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At least he made the trains run on time, sort of

Correlli Barnett, a long-standing critic of the Coalition overthrow of Saddam’s Ba’ath dictatorship, gives us this in this week’s Spectator:

“In Saddam’s strictly secular Iraq, al-Qa’eda and other forms of Islamist extremism were ruthlessly put down. Is it not plainer every month that we would all (including Iraqis) now be much better off if Saddam Hussein had been left in power,but under continued allied air surveillance?”

The regular trope that Saddam was a “strictly” secular leader won’t wash. The “strictness” was in fact pretty variable. What is Barnett trying to say, that Hussein kept copies of the complete works of Voltaire and Richard Dawkins under his bed? Surely, to be serious, Saddam was capable and willing to use and invoke religion when it suited his purposes; I have no idea whether he thought there was a supreme being or not, but frankly, what consolation would it be to the tens, hundreds of thousands of people who were brutalised by his rule to be told that he was “strictly” secular? The Marsh Arabs, the Shiites, the Kurds and other groups may want to ask Mr Barnett what benefit they had from being oppressed by a “secular” ruler. Stalin was “strictly secular”, as was Mao, at least as far as I know.

In fact, this argument is so silly that it got me wondering about what exactly is so marvellous about “strictly” secular regimes that cause havoc on a mass scale; Stalin’s Russia, for example, with its attendant mass famines, the Gulag, and the rest, surely drives a stake through the notion that the absence of revealed religion automatically brings a better state of affairs. I am a lapsed Christian, and no admirer of much that goes under the name of religion (that’s puttting it mildly, ed), but there are so many examples of evil, secular regimes, that it is hard to summon breath to point this rather obvious fact to someone like Barnett.

Then there is this claim that Iraqis and others would have been “much better off” with the old brute in power. That is frankly impossible to judge, and sitting here in the comfort of my apartment, is not one I feel fit to make, but then neither does Mr Barnett. I guess the henchmen who ran Saddam’s torture chambers and his security services feel that their circumstances have taken a big turn for the worse; George Galloway and the various other lowlifes clearly may mourn his passing; arms dealers in the West, East and elsewhere may rue the missed orders and deals no longer struck (that includes Britain, I am ashamed to say), but if Barnett wants to make this claim with seriousness, he needs to weigh the costs of what is now happening in Iraq with the toll of the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait, the gassing of villagers in northern Iraq, etc. And he needs to consider whether, and for how long, Saddam’s regime could have lasted, even without sanctions, and what would have happened thereafter.

The other problem I have is Barnett’s casually thrown-in comment about the Allied air surveillance – he means the “no-fly zones” in the north and south of Iraq. They cost money to enforce, there was exchange of fire between the airforces and the Iraqi forces on the ground (breaches of the 1991 Ceasfire, for those who bleat about the “illegal” invasion of 2003). It is naive to imagine those flights could have remained indefinitely, or have been enforceable beyond a certain point. Sooner or later, the air cover would have been reduced, leaving those in the north and the south to the tender mercies of Saddam’s/his son’s forces on the ground. Not a happy prospect.

There are good arguments to be made against the war: Saddam posed us no immediate threat; his armed forces were degraded after 1991 and there were more serious threats around which required more of our attention. There are also prudential grounds to avoid war if possible, starting with the old adage, which ought to be familiar to libertarians: the law of unintended consequences. I have found myself, more than once, rueing the entire enterprise as an object lesson in the folly of interventionism and chided myself from falling off the wagon in this respect. But the only problem is that I start getting those neo-con urges as soon as apologists for dictatorship like Barnett put pen to paper. The anti-war folk may have many arguments in their favour, but so many of them give me the creeps.

(Update: topic heading changed: this article has nothing to do with Korea!)

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68 comments to At least he made the trains run on time, sort of

  • Frederick Davies

    What does this have to do with Korea?

  • Steevo

    Very well put Johnathan. It is difficult to draw a picture when the overwhelming input from media has been no WMD, Coalition and Iraqi deaths. It wasn’t long before the northern third of the country was finally free and those who underwent genocide no longer under the control of evil. It also wasn’t long before there would be no more mass graves (estimates into the hundreds of thousands) in the south. Much of the rebellion has been with disenfranchised Sunnis, who, lost power. For a long time, 14 of the 18 provinces were relatively free from violence. Since the surge there has been notable improvement in the remaining “hot spots”.

    Increasingly, the typical Iraqi on the street has no love-loss for Saddam. They don’t fear the Americans. They know who the bad guys are. And they have hope for a better future. Mr. Barnett does not speak for them.

  • Jacob

    Well, the lefties liked Stalin too, so what’s new ? They also have kind words for Castro. The lefties love murderous tyrants so long as they emit the right slogans.

    Saddam started two major regional wars that caused at least a million deaths – but that’s relatively benign by Stalin’s and Mao’s standards. It was these murders that probably endeared him to the lefties, since on the slogan front Saddam wasn’t very strong. And also their demented anti-Americanism and dementia in general.

  • Cynic

    The left are utterly delusional. But so are most of the right. The neocons, the religious right, the Jacksonian mob (ie average GOP voter), English Tories etc are all a bunch of cretins. Remember that the Reagan and Thatcher governments were hot for Saddam when he was attacking the ayatollahs in Iran.

    I think it should also be noted that one major left-wing supporter of Saddam Hussein in the 70s and 80s- Christopher Hitchens- was one of the major proponents of the 2003 war.

  • Counting Cats

    one major left-wing supporter of Saddam Hussein in the 70s and 80s- Christopher Hitchens- was one of the major proponents of the 2003 war

    So he has demonstrated the strength of character to be able to change his conclusions when he encounters further facts. Is this meant to be a criticism?

  • Cynic

    ‘So he has demonstrated the strength of character to be able to change his conclusions when he encounters further facts. Is this meant to be a criticism?’

    Some of us never liked Hussein. We just weren’t so stupid to assume that Bush and Blair could make Iraq over anymore than they can make America and Britain over. Hitchens is just a fool looking for crusades who puts his faith in strongmen worldsavers.

  • Then there is this claim that Iraqis and others would have been “much better off” with the old brute in power. That is frankly impossible to judge, and sitting here in the comfort of my apartment, is not one I feel fit to make, but then neither does Mr Barnett.

    Huh. The War Party was telling us just a few scant months ago that, warts and all, post-Saddam Iraq was still better than Saddam Iraq. Now it’s “frankly impossible to judge”. Too bad you folks didn’t think the same thing five years ago.

  • Nothing is Free

    If you are not with us, you’re against us.

  • Cynic

    How exactly did the Reagan/Thatcher ‘hots’ for Saddam manifest themselves ?

  • Why does everybody forget that Hussein channeled money into Palestinian suicide bombing?
    How much was it again?
    $30,000 for each of the families?
    Ah, but that was only against Israel.
    They aren’t anti-Semites, but…..

  • Johnathan Pearce

    What does this have to do with Korea?

    Nothing. Use the comment threads properly, please.

    Remember that the Reagan and Thatcher governments were hot for Saddam when he was attacking the ayatollahs in Iran.

    I think the attitude was, in the mid-80s, that SH was he least of evils, but that was a pretty short-lived view, Cynic.

    I think it should also be noted that one major left-wing supporter of Saddam Hussein in the 70s and 80s- Christopher Hitchens- was one of the major proponents of the 2003 war

    .

    That is almost certainly a flat lie: I have read a lot by Hitchens and as far as I know, he has been an opponent of Hussein’s brutal regime from an early stage. I’d be careful about making statements like that unless you can cite sources.

    Hitchens is just a fool looking for crusades who puts his faith in strongmen worldsavers.

    He seems to have a rather tighter grip on reality than you, Cynic. For a start, where does Hitch ever say or deny that Bush and Blair were excellent exemplars of regime change? He has been pretty critical of both, in fact.

    Joshua writes:

    Huh. The War Party was telling us just a few scant months ago that, warts and all, post-Saddam Iraq was still better than Saddam Iraq. Now it’s “frankly impossible to judge”. Too bad you folks didn’t think the same thing five years ago.

    Well, the “War Party”, as you put it, may still be right; millions were killed in the wars that SH got involved in. When facts change, or appear to do so, so do I (do you?).

  • Ken

    Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
    But, uh, didn’t the main “run up” on arming SH happen under Carter’s “watchful” eye? After he “lost” Iran?
    (Not to say he could have “kept” it, short of FORCE…which seemed to off the table at that time-national malise and all that.) and gave away the Panama canal…PRC/PLA at both ends.
    Sam Nunn where are you whan we need you?

  • Sunfish

    But, uh, didn’t the main “run up” on arming SH happen under Carter’s “watchful” eye? After he “lost” Iran?

    It’s even sillier than that.

    Hussein didn’t get weapons from the US or UK. What he got from us were a few satellite pictures of the Iran-Iraq border. The intent was to keep the two countries focused on each other and on beating each other to the point that neither one could threaten anyone else.

    Pretty much all of Iraq’s weapons were Soviet designs of Soviet (and occasionally Chinese) manufacture. Well, except for the gas: home made, on German equipment. Oh, and a few aircraft and electronics, those were French.

    Funny how the same names seem to keep popping up…

  • Pietr: you comment may be construed as meaning that the US invaded Iraq at least partly to stop Saddam’s support for Pali’s suicide bombings. I seriously doubt that was true, even though it is obvious that it was a kind of a side benefit (a huge one for me personally, I might add). I also doubt that people who ignore that support are necessarily antisemitic. Some probably are, but many are just ignorant. They view Israel as just another god-forsaken corner of the world that has nothing to do with US interests.

  • Jonathan, I think Frederick wanted to point out that your post is filed under “Korea” (along with “Military Affairs”), although I don’t see why it should bother anyone.

  • Cynic

    ‘That is almost certainly a flat lie: I have read a lot by Hitchens and as far as I know, he has been an opponent of Hussein’s brutal regime from an early stage. I’d be careful about making statements like that unless you can cite sources.’

    http://www.newstatesman.com/200707050056

    And I couldn’t care less that at the age of about 50, he changed his mind. Frankly, if you are over the age of 18 and still believe in socialism, you are a retard. The man still claims to like Trotsky, which is perhaps why he fell in with the neocon crew, as quite a few of the neocons were former trotskyists or new left types.

    ‘For a start, where does Hitch ever say or deny that Bush and Blair were excellent exemplars of regime change?’

    This seems a rather warm endorsement, considering Hitchen’s views :
    ‘George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he — and the US armed forces — have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled.’

    It is, of course, palpably untrue, as the Iraq War and the Bush foreign policy in general has only strengthened Al Qaeda, Iran’s clerics, Hamas, and Hezbollah. And the Taliban seem to be still causing a nuisance in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But like I said, Hitchens is a fool.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Cynic, fair enough – but Hitch started to write pretty condemnatory remarks back in the 1980s, so the sort of crap he wrote as a young man in 1976 – 31 years ago – is hardly a reason for dismissing his pretty consistent denunciations for the past 20 years, I am afraid. He has been more consistent than most.

    And I think you will find that Hitch has become pretty disillusioned with the mess in Iraq and Bush’s handling of said.

    It is, of course, palpably untrue, as the Iraq War and the Bush foreign policy in general has only strengthened Al Qaeda, Iran’s clerics, Hamas, and Hezbollah. And the Taliban seem to be still causing a nuisance in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    These groups have been strong all along, Cynic. If I recall correctly, the attack on 9/11, etc, occured before the Iraq war. I also contest the idea that al-Q is stronger: OBL is probably either dead or hasn’t issued too many video nasties lately, thousands of their operatives have been killed or captured.

    I just don’t buy the idea that a pure containment strategy vs the Middle East is enough.

  • Cynic

    Where is your evidence that Bin Laden is dead? If there was any truth to it, the White house, and the hawkish US presidential candidates, would be screaming from the roof tops about it.

    And I’m aware of a lot of folk that have become ‘disillusioned’ over how Bush handled the war. Doesn’t wash frankly. If Iraq is such a clusterfuck because of Bush’s incompetence, I would say that there was plenty of evidence prior to March 2003 that Bush was incompetent. Not all of it was merely left-wing slander.
    But I really doubt that a more ‘competent’ president would have done a better job. Government interventionism does not work full stop, whether you have a smartie pants or a jackass running things. And that is just as true in international affairs than it is in domestic affairs.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    But I really doubt that a more ‘competent’ president would have done a better job. Government interventionism does not work full stop, whether you have a smartie pants or a jackass running things. And that is just as true in international affairs than it is in domestic affairs.

    I think that had Bush followed the most obvious advice: put in sufficient troops to secure the borders, for example, we’d have less of a disaster than we have now. I am as a big a skeptic about interventionism as the next man but I don’t rule out pre-emptive strikes against vile regimes completely.

    Where is your evidence that Bin Laden is dead? If there was any truth to it, the White house, and the hawkish US presidential candidates, would be screaming from the roof tops about it.

    I did not say he was. I said he was probably either dead or had not issued any recent propoganda.

    I repeat: just dragging on with containment as suggested by the likes of Barnett was not a viable option long-term. It was already fraying before 2003. Ever since the UN inspectors left in 1998, we had plenty of valid reasons to suspect the worst of Saddam et al.

  • Sam Duncan

    Pietr: you comment may be construed as meaning that the US invaded Iraq at least partly to stop Saddam’s support for Pali’s suicide bombings. I seriously doubt that was true, even though it is obvious that it was a kind of a side benefit (a huge one for me personally, I might add).

    Depends what you mean by “partly”. It certainly wasn’t the main reason by a long shot, and I don’t think Pietr’s suggesting that, but I’m certain it must have been a consideration.

    And however it may be construed or misconstrued, it doesn’t alter that fact that the Ba’ath Socialist regime did have connections with Islamist terrorism. We’ll probably never know exactly what happened, or how useful his capture may have been (probably not very), but Abu Nidal’s mysterious death in Baghdad a few months before the invasion does suggest Saddam may have been eliminating embarrassing “evidence”. We can only wonder what else went the same way. He had plenty of time during what Mark Steyn called “the 18 month rush to war”.

  • Cynic

    I’d agree that sanctions never work, but why replace a bad policy with an even worse one? Long-term occupation certainly is an even more costly and even more unviable long-term option.

    To be honest, wicked as Saddam always was, the threat he ever posed to the USA was always fairly low, even when he invaded Kuwait. A threat to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Israel perhaps, but not the United States. The mercantilists (Saddam’s going to monopolise the oil supply!- debunked by scholars at the CATO Institute even before the war)and the humanitarians trotted out their excuses though (It’s Munich again, but this time in 1990!) and they managed to win over the public. Had Israel or the Arab states decided that their security was threatened and believed they had to push Hussein out of Iraq, that would have been their business. But just as the Balkans were not worth the bones of Bismarck’s grenadiers, the sands of Mesopotamia were never worth a single American GI. There would have been no oil scare, and Hussein wouldn’t have followed up Kuwait by shipping his military to capture New York. But as America did push Hussein out of Kuwait, the second best option would have been to pack up immediately after the war and tell Israel and the Arab states that Hussein was their problem to deal with in the future.

  • Brad

    Whether Saddam would have been better than a Theocratic Iraq matters only so far as the actual threat presented to us. But that’s what makes the middle east such a lovely arena. You’ve got very old cultural and tribal amalgams filtered through hard left, hard right, and theocratic filters with one of the most essential resources stuffed underneath. How far to our interests in the flow of natural resources impact our policies in any region of the world? Regardless, if we’re going to try and shape policy with the tool of military might we need to VERY efficient and effective. Bureaucratic half measures aren’t going to make anything better and perhaps worse. The only outcome then is to serve up more bodies and resources and become the center of blame for directing the craziness down corridor A versus corridor B that it would have gone down of its own accord.

    Our concern is not to crusade on the behalf of others to overthrow their tyranny only bring our own on ourselves. It’s even worse to try to, perhaps fail, and increase the overall bureaucratic profile in our own midst.
    —————————————————————-
    Hitting on the “secular is tacitly better than the theocratic” is precisely what drives me nuts about us in the USA. One of the founding principles of this country was freedom of religion, or more precisely not recognizing a particular State Religion. Why? To allow maximum freedom of values and conscience for the individual. So does it make any difference if a set of people arise from the masses who use force to control behaviors at the very least, and more likely set about melding values yet call itself secular? It’s the outcome of a One Religion State that was to be avoided, not the religion itself per se. Yet we have a “secular” State that sets about destroying individual freedom and discrete value systems. Force is force no matter what semantic name is applied to it application. And when it is applied based on an axiomatic, highly inducted set of beliefs regardless of name, it’s all the same.

  • Sorry Alisa.
    Not ‘anti-semitic’ then.
    Just inhuman.

  • Jacob

    I think that had Bush followed the most obvious advice:…

    Bush, Bush, Bush… always Bush …

    As Rumsfeld said in his immortal phrase: “you make war with the army you have”. That means: also the generals you have… Lincoln almost lost the civil war because of the incompetence of his generals.
    Peace conditions don’t breed competent generals. We saw it also in the second Lebanon war in Israel, in 2006.

    Good generals emerge during wars, they learn their trade “on site”. Most wars have slow starts. Ideal “solutions” exist only in the imagination of inexperienced people.

    Iraq might get sorted out in a few decades, maybe. Of course, America will cut and run long before, proving it is the paper tiger Osama always said it was, and the Middle East will stay as nasty as ever.

  • We can easily test the sincerity of those who claim to believe that the people of Iraq would be better off under Saddam by asking them if they themselves would prefer to have spent the last 4+ years living under Saddam or his sons with no future end in sight? If they had a branch of their family living in Iraq would they rather their loved ones look out the window and see American troops or would they rather they look out and see Saddam’s goons. Even with all the violence of today’s Iraq, which view would make them feel safer?

    I would also point out that all the Iraqi expatriate groups. without exception, supported the Liberation and it is the sovereign will of the people of Iraq expressed through their democratically elected representatives that we continue the process.

    To see just how well people like Correlli Barnett understand the consequences of their policy recommendations, just look back on the effects of the abandonment of Indochina had on the people there. The [sic] anti-war movement of that day told all far and wide that the people would be better off in the gentle hands of totalitarian communism than they would be continually fighting for their freedom. The actual outcome of course was to horrific to truly comprehend.

    We can expect a similar outcome in Iraq if we let the same group of people make the same decisions.

  • Cynic

    Is that what the US army exists for then? To save foreigners from savages? Silly me, I thought the point of a military was to protect one’s country, not act as security guards and social workers for foreigners. All the ‘humanitarians’ that wish to blow billions at the taxpayers expense in order to ‘save’ Iraq ought to be sent the bill. I’m getting pretty sick of paying for this shit.

  • Cynic

    ‘I would also point out that all the Iraqi expatriate groups. without exception, supported the Liberation and it is the sovereign will of the people of Iraq expressed through their democratically elected representatives that we continue the process.’

    What about the 2 million Iraqis that have fled Iraq since 2003? They appreciated ‘liberation’ so much that they ran off.

  • Johnathan

    What about the 2 million Iraqis that have fled Iraq since 2003? They appreciated ‘liberation’ so much that they ran off

    I guess the fact that Ba’ath dead-enders and jihadi head-hackers were blowing up ordinary civilians and creating mayhem probably had something to do with it, Cynic. Of course, had the Coalition forces been in the country in sufficient force and prevented the influx of foreign jihadis, maybe some of this would have been prevented. I don’t buy your pessmistic argument that it was “inevitable” that Iraq would have become an anarchistic hell.

    Cynic adds:

    I thought the point of a military was to protect one’s country, not act as security guards and social workers for foreigners

    .

    Quite. Some people thought that overthrowing Saddam and the Taliban was part of a process of forward self defence (okay, you may dispute that reasoning, but it was made). Self defence does not just start when a country’s borders are attacked, at least not in the age of stateless terror groups and the regimes that sponsor them. And Saddam did back terror groups, as another commenter on this thread pointed out.

    I also find your argument that had Saddam captured and held Kuwait, Saudi, and god knows what else, that this would have had no long term, serious security implications for the USA and the West. That is one hell of a big statement.

    In time, of course, we’d have cut our reliance on oil but the dislocation and costs to the world economy would have been enormous. That counts for something.

  • Cynic

    ‘And Saddam did back terror groups, as another commenter on this thread pointed out.’

    Mostly Palestinian and anti-Iranian ones. Not America’s problem. If Israel or Iran had wanted to bomb and invade Iraq though, that would have been their business.

    ‘In time, of course, we’d have cut our reliance on oil but the dislocation and costs to the world economy would have been enormous. That counts for something.’

    In the long run a hell of a lot cheaper than sending 500,000 troops to go into Kuwait, then spend 12 years enforcing sanctions, and then invading Iraq, and then keeping 150,000 troops to occupy Iraq for god knows how long. And then when you factor in the political costs- enraging Muslim opinion, inflaming global anti-Americanism, giving Al Qaeda free recruiting propaganda, inadvertently making Iran increasingly powerful, and so on……

    Just like how social workers and pedagogues make social problems at home even worse because of their interventions, and how politicians trash the economy with their endless schemes for prosperity, foreign policy wizards make foreign problems even worse through their interventions. And they just come up with more interventions to try to make up for the problems unleashed by the last one, just as the last intervention was supposed to solve the problems caused by the previous round of meddling.

  • Johnathan

    Mostly Palestinian and anti-Iranian ones

    Not just; he offered shelter to Al-Q folk as well, as the journalist Stephen Hayes (Link)has argued.

    In the long run a hell of a lot cheaper than sending 500,000 troops to go into Kuwait, then spend 12 years enforcing sanctions, and then invading Iraq, and then keeping 150,000 troops to occupy Iraq for god knows how long. And then when you factor in the political costs- enraging Muslim opinion, inflaming global anti-Americanism, giving Al Qaeda free recruiting propaganda, inadvertently making Iran increasingly powerful, and so on……

    They had quite a lot of “free recruiting propoganda” already, so I am not quite sure what difference that made. As for the notion that it would have been cheaper to let SD control the entire Arabian peninsula and massively inflate the price of oil, that seems to be a bit of a stretch.

    For what it is worth, I would probably, in retrospect, have backed a containment policy supplemented by active moves to knock off this disgusting regime, but I would nevertheless have been ready, and willing, to support an invasion, even with hindsight, because the policy we followed in the 1990s, remember, was not working. As long ago as the early 1980s, islamic terrorism was gathering force, and increasingly targeting the west.

    Anyway, I am out of here for this evening.

  • Cynic

    ‘Not just; he offered shelter to Al-Q folk as well’

    I’m sure you can dig up evidence that most countries in the Middle East have sheltered Al Qaeda folk. Want to invade them too? Should Britain have invaded the US back in the day when Irish Republican terrorists were getting funds and shelter in the US?

    And here is an article from 1990 debunking the whole idea that it was necessary to go to war to keep the oil supplies running:
    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=1529&full=1

  • YogSothoth

    I’ve never figured out why the left gets so exercised by the Iraq war in the first place. It’s not like anyone they know is actually fighting over there anyway.

  • Paul Marks

    Hey Cynic, do not be so hard on the “Jacksonian mob” (at least if you mean Andrew Jackson).

    These people (especially the Barnburner faction of Democrats in New York State, who supported Van Buren, for want of someone better, and were not involved in the negative side of A.J. – slavery and indian robbing) were the nearest thing to a libertarian mass movement that the United States has ever had.

    No to a national debt, no to internal taxation, no to taxpayer financed internal improvments, and no to a high protective tarriff.

    The Jacksonian (or at least the Van Buren, for want of someone better, Democrats) were a continuation of the Jeffsonian Republicans – and yes the best moden Republicans (very few in number actually) are like them.

    It is the Whig tradition of Henry Clay that is the foe. Modern leftists like “John Stuart”, spelling alert, (I also forget the T.V. comics real name, I think that like me he has a Jewish family name, but that he is sensitive about it for some reason) make no mistake when they call themselves “Whigs” (at least if one is using that word in the American context).

    Still on the posting:

    So C.B. thinks Saddam was strongly secular – how does he square this with such stunts as donating his own blood to be used as ink to write a copy of the Koran with?

    All the whole “I am strong Muslim really” line that Saddam played for years.

    True A.Q. were not convinced (they thought Saddam was a phony), but that did not stop them accepting Saddam’s support.

    I suppose this support is what C.B. means by “crushing” them.

    He has got his Ba’athist regimes mixed up.

    It was the Syrian regime that crushed militant Sunnis (the Muslim Brotherhood), but that was not really in defence of “secularism”.

    The Assad family are Shia (although they belong to a sect that most Shia think is heretical), so they have trouble with hard line Sunni.

    Saddam was a Sunni – although A.Q. did not think he was a very good Sunni. They most likely wanted to kill Saddam, but they still accepted his support.

    This is the way of it in the Islamic world.

    For example, A.Q. accept a lot of support from Iran – even though the Iranian regime are radical Shia (and therefore, in the A.Q.s way of thinking, fit only to be enslaved or exterminated).

    On sactions and the air control:

    It was getting harder ever year. People seem to forget the massive propaganda campaign against sanctions.

    The evil Americans had killed “600,000 innocent Iraqis with sanctions” these must have been the same “600, 000 innocent Iraqs” who were brought back to life so the evil Americans could kill them again with the war (yes the “Independent” newspaper and so on did not bother to invent a new stat – they just used the one they had invented for the sanctions).

    Still I agree with Cynic about how the war situation was handled. The whole project stank of neocon “nation building” and was based on the idea that, apart from Saddam and few evil henchmen, Iraqis were fluffy bunnies.

  • Sam Duncan

    Jacob, Shannon: Hear, hear. Very well put indeed.

  • Cynic

    There are admirable things about Jacksonian- dislike of taxes and central banks for example. But there are key differences between how Jacksonians and Jeffersonians see government and the world. This article is pretty good on the subject:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/dmccarthy/dmccarthy59.html

    As for sanctions, I have no idea why anybody ever believed they can ever be effective. There are massive incentives to cheat the system. Enforcing them is like enforcing drug prohibition. And those that enforce rather than cheat end up being suckers. Cheaters get rich off trading, enforcers screw themselves by not only paying for enforcement but depriving themselves of options to trade. They also give the rulers of whatever nation sanctions were imposed on a fantastic excuse to blame all internal problems on. We can see this in Cuba. The US embargo gives Castro and the gang an excuse for why socialism has failed. They can just point the finger at Washington, rather than have to face the music that Marx and Lenin were full of crap.

    ‘apart from Saddam and few evil henchmen, Iraqis were fluffy bunnies.’

    I think this was part of the problem of the tendency to have the man compared to Hitler. All anybody heard before the war was how evil this man was. He was obviously an SOB. But I think it led to a tendency to assume that getting rid of this man would solve all the problems.

  • Simon Cranshaw

    if Barnett wants to make this claim with seriousness, he needs to weigh the costs of what is now happening in Iraq with the toll of the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait, the gassing of villagers in northern Iraq, etc.

    No. In valuation terms these are what are called sunk costs. These losses would occur with an invasion or without it. If you want to value the invasion then you have to compare Iraq under invasion with how it would have been over this later period under Saddam only. You might make the case that these past wars imply Saddam might have started another war which we have now avoided but if that’s what you mean then you should say so. Otherwise these past events are just not relevant to the cost/benefit analysis.

    I’m not an expert on Iraq and I’m happy to hear argument to the contrary but I know the death toll and economic damage from the invasion are both high and Saddam would have had to either start some brutal repressions or another war to match the damage that has been done. Considering that more than ten years had passed since Saddam had caused these type of events I think the burden is on you to make the case that he would have repeated them in the last five. You may well make the case that in the long run conditions will get to a better state for the Iraqi people but I think it’s hard to claim that things are already better than they would have been.

    Also I think the point about Iraq being secular is not that all secular regimes are good or that Iraq’s regime was strictly secular. The point is that Iraq had not gone as far in introducing highly repressive religious laws that other countries in the region had. In this sense the invasion is not likely to make some huge improvement in the justice system as you might claim for other countries. For example, Historically, Iraqi women and girls have enjoyed relatively more rights than many of their counterparts in the Middle East.

  • JohnSal

    As a certified gringo, let me posit the following response to the above comment. If you had performed a cost benefit analysis 4+ years after the end of the Revolutionary War in the U.S. would it have been positive? The short answer is a resounding: NO. Take a look at U.S. history. To say that Iraq would be better off, now and IN THE FUTURE, with a fascist Saddam & Sons still in power is just shallow thinking or a severe case of BDS. Do some net present value projections for the future given a stable, non-aggressive government, secular or not, vs rule by a fascist thug.

    Furthermore, the inability of the anti-war left and libertarians to remember the state of play in late 1990s and early 2000s is astonishing. Go back and read the reporting on the state of Saddam sanctions. France and Russia certainly, and China probably, as a result of the Oil for Fraud bribery scheme, were about to remove the sanctions imposed on Iraq. Then read the Dullfer and Kaye ISG reports which revealed that Saddam was only awaiting their removal to begin rearmament, conventional and WMD. Gosh, wouldn’t it be nice to now have Iraq and Iran both were closing in on nuclear weapons capabilities?

    “Iraq had not gone as far in introducing highly repressive religious laws that (sic) other countries in the region had.” Who knew that Saddam had such an enlightened judicial system? Puhleeze, give me a break.

  • Simon Cranshaw

    JohnSal, I agree with you on your first point. As I said in my post, in the long run you can make the case that the people of Iraq will be better off. I don’t dispute that. Personally I doubt that the benefits will justify the costs but I’m still undecided and can see the argument either way. My point was that as of now, not considering the future, it seems that the people of Iraq are far from being better off than they would have been without the invasion. Also, it is misleading to compare invasion losses to the losses of Iran-Iraq, Kuwait and Kurds unless you specify that you think this type of war would have recurred.

    Is this what you mean by your second point? Do you think without the invasion, Saddam would have been waging war somewhere or preparing to?

    Regarding secularism, of course I don’t think Saddam had a great judicial system. But it’s my impression that compared to Iran say, it was a relatively secular government and as such less prey to the dangers of religious regimes. As I say though, I’m no expert and I’d be interested to hear if people think this generalisation is not really correct.

  • Sunfish

    Long-term occupation certainly is an even more costly and even more unviable long-term option.

    Indeed. It didn’t keep Germany from re-arming and invading France and Poland again.

  • Cynic

    ‘Do some net present value projections for the future given a stable, non-aggressive government, secular or not, vs rule by a fascist thug.’

    How many more US/UK troops have to die for your dreamed up Iraqi utopia to come about then? Even if US troops stay for years, I think it is a lot more likely that another dictator will rule Iraq in the future. It is bogus also to compare the American Revolutionary War to the Iraq War. In the former, the Americans fought for their own freedom. That was not the case in Iraq. Also, after the revolutionary war, the different factions in America managed to keep their differences relatively peaceful- at least until the Civil War in the 1860s. Iraq’s factions just kill each other. Their political parties have militias. Their political parties have links to foreign intelligence agencies. And so on. This isn’t democracy, it is demoCRAZY.

  • Jacob

    “To say that Iraq would be better off, now and IN THE FUTURE, with a fascist Saddam & Sons still in power…”

    Yes, to say that is crazy.

    Saddam and his sons needed to be removed, one way or another, a regime change would have occurred sooner or later, even without US intervention, and it would have been bloody and ugly and prolonged, with a possibly worse regime, Iranian style, emerging.
    To maintain that the US intervention causes the current deaths and suffering is also crazy. It is the tribal war and the insane terrorist methods the Islamic nuts employ that cause the harm, not the US.

    You can argue that the Iraqi mess doesn’t justify the loss of life of a single GI, that’s a plausible argument. But arguing, like the demented left, that the US is the cause of current troubles in Iraq is beyond the pale.

  • Paul Marks

    Cynic

    Lew Rockwell is making a great distinction between Jefferson and Jackson which was not so real in reality.

    Jefferson was quite prepared to use military force in the interests of the United States – whether it was to expand against the Indian tribes or even to send forces as far as North Africa.

    Jackson just killed Indians and such with his own hands (not racialism – the main “Indian” leader he faced was white, and Jackson adopted one Indian as his son), and Jefferson got other people to do it.

    Of course neither would have been much interested in wars to help people in distant lands.

    The main problem with Jackson is that he sometimes did not think things to the end (partly because of the pain of carrying round all those bullets in him).

    For example, Andrew Jackson was right to get rid of the central bank – but dead wrong to just put the tax money into State banks.

    The State banks played fractional reserve with it – just as the national bank had (hence the boom-bust).

    Van Buren had the right idea (perhaps because he had practical experience of banking and knew that State level bankers were as corrupt as the national level ones) – put the tax money in an independent treasuary and take it out as you spend it.

    Still David Crockett did not like Jackson – and Crockett was the real hard core man on government spending. Earthquake, fire, whatever – I do not see any power in the Constitution for Congress to spend money on relief, if individual members of Congress wish to spend their own money fine (here is some of mine), but not taxpayers money.

    “Hey Paul this thread is about Iraq”.

    Well General “Mike” Jackson the want-to-be para (he was briefly in the British Airborne, indeed made the head of it, and likes to play on this – special beret and all). Was at it again today (according to the B.B.C. spin on his buy-my-book thing in the Daily Telegraph) – learning the exactly the wrong things from Iraq.

    The warning (“claim” was how the B.B.C. put it) from Donald Rumsfeld that the American military did not do “nation building” was “nonsensical” – as that is what a military is for (according to our Jackson).

    One of the few things I am happy about is that Mike Jackson is no longer in command of anything.

    Almost needless to say ex General Jackson also claimed that more “diplomacy” would be helpful in dealing with the terrorist threat to the West.

    In reality diplomacy is a job creation scheme for connected people (people like “Mike” Jackson for example) and that is all it is.

    Of course Cynic will say “what Rumsfeld should have said is – as we do not do nation building, the mission is crazy” – there are arguments against Cynic there, but I have not got the heart to argue.

    I can remember a time when British Generals did not try and make money selling books about wars that were still on – but then I am from another age.

  • Pietr: I’ll go along with inhumane. I don’t really disagree with anything that Sam Duncan said, either. At the same time, I can understand and even respect Cynic’s point of view (as at least it is honest, unlike the “Saddam did not support terrorism” or “Saddam was secular” arguments.), although I cannot sympathize with it. Not only because I am an Israeli and because his position is, well, cynical, but largely because it is impractical and unrealistic.

  • Johnathan

    I’m sure you can dig up evidence that most countries in the Middle East have sheltered Al Qaeda folk. Want to invade them too? Should Britain have invaded the US back in the day when Irish Republican terrorists were getting funds and shelter in the US?

    Different countries require different forms of pressure, Cynic. Don’t be silly, of course we were not going to fucking invade the US when some of its more deluded citizens were funding the IRA; if memory serves, the FBI etc did quite a bit to crack down on the situation. As for other countries that sheltered terrorists, well, we have to start somewhere.

    But I think it led to a tendency to assume that getting rid of this man would solve all the problems

    I think you will have to search pretty hard to find any of the people who supported SD’s overthrow who would make such a bald claim.

    S. Crenshaw writes:

    Regarding secularism, of course I don’t think Saddam had a great judicial system.

    Understatement of the day.

    It is bogus also to compare the American Revolutionary War to the Iraq War. In the former, the Americans fought for their own freedom. That was not the case in Iraq. Also, after the revolutionary war, the different factions in America managed to keep their differences relatively peaceful- at least until the Civil War in the 1860s

    No direct comparison can be made, true, but your mention of the Civil War does rather bugger up your own attempt to mock the comparison; in any event, quite a lot of people were glad to be rid of Saddam, and I’d add that his repressive regime was of a totally different order of magnitude to what operated under the reign of Mad King George III. The US did, it is true, have a relatively developed civil society; it had the English Common law, a relatively commonly accepted religion (albeit different denominations), but there was nothing inevitable about the revolution, nor less the enduring success of the new nation.

    Being a cynic, you have doubted whether any attempt to foster something better in Iraq will work; but then a lot of people said the same about attempts to get Germany and Japan to become decent countries over a period of time. I happen to share many of your reservations about the wisdom of nation-building; that was not the reason I supported the invasion anyway.

    Paul Marks’ has dealt with many of your other points more forcefully than I could; I’d add to his point about al-Qua’da that it is pretty obvious that Saddam could and did make use of such folk when it suited his purposes. All this stuff about SD being a “strict” secular ruler is so much bs.

  • Cynic

    ‘No direct comparison can be made, true, but your mention of the Civil War does rather bugger up your own attempt to mock the comparison.’

    Oh please. The American Civil War took place nearly 80 years after the revolutionary wars ended. Iraq was ‘liberated’ four years and if the Iraqis haven’t quite descended into civil war, it is something very close. And post-revolutionary America did not require a foreign army to keep order. I know the US military don’t do a good job of this, but I suppose that trying to impose order is what they are at least attempting to do in Iraq.

    ‘get Germany and Japan to become decent countries over a period of time.’

    Before the 1930s, neither were particularly ‘bad’ countries, at least by the lights of the time.

    ‘Different countries require different forms of pressure, Cynic.’

    From what I have read, over 50% of the foreign terrorists killed in Iraq are Saudis. Yet America plans to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion of weapons over the next ten years. And just think of all those Islamist schools that the Saudis fund. And all that pre-9/11 support for the Taliban. And the fact that most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis. Obviously in the case of Saudi Arabia, ‘pressure’ amounts to coddling.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    From what I have read, over 50% of the foreign terrorists killed in Iraq are Saudis. Yet America plans to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion of weapons over the next ten years

    .

    Indeed. I don’t defend that policy. I think the way the west kow-tows to the Saudis is deplorable. That is why a key foreign policy objective must be to reduce our long term reliance on oil and reduce the leverage of such regimes. Feel happier now?

    Before the 1930s, neither were particularly ‘bad’ countries, at least by the lights of the time

    .

    No, they just started two major wars and in the case of the “otherwise perfectly normal German regime”, massacred tens of millions of people. Otherwise, nothing at all to worry about.

    I have not denied, you will notice (do you actually read my comments fully?) that Iraq is a bloody mess; what I do emphatically deny is that there was anything inevitable about this; I also deny your implicit support for the brutal regime of Saddam of somehow keeping a lid on this. (I recall apologists for Tito saying much the same about Yugoslavia).

    I also note you did not respond to Paul Marks’ points about SD’s tactical support for Al-Qua’eda.

  • Alisa, how well I remember being a refugee from London at a Potato-growing Moshav in the Summer of 1989.
    Work stopped.
    The bread, hummus and watermelon was broken out, right there in the middle of the field.
    Why?
    Ayatollah Khomeini had just died.
    They even brought out a radio so we could listen to the news.
    Are you trying to claim that thousands, maybe millions, of Israelis didn’t bless America at every milestone in Iraq?
    Surely not.
    (Later on in the Golan, I was the one driving the tractor.
    Lots of fun was had by all).
    Thing is, it isn’t just an Israel thing.
    It’s a Western Civilisation thing.

    More British(including General ‘Chinese’ Gordon) died in the fall of Khartoum than in the entire Iraqi campaign, just to put the comparitive effort into perspective.

  • Pietr, you are preaching to the choir here, at least as yours truly is concerned. Read my comments again.

  • Cynic

    ‘I also note you did not respond to Paul Marks’ points about SD’s tactical support for Al-Qua’eda.’

    I never denied it. I still don’t think it was a good idea to invade Iraq though, as I cannot fathom how this has managed to damage Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda in Iraq are numbered today as being over 1000. I don’t recall even the most ardent neocons claiming there was even half that number of Al Qaeda members in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. If we had wanted to stick it to Al Qaeda, Bush really should have made a better job of Tora Bora in 2001. If clearing Iraq of terrorists was what they wanted, they may have had more luck kissing Saddam’s butt. Washington certainly assumes that is the best way to deal with the Saudis and Pakistanis, two countries that had a lot more to do with Al Qaeda pre-9/11 than Saddam.

  • Gabriel

    The problem with Cynic’s analogy between foreign and domestic intervention is simply this.

    If the government declined to intervene in the economy there would be no interference in the economy except from people using criminal methods to form cartels and monopolies. Seeing as intervention in the market and society is almost always malodorous in its effects, it logically follows that government activity should be limited to punishing and preventing criminal behviour.

    If the American government declined to intervene in world affairs. Every other government would continue to do so and seeing as, first, these governments have interests often inimical to America’s and, second, many of them are run by evil and deranged indivduals, it does not in any sense logically follow that the American government should cease and desist.

    Whether hypothetically the world’s trouble spots would be better off if there were no outside parties acting upon them, is an entirely moot point and has no place whatsoever in grown up discussion of what should be done about them. Take (the Democratic republic of) Congo for example, where the West has consistently refused to get entangled. Uganda, Zimbabwe et al. have shown no such reticence and I dont see that it’s plausible to say that the Congolese have done well from this.

    Being an opponent of American intervention in, say, Darfur, does not make you an opponent of intervention in Darfur, it makes you a supporter of Chinese, Russian and Saudi intervention in Darfur and that’s not something I’d like to be.

  • Cynic

    ‘Take (the Democratic republic of) Congo for example, where the West has consistently refused to get entangled. Uganda, Zimbabwe et al. have shown no such reticence and I dont see that it’s plausible to say that the Congolese have done well from this.’

    How does this actually threaten the west? Sorry, but the welfare of Congolese is not our responsibility. Looking at these state of Zimbabwe recently, I think its hard to make out how meddling in other countries has managed to benefit that country either.

    And all western meddling in Darfur would achieve is to attract Al Qaeda to the place. But I’m sure some enthusiastic idealist though will be able to make up some gaudy case for sending US troops to Darfur though, perhaps along the lines that if we don’t stop the Janjaweed over there, they’ll soon be running amok on the streets of New York.

    I would say as well that it is hard a lot of the time to distinguish economic intervention from foreign interventionism, as a hell of a lot of foreign meddling is economic meddling.

  • Paul Marks

    The judgement to ally with the House of Saud was made by F.D.R. in person in 1945 – it was one of the last things the man ever did (he went out there and met the leader of the House of Saud on a ship).

    F.D.R.’s judgement of the situation was about as sound as most of his other judgements (such as Stalin being a “Christian gentleman” – and no he was not being sarcastic).

    The House of Saud have been allied with Wahabbi clerics for a couple of centuries.

    The had been in and out of power in most of Arabia (their main rivals being the family that the late King of Iraq and present King of Jordan are drawn from) for centuries to.

    Rule by the House of Saud meant rule by the Wahabbi – and (of course) vast amounts of oil money going to spread Wahabbi ideas all over the world.

    Of course most of the House of Saud are not interested in speading Wahabbi ideas (after all this time they are fairly normal people), however the House made a pact with the Wahabbi long ago – and it is pact there is no way out of.

  • Paul Marks

    Before Cynic mentions it:

    Yes I know that George Walker Bush said of the vile criminal Putin (of Russia) that “I have looked into his soul and he is a good man”.

    Whenever a President chooses to rely on E.S.P. (rather than examining the facts) there is a problem.

    It does not matter if it is a Democrat like F.D.R. or a Republican like G.W.B.

    Sometimes one must be a Mr Gradgrind. I do not want to hear about the feelings of Presidents – “facts, boy, facts”.

  • Gabriel

    Cynic, you’re changing your point. You claimed that intervention by the U.S. government abroad will always fail for the same reasons that domestic intervention fails, but the analogy doesn’t work because the consequence of non-intervention at home is a lack of intervention (good) wheras the consequence of non-intervention abroad is just intervention by others (not necessarily good and usually bad).
    Whether or not you care about Congolese is immaterial, your claim that western intervention must necessarily always make things worse has no sound theoretically basis and is demonstrably false.

    Re. Darfur, “when they came for the….

  • Cynic

    ‘but the analogy doesn’t work because the consequence of non-intervention at home is a lack of intervention (good) wheras the consequence of non-intervention abroad is just intervention by others (not necessarily good and usually bad).’

    Bad for the countries intervening. Take Russia’s wars with Chechnya for example. The West has barely lifted a finger. The wars have obviously been a tragedy for the Chechen people. But apart from the fortunes of a few politicians and plutocrats, I would argue the wars have been a calamity for Russia. Thousands dead, more maimed, billions wasted, savage retaliatory terrorist attacks, and a continuing insurgency that still rages, Russia’s army exposed as pathetic, and so on. It is hard to see how western inaction here has harmed the west, or benefited Russia.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I never denied it.

    I thought you wrote higher up – unless I was imaginging something – that you said SD cracked down hard on such groups.

  • Gabriel

    Chechynya has been bad for us in that it has created Islamic Wahhabi fundamentalism where previously it didn’t exist, which means there are now a whole bunch more potential terrorists who happen to be able to get through security more easily than their arab bretheren.

    Given that Chechynya is russian sovereign territory anyway the example is hardly apt. More pertinently, given the reality of Russian intervention in eastern europe should we desist from our activities to help pro western forces in Ukraine, for example?

  • Cynic

    ‘to help pro western forces in Ukraine, for example?’

    Following the orange revolution, the new Tymoshenko ministry began renationalisation of certain industries, imposed price controls, increased taxes, increased tariffs, boosted state monopolies, increased state job wages by 57%, and sent the tax police on a looting spree.

    Tymoshenko in fact said this:
    “The biggest enterprises, which can easily be efficiently managed, must not be privatized, and they can give the state as an owner wonderful profits.”

    Of course, if this is what they want in Ukraine, fine. The pre-orange governments were hardly enlightened, but I don’t think the post-orange ones are particularly much better . But the National Endowment for Democracy in America spent $65 million of taxpayers money on that revolution to create just another 3rd way style socialist regime that is pro-western to the extent that it holds its hands out for Western aid (President Yushchenko’s speech to the US congress after the revolution was an appeal for foreign aid) and protection. Perhaps great for the Ukraine no doubt. At least until the destructive economic interventionist policies start biting. Good for the American taxpayer? Surely you jest. Also, I would point out that while I don’t think Russia should be interfering with Ukrainian elections, neither should the West. Besides, if America does this, it cannot really complain honestly if Russia ever started trying to meddle with elections in Mexico and Canada.

    As for the more recent gas dispute between Russia and the Ukraine, my understanding was that Russia had long provided Ukraine with cheap gas at below market prices, and Russia decided to begin charging market prices. Although I doubt Putin had had a sudden conversion to free market economics, I cannot argue with the fact that Russia had the right to start charging market prices (and should have been all along), even if the intent was merely to stick it to Ukraine’s leaders.

  • Cynic, is the National Endowment for Democracy in America financed by the taxpayers?

  • Cynic

    Yes. It is almost wholly taxpayer funded. In the financial year of 2004, it had a budget of $80.1 million. $79.25 million of that came from government agencies.

  • Paul Marks

    And the Orange people rewarded the United States by declaring that they would pull out the forces of the Ukraine from Iraq – and by declaring how much they wanted to be part of the European Union.

    Of course, President Bush also loves the European Union – it seems that he does not know that death-to-America is one of its central doctrines.

    Of course the Blue people in Ukraine were puppets of Putin (whose thugs messed up the poisoning of the chief Orange person). So they would most likely have back stabbed the United States as well (as soon as Mr Putin ordered them to).

  • Gabriel

    Also, I would point out that while I don’t think Russia should be interfering with Ukrainian elections, neither should the West.

    But Russia is interfering so, what the fuck are you going to do about it?
    Or do I note a shift to moral argument completely out of keeping with your previous “I don’t give a shit” line? Speaking of which.

    Besides, if America does this, it cannot really complain honestly if Russia ever started trying to meddle with elections in Mexico and Canada.

    Oh, really, will your sense of fair play be offended? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could spin the universe around your hyper-attuned moral sensiblities.

    Russia had the right

    This sums it up really. I don’t know what to do with a “libertarian” who starts banging on about the *rights* of governments, unfortunately that seems to rule out most of them.

  • Cynic

    ‘But Russia is interfering so, what the fuck are you going to do about it?’

    As I pointed out, the so-called pro-western lot in the Ukraine are a gang of socialists only wanting western handouts and to freeride on NATO for its security. Perhaps neocons, social democrats, and liberals love these types of 3rd way socialists, as they are so similar to what they want. Given the choice between siding with the pro-West lot, who are socialists, and the pro-Russia lot, who are also socialists, I would reply that I don’t care and that we should support neither, regardless of whatever anybody else is doing. Let the Russians piss their money down the drain. If you love the ‘pro-western’ socialists so much, write them a cheque. Stop advocating wasting taxpayers money though. We have plenty of socialism at home that needs to be wiped out, and funding socialist regimes, regardless of how ostensibly pro-Western they claim to be, helps us in no way whatsoever.

    ‘This sums it up really. I don’t know what to do with a “libertarian” who starts banging on about the *rights* of governments’

    Yawn. You seem hot for the right for countries you approve of to do exactly whatever they want. Ideally, Russia’s gas industry would be fully private. But as that is not the case, it is still preferable that they charge market prices than further distort markets through supplying gas at artificially low prices. It was hardly a crime for Russia to start charging market prices. The real crime had been the previous conditions where Ukraine received below market price gas. I am very concerned about the revival of economic statism going on in Russia, but I’m also very worried about the same process going on in the Ukraine, which seems to have proceeded even faster thanks to the so-called ‘pro-western’ governments since the Orange revolution that you seem so hot for.

  • Cynic

    ‘This sums it up really. I don’t know what to do with a “libertarian” who starts banging on about the *rights* of governments, unfortunately that seems to rule out most of them.’

    Libertarianism is absolutely impossible with an interventionist foreign policy. Interventionism usually requires a huge state, high taxes, suppression of individual rights, and bread and circuses at home to get the booboisie at home to play along (ie welfarism/workfare- and the promise of more after the intervention ends).

    But I’m sure you find that it is all worth it providing we stop the pro-Russian socialists in Ukraine from usurping the pro-Western socialists. Who gives a fuck about the taxpayer when we have to keep those pesky Russians are helping their agents in the Ukraine at the expense of our agents in the Ukraine!? Who gives a fuck what New Labour are doing when we have Putin meddling in the Ukraine!?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    And the Orange people rewarded the United States by declaring that they would pull out the forces of the Ukraine from Iraq – and by declaring how much they wanted to be part of the European Union.

    One hard lesson learnt is that no-one is grateful for anything, at least not for more than a few minutes.

    Given the choice between siding with the pro-West lot, who are socialists, and the pro-Russia lot, who are also socialists, I would reply that I don’t care and that we should support neither, regardless of whatever anybody else is doing.

    Much as I hate to say it, Cynic has a point. I think that some countries need to learn some lessons the hard way, although it is easy for me to say this in the comfort of my own home, obviously.

    Libertarianism is absolutely impossible with an interventionist foreign policy.

    That is what is known as a sweeping statement. Depends what you mean by interventionism; if you mean wholesale attempts to build new countries from scratch, then I agree; if you mean knocking off thugs with a track record of violence and untrustworthy behaviour as a form of forward self-defence, then one might argue that that is in fact entirely compatible with a defence of liberty. One can fairly debate the facts on the ground – as we have on this thread – but spare us the argument that intervention is never allowable under any circumstances. I outgrew that sort of attitude in my arrogant late teens after I had read Murray Rothbard for the first time.

  • Paul Marks

    Cynic

    A “market” (in the correct sense of the word) is not possible without the private ownership (including the civil use – not just token “ownership”) of the means of production – Ludwig Von Mises 101 (as you must know).

    So it is silly to talk of the market in relation to Russian “natural resources” (which that bandit and murderer Putin has stolen a lot of anyway).

    As for contracts with the Ukraine – if a private gas company (or oil company or whatever) wished to increase the price of its product after the period of the contract expired that would be fine. As long as other companies were allowed to compete with it.

    “Libertarianism is impossible with an interventionist foreign policy”.

    Then libertarianism is impossible – period.

    Whatever Lew Rockwell may think, the United States could not have survived as an island of (semi) liberty in a sea of tyranny if the Axis had won World War II, or if the Communists had won the Cold War.

    “But the Marxists regimes would have eventually collapsed because of their lack of private property in the means of production” – quite so, but that would not have helped a world tossed into a new Dark Age (and, no, civilization does not always just come back).

    Nor is this just a matter of the United States.

    Liberty in small nations survives only because there is a powerful nation somewhere defending it.

    For example, Holland (and a lot more than Holland) would have fallen to the forces of Spain had it not been for English support. True more than half of the English ships that eventually fought the Spanish invasion of England were private ships (so it could be argued that private enterprise and favourable weather had a lot to do with the survival of England) but without Elizabeth I (for her own selfish reasons perhaps) many lands would have fallen to Spain.

    A century later all of Europe (including England) would have fallen to the forces of Louis XIV of France had not England allied (and supported with blood and treasure) allies to prevent this.

    It was the same with the forces of the French Revolution a century after that.

    Of course none of above proves that the judgement to go into Iraq in 2003 was correct (I thought it was a mistake at the time – and I have not changed my opinion).

    But to have “noninterventionism” as a principle will not work, unless some other power is willing and able to spend lives and money to protect you – protect you by using lives and money to prevent the forces of tyranny gaining a stranglehold on the world.

    Allowing potential ally after potential ally to fall because “we will only use resources to build up our defences” ignores the facts of military thought (and there is such a thing).

    I say again, an island of liberty (or semi liberty) in a sea of tyranny will not work.

  • Gabriel

    You seem hot for the right for countries you approve of to do exactly whatever they want./blockquote>
    I would never claim they have the right: they can do whatever they have the power to do and so can Russia, which is why it makes sense to try and stop them. I’d prefer states I like (more) to be doing things than ones I don’t, is that not simply a tautology?

    The concept of Right in international relations is meaningless, unless you are using Spinoza or Hobbes’ definition, but they don’t get you very far in prescriptive terms.

  • Cynic

    Unless you are a socialist though (and therefore have ideological sympathy with the Orange lot), I cannot fathom why you would want to interfere in the Ukraine, unless all you really wish to do is practice idiotic balance of power politics. If that is the case, you aren’t really any better than Putin et al.