Readers debate the legacy of the Bush administration's actions in the Middle East. Plus: Will the oil from ANWR be worth the damage to the environment?

By Salon Staff
Published March 19, 2005 11:47PM (EST)

[Read "The Washington Establishment Fails Logic 101," by Arianna Huffington.]

Thanks to Arianna Huffington for pointing out the obvious flaws in linking the recent "democratic" developments in the Middle East to the invasion of Iraq. It's the classic "post hoc" fallacy: because A came before B, then A must have caused B.

The political developments in the Middle East are not the result of sacrificing thousands of human lives. The changes in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have been simmering for a long time, and they continue to be advanced through diplomatic means and political and economic pressures. The only thing the war in Iraq has caused is death and destruction.

-- Robert Funk

Ms. Huffington, please don't assume that your Cambridge education grants you greater sight than the rest of us, and please don't reach down to give us a hand with elementary logic. In all honesty, you're not that much smarter than the rest of us.

The logical fallacy you point out doesn't have anything to do with classification; it's simply a question of causation vs. correlation. And you must concede that, at present, the events following the invasion of Iraq have been positive. Not perfect, but positive.

Look at it this way: Since Sept. 11, no major terrorist attacks have occurred on American soil and four separate countries in the Middle East have moved toward democracy. You maintain that America is, nonetheless, unsafe and the Middle East is no better off. I don't see how the evidence can support this conclusion.

-- Benjamin Mohr

I share Ms. Huffington's annoyance about so many people buying the whole "George Bush was right about the Middle East situation" reaction these days by formerly progressive critics. And yes, Bill Maher and Jon Stewart are especially painful to watch. First, I blame a lack of knowledge of the history and political dynamics of the region by many Americans. Get thee to some history books, Bill and Jon! And read Juan Cole!

Second, think back to right before the war. The question was not whether to go to war but how to go to war. What if Bush had cared about diplomacy? We might have liberated Iraq with a real international coalition. And what if Bush had cared about the truth? Perhaps we would not have lost so much respect in the world. Thus, we might have had fewer dead and wounded American soldiers, fewer dead and wounded Iraqis, a less radicalized insurgency after the war and we wouldn't be solely responsible for the staggeringly high price tag of $300 billion for the country we "broke."

-- Rebecca Jaramillo

In addition to failing Logic 101, Bush has also failed Ethics 101. He skipped the "ends do not justify the means" chapter, as in, "You cannot lie to your constituents about the justifications for war, and then applaud the outcome of that war." Let's face it: As a C student, Bush probably didn't understand most of his classes.

-- Christian Breiding

[Read "Democracy -- By George?" by Juan Cole.]

While I have enormous sympathy for Cole's argument, I have to point out that unless I misread him, he seems to have totally missed the only serious argument for the link between the invasion of Iraq and recent setbacks for the authoritarians in the Middle East. The ease with which the U.S. Army swept Saddam out of power delegitimized all the regimes in the region by association, since it made it all too obvious that none of them would have been able to put up any better resistance. It weakened them all. Since in these regimes fear of power is everything, it also strengthened their opponents.

-- Fred Hapgood

Juan Cole and the left may try their best to tell us how Bush has nothing to do with the apparent stirrings of democracy in the Middle East, but in a country that believes that Saddam was responsible for 9/11, the left will only come out looking like sore losers. Bush will get the credit (like Reagan did for "ending" Communism), and the left would be wise to end the carping and get on the bandwagon, because come Election Day, the left will be slaughtered once again if they are seen as impotent Monday-morning quarterbacks. Lead, folks, or get out of the way.

-- Jeffrey Abelson

[Read "Drilling ANWR Through With the Budget," by Katharine Mieszkowski.]

Are we ready to sacrifice the last undisturbed wilderness in the U.S. for the sake of supplementing 5 percent of our daily oil consumption? The U.S. Senate seems to think so.

We met worse energy shortages during the Carter administration and we conserved enough oil to nearly stop our dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf by raising the mileage standards for automobiles. We did it once then, and can do it even better now.

The oil won't belong to the U.S. or Alaska -- it will belong to the oil companies that provide the world's oil supply, not just ours. The resources from this Wildlife Refuge will turn into usable energy about the same time that China will become a leading consumer-based society in about 10 years.

Alaska's need for jobs and money cannot come at the cost of another permanent ecological stain on its beautiful coastline. The long-term damage is too great a cost.

-- Doug Cheever

Salon Staff

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