I do make an effort to read the sunday papers, though; it's like my token attempt to be informed. In particular, I like the column John Humphrys writes for the Sunday Times; I think he speaks a lot of sense. This week he says:
Consider the consequences of the United States backing down now.
The most obvious is that the prestige of Saddam Hussein would be enormously enhanced. He would be the man who had defied the mightiest superpower the world had ever seen. [...] Beyond his own borders Saddam would claim the leadership of the Arab world. And who would deny him? [...] On the other side of the world George Bush would sit in the Oval Office for the next 18 months and wait for the teeth of his political opponents to sink into his neck and drag him down at the election in 2004. I have spoken to several senior politicians on Capitol Hill in the past few days. Not one of them thinks Bush could contemplate going into that election with Saddam Hussein still in power.
Both sides know they are right. The hawks know that Saddam cannot be trusted. If he is left in power he will continue to develop his weapons of mass destruction until he is in a position not only to dominate the Middle East but to threaten the West. He has had twelve years to abide by UN resolutions and he has laughed in their face. If we do not deal with him, then ultimately he will deal with us - either directly or through his terrorist buddies.
The doves know that war would be a grossly immoral act. They point to a report by a UN taskforce leaked a few days ago which estimates that an attack on Iraq could kill up to 80,000 tropps and even more civilians. Half a million people would be injured or sick from diseases caused by the destruction of water and sewage services and the disruption of food supplies. There would be 2m displaced people inside Iraq and another 900,000 refugees would flee aross the borders.
The arguments will continue - and so they should. But increasingly it looks as though they are being conducted for the benefit of the historians. President Bush knows that returning is not an option.
Now to me, that seems pretty much unarguable. We have passed the point of no return: the political consequences of backing down, both on a personal and a global scale, are too great for any of the parties involved to seriously consider it. And whilst the idea of war is terrible and wrong, I am deeply uncomfortable with the thought of leaving Saddam where he is. It's an impossible decision, an irresistable force versus immovable object situation: You just have to roll a die and see which one is more compelling today.