[eDebate] ans Korcok

Ryan Bach solistus
Mon Aug 6 15:02:32 CDT 2007

I wrote the below response to MK last night.  I'll tack on responses to Andrew and Bob first:


fyi - no need to cc: me on the email.  I get it through edebate anyway.

As I discussed regarding coutnerfactuals, they are not relevant to the topic as JL and MK set it, which is why I 'grant him the benefit of the doubt' on it.  If MK is forced to defend not just invasion vs do nothing but the specific invasion plan that was enacted, questions like the effects of sanctions become relevant.


Interesting.  I stayed out of the evidence debate, although his numbers _did_ seem rather low on invasion-related deaths and rather high on Saddam and Sons killings.  It is pretty disingenuous to count casualties in a foreign-instigated war as political murders.  If these stats are accurate (unfortunately, I got an error on the GW2 link), that pretty much answers MK's arguments without looking further.

To pre-empt: even if you "count" the Iraq/Iran war, it's been over for a long time.  Taking an 'average' across 24 years, mixing wartime casualties with peacetime, gives pretty useless numbers.  The arg is whether Iraq became better or worse off due to invasion, so we ought to be comparing invasion-related deaths to Saddam's killings c. 2001-2002.  There's no reason to believe Saddam would have involved Iraq in another comparable war in the last 4 1/2 years.

Democratic Socialism:

You don't seem to get it.  Democratic Socialism is not the same thing as Yugoslav Socialism.  Many leftist political parties in Europe, for example, identify themselves as Democratic Socialist.  

You also don't seem to get the whole 'tongue-in-cheek' part of FI.  You're right on the date; it was only a year and a half ago, my mistake.  It was a shared blog, and if you read the posts you'd see they aren't even political...  Unless you count the post about Colbert.  If you can't see that the whole Fifth International premise was not to be taken literally, well...  You are exactly the type of person that made the tongue-in-cheek humour amusing to me at the time.  I'm not really sure what a no longer updated blog has to do with Iraq, so I'll stop there.

The left is (or at least, I am) more comfortable with Communism than the right is with Nazism for good reason.  Communism as an ideology is not the same as approving of Stalin, Pol Pot or Tito.  I'm not going to get sidetracked into a discussion about this, except to make the simple claim that finding value in, say, Marx's discussion of commodity fetishism is a far cry from supporting the ideas in Mein Kampf.  You clearly don't agree with Marx's philosophy or politics, but those who do are certainly not akin to Nazis.  

Ad homs:

Stannard's comment was not insulting to me.  Being half your age is not an inherently bad thing.  I don't see why I should find that offensive.  The jab was directed at you.

I'm not "[playing] at little kid being beaten up by the big bad ogre."  Clearly, I have no problem with you attacking my ideas.  Otherwise, I would not post them in an argument on edebate.  I'm simply calling you out on your reliance on (or at least constant use of) ad homs.  I'm "invoking your status" to criticise your childish argumentative strategies, not because you are "being too rough" with me.

I also introduced my post by saying I got involved because of your generalising insults and dismissals of everyone who disagrees with you.  Obviously I am partisan and obviously I am not really a judge in the back of an actual debate round.  I used the form of a judge's evaluation to play catch-up to the debate thus far, and used my "RFD" to begin to develop the arguments I would continue with afterwards.  So very sorry to have violated the neutrality of fake judging a non-debate.  At any rate, I stand by my impact analysis as I have developed it.  Were I to judge an actual round with the same argumentation, my rhetoric would be different but my decision would be the same.

Ignoring someone and ad homs are not the only options.  It's actually possible to communicate and argue without ad homs.  As I said, my pointing out your ad homs has nothing to do with this ageism arg you seem to be making.  Let's just say, if I were actually judging, you'd get shitty speaks.  If you're going to unleash a stream of ad homs, they should at least be funny.

Dismissal of arguments:

That's some good argumentative style right there.  You think we're ignoring some things you think are important, so you'll just ignore some of our arguments.  I'm not sure what it is I ignored; you skipped about half of my arguments.  Whatever.


All of a sudden, mr. utilitarianism brings out the "you don't know the horrors" rhetoric.  Guess what?  Neither of us know the horrors of Saddam, and neither of us know the horrors of present-day Iraq.  Both are clearly bad; the question is, which is worse?

I agree that Saddam's killings affected the infant mortality rate.  I do not believe that they 1) caused a major shift in infant mortality statistics and 2) continued to have the same effect on infant mortality all the way up till 2002.  

I do, in fact, discuss death rates in my arguments.  You just ignored them.  One of my main arguments regards the life expectancy at birth, which is derived from mortality rates.  Life expectancy is calculated based on assuming current mortality rates stay the same.  The humanitarian crisis that JL sourced and you have not disputed is going to cause an increase in mortality.  This increase will cause the life expectancy to drop over time.  Given the severity of the current crisis (8 million without food, water, electricity or shelter), it seems likely that this drop will be close to, if not more than 1.9 years, erasing the gain supposedly made by the invasion.  The collapse of infrastructure across Iraq will also probably contribute to increased mortality; water, roads to deliver fresh food, electricity, etc. definitely save lives, and a lot more people are now without these things.

There's also the sanctions argument, which is an alternate causality claim for the rise in life expectancy (and, by extension, the falling mortality rates).  

I understand that statistics are easy metrics to use.  I disagree with them on ethical/philosophic grounds.  All my arguments function within your utilitarian framework, so I'll avoid getting sidetracked into a util good/bad debate.

As for Saddam and Sons and their murders:

1) There are a lot of people dying under brutal dictatorships or genocides right now.  Our troops being in Iraq has an opportunity cost: they can't be in these other places.  If it's true that we should use our military to save net lives, why not invade Darfur instead?  The utilitarian gain would have been much higher.

2) These killings, as your own framework arguments explain, are accounted for in mortality rates.  Since life expectancy at birth is determined entirely by mortality rates, the life expectancy gain already takes account for this.

3) Whether or not we could have removed Saddam from power without an invasion is a debate that hasn't really happened.  Given the many times the US has accomplished similar things against much more popular leaders (Allende, anyone?), it seems plausible that there would have been at least a chance that covert operations could have accomplished the task.

4) Since you accuse me of not doing math, here's a bit for you: 50,000 is a bit more than half a percent of the population.  About 160 times that many people are now without food, shelter, electricity or water.  Here's some utilitarian calculus for you: which is worse, 160 lives reduced to destitution and homelessness or one life lost to political murder?  Consider in your calculus the odds of at least one of those 160 dying preventable deaths per year.

If, instead of using 50,000 (the number of political murders per year you claim Saddam committed), we use 20,000 (80,000 over 4 years, the net gain you claimed based on mortality stats... we're even rounding up a bit, as it should be closer to 80000/4.5), you now have 400 in crisis conditions for each 1 death.  How's the utilitarian calculus work out then?

Addendum: if we go with Andrew's numbers, of course, there's a net loss of lives even before considering the humanitarian crisis.

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