hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011
Thinking about Libya, the approach I think makes the most sense is making a list of everything it's possible for us to do concerning Libya, and apply (Dr.) Ben Carson's Best Case / Worst Case Analysis for each of them:

. . .Best Case / Worst Case Analysis: A Primer for Deciding When to Take a Risk

When wrestling with an important decision, Dr. Ben Carson suggests asking yourself these four questions:

1. What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?
2. What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?
3. What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t do it?
4. What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do it?

“I think through these questions from my point of view, that of the patient, the parents and any other party involved, and by the time I’m done I know that I have considered just about every possible scenario and outcome,” Dr. Carson insists. . .

There are things we can do concerning Libya which are worth the risk, and other things which are not. The question in Libya is should we make an attempt to throw sand in the gears of Gadaffi's killing machine, and risk getting involved in another Somalia, or worse? Daniel Davies has an emphatic post against intervening, but also links to Peter Galbraith's interview, which contains the best possible case for intervening, one which didn't convince Davies.

If there is one thing we have learned from Aghanistan and Iraq, it's that the military should not nation-build, and should not occupy, unless there is no choice. But that's not what's being called for in Libya. The issue is, when the people in power start killing people indiscriminately, what options do we have to stop it, or deter it, or make the people in power even slightly afraid of continuing to do it?

You don't have to be an enthusiast for military action to think we have some options for trying to stop a massacre we are witnessing, other than 10-year occupation or complete helplessness.

William Burton:

". . .I thought that we should make it stated policy to go after the leadership of the "rogue states" rather than simply killing off their armies of draftees as if poor teenagers were somehow stand-ins for the scumbags themselves. . .(I know all the legal/ethical/practical problems with this approach, but it's still far preferable to smart-bombing a few hundred thousand people into graves while their leaders walk)."

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