More on Iraq and Humanitarian War.

Tim Lambert says that the UNICEF data that I rely on have been revised, and that child mortality was not higher during the sanctions regime than it is today. See his post for links to more recent reports. The case for the humanitarian effect of the war, then, would rest on the improvement in political freedoms and economic growth, which are more uncertain and harder to weigh against lives lost.

A number of people have raised the issue of refugees. The refugee problem is severe but it was also bad during the Saddam era (including massive internal displacement). A case can be made that it is worse now but likely to be better in the future if present trends in favor of security and political integration continue.

The other major criticism of my post was that the sanctions regime could have been eliminated, Saddam contained, and the Iraqi population adequately protected from him. I’m skeptical but have nothing new to offer this debate.

A number of people think that my post was meant as a defense of the Iraq war. I have long criticized the idea of humanitarian intervention and have never defended the Iraq war, which was certainly a mistake on the basis of national-interest considerations. But many people, including likely members of the Obama administration (such as Susan Rice, who has advocated a military intervention in Sudan), believe that humanitarian wars are justified. The humanitarian effect of a particular war is an empirical question. The answer in the Iraq case will help determine the Obama administration’s ability and willingness to launch humanitarian interventions in places like Sudan.