rating to 2%).  That's less than 2% of our military budget, and Israel has spent most of its history surrounded by hostile nations.

Oh, and there's still that sticky little issue of Al Qaeda in Iraq.  MK deflects the issue by saying we need to wipe them out.  JL's offence comes from the fact that AQ IN IRAQ DID NOT EXIST before the invasion.  Saddam was a secular dictator.  Religious extremists had very little influence in the country, and Al Qaeda was completely absent.  Now, our own State Dept. admits that terrorists are using Iraq to train for attacks on the US, and that this is now the greatest threat to homeland safety.  Again, MK, you can cry "it's their fault, not ours" all you want; the point is that our invasion made the situation worse. You can blame other parties all you want, but we opened the space for those parties to act.  Opening that space is the decision you are defending.  This is a big fucking DA to that decision.

Finally, MK really shot himself in the foot with his calculus about American soldiers' lives.  If losing troops is acceptable because of a moral obligation to save lives, we have to look at the opportunity cost of Iraq.  We could have deployed and "spent" (ugh, this utilitarian logic is so disturbing) those lives in Somalia, Darfur, Burma or countless other regions.  The utilitarian argument makes absolutely no sense for Iraq even if you grant that we have "saved net lives" there.

I'll pull a MK and say I'm uninterested with the rest.  I think I've made my point.  I'll end with this:

fractal wrongness

    The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

    Debating with a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one. It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.

    If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet--in mailing lists, newsgroups, or website forums--your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.


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