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It won’t end with Iraq

This Iraq business. Every few weeks I sit down and try to write something short and sweet on the subject and it soon grows long and ugly. Yesterday I did it again. Today I’ll try it yet again. (And hurrah! Here it finally is. But long and ugly, I’m afraid.)

So. Iraq. Blah blah blah, cut cut cut. And then this:

The USA is not just squaring up to Saddam Hussein because he is a big bad threat, although I’m sure that’s part of it. It is also going to take out Saddam’s Iraq because it is a good place to set about influencing other important places from, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, and because it is takeable. Iraq is nasty, but it is also weak. Saddam Hussein is a monster and is known to be a monster, which makes him weak. Arabs aren’t nearly as opposed to the USA taking out Saddam as they would be if it attacked another of their countries, which makes him weak. Even the UN has resolved various things against Saddam over the years. So he’s vulnerable as well as threatening. The benefit of taking him out is big, while the cost of taking him out, by the standards of your average piece of conquest is quite low. I mean, imagine if the USA was instead trying to conquer Iran, or Egypt, or Saudi Arabia. Nightmare. Couldn’t happen.

The point is: USA thinking isn’t only about the rights and wrongs of invading Iraq, liberating the Iraqis, and stopping Saddam-bossed or Saddam-assisted future terrorist attacks. They have many other dishes on their menu besides him. The purpose of taking out Saddam is not just to take out Saddam, but to wrench the whole balance of power in the Muslim world into a different state, a state far less helpful to Islamofascist (and other) terrorists. The key questions are: Will the USA setting up shop right next to the very heart of the Muslim world like this enable it to take out terrorists and terrorist infrastructure more efficaciously than before? Will it persuade potential terrorists that, what with the USA getting so exercised, maybe they’d be better off forgetting about terrorism and becoming accountants and computer consultants? Or will it provoke now reasonably “good” Muslims into becoming terrorists the way they wouldn’t have done if the USA had just carried on Clintonising about it all? Presumably President Bush reckons that the answers to those questions add up to a big gain to the USA if they go into Iraq, and although I am definitely open to persuasion about all that, at the moment, for whatever difference it might make, I strongly agree with him.

Asking “Why Iraq?” and “Why not somewhere else?” is like asking “Why France?” and “Why not somewhere else?” in 1944. Lots of reasons, and meanwhile: be patient. They’ll get there. Basically, Iraq is the next big step that makes the most sense. But don’t confuse taking out Saddam with the endgame of this thing. Oddly enough, in Europe at any rate, it’s the opponents of Bush who are now being rather more public about this than Bush’s supporters. “It won’t end with Iraq”, said the protesters last Saturday. They’re right.

Tony Blair’s problem is that his public support for Bush is based on a diminished idea of what Bush is up to, which comes over as dishonest because it is. But, if Blair were publicly to support what Bush is really up to, that would be honest, but very probably even more unpopular, especially with his own Party, than what he is saying now. A lot – and I mean a lot – of British people think that the USA is quite assertive enough in the world now, thank you very much, without it getting an order of magnitude more assertive. I hope Americans realise what a public pickle Blair is getting himself into over this.

Meanwhile, whatever Blair or the Brits or the French or the Timbuktooans might say or think, the USA plan is to take Iraq, and following that, over the next few years, to make itself a lot safer than now from terrorist attacks by (a) chasing terrorists, absolutely everywhere on the planet, and by (b) putting whatever pressure is necessary on any government anywhere which is now not chasing terrorists to switch to chasing terrorists with comparable zeal to the USA, thereby making the USA, and the West and the World in general, massively safer from terrorist attack than we all are now. And if that also makes the USA a whole lot more of a force in the world even than it is now, well, the Americans can live with that.

Ah, the irony of it. The idea of 9/11 was that it would bring the Great Satan to its knees. Now it looks as if this attack, breaking the Machiavelli rule that if you attack your enemy you had better be in a position then to finish him off, is actually going to result in the Great Satan becoming a lot stronger. By launching that astonishing assault, the Islamofascists have turned the world into a place that the USA now feels it has to control far more completely than it ever has before, in sheer self defence, and in particular it has turned the Muslim world into something that the USA is now determined to plunged into the middle of and severely re-arrange.

I know, I know. Is what the USA is doing right? Well maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. But me? – I sympathise with the USA. If I’m right about what it’s doing and why, well, I think it all makes perfect sense. Plus, frankly, in situations like this, I’m far more interested simply in trying to work out what is happening than I am to inform the world of what ought, in my opinion, to be happening instead if I do not approve.

One final point, which strongly tilts me towards the USA in all this.

The USA is now powerful enough to influence large tracts of the world in a big way, provided it does mostly nice things (like squash terrorism, spread capitalism and spread democracy) and that will be mostly very good news for the world, in my opinion, even for most of the people who will never admit this. And the USA may also be stupid enough to do serious damage to itself in the process. War is the health of the state, etc. But what the USA is not capable of doing, now or for the foreseeable future, is to tyrannise over the world. The USA can’t, in other words, do to the world what Saddan Hussein and his cronies have been doing to Iraq for the last two decades, whatever the USA’s enemies now say. The USA is simply not constituted to do such a thing. It’s not in its nature, flawed though that may be. It doesn’t have either the will or the power to do this. Had the old USSR ever had the power of the current USA, who knows what it might have done, and how many more millions it might have slaughtered in the process? But the USA, no.

If the USA had two billion people in it and an economy twice its present size and growing really fast, and if all its internal checks and balances had either been castrated out of it by a succession of Julius Caesars (and there are some who say that exactly this last bit has already happened or will shortly happen) or else if the USA had never had any checks and balances in the first place – instead of a mere three hundred million (??) people and an economy chugging along okay, and a Constitution and a democratic political tradition that still counts (in my opinion) for a hell of a lot – then I wonder what I would think about the USA hegemonising in all directions the way it is now doing? Power corrupts, and absolute power, … etc. With a USA like that, I might regard even the occasional serious terrorist stunt in places like my own London SW1, even with WMDs, as a price worth paying to avoid such a world.

But as it is: go Uncle Sam. And then keep on going. Just don’t fuck up.

187 comments to It won’t end with Iraq

  • Julian Morrison

    And after the creation of the convenient empire, what then? Empires don’t run themselves for free yanno. Nor maintain themselves against counterrevolution by means of niceness.

  • S. Weasel

    I don’t know. The ‘puppet’ regimes of Germany and Japan seem to be running themselves pretty well. Let’s hope our leaders have the wisdom to try the same trick in Iraq.

  • Speaking as an American I have yet to hear anyone here even remotely advocating empire for empire’s sake. If anything most people are still isolationist. We’ve just been thrust into this role by everyone else. If you ask people here what they would really like to do they will tell you that the US should withdraw all aid and military support from the entire world and let others deal with the worlds problems for a change. We’d definitely be sure and tell anyone with designs on France and Germany that if they were invaded we sure wouldn’t show up.

    So even if you might think of it as a “convenient empire”, we won’t. We’ll do everything we can to create a stable government and then leave. We might keep a base there just so our sons and daughters can visit every now and then on big, grey cruise ships. But we don’t want an empire. We just want friendly nations who don’t go blowing us or anyone else up. If those same nations want to freely trade with us then so much the better. But if you leave us and everyone else alone we’ll most probably leave you alone.

  • As I watched the towers burn, I said, “They’ve made the same mistake the Japanese did. They’ve hit us just hard enough to really piss us off.

    Of course, I said this through gritted teeth and with a whole lot more profanity, but still…

  • There is no possibility of an American Empire.

    Once I would have argued the other position, but I’ve become convinced by my reading of history that, to maintain such an edifice, there are requirements the United States is unwilling to meet:
    – A huge army, kept full by conscription;
    – Logistical continuity with the provinces;
    – A domestic economy that can be made dependent on the continued possession of the provinces;
    – A nobility that can be made to see colonial expansion as an avenue toward personal and family aggrandizement;
    – A populace more interested in the expansion of the State’s powers than in its own freedoms and personal fortunes.

    America has its faults. Its government has many faults. But we’re too attached to fundamental concepts of rights, and much too prone to minding our own business, to become a nation of empire-builders.

    The United States has prosecuted its own soldiers for war crimes. The United States has freed its own protectorates. The United States has devoted billions of dollars to the rebuilding of nations it’s defeated in war. How could a nation that would do those things voluntarily undertake the subjugation of the peoples of lands so far away that we can’t even find them on our maps?

  • Russ Lemley

    “I hope Americans realise what a public pickle Blair is getting himself into over this.”

    Brian,

    This American realizes the huge chances Blair is taking to his political career. He is standing by his convictions resolutely, even though the vast majority of Britons oppose the war. For that, I can only admire him. (And I use the “a” word rarely.)

  • T. J. Madison

    >>(b) putting whatever pressure is necessary on any government anywhere which is now not chasing terrorists to switch to chasing terrorists with comparable zeal to the USA, thereby making the USA, and the West and the World in general, massively safer from terrorist attack than we all are now.

    I see. Will pressure be brought to bear on the Turks to stop terrorizing the Kurds, on the Russians to stop terrorizing the Chechians, on the Israelis/Palestinians to stop terrorizing each other, etc?

    I didn’t think so.

    This is why the “making the world safe for democracy” stuff rings so false. If we put pressure on our ALLIES to behave, it would be different — but we don’t.

    >>How could a nation that would do those things voluntarily undertake the subjugation of the peoples of lands so far away that we can’t even find them on our maps?

    Simple. The necessary atrocities are farmed out to the local Quislings — this way the U.S. electorate doesn’t have to look at them.

    A brief look at Indonesia shows how this is done.

  • A_t

    It’s precisely the utter confidence in the US displayed in this thread; this belief that US rule or influence will always be basically intrinsically benign, which scares us so much. The idea of any one government, representing the interests of a small minority of the world’s population, running the world, and no longer listening to the opinions of other governments, is not pleasing to me.

    “How could a nation that would do those things voluntarily undertake the subjugation of the peoples of lands so far away that we can’t even find them on our maps?”

    On the other hand, were this subjugation to occur, who apart from a few foreign policy wonks would even care? That’s another scary aspect of this idea; you’re proposing that the world be run by a government elected by the populace of what is essentially a pretty insular country.

    Also, do you think other democracies should be given some say in what goes on, or should US just rule the roost? If there is some power-sharing, should this take place in a formal context (like some united nations of democracies), or on a case-by case basis of alliances, treaties & agreements?

  • Byna

    It appears that you are not disagreeing with the proposition that saddam and Iraq are a problem, and that they should go.

    By trying to prevent war with Iraq, you are actualy hurting your cause. the pacifists are expending their political capital for a cause in which they are obviously wrong. After Iraq has been defeated, the pacifists will look even worse.

    When the US sets our sights in the next country (Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea?), the pacifists will be ignored, since they will obviously have been in support of the wrong side previously.

    In other words, stop wasting your time trying to stop the right course of action, and wait until the US over-steps and then try to stop us. The American people can be incluenced, but if you have already discredited yourself, it will be harder for you to have influence.

  • Robert

    Byna, don’t bet on this: “the pacifists will be ignored…”

    In the 80′s, American medium range missiles in Europe brought out the “pacifists” protesting in the millions. The Soviet (remember them?) missiles didn’t. And yet when this and other American moves placed the Evil Empire on the dust bin of history, did the “pacifists” lose their influence? Saturday proved that to be false.
    OBTW, the term pacifist is much too kind. There would have been legions carrying signs demanding of Saddam that he disarm and free his people if they were pacifists. What you witnessed Saturday was an exercise in protest against US policy.

    A_t, the US didn’t “run things” following August, 1945, even though they held the nuclear monopoly and military preeminence. Why would the same country, the same people, make a different decision now? if it’s because you believe only foreign policy wonks would care about the subjugation of the world, you’ve forgotten or don’t realize the free press and it’s power. The election following the subjugation of any country would turn on that event and the incumbunts would be swept out of office.

  • Thanks for the outstanding analysis. I agree completely.

    When one considers the tremendous danger terrorists now present (via weapons of mass destruction), it is clear that the United States must create a world in which no government anywhere will support terrorists that threaten us.

    We will do this out of self defense. We do not need to be distracted by things like trying to solve all the injustices in the world (one of the other commenters mentioned the Kurds). Most people in the US and elsewhere have not yet made the mental leap needed to understand that this is a deadly serious issue about the defense of our civilians. In those circumstances, we will do what is necessary. If that means setting up a despot somehwere because we can’t set up a suitable democracy, so be it. That’s their problem, not ours!

    The Bush administration has been quietly putting out the word that an untraceable biological attack on the US that causes mass casualties will result in THE END of every regime that might possibly have been behind it. THAT is the sort of deadly seriousness that is needed here.

    This isn’t a matter of empire. It a matter of defense. If we need to temporarily set up an empire or two to achieve it, then we must do so. But the United States cannot and will not run an empire, as pointed out by the author of this blog. Not for any length of time. We aren’t that kind of people… we do not have the ideology or the determination to do that sort of thing..

    Let the world beware! If we have to kill 10 million people to protect our civilians from a huge smallpox attack, then we will reluctantly do so. We demonstrated in World War II that we can be ruthless, and ruthlessness is called for in this kind of serious situation. As another poster commented, the attack on 9-11 was the worst thing the Islamicists could do – to themselves… well, almost the worst thing. Let them turn loose smallpox or another contagious biological agent, and Afghanistan will look like kids with cap guns.

  • The iron logic of empire could easily have turned the US into an empire, by supplying the missing elements F. Poretto correctly cites, if the world were in the same state it was in Augustus’ time. The saving factor is that the world is so much less stable and technological developments are moving so fast that the evolution to empire will not work today. Cultural hegemony is possible, but even that can disappear overnight. But as anti-missile programs and security tech make state-sponsored terrorism less and less likely to be successful, good old America isolationism is likely to return. The business of America is, after all, business, not empire.

  • addison

    What A_t misses is that most Americans would rather have absolutely nothing to do with foreign nations, aside from trade–”Oooh, this dress is from Austria?” Political and cultural isolationism is in the blood.

    You know why most American high school kids don’t know where Iran is on a map? They don’t care. They’re not stupid, they just had little reason to be particularly interested.

    While isolationist in spirit, most Americans simply wish the rest of the world would stop screwing everything up when left to their own devices (Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao, Milosevic, Japanese Imperialism, bin Laden, etc.). When the “screwing up” is large enough, call out the G.I.s.

    Lastly, most who claim that America desires an empire are missing something: If America wanted that, it could have had it yesterday. The military power possessed by America is simply breathtaking and there is no nation–particularly Arab nations–that could withstand more than a week or two of full onslaught. It would be a forgone conclusion were it the case.

  • Riedel

    The more I read about the coming conflict, the more pro-war I become. But seeing the track record of foreign policy in America’s recent past (Panama, Haiti, Nicaraqua, hell even Iraq itself) I just become incredibly reluctant to allow Bush the green light to depose Saddam. Whether you blame his incompetence or the media’s constant focus on his incompetence, I’m sure fears of what Bush and oil-related interests will do to Iraq after the war drives the anti-war demonstrations at least as much as general anti-American sentiment.

  • T. Hartin

    TJ Madison asks:

    Will pressure be brought to bear on the Turks to stop terrorizing the Kurds, on the Russians to stop terrorizing the Chechians, on the Israelis/Palestinians to stop terrorizing each other, etc?

    I believe pressure is being brought on the Palestinians to stop blowing up Israeli children, but the other “counterexamples” miss the point of what the war on terror is all about.

    The U.S. is not out to eradicate violence from the planet, and it is not even out to get rid of every terrorist organization. Rather, it is targeting the Islamic terrorists who attacked us and their state sponsors. The Russians, the Turks, and the Israelis did not attack the U.S., and are not sponsoring those who did. Therefore, they are not our enemies in this war.

    Simple, eh? Now, the Russians etc. might be misbehaving, but as far as we are concerned, that is not our problem just now because they are not trying to kill us.

  • Brian, a solid job–you finally wrestled the pig down and did it justice–as a blogger myself, scribbling about Iraq is a difficult task, at least if brief and pithy are your guideposts.

    Having said that, I simply am befuddled by the comments of A_T and TJ Madison. Perhaps it is my provincial Americanism, but i sense that lurking within their posts is the charge of American Empire…that somehow we have designs on Iraq, other than de-militarization and regime change.

    Mr Mealing sums it about up, but Ill expand: Most Americans could care less about the larger world, outside of travel, tourism and trading opportunities. If the European union could prove itself capable of policing its own front yard, if the UN took anything other than itself seriously, If the mid-east was good for anything else other than oil and producing evermore virulent strains of despotism….you must get the picture by now.

    The global governing model has failed, largely. The uni-lateral actions of a constitutionally governed sovereign are what’s left. Thank goodness are intentions are for the good, or you’d really have soemthing to psot about.

  • JorgXMcKie

    It never ceases to amaze me that more-or-less the same people who claim Americans don’t understand other countries and cultures then demonstrate so little understanding of Americans. I know of very few, if any, who regard *any* war as glorious. It is a job that needs to be done, under certain circumstances, just like emptying a cess-pool. It ain’t fun, but it’s just gotta be done.

    No ordinary American wanted to rule Japan, or Germany, or South Korea, and would just as soon bring all the troops home. period, end of statement. However, that cess-pool fills up, and it’s gotta be drained.

    I teach American govt, among other things, and my students have been, over the years. a nice cross-section of Middle America — the Heartland. Uniformly they want other people to enjoy what we do — free and freely contested elections, free speech, freedom to practice their religion, relatively free markets (their are some crooked, greedy bastards out there, after all), the right to try new things and keep your winnings if there are any, free or cheap education, freedom from fear of your own govt, private property rights, fair courts and access to them, relative equality of rights and privileges, etd. They simply don’t see how we could impose this by force or why we should need to, since every day they watch new immigrants flood to us in search of these things.

    We don’t to be loved. We don’t care. We would like to be respected because we have earned it, and we do care, in some circumstances. We want other people to rule themselves as they wish, so long as they leave others alone.

    In short, we would like good neighbors. By definition, these are folks who live nearby, offer help when you need it, leave you alone when you want it and know the difference. We actually do try to be good neighbors. Unfortunately, not all others are equally good neighbors *cough France* and others, like Iraq, et al are criminals. Time to empty the cess-pool

  • Rather than bringing the Great Satan to its knees, the attack caused it to rise to its feet and start moving.

  • H. Myers

    Brian:

    Bulls-eye.

    I would add that sitting astride the world’s second largest known oil reserves would make the enterprise potentially self-financing, and would add economic leverage to the arsenal of tools needed to turn the tables on terrorists and their apologists.

  • Brian Smith

    The best possible gaurentee against American Empire is firmly in place; America doesn’t care one whit about the rest of the planet. American doesn’t want to even THINK about the rest of the planet. The world can rest assured that the moment America feels reasonably secure from the world intruding in unpleasant ways, America will cheerfully forget all about it. Indeed, the extent to which America has remained willfully ignorant of the rest of the planet even whilst engadged in more or less dominating it is extraordinary. I myself, while serving in the US Armed forces during the Cold War, not infrequently met US Soldiers that had never heard of the Berlin Wall or realized that there was a distinction between East and West Germany.
    To subjugate another people one must have not only the proper mindset, which America lacks, but must even more fundamentally one must percieve that other people as worth subjugating, which America, perhaps insultingly, does not. And it is hard to imagine any combination of social or economic forces that might, in the foreseable future, penetrate America’s adamantine self-absorbtion.
    So relax, world; America doesn’t care enough to conquer.

  • Katherine

    For the first time I see somebody say it like it is – simple, unvarnished truth. Amen, brother.

  • Will pressure be brought to bear on the Turks to stop terrorizing the Kurds, on the Russians to stop terrorizing the Chechians, on the Israelis/Palestinians to stop terrorizing each other, etc?

    To be frank, those conflicts are of less value to us than stopping the “big fish” currently fouling the sea. Our priorities, as they seem to be, aim us towards the most egregious state offenders and the ones that have the best chances of influencing international terrorism. What we’re doing is focusing on the biggest problems (and within that set, the single largest two: Iraq & North Korea) and once we win we move on. Hence the lessened attention on Afghanistan, which I’ll admit is somewhat poor form on Bush since our superficial lack of effort in rebuilding has given our critics one of the few good reasons to oppose an Iraqi invasion. Also hence the relatively little focus on Iran.

    Sequential regime change and then we turn to the smaller, localized problems. Turkey and the Kurds are a special case since we’d like to go through Turkey to invade Iraq through the north. That’s probably going to result in an ugly compromise (ignoring the Kurdish independence movement) if Bush decides we really need that northern option. If this happens, it would be a victory of politics over liberty.

    I’m sure Bush isn’t as buddy-buddy with Putin as he once was, so Chechyna should not be written off so cavalierly. Since it involves Muslims seeking independence, it would be a massive PR coup for Bush to putting public pressure on Putin to back off and let them govern themselves. Now that we’re out of the ABM political entanglement and now that Russia has essentially sided with France on the Iraq issue, we have less to lose by supporting their independence. Of course, I’m partially talking out of my ass here since my knowledge of the conflict and the region is limited.

    Israel/Palestine can’t be resoved as long as both sides continue to see benefit in fighting. It’s too emotionally heated and embedded in the culture over there to get involved any more than we are now. Bush’s stance that Palestinians won’t be relevant until they accept democracy and liberty is the correct one to take.

    Those side issues (to the US for the moment) need to be addressed clearly and with an absolute backing for liberty and freedom. But they can’t all be addressed at once.

  • Tim

    American’s do not want an empire. They want other countries to behave. ‘Behave’ means you don’t start wars, and you don’t support and protect terrorists. If you behave, America will leave you alone. If you don’t behave, America will very reluctantly (though very effectively) move in and force you to behave. If you don’t want American interference, then act civilized and we will be happy to leave you alone.

  • Riedel, what did Bush have to do with Panama, Haiti, Nicaraqua, and state of Iraq before this time period? All of those conflicts/problems happened under the administrations of other presidents. And just what do you think “Bush and oil-related interests” are going to do to Iraq that is worse than what Saddam Hussein has done? We aren’t going to “steal” their oil. If that was all we wanted, there would be no conflict because there would have been no sanctions. Hussein would have loved to be able to sell his oil at top dollar on the open market.

    Vague, unspecified fears are no argument against war; they’re an excuse to bloviate.

  • S. Weasel

    To build an empire would completely violate America’s self-image. We see ourselves as the anti-empire.

    We do have interests around the world, business and otherwise, and we’re willing to use force to protect them. I believe some are choosing to definte that as “empire”.

    Incorrectly, in my view.

  • Spot-On Brian. Iraq isn’t the end of the road, it’s just the next step. I just wish we’d move a little a faster — we should already have finished off Iraq this summer and we should be preparing to overthrow the government of Iran already.

  • Russ Goble

    Wow, so much to respond to. First, Brian’s post I think is spot on and I really don’t have anything to add to that.

    What I’ll address is the understandable handwringing going on with regards to American hegomony (sp?)/empire.

    First off, A_t’s comments reak of the ignorant anti-American rants from so many of the protesters. Please, give me an example where the U.S. “runs” the world. The U.S. may have a disproportionate say in how countries conduct business between each other at the head of state level, but when it comes to the internal politics of other countries, the U.S. has very little influence, nor does it desire it. And it is the internal politics (free of American influence) that “run the world”.

    I mean, if we are running the world, then we are doing one piss poor job of it. Why the hell are we spending so much time sending Colin Powell to U.N. to get lectured by the Syrians, Chinese and Russians, not to mention mindnumbingly hypocritical “allies” like Germany and France. I mean, didn’t they get the memo? THE U.S. RUNS THE WORLD.

    But, I’ll continue with a thread I had on Antoine Clark’s posts last week. The U.S. is simply not constructed for empire. The system of checks and balances in this nation are enormous in their complexity and influence. Likewise, we are a REAL democracy. We have a REAL free and highly critical press (despite what Susan Surandon says).

    The president can only do so much, militarily or diplomatically without having to get some sort of approval from Congress (let alone the courts). And the side of Congress that controls the purse strings is up for reelection every 2 years, plenty of time for public opinion to sway. For the U.S. to become a true empire like people think they are would require an amazing turn of events to take place legally, politically, intellectually and culturally. It’s just not in the cards any time in the near future.

    And as someone noted before, we had an absolute nuclear veto over the world for four years after WWII and didn’t exercise it. And that was BEFORE a whole subculture of self-haters came in to being in this country via the radicalism of the 1960s. It’s simply not what we do.

    Michael Mealing properly maps out the strong isolationists strain in the U.S., with addison humorously adding to it.

    BTW, Jim Bennett’s latest anglosphere pretty well explains what would have to happen for the U.S. to turn into an empire:

    http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20030215-045050-2077r

    And, if any of you buy into the idea that free speech is being silenced over here, please explain to me why so many of the “peace” rallies were so widely covered in the American media without once showing that actual real live communists took part and often organized the rallies? If the mainstream media isn’t free, it’s certainly not because it’s a fan of Bush.

  • Right on both counts – that bin Laden forgot that when you strike at a king, you have to kill him. And that the long-term project appears to be the entire Middle East. It’s going to be a long, large-scale draining of the swamp.

    If it works it’ll be good news for both the people there (who won’t have their current worthless kleptocracies on top of them) and for the rest of the world. We’ll have new markets to trade with, and a whole region can start to join in on the arts and sciences that they sadly make so little contribution to now.

    I’m a chemist by trade (which furnishes much of the subject matter of my blog.) It’s terrible to see what a scientific desert the Middle East is. You just have to look at the accomplishments of their people when they come to free societies to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.

  • Kevin

    The problem with Russia and the Chechens is that Russia isnt harsh enough. The Chenchens are some of the most radical Islamists right now (Partly Russias fault but more because of where they are and conflicts they’ve had with other regional figures.) If think part of Russia’s deal is they want us to allow them a free hand in Chechnya, and we should.

    If Osama is alive and not in Pakistan, or Iraq, he’s in Chechnya.

  • Richard

    Brian, you are absolutely correct. To be even blunter:

    You don’t have much that we want. Certainly, you don’t have anything that we want so much that we’ll steal it. The things we do want, we’ll buy. If you don’t want to sell them to us, that’s fine, we’ll find them somewhere else. Foreign policy as free market.

    American teenagers don’t care where Iran is? NO American cares where Iran is. If we want to go there, we’ll go to the airport and take out a gold card and say “we want to go to Iran.” Like magic, 24 hours later we’re in Iran.

    Americans are like the childless couple that takes in troubled teenagers, cleans them up, gets them through school and sends them on their way. Empire? We don’t want the kids underfoot forever! You have to feed them!!

  • Andy Freeman

    US foreign affairs/policy is, for the most part, described by four rules.
    (1) If you’ve got cool stuff, we’d like to buy it.
    (2) If you’ve got money, we’d like to sell you our cool stuff.
    (3) If you kill/threaten Americans or tolerate those who do, we will kill you.
    (4) If you “need killing” or tolerate those who do, we might kill you.

    Hussein/Iraq is covered by rule (4) (with a bit of “tolerate” wrt rule (3)). Pointing out that there are other targets for rule (4) doesn’t get him off the hook, especially if the pointer doesn’t want us to go after them either.[1]

    If you don’t like rule (4), there’s an easy way to make it inapplicable – take care of folks who “need killing”. We don’t care how you do it, so feel free to demonstrate “superior methods”. However, if you fail/don’t bother, as is the case with Iraq, you don’t have a legit beef.

    [1] I’m pretty sure that the “what about North Korea” folks are opposing US action in Iraq because they want the US to use those forces in North Korea. That makes the WANK argument doubly irrelevant – whatever it is they want the US to do about North Korea is independent of any US action in Iraq.

  • You hit the nail on the head. Only Blair can judge if he should be more open or not, but as an American who doesn’t always agree with Bush (e.g., I think Steel Tariffs were a huge mistake), I fully support my President’s war on terrorism.

    Let’s liberate the Iraqis this year and help free others soon thereafter.

  • Angela_T

    Although I am force to acknowledge the *rightness* of the sentiments expressed in the majority of these comments it is the overiding tone of the US position that gives me greatess sadness. It is exactly the insular approach alluded to by the majority of the posts that precipitates the decision to march against the US actions.
    From my perspective as a supposed ally, part of the coalition of the willing, it is the actions of the US on high falutin’ principles – such as the supposed Free Trade (screw your partners when the US domestic economy demands it) – that highlight the hypocrisy of the *public* statements around why Iraq must be invaded. On a *world policeman* front, am I to suppose that the murder of peaceful Tibetan monks should be ignored in a global community because it doesn’t suit the US to get upset about it?
    How come the US can remove democratically elected leaders in South America and replace them with murderious tyrants at will, but can’t remove a regime such as Saddams’s, responsible for gross crimes against humanity, through the same covert means?
    I’m sorry, it’s the hypocrisy I’m marching aginst.

  • the Punk

    As far as setting up shop right next door to the Arabs: It’s worked out so well for Israel, hasn’t it?

    And as far as 9/11 being intended to bring us to our knees: That’s not how I remember it. I thought OBL was hoping to create World War III between the Christian and Moslem worlds, to incite the U.S. to attack Arab countries so that they would finally rise up as one against the West. Looks like his game plan is working pretty well to me. We’re following the script to the letter.

  • Lance

    I concur, Brian.

    I might add that American involvement in WWII and the subsequent Cold War took 50 years before victory. Skirmishes (i.e. North Korea) still raise their ugly heads from time-to-time. I expect the defeat of religious totalitarianism will take even longer.

    As literacy rates in Iraq have plunged from >85% to <40% in the past 12 years, we will wish we had begun this war sooner. But it takes a tough leader to make this decision. Fortunately we have one now that knows the longer we wait, the longer it will take.

    P.S. Many thanks for the Blog glossary on your site. I am new to this and it has been a great help. Blurker no more!

  • Raoul Ortega

    If this was going to be “war for oil”, we’d get a better return on our investment by supporting efforts to remove Chavez from power in Venezuela. Go back and read what happened during the April coup attempt. And if we really wanted cheap oil, we’d encourage Ralph Klein and Albertan separatism, such as it is.

    As for “Israel/Palestine can’t be resoved as long as both sides continue to see benefit in fighting.” Both sides? Israel has repeatedly made attempts to do everything but actually surrender. The only thing missing was the lack of an offer for the right of free passage for “martyrs” to continue their religious observeances. That you think they are as culpable shows how little you are paying attention, and how good some propaganda can be.

  • Ratbane

    I think the basic analysis is correct. Taking Iraq is basically a strategic move. As it is the US has to dicker with Turkey and Qatar and other states which are used as staging grounds for military action. As the Gulf War showed, even with cooperative states it took months to transport and deploy the forces. Once Iraq is conquered the US will have a base in the center of the middle east from which they can project massive force in hours rather than months. I seriously doubt that any regime in the area which is “requested” to turn over terrorists residing or operating in their jurisdictions would refuse. The consequences of refusal would simply be too high and potentially immediate.

  • Russ Goble

    Angela, you said:

    “It is exactly the insular approach alluded to by the majority of the posts that precipitates the decision to march against the US actions”

    Most of the posts here have been talking about the U.S.’s “live and let live, and hey can I buy some of that” attitude. This is a libertarian site you are posting on. I’d hope you could appreciate that.

    And please, can we just get off of Chile? It happened 30 years ago. The world order was WAY different then. And Hitler was elected and we removed him didn’t we? Mugabe and Hugo Chavez are elected. If the CIA take them out, then you may have a point. Assuming of course, they are replaced with a dictator. But, given the RECENT track record, I don’t think that is likely.

    As for hypocrisy, we are in a real world, and there’s bound to be some level of hypocrisy. Yes, Bush’s steel tariffs decision was bad. All politicians do calculating things. It’s the level of calculation and critical analysis by the media that keeps that stuff in check. Bush also proposed the most ambitious free trade agenda I’ve ever heard from any Western president a few months after the steel tariff’s decision. Should the steel tariff decision completely remove the validity of any free trade proposals he makes in the future? No. Look at the aggregate decisions and then make your analysis.

    But, if you are marching against hypocrisy, their are far FAR more examples of outright hypocrisy in the anti-war and anti-U.S. movement. Did you march against France’s involvement in the Ivory Coast? What about Russia’s in Chechnya? Or China’s continual saber-rattling around Taiwan? What about France’s oil contracts in Iraq? Marched against those lately? Just curious.

    And believe me, the U.S. doesn’t want to be the world’s policeman. I think that’s been established on this thread. But, if we see a viable threat against our citizens, then policing we will go. I sympathize with Tibet, but it is simply isn’t anything we can get involved in outside of the rhetorical. And I hope you can see that the world is a complex place. Not every situation has to be handled the same way, simply for the sake of consistency. Brian’s entire point is that Iraq is next because it is the best option for achieving real change. But that doesn’t mean we’ll invade North Korea or Iran or Saudi Arabia. They each require different approaches. That’s life in the real world.

    I’m sure you don’t treat every person you know the exact same. Certain personalities require different approaches.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Also, do you think other democracies should be given some say in what goes on, or should US just rule the roost?

    The question is based on a false premise. The US is not interested in “ruling the roost”.

    However, we can discuss whether “the other democracies” should have any say wrt Iraq or US actions in general.

    The short answer WRT Iraq is “no”. “The other democracies” had 12 years, and failed.

    Also, they’ve chosen to spend their resources elsewhere, so why should they have any say over how the US uses its resources?

    There are plenty of opportunities for “the other democracies” to do their thing without US interference/control/say. When they succeed, great. However, ….

  • Keith Gill

    I’m not an American, but I AM passionately pro-US.Seems to me that the biggest threat to the safety of Western values is, paradoxically, an element of U.S. politics illustrated perfectly by Carter and Clinton. ie the Democrats. Their weak-kneed response to attacks on America and to anti-Americanism allowed terrorism to flourish during their terms in office. Not so much because of their personal failings, but because they were hostage to the whole academic/pc/lefty drivel that sometimes passes for serious debate among the Left.
    If the U.S. is to prevail and preserve the values that made it great, then Americans had better get used to voting Republican for the forseeable future.

  • Dan

    I see. Will pressure be brought to bear on the Turks to stop terrorizing the Kurds, on the Russians to stop terrorizing the Chechians, on the Israelis/Palestinians to stop terrorizing each other, etc?

    “Will?” It already has been. Those are all difficult areas to deal with, though. World opinion favors the Palestinians, who are doing the majority of the terrorizing in that conflict, so a resolution isn’t likely soon. Chechnya seems determined to align itself with al Qaeda and its sympathizers, so helping them isn’t likely to be a priority. And we need Turkey as an ally against an even worse oppressor of Kurds.

  • Among other things, Angela_T says:

    “On a *world policeman* front, am I to suppose that the murder of peaceful Tibetan monks should be ignored in a global community because it doesn’t suit the US to get upset about it?”

    This has nothing to do with what “suits” the US but with what is feasible. Even if US armed forces were twice as big as they are now, it would not be possible to liberate Tibet, either directly or by overthrowing the current government of China. The Chinese army and nation are too numerous, the land areas much too large, Tibet is too far away, too high, too rugged (to put it mildly), too roadless, and so on. It simply cannot be done, so there’s no point in complaining that it is not being done. On Tibet, we can only hope to influence China by peaceful means. (Protecting Taiwan is a different matter: the US Navy is large enough, and Taiwan’s own military strong enough, that that can and should be done. Having a wide strait in between helps, too.)

    Similarly, the US could liberate Grenada by force, and could liberate Cuba at great cost, but Estonia and Poland and Czechoslovakia and a bunch of other places had to wait for the Soviet Union to collapse from internal decay. They were all too far from the US and too close to the USSR for any military measures to have worked at all. What would be the point of wasting lives on a useless gesture?

    So why is no one (except Cuban immigrants) complaing that we haven’t liberated Cuba yet?

  • Andy Freeman

    > On a *world policeman* front, am I to suppose that the murder of peaceful Tibetan monks should be ignored in a global community because it doesn’t suit the US to get upset about it?

    (1) The US isn’t, and isn’t interested in being, the “world policeman”.
    (2) Go for it, solve the Tibet problem. The US won’t stop you.

    Or, is the real problem that the US is not interested in doing what you want? Tough.

    If you’re the EU, you’re learning one of the consequences of choosing extra butter over guns. If you don’t like those consequences, make a different decision.

    BTW – One might argue that the Tibet problem is 2-3x as serious as Iraq. Consider, however, whether the EU’s reaction to the US solution to Iraq is going to make the US more, or less, likely to provide muscle to back up a Tibet solution. (The EU is capable of implementing any non-muscle solutions, so if there’s still a problem, either non-force doesn’t work OR the EU is failing.)

  • T. J. Madison

    This debate reminds me of the Council of Elrond, particularly Boromir of Gondor’s suggestion that somebody take the One Ring and use it against Sauron.

    I don’t believe Boromir’s reasoning can be dismissed lightly. Perry’s argument for the use of the U.S. military in Iraq is similar: we have this incredible power right here just sitting around, we’ve paid for most of it already, why not use it for something constructive? Since the people of Iraq need to be liberated badly, why not pick up this big hammer and smash their cages?

    I would love to see this work. I particularly look forward to seeing the U.S. Marines redeem themselves, becoming true Liberator Paladins by freeing the innocent and vanquishing the hated tyrant.

    Yet I recognize that this incredible military power is extremely dangerous. Were it to fall into the wrong hands, there would be no force on Earth strong enough to resist it.

    Three things stand in the way of this power being abused: the wisdom and honesty of the U.S. leadership, the ability of informed Americans to judge and replace that leadership, and the willingness of the military itself to defy illegal and manifestly immoral orders.

    If I was fairly confident that the above restraints were strong and functional, I would go along with this war and the resulting further expansion of U.S. power. Alas, the more I dig, the less I trust that the USG is honest and wise. As a result of dishonesty and disinformation, I don’t believe the U.S. public is properly informed about the ability of the USG to deliver on its promises. Worst of all, in the past, elements of the U.S. military have demonstrated the ability to engage in Ye Liveliest Awfulness when ordered to. The fact that these acts are widely underreported and misrepresented isn’t encouraging either.

    I’d love to be proven wrong.

    Vote in my tiny LoTR poll:

    The One Ring was evil because of its maker: 1
    The One Ring was evil because of its power: 0

  • I hate to say it, but I’ve been saying most of this for over a year.

    The various Middle Eastern regimes–especially Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and some others, are playing both sides of the fence on terrorism.

    The way to frighten them is to take out a regime in the middle of their territory, and to have an established presence there.

    In the process we will liberate people from a horrid dictator, and make the world safer.

    They cannot say all this. But it’s what they have in mind. It’s unlikely they’ll have to invade Iran, Syria, or Saudia Arabia. Just taking out Iraq will prove we are a force to be reckoned with, and make it easier to lean on them, diplomatically and otherwise.

  • Richard L. Leed

    Small but important correction: Lord Acton said not “power corrupts” but “power tends to corrupt”.

  • Howard Veit

    All power is abused depending on the observer. That is not the issue. Neither is the accusation of “Empire” a now completely out moded term. Who needs the raw materials of weaker nations any more? Nobody needs Africa, Asia, Pukeistan, France, or MamboAmerica.

    What is the same is the way in which the wealthy nation states are home for the multi-national corporations. It is these multi-nationals that make their homes wherever they choose, who then seek out the lowest cost place on the planet in which to manufacture, create, and distribute their wares.

    It is this type of activity that is being branded as “Imperialism” today. The old line Communists are still at it but they have redefined their dogma. No longer do they wait for the workers in capitalist societies to “throw off their chains”. It has become clear that capitalism continues to make life better and better for workers in the established capitalist countries. They now blame American and other capitalist “workers” along with the business “owners” for making the Third World workers poor. It is the capitalist workers themselves who are at fault which makes the killing of workers in America and Europe OK. The workers in capitalist countries are the problem.

    This is the scenario. Unite the Third World in a war against the capitalist world including their workers. This is what is going on right now. The Communists are trying to make America the devil before going after Europe and parts of Asia. What America is doing now may end the latest Communist efforts IF Iraq is allowed to become an economic and politically free country.

    The basis of the article is correct. Once Iraq falls the rest of the terror apparatus will fall too and once more the Communist efforts will go away….til the next time.

  • Cliff Styles

    Quite right about the big picture, Brian.

    There are two big ironies in your big picture. One is that the enabling technologies that buff up petty dictators come mostly from us. These enabling technologies are going to get faster, cheaper and better, thanks to us. The result, without a bit of government reform in areas with unearned high income and vile polities, is going to be faster, cheaper, more powerful dictators. It will conversely get harder, more expensive and more dangerous to stop them.

    The other big irony is the the anti-imperialist ethos is what created this problem in the first place. The parade of Arab nationalists, using the worst of imported western ideas of nationalism, socialism, and anti-imperialism, took over the oil revenues with our acquiescence and put them into the hands of people who make the international oil companies look like Florence Nightingale.

    Go for it – transform the oil-rich Islamofascist core, and use the recovered oil revenue to pay for the enterprise. The rest of the oil revenue can go into an escrow account, and used to reward good government, wherever it emerges.

    And as for the rest us, we’ll get back on the cheap flights to Paris and New York bistros and boulevards…or wherever.

  • Bill Rice, Jr.

    Sir -

    My compliments on an excellent analysis. If America wants to greatly reduce the odds our country is a terrorists’ target, we must greatly reduce the number of would-be terrorists in the word.
    To help achieve this result, We must also change the system that indoctrinates these potential terrorists.

    It’s politically incorrect, but the only way to achieve this goal is to change regimes, societies and mindsets that are conditioned to be anti-U.S., anti-democracy and anti-capitalism.

    When authoritarian, Islamist countries finally embrace democracy and free markets, they will have no incentive or burning desire to “kill the oppressor” whom they blame for all of their personal and societal shortcomings.

    The friendly reality of trade and (more) similar cultures go a long way toward precluding violent attacks.

    America (with our great allies like the UK) defeated communism thanks to economic reasons and mass communication advancements. The “bad guys” finally realized how “bad” their system was. Today, former communist “enemies” are trading partners and no threat. The same thing will happen eventually with the Mideast Islamic backwards nut-cases. They will eventually surrender – many, no doubt fighting and screaming – to the modern marvels of progress and enlightenment.

    It might take a decade, a century, a millenium, but it will happen.

    And we need to get on with the process. Iraq, as you pointed out, is a great starting point. A beachhead if you will. When Iraq’s condition improves, the people of other Mideast countries will quickly learn the same lesson Germany and Japan learned – i.e., “The Great Satan” and Bad Old USA wasn’t so mean cruel afterall. As more nations clamor for economic progress, liberty and freedom, the number of angry young aspiring suicide bombers will shrink.

    They will be too enthralled watching M-TV and playing with their home computers to build explosive devises, and they might just see that the “infidels” weren’t so monstrous after all.

    So the reasons to kill the bully Sadamm are – as you point out (and I concur) – multi-fold:

    1. He’s building weapons that can be used against us.
    2. He’s terrorizing and holding back his own people.
    3. We CAN.
    4. It will help counter the growth of the dangerous anti-West, Islamist brain-washing.
    5. It will send a message to other would-be “evil-doers.”
    6. It will help civilize and modernize a backward people who once they leave their backward ways will be NICER to US and produce far fewer terrorists who want to kill us all.

    ‘Tis a good move, all around, peace protesters be damned.

  • Interesting reference to the Lord of the Rings. As I recall, Tolkien wrote that if he’d intended the trilogy as some sort of commentary on the real world he would have had the good guys take the Ring and use it against Sauron, and be corrupted by it.

  • This analysis is wrong, wrong, wrong.

    First: If hitting the WTC was supposed to make America mad, it did that. And yes, it should have gotten us to attack the terrorists who did it with all of our force. We did that, we went into Afghanistan, and we routed Al Qaeda and their Taliban allies.

    Now what? Not even the Bush Administration is claiming that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. Hussein didn’t strike the WTC, Al Qaeda did. Not a single Iraqi was among the hijackers.

    When was the last time we took out a secular Muslim leader? Anybody remember Mossadeq? Read about it here in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-index.html

    Mossadeq was a democratically elected socialist. The CIA, prodded by Britain, decided to orchestrate a coup against him. Mossadeq was replaced by the Shah, who ruled with an iron fist.

    What was the eventual result of that? Anybody remember?

    Can anybody spell B-L-O-W-B-A-C-K?

    The analysis is correct that Saddam is weak. And that’s pretty much why we’re going in there — not because Saddam had anything to do with 9/11. As a result, we’re draining resources from other priorities, like domestic security (many reservists come from police and fire departments, as the LA Times reported yesterday: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-na-reserves17feb17004434,1,3196362.story ), the FBI funding is getting cut, partly due to budget constraints imposed upon us by Bush’s tax cuts and the exorbitant cost of the war and occupation of Iraq.

    In fact, it’s exactly the opposite: the cost of going into Iraq will be very high, politically, militarily, monetarily, and the benefits will be comparatively small. Iraq is a weak target, but it isn’t a central one. Just because we can stomp on a weak enemy doesn’t mean we should, because there is a little thing called, let me spell it again:

    B-L-O-W-B-A-C-K.

  • J.Shearer

    The reason that Blair is in a pickle is because this whole Iraq biz has been allowed to go on for so long. It should have been finished last March. With that success, there would have been only mild objection with continuing the process of liberting the arab world.

  • Angela – it sounds like we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t in your eyes. You acknowledge the “rightness” of the point that the US doesn’t want to take over the world (a by-product of its insular attitudes) but then say that you marched against the US because of our “insular” attitude.

    Well, which is it? Should we turn from our “insular” path and walk the road of empire? Will you march *for* the US once we begin forceably annexing weaker states?

    After a few gratuitous slams you seem to be claiming that, unless we right every wrong in the world regardless of the cost or threat to the US, then we haven’t the moral standing to free anyone. Do you really believe that liberation and disarming of Iraq is “hypocritical” unless we also attack nuclear-armed China over Tibet?

    If you want to know why the US “street” holds the anti-war protestors in such dismally low regard, you need only re-read your post. In a few paragraphs, you wander all over the map of supposed American malfeasance and make no coherent point.

    Since we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t, we’ll just do whatever we damned well please.

  • S. Weasel

    “Since we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t, we’ll just do whatever we damned well please.”

    There. I just wanted to see that in print again.

  • “I hope Americans realise what a public pickle Blair is getting himself into over this.”

    I will say this. I am glad to discover that I was misjdging Tony Blair during the Clinton years, by assuming that the media spin about their relationship was an accurate portrayal of that relationship. Especially since 9/11 we in America have seen that Mr. Blair remains, as Britain remains, America’s staunchest ally.

    That he is risking his political demise holding to that alliance proves that Blair is not the Brit Clinton he was made out to be. We hope he won’t pay that price, but either way his willingness to risk it will certainly not be forgotten.

  • Norm

    I think that Brian has a good insight here.

    The skeptical contributors mostly come back to what amounts to a criticism/warning against American hubris. It’s a good word of warning, but at the end of the day what do you do?

    Saddam is a thug. At best he’s a gangster who will extort wealth and exercise arbitrary justice. The USA is the global policeman. This cop’s home and and car are really nice, but do you become an accomplice to the obvious crimes of the gangster because you SUSPECT the policeman may be on the take even as he hauls off the riff-raff?

  • ruprecht

    Mitsu, interesting that you use an example dating back to the 50s. Come on, use the Chile example, its still dated but at least a bit more recent. I believe the recent knee-jerk examples of blowback are “US supported Saddam” and “Bin Laden worked for the CIA”. Time to update your cheatsheet.

    Fact is Bin Laden didn’t attack the US to piss Americans off, and he didn’t attack the US to start a Holy War between Crusaders and Islam (he made that excuse later). He attacked the US because he thought we were weak and might pull out of Saudi Arabia if bloodied enough. He watched us pull out of Lebanon after the Marines were killed, pull out of Somalia after the battle of Mogadishu. When we didn’t pull out we responded pathetically. Our responses to the attack on the Khybar towers was tepid, on the attack on Bush senior was pitiful, and for the attack on the embassies in Africa was legal in nature. He saw no downside (like Tojo before him) so he attacked and woke the sleeping giant.

  • Jacob

    A very good and comprehensive analysis, in Brian’s article *and* in the comments. Best I’ve read anywhere. The blogosphere beats easily Big Media. Congratulations to Samizdata.

    To the subject of Iraq. Naturally I agree with all that was said, but a word of caution is in order:
    beware of the “fatal conceit”, beware of hubris. Social engineering is not possible, changing the mentality, behaviour, culture and regimes of a great part of the world – is a colosal task. Installing freedom, democracy, prosperity and peacefullness in the Middle East – let’s face it – it will not happen in the near future – it is an historic process that we cannot control. Many dangers loom – the biggest beeing that America gets tired of the costs, gets new leadership (Carter like) and abandons the project too soon, true to it’s very strong isolationist good instincts, amply proven in the past.
    The biggest danger isn’t too much empire but too little.

    But let’s not aim for the moon or dream too much. Going in and taking out Saddam is a worthy goal, whatever happens next, so let’s do it. We can contribute to progress at least in the initial stage of constructive destruction. Big risks loom, but inaction is riskier.

  • Trent Telenko

    Mitsu,

    9/11/2001 was blowback.

    Eliminating Iraq and every other terrorist supporting regime on the face of the planet is _PAYBACK._

    Don’t confuse the two.

  • Bobdport

    There is much wisdom to be found above on this site. Many truths are voiced and skillfully defended and any additions now need to be more than reiterations of what has been already said. I do however believe that many of the viewpoints given here have stressed inadequately the very special reality that most of our known world’s oil comes from a small area of the middle east. That oil resource is not a simple convenience nor an alternate energy supply, it is instead the very basis for our civilization without which the people of our world today could not survive and prosper. It is a resource for which there is no known good substitute from a energy or petrochemical standpoint.
    In a sense, the oil under the ground in those vast desert areas of Asia Minor should belong to all of mankind. When it was discovered there by the men of the West, they presumed the oil they found beneath the sand to be the property of a few goatherders camping out nearby in a tent. However, as the land beneath was not owned by anyone, then what was brought up from the wells truly belonged to no one. It was a mistake that the finders of the oil then enriched the ragged natives who in a hundred years came to live in marble palaces, wear robes of gold, and attempt the destruction of the West.
    Today, we should have no reluctance to correct the mistakes of the past. Perhaps it is no accident that we are now being led in that effort by an oilman.

  • Michael Lonie

    Mitsu,
    You have it backwards. Iraq is literally a central target. It is in the central position of a ring of terror enabling states, Iran, Syria, and the Saudi Entity Once an American army is there, we can bring pressure to bear on those states to cease their support of terror groups. These pressures can be economic, military, covert, propaganda, and most of all, the example to their peoples of installing a consensual government in Iraq. The other Arab countries and Iran are in a panic over that prospect. that is the main reason they are opposing our proposed attack. The “root causes” of terrorism lie in the dysfunctional character of Arab political culture. This must be reformed if we are to suppress the terrorist groups and terrorism.

    We cannot win against terrorists by adopting a defensive strategy. They can always hit us if we leave them the initiative. It is much harder for them to operate if they do not have the support of state actors, and will be impossible if those states are supplying intelligence to us and cooperating in putting down those terrorist groups. Taking down Saddam and his murderous Ba’athist regime will contribute mightily towards this goal.

    Oh yes, as a byproduct the Iraqis will be liberated. Anybody got a problem with that?

    Brian, very good post. I have to say though, that this has been plain for well over a year. Glad to see you bring it out in the open. Not that I expect anyone hostile to it to be convinced by such logic that the Iraq operation is a good idea.

  • Cliff Styles

    Mitsu and fellow travellers:

    The question is, blowback from what cause? The big blowback from the Middle East originates with irrational, power mad polities financed by unearned oil revenue. The irrational policy of letting trillions in unearned wealth fall into the hands of irrationalists is the root of the blowback. Irrationalism without an external source of income is simply impotent. Appeasing them by leaving them to it will only encourage them. All irrationalists by nature hate the rational even as they must exploit it by force or fraud in order to live, and are encouraged by all signs of irresolution on the part of the reasonable. If oil revenue remains in the hands of these polities, then ultimately they will buy the weapons to destroy us. No amount of isolationism will help, as long as we have something left to steal, or someone left to enslave.

  • Tom

    Those of you who speak of empire don’t understand. The US does not want to be an empire in the classic, historical sense. Rather, I think Americans are quite content to show, sometimes forcefully admittedly, the fruits of democracy and economic liberalization to other countries and let them run with it, sometimes well and sometimes not. Examples: Germany, Japan, the Phillipines, El Salvador and Guatamala (not doing well but at least now democratic in spirit if not effect). The Arab world respects force and power. Believe me, if you want peace in Palestine, support the upcoming invasion of Iraq. If you want democracy in Saudi Arabia and Iran, support George Bush. After Iraq, Iran will be the next to fall, not as a result of an American invasion but as the result of a populace emboldened by the liberation of its neighbor. After that, next stop the desert hillbillies of Saudi Arabia.

  • >PAYBACK

    Er, since when is it “payback” to retaliate against a nation that had nothing to do with the original offense? Let’s see now, John hits me, so I decide to kill Larry, because I’ve never liked Larry. It’s not irrational, it’s PAYBACK.

    >knee-jerk examples of blowback

    Glad to see you know at least a little bit of history. Too bad you haven’t learned anything from it. To say “oh, I’ve heard that one before” is not a refutation of an argument. You have to actually make a counter-argument to do that. Hint: rolling your eyes doesn’t qualify.

    I supported Gulf War I, in fact I thought we should have taken Saddam out then. I supported our operation in Somalia, and I thought it was absurd that we pulled out when we did. I supported going in and helping in Bosnia, and I supported the Kosovo air campaign. I supported the liberation of Afghanistan.

    Why were those conflicts different? Because in every one of those cases we were going in with the full support of the international community. This is a critical point.

    The Gulf War set a very good precedent: that in the face of threats from petty tyrants the world would act in concert. This was impossible during the Cold War, because the Soviet Union and the United States vetoed each other’s resolutions (except for the Korean War when the USSR boycotted the session — a mistake they never made again). Suddenly, with the end of the Cold War, a New World Order really was possible — and I’m not one of those people who believes that Bush Sr. was trying to establish some evil empire then —- the phrase was poorly chosen, but basically it simply meant that the world, acting in unison, could deter future aggression.

    Part of what Bush Sr. did right in that war was truly to exhaust diplomatic initiatives first. He spent many months trying to negotiate with Saddam Hussein, to no avail.

    In this case, we haven’t exhausted the diplomatic channels first. The inspectors have only been there three months. We’ve given them secret intelligence which they’ve pounced on — nothing was there. Yes, I believe Saddam is hiding something, but I think if we’re going to establish this brave new precedent of a preemptive war, we had better have better evidence than “we’re just realllllly sure he’s hiding something realllly baaaad.”

    Why don’t we move our criminal justice system to the same standard? We’ll just execute criminals just because prosecutors just have a feeling they’re guilty. Wait a second — we already do that. Never mind.

    Furthermore, where’s the threat? This guy is a secular leader. Osama bin Laden recently said that he was an apostate. Do you know what that means to an Islamist? It means that he should be PUT TO DEATH. If I were going to give someone a bunch of nerve gas, I think I’d give it to someone who didn’t want me to be put to death, thank you very much.

    Furthermore, nerve gas and mustard has and anthrax, etc., are simply not effective military weapons. As the New York Times pointed out yesterday, pound for pound, chemical weapons are about the same effectiveness as conventional explosives.

    Where’s the urgent need to rush in before we can even get the approval of our own allies?

  • Jacob

    About oil – another point is worth making:
    Oil in itself has no value. Those shepherds in the desert have no use for oil. Oil is valuable because a civilization exists that is technologically and scientifically capable of making the most of oil and turning it into an engine of wealth creation. That the fabulous oil riches could be captured by some sheiks is a curious annomaly. It cannot last for ever.

  • Lots of people posting at once here. Several posts slipped in above.

    >Blowback from what cause?

    When we installed the Shah, we eventually earned such enmity in Iran that their mullahs used it to their advantage to establish a regime which is obviously quite hostile to our interests. The pattern is simple: when we impose something on somebody else, it gives them reason to want to fight back.

    Saddam Hussein is a secular leader. He is not a suicide bomber. He doesn’t believe in the virgins in the afterlife. He wants virgins now.

    For this reason, he’s much, much more containable than Al Qaeda. He can’t directly attack us because he doesn’t want to die. For this reason he is a marginal threat at best.

    So, why do we need to buck world opinion and attack after the inspectors have only been there for three months? The cost of waiting is tiny, and the risk is small: Saddam will still be weak six months from now. He is deterrable. There is just no reason to go in as we are doing.

    Meanwhile, we set a terrible precedent of preemptive war. Almost anyone can justify any random aggression with that doctrine. I believe such a precedent will destablize international relations for centuries to come. If we go in preemptively, shouldn’t we have a hell of a case first? We have only suspicions and a few shreds of evidence.

    Our real enemy is extremist Islamism, not the Baath Party. Yes, the Baath Party is bad, but they’re not even remotely our worst problem right now. Going in unilaterally will cost a lot, and it will give extremist tons of ammunition for their “America is an imperialist power” rhetoric, and meanwhile we will have gained practically nothing in return.

    it is a bad bargain.

  • Holy frigging carp. I am *not* reading all of that. Sorry, y’all, you will not get my immortal wisdom on this one.

  • Andrew Thomas

    Re: “running the world”…

    Why would we need to “run the world” when it is so much easier (and profitable) to build a McDonalds here-n-there, offer their best-n-brightest scholarships to our universities, and negotiate to lower trade barriers wherever we can?

    Britain and France “ran the world”, and went bankrupt defending (and losing) their empires in WWII, altough the British surrendered theirs more gracefully (Kenya, Uganda, India) than the French (Indo-China, Algeria).

    Self-interest and the hard-way lessons of others should teach us it’s cheaper in the long run to trade with others from the products we need (yes, even oil from Araby) than it is to seize them by force (and thereafter be forced to defend them).

    –a.t.

  • blooKat

    Andrew Thomas – Are you nuts? the British ran wild over Kenya in the 50′s – murdering thousands – try googling ‘Dedan Kimathi’ – then they abandoned the Kenyans and Rhodesians in a way the French never did.

    Wot Evil Shits.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Meanwhile, we set a terrible precedent of preemptive war. Almost anyone can justify any random aggression with that doctrine.

    In other words, someone in the future is going to say “It would be in our best interests to attack now, but the US didn’t do it in 2003 so we’re not going to do it now”. (A US preemptive attack wouldn’t be new, so it isn’t a precedent.)

    Sorry – I don’t buy it. Countries have no memory and don’t build up credit. They always act in their perceived best interests at the time. If a preemptive attack is in their best interest, they’ll attack. If screwing the US is in their best interest, they’ll screw.

    As an example of the latter, note the recent behavior of France. If any country owed the US for past favors, it’s France.

  • M. Simon

    To share power you have to have power.

    Europe brings less of that to the table every day.

    Here is a clue: trouble in the Balkans? Call America.

    Not even strong enough to police it’s own back yard.

    You want power sharing? Fine. Get some.

    M. Simon

  • GulGnu

    “Although I am force to acknowledge the *rightness* of the sentiments expressed in the majority of these comments it is the overiding tone of the US position that gives me greatess sadness. It is exactly the insular approach alluded to by the majority of the posts that precipitates the decision to march against the US actions.”

    Well, if the insular approach dominated, there wouldn’t be much to march about…

    “From my perspective as a supposed ally, part of the coalition of the willing, it is the actions of the US on high falutin’ principles – such as the supposed Free Trade (screw your partners when the US domestic economy demands it)”

    Well, not really – when pork to the steel industry demands it, more like… Also, this complaint would resonate a bit better with me if the supposed free-trade acolytes of the EU were true to their words themselves. They are not.

    “- that highlight the hypocrisy of the *public* statements around why Iraq must be invaded.”

    Yea, they are probably somewhat hypocritical from a lot of perspectives. More hypocritical than run-of-the-mill diplospeak.

    “On a *world policeman* front, am I to suppose that the murder of peaceful Tibetan monks should be ignored in a global community because it doesn’t suit the US to get upset about it?”

    Erm, no. But I wouldn’t count on the US, or the EU for that matter, cutting trade or launching a war of liberation in Tibet, for rather obvious reasons, if that is what you desire.

    “How come the US can remove democratically elected leaders in South America and replace them with murderious tyrants at will, but can’t remove a regime such as Saddams’s, responsible for gross crimes against humanity, through the same covert means?”

    Covert ops are easier the more open the society – in open societies there are parallel power structures to work through, in a well-developed tyranny, the rulers have eliminated those avenues.
    As for the south american institution / support for murderous tyrants, there really hasn’t been much of that since the cold war ended.

    “I’m sorry, it’s the hypocrisy I’m marching aginst.”

    Two points:

    1. It’s not as bad as you make it out to be.

    2. It’s hardly worse than anyone elses, especially given that the US actually has the power to do something about the state of the world at times, rather than prefering to stay impotent.

    Regards / GulGnu

    -Stabil som fan!

  • Brian is correct. Again.

    People who think America wants an empire get all their news from TV. Most Americans or our ancestors left the rest of the world on purpose. We have no desire to go back.

  • >Countries have no memory

    Tell that to the Israelis and Palestinians.

    Every war has a political purpose, a political justification, and a political effect. Wars are fought by human beings for human reasons, and thus the reasons that we use to justify our wars are part of the function of war. In other words: ideas matter.

    I don’t buy the notion that wars are fought without reference to any sort of rational discourse. If we set a precedent now, it will become part of that discourse. If we are to try to avert a war in the future, our moral authority to try to get warring parties to stop attacking each other will be diminished if we ourselves have established a precedent of going to war on suspicions of a threat, before having established the threat with any degree of certainty.

  • Mtisu,

    Did we really suffer “blowback” in Iran? The evidence suggests that we did not suffer blowback so much as we fell prey to the forces of extremist Islam let loose by a new generation of firebrand Imams. I had a friend in college whose family had fled Khomeini’s Iran. He, and many of his Iranian friends, were as Westernized as you and I (or as I am, at any rate). Indeed, the Western Liberal and Islamic fundamentalist classes in Iran were on a collision course for most of the past century. While the fundies won at least a temporary victory in 1974, there is still an excellent prospect for the return of a democratic state in the near future. Will it still be “blowback” when a new Iranian revolution occurs? Or does the world revolve around America only when things go wrong?

    You say: “Saddam Hussein is a secular leader. He is not a suicide bomber. … For this reason, he’s much, much more containable than Al Qaeda. ”

    Which is why he thought the better of attacking Kuwait in 1991. Oh, wait, he screwed up. Well, at least it explains why he has seen the light and decided to come clean about his WMD. Oh, wait, he didn’t do that either. Well, at least it explains…well, what? Hitler was a “secular leader” too and that explained exactly nothing about why he plunged the world into WWII.

    You say:

    “So, why do we need to buck world opinion and attack after the inspectors have only been there for three months? ”

    Three months?!? We’ve been trying to get Saddam to conform to the promises made at the end of the Gulf War for 12 friggin YEARS.

    You say: “The cost of waiting is tiny, and the risk is small: Saddam will still be weak six months from now. He is deterrable. There is just no reason to go in as we are doing.”

    Did you not read Brian’s piece?? First, Saddam is only one among many stepping stones to changing the culture that creates Islamic terrorism. This is a huge battle and it may take a decade or more to fight it. It makes no sense to fight a war by “inspecting” your foe while your army cools its heels. Of course, this makes the assumption that we are at war with Islamic terrorism. Your next point is that Islamic terrorism is distinct from Baath socialism and that the Baath party ‘is not remotely our worst problem’.

    Here are three questions I pose to you. Do you really suppose that Islamic extremists will refuse to accept weapons of mass destruction from Saddam because he is not a “pure” enough Muslim? Do you really suppose that Saddam would refuse weapons and support for the Islamic extremists because they are not “Baathist” (or whatever) enough? And the big question- If you answered yes to the first two questions – are you willing to bet a major Western city on your answer? Given Saddam’s very public support for Palestinian terrorists, I’d say you need to revisit your opinion on this matter.

    You say: “Going in unilaterally will cost a lot, and it will give extremist tons of ammunition for their “America is an imperialist power” rhetoric, and meanwhile we will have gained practically nothing in return.”

    So…the 18 countries that have signed declarations of support for America mean nothing to you – we are still “unilateral”?

    I don’t give a flying f*ck about the Islamic radicals’ rhetoric. Should we have quailed about attacking Hitler because we were afraid of what he’d say??

    ‘Nothing in return?’ The man has tons of chemical and biological agents that he would sorely like to use against his enemies either regionally or worldwide. Even if he restricts his attentions to the region, do you really want him controlling the bulk of the world’s oil wealth? Do you really suppose he would stop at that once he had that wealth in his pocket? Is it “nothing in return” to disarm this man and destroy the weapons he has developed?

    It is not a bad bargain at all, my friend.

    Wild Monk of Wildmonk.et

  • Rhianna

    Well, very thorough discussion going on. I LOVE Brian’s post. Very much on target. There are Americans (myself included) living here in the blessed UK, seeing first hand just how much of Tony Blair’s neck is on the line. Though I don’t think he can walk in Sir Winston’s shoes any time soon, he’s doing well supporting his convictions.

    As for Empire, everything in my soul, my upbringing, my personal belief structure cries out against it. Americans are NOT, and never have been, Empire builders. Even when we had the Philippines (bless them that they’re free from us now), we told them forthwith they would be free, at a set time (then WWII inturupted, and the date got pushed back a bit, but it still happened). The only true “empire” we’ve ever built would be democracy, and even then, we give it as a gift, and then deal with those elected freely. Can Europeans in general say any such thing, without bursting into flame? We build bases around the world, yes. We send troops around the world, yes. We play the capitalist game around the world, yes. Out of those 3, about the only one that’s what we really want to do, is play the game. We don’t like being the World Police. We don’t like being compared to Rome. We would love to “mind our own business” where world matters are concerned. However, we realize that the last 3 times we did that, we got WWI, WWII, and 9-11. Far too much American, ally, and innocent blood has been spilt for us to totally disappear from the World Stage.

    We have never truely conqured by the sword. It is not in our nature. Oh, there are those that advocate it, but they are greatly outnumbered by the rest of us. If the brutal truth be told, we just don’t care about the rest of the world, in everyday life. Only when you leave a flaming bag of world polticial dog pooh on our porch, do we stomp it out, and go find the persons that did it.

    Only when you foist things like 9-11 on us, or suicide bomb and terrorise our allies, do you get our hackles up. We are quite content to remain the sleeping giant. Never doubt we’d leave ya’ll to your own devices, if you’d leave us to ours. But, once awoken, and then stabbed in the back by those that claim to be our allies, we become a raging tiger, that will get it’s kill, before returning to it’s slumber.

    Just an American’s opinion on some of the thoughts expressed about what I supposedly believe, and don’t, by non-Americans.

  • cardeblu

    Mitsu: (“I supported Gulf War I, in fact I thought we should have taken Saddam out then. I supported our operation in Somalia, and I thought it was absurd that we pulled out when we did. I supported going in and helping in Bosnia, and I supported the Kosovo air campaign. I supported the liberation of Afghanistan.

    Why were those conflicts different? Because in every one of those cases we were going in with the full support of the international community. This is a critical point.”–)

    A couple “critical points” about which you’re mistaken: We did not have total UN support for intervention in Kosovo. Also, Kosovo was waged under NATO, which is a “defensive” organization for its members. It was used in an “offensive” capacity in a country that, although had asked to join, was not yet a member. There wasn’t even full NATO member support, either.

  • Mitsu,

    You tell a real whopper here:

    “In this case, we haven’t exhausted the diplomatic channels first. The inspectors have only been there three months. We’ve given them secret intelligence which they’ve pounced on — nothing was there.”

    First, the inspectors have ignored a great deal of the intelligence that we’ve given them. Rumsfeld and others have testified to this effect. Even Blix has admitted this but claimed lack of resources.

    Second, the nuclear documents found in a scientists home awhile back came from US intel. Does this not count? Also, did you not see Powell’s presentation? The reason the inspectors usually come up empty handed is that they have been compromised. The Iraqi handlers simply phone ahead to whereever they are visiting and have the worst stuff carted off.

    It appears to me that you are trying to have it both ways: if evidence of WMD is found then inspections are working and we shouldn’t attack. If no evidence is found then it means we have no justification for trying to disarm him.

    The point, my friend, is that it is not up to the inspectors to FIND anything. It is up to them to document Iraq’s destruction of its weapons.

  • Nice post Rhianna!

    Man, with so much juicy stuff, how’m I ever gonna get to my own blogging?

  • Andy Freeman

    > Why were those conflicts different? Because in every one of those cases we were going in with the full support of the international community. This is a critical point.

    That’s clear, honest, and wrong.

    The US was correct to oppose the USSR during the cold war regardless of whether anyone else did (and, to be honest, France and Germany weren’t all that keen on the idea).

    The US+UK would have been correct to oppose Nazi Germany no matter what the USSR did.

    For better or worse, “international support” is largely a function of “what is in it for me”.

  • >We did not have total UN support for intervention in Kosovo

    I didn’t say UN support, I said international support. Though we had to drag the Europeans yelling and screaming into doing the right thing in Kosovo, they generally speaking were sympathetic to our mission there.

    The same is not even remotely close to the case here.

    >Did we really suffer “blowback” in Iran? The evidence
    >suggests that we did not suffer blowback so much as we
    >fell prey to the forces of extremist Islam let loose by a
    >new generation of firebrand Imams.

    As you recall, the Islamic Revolution was not merely led by right-wing mullahs — it was joined by liberal intellectuals as well, those who opposed the totalitarian regime of the Shah. At first they were allied. This is why their Constitution has this strange mixture of religious authoritarianism and democratic processes. The liberals influenced the elections part, and the mullahs influenced the rest.

    The problem here is that there would never have been a need for a revolution in Iran if we had encouraged democracy in Iran. Instead, we overthrew a democratically elected prime minister, setting the stage for anger and uprising which ultimately empowered the Imams.

    Look at the pattern in the rest of the Persian Gulf region: Islamism is on the rise primarily in those countries with the most repressive governments. I do not believe this is a coincidence — Islamism is seen as a reaction against Western influence, which is seen as connected to the repressive regimes there, which we are allied with (as we were allied with the Shah).

    >While the fundies won at least a temporary victory in 1974,
    >there is still an excellent prospect for the return of a
    >democratic state in the near future.

    I’m not sure how we could take any credit for that if it does occur. If you can fashion some argument to that effect, I’d love to hear it.

    >You say: “Saddam Hussein is a secular leader. He is not a
    >suicide bomber. … For this reason, he’s much, much
    >more containable than Al Qaeda. ”

    >Which is why he thought the better of attacking Kuwait in 1991. Oh,
    >wait, he screwed up. Well, at least it explains why he has seen the
    >light and decided to come clean about his WMD. Oh, wait, he didn’t
    >do that either. Well, at least it explains…well, what? Hitler was a
    >”secular leader” too and that explained exactly nothing about why
    >he plunged the world into WWII.

    You’re missing the point. He is secular, which means he is despised by Al Qaeda, even if they may have called a temporary truce for the moment due to their shared enmity with us. You can be sure that Osama is at the ready to destroy Saddam the moment he thinks he has the chance.

    The other point is that Saddam is containable, because we can threaten him. Of course he is still going to try to get away with everything he can, within our pressure. But containment has worked so far with him — he hasn’t invaded anybody since Kuwait. In fact, he probably believed we would either back down with respect to Kuwait or we would give up after incurring casualties. Of course we wouldn’t — but he didn’t understand Americans.

    Suicide bombers cannot be deterred by the threat of death. That’s what makes them so much more dangerous than Saddam.

    >Three months?!? We’ve been trying to get Saddam to conform to
    >the promises made at the end of the Gulf War for 12 friggin YEARS.

    I actually believe we should have kept up military pressure on Saddam the moment he threw the inspectors out the first time. But the Bush Administration was even considering easing sanctions (remember “smart sanctions”?) after he was elected.

    Now that we’re finally trying yet again to get Saddam to conform, the next task is to convince the world to go along with our pressure on Saddam. I believe that once you’re on that course, it is sensible to give it ample time — and we have changed course only recently.

    >Did you not read Brian’s piece?? First, Saddam is only one among
    >many stepping stones to changing the culture that creates Islamic
    >terrorism. This is a huge battle and it may take a decade or more
    >to fight it.

    See below.

    >Your next point is that Islamic terrorism is distinct from Baath socialism and that the Baath party ‘is not remotely our worst problem’.

    >Do you really suppose that Islamic extremists will refuse to accept
    >weapons of mass destruction from Saddam because he is not a
    >”pure” enough Muslim?

    No, and my argument doesn’t rely on this idea.

    >Do you really suppose that Saddam would refuse weapons and
    >support for the Islamic extremists because they are not “Baathist”
    >(or whatever) enough?

    He might talk to them, but he won’t give them weapons. Why? Because he is a control freak. He knows full well that Islamists hate his guts almost as much as they hate us. He would be even more stupid than he obvious already is to give weapons to his enemies.

    >major Western city

    As I noted before, chemical and biological weapons are mostly hype. They are psychologically terrifying, but militarily not very effective.

    The only thing we need to concern ourselves with is whether or not he has nuclear weapons. Clearly he doesn’t yet — and I agree we need to prevent him from getting any. If that requires force, fine. I haven’t seen the argument that it requires force before the UN is ready to approve it.

    >So…the 18 countries that have signed declarations of support for America mean nothing to you – we are still “unilateral”?

    What I believe is that if we cannot convince our longtime allies that this is a good idea, we are in bad shape geopolitically. Furthermore the population of Britain and Italy, two of the most important countries on that list, are opposed, even if their governments are not.

    >I don’t give a flying f*ck about the Islamic radicals’ rhetoric.

    You may not give a flying f*ck about their rhetoric, but I see no reason to make their recruiting job easier, particularly when we’re talking about a marginal threat like Hussein.

    >’Nothing in return?’ The man has tons of chemical and biological
    >agents that he would sorely like to use against his enemies either
    >regionally or worldwide. Even if he restricts his attentions to the
    >region, do you really want him controlling the bulk of the world’s
    >oil wealth? Do you really suppose he would stop at that once
    >he had that wealth in his pocket? Is it “nothing in return” to disarm
    >this man and destroy the weapons he has developed?

    Read the New York Times article I quoted above. He had a vast arsenal of chemical and biological weapons when he went to war against Iran. It didn’t help him. They didn’t save him when we pushed him out of Kuwait. Chemical and biological weapons are not very effective.

  • Catherine Doyle

    Great thoughtful comments.

    I agree with S. Weasel, Michael Mulling, Brian. Just yesterday I was speaking with a friend in CO who is first generation American. I come from a place in Queens, NY where a whole area of Austria immigrated after WW1 and 2, their history wiped from the books thanks to those wars. My friends parents came in the last wave of Germans to relocate here in the 1960s. They are the first to say “F” Europe and let’s baton down the hatches and build a wall around us. Like the others said, the whole idea of “American imperialism” is ridiculous.

    They are, as I am, sick and tired of the whining about America the EU does, for example, followed by whining about how we don’t do enough (riches country in the world should take care of everything).

    Those above are right. As far as the person above saying we didn’t rule Germany and Japan after WW2…we weren’t the only allied occupants, but we were in charge. It was the most galling part of the end of the war to DeGaulle, but Churchill was resigned to it saying it was better to be a guide than buck the new reality (or having the US go isolationist on him again) and he preferred the “open sea” of the Atlantic relationship to “Europe anyday.” He was smart and so is Blair.

    I also admire the courage of Tony Blair and I hope he is rewarded in history for it. I though he was Clinton Jr., but the guy has Churchillian chutspah, opening himself to ridicule in his own party and possibly committing political suicide for what he believes is right.

    I am grateful to the blogger for being the first I have seen yet to say we are not these greedy imperialists. American’s have no interest.

    The people who like to mention Bush’s oil connections always neglect to mention Clinton’s oil connections. That doesn’t include his Chief of Staff McClarty who was the head of ARCO chemical and got a cushy job post D.C. thanks to a favor to India Clinton did. I so far haven’t seen that kind of cronyism that was so apparent in the Clinton house. Bush 1 was an “oil man” just as much as Bush 2 and if we wanted it, we could have had it, and forgotten sanctions etc.

    I am sure I went off topic, but thanks for the great conversation.

    Catherine

  • >The US was correct to oppose the USSR
    >during the cold war regardless of whether
    >anyone else did (and, to be honest, France
    >and Germany weren’t all that keen on the idea).

    So you’re saying that France and Germany were secretly pro-USSR during the Cold War? That’s a new one on me.

    We were obviously right to oppose the USSR. Although we caused a lot of terrible disasters for others in the process (insert brief history of CIA crimes in small countries here). Not only that but we wasted a huge amount of money as well. Luckily we could afford it more than the Soviets could.

    >For better or worse, “international support” is
    >largely a function of “what is in it for me”.

    If I believed that the threat from Hussein warranted us going in and the rest of the world was just harping on for no reason whatsoever, imperiling world security, I would agree with you. In this case, however, I believe the rest of the world is right, and we are wrong. Hussein is a marginal threat, objectively speaking, and we do not need to incur the geopolitical cost of looking like a bully by going in without convincing our allies first.

    It’s a big penalty to pay — we become the prime target of terrorists — in return for dealing with a marginal threat just a tiny bit sooner than we otherwise might.

  • Andy Freeman

    > As I noted before, chemical and biological weapons are mostly hype. They are psychologically terrifying, but militarily not very effective.

    In other words, chem/bio weapons are just like large passenger aircraft. For some reason, I’m not satisfied/comforted.

    The fact that chem/bio weapons don’t give Hussein a decisive military advantage is irrelevant, especially as part of an argument against military action.

  • Pete

    “The United States has freed its own protectorates.”

    Hell, we can’t rid of Puerto Rico. They’re like the brother-in-law who you let stay with you because he’s between jobs and then he never moves out.

  • >The fact that chem/bio weapons don’t give
    >Hussein a decisive military advantage is
    >irrelevant, especially as part of an argument
    >against military action.

    It’s irrelevant that the main thing we’re supposedly worried about is in fact not a significant military threat to us? That chemical weapons have proven themselves no more effective, pound for pound, than conventional explosives? That’s irrelevant?

  • Brown Line

    Many thanks for the interesting post – and for the responses, many of which were thoughtful and thought-provoking. However, it seems to me that you and your commentators do not yet grasp the audicity of what Bush is trying to do. He reasons – I think correctly – that the only way for America and the world to enjoy peace from Islamofascism is to change the politics of the Middle East. Iraq is the first, not only because it is weak, but because it is the linchpin of the Middle East. Fear of Saddam is one of the hoops that holds the Iranian barrel together: remove Saddam, and the mullahs suddenly are much weaker. Remove Saddam’s threat from the north, and the gulf emirates are that much stronger against the Saudis – and the ordinary folk of Saudi Arabia itself might start getting ideas. Put a relatively peaceful, relatively democratic Iraq next door to Syria, and that regime can be undermined. Bush wants not to build a dike against terrorism, but to drain the swamp.

    The audicity of this enterprise is breathtaking. It is very risky. If the war does not go well, his administration will be wrecked and America’s power and prestige will have been deeply hurt. But he sees no value in palliative meaures: not in an age when individuals can acquire weapons of unimaginable power, and use them to strike nearly anywhere on the globe.

    We can fight terrorism either by importing tyranny – shut down courts, restrict the free movements of peoples, spy everywhere on everyone – or by exporting liberty. There is no third alternative. Bush has chosen the latter, and I wish him well; but it’s going to be one hell of a scary ride.

    Regards …

  • The Kid

    Brian’s point is well-taken, and Iraq is a great location from which to launch attacks at al Qaeda’s new home in Lebanon and old haunts in Yemen. Iran may fall from internal pressure shortly after Iraq settles down; if it doesn’t, the US and its allies may have to give it a gentle push. Saddam’s fellow Ba’thists in Syria will have to at least stand back while the US begins operations in the Beka Valley. Over a short period of time, Jordan, along with Iran, can begin to act like Westerners, and that could help the Palestinians focus on what they really want too.

    A part of the commentartiat fears a US takeover of the world. They fail to understand that we Americans simply want to enjoy our peace, prosperity, and liberty and really do hate traveling to far-off, lands, meeting interesting people, and killing them. We’d really prefer to take our admittedly short vacations (by European standards) in some foreign country and then head back home to get some work done. We like to work, but not so much as to run the world.

  • Mitsu: chemical weapons are ideal for use against ciivilians — remember the Sarin attacks by the religious cult in Tokyo? Their presence also requires protection and response preparations, which could be used for other things. Also, Saddam finds chemical weapons very good for killing unprotected Iraqi civilians.
    Comments were made earlier about the American Empire. That idea actually frightens most Americans who think about it, bu8t if it were the case we could improve our standard of living immediately. One of the biggest problems with the American economy is the piss-poor states of most of our trading partners’ economies. Quite simply, you do not get rich selling to poor countries. Japan, France, Germany, and any number of other countries could have thier economies improved by some very simple reforms, all of which are politically impossible because they are democracies. We could go into Japan and force the government to liquidate the deadbeat banks. We could send marines into Paris and Berlin and force them to cut taxes, allow immigrants to open small service businesses, etc. Somehow I don’t see that as happening. Yet….

  • >Mitsu: chemical weapons are ideal for use
    >against ciivilians — remember the Sarin
    >attacks by the religious cult in Tokyo?

    Yes, I do. A whopping 12 people were killed. Now, while 12 people dead is a terrible tragedy, it’s less than a small conventional bomb might have killed in a crowded area, as the New York Times pointed out.

  • Michael Lonie said in response to Mitsu:

    “Iraq is literally a central target. It is in the central position of a ring of terror enabling states, Iran, Syria, and the Saudi Entity Once an American army is there, we can bring pressure to bear on those states to cease their support of terror groups. These pressures can be economic, military, covert, propaganda, and most of all, the example to their peoples of installing a consensual government in Iraq. The other Arab countries and Iran are in a panic over that prospect.”

    I cannot emphasize the import of this point. My fellow Americans are legendarily weak on geography, so they are forgiven in missing the level to which this is understatment.

    The geography of Iraq at the central meeting point of Europe, Asia and Africa, atop so much of the worlds oil, with mere inches of other countries seperating it from the Mediterranean, and Indian (and by extension Pacific) oceans, and containing the headwaters of most of the water in the entire region, is THE central strong point of geopolitical control in the Old World.

    It is the Grand Game, played for centuries by Persians, Arabs, Jews, Romans, Greeks, and many, many others ad infinintum.

    No power such as the US is currently has ever existed.

    No power has sat upon this place for long.

    No power such as Persia, the Babylonians, Greeks, Rome, the Huns, or many others of the greatest of their day that has sat upon it did so for long, and they were all unique in the technological innovations, strategies and tactics they used to take this point.

    They were ALL the greatest of their day.

    The relative advantage that control of this point confers is amplified MANY times over by petroleum powered modern technology.

    Make no mistake, unless Bush goes wobbly, the US WILL control that point, and if he doesn’t blow it, Pax Americana will bloom, truly.

    We now MUST then truly conquere space, so as to take the Great American Frontier with us, and project ourselves outward as the leading edge of humanity into space.

    Because eventually the Oil will run out, and sooner or later, we WILL be eclipsed demographically and in GDP by the Chinese, and they demonstrably are NOT stupid.

    Whatever else they may be, for good or ill, they are not stupid.

    Anyway, the wave moves East, has been for a while, it’s our turn in the Sun, lets hope Bush doesn’t blow it, and we Americans move into space, to let our Earthly descendants in America retire into some European-esque decadent senescents (sp?).

    Then perhaps we shall have an Empire of Man throughout the System, and then the Galaxy.

    Chinese will eventually be the ligua franca du jour on Earth, as have been French, as Latin before it, as Greek prior to that, etc., followed by at it’s crest English.

    It moves with the wave of power, you see.

    Plot it, it’s neat. GDP, language of diplomacy, they have been moving east to west for ages here on Earth.

    Science fiction dreams of Empire are the one’s that Americans will have, when they have them.

    You can have the Earth eventually, China, we’d like space, thank you please.

    I think some Chinese know this, I know some Americans see that that is really the game WE are playing, whether any given participant knows it or not.

    So don’t be surprised, when people switch sides very weirdly in this one, as they see their benefit shift.

    The Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Koreans, Russians, French, Israelis and Americans all have horses in this race, as well as some interesting (potential) others, including some private/non-state commercial space actors.

    An Orion is well within the scientific and industrial capabilities of ANY of these actors, giving immediate access to asteroids as weapons FAR beyond nukes in potential damage to Earth.
    (Instapundit readers will understand that last sentence, others who may not, please read the appropriate pieces on glennreynolds.com, or the past works of Niven and Pournelle on the subjects :-)

    The power to destroy a thing is the absolute power over it.

    The US has the most complete MAD power over the Earth at this time, but asteroids are more overwhelming, less reversible, and MUCH lower tech once set in motion (please see recent US films about this, they are educational, even while not entirely acurate).

    An Orion, or similarly dominating presence in space, is a trump card.

    Just don’t forget that more than one player can hold a trump card as, surprise, the above powers effectively do with nuclear technology.

    Isn’t geopolitics, history, geography and science fiction fun?

  • Andy Freeman

    > So you’re saying that France and Germany were secretly pro-USSR during the Cold War? That’s a new one on me.

    No, that’s not what I wrote, but thanks for demonstrating how you’re going to argue.

    > We were obviously right to oppose the USSR.

    Yet, we didn’t have the international support that is now so “critical”. Hmm.

    > In this case, however, I believe the rest of the world is right, and we are wrong.

    Unless you’re going to argue that they are inherently correct or that agreement equals correctness, this plus the above wipes out the “but it’s wrong without international support” argument.

  • Stephen Manning

    Finally someone has understood this thing in the same way that I have. Iraq, in my humble opinion, is an example and a staging ground for precisely this larger attempt to defang the Islamic terrorists who killed 3000 of us on a single day on our home ground. Iraq is do-able and therefore is the prime target for now. But I agree, this is a longer project and its object is the Muslim world, a world which has for centuries been sliding into decadence and is now is serious need of a wake up. Whether this will end up isolating the US from its (former) allies or will re-create a new set of alliance, who knows? But I think the message of Iraq is for the larger Muslim world: do not think that you can play jihad with us and we will do nothing. We are coming to visit now that you have invited us with so much blood. And the Euros can get on the train or sit and whine with their precious highminded prattle. Alea iacta.

  • Andy Freeman

    > It’s a big penalty to pay — we become the prime target of terrorists

    Cluebat – we’re going to be the prime target almost no matter what we do.

    As our “friend” from Bali said, they’re coming after us until we’re dead or converted. The only other option is to kill them.

    What is your decision?

  • Andy Freeman

    > It’s irrelevant that the main thing we’re supposedly worried about is in fact not a significant military threat to us?

    Right.

    (1) They’re not attacking military targets.
    (2) Civilians don’t have military options. (Example – a military unit can be quarantined easily. If there are 10 smallpox-positive folks wandering around NYC, we’re in serious trouble, even if only 30 people die.)

  • Andy Freeman

    > I haven’t seen the argument that it requires force before the UN is ready to approve it.

    The causal connection here isn’t obvious.

    Surely no one would argue that the UN will always approve “necessary” force in a timely fashion….

    > He knows full well that Islamists hate his guts almost as much as they hate us. He would be even more stupid than he obvious already is to give weapons to his enemies.

    Actually, giving weapons to one’s enemies can, in many circumstances, be a very smart move.

    Consider China and Russia. They’ve been/are enemies, yet there have been times when a transfer of arms was in both their interests. And, they’ve done so.

    If an action by the terrorists furthers Hussein’s goals, why won’t he do it? Remember – he’s shown little restraint in the past when it comes to furthering his interests. Why will this time be different?

  • >Yet, we didn’t have the international
    >support that is now so “critical”.

    Again: are you claiming that France and Germany were not on our side during the Cold War? If so, it is news to me. If you’re not saying that, what are you saying?

    >Unless you’re going to argue that they
    >are inherently correct or that agreement
    >equals correctness, this plus the above wipes
    >out the “but it’s wrong without international
    >support” argument.

    Let me see if I can put it in a way that is easy to understand. What I am saying is that in this specific case, because the threat from Saddam Hussein is marginal at best, it is wrong to go in unilaterally because the cost we will have to pay geopolitically will be great, and the benefit we will achieve by going in quickly, without giving the UN more time, will be minor, since Saddam Hussein is unlikely to become significantly more of a threat to us if we wait for three or six more months.

    This is not to say that it is unimaginable that some circumstance could arise in which unilateral action would be unwarranted. I believe, however, there is a price to pay for unilateral action, and it is foolish to pay the price when we do not necessarily have to.

    >> It’s a big penalty to pay — we
    >become the prime target of terrorists
    >
    >Cluebat – we’re going to be the prime
    >target almost no matter what we do.

    Terrorists have limited resources. If they have to attack most countries in the free world, then the damage to us specifically will be reduced. There are terrorist cells throughout Europe and Asia, yet it is quite likely that because of our position, much more effort will be focused on hitting only us.

    Secondly, I am not talking only about those who have already become extremists. I’m talking about whether or not they can increase and replenish their troops easily. The more we piss off the Islamic world, the more converts to extremism we breed. Before you go ballistic with “BUT WHO CARES WE NEED TO PROTECT OURSELVES ANYWAY” or whatever, let me re-emphasize, I am making a cold calculation of costs and benefits here. Of course, if we had a very good reason to rush into war with Saddam, then great. But so far, I don’t see the evidence that Saddam will be a significantly greater threat to us six months from now than he is today. I don’t even see the conclusive evidence that permanent ongoing inspections wouldn’t be sufficient to contain him.

    Consider this story. Anger among ordinary, non-terrorist Muslims is dramatically up. They are royally pissed at us, and this is not good for us. Why do we need to make the average Muslim pissed off at us unless we are forced to do so? I believe we were forced to do so with Afghanistan, but not with this. The evidence that Saddam is a clear and present danger to us just is not there.

    >They’re not attacking military targets.

    Whos is “they”? Saddam hasn’t attacked any of our civilians, ever, as far as I know.

    But even if Saddam were to use his deadly nerve agents against our civilians, as I noted above, it would not be an Armageddon by any means. The sarin attack in Tokyo only killed 12 people. Yes, a ton of nerve gas could kill thousands, but even a light wind would reduce the total to hundreds, and you could kill hundreds with a one ton truck bomb in a crowded area.

    These weapons are not huge problems for us even used for terrorist purposes. That crazed Korean who just killed a bunch of people in the subway today did so with what was apparently an incredibly crude device, yet he outdid the sarin attack in deadliness.

    >Surely no one would argue that the UN
    >will always approve “necessary” force
    >in a timely fashion….

    Yes, but we always have the unilateral option, obviously. I am not arguing that we should never use the unilateral option. I am saying the cost is high and thus we shouldn’t use it unless we have run out of other options. We’re not there yet, and frankly the threat posed by Saddam is really so moderate that I cannot see the justification for incurring that cost needlessly.

    >If an action by the terrorists furthers
    >Hussein’s goals, why won’t he do it?

    Think about it from Hussein’s point of view. If he aids the terrorists and we find out about it, then he’s dead, and he knows it. If he aids the terrorists and we don’t find out about it, what good does it do him?

    I see no possible scenario in which Hussein giving weapons to Al Qaeda would serve any useful purpose to him whatsoever. Hussein doesn’t believe in any cause but himself. That’s what makes him weak, and containable.

  • Patrick

    Brian,

    Spot on – and thanks.

    I too agree wholeheartedly that Uncle Sam should not fuck up on this one. I’d also like to make a request: America – in the course of not fucking up could you please ensure that you do fuck France up on the way?

    Most of your commenters seem to be American? I’m British and the French, federalist, arrogant, do what you’re told little countries, do what you’re told little people, Brussels is right, you are wrong vision for Europe scares the pants off me.

  • Gary

    Well I’m at the end of this long thread and I’m willing let everyone in on the secrets we keep here in the good ‘ol US of A. First we have hegemon parties that are funded through federal grants and donations by Exxon, Walt Disney and McDonald’s. We learn “Cowboy” so we can say “y’all”, “Smoke’ em out” and “CoBeer” (that’s cold beer for those of you who can’t actually read “Cowboy”. Next we learn Capitalism where we are acclimated to a ruthless society where most people live lives of depravation, starvation, SUV deaths, global warming summers and all without adequate healthcare. The last lesson provides mastery of eating pork rinds, waving a flag and repeating everything Rush says without understating a word.

    To assimilate all the criticisms of America is to believe us to be dim, blunt, loud, power-mad, arrogant, blah, blah, blah. If we are all these, the situation before us can truly not be. The world’s oldest democracy possessing the largest military force every assembled, paid for by the largest most technologically advanced economy, being restrained from removing the world’s most dangerous regime solely by scoldings from the political and economic has-beens of the 19th Century. As Groucho Marx (sp) once quipped, “Who you gonna believe, me or your eyes? The inconsistencies boggle the mind.

    Perhaps Germany and France should not act so craven. Perhaps America should act should act with more humility. But the facts of today exist for reasons that history makes irrefutable. America did not take hegemon lessons. We are here by the steps we took which are precisely the steps Europe, Asia, etc. chose not to take. And I don’t mean over-throwing Chile. America does not have a secret hegemon map or a secret hegemon society. If the rest of the world wants America to act differently, then act on your own – not just with knee-jerk anti-Americanism. How ‘bout dislodging Syria from Lebanon? Where’s the outrage? Europe seems to be hyper-concerned that America will do what ever it wants but Syria can have Lebanon.

    We will never become Syria and swallow countries. But in Europe’s hysterical Yankaphobia it is much easier, not to mention more attention grabbing, to obstruct America with words and blue helmeted unarmed scavenger hunters than do the grown-up work of facing down Syria.

    Lastly, Blowback? When does Poland get license for a little Berlin blowback? Somehow I’m missing the righteousness in blowback. “All we a sayyyying….is blowbacks sa bitch”. “Blowback” somehow doesn’t quite reciprocate with slaughter.

  • The only reason the US is playing the “unilateralist” card is because the UN is failing to save lives in cases where war would mean less death than pacifism. Rwanda, Kosovo, Somolia and now the U.S.–the structure of the UN is no longer able to handle the threats of modern times as it cannot act fast enough, if at all, to face down tyranny in a timely manner. The problem is that the UN was created to support the status quo of the “peace” that followed WWII; that is, it was structured to enforce the outcome of that war and to enable formal international communication. For practical reasons Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt had chosen to create not a legislative and judicial body, but a simple administrative one. This worked very well for keeping the WWII world together for 40 or so years, but it is failing now because of its own success. The UN has performed remarkably well at strengthening nation-states, including those ruled by gangsters and madmen. The problem now is that in a world of cheap mass destruction (which gets cheaper every day) democracy and transparency are needed more than ever. By strengthening the house of the radical in this world, we empower them to work against liberty everywhere.

    Multilateralism would be fine to Americans, believe-me-you, if the governing bodies were more democratic and exhibited proper checks and balances upon which democratic societies thrive. Which people elected Kofi Annan? None, he was selected and not elected (to borrow a recent catch-phrase). To which people are the judiciary of the ICC responsible to? None, they are a selected magistrate. Who elected the representitives to the UN? Nobody, since they were selected as well.

    The globalization process is thinning the borders of nation-states everywhere while the earstwhile champion of globalization, the UN, actually works against that process. This is one of the essential tensions in the world today, and the UN is not up to the task of commanding over such a world. Today’s “unilateralism” of the United States is a symptom (to which Israel was the canary in the coal mine) of the lack of an appropriate, badly needed, modern world governing body. The United States would be more amenable to UN cooperation if the UN was structured more democratically and could be trusted to act responsibly. Wouldn’t it be nice (heck, necessary) to see a balanced, bicameral legislature in the UN? Wouldn’t it be nice to see some equivalent of political parties competing for leadership there? Until then, the United States is becoming increasingly less likely to want to be indirectly ruled by the types of tyrants it has fought so hard against for over two centuries.

    The UN is not good for the UN’s sake. Please Europe, examine what it will take to create more stable multinational relationships in this world and have the gonads to do what is right. Do not give in to the seemingly safe momentum of the status quo.

  • On “containment” — how many Iraqi deaths per year does containment give us? A vote for containment is a vote to keep killing Iraqis. Twelve years of inspections has not disarmed a definitely dangerous Saddam (remember, disarmamant was part of his agreement with the world after Kuwait). How much longer should we allow inspections to continue, another twleve years? For every year inaction continues, the cost of creating nasty weapons drops and the ability to hide them increases (due to miniaturization, increased quality and effectiveness of civilian products, etc). Moreover, for every year that inspections continue the Iraqis learn by example (in a very Darwinian fashion) how to thwart them. As a result inspections are doomed to become less effective every year. The best we can hope for is some sort of perpetual equilibrium not unlike the battle we experience daily when trying to thwart cheap-to-create computer viruses. The difference here is that we stand to lose not millions of bytes of abstract data over time but millions of real human beings.

    In the face of what we know today, Iraqi “containment” is the least moral and least ethical idea I can think of. The inefficiencies that characterize inspections will guarantee that, to paraphrase Orwell, to picture the future of the Iraqi citizen is to picture a boot stamping on the face of their humanity, forever.

  • MC

    A lot of comments, but there is one central fact about America which everyone is ignoring when discussing American empire. All Americans, with the exception of Native Americans and slaves, are descended from people who came to these shores specifically to get away from the insane a**holes who run the rest of the world. My oldest American ancestors did so 250 years ago for precisely this reason. To this day, millions of people do the same every year.
    This is why most Americans want nothing to do with running the world. Once you have escaped the swamp, why plunge back in? We, quite frankly, could care less if the rest of the world wants to sink into the bog. Unfortunately in our ever more interconnected world, if the world gets sucked under, so do we. So we are forced to grab the world by the collar and drag it out of the muck whether they like it or not.
    But that does not mean that we will then set ourselves up as kings afterward. We will do as we have always done. We will give them a clean shirt and a slug of brandy, point them away from the swamp and ask them to please not go that way again. Empire indeed! What makes you think we want to rule over terminally ill cultures like the Arabs and the French? Solve your own damn problems, we only ask that you leave us out of it.

  • I would also like to add my voice to the chorus that says we Americans have spent our entire history making something as different as we can from where we came from as immigrants — and we have come from EVERYWHERE.

    Whenever I hear these shrill concerns about the Coming American Empire, I cannot fail to ask if these are not the projections of peoples with long histories of ACTUAL empires thinking about how TEMPTING all this power and influence must be.

    Europe has chosen Socialism, The United States, capitalism. We, with our smaller population than the EU, seem to find the money and energy to achieve economic, cultural and military dominance. The American CULTURAL dominance is entirely of the world’s chosing — no one is forcing anyone at gunpoint into McDonald’s and Spider-Man. The economic vitality is, we believe, a result of our work ethic and relative freedom from regulation and taxes, and the military might is an outgrowth of that prosperity and the will to defend it.

    Reading these posts from people scared senseless of our success, it seems the only solution that would satisfy you is for us to slit our own throats — there’s a good fellow.

    Our respective positions are the result of divergent choices we have made. These choices were not forced upon you. But you have made the choice to weaken yourselves militarily in order to buy socialist paradise. Fine. But that is YOUR choice, not our hegemony.

    Oh, and my sincere apologies — really — to any of you who find this insulting, but regarding Tony Blair, let me say this: I don’t know a single American who would not be thrilled at him being given honorary US citizenship in the exact same manner as Sir Winston Churchill. We have never had a truer friend — even in Margaret Thatcher, who has paid nothing like the price Mr. Blair has for his steadfastness. We simply stand in awe of his moral and political courage. I can speak for a great many people in this regard.

    These past weeks have been a real wake-up call for my country. We have been astonished, hurt, saddened and finally angered by the rampant and deep Anti-Americanism of those we considered friends. But Great Britain has, again, stood by our side, if only by the hardest — and we who do not forget things like this, as we did not and do not forget the playing of THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER outside Buckingham Palace on that awful September day.

    Hearing the French or the Russians or the Chinese accuse us of world domination is..well, expected. To hear it from the citizens of the UK is like a dagger in the heart. To those of you who share those views: how CAN you know so little about us?

  • A_t

    Wow… long thread.

    I think what a lot of Americans & devotees of the US don’t realise is the following:

    I don’t want to live in a world controlled, whether directly or indirectly, by your government.

    The indications seem to be that, unless my country’s willing to develop disproportionate military force, I shouldn’t complain that it has little influence. So, if I’ve understood correctly, might is right, and that’s the end of it? Well, in that case, can you stop prattling on about democracy & justice, and at least be honest and upfront with the rest of the world?

    No-one in their right minds would suggest the US runs things on a local level; clearly they don’t, most of the time. However, if it comes to a conflict between local interests and US interests…. hmmmm…. As an example, the US has had direct influence on drug policy within the UK within the last 15 years. What do US legislators have to do with how we treat heroin addicts in Liverpool? Well, apparantly they have an interest.

    Seeing as the UK’s supposedly a pretty ‘equal’ partner. I should imagine the leverage the US administration exerts over smaller or weaker countries is far greater. Don’t like the policies of the locally elected government because they’re interfering with US commercial interests? Make it quite clear to them the disadvantages they’ll suffer if they don’t comply.

    This doesn’t amount to direct rule, imperial style & we all know this; I’ve not been spouting on about an american ‘empire’, but all you Americans, you’re the winning side here… i don’t expect you to understand immediately. Consider how angry you’d feel if you felt that the interests of the French, for instance, were regularly being placed above your own, by your own elected government. If you can honestly tell me you’d be happy with that, then by all means, tell me I’m stupid & I should shut up.

  • A_t

    oh… & MC… if you think a particular geographical location is safe from cultural sickness… pfooo… what can i say?

  • Drover

    Forgive the insufferable run-on sentence that’s about to ensue.

    So let me see if I got this right: we’re in the midst of being lectured about the imprudence of military action by a continent full of people who, just 5 years ago, sat and watched like retarded marmosets as sectarian skirmishing erupted into full-scale genocide and a war that embroiled an entire region of the continent until, once again, the U.S. showed up and said, “OK Europe, come along now. We’re going to show you what to do when this kind of thing starts bubbling up again…”

    Note to Eurohandwringers: we don’t want an empire. In fact, plenty of us are tired of being Europe’s zookeepers — a condition which arose, I remind you, from your perpetual inability to keep from falling on your own bayonets — and are tempted to leave you to your own devices. Your recent jaw-dropping paralysis while a whole section of your continent erupted into war indicates you’re just not ready to be left at home without a babysitter yet.

    The difference between Europe and America is that Europe is not willing to take any chances or make any uncomfortable sacrifices; while America is willing to take chances, make unpleasant sacrifices, and get things done for long-term benefit. It’s why we come to Europe’s rescue time and time again; because Europe is too incredulous to rescue itself.

    So the next time you’re tempted to whine about American “empire,” just remember how it came to be and why it’s still in your back yard.

  • MC

    oh… & A_t… That was exactly my point. We are not safe from these cultural sicknesses. Like a modern Typhoid Mary, the sick bastards insist on bringing it into our homes. You believe that American pressure on foreign governments to adopt policies agreeable to the US is imperialism in some form. By that logic, all diplomacy is, at best, attempted imperialism. A rather absurd conclusion. If your government is too favorably disposed towards the US, your ire would be more accurately directed towards that government, not America. Our government is expected to act in our own interest, as is yours. But do not be surprised if, when you do elect a less pro-US government, it simply continues with the same policies once it figures out that these are actually in the best interests of the British people. Indeed, before this year, I would have never considered Blair particularly pro-American. He is certainly no Maggie Thatcher. Maybe he actually cares enough about the future of his nation to put it above his political career.
    As for the point that the rest of the world does not want the US to control the world, Americans are in complete agreement. We do not want to run the world. We would like you all to grow up, move out of the house and run your own countries like adults. This is the aspect of American culture that I was emphasizing and the one that Europeans in particular seem incapable of understanding. And before you get started, you should know that I have traveled all over the globe and have lived for the last 7 years in Europe. The saddest thing about Europe in general is that every time someone denounces America for ignoring and/or ignorance of world opinion, the next statement out of their mouths invariably demonstrates either ignorance of or complete disregard for American opinion. I for one, have had enough of that.
    So if you think that we will sit idly by while the world dumps their garbage on our doorstep just because ‘The World’ thinks that would be cool… pfooo… what can I say?

  • To Bill Whittle: I think you’ve nailed it there. The Old Europeans have vivid histories of empires, which they themselves created, and which were not exactly pleasant for the peoples they subjugated. We tend to fear most intensely from others that which we suspect we would do to them if our positions were reversed.

    The American “empire,” if such it be, is a thing of commerce. We flash our AmEx cards, and the world turns toward us. This is the most easily dismantled empire in the history of the world: If you don’t like it, stop trading with us!

  • Drover

    Oh yes, and I agree that many Americans owe Tony Blair a huge, massive apology. We incorrectly assumed that your chummy relationship with Clinton indicated your political character was as weak as his. How wrong we were, and how humbly we apologize.

    I kept asking myself, “what’s in it for this guy?” Eventually I was forced to conclude: nothing.

    May history look kindly upon the man who kept the alliance strong at great personal cost.

  • Andy Freeman

    > I don’t want to live in a world controlled, whether directly or indirectly, by your government.

    Bully for you.

    What are you willing to do about it?

    > However, if it comes to a conflict between local interests and US interests….

    And how, exactly, does the US dominate? Right – it gives folks what they want, which is a nasty tactic as we’re pretty flexible.

    That’s a tough battle to fight. You’re going to have to act against self-interest.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Again: are you claiming that France and Germany were not on our side during the Cold War?

    Nominally, they were, however at times they were were, let me say, less than enthusiastic. They were clearly willing to stick with the status quo indefinitely.

    > What I am saying is that in this specific case

    Now that’s a general principle.

    > it is wrong to go in unilaterally because the cost we will have to pay geopolitically will be great,

    False assumption.

    There is no geopolitical cost because countries act in their perceived best interest. No matter what the US does now, no country will look back some time in the future and say “well, the US did what we wanted then, so we’re going to act against our self-interest”.

    > since Saddam Hussein is unlikely to become significantly more of a threat to us if we wait for three or six more months.

    There’s no reason to believe that anything will change in 3-6 months that will make intervention then more acceptable than it is now. Therefore, that argument is basically a “do nothing, ever” argument – it’s just expressed on the installment plan.

  • Johnathan

    Brian, nice piece overall but I am a bit worried about your ignoring the moral case for taking down Saddam. I think this actually matters quite a lot.

    Also, and I write this as one who favours crushing Saddam and destroying his WMDs – what happens to the future chances of getting small government as a result of a decades-long war vs terror? Is it being idiotarian of me to pose this question?

  • Andy Freeman

    > Consider how angry you’d feel if you felt that the interests of the French, for instance, were regularly being placed above your own, by your own elected government.

    Umm, why are you angry at the US for that? We didn’t elect your govt.

    BTW – If you want to win the culture war, you’re going to have to produce things that your people would rather buy than what the US produces.

  • Drover

    WTF is with this “Americans want to conquer outer space” nutbaggery?

  • Andy Freeman

    >>Cluebat – we’re going to be the prime target almost no matter what we do.

    > Terrorists have limited resources. If they have to attack most countries in the free world, then the damage to us specifically will be reduced.

    “have to attack”?

    Even if every other country in the world signed on, the US would be the only country that mattered, so it will be the country that gets the bulk of the attacks. (If the US backs off, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world does.)

    > There are terrorist cells throughout Europe and Asia, yet it is quite likely that because of our position, much more effort will be focused on hitting only us.

    Yes, but the relevant position is not a consequence of who agrees, but of who’s doing the heavy lifting.

    BTW – If the terrorists and Hussein are such mortal enemies, why will their actions be influenced by what the US does to Hussein?

    Surely you’re not going to argue that it’s a one-way street, that Hussein won’t help the terrorists but they’ll act against his enemies.

    >>They’re not attacking military targets.

    >Whos is “they”?

    The terrorists that Saddam supposedly won’t help, even though they’re willing to attack the US, which is his big problem these days.

    > But even if Saddam were to use his deadly nerve agents against our civilians, as I noted above, it would not be an Armageddon by any means. The sarin attack in Tokyo only killed 12 people. Yes, a ton of nerve gas could kill thousands, but even a light wind would reduce the total to hundreds, and you could kill hundreds with a one ton truck bomb in a crowded area.

    The total dead isn’t the only cost.

    As I posted, 5 smallpox carriers wandering around NYC is a much bigger problem than 50 dead in a bombing, even if only 30 people end up dying from smallpox.

    > If he aids the terrorists and we don’t find out about it, what good does it do him?

    An attack that distracts us from going after him does him good. Heck – a flood on the Mississippi does him good.

  • Andy Freeman

    > without giving the UN more time, will be minor, since Saddam Hussein is unlikely to become significantly more of a threat to us if we wait for three or six more months.

    That argument would have been a lot more compelling in 93 or 94. Heck – it wouldn’t have been laughable in 96.

    It’s now 2003. It’s been “six more months” for 10 years. If the UN/other countries wanted to do anything, they’d have done it by now.

  • Rhianna

    Patrick, we don’t want to F*ck this up at all. However, as our history points out, we’re good at screwing things up in the short term. Hopefully, that won’t happen this time.

    About France, I just recommend Europe dump her in the garbage bin of history, which is where she seems to want to dwell. I find it terribly fitting that the greatest of soldiers they have ever produced, fought for American Independence, and is buried in American Soil, replenished every July 4th, by a US Military Honour Guard. That’s a fitting way to f*ck the French, without wasting resources on an “ally” that isn’t worth the stinky cheese it produces.

  • A_t

    “As for the point that the rest of the world does not want the US to control the world, Americans are in complete agreement. We do not want to run the world. We would like you all to grow up, move out of the house and run your own countries like adults.”

    Pray explain what seems more juvenile about France or Britain than the US. We have differences in policy, but we’re all (give or take the usual governmental abuses) pretty decent countries to live in. If you want more ‘grown up’ military involvement, a) this will take time, and b) you have to realise that the perspective on all this stuff is somewhat different in countries which have actually experienced war, rather than sending soldiers off to it.

    “Umm, why are you angry at the US for that? We didn’t elect your govt.”

    No, but you did elect yours, which chooses to strongarm others, including ‘friends’ and ‘allies’, into following the courses of action it wants. If it’s made abundantly clear to my country’s government that not following US interests will land it in trouble, then yes, it will follow them, clearly. Self-interest, as you say. But the American government isn’t some unchangable entity; it was chosen by the american people, so you can’t then turn round and say we have no right to be pissed off with americans, for claiming to be the representatives of all that’s noble & democratic, & then acting in quite the opposite manner.

  • S. Weasel

    No, but you did elect yours, which chooses to strongarm others, including ‘friends’ and ‘allies’, into following the courses of action it wants.

    Strongarm? How do we do that? You surely can’t fear that we’ll send troops marching into London, so this ‘strongarming’ must be a matter of trade, diplomacy, treaties. That sort of thing. The sort of thing international diplomacy is made of. The sort of thing every nation engages in.

    If it’s more effective when we do it, that has more to do with our big wallets than our big guns. You want our stuff, you want us to buy your stuff. We buy and sell lots and lots of stuff. It gives us leverage. It’s business.

    If your government is knuckling under to our ‘commands’ for some other reason, I’d be curious to hear what it is.

  • Rhianna

    A-t, you do realize France, and the UK’s governments were elected BY the people too, don’t you? Thus, when they don’t do what their pepole like, DON’T blame the US. Blame them. Also, if you think the US is the only one that ever does anyting against it’s own ideals, I suggest you take a long hard look at Paris. Or, does inviting Mugabe to Paris, and only supporting the retention of Sanctions against him, if the EU gives them an exception to host him seem democratic, and good behaviour where all of Europe is concerned? How about Chirac telling all the little EU countries, and those that want to join, to shut up, and tow the French line against the US? How about them threatening to veto those countries’ rights to join the EU if they don’t go along with Paris? Don’t go harping on how evil the US is, when you’re own “friends” and “heros” go out of their way to behave in the same manner. Or, you’ll come out a hypocrite, just as they do. And, your opinions of us will matter even less, due to your own continued hypocracy.

    BTW, were Hawaii, and the Philippines, and Alaska, and Mainland California NOT attacked? Have we never shed blood on our own continent, in our own country? We OBVIOUSLY did, or we’d still be under London’s thumb, wouldn’t we? Besides, don’t say those that went off to fight and die for non-Americans are unimportant in the world scheme of things, or you sound like an ungreatful Frog, that demanded we save them, time and agin, only to spit in our collective face.

  • >> What I am saying is that in this specific case
    >
    >Now that’s a general principle.

    Weighing costs against benefits is not a general principle? By your definition, an example of a general principle would be “always buy, no matter what the cost and no matter what the value of the thing you’re buying.” I prefer to weigh decisions based on a cost/benefit analysis for the given situation. What about you?

    >> it is wrong to go in unilaterally because the cost we will have to pay geopolitically will be great,
    >
    >False assumption.
    >
    >There is no geopolitical cost because countries act in their perceived best
    >interest. No matter what the US does now, no country will look back some
    >time in the future and say “well, the US did what we wanted then, so we’re
    >going to act against our self-interest”.

    The key word here is “perceived.” It is impossible to make decisions based on an perfectly objective computation of self-interest, because such a computation would require being able to project all potential benefits and costs out into the future. Perfect information is never available, and neither is perfect prediction — because we live in the middle of complex systems which are themselves impossible to predict with complete accuracy (cf. complexity theory). Therefore, everyone always makes decisions partly based on rational calculation, partly based on gut feeling, partly based on guessing, etc.

    Therefore, it does matter if we totally piss of a large number of people who might otherwise be motivated to help us. For every million Muslims we push from “moderate” to “hate us”, the terrorists get a huge additional pool of people who will either: 1) join their cause, or 2) look the other way or tacitly help them.

    Terrorism is an asymmetrical, primarily political military tactic. It cannot be won solely on the battlefield, because it is not solely a battlefield technique. It is a political technique. To ignore the political consequences, therefore, of our actions is to play straight into the hands of the terrorists, aiding and abetting their campaign.

    In fact, the whole point of 9/11 was to provoke the United States into overreacting, starting a war between civilizations. This is exactly what Osama bin Laden wants, and we’re giving it to him.

    The best way to respond to terrorism is as calmly, coldly, and rationally as possible. Rushing in gives them an advantage, and personally I see no reason to given them any advantage.

    >There’s no reason to believe that anything will change in 3-6 months
    >that will make intervention then more acceptable than it is now.

    In 3-6 months we will have that much more time to catch Hussein at something, if we are dead-set on going to war (though I am not yet convinced that we need to go to war at all to contain this guy.) The one thing that troubles me is whether he might develop nuclear weapons — even then he becomes at worst a regional threat because he is deterrable.

    Even if one is convinced that we must go to war, I think there’s a perfectly good chance that 3-6 more months of intrusive inspections, aided by US intelligence, could uncover something. If the inspectors have yet to act on all of our tips yet, even more reason to believe they might find something. If Hussein is really hiding something big, we can still pressure the UN to step up the intrusive inspections until he puts up some resistance. Then, the hawks can pounce. It seems very unlikely to me that six months of intense inspections backed by US intelligence would fail to uncover anything. Hussein is already nervous about agreeing to have scientists interviewed — he is clearly hiding something. We could simply insist that if Hussein doesn’t allow scientists to be interviewed outside the country, we will go in. At least that would be some sort of justification that’s better than what we have now, which is not much.

    >”have to attack”?
    >
    >Even if every other country in the world signed on, the US would be
    >the only country that mattered, so it will be the country that gets
    >the bulk of the attacks. (If the US backs off, it doesn’t matter what
    >the rest of the world does.)

    Yes, we would get the bulk of the attacks, but I see no reason to make things even worse, for such a minor gain.

    >BTW – If the terrorists and Hussein are such mortal enemies, why
    >will their actions be influenced by what the US does to Hussein?
    >
    >Surely you’re not going to argue that it’s a one-way street, that Hussein
    >won’t help the terrorists but they’ll act against his enemies.

    To the tiny extent that Hussein and the terrorists are in league now, it is only because we are about to go to war against him. So it’s sort of a circular argument: Hussein and the terrorists are allies and we must attack! Hussein and the terrorists are allies because we are attacking!

    However, the simple fact is that even now I cannot see a circumstance in which Hussein benefits from giving nerve gas to Al Qaeda. As I said before, if we find out about it, he’s toast, and if we don’t find out about it, it does him no good.

    >The total dead isn’t the only cost.
    >
    >As I posted, 5 smallpox carriers wandering around NYC is a much bigger problem

    It’s a problem, but face it: it’s not a nuclear weapon. In fact, smallpox, for example, is not even normally fatal if treated properly. When people bandy about terms like “weapons of mass destruction” it makes them all seem equivalent — they’re not. A nuclear weapon is a weapon of mass destruction. Chemical and biological weapons aren’t anything like that.

    >An attack that distracts us from going after him does him good.

    Objectively speaking, another terrorist attack would simply drive the US more to the right, which would tend to dramatically increase the probability that we will attack him. I don’t see any benefit from his point of view.

    >It’s now 2003. It’s been “six more months” for 10 years.
    >If the UN/other countries wanted to do anything, they’d have done it by now.

    Even the Bush Adminstration was talking about easing sanctions in the first year of their term. Nobody, including us, was pushing to attack Iraq until recently (there were some in the Administration who were, but it was not yet official policy). Since we’ve just shifted gears radically, the fact is we haven’t yet given very much time to bringing the world around to a unified policy. I believe a unified policy places us in a much stronger position. Even if it fails, an attempt to reach a unified policy would be well worth the small cost of giving it time.

    Mitsu

  • A_t

    Rhianna, calm down. The anti-French sentiments on this site are reaching hysterical levels. Less talk of ‘ungrateful frogs’ if you please.

    If the US planned to make all the countries it helped during WWII into vassal states who weren’t allowed to disagree over major policy issues, it should have made that clear at the time. Otherwise, Chirac, right or wrong, certainly has the right to reflect the will of his people (which Tony Blair, Berlusconi etc. are not doing, according to polls) and disagree with the current US line. I’m not saying he’s acted sensibly; far from it, but all this talk of ‘ungratefulness’ has to stop.

    And for all the talk of ‘saving’ Europe, you must remember the US only actually entered the war once they were attacked by Japan. Perhaps we Europeans should just wait until we’re attacked by Iraq or an ally of theirs (a long wait, imho) before we get involved….

    And yes, there’s a bit of a major difference between having remote outposts attacked, and having significant portions of your major cities bombed flat or occupied by enemy forces. Within living memory too, not hundreds of years ago… i’m not sure if you appreciate this. Modern warfare is something you can be reminded of every day in London; just check out the swathes of modern buildings standing where bombs fell 60 years ago.

    As to the self-interest argument, I never argued any other country was much better; certainly not France, but very few other nations go around pretending they’re the democratic saviours of the world, or deploying quite so much hypocritical cant about ‘freedom’ and all that jazz in justifying their self-serving foreign policies.

  • Sandy P.

    TJ Madison has a bugaboo about Russia and Chechnya. Have you been paying attention where a lot of those terrorists are getting their training? The Pansiki Gorge will be fumigated.

    A_T – we don’t have to tell you to shut up, Jacques already has. You’d rather be run by Frankenreich, that’s your perogative. Just remember, you never voted for them, either.

    And to those of you who think you’re not going to be attacked, only as long as security does its job. They’ve caught quite a few, but there will be one that gets thru.

    If you haven’t learned by now that when Frankenreich starts collaborating Europe bleeds, I can’t help you.

  • crl, New York, NY

    I’ve been following this debate, and indeed this website, with much interest in the past few weeks. I have to say that I admire Mitsu et al for continuing the debate in a reasoned (and mostly polite) manner, and others posting here for the same. I’ve seen very little of the knee-jerk vitriol and name-calling that one finds on other sites, the type that convinces no one of nothing.

    I can see Mitsu’s point *if* I understand correctly, that she is advocating waiting a bit longer (not indefinitely, and not simply changing position). I think Bush has not done the best job of conveying his viewpoint to the masses, especially, frankly, the American masses (though he wouldn’t have been the first world leader in history to do this). However, there are some for whom it will *never* be expedient to see our side. We can’t wait for them.

    I would like to point out that while it is comforting (especially for those like me living in New York City) to read that chemical and biological weapons are not the most efficient, the majority of us do spend a great deal of our time (hours of commute) in enclosed spaces where such an attack would be extremely efficient. The fear is very close to home for us. I’m grateful for the New York Times article, which raises several important points. I feel the need to point out, however, that while perhaps only 7 – 12 (depending on your source) people outright died in the Tokyo subway attacks (and that only after 5 or so failed attempts by Aum), an estimated 200 – 300 were injured — not small injuries either, but severe physiological and neurological damage and blindness among the effects. The dead are not the only casualties. (Excellent book on the topic: “Underground” by Haruki Murakami.)

    All this aside, I’d have to say that were I to go simply by the arguments presented here, I might have wound up solidly on the fence (and of no use to anyone. :-) But at the end of the day I cannot agree with Mitsu.

    I’m not going to reiterate what people have already said.
    What sways me, (and the main reason the protests of February 15th dismayed me so much) was this:
    They’ve *asked* for our help.

    Remember the Iraqis who protested Hussein’s regime in Berlin last year?
    What about the delegation of Iraqis and Kurds who counterprotested in DC this winter?
    What about this article in the New York Times (not where I’d expect to find it, but well…)

    February 5, 2003
    Give Us a Chance to Build a Democratic Iraq
    By BARHAM A. SALIH
    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/05/opinion/05SALI.html?pagewanted=print&position=top

    Or this one, by the former head of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program?
    http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110003053

    This is something we are capable of doing. Much as I hate to see *any* civilian die (and however much a typical “conservative” or “Republican” I am assuredly not, just don’t fit the profile, me), I think we should make a concerted effort to do it, and do it right (both the action and the followup).

  • With respect to Nicole Tedesco’s comments, above, regarding the UN:

    There are two main advantages to deliberative bodies, like parliaments, legislatures, etc.: one is that they tend to spread power around, so no single party is dominating the rest, and the other is that the process itself confers legitimacy on the outcome, so people are more willing to either accept the outcome or resist the outcome peacefully (through political campaigns rather than violent uprisings).

    The UN, while rather oddly structured, nevertheless satisfies these basic requirements reasonably well. The five permanent members come from a relatively diverse set of regions, so that no single permanent member has unilateral control. Getting all five members to agree is not easy, which leads to the second advantage: once all five members have agreed, the resulting decision carries with it much more international significance.

    The symbolism of the UN is quite powerful. In Macedonia, when the UN ceded control of their peacekeeping operation to NATO, a dramatic shift occurred — while the UN troops were looked upon favorably by the Macedonians, when they became NATO troops, the population became quite hostile. The irony is that they were the exact same troops — just different insignia. In Afghanistan, surrendering Taliban troops regularly asked that they be able to surrender to UN, not US, authorities. With this war, most Arab nations have publicly stated that they would accept a UN-sponsored war to oust Saddam Hussein.

    The UN was paralyzed during the Cold War since the USSR and the US were bitter enemies. The Security Council was therefore irrelevant for the most part. But that was then and this is now.

    Since the end of the Cold War, the Security Council has become a viable instrument of multilateral interational security. The UN authorized the first Gulf War, it issued a resolution supportive of our Afghan campaign, etc. In the case of Bosnia and Kosovo, NATO viewed it as a regional problem so the UN didn’t need to get involved — the problem there was getting NATO to agree on a strategy.

    The UN is flawed, but it is certainly neither impotent nor useless. The ideal multilateral body is exactly NOT a body which will just do everything the US wants, right away. Such a body would be of no use. The French, Russians, and Chinese are doing us a favor by resisting us, and if we were smart we’d moderate our policy and come to a compromise with them. If we did so our policy would not only gain legitimacy it would be much more effective in the long term. The terror war is a political war, and we need all the help we can get.

  • crl:

    Thank you for your remarks.

    I, too, live in New York City, and I also ride the subway frequently.

    By the way, I am a he not a she, not that it matters.

    When it comes to liberating the people of Iraq, I am sympathetic to that argument. However, even such a justification doesn’t require that we go in unilaterally, in a big rush.

    And unless Saddam is actively doing something like ethnic cleansing that needs to be stopped right away, I still believe we ought to take pause before taking the big step of going to war.

    I am reminded of the words of John Quincy Adams, speaking of America:

    “Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy.

    She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.

    She is the champion and vindicator only of her own.”

    Though I am not suggesting that we never go in to liberate antoher people, we ought to be very careful how we go about doing it, lest we fall victim to the law of unintended consequences. In this particular case, I believe the potential downside to our national security may well outweigh the upside, unless we can bring more of the world along with us.

  • Larry

    Great post. Great comments.

    Mitsu: “Not only that but we wasted a huge amount of money as well. Luckily we could afford it more than the Soviets could.” Wasted? Wasted? Are you related to Molly Ivins? We won the damned cold war because a GREAT PRESIDENT went head-to-head with the evil empire. If you think that money was wasted, you need to be added to a certain list I keep.

    Prez P***y Hound ruined US credibilty by dawdling with Iraq for 8 years. Now you suggest that the 12-year violater of every cease-fire provision needs more time? Is that your solution? What is the opposite of cease-fire? BTW, this also invalidates your claim that this is a preemptive war.

  • jack

    “I don’t want to live in a world controlled, whether directly or indirectly, by your [American]government.”

    Then who do you want to be controlled by? The Islamic extremists in your midst, immigrating to European nations, living off your welfare states, preaching hatred in mosques, preparing for jihad?

    They are coming for you, and you will convert or die. Because if you can’t or won’t defend yourself, you’ll end up controlled by someone.

    “The indications seem to be that, unless my country’s willing to develop disproportionate military force, I shouldn’t complain that it has little influence. So, if I’ve understood correctly, might is right, and that’s the end of it? Well, in that case, can you stop prattling on about democracy & justice, and at least be honest and upfront with the rest of the world?”

    Ah, the old “might makes right.” Here in American, we have a variation on that theme, it goes like this:

    Might does not make right, but if you are right, then you had better be mighty, because those in the wrong are often willing to kill you.

    Understand that, and you’ll begin to get a clue.

  • >a GREAT PRESIDENT went head-to-head

    We won the damned cold war because we waited around until the inefficient Soviet system eventually collapsed in on itself. It had nothing to do with any specific president — it would have happened eventually, and it just randomly happened to happen while Reagan was in office.

    We wasted money because we spent huge sums preparing for a war that was never going to happen, fighting an enemy that was a hell of a lot weaker than we projected. After the Soviets collapsed we discovered how wrong our intelligence community had been about them — we kept characterizing them as having this huge, monstrous military capability, when in fact their military was pretty weak. Look how effective those Soviet fighters have been against ours in recent conflicts, for example.

    The war, however, was never going to happen for one reason: we both had strategic nuclear weapons. It was a MAD strategy but it worked.

    The one advantage to all of our military spending was, basically, that it got the Soviets to spend a lot, and that bankrupted them. However, we could have spent a lot less and still bankrupted them eventually, and saved a hell of a lot of money on our side.

    But this is not a Cold War topic so I hope we don’t get too far off the subject.

  • Andy Freeman

    >>> What I am saying is that in this specific case
    >>Now that’s a general principle.

    >Weighing costs against benefits is not a general principle?

    I’m pointing out that the costs you’ll conside depend on the conclusion that you support. I’ve shown that you won’t make the support argument when it supports a conclusion that you oppose. You’ve shown that you will make it when it supports a conclusion that you like.

    >>There is no geopolitical cost because countries act in their perceived best interest. No matter what the US does now, no country will look back some time in the future and say “well, the US did what we wanted then, so we’re going to act against our self-interest”.

    >The key word here is “perceived.”

    “Perceived” is only part of determining said self-interest – it doesn’t have anything to do with whether they’re going to act on it.

    If the “credit for past deeds” theory worked, France would be on-board. It isn’t, and never has been. The US got no “credit” for WWII or WWI, so why will this time be any different?

    >>There’s no reason to believe that anything will change in 3-6 months that will make intervention then more acceptable than it is now.

    >In 3-6 months we will have that much more time to catch Hussein at something,

    At what? We’ve caught him at lots of things, and the relevant parties have said that they simply don’t care. Will that change?

    >>Even if every other country in the world signed on, the US would be the only country that mattered, so it will be the country that gets the bulk of the attacks. (If the US backs off, it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world does.)

    > Yes, we would get the bulk of the attacks, but I see no reason to make things even worse, for such a minor gain.

    The aftermath of Gulf War I proves that there is no such minor gain. (Other countries participated and yet the US got the attacks because everyone realized that only the US mattered.)

    > As I said before, if we find out about it, he’s toast, and if we don’t find out about it, it does him no good.

    And, as I pointed out, you’re still wrong. A natural disaster in the US does him good.

    >>As I posted, 5 smallpox carriers wandering around NYC is a much bigger problem

    >It’s a problem, but face it: it’s not a nuclear weapon.

    So? You claimed that chem/bio weapons were less dangerous than conventional weapons. That claim is wrong, as my small pox argument shows, as the actual experience with Sarin in the Tokyo subway shows.

    Frankly, my position does not depend on whether Iraq has chem/bio weapons. But, if you’re going to argue about the value of the UN and so on, they’re on record saying that they do. Iraq’s behavior gives you a choice – the UN is irrelevant or Iraq gets taken out. (The likely result is now “both”, which suits me just fine.)

    >>It’s now 2003. It’s been “six more months” for 10 years. If the UN/other countries wanted to do anything, they’d have done it by now.

    >Even the Bush Adminstration

    Actually, that was the Bush Administration giving in to Euro desires. They made their choice; they didn’t want to do anything.

    > I believe a unified policy places us in a much stronger position.

    What additional things come from this “unified policy”? There’s no added military capability (in fact, the delay actually reduces our capability), there’s no “credit” that we can redeem later, there’s no “spreading the blame”.

    The only “benefit” is that folks who’ve demonstrated an affection for thuggery in the past get to say “we held things up”. That’s a cost.

  • Andy Freeman

    > The French, Russians, and Chinese are doing us a favor by resisting us

    So, the USSR did the US a favor during the cold war….

    No, resistance is not “good”. Being right is good, and they’re wrong.

    > In Afghanistan, surrendering Taliban troops regularly asked that they be able to surrender to UN, not US, authorities.

    That’s not actually a recommendation for UN authorities.

    FWIW, the Afghans NOW are getting fed up with UN “relief”, which they call the “Toyota Taliban”.

    The biggest mistake of the Afghan campaign was letting the UN participate in rebuilding.

  • Andy Freeman

    > And for all the talk of ‘saving’ Europe, you must remember the US only actually entered the war once they were attacked by Japan. Perhaps we Europeans should just wait until we’re attacked by Iraq or an ally of theirs (a long wait, imho) before we get involved….

    Feel free to sit this one out.

    The question on the table is whether the US should wait for you.

    I note that the US didn’t ask you to wait.

    > As to the self-interest argument, I never argued any other country was much better; certainly not France,

    The argument has been that if the US waits, it will get points that it can redeem in the future. France demonstrates that that’s simply not going to happen.

    No, the US doesn’t put its full effort into liberating people outside its borders. However, only those who are doing at least half as much get to complain about that failing.

  • >I’m pointing out that the costs you’ll consider depend on the conclusion
    >that you support. I’ve shown that you won’t make the support argument
    >when it supports a conclusion that you oppose. You’ve shown that you
    >will make it when it supports a conclusion that you like.

    If you’re referring to your Cold War example, I simply don’t see in what way we were alone in resisting the USSR (when it came to strategic resistance that is). Yes, other countries may have opposed specific policies of ours, but that doesn’t, to my mind, translate into us having “unilaterally” resisted the Soviets. I believe that the specifics of our military strategy with respect to the Soviets didn’t matter much at all, because what eventually brought them down was their own internal corruption and inefficiency. We could have built 1/2 the number of nuclear weapons we did, for example, and the Soviets would have still collapsed.

    However, when it comes to our general foreign policy during the Cold War, including orchestrating coups against democratically elected leaders, etc., and various other misadventures in the Third World, I believe that this policy was for the most part both unnecessary and detrimental to our long-term security, and we are now suffering some of the negative consequences of some of those policies right now.

    >If the “credit for past deeds” theory worked, France would be on-board.

    Again, you are speaking as though any given contributing factor is only real if it gives an all or nothing outcome. I.e., you’re saying that because we saved the French, the factor would only have validity if, after that, France always agreed with everything we ever did for all time? Such a “theory” is nonsensical on its face.

    Actions are based on perceived threats. We perceive a threat from Al Qaeda, based on their past deeds. Similarly, Muslims perceive a threat from American hegemony, partly based on past deeds, partly based on their own misperceptions. What we do has an effect on their perception of us as a threat, and therefore it is a cost.

    >At what? We’ve caught him at lots of things, and the relevant parties
    >have said that they simply don’t care. Will that change?

    They aren’t saying they don’t care, they’re saying — the evidence is weak, and why can’t he be contained? For that matter, I’m asking the same question.

    >The aftermath of Gulf War I proves that there is no such minor gain.
    >(Other countries participated and yet the US got the attacks
    >because everyone realized that only the US mattered.)

    However, there have been reports that cells were planning attacks in Britain, France, and Germany.

    >And, as I pointed out, you’re still wrong. A natural disaster in the US does him good.

    You’re simply making no sense here. A natural disaster does him good because it is neutral. A terror attack is not neutral — it will, even if not directly connected to him, cause us to be more likely to attack, not less.

    >So? You claimed that chem/bio weapons were less dangerous
    >than conventional weapons. That claim is wrong, as my small pox
    >argument shows, as the actual experience with Sarin in the Tokyo subway shows.

    Er, I never said they were “less dangerous” than conventional weapons. I am saying they are of comparable danger. One crazy guy in Korea just killed 120 people in the subway with a bottle of paint thinner and a cigarette yesterday.

    >What additional things come from this “unified policy”?
    >There’s no added military capability (in fact, the delay actually
    >reduces our capability), there’s no “credit” that we can redeem
    >later, there’s no “spreading the blame”.

    Al Qaeda just attacked us. It seems to me that we have a memory of that attack, and we hold it against them.

    Similarly, the UN has a great deal of symbolic weight in the rest of the world, as I’ve noted earlier, for whatever reason. Part of the reason is precisely because there are elements within it that resist us — which is good for us, and for world security, because as I noted above, if we can get the UN to agree, it lends more legitimacy to the action. I’ve already mentioned a few examples of this.

    Terrorism is a political weapon, and if we’re going to win this war we have to play politics better than they do.

  • >No, resistance is not “good”. Being right is
    >good, and they’re wrong.

    Well, I beg to differ. There’s a credible case to be made that Iraq can be contained. There’s a case to be made that we ought to proceed slowly when going to war: any war. There’s a case to be made, which is partly the French position, that we ought to accumulate a pretty good case before going to war — not only to satisfy ourselves, but to mollify moderate Muslims to some degree.

    There’s a case to be made that war can lead to unintended consequences.

    And, finally, when our allies resist us, if we can come to a compromise with them, the unified position will have a much greater political power. And terrorism is political warfare.

    During the Cold War, the USSR was our bitter enemy, so this is not the same situation. In most conflicts, we were both involved, so obviously the Security Council becomes irrelevant at that point.

    In this conflict, getting the Security Council to agree would have a great political impact on those people in the Third World who see it as a restraint on our power.

    We are already the most powerful country in the world. We already have the ability to do whatever the hell we want, whenever we want. It’s precisely for this reason that we needn’t stick that in the face of everybody in the world. Such a thing breeds resentment, and that’s something we don’t need to breed without a compelling reason.

  • Larry

    Mitsu: “The one advantage to all of our military spending was, basically, that it got the Soviets to spend a lot, and that bankrupted them. However, we could have spent a lot less and still bankrupted them eventually, and saved a hell of a lot of money on our side.”

    Thanks for making my point. Do you have a handle on how much less?

  • >Thanks for making my point. Do you
    >have a handle on how much less?

    Objectively speaking, having enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world fifty times over is not signficantly different from a military standpoint from having enough to destroy the world, say, 25 times over. The Soviets, being a paranoid totalitarian state, were going to massively overspend on the military anyway. Do you think that if we’d cut military spending by 20% they’d have cut their spending by 20%? I doubt it.

    In any event the point here is that we did not defeat the Soviets by “standing up” to them — we defeated them by waiting. They were going down anyway. It wasn’t the courage of a “great president” — it was just the combined effect of decades of waiting for them to collapse.

  • John Glynn

    If Bush plans to tyrannise the world somebody is going to have to pay for it. Not only the purely military expenses but the lost opportunity costs of the better things the people and money might have done. The balance of payment deficits and federal debt.

    Apart from the canard of an idea that the invasion of Iraq will somehow reduce the depredations of Al Quaida and its ilk there seems to be no benefit for invading Iraq (cheaper oil?).

    The continued use of military will make us weaker economically with no apparant benefit. Perhaps the Administration needs to do some long termthinking.

  • Rhianna

    A-t you just don’t get it. The US has never demanded you shut up, or you get kicked out. France is doing JUST that. Where is your indignation on that one? Or, is the EU not a democraticaly based form of mass government? We all know it’s the biggest, most corrupt form of Burocracy on the planet.

    As for the US only getting invloved after Dec 7th, you know very litle of your own WWII history. Have you ever listened to re-broadcasts of Her Majesty (Then the Princess Elizabeth) thanking the US (as well as Canada and other countries) for taking in UK children to shelter them from the Nazi bombardment of the UK? Do you think all those bombs, and ordinance the RAF dropped were British, or even just from teh Commonwealth? How about the coal ships, the food, the bandages and other health supplies that came in by steamer load before Pearl Harbor?

    As for ungreatful, that is exactly what the French are. We’ve given them back their country TWICE, from the SAME enemy, in the last 100 years. We bled the ground red in VietNam, and Korea, due to their emperial raping and pillaging of “French Indochina”. Don’t even dare to say they’ve even once said thank you. They go out of their way to stab their allies in the back. With what they’re pulling in teh EU right now, I’d have thought you capable of realizing NO ONE is safe from them, least of all their “allies”. However, if you choose French dictating, over American “arm-twisting”, that’s fine. Vote that way come next election day. But, just as a warning to you, France isn’t the nice buddy you make them out to be. And America has never been the Empire builder we’ve been made out to be. To find those, you need only look in the mirror, and across the Channel. And, as you sow, so shall you reap. Be very careful about just who it is you chose to run your government, or you may get another Lloyd George, instead of a Churchill.

  • Bob Briant

    >Let the world beware! If we have to kill 10 million people to protect our civilians from a huge smallpox attack, then we will reluctantly do so.
    >(3) If you kill/threaten Americans or tolerate those who do, we will kill you.
    >(4) If you “need killing” or tolerate those who do, we might kill you.

    The World Health Organisation is reported as concerned about a killer strain of Bird Flu in Hong Kong in case this become the world’s next flu pandemic: http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/health/story.jsp?story=379888 A pandemic of a lethal strain of flu after WW1 killed more people than were battle casualties in the war.

  • eric

    I think at this point it is best to deal with the fact that within 3 weeks we are going into Iraq, with a coalition of over 20 nations, which is hardly ‘unilateral’.
    We will free a nation of enslaved people.
    Isn’t that worth celebtating?
    Prediction: the ‘peace’ marchers of recent note will not celebrate this fact. Why is that?

  • T. J. Madison

    I’m curious what everyone’s take is on this:

    target="new">Pilots say U.S. allows Turkey to bomb Kurds

  • Nolan

    well put!

    but you know, we’re only human and will fuck some things up.

    and we’ll fix that and fuck some more stuff up in that effort

    and so on and so forth

    as we blunder our way thru the 21rst century

    but the effort will be worth it
    failure is not an option

  • Cali Geezer

    Brian: Asking “Why Iraq?” and “Why not somewhere else?” is like asking “Why France?” and “Why not somewhere else?” in 1944.

    Priceless. This says it all.

    Re empire, I agree with other posters that America doesn’t want an empire — we can make more money and have more fun right here at home.

  • A_t

    Rhianna, I never expressed any wish to be ruled by the French. What’s the point of reducing the argument down to a ridiculous duality? Clearly, I don’t want to be ruled either by the French or by the US; I’d rather have my own country’s government, acting in the interests of it’s own people. Now, for all Chirac’s ridiculous bluster, he’s hardly about to control many other countries realistically; what pressure would he exert? Threaten to nuke them? Stop selling them Citroens? The US on the other hand have far more pursuasive power. That’s why I’m more cagey. I’m not on some USA = Great Satan tip. I just think the US is overstretching itself, and digging deep into it’s worldwide goodwill credit, at a time when it’s probably clever to keep most folk thinking you’re nice guys.

    & yes, i know all of this about WWII. And hey… as far as I understand it, most of the West is willing to help out in some way or other with this war; if any American kids need kept safe, then just ship ‘em across… i’m sure we’d be glad to help. But calling a country treacherous and ungrateful, when it’s president expresses the *majority opinion* of his country honestly? hmm… you’re getting on dodgy ground here. You *know* that if the US were actually attacked, all NATO allies would be bound by treaty to assist, and definitely would. Initiating a war is another matter entirely, and in my mind, and in the minds of many people round the world, only justifiable in the face of strong evidence. The US and UK claim to have such evidence, but seem reluctant to share it with anyone else. If there was a clear worldwide security threat posed by Iraq, do you really think us ‘Euroweenies’ are so fearful that we’d rather just wait for doom? I, and most of the people currently opposed to war that i’ve spoken with, am not categorically against war; I just need to be convinced that this war, which may set a number of dodgy precedents, and lead to increased danger for the West, is justified.

    Mitsu, I’m so glad somone can keep a calm head on their shoulders :) your posts are a pleasure to read.

  • Of course, there is one scenario in which I can imagine Saddam Hussein initiating terrorist attacks on the United States — when he’s about to be destroyed by a military attack, and he has nothing else to lose. That’s about the only scenario in which he actually has a motive to attack us directly, since by then he figures he’s probably going to lose anyway, so he might as well take as many of us with him as we can.

    This is, of course, the same analysis as the CIA — I find myself on the CIA’s side these days…

  • Drover

    I’m sure the anti-hegemony marcher A_t (or is it our “insular approach” she opposes? Whichever gives her an excuse to march against America will probably do) is outraged at France’s recent outburst at Eastern Europe and its threats to exclude those nations from the European Union. We expect she’ll be marching any day now against Chirac’s bullying attempt to hold the economic fate of half the continent hostage to his demands.

    I’d like to thank Chirac for laying bare the Franco-Prussian alliance’s desire to assert its dominance over Europe. That most of Europe is not alarmed shows once again that they are concerned about nothing until nothing can be done. Eastern Europe, on the other hand, appears to see the big picture. After all, they still have vivid memories of what security guarantees from those two nations are worth. It’s no surprise then that they run right into America’s arms.

    It’s ironic that the EU is supposed to create a European sphere of influence independent of the U.S. while Chirac does his best to push half the continent further into the American sphere. Atta boy, Jaques!

  • A_t

    Drover, wrong gender, but i’m flattered.

    If France started threatening real action against Eastern European states, then too right, i’d take part in a protest. As is, most of these states have rightly laughed off France’s ‘threats’ as so much bluster, & I’m inclined to do the same.

    Meanwhile, Eastern Europe has much to gain from American largesse, so their support for US policy on this is not very surprising, and not, i suspect, principally based on a rational assessment of the Iraqi threat. Again, I don’t see why this has to be so oppositional; a while ago, it was ‘choose us or choose the terrorists’… now it’s ‘choose the US or choose France’… Doesn’t leave very much space for independence.
    :) heheh… agree with you about the irony tho’; I’ve no idea how he could think his comments would be anything less than badly received.

    But please… i’ve said before, i’m not anti-american. I’m not just going to go on any old march against America for the sake of it. To accuse anyone opposed to or uncomfortable with current US foreign policy of this is facile and smacks of unwillingness to debate the issues at hand.

    Mitsu…right on, & yes, puzzling isn’t it, agreeing with the CIA.

  • Andy Freeman

    > I believe that the specifics of our military strategy with respect to the Soviets didn’t matter much at all, because what eventually brought them down was their own internal corruption and inefficiency. We could have built 1/2 the number of nuclear weapons we did, for example, and the Soviets would have still collapsed.

    One consequence of the “internal corruption and inefficiency” theory is that spending less would have kept the USSR alive longer; there may even be a (low) level of spending that lets the USSR basically last forever. Note also that the benefits of bankrupting the USSR are long term and fairly large each and every year while the costs are relatively short-term, so it’s worth spending a lot of money in each of the “bankrupt the USSR” years.

    If you’re going to make a serious economic argument, you’ve got to consider issues like this instead of simplistically asserting “we could have spent less”.

  • Drover

    “But please… i’ve said before, i’m not anti-american. I’m not just going to go on any old march against America for the sake of it. To accuse anyone opposed to or uncomfortable with current US foreign policy of this is facile and smacks of unwillingness to debate the issues at hand.”

    Nice try, but you don’t get off so easily. You simultaneously complain of America’s insular approach and its hegemony. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways. You don’t like America whether we come or go, and that is what makes you anti-American. Like S. Weasel said, we’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t, so we’ll do what we damn well please. And we’ll have no regard for the mewlings of anti-Americans like yourself.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Again, you are speaking as though any given contributing factor is only real if it gives an all or nothing outcome.

    Not at all. The French have had plenty of opportunities since the 1940s to demonstrate that the US earned some credit. It hasn’t happened yet and it’s absurd to argue that it will happen in the future. Likewise, it is absurd to argue that the next time will be any different.

    And, as far as “international support”, Mitsu is understating the popular Franco-German opposition to various US measures that did drive the USSR out of biz. (Star Wars, theater nukes, neutron bombs, US bases in Germany, etc.)

    They were wrong then. They still like thugs, only now they’re in govt.

  • Andy Freeman

    > Do you think that if we’d cut military spending by 20% they’d have cut their spending by 20%? I doubt it.

    There’s a (low) point where that’s true. There’s also a (high) point where they simply can’t increase their spending.

    It’s also true that they increased their spending when the US increased its spending, so it isn’t clear that they were at either point (and you probably, for reasons discussed previously, want to be close to the high point).

    In short, Mitsu’s economic “we should have spent less” argument doesn’t make any economic sense.

  • Andy Freeman

    > A terror attack is not neutral — it will, even if not directly connected to him, cause us to be more likely to attack, not less.

    Not if you get your way.

    > Look how effective those Soviet fighters have been against ours in recent conflicts, for example.

    No one believes that the US sells “as capable” versions of its equipment to lesser allies. (Most suspect that even greater allies get somewhat crippled equipment.) And, the USSR had quantity on its side (relative to the US) while the US has had numerical superiority in the recent conflicts.

    Thus, the recent conflicts tell us nothing about whether the USSR would have been significantly more successful.

  • Andy Freeman

    > if we can get the UN to agree, it lends more legitimacy to the action.

    I’ve shown that the legitimacy confers no benefits.

    Now let’s consider the probability that the UN won’t agree – then what do we do? Mitsu says “wait until they do”, that is, forever.

    Note that the “wait for agreement” strategy actually increases US risks. The appropriate response by terrorists/Iraq is to reward France/Germany by not attacking them, making it easy for them to maintain the “we see no threat” position.

    > mollify moderate Muslims to some degree.

    You can’t seriously believe that there are Muslims who think “it’s okay to take him out if he has bad weapons, and that case hasn’t been proven but can be, but it’s not okay to take him out for the slaughter of Muslims”.

    But, I’ll play. What plausible NEW evidence wouild be sufficient to convince you that the US should act without the UN. What NEW evidence do you think would convince them, and what is the basis for your belief?

  • A_t

    Drover, asserting that the US government is active across the globe, sometimes coercively, and that the American people are fairly inward looking is neither anti-american nor in any way contradictory. Would you care to refute either point? Or am I not worth arguing with, since my opinion’s fixed anyway?

  • Raz

    Well done Brian. this is my first time reading Samizdata and I must say that your post and the subsequent discussion was thoroughly excellent. It contains more thoughtful and better information than a month’s-worth of traditional media. Thanks again to all of you.

  • >It’s also true that they increased their spending when the US increased
    >its spending, so it isn’t clear that they were at either point (and you
    >probably, for reasons discussed previously, want to be close to the high point).
    >
    >In short, Mitsu’s economic “we should have spent less” argument doesn’t make any economic sense.

    Well, you’d be right if your premise was correct (that they weren’t near the high point) — but it isn’t. After the Cold War was over, we discovered that Soviet military spending had levelled off in 1975 to a growth rate of 1.3 percent per year, and stayed that way for ten years. It rose briefly during 1985-1987, to 4.3 percent per year, but this was due to decisions that had been made earlier. In 1988 Gorbachev began a round of budget cuts, bringing military spending back down to its 1980 level. Meanwhile, we were increasing defense spending by an average of 8 percent per year throughout that period. I think we got taken for a little ride.

    It’s not a big deal, however, since all that was really wasted was money — on the other hand, most of our misguided adventures in the Third World were also an overreaction, but unlike the wasted money on the military, a lot of those have had long-term consequences which are positively destructive to our long-term security.

    There is a pattern here: overestimate the danger of your opponent and you overreact, which hurts you in the long term.

    >Not at all. The French have had plenty of opportunities since the 1940s
    >to demonstrate that the US earned some credit. It hasn’t happened yet

    Let’s see now — the French aren’t launching terrorist attacks on us, last time I checked. In fact, they’ve pretty much been an ally of ours the whole time. And, frankly, I am in agreement with many of their criticisms of our foreign policy, including in this case. From that point of view I consider them a very good friend (the best friend is somebody who tells you you are full of shit when they truly think you are).

    >And, the USSR had quantity on its side (relative to the US) while the
    >US has had numerical superiority in the recent conflicts.

    Numerical superiority was not the reason we trounced those Soviet fighters — it was our superior electronics and targeting systems. They could have had ten times the number of fighters and they would never have gotten close enough to our jets to even lock on. But even setting that aside, our intelligence estimates during the Cold War grossly overestimated overall Soviet military capability, as we discovered after the fall of the Soviet Union.

    All of this is irrelevant, however, since the fact that we both had a gigantic oversupply of strategic nuclear weapons meant that we were never going to fight large-scale conventional war with the Soviets.

    >I’ve shown that the legitimacy confers no benefits.

    No, you’ve merely kept repeating that it confers no benefits, railing at French ingratitude as “proof” of this, which doesn’t demonstrate anything at all. Logically, to demonstrate your thesis you have to show that past actions never confer benefits, not that in a particular case they didn’t confer a benefit. The crux of your thesis is that people make estimates of threat without reference to past events, yet there are a whole slew of counterexamples: the Israelis and Palestinians, for one. Our fear of Al Qaeda is based on past events. Arab and Muslim resentment towards us is partly based on past events, as well as our current actions and their own distortions. Asian countries still fear Japan. There are people who still won’t forgive Germany. The list goes on and on.

    Even one counterexample refutes your thesis — in fact, I believe that memory in fact is the overriding factor when countries determine who their friends and foes are. And why shouldn’t it be? Past performance doesn’t always predict future performance, but what else do you have to go on?

    >Now let’s consider the probability that the UN won’t agree – then
    >what do we do? Mitsu says “wait until they do”, that is, forever.

    I never suggested this. If I were convinced that military action was necessary (I am not yet convinced even of this, but suppose I were), then I would give the UN the inspectors a reasonable amount of time, say another 3-6 months, to uncover more evidence. Assuming I believed military action was necessary, if we couldn’t convince the UN to go along then, I would reluctantly support a unilateral action.

    Since we always retain the unilateral option, there is little cost in waiting, unless we think Hussein is going to become dramatically stronger in three to six months.

    I am simply saying that I see no reason to use the unilateral option except in the very last extremity. It will make the war far more difficult for us logistically (as it already is), and it will simply cost too much. If we conclude we must use it, fine. But there’s no reason to be eager to incur any unnecessary cost, unless the cost of waiting is high.

    >You can’t seriously believe that there are Muslims who think
    >”it’s okay to take him out if he has bad weapons, and that case
    >hasn’t been proven but can be, but it’s not okay to take him out
    >for the slaughter of Muslims”.

    Whatever their motives, Muslims throughout the world have expressed a strong sentiment that a UN-sponsored attack would be acceptable, and a US attack would not. Turkey, for example, a NATO member, is predominantly Muslim, is threatened by Hussein on its own border, and is democratic — you’d think they’d want Hussein ousted more than anybody. But they’re 90% opposed according to recent polls.

    Even people in the “New Europe” are opposed — polls show widespread opposition to the war among the populations of those countries that signed the pro-war declaration. It is not merely Muslims who oppose us, it’s pretty much everybody everywhere.

    There’s a reason for this: the way we’ve gone about justifying this war, which is, basically that we haven’t justified it very well at all. We’ve acted in exactly the way we should if we wanted to maximize the political fallout from this operation. Not a smart move in an era of asymmetrical warfare.

    >But, I’ll play. What plausible NEW evidence wouild be sufficient to
    >convince you that the US should act without the UN. What NEW
    >evidence do you think would convince them, and what is the
    >basis for your belief?

    Right now, the inspectors have come up with nothing. That cache of papers they found based on a US intelligence tip? Turned out to be just ordinary private notes of a scientist, nothing more. Every other tip the inspectors have investigated has resulted in nothing.

    However, I think you and I agree Hussein is hiding something. Suppose those wandering tankers turn out to be carrying banned weapons from Iraq, for example. Or a scientist is interviewed in Geneva and blurts out everything he knows about Hussein’s attempts to enrich uranium. Etc.

  • Drover

    “Drover, asserting that the US government is active across the globe, sometimes coercively, and that the American people are fairly inward looking is neither anti-american nor in any way contradictory. Would you care to refute either point? Or am I not worth arguing with, since my opinion’s fixed anyway?

    You’re not worth arguing with because your anti-Americanism is transparent when you make your approval contingent upon a Catch-22. You complain about our hegemony. Then you complain about our insular approach to foreign policy. They are mutually exclusive. Even if you try to draw a dichotomy between American government policy and American attitudes, you still protest against the insular attitude that is most likely to effect the change in government policy you also protest against.

    The bottom line is you’re an inescapably two-faced hypocrite that won’t be satisfied whether we’re hegemonous or insular; you’ll only be satisfied when we’re altogether irrelevent. I appreciate you making that clear to see, even if you assert plausible deniability, so that your complaints can roundly and deservedly ignored.

  • aegismonkey

    Mitsu: To changing gears slightly (away from your economic arguments over the collapse of the Ole’ Evil Empire) I would like to address your assertion that Saddam will be weaker in 3-6 months due to sanctions, etc… While I agree with you that he will be weaker in absolute terms, he will in fact be more powerfull in relative terms.

    Military forces aren’t an abstract, er, force of nature. When it comes down to it, they are flesh and blood farmboys like you and me. (Okay, well I grew up 200 miles from the closest farm, but stay with me). As such they cannot be maintained on war footing for an indefinate amount of time, especially in an evironment as hostile as the Middle east. Example: the USS Nimitz is on month 8 of what was supposed to be a 6 month deployment. She cannot be kept at sea forever without failures starting to occur, which is to say nothing of crew moral.

    Coupled with that is what waiting 6 months will do to the climate. Due to Saddam’s unhealthy fetish for bio-chem weapons, out troops will by necessity be MOPP-ed up the bulk of the time. This is a problem the Iraqi military will not have to face (given that we’ve never used chemical weapons in anger before) while we will. 6 months from now will be August, where the mean daytime temperature is somewhere north of 120°F, which amplifies the impact having to maintain a bio-chem protective posture will cause. (In fact it may cause more causualties than the Iraq army)

    To sum it up, it’s now or never.

    -E2

  • I wasn’t saying Saddam will be weaker in 3 to 6 months — I was simply posing the question of whether he will be significantly stronger.

    I personally feel we shouldn’t have deployed so soon in the first place. Bush Sr. realized it would take time to develop an international consensus — something that clearly the current team thinks is irrelevant, which I believe is a serious strategic mistake.

    Also, if waiting 6 months will result in excessive temperatures, it seems to me we have a potential problem. We all think the war will be over quickly, but what if it drags out? What if it actually goes 6 months? Wouldn’t it be better to wait for 9 months until the beginning of winter, so we have more usable fighting time?

    Obviously practical concerns are important when going to war. But going to war is a decision which can have vast implications. In fact, I would not have deployed so quickly in the first place. We’re cutting too many corners on this one.

    Another thing to consider is diplomatic support. A lot of countries think we’re doing this for crass reasons — partly why Turkey, for example, is demanding so much money. Because our justification for this war is so inadequate, our allies are not being very supportive. That lack of support translates into a lot of headache for us (for example, the Swiss have denied overflight privileges until and unless the UN authorizes military action).

    I’m saying all this from the point of view of going to war — something that I still do not believe is necessarily the best course of action. It MIGHT turn out to be necessary, but I still am not certain of this. The risks are high, the costs will be high, and I still do not believe the case has been made that the benefits will outweigh the costs.

  • aegismonkey

    “Another thing to consider is diplomatic support. A lot of countries think we’re doing this for crass reasons — partly why Turkey, for example, is demanding so much money. Because our justification for this war is so inadequate, our allies are not being very supportive.”

    Bzzztt. Wrong. Turkey is demanding more money because A) They feel like they got screwed last time out of the aid we promised B) The REALLY don’t want the Kurds liberated. They’ve actually asked the US to allow Turkish troops to establish a buffer zone halfway to Baghdad. and C) Because they can.

    Turkey is operating in their self interest, plain and simple. They’re only doing it now because the lack of support from the EU means they can get away with it (lack of peer pressure).

    -E2

  • A_t

    Drover, my comments would only be a catch-22 situation if I was talking about the same groups of people. I never accused the American *government* of being insular, but the american people, well… from my experience, yes.

    Watching the news in the US tells you less about the rest of the globe than anywhere else I’ve been. On the other hand, the US government is clearly active in interacting with other countries around the world. I find this a somewhat worrying conjunction, considering the insular electorate choose the government.

    I say it again, I disagree with many aspects of American foreign policy, but I respect much of what America is, & i love the country in many ways. I’ve lived there twice in my life, and your persisting belief that i’m a knee-jerk anti-american is as ridiculous as accusing anyone who’s critical of israel of anti-semitism.

  • Larry

    Mitsu, I assume this is the same CIA whose Muslim agents are allowed to refuse to wear wires to record Muslim suspects? The same CIA who so accurately predicted the events of 9/11? The same CIA whose incompetent director hasn’t been publicly lynched yet?

  • Andy Freeman

    >>Not at all. The French have had plenty of opportunities since the 1940s to demonstrate that the US earned some credit. It hasn’t happened yet

    >Let’s see now — the French aren’t launching terrorist attacks on us, last time I checked. In fact, they’ve pretty much been an ally of ours the whole time.

    That’s nice, but irrelevant as those are instances of France acting in its self interest. (When has it been France’s self-interest to launch terrorist attacks against the US?) And, no, they haven’t been an ally – they’ve been a non-hostile acquaintance.

    We’re looking for an instance where the French acted AGAINST their perceived self-interest to reward the US for past help. We’re looking for such an instance because earning such credit is one of your arguments for accomodating their position.

    > Logically, to demonstrate your thesis you have to show that past actions never confer benefits, not that in a particular case they didn’t confer a benefit.

    Feel free to provide an example then. If it’s as commonplace as your argument requires, that should be easy.

    I note that the French example is particularly relevant as you’re claiming that we’re going to get credit with, among others, the French. I’ve pointed out that we didn’t get credit with the French before. Why will the French act differently this time?

    > Or a scientist is interviewed in Geneva and blurts out everything he knows about Hussein’s attempts to enrich uranium. Etc.

    That’s happened in the past – why will it matter this time?

    We know that there are tonnes of unaccounted for bio-weapons. (Regardless of whether bio-weapons are militarily significant, they are a material breach.) What else could we find that would make a difference?

    BTW – I note that the inspectors are not supposed to find things. They are supposed to verify that certain required measures have taken place. That difference in and of itself is a material breach.

  • >That’s nice, but irrelevant as those are
    >instances of France acting in its self interest.

    Why do the French perceive that not attacking us is in their self-interest, yet Osama bin Laden perceives that attacking us is in his self-interest?

    Why do Muslims in Kosovo like us, but not Muslims in Saudi Arabia?

    Why do Palestinians and Israelis fight over the same land?

    Because how people perceive their self-interest is shaped by their memory of past events.

    >I note that the French example is
    >particularly relevant as you’re claiming
    >that we’re going to get credit with,
    >among others, the French.

    Actually, I am not concerned about “getting credit” with the French at all, and I haven’t even mentioned them as a factor in this case. The people I am concerned about are moderate Muslims, the potential recuiting base for Al Qaeda and potential friends of ours. I am concerned about the political stability of countries like Pakistan. I am concerned, for that matter, about the political stability of every Arab and Muslim ally we have now, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

    As I noted before, computations of perceived self-interest must be based to a large extent on guessing, and this is based on past experience. In fact, you keep talking about “credit” — I am more concerned about not making matters worse. Attacking Iraq without making a very strong case for it first would simply harden people’s attitudes towards us — just as 9/11 hardened our attitudes towards Muslim extremism — and for some simplistic thinkers among us, against Islam as a whole.

    The examples of this abound, many of which I have already given. Racism: overgeneralizing based on the actions of a subsample. Ethnic hatred leading to genocide and ethnic cleansing: same thing. Etc.

  • >That’s nice, but irrelevant as those are
    >instances of France acting in its self interest.

    Why do the French perceive that not attacking us is in their self-interest, yet Osama bin Laden perceives that attacking us is in his self-interest?

    Why do Muslims in Kosovo like us, but not Muslims in Saudi Arabia?

    Why do Palestinians and Israelis fight over the same land?

    Because how people perceive their self-interest is shaped by their memory of past events.

    >I note that the French example is
    >particularly relevant as you’re claiming
    >that we’re going to get credit with,
    >among others, the French.

    Actually, I am not concerned about “getting credit” with the French at all, and I haven’t even mentioned them as a factor in this case. The people I am concerned about are moderate Muslims, the potential recuiting base for Al Qaeda and potential friends of ours. I am concerned about the political stability of countries like Pakistan. I am concerned, for that matter, about the political stability of every Arab and Muslim ally we have now, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

    As I noted before, computations of perceived self-interest must be based to a large extent on guessing, and this is based on past experience. In fact, you keep talking about “credit” — I am more concerned about not making matters worse. Attacking Iraq without making a very strong case for it first would simply harden people’s attitudes towards us — just as 9/11 hardened our attitudes towards Muslim extremism — and for some simplistic thinkers among us, against Islam as a whole.

    The examples of this abound, many of which I have already given. Racism: overgeneralizing based on the actions of a subsample. Ethnic hatred leading to genocide and ethnic cleansing: same thing. Etc.

  • Sorry for the double-post, browser glitch.

    >That’s happened in the past – why
    >will it matter this time?

    Iraqi defectors are talking about old information pertaining to old programs, and furthermore when somebody comes forward on their own, their credibility is more suspect. What’s needed is testimony from scientists who are active now, who are selected by the UN, not by themselves.

  • Nicole Tedesco

    Mitsu, you make some good points–heck, great points. I find intriguing your argument about our possible habit of overestimating the danger our enemies have posed in the past (I am unconvinced, but I would like to know more). However, there are a few questions that keep nagging me and perhaps you you can help me answer them.

    If the Clinton administration adopted the formal policy of regime change in Iraq back in 1998, what has kept us from carrying out this policy? The policy change, if I am reading sources right, followed from Hussein reneging on the armistance conditions that he agreed to at the end of Gulf War I; that is, he booted the inspectors out before compliance could be verified. The talk back then was of giving Iraq “one last chance.” Here we are today, five years later, giving Hussein one last, last, last, last, last chance to cough up the goodies. Our allies have had five years to get on board this bandwagon, yet they have not. Does this look like “rushing to war” or more like procrastination? If our allies haven’t signed up for regime change after five years, can we trust them to be on board five months from now? Another five years? Ever? In the mean time, how many Iraqis will have died because of the effects of these sanctions? Without certainty with regards to the efficacy of inspections, the UN will have no choice but to continue sanctions, which of course would imply the continued death of Iraqi citizens.

    If I remember, one of the biggest gripes the “Muslim world” (e.g., bin Laden) supposedly has against the U.S. is the fact that we have continually supported sanctions against Iraq. By their distortion, it is we who are responsible for the civilian deaths there. If we were to liberate Iraq, we would be blamed and attacked. If we continued to enforce sanctions on Iraq, we would be blamed and attacked. How do we solve this dilemma? The only other way would be to completely let Iraq go, let it strengthen its economy and build up any weapons it wants to. Is that a valid strategy for the world? What will happen to Saudi Arabia in that situation? Israel?

    The most honest disagreements with the war on Iraq seem to center around the risks to our fellow citizens with regards to money and life that a war could introduce. Is a hamburger today really worth the quarter we have to pay on Tuesday? Will I not just owe a quarter but hundreds of dollars, or thousands of dollars, or my life by Tuesday? Putting aside the Popeye reference–will the pain be worse tomorrow if we do nothing today? Would another 9 months of inspections means another 9 months that Iraq and al Qai’ida get to try to gather the fissile materials they need to commit outright genocide on our soil or Israel’s? The world is a big place, with plenty of leaky spots, and time is their friend.

  • Nicole Tedesco

    Those who say, “Iraq is only threatening us because we are threatening them” are sorely mistaken. Iraq threatens us (and probably the UK), and has been threatening us, because of our enforcement of the sanctions against them (as ordered by the UN). To alleviate the threat against us is not to remove the threat of war, but to remove the enforcement of sanctions. In that scenario, Hussein the Stalinist gets to reequip and play Napolean with nuclear, bio and chemical weapons.

    Remember, Hussein has tried attacking us on several occasions. Since these attempts have failed (e.g., the assasination attempt on Bush 41), we generally don’t hear about them. It is not far-fetched to consider that the Anthrax attack in the fall of 2001 was conducted by (or funded/equipped/supported by) Hussein himself, but we cannot prove it.

  • Nicole Tedesco

    Proof. The key to the survival of today’s and tomorrow’s true tyrranies lies in the need to prove “smoking guns.”

    The nature of 21st century technology, starting now, is that weapons of mass destruction are becoming increasingly harder to detect, harder to trace and more ubiquitious. We can site several factors which exacerbate this situation, including increased knowledge flow, miniaturization trends, increased quality of civilian goods and falling relative prices. Proving Hussein has an WMD has become an increasingly difficult task over the years, which implies a necessary decrease in inspection efficacy over time. (An examination of knowledge and technology diffusion can help make an argument that today’s inspections are necessarily less efficacious than they were in the mid-90s.)

    I believe we have come to an important juncture in human history where we have to figure out how to live in a world where WMDs will soon become as common as dirt. (How many Anthrax spores can you stuff into a warehouse?) How do we continue to survive in such a world without allowing tyrrany to thrive? Does the answer to this problem lie in allowing anyone to engage in the creation and stockpiling of WMDs (bio and chemical, mostly)? I would say not, and that’s why I cannot support the relationship normalization path that France, Germany and Russia seem to be trying to follow with Iraq. Instead, I support the continued disarmamant of the U.S. and the one-way-or-another disarmament of both Iraq and North Korea. That isn’t enough however, as disarmament must be accompanied by increased transparency on the part of every government on this planet. The disarming of Iraq, coupled by the replacement of the current regime with a transparent democracy, is a necessary step in assuring that humanity has a future at all.

    [Of course, "transparency" is not easy. Salmon Rushdie once characterised us Americans as a people who have a hard time keeping anything secret. Perhaps that is true, and perhaps our government is indeed very porous with information. However, how many people believe what they hear these days? How did one of the most transparent governments in the world become one of the most untrusted? The current degree of mistrust goes beyond reason, IMHO.]

  • I think I mentioned above, Nicole, that I believe we should have kept up significant military pressure on Iraq when they threw out the inspectors the first time. Basically, I would have made the ultimatum then that Bush 2 finally made recently: let the inspectors back in, or face massive military force.

    But neither Clinton nor Bush pushed that strategy until now. In fact, Cheney was lobbying for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq during the first year of Bush 2. Powell was talking of “smart sanctions” and so on.

    I have nothing against an intelligent, shrewd strategy to rid the world of Saddam Hussein, No one could fault the laudability of that ultimate goal. What I fault is the way we have been going about doing it. (I say “we” with a tremendous grimace, since I find it difficult to identify myself in any way with the “strategy” this Administration has followed so far).

    My primary objections to the strategy we have been employing is that we have needlessly aided Hussein by turning the world not against him, but against us. You may ask, why is it that the world distrusts the United States, when we have one of the most transparent governments in the world? Well, I think it is natural for there to be an automatic resentment against the lone superpower, no matter how ethically we behave. However, history is replete with examples in which we have screwed over foreigners (particularly in weak Third World countries) to protect our own interests (though as I’ve argued before, I believe in general the long-term effect of this has been to our detriment.) But we have also gone waaay out of our way to make things worse for ourselves by acting in an arrogant manner.

    If you’re going to switch gears, as we have only recently, and demand Hussein let inspectors back in, then at this point I believe you need to let this play itself out. In brief, if we really were dead-set on ousting Hussein militarily, we should have given him enough rope to hang himself. That is, if we’d kept demanding reasonable things, the world would have had to agree, and Hussein would have eventually had to face us down, or get caught at his game. And that’s the opportunity we could have used to justify either force, or caused Hussein perhaps to be forced out by his own people or officers (a much, much better alternative).

    Instead, at every turn we’ve undermined ourselves diplomatically and thus even militarily, due to an obsession with rushing to get rid of only one of many threats that face us right now.

    My basic question here is: at what cost do we focus so obsessively on a single problem, in this case, Saddam Hussein? Yes, I agree ridding the world of him would be good, and I agree that he is not a threat of absolutely NO significance. He is, quite clearly, a threat. What I am saying is that we have to weigh the costs and benefits of every strategy we employ to deal with this threat, and we have to also ask ourselves — are we really focusing on the right threats, in the right order?

    My feeling is, for example, that the situation in North Korea is already a disaster beyond imagining. They’ve already restarted their reactors — disaster. They’ve removed the material that was stored already — disaster. To me, there is a VERY serious long-term threat to our national security, and Bush 2 seems to hardly care. The danger we face from North Korea dwarfs that which we face from Saddam Hussein, in my view. They actually can produce weaopons, they have a clear motive to sell them to terrorists (cash crop), and they are ideological maniacs and are thus much harder to deter, compared to the totally self-serving Hussein.

    I’m glad to read your comments and respond to them (for that matter, despite our disagreements, I’ve found debating with Andy in this little thread here to be fruitful. It helps to be challenged by someone you disagree with, provided the challenge is done honestly, which is often not the case in these Internet debates, but I find it had been the case here so far, despite the fact that I disagree with many of the arguments made.)

  • unscom

    Mitsu,>That is, if we kept demanding reasonable things,…

    What do you mean, if? You mean we aren’t demanding reasonable things?

    > ..due to an obsession with rushing…

    Most people who think we’re ‘rushing’, haven’t been paying attention for the last 12 years. The detail of your comments suggest you have been paying some attention, you just willfully ignore the facts. We are now into the twelfth year of Saddam breaking resolution after resolution from the UN. Twelve YEARS. That fact, alone, weakens us (and the UN) in the eyes of dictators and terrorists.
    We’ve been to the UN, and will go again before the shooting starts; we’ve been building troops up over there for months. This isn’t a rush, this is one of the slowest paths to war ever.

  • unscom

    >North Korea…,and Bush2 seems to hardly care.

    Yeah, right. You don’t think that the North Korea situation is an urgent daily topic in the White House?
    Bush does care that, once again, due to the previous administration’s lack of seriousness, we are in danger.
    Unless you think we should immediately send troops to attack NK, then there is nothing we can be doing that going after Iraq hinders.

  • unscom

    >..are we focusing on the right threats, in the right order?

    The Iraq problem has been festering for 12 years. We look weaker and our threats carry less weight as each year goes by. It’s scandalous that we (and the UN) let it go on this long.
    I notice you’ve been careful to appear like you are sympathetic to ousting Saddam. But admit it : if you can’t pull the trigger after all that has happened over all these years, you never will.

    I wonder if you would feel different if a different person was president?

  • unscom: I have already addressed your point in the very post you’re replying to. Yes, I have been paying attention the last 12 years — have you? We have NOT followed the same policy with respect to Iraq over the last 12 years — in fact, not even within this same Adminstration.

  • unscom

    Mitsu, >We have NOT followed the same policy..

    …but then 9/11 happened. Some things have changed because of that. Now, not enforcing international agreements carries a bigger penalty by encouraging the terrorists and their enablers.

    The UN has danced around the Iraq problem for too long; it must be settled very soon.

  • Yes, 9/11 happened, which is why we’d better be damn careful to attend to national security in a way which maximizes our, er, national security. I contend that our policy, and the way we’ve been handling it, doesn’t do this, for the many reasons I’ve tried to discuss above.

    When under threat, my contention is one ought to optimize the use of resources, time, and political capital so that one goes after the greatest threats with the greatest efficiency while incurring the least cost and the least negative repercussions in the short and long term. I believe our policy towards Iraq and the rest of the world is wasteful in every area: monetarily, militarily, politically, and as such is endangering our national security at precisely the moment when we can afford it least.

  • Now that we know that Iran is also acquiring a capability in Weapons of Mass Destruction…are they next? The underly thought of this initial thread (that Iraq can be an example to influence or inspire Middle East countries is grossly misplaced. The people there are more likely to be repusled by the thought of the US “zapping” any nation it finds offensive….or “capable of becoming offensive but they have not revealed their intentions yet.”

    Between the delusions that (a) this will not be expensive, and (b) that people in other countries will approve and applaud, and the paranoia that the world harbors many deadly terrorist threats, we have the potential for a post-Caesar Roman Empire.

    The world does harbor many who resent the US and are willing become a suicide terrorist given the opportunity and training. Becoming Rome will not deter all of them…and it will in fact spur the enlistment of even more volunteers. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it wasn’t destroyed in a day. But it was destroyed.

    Unless we are willing to work toward a world that looks at the US with inspired, not fearful, eyes, this nation cannot have peace.

  • unscom

    >I beleive our policy towards Iraq and the rest of the world is wastful in every area..

    Let’s see…’Iraq and the rest of the world”-thats everwhere, and ‘in every area’ – that’s everything.
    So…according to you, everthing we are doing in every place at every time is wrong? Talk about hyperbole!

    If you want to argue that our policies aren’t perfect, fine. They aren’t.
    But none ever have been or ever will be perfect.

    The question is about this festering problem in Iraq. Because we have allowed it to continue so long, how many terrorists have been emboldened to attack us? How much time and resources and capital have been spent on prolonging this?

    Many people in that region of the world are still living in the 7th century. They understand military strength, they see the years and years and years of UN and US proclamations and half-steps as weekness; an opportunity to attack.

    If we blink here (again) the terrorists will be encouraged (again).

  • kenny

    >My feeling is, for example, that the situation in North Korea is already a disaster beyond imagining.

    fareed zakaria in this week’s newsweek, seems to think back channel diplomacy may work.

    Washington’s task now is to make China understand that what it should fear most urgently is Kim Jong Il with nukes. A nuclear North Korea will probably produce China’s strategic nightmare, which is a nuclear Japan. North Korea already has missiles that can reach Japan. Once they have nuclear weapons to place atop these missiles, Japan will almost certainly choose to create a nuclear capability for itself, to deter a potential nuclear strike. China should do anything to stop this spiral.

  • Johnathan

    Mitsu, as was said above, 9/11 was the ultimate “blowback” for the US and its supposed allies in not working hard enough to snuff out islamofascist terrorism. As for the alleged non-connection between Iraq and OBL, that does not look too convincing to me, given how Saddam has funded terrorism vs Israel.

    Anyway, Brian’s basic point makes sense to me. We are gonna Saddam down because we CAN, and once we have secured a base in the Middle East, will be in a stronger position to help undermine the other dirtbag nations in that area.

  • Christopher

    Regarding America and the world…

    Think Leviathan on a global scale.

    One group in the global nation thinks it is Leviathan. And acts like it.

    In the long run, this does not work.

  • Al Bullock

    Empire building is not an American art. After WWII, we could have picked up several worn out islands in the North Sea. Fortunately we were wise enough to avoid the dollar drain of unemployed wastrels.

  • Al Bullock

    Empire building is not an American art. After WWII, we could have picked up several worn out islands in the North Sea. Fortunately we were wise enough to avoid the dollar drain of unemployed wastrels.

  • tony

    Firstly, I believe the correct wording is that ‘Power tends to corrupt and ablolute power tends to corrupt ablolutely’.
    Secondly, I wish all the people who bandy about the phrase ‘American Empire’ would at least look up the word empire in the dictionary first.

  • You know, it’s funny, I’ve just come back to this topic after many months of watching events play out, and I just have to say, I’m shocked at how many of my predictions are so far turning out to be right on the button. Iraq’s weapons programs weren’t a threat to us, they didn’t have any ongoing connections with Al Qaeda, this war is costing us big time in every area: militarily, financially, politically, and the cost far, far exceeds the benefit. In fact, if anything, this war may well turn out to have been us sacrificing ourselves in a huge way just to rid the world of one petty tyrant.

  • From my eyes I think that the war in Iraq is very sad because some losse loved ones, some lose friends, and others just losse strangers. But Know matter what we are all losing somebody even if you don’t know the person.
    I also think that the war is very imporntant because it protects everyting and everybody. It protects the things and people who are most impertant to use. I don’t know everything that is going on in Iraq, but that is probaly the best thing for me and others my age or younger.that is what i have to say about the Iraq war. MAY GOD BLESS THE WORLD!!