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12.4.03

Matt Yglesias points to a William Saletan post arguing that, since the war will, on balance, save more lives than not going to war, opposition to the war is based on keeping our hands clean. Matt agrees with this assessment (though not with the categorical suspicion of "clean hands" arguments that Saletan and I for the most part share), pointing out the "Not In Our Name" slogan as a classic example of clean hands rhetoric. I think they're right that there's a fair bit of clean hands thinking in the antiwar movement. That kind of thinking is the essence of idealism -- doing what you think is right, regardless of the consequences.

However, it's important not to caricature the whole antiwar movement as clean hands idealists. There are a fair number of us who disagree with Saletan's cost-benefit analysis about which course of action saves more lives in the long run (an analysis strongly affected by concern over the nature of the regime that will replace Saddam, and chalking up many of the deaths over the last ten years to misapplied sanctions that could be fixed without war).

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