Responsibility to protect?
February 4, 2012 11:44 AM   Subscribe

"I saw bodies of women and children lying on roads, beheaded." At least 260 people were killed last night in a government assault on Homs, the epicenter of the Syrian uprising. This came right before a key UN vote to support the Arab League's plan to have President Bashar al-Assad hand over power to the vice president and hold early elections for a national unity government, which failed this morning with 13 in favor and a double veto by China and Russia.

In the wake of the Homs massacre, Tunisia, Kuwait, and Algeria are expelling the Syrian ambassadors to their countries. The UN's last estimated death toll in January was 5,400 killed since the uprising started in March 2011. The French foreign minister puts it at 6,000 now.

Arguments in favor of intervention: 1, 2, 3
Arguments against intervention: 1, 2, 3

According to a Congressional Research Service report, of $8.2 billion in total arms sales to Syria since 2003, 98% came from Russia and China. (via)
posted by lullaby (252 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by defenestration at 11:46 AM on February 4, 2012


The US shouldn't intervene anywhere. We let the Bahraini people and the uprising die, just because we have a base there. Libya we intervene because Gaddafi was a thorn in the US's side for decades.
posted by narcoleptic at 12:02 PM on February 4, 2012


Seriously, fuck Russia and China. Your presence at the UN isn't for the purpose of protecting your arms deals with a maniac.

I haven't read all the arguments against intervention but oddly the 3rd link seems to argue that intervention via the R2P Doctrine isn't effective because intervention in Libya (which worked, depending on your definition of 'worked') wasn't a deterrent against Syrian violence. This is logic of the most bizarre order, using a sample size of 1 asshole no less.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:11 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I know it's kind of uncouth, but I'm hoping that Assad meets a similar ignoble end as Gaddafi.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:13 PM on February 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


Clearly, Syria needs to get back on our good side. Then all of their human rights violations can be dutifully wrist slapped as we praise their leadership on democracy.
posted by deanklear at 12:13 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the UN, said the veto of the new resolution was necessary because it "sent an unbalanced signal to the Syrian parties"

What, er, would be a "balanced" signal?




The US shouldn't intervene anywhere. We let the Bahraini people and the uprising die, just because we have a base there. Libya we intervene because Gaddafi was a thorn in the US's side for decades.



I am not advocating for intervention with the following observation.

However, that comment seems to equate "Because we do somethings that may be good based on self interest, and that we don't always do the right thing, because of self-interest we should never do something that may be right because our motives are suspect."

If Libya was the correct thing to do, and Bahrain would have been the right thing to do then Syria too would be the right thing to do. I will note, that that is a really big IF though.
posted by edgeways at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Arab League seems pretty determined to get rid of Assad. Why don't they intervene?
posted by PenDevil at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Libya Population: 6.5 million
Syria Population: 20 million
Iraq Population: 32 million
Iran Population: 73 million

Libya army size: 25k
Syrian army: 200k
Iraqi army: 700k
Iran army: 480k.

I don't think you can take Syria in isolation from Iran. They are an Iranian client state, and we're already this close to war with Iran.
posted by empath at 12:15 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Seriously, fuck Russia and China. Your presence at the UN isn't for the purpose of protecting your arms deals with a maniac.
Now you know how the rest of the world feels whenever we veto anything relating to the Israel/Palestinian situation, most recently Threatening to veto their bid to join the UN, despite everyone else saying it was a good idea.

(Assuming you're an American, which I actually have no idea about)
posted by delmoi at 12:19 PM on February 4, 2012 [35 favorites]


The third against link really covered everything, as to Russia and China it said: Let me put it bluntly: if Russia vetoes a resolution to use force in the United Nations Security Council, and this dissuades the international community from intervening, then the United Nations Security Council has served its purpose. The original and, I think, primary purpose of the United Nations Security Council is not to promote Responsibility to Protect. It is not to ratify, against the will of recalcitrant great powers, the principles of liberal government. It is not to override the foreign policies of the five permanent members. It is to secure peace and reduce tensions among the great powers. It was founded in the wake of World War II with the intention of preventing World War III. That it is capable of sometimes performing these other functions is a luxury, not a necessity.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


I'm a Canadian, but our current government is pretty lockstep with the US at the moment.
posted by jimmythefish at 12:21 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, fuck Russia and China. Your presence at the UN isn't for the purpose of protecting your arms deals with a maniac.

I'd guess China's reaction probably has more to do with the latest Tibetan protests which they're busy cracking down on.
posted by homunculus at 12:24 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, fuck Russia and China. Your presence at the UN isn't for the purpose of protecting your arms deals with a maniac.

I agree, but it's tough to say that with a straight face if you're the United States. We spent most of the 80s blocking UN resolutions against Saddam's war crimes and efforts to control Pakistani nuclear proliferation, and then we spent most of the 90s and 00s ignoring Saudi, Egyptian, and Israeli violations of international law so we could sell them weapons. We spent last year propping up Bahrain's government.

Plus, when you consider the wake of carnage our interventions have caused in the last 10 years, the Syrian government's evil would barely show up on a graph. I'm all for intervening in Syria, in ways that make sense and won't cause more death than they aim to prevent, but we have spent all of our political capital for the next decade at least.
posted by deanklear at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


We let the Bahraini people and the uprising die, just because we have a base there.

Congress protests Obama on Bahrain arms sale: 18 representatives and three senators point to continued human rights abuses in letter to Hillary Clinton
posted by homunculus at 12:26 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I read about these atrocities in Syria and I have to remind myself that for the last decade, I was yelling for a government that intervened less in other countries affairs.

I get that intervening directly could open up a huge shitstorm with Iran. And I don't think ANYONE wants to push us closer to war with them.

But can't we do anything indirectly? Can't some special forces guys clandestinelystart arming the resistance?
posted by tylerfulltilt at 12:27 PM on February 4, 2012


When a government starts acting like Syria, then that is the time to pull out the guns and go to straight up rebellion. Because folks in Syria have tried to do this the nonviolent way and it's pretty fucking clear their government is going to try and kill every last non-violent protester it can. So fuck that , it's on.
posted by wuwei at 12:31 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


OK, here's what I think. FUCK the Chinese and Russian leaderships! What we have here in the West is bad enough, but those goons are beyond the pale. This is what happens when a culture (Russia, China, Cambodia, etc.) is ruled from the center for centuries, without access to anything approaching habeus corpus, or any individual rights, period. I watched hapless Chinese workers line up by the 10's of thousands the other day, just to apply for a job at FoxConn, where my computer is made. That makes me sick! It makes me sick that my choices

Then we have our own, Western, cowards-as-leaders, who are oh-so-"strategic" in their dealings with other nations - with their worries about keeping the shell game of "balanced currencies" etc. going for the benefit of those who underwrite their time in office. Yes, I'm talking about you (name any one of 90% of Western politicians and policy makers - including Obama, Romney, Pelosi, Paul, and the rest of the clown show that is promoted by our carnival-barking media.

Yes, this is a rant, but it's a righteous rant. There is simply something WRONG with international bodies that "agree to disagree" while literally millions die from hunger, rape, war, abuse, pestilence, etc.

I don't have the answers, but so far the "solutions" I hear (and have heard for a long time) are nothing more than shorthand for some half-assed politician, CEO, or policy maker saying "how can I say something that sounds sincere, while being able to suspend belief among the people long enough for me to keep my job". It's nothing more than theater, and those who don't have a ticket are the ones that die, or starve, or grow up in impossibly ignorant conditions - fated to help repeat the entire sick process over again.

OK - now that that's over with, how about a serious statement (and actions) from Western governments that they will forthwith begin to pull out manufacturing from China, with DIRECTIVES and REAL INCENTIVES to domestic forms for doing so? How about a trade war? That's right, slap tariffs on everything that comes from Russia and China. They will do the same to us. SO? Where has the bankrupt theory of competitive advantage gotten us? It's gotten us to a place where capital (ever on the wire, in the digital age - beyond the capacity of national control) goes where it wants, with social and fiscal disruption as it's chauffeur?

Yes, there would be disruption, and displacement, but why not have that under more domestic control - assuming that a part of this effort would be for Western governments to force more transparency in their fiscal and political processes? How about that, Barack? Mitt? - anyone??

There is something that is rotten to the core about what we've been witnessing, and WE are part of that core. Again, I don't know what the answers are, but when I see Budweiser spending enough money for a one minute commercial to sell its vomit-wash - enough money to feed entire villages for a year, while we watch over-muscled, tattooed athletes try to take each others heads off - and on top of it hear that more than 100 million people are going to be watching this insult to Sport, it doesn't quite square.

This globe, our culture, etc. is going to experience SERIOUS blowback for our collective inability to deal with these things, in ways that put an end to egregious actions that cause harm that we know little, and care less (collectively) about. The poor become desperate; the ignorant buy into self-destructive (and world destructive) religious beliefs, etc.

Dammit! I'm not feeling good about humanity, today, but there's always tomorrow.
posted by Vibrissae at 12:33 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can't some special forces guys clandestinely start arming the resistance?

A) I'm sure we are.
B) I don't think that's going to help very much.
C) Assad doesn't have much longer, whether we intervene or not.
posted by empath at 12:39 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know someone who went to study in Syria because it was safer than Baghdad, which is where he's from. That was four years ago; he's now gone back to Baghdad because Syria is too dangerous. His feelings on the whole situation are disheartening, to say the least. (For the record, he thinks things are bad enough without foreign militaries coming in and messing it up even more.)
posted by anaximander at 12:48 PM on February 4, 2012


According to a Congressional Research Service report, of $8.2 billion in total arms sales to Syria since 2003, 98% came from Russia and China.

I wonder how much in foreign aid we could have spent in buying up those arms over that time period, so that fewer arms reach Assad's government. Something like a global-scale "toys for guns" program. It would be easier for Syrians to overthrow his regime, while lessening the influence of Chinese and Russian arms dealers over UN policy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:48 PM on February 4, 2012


The problem is that removing Assad is as likely to be the solution to the problems of Syria as removing Mubarak was for the problems of Egypt. Syria is not Libya, and not even usefully comparable. Gaddafi held the Libyan regime in place, the Syrian regime holds Assad in place. I'm not one of the "boo-hoo poor Bashar" brigade, but one should recognise that this accidental leader is incidental to the evils of the Syrian regime.
posted by howfar at 12:48 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, since we can't get a security council resolution, any action would be unilateral and immoral. At least, that's what I remember hearing a lot nine years ago.
posted by Dasein at 12:49 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


The West won't do anything overtly in Syria until there's a clear change of regime in the works. Anything else is just too difficult and steps on too many toes.
posted by Jehan at 12:54 PM on February 4, 2012


When a government starts acting like Syria, then that is the time to pull out the guns and go to straight up rebellion.

The reason the Assad Regime was able to commit a massacre like last night's is that the people didn't go into 'straight up rebellion' mode soon enough. There remain more than enough dictators like him to require a couple decades of 'Arab Springs' to expel. Meanwhile, the odds of a democratic government being more hostile to the U.S. is pretty damn good, since most of the people have memories of us backing up the dictators. It's diplomacy by self-interest, which reminds me...

Your presence at the UN isn't for the purpose of protecting your arms deals with a maniac.

Every nation's presence at the UN is for the purpose of protecting its own national self-interest. Sad but true. The only dream that the UN can promote peace and/or justice is if enough of its membership (and all of its 'veto' members) can agree it's at least partly in their self-interest. Much like the US Senate requires a majority of the States, not the People, to agree in order to pass something. Mad at Russia and China for vetoing? A Senator from a big empty state (looking at you, Wyoming) can do almost as much with a Legislative Hold.

Assad doesn't have much longer, whether we intervene or not.

Which was what we said about Saddam Hussein for several years until Bush Jr. decided to avenge his father's 'humiliation' caused by him NOT going away. And the New Bosses in Iraq are almost certain to align themselves as closely with Iran as Syria is just as soon as they don't need American military help to control their people.

Well, since we can't get a security council resolution, any action would be unilateral and immoral.

Unilateral does not equal immoral, except by very narrow UN standards (and I don't even think they'd use the term 'immoral'), but the two frequently coincide. When they don't, that's another UN failure, and we'll always be arguing how often that has happened.

Okay, now I'm not feeling too good about humanity either. Has the Super Bowl pre-game started yet?
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:57 PM on February 4, 2012


narcoleptic, the US is already intervening. The Iranian Rial has taken a nosedive as a result of recent US sanctions and the situation is worsening real fast. Realistically, Iran will have two choices in the coming months: Declare war on somebody OR lose control of the country due to severe economic depression. The US is forcing Iran's move. The US secretary of defense has been less than subtle about Iran's near future. I'm not so sure it will involve direct military involvement, but something's about to go down this year.

If Iran is destabilized and toppled, one can easily imagine Syria losing political stability real fast, as well as Hizbollah in Lebanon and their affiliate Al-Wefaq in Bahrain; all of whom are ideologically backed by Iran as well as being funded directly by Iranian government revenues. It is also possible that Iran could undergo a Balkanization of sorts if their situation grew incredibly dire. Though it may appear to be a monolithic sociocultural entity, Iran has a number of significant ethnic and religious minorities that are held in check by a brutally repressive government.

I should mention that I believe the toppling of the Iranian government will be good for the region and good for Iran itself. How inane (or corrupt) do you have to be to sell crude oil to China only to buy it back after its been refined (See the first two paragraphs under Dangerous Liasons). How can one of the largest producers of oil and gas not have the refining capacity to refine its own oil???

It's nuts, and the Iranian people are living in terrible conditions because of their government's idiocy. I hope the Iranian government collapses, sooner rather than later. Direct US military intervention would be a terrible idea anywhere in the region.
posted by lemuring at 12:58 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The idea that the US or Europe can intervene in Syria is laughable. The Arab League, Turkey and Iran would all have something to say about that.

The situation is a great example of how things are going to play out in a multi-polar 21st century where the US no longer has the power to directly shape events anymore.

Libya was an anomaly, in that the country was isolated, and surrounded by isolated or weak neighbours.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:01 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Realistically, Iran will have two choices in the coming months: Declare war on somebody OR lose control of the country due to severe economic depression.

I have a contact living in Iran. This person remarks that the sanctions are indeed taking effect: there are reports in the news of assassinations of political cadres and others as tensions mount and different factions struggle to position themselves.

On the other hand, the religious fucks in Iran love the sanctions and the idea that the country is marching towards war, because kids these days are distracted with wordly desires, while war and sacrifice will bring out nobility and purity in youth.

Personally, I'd rather see some sort of form of engagement with Iran that prevents the hardliners from seizing control of the political agenda, but when have western powers ever given two shits about the lives of ordinary folks? Lots of money to be made providing smart bombs to the military.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:07 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Dammit! I'm not feeling good about humanity, today, but there's always tomorrow.

Vibrissae, I agree with the emotion behind your comment, but considering the long view, the world is less violent now, and at least politicians have to pay peace some lip service, versus just announcing that we're going to kill a bunch of people like they used to do in the 50s and 60s. It always helps me to remember that the Iraq War was one of the first wars to be protested before it was officially announced, and though that failed to translate into political will, I'd rather be disappointed with that than disappointed with no protests at all.

Without our dollars in China, there would be more misery there. Capitalism is a double edged sword, and I think globalization will end up accidentally stopping many future wars, but only because it's inspiring resistance to crony capitalism and totalitarianism. I don't consider a McDonalds in Moscow a victory by any means, but if there was one in Pyongyang, it might be a different story.

Starting trade wars based on some ideological beliefs, I'm sorry to say, just isn't going to work. A far more effective way would be to implement a standard of worker treatment, and charge huge import duties to companies that aren't certified.
posted by deanklear at 1:17 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


How can one of the largest producers of oil and gas not have the refining capacity to refine its own oil???

There was a time when Iran had the world's largest oil refinery and a participatory democracy. Unfortunately, someone decided that they didn't need those things after all.

It's nuts, and the Iranian people are living in terrible conditions because of their government's idiocy

Iran's economy is 17th by GDP in PPP, and the per capita numbers aren't bad either. They have over an 80% literacy rate, and 60% of students of higher education in Iran are women. By comparison, Saudi Arabia is a monarchy, incredibly misogynistic, and doesn't even pretend to tolerate any non-Islamic religious expression. In 2008: "at least 102 men and women, 39 of them foreign nationals, were executed in 2008. Many were executed for non-violent offences, including drug offences, 'sodomy', blasphemy and apostasy."

I don't consider either country "good," but if we're invading based on some real criteria instead of the good old fashioned geopolitics of national interest, alliances, and corruption, there's not a strong case to take action or invade Iran before we do something about Saudi Arabia.
posted by deanklear at 1:39 PM on February 4, 2012 [19 favorites]


I find myself rewording and retyping this comment over and over, KokuRyu. The thing is, any level-headed individual would agree that dialogue should always be the first solution between two nations that don't see eye-to-eye. However, when I think of Iran, and it's role as the lynchpin in the larger religio-political apparatus that includes Maliki's Iraq, Assad's Syria, and Nasrallah's Lebanon... it feels too big, too powerful, and most importantly, too dogmatic to deal with on a level of dialogue alone.

The last person in the Middle East that tried to upset the power structure that Iran has nurtured was eliminated in spectacular fashion.

The US is playing it smart by going after Iran instead of Syria. I highly doubt that the US would ever let Iran off the hook even if they were to fully comply with the demands of the IAEA. I do believe that the current administration, as well as the higher-ups at the State Department will not stop until the Iranian theocracy has been toppled.
posted by lemuring at 1:44 PM on February 4, 2012


Every nation's presence at the UN is for the purpose of protecting its own national self-interest. Sad but true.

I take issue with this. Selling arms to a violent dictator who is killing his own people in criminal acts and then voting against stopping a humanitarian disaster so you can continue to fuel them is NOT what the UN is for. No goddamned way. It's criminal what's happening.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't consider not intervening - I'm just saying that this veto is for entirely the wrong reason. We need to instead weight the consequences in terms of what will do more short and long-term harm to the people of Syria, Iran and whoever else may get dragged into this impending shitstorm.
posted by jimmythefish at 1:56 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


lemuring: I think we still hold the copyright on Shock and Awe. This will be our third attempt (and second failure) at overthrowing their government. Perhaps we should allow the Iranians to govern Iran — by fealty to an evil repressive minority power or not — rather than try to pretend that we have any fucking clue about what will work best for them.

If Iraq or Afghanistan had ended differently, the argument for military intervention might be able to hold water. But the only thing that's different in Iraq is that hundreds of thousand of people are dead, millions are displaced, their infrastructure is gone, sectarian violence is up, illiteracy is up, women's rights are being trashed, and Saddam Hussein isn't overseeing torture in secret prisons: Maliki is. Afghanistan is hardly any different, and won't be when we inevitably abandon the Afghan people (after ripping apart their country with violence) for the second time in roughly twenty years.

So, let's just nip that "America's brilliant foreign policy" idea in the bud. We suck at it generally, and in the middle east, there's no one who does it worse.
posted by deanklear at 1:59 PM on February 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


I highly doubt that the US would ever let Iran off the hook even if they were to fully comply with the demands of the IAEA. I do believe that the current administration, as well as the higher-ups at the State Department will not stop until the Iranian theocracy has been toppled.

What I don't understand is, who gives the US the moral right to do so?
posted by KokuRyu at 2:03 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a almost chance we are going to intervene militarily in Syria. Just not going to happen. Unless its spills over into Turkey or Israel somehow, and even then, I think our response would be limited. We don't have the resources to do it.
posted by empath at 2:19 PM on February 4, 2012


What I don't understand is, who gives the US the moral right to do so?

Manifest Destiny.
posted by Talez at 2:39 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think one can talk about morality effectively when discussing nation states. Or at least the interaction between a national government and individuals, the levels seem too disparate, too much at the whims of changing leaders and the obfuscation of time. I suspect how nation states act towards one another is a case-study of large scale social anarchy. Sympathetic actors band together to promote self-interest, but would likely trow one another overboard if a better deal came along.

We need a true civilization (laws, enforcements, duties etc) of nations, but the sacrosanct of 'sovereign territory' is a major obstacle towards such. The UN tries by when individual nations have a preponderance of power it doesn't work too well.
posted by edgeways at 2:45 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your presence at the UN isn't for the purpose of protecting your arms deals with a maniac.

Are you American? Because I don't think that's something Americans can say with much credibility.

If not then as you were, good on you.
posted by mhoye at 2:57 PM on February 4, 2012


The last time the Sunni's rose up in Syria against the Alawites and the Assad family was 1976-1982.
posted by humanfont at 3:02 PM on February 4, 2012


Realistically, Iran will have two choices in the coming months: Declare war on somebody OR lose control of the country due to severe economic depression.

Some of my friends here in Dubai that used to trade a lot with Iran have pretty much stopped entirely in the last month or so now that LCs are impossible to get.
posted by atrazine at 3:02 PM on February 4, 2012


Are you American? Because I don't think that's something Americans can say with much credibility.

You know, I think I saw a German condemning genocide just down the street, and next to him was a Muslim speaking out against terrorism. The horror! Help me, credibility police!
posted by Behemoth at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2012 [22 favorites]


What I don't understand is, who gives the US the moral right to do so?

Who gives someone the moral right to go in and rescue a hostage, using force if necessary? What about common human decency?

Yes, this is true even if the rescuer is far from a saint and acts -- gasp -- partly from self-interest. It is possible to do things for simultaneously selfish and selfless purposes.

The moral relativism that immunizes from foreign intervention so-called "sovereign" governments that are actually vicious criminals, and equates the US (with all its imperfections) with a Syria or an Iran, is sickening.
posted by shivohum at 3:35 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The moral relativism that immunizes from foreign intervention so-called "sovereign" governments that are actually vicious criminals, and equates the US (with all its imperfections) with a Syria or an Iran, is sickening.

I'm glad I provoked a response. However, could you define "foreign intervention"?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:44 PM on February 4, 2012


Are you American? Because I don't think that's something Americans can say with much credibility.

I started typing a lot of things in anger in response to this. But deleted them to simply say: No, you are wrong. It doesn't take much thought to see why such a response is flawed.
posted by edgeways at 3:46 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


First of all, I don't know what Russia's motivations are here but with China, what they want is for the UN to stay out of countries internal business. They worry that if the "West" feels like they can tell other countries what to do, then why not China? They don't like the precedent.
But can't we do anything indirectly? Can't some special forces guys clandestinely start arming the resistance? -- tylerfulltilt
We can do whatever we want. We don't need the U.N. We didn't need the UN for dealing with Libya.
I wonder how much in foreign aid we could have spent in buying up those arms over that time period, so that fewer arms reach Assad's government. Something like a global-scale "toys for guns" program. It would be easier for Syrians to overthrow his regime, while lessening the influence of Chinese and Russian arms dealers over UN policy. -- Blazecock Pileon
Couldn't the Russians and Chinese just have sold them more?
And the New Bosses in Iraq are almost certain to align themselves as closely with Iran as Syria is just as soon as they don't need American military help to control their people. -- oneswellfoop
They've already kicked out U.S troops.
However, when I think of Iran, and it's role as the lynchpin in the larger religio-political apparatus that includes Maliki's Iraq, Assad's Syria, and Nasrallah's Lebanon... it feels too big, too powerful, and most importantly, too dogmatic to deal with on a level of dialogue alone. -- lemuring
Well, thank god no one's put you in charge of anything and never will.

A lot of the comments in this thread are completely ridiculous. It's like you think this is all a big game of RISK where you can figure out how to move the pieces and win the game. The idea that any random person can predict geopolitical events in the future, or contingencies (i.e. 'if X happens then Y will happen') is just absurd. None of you people are nostradamus, International geopolitics is not predictable in advance.

Decided to engage in a war with some country because of how you "feel" about them? Really? How the hell would you even know? The U.S. isn't even talking to Iran anyway, we're just placing sanctions and making demands about their nuclear program.

The reasons why they would benefit a nuclear weapon couldn't be more obvious. How often do U.S. officials or candidates go on about the need for war with Iran. Imagine if China was a democracy, and their candidates and politicians constantly talked about the need for war with America, how would you feel?

The Psychosis about Iran completely ignores our side of the issue. It's as if (some) Americans feel that they should be able to say and do whatever they want, invade whatever countries they want and if anyone does anything that might help them defend against an attack by us, it's suddenly some kind of moral affront that needs to be dealt with by --- attacking them first.

Should we be intervening in Syria? Uh, probably not. It worked out OK in Libya, but it did not work out OK in Iraq.
I take issue with this. Selling arms to a violent dictator who is killing his own people in criminal acts and then voting against stopping a humanitarian disaster so you can continue to fuel them is NOT what the UN is for. No goddamned way. It's criminal what's happening.


I'm not saying that we shouldn't consider not intervening - I'm just saying that this veto is for entirely the wrong reason.
-- jimmythefish
Yeah, like I said. The US does the exact same thing.
The moral relativism that immunizes from foreign intervention so-called "sovereign" governments that are actually vicious criminals, and equates the US (with all its imperfections) with a Syria or an Iran, is sickening. -- shivohum
The comparison is between the U.S. and China and Russia, in which case the actions are basically identical.

And honestly if you compare, for example, George W. Bush to Assad, who's responsible for killing more people? Clearly, it's Bush. At least hundreds of thousands of people died in the Iraq war.

The weird thing is the way people use the term "Moral Relativism" talking about these kinds of things, they actually mean the exact opposite: Moral Absolutism.

You're actually claiming that you oppose the morally absolute statement that, for example "It's wrong to kill civilians" and actually think it's OK to kill civilians if they're 'collateral damage' from a U.S. action.

An example here would be arguing against the moral principle that it's wrong to use the UN Veto to prevent sanctions or interventions against countries that a member of the security council wants to protect. That's not moral relativism, that's moral absolutism.
posted by delmoi at 4:00 PM on February 4, 2012 [14 favorites]


The moral relativism that immunizes from foreign intervention so-called "sovereign" governments that are actually vicious criminals, and equates the US (with all its imperfections) with a Syria or an Iran, is sickening.

What moral relativism? If you're going to make the case that our puppet government in Iran from '53 to '79 was morally superior to the one there now, I might be with you, despite the torture and coup d'etat we performed to get it. But it certainly wasn't legitimate, and it was certainly less free than the government that we replaced. And we didn't even stop there. We helped arrange financing and military training to prop up Saddam in Iraq, which led to the death of one million Iraqis and Iranians (while selling weapons to Iran in a treasonous covert operation, no less.)

If we're keeping track, that's about thirty five years of outright murder of Iranian citizens through our allies, followed by almost twenty five years of economic embargoes and diplomatic isolation that has stunted Iranian will to move towards democracy. The Ayatollahs can always point at decades of American invasion as a reason to keep them around as the Revolutionary Guard. They say a lot of crazy bullshit, sure, but we continue to legitimize the rhetoric about reckless American interventionism with all of these constant reckless invasions.

As far as Syria goes, during the Hama Massacre in March of 1982 we eased export restrictions to the Syrian regime. For years after we quietly let Syria do whatever it wanted, in exchange for their help with hostage situations.

We're not arguing about whether America treats Americans better than Iran treats Iranians or Syria treats Syrians; that's not even debatable. But to make the argument that we're the vanguards of principled intervention in that part of the world is beyond the pale.
posted by deanklear at 4:07 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


An intervention in Syria would probably spark WWIII in the Middle East. I was against the Libya intervention for mostly practical reasons, but I didn't think it was that dangerous an intervention. I just didn't think it was necessary, and I'm, on principle, against unnecessary wars. I think a US intervention in Syria would be a catastrophe.

The consequences of it seem far to unpredictable, especially with the tension with Israel and Iran and Turkey. It just seems like opening the door to WWIII.
posted by empath at 4:08 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


However, could you define "foreign intervention"?

Are you looking for an academic definition? There's clearly a spectrum: it's the set of things that entities outside of a state can do to influence what goes on within that state, from, on the mild side, changing commercial patterns, to, on the heavy side, full-scale invasion and occupation.

The comparison is between the U.S. and China and Russia, in which case the actions are basically identical.

Nonsense. You have only to look at Chinese actions in Tibet or Africa or Russian actions in Chechyna to see the difference in character.

And honestly if you compare, for example, George W. Bush to Assad, who's responsible for killing more people? Clearly, it's Bush. At least hundreds of thousands of people died in the Iraq war.

It's fairly elementary that numbers alone don't determine morality, or else the US would be more culpable than Nazi Germany in WWII.

The weird thing is the way people use the term "Moral Relativism" talking about these kinds of things, they actually mean the exact opposite: Moral Absolutism.

No. Moral absolutism doesn't require strict, rigid rules, nor is the use of a utilitarian calculus a sign of moral relativism. Moral relativism says that there is no objective morality, meaning, that what different people believe about morality is what they believe, and there is no truth as to what's right or wrong. I can believe that situations require flexible, partly utilitarian responses, and so long as I think that that's somehow objectively true (rather than being merely my whim or it being purely culturally determined) then I'm not a moral relativist.

But to make the argument that we're the vanguards of principled intervention in that part of the world is beyond the pale.

And no one is the vanguard of principled intervention, so that's an unreachable and unrealistic standard. I agree with you that the US has done a lot of morally dubious things in the past, but of course it must be judged against the incredibly difficult challenges it faced; often there are only bad options and worse options. Certainly it's a cliche but also true that the US has been empire most respectful of human rights ever.

So the question is not whether we are the vanguards or principled intervention. The question is: are we principled enough to be morally entitled to intervene? I think the answer is yes.
posted by shivohum at 4:18 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


A few points I'd like to make:

1) You don't know what's happening in Syria. You're really just getting reports from some anti-Syrian propaganda group based in London, possibly augmented by pausible fiction from the Israeli (and American pro-Israeli) propaganda machine.

2) ...
No, I guess it was just one point I wanted to make.
posted by fredludd at 4:20 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would like to make the distinction between Americans and the American government. In this thread I am talking about the American government (which is nominally elected by the American people), and not my American friends.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:20 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's fairly elementary that numbers alone don't determine morality, or else the US would be more culpable than Nazi Germany in WWII.

The US didn't kill six million jews. Even adding up two atomic bombs, it's not even close.

And the reason we don't blame the US for WWII is we didn't start the war. We started the Iraq War, almost entirely unprovoked.
posted by empath at 4:21 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


but of course it must be judged against the incredibly difficult challenges it faced

Like what? The threat of Nicaragua and Grenada? Being the richest nation with the world's largest military for, what, forty years? What exactly is this desperate battle you keep imagining inside of your own head?

often there are only bad options and worse options.

This is sheer inanity. We have engaged in intervention by choice, every time, excepting WWII. No foreign soldier has set foot on our territory since 1815. We keep invading because we want more "access to markets" and "strategic positioning," otherwise known as "money and power," not because we want more security.

Certainly it's a cliche but also true that the US has been empire most respectful of human rights ever.

America: We're better than the Mongols?

Selling weapons to Indonesia for genocide, and selling chemical weapons to Saddam for genocide, and being supporters of dictatorships across the world from Noriega to Pinochet to Gaddafi to Mubarak to Trujillo to Papa Doc to the House of Saud and pretty much any deranged asshole who would support American interests is a strange way to be respectful of human rights. You'd almost think human rights had nothing to do with it.

So the question is not whether we are the vanguards or principled intervention. The question is: are we principled enough to be morally entitled to intervene? I think the answer is yes.

/facepalm
posted by deanklear at 4:42 PM on February 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


Certainly it's a cliche but also true that the US has been empire most respectful of human rights ever.

Actually, I wonder if this is true. For example, the Persians and later the Parthians tended to run a decentralized empire that made use of existing local customs. This can't be the only example.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:57 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't some special forces guys clandestinely start arming the resistance?

Hmm. Special Forces. Yeah. We can just send a few hundred military advisors.

What could possibly go wrong?
posted by eriko at 5:25 PM on February 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Actually, I wonder if this is true. For example, the Persians and later the Parthians tended to run a decentralized empire that made use of existing local customs. This can't be the only example.

I think in general that most empires that covered an extensive land mass (after the initial invasion) were more tolerant and less tyrannical than the local governments they replaced, as long as you paid your taxes. A lot of them, in fact, were invited in by the local people to protect them from some local tyrant, or at least they used that as a pretense.
posted by empath at 5:45 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Al Jazeera reports from embattled Homs: Exclusive report from Syria's western city where daily attacks by snipers and mortar fire continue.

Al Jazeera meets Syria citizen journalists: Absence of world media prompts activists to become cameramen in the embattled city of Homs.

Al Jazeera reports on torture inside Homs: Mother recounts how her young son was tortured to death by Syrian authorities in city of Homs.
posted by homunculus at 6:15 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


You don't know what's happening in Syria. You're really just getting reports from some anti-Syrian propaganda group based in London, possibly augmented by pausible fiction from the Israeli (and American pro-Israeli) propaganda machine.

Thanks Ahmadinejad.
posted by rosswald at 6:54 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


The articles said that no military actions had been planned or discussed, and that this was a vote over whether or not the Security Council would lend its moral imprimatur to a plan to move the Assad government out peacefully. Arms embargoes, the closest thing to military action, seem to have been discussed separately but was not part of this deal, so far as I can tell.

The likely next outcome would be economic sanctions for failing to agree to the terms of the Arab League plan.

As such, the Chinese and Russian vetoes are counter to the very premise of the United Nations, whose charter every country must endorse for membership. They are acting deliberately to prevent the resolution of a conflict likely to have international effects, one that involves the repeated and notorious breach of human rights.

China and Russia should be ashamed. The US may have many things worth criticizing in its foreign policy, but this situation isn't really one of them.
posted by klangklangston at 6:54 PM on February 4, 2012


But the only thing that's different in Iraq is that hundreds of thousand of people are dead, millions are displaced, their infrastructure is gone, sectarian violence is up, illiteracy is up, women's rights are being trashed, and Saddam Hussein isn't overseeing torture in secret prisons: Maliki is.

An education in occupation
posted by homunculus at 7:41 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think the Iraqi Sunnis will join up with the Syrian rebels(also Sunni) and use support from Gulf Leaders to try to redraw the map. The Gulf monarchs fear and hate the Shi'ite takeover in Iraq and loathe Iran. The Kurds will see this as a chance for their own state.
posted by humanfont at 8:13 PM on February 4, 2012


Certainly it's a cliche but also true that the US has been empire most respectful of human rights ever.

Actually, I wonder if this is true. For example, the Persians and later the Parthians tended to run a decentralized empire that made use of existing local customs. This can't be the only example.


There's the Mughal Empire in India and the Ottoman Empire. Oh, and Islamic Spain. All three known for their tolerance.
posted by facetious at 8:30 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


The threat of Nicaragua and Grenada? Being the richest nation with the world's largest military for, what, forty years? What exactly is this desperate battle you keep imagining inside of your own head?

Oh, a superpower with enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over and whose stated aim was the conversion of the entire Western world to communism at gunpoint, and which had actually taken over half of Europe, couldn't have been much of a threat. Right?

How quickly we forget when it's convenient.

For example, the Persians and later the Parthians tended to run a decentralized empire that made use of existing local customs. This can't be the only example.

There's the Mughal Empire in India and the Ottoman Empire. Oh, and Islamic Spain. All three known for their tolerance.

Well there's a difference between respecting local customs and human rights. For one thing, all of the above empires tolerated slavery. That by itself puts them in a different class.

The Islamic empires above made second-class citizens of non-Muslims. I doubt free speech or freedom of assembly or anything like that was much permitted; Islamic law like stoning for adultery was likely practiced and misogyny rife; criminal law and prison conditions were likely barbaric by modern-day standards; there were many instances of large-scale state-sanctioned persecutions of subjugated populations, like the large-scale destruction of Hindu temples under Aurangzeb...

I'm not sure how the modern US can be compared to any of these with a straight face.
posted by shivohum at 8:50 PM on February 4, 2012


How quickly we forget when it's convenient.

Is this the same superpower that sacrificed 20 million lives in order to win WWII? The same one that probably killed less dissidents in the Eastern Bloc than we killed in Vietnam and half of Central and South America? Histrionics and history are not the same thing.

For one thing, all of the above empires tolerated slavery. That by itself puts them in a different class.

The United States was one of the last developed nations to outlaw slavery.

I'm not sure how the modern US can be compared to any of these with a straight face.

You're the one trying to do the comparisons, because our record is so poor for middle east intervention that it's almost impossible to defend. Give me some comparable colonial activity from other nations in the 20th Century and we can have the rational discussion that you're trying to avoid.
posted by deanklear at 9:17 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sabotage Groups Attack Syria's Embassies in Cairo, Kuwait, Amman, Athens, London and Tripoli.

In the interest of seeing all sides, here's the stories the Syrian Embassy in the U.S. has featured.

I wish i knew more about the complexities here, but i am willing to believe it is much more sinuous than a simple U.N. vote.
posted by phylum sinter at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this the same superpower that sacrificed 20 million lives in order to win WWII? The same one that probably killed less dissidents in the Eastern Bloc than we killed in Vietnam and half of Central and South America? Histrionics and history are not the same thing.

What an amazing series of irrelevant and illogical statements. The Soviet Union was an existential threat to Western Europe and to the US. That it helped win WWII with so much blood if anything accentuates that threat; it showed their rulers' willingness to throw an unlimited amount of blood at the problem.

The US fought in Vietnam in Central and South America because it thought it necessary to defend against a monstrous Communist tyranny that quite openly wanted to take over the world and had the capacity to annihilate the human race.

The United States was one of the last developed nations to outlaw slavery.

Another non-sequitur. What was the case 150 years ago has little to do with current comparisons of the US to other countries. What next -- are you going to bring up the Salem witch trials as evidence that we shouldn't intervene in Syria?

Give me some comparable colonial activity from other nations in the 20th Century and we can have the rational discussion that you're trying to avoid.

Is this a joke? Look at the Soviets in the Eastern bloc, the European powers in Africa and the Middle East...
posted by shivohum at 9:33 PM on February 4, 2012


The US fought in Vietnam in Central and South America because it thought it necessary to defend against a monstrous Communist tyranny that quite openly wanted to take over the world and had the capacity to annihilate the human race.

And vice versa.
posted by empath at 9:36 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Islamic empires above made second-class citizens of non-Muslims.

And they treated Jews, for example, far better than European countries did. Most of those empires were better for their time than their neighbors. The US doesn't really meet that standard.
posted by empath at 9:37 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Russia -What is end game?
U.S.A. - We fear end game is civil war.

Having a civil war in Syria cannot be the end game. The end game is when China wins.
posted by Kilovolt at 9:42 PM on February 4, 2012


And vice versa.

No. Operating with the express purpose of instituting a global totalitarian Communist dictatorship is not in any way analogous to what the US did. This is just the kind of blind moral equivalence that's so silly.

And they treated Jews, for example, far better than European countries did.

That's nice how you're bending over backwards to highlight their good points. You might want to try even a touch of the same strategy with the US.

Most of those empires were better for their time than their neighbors. The US doesn't really meet that standard.

What standard? That the US is a better empire than other empires of the current time? Which other empires exist for comparison purposes? None.

It's indisputable the US is the by far the superpower/empire most respectful of human rights ever. By a long shot. That doesn't make it anywhere close to perfect, but let's state moral reality with some degree of common sense.
posted by shivohum at 9:57 PM on February 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Operating with the express purpose of instituting a global totalitarian Communist dictatorship is not in any way analogous to what the US did. This is just the kind of blind moral equivalence that's so silly.

They were in a life and death conflict against the horrors of capitalist oppression of the working class, and so on. Ideology makes people do terrible things, on both sides.
posted by empath at 10:01 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's indisputable the US is the by far the superpower/empire most respectful of human rights ever. By a long shot. That doesn't make it anywhere close to perfect, but let's state moral reality with some degree of common sense.

no, it's not indisputable. see, e.g., the disputes that are happening in this thread.

also, what were we talking about?
posted by facetious at 10:01 PM on February 4, 2012


And the Soviets were terrified that the US was going to launch a nuclear first strike, with good reason, since we would have, at various points, if we could have gotten away with it.
posted by empath at 10:02 PM on February 4, 2012


The guy who mugged me was by far the most respectful mugger I have ever met.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:07 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


They were in a life and death conflict against the horrors of capitalist oppression of the working class, and so on. Ideology makes people do terrible things, on both sides.

Ok, and not all sides are equally just or moral. The capitalist oppression of the working class is not as bad as Soviet communist tyranny. Communist ideals do not justify taking over the world, or even Russia.

Every ideology believes itself to be righting terrible wrongs. That does not mean they are all equally correct in that belief or equally excused in their actions.

And the Soviets were terrified that the US was going to launch a nuclear first strike, with good reason, since we would have, at various points, if we could have gotten away with it.

They needn't have feared it as much if they were less territorially aggressive and despotic.

no, it's not indisputable. see, e.g., the disputes that are happening in this thread.

If the mere fact of disputes were the test of indisputability, no one would have bothered to create the word.
posted by shivohum at 10:13 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


They needn't have feared it as much if they were less territorially aggressive and despotic.

You've got a very skewed view of Cold War history. The US was just as territorially aggressive, and supported just as many despots in the countries we meddled in. (See Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Korea, Chile, and on and on)
posted by empath at 10:44 PM on February 4, 2012


And the thread has been successfully derailed. Move along folks, nothing to see here.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:48 PM on February 4, 2012


shivohum, I call shenanigans. You keep moving the goal posts. You talk (and even link) to 17th Century Islamic rulers and decry their support of slavery — it "puts them in a different class" — and then you dismiss the fact that we didn't outlaw slavery until 150 years after that by saying, without a hint of irony, that I'm digging up non sequitors that are 150 years old.

So let's keep it simple. What nation has a worse record of intervention than the United States in the last 50 years? Here, I'll start:

Direct US Military violence:
Vietnam: 1,100,000 dead
Cambodia bombing campaign: 100,000 dead (low estimate)
Second Iraq Invasion: 150,000 dead
Second Afghanistan Intervention: 30,000 dead

Indirect US involvement (weapons, training, loan arrangements)
Iran-Iraq War: 1,000,000 dead
Russo-Afghan proxy war: 100,000 dead
El Salvador: 70,000 dead
Colombia: 50,000 dead (low estimate)
Genocide in East Timor: 20,000 dead
Nicaragua: 20,000 dead

Please proceed with your counter example and make the case for US intervention in Iran. Note that I did not include "excess" death due to the annihilation of infrastructure which would make these numbers significantly higher. I also purposefully excluded the first Gulf War as a measure of good faith for "successful" intervention, since it did repel Saddam from Kuwait's territory, and casualty counts 10,000 and below because that would be a much longer list.
posted by deanklear at 11:35 PM on February 4, 2012


I don't if it's derailed as much as it is following the natural course of discussion. The FPP ends with a number of links For and Against intervention in Syria. The discussion in the thread seems to be centering around morality and intervention:

Can morality be applied to the actions of nations?
Is a sovereign state only allowed to intervene in the affairs of other states if it has a good track record and what defines a good track record?
Is it acceptable for sovereign states to act purely in their own self-interest or are they obligated to work towards a politically unified planet (that would then be capable of structured expansion beyond the confines of Earth)?

I think the last question is particularly important. If one's answer is: "No, sovereign states shouldn't be working towards a politically unified planet." The reply would be: "Then how do you believe they should act?

"Be nice to each other" isn't an acceptable answer. What's "nice"? And how far should a nation state stick out its neck and sacrifice its own gains in order to benefit other states (sovereign or otherwise)?

If nation states should always act in their own self-interest, then it is quite clear why the US government is raining down economic devastation on Iran and why they aren't directly mentioning Syria. It's also clear why the Russian government is directly intervening in the civil war that is currently underway in Syria. Self-interest.

---

Now, if a politically unified planet is the goal, then everything changes. The United Nations becomes more than just a number of rooms where representatives from every nation meet to jockey for a better position upon the world stage. Instead, it becomes -the- intermediate step that helps the human race actually become a group of united nations. With the goal of a unified planet in mind, it makes perfect sense why one nation state would sacrifice its own gains to benefit other states.

Otherwise, it's self-interest all the way with a smattering of helping humans in need, because, hey, it makes our nation feel good about itself and have you seen these approval ratings? We are awesome.
posted by lemuring at 11:42 PM on February 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


don't if it's derailed as much as it is following the natural course of discussion. The FPP ends with a number of links For and Against intervention in Syria.

I agree, it's not a derail. After Iraq and Afghanistan, and not to mention the liberation of Kuwait and the Vietnam War, it's very strange to find people in this thread arguing for intervention, or that the US is somehow an empire that respects human rights. Very strange.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:45 PM on February 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


The contemporary idea of 'human rights' was birthed by the terrors of WWII, as was the United Nations. One of the stated goals of the UN is world peace. Perhaps there was a time when great strides could have been made towards that ideal, but it's long since past. It would take another world war to make the human race realize what people were scared of coming out of WWII.

When was the last time a US politician mentioned 'world peace' as a driving force behind US foreign policy? ha. I'm actually interested in knowing how often the words 'world peace' have been uttered by -any- politician in the last decade.

Spoken amidst an unsuspecting crowd today, I think the words would have an alien quality to them. "World Peace"? What does that even mean? Surely you mean Freedom and Democracy?
posted by lemuring at 12:06 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know much about the structure of the U.N. but if the U.S. is really "disgusted" that Russia and China blocked the security council resolution, one thing we could do is push for reform of the rules so that some majority of members is enough to pass the resolution. And agree to abide by the council's decisions, of course.

The evidence for me that our hegemony is little better than other empires have been is how easy it was for the Bush administration to find country after country after country that was willing to whisk people away and torture them for us. Those client states have done everything any preceding empire has done and probably worse. What's disgusting is the idea that we are somehow more "excused".
posted by XMLicious at 12:12 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know much about the structure of the U.N. but if the U.S. is really "disgusted" that Russia and China blocked the security council resolution, one thing we could do is push for reform of the rules so that some majority of members is enough to pass the resolution.

I don't think Israel would be happy with that.
posted by empath at 12:34 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


As far as modern relevancy for US regard for human rights, we're the pro-torture country.
posted by BurnChao at 3:23 AM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good thing China and Russia aren't currently surpressing democracy movements in their own countries.
posted by rosswald at 4:38 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shivohum, other posters have already pointed out the shortcomings of your argument, such as the astounding number of repressive governments the U.S has supported due to their anti-communist leanings (i.e. Suharto in Indonesia, and let's not forget Pinochet), or the somewhat concerning tactics used in cold-war theatres of operation, such as the carpet bombing of SE Asia during the Vietnam War. I've yet to see you present a shred of evidence to support your claim. And if you stop a moment to actually consider what you're claiming, the phrase 'damning with faint praise' comes to mind.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:34 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't piss off one of my best customers either over something that really is not our business. As long as Israeli lives are not threatened, I don't see the US having any good reason to intervene.
posted by Renoroc at 7:01 AM on February 5, 2012


You've got a very skewed view of Cold War history. The US was just as territorially aggressive, and supported just as many despots in the countries we meddled in. (See Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Korea, Chile, and on and on)

Yes, and the difference was that we supported those countries incidentally, to fight an existential threat. The USSR actually wanted to personally control everything as part of desire to establish communism.

Look, I'm not trying to argue that the US is some kind of saint, but I think people are being very naive about the challenges faced in foreign policy.

What nation has a worse record of intervention than the United States in the last 50 years?

Yes, no one does have a worse record of intervention in the last 50 years, because no one has had the same power to intervene -- in the last 50 years. For the last 20 we've been the sole superpower, and in the 10 before that, the USSR was dying. You have moved the goal posts -- you earlier talked about the 20th century. That was your earlier time frame. I gave you the very clear examples of the European powers in Africa and the Middle East, and the Soviets in the Eastern Bloc.

I find it interesting that you only look at things with an incredibly simplistic metric: how many people died at the end. That is an extremely blunt measure, to say the least. The question is first of all whether the US made a fair decision at the time of the start of an intervention with the information it had and given the challenges it faced; secondly, how well it executed the intervention again given its circumstances; and thirdly, what might have happened in the absence of its intervention. You need to present that information if you actually want to judge its conduct.

such as the astounding number of repressive governments the U.S has supported due to their anti-communist leanings (i.e. Suharto in Indonesia, and let's not forget Pinochet), or the somewhat concerning tactics used in cold-war theatres of operation

Of course US has done questionable and even immoral things. I'm not disputing that. What I am claiming is that they have to be viewed in full context of the challenges it faced at the time and its role as sole superpower and, literally, defender of the world in the fight against Communism at a time when Europe was still recovering from WWII. That is not a simple challenge. Things might have been considerably worse if the US showed an unwillingness to do what needed to be done.

And what about all the positive benefits that the US strategy delivered? It protected Western Europe, halted communism, avoided WWIII and nuclear war, and helped lead to the destruction of the Soviet Union and the liberation of the Eastern bloc. Maybe it should get just a little credit for those human rights achievements. It had a big picture goal, and it achieved it.
posted by shivohum at 7:27 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, it is very much the American Century, take two....
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:46 AM on February 5, 2012


That was your earlier time frame. I gave you the very clear examples of the European powers in Africa and the Middle East, and the Soviets in the Eastern Bloc.

And not too be rude, but that's several time frames you've just mentioned.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:49 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


and, literally, defender of the world in the fight against Communism at a time when Europe was still recovering from WWII.

Yeah, I know, white mans' burden and all that.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:51 AM on February 5, 2012


Ya, get out of West Berlin you imperialists!
posted by rosswald at 7:55 AM on February 5, 2012


I'm sorry, I forgot that our ability to understand world events only extends to there being very clearly marked goodies and baddies.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:02 AM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I forgot that our ability to understand world events only extends to there being very clearly marked goodies and baddies.

Yeah, I know, white mans' burden and all that.


lol

posted by rosswald at 8:12 AM on February 5, 2012


I don't know, Vietnam seems to be doing alright these days. It's a good thing someone was there to bomb the fuck out of the place.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:17 AM on February 5, 2012


It might be interesting to note that in the last 40 years the United States has issued a Security Council veto 82 times and China 6 times.
posted by JackFlash at 8:41 AM on February 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Syria Veto and the Revenge of the BRICS
posted by homunculus at 9:16 AM on February 5, 2012


Not entirely revenge of the BRICS when India and South Africa voted in favor of the resolution... Ironically because of the concessions made to Russia in the final drafts.
posted by lullaby at 10:55 AM on February 5, 2012


I have to say that the argument that Shivohum is making here, that the US did commit atrocities and did support regimes that committed atrocities, but that the US was still more concerned than any comparable empire is pretty solid. The argument that the US was worse than the Soviet Union (or China) with regard to human rights is pretty weak and requires a lot of special pleading and outright ignoring of historical context.

I know that for a certain style of leftist, the proximity of the US's crimes makes them the easiest to critique, but that argument is largely lazy. You can say that for a certain style of American or moderate or what-have-you, a reflexive defense of the US is the lazy argument, but that's not really what Shivohum is arguing.

It's a bit like seeing someone make the statement that the US is more concerned with global media markets than any other country, and someone replying, "Nuh uh, Russia has TV stations too."
posted by klangklangston at 11:43 AM on February 5, 2012


I would never make the argument that the US was worse than the Soviets.

The soviet system was a bad system, run by bad people, and the US was a better system generally run by better people, but that I don't think that justifies a Good vs Evil narrative, and I don't think that gives the US the right to interfere in other countries internal affairs in perpetuity. Our record in doing that is not very good (See: The Shah, Pinochet, etc). The Soviets killed millions of people at home and abroad. They disappeared dissidents, tortured people, etc.. We killed millions, as well, and supported regimes that disappeared and murdered and tortured people (and we imprisoned and killed our own dissidents while running an arpatheid state -- something the Soviets rightlfully criticized us for at the time). Hell in just the last few years, we tortured a bunch of people and launched an aggressive war -- something that people were executed for at Nuremburg.

So sure, all things considered, one was better off under American hegemony instead of Soviet hegemony, but that doesn't entirely justify American foreign policy, and arguments based on the moral authority of the United States ring false to me.
posted by empath at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2012


The USSR actually wanted to personally control everything as part of desire to establish communism.

The United States has 700 military installations in over 100 countries. We've personally fought or bankrolled the majority of state violence since 1960. Those are the facts, which stand in stark contrast to the invented myth of Good vs Evil.

I find it interesting that you only look at things with an incredibly simplistic metric: how many people died at the end.

How else should I measure state violence?

The argument that the US was worse than the Soviet Union (or China) with regard to human rights is pretty weak and requires a lot of special pleading and outright ignoring of historical context.

After we lost Vietnam, what did we do not five years later? We waged a proxy war with Russia in Afghanistan, completely annihilating the country so we could, in the words of Brzezinski, "give Russia their Vietnam." So where is this mystical stars and stripes patterned moral high ground on that point? What is the moral value of killing tens of thousands of East Timorese so we could sell weapons to Indonesia and keep them on our side against communism? What's the moral value of fomenting a war between Iraq and Iran to punish Iranians for ousting the government that we picked for them? What's the moral value of training, supplying, and defending bloodthirsty death squads across Central America as punishment for any nation who was under the false impression that we believe in their right to decide their own system of governance? Did it help you to sleep at night in the 80s knowing that your tax dollars were defending freedom by torturing and executing people you've never met for the crime of having a left-leaning government?

The reason why I talk about America and not Russia is because talking about the crimes of other nations has zero moral value. You may as well play solitaire, or watch football, because it doesn't matter. It's meaningless. It's just a way for your to assuage your own conscience about all of the evil that's being committed in our name. It's a convenience; a drive-through confessional for imperial guilt. Pretending our accountability for our actions is wiped clean by the crimes of others is a nice idea, but it isn't the truth.

The truth is there is a single, undeniable metric by which nations are measured by the United States: do you obey? If the answer is yes, we will let you do anything you like to your population. You can make East Germany look a child's attempt at repression and torture and murder, so long as you jump when we say jump. We'll even sell you the weapons, and train you how to use them, as a special gift for being on Team USA. However, the moment you stop taking orders like a faithful lap dog, we will threaten you, and your family, and your countrymen; we'll dig up the crimes we helped you commit as an excuse to invade; we'll slap embargoes on your country until your citizens are forced to watch their children starve to death, and then we'll kill a few hundred thousand of them on our way to liberating your nation with millions of tons of ordnance. Ordnance that will, in our words, "unfortunately" cause "collateral damage."

We'll putter around the country for a few years after that, if we don't simply pack up and leave. Your access to electricity and clean water will disappear if you had it. All of the reforms your citizens were working on will take a back seat to trying to find enough food to feed your family. Without security, you don't feel safe letting your children go to school. They stay inside, hoping for hours of electricity so they will have fans and at least something on TV. Widowed mothers will turn to prostitution to feed their kids, in contrast to the old party bosses, who were just low enough in the old hierarchy to escape indefinite prison, as they rake in cash and entrench themselves in the new hierarchy. We'll flood your economy with so much money the corruption of the former government will seem quaint by comparison.

Even if you wanted us to liberate you beforehand, every day brings new misery to your life. Wedding parties are regularly massacred — accidentally, of course. If you don't understand which way to go at a checkpoint, you're probably going to die. Your home is invaded; your family is hooded, yelled at, beaten, and sometimes executed. If you're lucky, only your husbands and sons are hooded and disappeared. Sometimes forever behind the same torture dungeons and prisons operated by the former government. Sometimes forever behind an ignoble death; their bodies horribly mutilated, and dumped on the street by sectarian violence.

And that's the final irony of American claims of morality. We don't even dignify the death that we cause. It not even death: it's accidental damage. It's all unavoidable, like it was written in the stars. You and your family had to die to satisfy our moral and freedom-loving geopolitical interests. There was no other way.

Perhaps next time you could do a better job of letting us pick your leader. He was a monster.
posted by deanklear at 1:21 PM on February 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


The Islamic empires above made second-class citizens of non-Muslims. I doubt free speech or freedom of assembly or anything like that was much permitted; Islamic law like stoning for adultery was likely practiced and misogyny rife; criminal law and prison conditions were likely barbaric by modern-day standards; there were many instances of large-scale state-sanctioned persecutions of subjugated populations, like the large-scale destruction of Hindu temples under Aurangzeb...

Well, since you mentioned Aurangzeb, he was reacting against the liberal, tolerant Mughal society of Akbar the Great.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:25 PM on February 5, 2012


The comparison is between the U.S. and China and Russia, in which case the actions are basically identical
Nonsense. You have only to look at Chinese actions in Tibet or Africa or Russian actions in Chechyna to see the difference in character.
We are talking about The US compared to China and Russia with regard to using the UN Veto which is the entire point of this FPP.

Are we going to go through history and compare slavery and Indian reservations and the US-Philippine war to empress wu, and taiping rebellion and serfdom in Russia.

This FPP is about Russia and China using a UN veto to prevent intervention for humanitarian reasons. The United states has done the same thing. Not similar, identical.

If you don't understand that, you're either not paying close enough attention or you're being willfully ignorant here.
No. Moral absolutism doesn't require strict, rigid rules, nor is the use of a utilitarian calculus a sign of moral relativism.


Moral absolutism does require strict, rigid, inflexible moral absolutes. That is the whole point. That's the definition. If morals are not absolute, then you don't have moral absolutism. "Utilitarian calculus" is totally irrelevant to whether you are being morally relative or morally absolute.

The difference is that 'moral relativism' means that different rules apply to different people. So when you say "It's immoral for China/Russia to use a UN veto in this way" but then don't also say "It's immoral for the U.S. to use a UN veto in this way" then you're being morally relative.

These are simple concepts.

Yet, when the neo-con types talk about "moral relativism" what they mean is making a moral comparison between two different entities. But moral absolutism requires moral comparisons. It's moral relativism that does not require comparisons. So when neo-cons talk about "moral relativism" they really mean moral absolutism, which is what they oppose.
No. Operating with the express purpose of instituting a global totalitarian Communist dictatorship is not in any way analogous to what the US did. This is just the kind of blind moral equivalence that's so silly.
Again, moral equivalence is the bedrock principle behind moral absolutism. All entities must equivalent to each other and the actions they take are wrong or right regardless of which entity they are. So when you say "moral equivalence is silly" you are saying "I believe in moral relativism".

It's also not silly. It's the only way to think about this logically. If you're not comparing actions based on fixed moral principles, you are not thinking at all, it's just intellectual masturbation. Which is I guess OK but it's really something that should be done in private.
I find it interesting that you only look at things with an incredibly simplistic metric: how many people died at the end. That is an extremely blunt measure, to say the least.
It's also one of the few rational measures. Which is why you didn't even bother to suggest any others.
Of course US has done questionable and even immoral things. I'm not disputing that. What I am claiming is that they have to be viewed in full context of the challenges it faced at the time and its role as sole superpower and, literally, defender of the world in the fight against Communism
Communism is worse then death now?

---
I have to say that the argument that Shivohum is making here, that the US did commit atrocities and did support regimes that committed atrocities, but that the US was still more concerned than any comparable empire is pretty solid. The argument that the US was worse than the Soviet Union (or China) with regard to human rights is pretty weak and requires a lot of special pleading and outright ignoring of historical context. -- klangklangston
Eh. If half your family was killed in a war, would you be concerned about what the "motives" of the people who started the war? I don't think it really matters.

All we're really talking about is this UN Veto with China and Russia, and the problem is that the U.S. has done the same thing. Going back through history to compare the actions of each country at each step of the way would be a ridiculous exercise. Sure, the soviet union was bad, no question. But it's also been gone for a while.
posted by delmoi at 7:45 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Delmoi wrote: when you say "It's immoral for China/Russia to use a UN veto in this way" but then don't also say "It's immoral for the U.S. to use a UN veto in this way" then you're being morally relative.

Not necessarily. We're talking about UN motions that potentially justify an armed intervention or invasion. I'll stipulate that the USA's motives have frequently been pragmatic rather than humanitarian, but in this case there are good humanitarian reasons for armed intervention and Russia's veto is immoral. In contrast, the USSR's armed interventions were never prompted by humanitarian concerns, therefore vetoing their motions (of this sort) was never immoral.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:20 PM on February 5, 2012


Here are a list of American Security Council vetos, for reference:

1972 Condemns Israel for killing hundreds of people in Syria and Lebanon in air raids.
1973 Afirms the rights of the Palestinians and calls on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
1976 Condemns Israel for attacking Lebanese civilians.
1976 Condemns Israel for building settlements in the occupied territories.
1976 Calls for self determination for the Palestinians.
1976 Afirms the rights of the Palestinians.
1978 Urges the permanent members (USA, USSR, UK, France, China) to insure United Nations decisions on the maintenance of international peace and security.
1978 Criticises the living conditions of the Palestinians.
1978 Condemns the Israeli human rights record in occupied territories.
1978 Calls for developed countries to increase the quantity and quality of development assistance to underdeveloped countries.
1979 Calls for an end to all military and nuclear collaboration with the apartheid South Africa.
1979 Strengthens the arms embargo against South Africa.
1979 Offers assistance to all the oppressed people of South Africa and their liberation movement.
1979 Concerns negotiations on disarmament and cessation of the nuclear arms race.
1979 Calls for the return of all inhabitants expelled by Israel.
1979 Demands that Israel desist from human rights violations.
1979 Requests a report on the living conditions of Palestinians in occupied Arab countries.
1979 Offers assistance to the Palestinian people.
1979 Discusses sovereignty over national resources in occupied Arab territories.
1979 Calls for protection of developing counties' exports.
1979 Calls for alternative approaches within the United Nations system for improving the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
1979 Opposes support for intervention in the internal or external affairs ofstates.
1979 For a United Nations Conference on Women.
1979 To include Palestinian women in the United Nations Conference on Women.
1979 Safeguards rights of developing countries in multinational trade negotiations.
1980 Requests Israel to return displaced persons.
1980 Condemns Israeli policy regarding the living conditions of the Palestinian people.
1980 Condemns Israeli human rights practices in occupied territories. 3 resolutions.
1980 Afirms the right of self determination for the Palestinians.
1980 Offers assistance to the oppressed people of South Africa and their national liberation movement.
1980 Attempts to establish a New International Economic Order to promote the growth of underdeveloped countries and international economic co-operation.
1980 Endorses the Program of Action for Second Half of United Nations Decade for Women.
1980 Declaration of non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.
1980 Emphasises that the development of nations and individuals is a human right.
1980 Calls for the cessation of all nuclear test explosions.
1980 Calls for the implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.
1981 Promotes co-operative movements in developing countries.
1981 Affirms the right of every state to choose its economic and social system in accord with the will of its people, without outside interference in whatever form it takes.
1981 Condemns activities of foreign economic interests in colonial territories.
1981 Calls for the cessation of all test explosions of nuclear weapons.
1981 Calls for action in support of measures to prevent nuclear war, curb the arms race and promote disarmament.
1981 Urges negotiations on prohibition of chemical and biological weapons.
1981 Declares that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development, etc are human rights.
1981 Condemns South Africa for attacks on neighbouring states, condemns apartheid and attempts to strengthen sanctions. 7 resolutions.
1981 Condemns an attempted coup by South Africa on the Seychelles.
1981 Condemns Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, human rights policies, and the bombing of Iraq.
18 resolutions.
1982 Condemns the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
6 resolutions (1982 to 1983).
1982 Condemns the shooting of 11 Muslims at a shrine in Jerusalem by an Israeli soldier.
1982 Calls on Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights occupied in 1967.
1982 Condemns apartheid and calls for the cessation of economic aid to South Africa. 4 resolutions.
1982 Calls for the setting up of a World Charter for the protection of the ecology.
1982 Sets up a United Nations conference on succession of states in respect to state property, archives and debts.
1982 Nuclear test bans and negotiations and nuclear free outer space. 3 resolutions.
1982 Supports a new world information and communications order.
1982 Prohibition of chemical and bacteriological weapons.
1982 Development of international law.
1982 Protects against products harmful to health and the environment .
1982 Declares that education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights.
1982 Protects against products harmful to health and the environment.
1982 Development of the energy resources of developing countries.
1983 Resolutions about apartheid, nuclear arms, economics, and international law. 15 resolutions.
1984 Condemns support of South Africa in its Namibian and other policies.
1984 International action to eliminate apartheid.
1984 Condemns Israel for occupying and attacking southern Lebanon.
1984 Resolutions about apartheid, nuclear arms, economics, and international law. 18 resolutions.
1985 Condemns Israel for occupying and attacking southern Lebanon.
1985 Condemns Israel for using excessive force in the occupied territories.
1985 Resolutions about cooperation, human rights, trade and development. 3 resolutions.
1985 Measures to be taken against Nazi, Fascist and neo-Fascist activities .
1986 Calls on all governments (including the USA) to observe international law.
1986 Imposes economic and military sanctions against South Africa.
1986 Condemns Israel for its actions against Lebanese civilians.
1986 Calls on Israel to respect Muslim holy places.
1986 Condemns Israel for sky-jacking a Libyan airliner.
1986 Resolutions about cooperation, security, human rights, trade, media bias, the environment and development. 8 resolutions.
1987 Calls on Israel to abide by the Geneva Conventions in its treatment of the Palestinians.
1987 Calls on Israel to stop deporting Palestinians.
1987 Condemns Israel for its actions in Lebanon.
2 resolutions.
1987 Calls on Israel to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.
1987 Cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States.
1987 Calls for compliance in the International Court of Justice concerning military and paramilitary activities against Nicaragua and a call to end the trade embargo against Nicaragua. 2 resolutions.
1987 Measures to prevent international terrorism, study the underlying political and economic causes of terrorism, convene a conference to define terrorism and to differentiate it from the struggle of people from national liberation.
1987 Resolutions concerning journalism, international debt and trade. 3 resolutions.
1987 Opposition to the build up of weapons in space.
1987 Opposition to the development of new weapons of mass destruction.
1987 Opposition to nuclear testing. 2 resolutions.
1987 Proposal to set up South Atlantic "Zone of Peace".
1988 Condemns Israeli practices against Palestinians in the occupied territories. 5 resolutions (1988 and 1989).
1989 Condemns USA invasion of Panama.
1989 Condemns USA troops for ransacking the residence of the Nicaraguan ambassador in Panama.
1989 Condemns USA support for the Contra army in Nicaragua.
1989 Condemns illegal USA embargo of Nicaragua.
1989 Opposing the acquisition of territory by force.
1989 Calling for a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict based on earlier UN resoltions.
1990 To send three UN Security Council observers to the occupied territories.
1995 Afirms that land in East Jerusalem annexed by Israel is occupied territory.
1997 Calls on Israel to cease building settlements in East Jerusalem and other occupied territories.
2 resolutions.
1999 Calls on the USA to end its trade embargo on Cuba.
8 resolutions (1992 to 1999).
2001 To send unarmed monitors to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
2001 To set up the International Criminal Court.
2002 To renew the peace keeping mission in Bosnia.

2002 Condemns the killing of UK worker for the United Nations by Israeli forces. Condemns the destruction of the World Food Programme warehouse.
2003 Condemns a decision by the Israeli parliament to "remove" the elected Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat.
Condemns the building of a wall by Israel on Palestinian land.
2003 To end the USA's 40 year embargo of Cuba.
2004 Condemns the assassination of Hamas leader, Sheik Ahmad Yassin.

2004 Condemns the Israeli incursion and killings in Gaza.

2004 Production and processing of weapon-usable material should be under international control.
2006 Calls for an end to Israeli military incursions and attacks on Gaza.
2006 Calls for an end to the financial embargo against Cuba.
2007 Calls for peaceful uses for outer space.
Calls for a convention against female descrimination.
Concerning the rights of children.
Concerning the right to food.
On the applicability of the Geneva Convention to the protection of civilians in time of war.
Calls for the protection of the global climate.
Calls for Indian Ocean to be declared a zone of peace. Calls for a nuclear weapon free South East Asia.
2007 Calls for the right of self determination for the Palestinian people. Other resolutions regarding the Palestinians and their rights.
2008 Calls for progress towards an arms trade treaty.
Banning the development of new weapons of mass destruction.
Assuring non-nuclear states they will not be attacked or threatened with nuclear weapons.
Prevention of the development of an arms race in outer space and transparency in outer space activities.
Calls to decrease the operational readiness of nuclear weapons systems and to ban nuclear weapons.
Calls to end the use of depleted Uranium in weapons.
Concerning the trade in illicit small arms.
Calls for a nuclear free Central Asia and a nuclear free Southern Hemisphere. Prevention of proliferation in the Middle East.
Calls for a comprehensive (nuclear) test ban treaty. Calls for a nuclear weapon free world.
2008 Calls for a treaty on children's rights.
Condemns Racial Descrimination.
Affirms the soverignty of Palestinians over the occupied territories and their resources.
Affirms the right of the Palestinians to self determination.
Calls on Israel to pay the cost of cleaning up an oil slick off the coast of Lebanon caused by its bombing.
Calls for a new economic order.
Calls for a right of development for nations.
Calls for a right to food.
Respect for the right to universal freedom of travel and the vital importance of family reunification.
Concerning developments in IT for international security.
2008 Resolutions concerning Palestine, its people, their property and Israeli practices in Palestine, including settlements.

2009 Calls for an end to the 22 day long Israeli attack on Gaza.
2011 Calls for a halt to the illegal Israeli West Bank settlements.

2011 Calls for Israel to cease obstructing the movement and access of the staff, vehicles and supplies of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

2011 Calls for the immediate and complete cessation of all Israeli settlement activities in all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.

I'm having a hard time tracking down a complete list of USSR/Russian vetoes, but from my count in this document, it looks like about a dozen -- regarding Cyprus, Cambodia, the Iraq/Iran War and Bosnia. And almost none since the USSR broke up.

If you want to talk about abuse of the Veto power, there is one state to point your finger at, and it almost does it exclusively for the benefit of another state.
posted by empath at 8:23 PM on February 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Counter examples

Vietnam: 1,100,000 dead
A substantial number of whom were killed by AK-47 supplied by the Soviet Union, not American made M-16s. Also following the US departure the North Vietnamese killed a few hundred thousand more in re-education camps and up to two million more refugees died trying to escape.

Cambodia bombing campaign: 100,000 dead (low estimate)

The low estimate is actually about 12,000 most of whom where Vietnamese invaders who had setup supply routes into South Vietnam. A lot of People dies when the Chinese backed Khmer Rouge took power and killed a few million.

Second Iraq Invasion: 150,000 dead
Second Afghanistan Intervention: 30,000 dead


Most of whom were fighting with Russian weapons. Many of whom were killed in violence committed by their fellow Iraqis. We did spend a trillion dollars trying to ago the sectarian violence .

Indirect US involvement (weapons, training, loan arrangements)
Iran-Iraq War: 1,000,000 dead
--mostly fought with Chinese, French and Russian weapons.

Russo-Afghan proxy war: 100,000 dead-- Russia invaded Afghanistan. We thought it was a terrible idea for them. We encouraged them to leave. From the beginning we said this would be their Vietnam. They should have listened.
El Salvador: 70,000 dead-- Cuba and Russia were not innocent here either.
Colombia: 50,000 dead (low estimate)-- mostly drug lords and Hugo Chavez's fault.
Genocide in East Timor: 20,000 dead-- the Dutch and Australians share a lot of blame here. We did negotiate freedom for East Timor and get Suharto out eventually.
Nicaragua: 20,000 dead. We did promptly pass the Bolan amendment and restrict funding to try to end it. Then we nearly impeached Reagan over Iran-Contra. ultimately we brought the Contras.

How about the recent Chinese support for Sudan during the massacre in Darfur and the civil war in the south? Cuban and Russian actions in Angola. French involvement in Algeria. Ongoing issues in Western Chinese provinces. Chinas supprt for Maoists in Nepal? Myanmar/Burma? Go total those numbers up. We've been drawn into some fucked up shit when fighting some depots and real villains. We arn't perfect but we are not the villains you want to make us into.
posted by humanfont at 8:27 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know that for a certain style of leftist, the proximity of the US's crimes makes them the easiest to critique, but that argument is largely lazy.

Exactly so.
--
I don't think that gives the US the right to interfere in other countries internal affairs in perpetuity

We're not talking about just any countries here. We're talking about the most vicious, tyrannical ones. The ones that don't have any legitimacy and therefore any claim to non-interference.

So sure, all things considered, one was better off under American hegemony instead of Soviet hegemony, but that doesn't entirely justify American foreign policy, and arguments based on the moral authority of the United States ring false to me.

I'm not sure what kind of moral authority would justify it then. There is no nation on earth without significant quantities of blood on its hands. Often to fight a great evil you have to commit a lesser one. Relative morality is all that can be expected. And in fact I'd argue that the moral vision of liberal democracy is, in the end, actually pretty damn decent and realistic both.

--
How else should I measure state violence?

I gave you a set of factors above, but I think you're more interested in heart-tugging rhetoric than thoughtful analysis. Who was it above that warned against confusing history with the histrionic?
--
Again, moral equivalence is the bedrock principle behind moral absolutism. All entities must equivalent to each other and the actions they take are wrong or right regardless of which entity they are. So when you say "moral equivalence is silly" you are saying "I believe in moral relativism".

Oh, I understand your confusion now. You've conflated two senses of moral relativism. They're really very simple concepts; let me break them down very slowly for you.

The sentence in which I used moral relativism originally referred to a kind of cultural moral relativism, whereby people ask, "Who are we to judge them?" That's the kind of relativism that would "immunize" foreign governments from intervention as in my original statement. Moral absolutism, in this context, would be to believe that cross-cultural moral judgment is possible. You confused my point about this kind of moral relativism with your own pet notions about neo-cons which you reflexively misapplied.
--
Thanks for your thoughtful information, humanfont.
posted by shivohum at 8:51 PM on February 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Often to fight a great evil you have to commit a lesser one.

So what do you think is okay to prevent a great evil? Propping up despots? Committing terrorism? Torturing and murdering innocent people? Carpet bombing villages? Dropping atomic bombs on fully populated cities?
posted by empath at 10:12 PM on February 5, 2012


Empath, do you actually have a point or were you just practicing your pasting skills?
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:22 PM on February 5, 2012


The point is that the US has vetoed a lot more Security Council resolutions than Russia has (or the Soviet Union).
posted by empath at 10:28 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


humanfont, you'll say anything except for the truth. The wars in Indochina were a continuation of the colonial occupation of a French colony to contain communism. Vietnam was going to have their independence, regardless of who told them they didn't deserve it. The only thing we did was delay the inevitable, sacrifice tens of thousands of our soldiers, and millions of Vietnamese lives for no reason at all. Remember from Nuremberg that the aggressors of needless war are not only guilty for the lives they end with their own hands, but also any harm or death caused by the occupation.

We arranged for the financing of the Iran-Iraq War, and for the wars across Central and South America. Separating our involvement with money doesn't absolve us of anything. I'm sort of surprised you're trying to make that argument. It's a despicable, cynical sense of morality inherited from organized crime.
posted by deanklear at 11:06 PM on February 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I gave you a set of factors above, but I think you're more interested in heart-tugging rhetoric than thoughtful analysis. Who was it above that warned against confusing history with the histrionic?

Those are true stories from people who have been killed by the foreign policy you're trying to perpetuate. There's no acting there.
posted by deanklear at 11:11 PM on February 5, 2012


Obama: Syrian Conflict Can Be Solved Without Military Action

posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:05 AM on February 6, 2012


The low estimate is actually about 12,000 most of whom where Vietnamese invaders who had setup supply routes into South Vietnam. A lot of People dies when the Chinese backed Khmer Rouge took power and killed a few million.
Speaking of Vietnam and Cambodia, did you guys know that after we left, the Vietnamese government invaded Cambodia and got rid of the Khmer Rouge? This resulted in the Chinese invading them who they defeated in less then a month.
We're not talking about just any countries here. We're talking about the most vicious, tyrannical ones. The ones that don't have any legitimacy and therefore any claim to non-interference. -- shivohum
The countries and dictators that the U.S. supported were also terrible. There were plenty of right-wing death squads. Pinochet, all kinds of right-wing south American dictators, the shah of Iran, Saddam, Mubarak, and so on.

Secondly, the countries we invaded were not the "most tyrannical". The U.S. would invade or work to destabilize any country that wasn't committed to capitalism. Iran is a perfect example of that, as we overthrough a democratic government and installed a brutal dictator, who we supported for decades.
Empath, do you actually have a point or were you just practicing your pasting skills?
Joe, the point is obviously that the U.S is usually the one issuing U.N vetoes.

---
I gave you a set of factors above, but I think you're more interested in heart-tugging rhetoric than thoughtful analysis. Who was it above that warned against confusing history with the histrionic?
Those are true stories from people who have been killed by the foreign policy you're trying to perpetuate. There's no acting there.
Not only that, his posts contain nothing but emotional rhetoric. There is no rational analysis whatsoever. There is no 'logical grounding' for anything he's saying. What he's doing is working backwards from the idea that the U.S. is/was in the right and then trying to figure out why.

Anyway, the point here is not that "oh, the U.S. is a terrible, immoral country" but the point is that in terms of how we behaved internationally both the Americans and the Soviets did the same things during the cold war. Both sides thought the other side were blood-thirsty adherents to an economic system intent on enslaving the entire world, etc.
posted by delmoi at 7:07 AM on February 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, of course, they were both correct.
posted by howfar at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2012


China defends Syria veto in People's Daily article: State paper denies giving 'free rein' to Bashar al-Assad's crackdown and points to UN mandate 'abused' in Libya by Nato

Meanwhile, the ethnic protests within China continue:

Three Tibetans 'set themselves on fire' in China: A Tibetan has died and two others have been seriously injured in self-immolations against Beijing's rule, according to reports
posted by homunculus at 10:46 AM on February 6, 2012


Vietnam was going to have their independence, regardless of who told them they didn't deserve it.

You seem to mistake independence for despotic rule by Ho Chi Minh. The fact is that many people living in South Vietnam did not see the conquest of the country by the Soviet backed north as a real independence. Following the north's conquest several hundred thousand people were rounded up and put into re-education camps. Millions more were forced out of the country. It wasn't like America left and suddenly all the Vietnamese sang kum-bay-ah round the campfire and had hugs. The North waited 18 months, then in violation of the Paris peace accords invaded the south and killed more people than died in the previous ten.

Speaking of Vietnam and Cambodia, did you guys know that after we left, the Vietnamese government invaded Cambodia and got rid of the Khmer Rouge?

Did you know that the Vietnamese then occupied Cambodia until 1989 creating a low intensity conflict that killed thousands of Cambodians? Vietnam also launched a number of raids in to Thailand during this period. They received billions of dollars in aid from the Soviet Union to carry out their policy of aggression in Indochina.
posted by humanfont at 10:47 AM on February 6, 2012


Army steps up Homs shelling: Heavy artillery fire has been rocking Homs, as Syrian troops step up an assault on the restive city.
posted by homunculus at 11:17 AM on February 6, 2012


You seem to mistake independence for despotic rule by Ho Chi Minh

Who had more legitimacy: a native Vietnamese nationalist who had been fighting for Vietnamese independence for decades against the French (and the Vichy French), or a handful of suited policy makers in Washington, DC? "Real independence" does not mean "government approved by the United States." In fact, it means precisely the opposite.

You cannot liberate a nation from its own people.
"...we have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3 of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships, which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and daydreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world benefaction...

In the face of this situation we would be better off to dispense now with a number of the concepts which have underlined our thinking with regard to the Far East. We should dispense with the aspiration to 'be liked' or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers' keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague — and for the Far East — unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are hampered by idealistic slogans, the better."

—George Kennan, Key American Policy Maker, 1948


"The last time the Chinese came, they stayed a thousand years. The French are foreigners. They are weak. Colonialism is dying. The white man is finished in Asia. But if the Chinese stay now, they will never go. As for me, I prefer to sniff French shit for five years than to eat Chinese shit for the rest of my life."

—Ho Chi Minh, 1946
posted by deanklear at 11:39 AM on February 6, 2012


You seem to mistake independence for despotic rule by Ho Chi Minh. The fact is that many people living in South Vietnam did not see the conquest of the country by the Soviet backed north as a real independence.
South Vietnam was not a democracy. Diệm was widely hated, and we ended up throwing a coup. There was actually actually supposed to be an election but Diem rejected it.

Honestly dude the idea we were "fighting for democracy" in veitnam or against totalitarianism is absurd. South Vietnam was only in existance for 20 years, and there was never an election during that time period. We were at war because the people we were fighting were unwilling to cede power in an election (or even have one). That's actually the opposite of democracy.
Did you know that the Vietnamese then occupied Cambodia until 1989 creating a low intensity conflict that killed thousands of Cambodians? Vietnam also launched a number of raids in to Thailand during this period. They received billions of dollars in aid from the Soviet Union to carry out their policy of aggression in Indochina.
Surely not suggesting letting the Khmer Rouge stay in power would have been better, right? Or have you gotten yourself so twisted into logical pretzels that you're defending Pol Pot now?

This is the problem you run into when you refuse to think about things rationally. First the argument is that it is good for the U.S. to intervene when there is a humanitarian catastrophe, then on the other hand you say it's bad that the Vietnamese took out someone who is considered by many to be literally as bad as Hitler in terms of genocidal tendencies. The reason they did it, by the way, was because the Khmer were coming into Vietnam and committing atrocities on border villages. Presumably some of the people they killed were Khmer Rouge supporters.

My position is that intervention is OK if you're truly fighting evil, instead of simply fighting for national interests.

I don't think the US should intervene in Syria simply because I live in the U.S and I think doing so would actually damage this country, as the Iraq war clearly did. If the rest of NATO wants to do it (possibly with a US supporting roll, as in Libya) I'd be fine with it.

On the other hand, this thread is full of weird justifications for US behavior during the cold war, including a defense of the Vietnam War(?), and I can't really help but explain why they're wrong. During the 20th century, the U.S had a lot of different administrations, with different goals and run by different people with different motivations. How could you claim that a foreign policy run by Jimmy Cater is "the same" as one run by Dick Cheney?

In the U.S, hating politicians is a national pastime. But there's this odd disconnect where some people expect us to love and trust the government when it comes to foreign policy, but duh who do they think runs the government?
posted by delmoi at 12:54 PM on February 6, 2012


Russia, China lose credit in Arab world: League Chief
posted by rosswald at 1:03 PM on February 6, 2012


So what do you think is okay to prevent a great evil? Propping up despots? Committing terrorism? Torturing and murdering innocent people? Carpet bombing villages? Dropping atomic bombs on fully populated cities?

Well, good question. The Allies did every single one of these things during WWII. Was that not worth it? Some people might hold that it wasn't, that some lines should never be crossed, no matter what. I have to respect that, but I disagree.
posted by shivohum at 2:58 PM on February 6, 2012


I never said South Vietnam was a democracy. North Vietnam was also not a democracy. Unlike our South Korea, Vietnam is still not a democracy.

Who had more legitimacy: a native Vietnamese nationalist who had been fighting for Vietnamese independence for decades against the French (and the Vichy French), or a handful of suited policy makers in Washington, DC? "Real independence" does not mean "government approved by the United States." In fact, it means precisely the opposite.

Many of the South Vietnamese leaders also had resumes full of decades of resistance to French colonialism. They didn't have a communist propaganda machine determined to create an authoritarian regime based on a cult of personality. The Soviets continued to poor billions of dollars of aid into Vietnam after the US stopped funding our allies in the south.

posted by humanfont at 5:31 PM on February 6, 2012


I never said South Vietnam was a democracy. North Vietnam was also not a democracy. Unlike our South Korea, Vietnam is still not a democracy.
"Our" Korea? Really? Try running that by an actual South Korean and see how they take it.

Whatever, I don't really seem much reason to 'debate' someone who tried to argue that taking out Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge was a bad thing.
posted by delmoi at 8:10 PM on February 6, 2012


South Korea was a military dictatorship.
posted by empath at 8:19 PM on February 6, 2012


Well, good question. The Allies did every single one of these things during WWII. Was that not worth it? Some people might hold that it wasn't, that some lines should never be crossed, no matter what. I have to respect that, but I disagree.

Are you seriously making the suggestion that an internal civil war in Vietnam had any similarity to Hitler and the Blitzkrieg invasions of Europe?

Many of the South Vietnamese leaders also had resumes full of decades of resistance to French colonialism. They didn't have a communist propaganda machine determined to create an authoritarian regime based on a cult of personality.

Our pick to run South Vietnam was a wealthy Catholic, who dedicated a nation full of Buddhists to the Virgin Mary. Did you actually read anything about South Vietnamese leadership?
In the wake of the [Tet] offensive, however, Thiệu’s regime became more energetic. On 1 February, Thiệu declared martial law, and in June, the National Assembly approved his request for a general mobilization of the population and the induction of 200,000 draftees into the armed forces by the end of the year...

Thiệu used the period to consolidate his personal power. His only real political rival was Vice President Kỳ. In the aftermath of Tết, Kỳ supporters in the military and the administration were quickly removed from power, arrested, or exiled. A crack-down on the South Vietnamese press followed and there was a return of some of Diệm's Cần Lao members to positions of power. Within six months, the populace began to call him “the little dictator”.
...
In 1971, Thiệu ran for re-election, but his reputation for corruption made his political opponents believe the poll would be rigged, and they declined to run. As the only candidate, Thiệu was thus easily re-elected, receiving 94% of the vote on an 87% turn-out, a figure widely held to be fraudulent.
Getting way back to the point of the current tragedy in Syria, the United States could get China and Russia to fall in line diplomatically if they wanted to. We could promise a two year delay in military action against Iran. We could tie their support to adjust our position on the occupied territories in Palestine. There are a lot of things we could do, but what's more important is to demonize two left-leaning nations while we plan, and probably execute, the third invasion of a sovereign nation in the middle east in a decade. How's that for principled morality?

As evidenced by the past fifty years of our history, we'll kill millions of people over ideology, and put fanatical dictators in power (as long as they at least pretend to hold elections, which sometimes communists don't do). There isn't any real difference between communism and democracy in our foreign policy, except for this: communism means they don't take orders, and democracy means that they do.

"America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests."
—Kissinger
posted by deanklear at 6:02 AM on February 7, 2012


There are a lot of things we could do, but what's more important is to demonize two left-leaning nations

China and Russia? Seriously?

We could promise a two year delay in military action against Iran.

Aside from the fact that the two year delay would belie the very reason for the airstrikes (not invasion btw), any "delay" would be meaningless.

We could tie their support to adjust our position on the occupied territories in Palestine

Do you think Russia and China give two-shits about Palestine? Enough to switch directions on Syria? Russia (and China's) position on Syria is about protecting its interests and preventing a doctrine of intervention.

There isn't any real difference between communism and democracy in our foreign policy

Eastern Europe?
posted by rosswald at 7:31 AM on February 7, 2012


Are you seriously making the suggestion that an internal civil war in Vietnam had any similarity to Hitler and the Blitzkrieg invasions of Europe?

When did I say that? I've suggested that the Cold War and the fight against the USSR was comparable in importance.

As evidenced by the past fifty years of our history, we'll kill millions of people over ideology, and put fanatical dictators in power (as long as they at least pretend to hold elections, which sometimes communists don't do).

Blah blah blah. Can you get your history somewhere other than a frothing Noam Chomsky? We made our Cold War decisions because we wanted to destroy the USSR and communism. We did that. It was one of the greatest human rights coups in history.

We didn't put another dictator in power in Iraq. We could have just quickly installed an American puppet and left; we didn't. Of course, we didn't do very well at the occupation -- that's incompetence rather than malice.

We successfully intervened in both Bosnia and took sides against Mubarak, both of which were arguably against our self-interest narrowly considered.

There isn't any real difference between communism and democracy in our foreign policy, except for this: communism means they don't take orders, and democracy means that they do.

So why did Nixon and Kissinger open up relations with China? It didn't take orders. Maybe it's because the US judged that China was fundamentally different than the USSR -- and in fact it has turned out to be just that. Maybe the US outlook is a little more nuanced than your black-and-white cartoon.
posted by shivohum at 7:33 AM on February 7, 2012


Maybe the US outlook is a little more nuanced than your black-and-white cartoon.

You're the one with the black and white, good and evil cartoon viewpoint on american foreign policy.
posted by empath at 7:47 AM on February 7, 2012


China was fundamentally different than the USSR -- and in fact it has turned out to be just that.

You really don't understand that capitalism, democracy and US political interests are different things, do you? Bah.
posted by howfar at 7:52 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're the one with the black and white, good and evil cartoon viewpoint on american foreign policy.

Really? The argument seems to be a) The US isn't perfect, but has also done some good things, and its reasoning on Syria seems sound versus b) the US is evil, has only ever made the world worse, and has no standing to complain about Syria.
posted by rosswald at 7:54 AM on February 7, 2012


But this isn't a moral problem. One only has to look as Sudan to see that the current battle between the US, China and Russia is conducted on purely pragmatic terms. Any argument about the Cold War is beside the point, except for those who want to engage in special pleading based on the idea of American exceptionalism.
posted by howfar at 8:11 AM on February 7, 2012


the US is evil, has only ever made the world worse, and has no standing to complain about Syria.

Straw man. No one said that.
posted by empath at 8:12 AM on February 7, 2012


In fact, I believe the US should complain about Syria. And that the Russians should withdraw their backing. I just don't think the US has any moral authority to militarily intervene. (Or any practical ability to). And they've got no real moral standing to complain about Russia's veto, since the US uses their veto power to protect their allies from international condemnation all the time.
posted by empath at 8:15 AM on February 7, 2012


We made our Cold War decisions because we wanted to destroy the USSR and communism. We did that. It was one of the greatest human rights coups in history.

Okay, seriously, how the hell do you figure that? What does it matter to the cause of human rights if the world is full of capitalist dictators instead of communist dictators? I'm fairly familiar with Russia and Soviet history and I'm not aware of any drastic change in human rights there between the late Soviet period and now. There were independent television stations for a few years but no more of that and it's pretty easy to get assassinated if you disagree with the government or ask the wrong questions. No different in China.

Ideologically at least, communist countries enumerated many more basic human rights than Western countries do; many of the ones listed in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, like the right to work, wouldn't be there without their influence.

I'd also question the real value of the "destruction" of the USSR, which you say was worth all those millions of other peoples' lives and nations laid waste during the 20th century, when Russia can simply invade Georgia and the rest of the world does little more than say "please don't do that". At best it seems to me like we accomplished a slight reshuffling of the geopolitical order, perhaps paved the way for China to be more dominant in the 21st century than it would have been if the Soviets were still around.
posted by XMLicious at 8:19 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


But now we can hire slave labor in former communist countries for pennies on the dollar without worrying about bothersome environmental regulations.
posted by empath at 8:20 AM on February 7, 2012


I just don't think the US has any moral authority to militarily intervene.

Isn't that a strawman? The final version of the resolution that Russia/China vetoed very explicitly ruled out any sort of military action. And besides, any "action" would surely be modeled on Libya, not Iraq (which again, isn't on the table, and won't happen).

since the US uses their veto power to protect their allies from international condemnation all the time

The veto seems to ensure that we are going to go from 5,000 dead to 10,000 dead (and possibly beyond). Can you point me to comparable US veto?
posted by rosswald at 8:22 AM on February 7, 2012


All the ones that protected South Africa, for example.
posted by empath at 8:25 AM on February 7, 2012


obviously the 10,000 was just estimate, and was more of a reference to Hama 1982
posted by rosswald at 8:25 AM on February 7, 2012


And I don't think you can discount how our intervention in Libya may have led Syrian activists to believe that we would come in and save them as well.
posted by empath at 8:27 AM on February 7, 2012


Nor can you discount the role of Tunisians. It was a lot of things, and surely Libya is only a factor among many.
posted by rosswald at 8:29 AM on February 7, 2012


Right, but there's a big jump from street protests to armed rebellion, and if you believe an invading army is going to rescue you, you might make dramatically riskier decisions.
posted by empath at 8:31 AM on February 7, 2012


Well considering the FSA's main base is in Hatay, you may want to ask Turkey about that.
posted by rosswald at 8:34 AM on February 7, 2012


Okay, seriously, how the hell do you figure that? What does it matter to the cause of human rights if the world is full of capitalist dictators instead of communist dictators?

Well, because the world ISN'T as full of capitalist dictators, that's one thing. The entire Eastern bloc is considerably freer and more democratic than it was before. Look at the Czech Republic or Poland or the stellar career of a reunified Germany - these success stories wouldn't exist without the fall of the USSR.

Then there's the fact that Europe no longer has to live with the fear and instability of territorial aggression. And the world no longer has to live with the constant possibility of global nuclear war, at least, not to the same extent.

And capitalism is fundamentally a more moral system than communism, one which over time empowers the middle class and thus tends towards greater democracy and human rights. We destroyed the idea of communism as a viable system by bringing down its standard bearer.

I'm fairly familiar with Russia and Soviet history and I'm not aware of any drastic change in human rights there between the late Soviet period and now.

Well, the late Soviet period was, as we now know, the Soviet period on its deathbed. It could not sustain a moderate degree of political freedom without breaking down entirely.

But that said -- what about freedom of religion? As far as political speech, yes, it's still repressive, but would someone like Kasparov have been allowed in the USSR at all? And what about other kinds of speech (like sexual speech)? What about the right to start a small business?

What about LGBT rights? Haven't they improved dramatically? And freedom of information? As far as I know, the Internet is largely uncensored in Russia, and it is easy to get international information about Russian political doings. And what about the right to emigrate, to simply leave the country?

I'd also question the real value of the "destruction" of the USSR, which you say was worth all those millions of other peoples' lives and nations laid waste during the 20th century, when Russia can simply invade Georgia and the rest of the world does little more than say "please don't do that".

My understanding is that Georgia provoked this. The President at the time was an idiot.

Ideologically at least, communist countries enumerated many more basic human rights than Western countries do; many of the ones listed in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, like the right to work, wouldn't be there without their influence.

“The bill of rights of the former evil empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, was much better than ours,” he said, adding: “We guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. Big deal. They guaranteed freedom of speech, of the press, of street demonstrations and protests, and anyone who is caught trying to suppress criticism of the government will be called to account. Whoa, that is wonderful stuff!”

“Of course,” Justice Scalia continued, “it’s just words on paper, what our framers would have called a ‘parchment guarantee.’ ”

posted by shivohum at 8:50 AM on February 7, 2012


What about LGBT rights? Haven't they improved dramatically?

Not really.
posted by empath at 8:52 AM on February 7, 2012


Not really.

Are you kidding? This is eons better than it was under the USSR, where gay sex was downright criminal.
posted by shivohum at 8:58 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are you kidding? This is eons better than it was under the USSR, where gay sex was downright criminal.

What was the legal status of sodomy in the US when the USSR still existed?
posted by empath at 9:13 AM on February 7, 2012


The world isn't full of capitalist dictators? I think we probably live in different worlds.

Gay sex was criminal in most of the capitalist world during most of the existence of the Soviet Union. The things you're listing aren't consequences of the fall of communism being "one of the greatest human rights coups in history." They happened - in the wealthier capitalist nations - in spite of the forces involved in the Cold War, not because of them.

Using things like LGBT rights in the U.S. in the 21st century or prosperity in some parts of Eastern Europe to justify atrocities like the death of a million Vietnamese or rampant, prolific support of repressive capitalist regimes in our client states is ridiculous and despicable.
posted by XMLicious at 9:15 AM on February 7, 2012


They happened - in the wealthier capitalist nations - in spite of the forces involved in the Cold War, not because of them.

Yes, and they happened because the forces of capitalism and democracy pushed those changes.

Using things like LGBT rights in the U.S. in the 21st century or prosperity in some parts of Eastern Europe to justify atrocities like the death of a million Vietnamese or rampant, prolific support of repressive capitalist regimes in our client states is ridiculous and despicable.

And ignoring everything else I said to support some strawman is moronic. The USSR and communist regimes were astonishingly repressive to their own populations (killing, as is well known, tens of millions of people), and communism worldwide was responsible for hundreds of millions of deaths. The USSR threatened the entire world with the spread of frankly brutal, murderous, nuclear-equipped, totalitarian regimes. If that isn't worth fighting, I'm not sure what is.
posted by shivohum at 9:22 AM on February 7, 2012


If that isn't worth fighting, I'm not sure what is.

Sure it's worth fighting. Is it worth killing hundreds of thousands or millions of people over? Is it worth setting up your own murderous totalitarian regimes and supporting others?
posted by empath at 9:24 AM on February 7, 2012


Is it worth killing hundreds of thousands or millions of people over? Is it worth setting up your own murderous totalitarian regimes and supporting others?

Actually, yes, it is. Not to say that every single individual action that we took was necessary or moral or well-judged. But the overall strategy -- contain the USSR at any cost -- was sound, ensured the security of the world, and has led to a solidly better world today.
posted by shivohum at 9:26 AM on February 7, 2012


As far as rights just being on paper, take not only the example of gays but the treatment of blacks in the capitalist world. Look at all of the American UN Security Council vetoes against resolutions involving apartheid in empath's list up above. The fight against apartheid in South Africa and raising awareness of it in the outside world was frequently something carried on by the communists in that country.

Yes, and they happened because the forces of capitalism and democracy pushed those changes.

Bullshit. Capitalism was around for centuries, millenia really, without advancement of human rights occurring. Capitalism does not infuse any inherent benefit to human rights into societies.

If that isn't worth fighting, I'm not sure what is.

Worth fighting with the deaths of millions of people in third-party nations and widespread ruination, but not quite worth enough for American civilians to suffer the same fates themselves.

Speaking of straw men, nice one there. No one has said that the Soviets weren't worth fighting - just that much of what we did was equally worthy of fighting against. If the battlegrounds had been in the U.S. and it was American citizens who were bombed and subjected to living in police states and war zones and your justifiable murderous totalitarian regimes, rather than passing the tab in flesh and blood for the Cold War onto others, we would have bothered to actually tally the civilian casualties the Cold War incurred and more peaceful means to fight would quickly have been found.
posted by XMLicious at 9:49 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


By the way, your idea that murderous totalitarianism is justified if the ends are important enough? Perhaps you should call it "Dictatorship of the Capital" or "Dictatorship of the Freedom-fighters."
posted by XMLicious at 9:59 AM on February 7, 2012


Capitalism was around for centuries, millenia really, without advancement of human rights occurring. Capitalism does not infuse any inherent benefit to human rights into societies.

You should try to actually read up on what you're talking about rather than just making things up because they sound good. Capitalism has not been around for millenia. People trace it back to the middle ages at earliest, and that in Europe. Before that, feudalism ruled.

Capitalism is not just the fact of that some goods are traded. It's a system where the means of production are governed by commercial exchanges, rather than, say, feudal rights over serfs or slaves. Also critical to capitalism are institutions of lending and the idea of a corporation.

And yes, capitalism does push human rights, because it creates a middle-class that's financially capable of pushing for its desires, including, for instance, LGBT rights.

Worth fighting with the deaths of millions of people in third-party nations and widespread ruination, but not quite worth enough for American civilians to suffer the same fates themselves.

What are you talking about? Do you think before you write? Did no Americans die in Korea or Vietnam?

By the way, your idea that murderous totalitarianism is justified if the ends are important enough? Perhaps you should call it "Dictatorship of the Capital" or "Dictatorship of the Freedom-fighters."

Hrm. So supporting bad guys to destroy much worse guys in unacceptable to you. I guess we shouldn't have worked with Stalin during WWII either. Have fun in your fantasyland utopia.
posted by shivohum at 10:09 AM on February 7, 2012


Do you think Russia and China give two-shits about Palestine? Enough to switch directions on Syria? Russia (and China's) position on Syria is about protecting its interests and preventing a doctrine of intervention.

They voted for Palestinian membership at the UN, despite the diplomatic costs threatened by the US and Israel. But I guess in that case UNSC votes are meaningless?

Eastern Europe?

Yes, exactly like Eastern Europe.
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA — Amid the international censure of Nicolae Ceausescu, and the rush to recognize the revolutionaries who deposed and executed him, it seems hard to recall that Ceausescu, like Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega of Panama, was once a pet of Washington.

The Johnson and Nixon administrations in particular adopted Ceausescu as their favorite communist, because of his supposed independence from Moscow. To this end, they ignored his human-rights abuses, helped him destroy his country's economy, funneled investment to Romania and may even have kept him in power.
...
One of [Nixon's] first foreign trips after his election was to Romania. The U.S. gave most-favored-nation trade treatment to Romania while denying it to other communist countries. More important, the Nixon administration twisted the arms of American bankers and business leaders to persuade them to loan and invest money in Romania.

The reason lay totally in foreign policy. In the early 1960s, Ceausescu fought off a Soviet attempt to turn his country into an unindustrialized breadbasket for the Soviet bloc, and he got away with it. After that, he criticized the Kremlin, refused to join in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, recognized Israel and West Germany and permitted Jews to emigrate.
...
The anti-Soviet basis of American policy meant that anyone who irritated Moscow, no matter how unsavory his practices at home, got American support. Ceausescu knew this and capitalized on it.

The U.S. Embassy in Bucharest was under orders from Washington to put a shine on Ceausescu while soft-pedaling his shortcomings. Thus the American businessmen and bankers heard from U.S. diplomats about the strength of the Romanian economy and the safety of their investment.
...
The end result was the foreign debt that led to Ceausescu`s worst excesses. Determined to pay it off, he began exporting everything he could-food, clothing, energy-reducing his own people to near starvation in their heatless, lightless homes.
...
It was American policy to turn a blind eye to all this while keeping a chill on relations with reformist Hungary next door. The reason was that, while Hungary ran a relatively liberal domestic policy, it paid for this by lining up with Moscow on all foreign-policy matters-which, in those days, was what counted.

Neither liberal Hungary nor repressive Romania has changed in its essence since then. It is American policy, catching up to realities beyond the Cold War, that has reversed.
Again, what was the difference between Ceausescu and other Eastern Bloc dictators? Ceausescu obeyed orders; he was therefore "good." Softer, more democratic, more open societies like Hungary were demonized because they didn't obey orders; they were "bad."

I'm tiring of hearing these automatic denials without any evidence. Cite something. Your opinion doesn't mean much if it's based on what you believe American foreign policy should be, instead of the reality of what American foreign policy is.
posted by deanklear at 10:21 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


But the overall strategy -- contain the USSR at any cost -- was sound, ensured the security of the world, and has led to a solidly better world today.

I guess, unless you're one of the ones who was murdered by a US-backed murderous dictator.

And yes, capitalism does push human rights, because it creates a middle-class that's financially capable of pushing for its desires, including, for instance, LGBT rights.

The middle class was created by communist unions, something that capitalists fought against tooth and nail.
posted by empath at 10:26 AM on February 7, 2012


We made our Cold War decisions because we wanted to destroy the USSR and communism. We did that. It was one of the greatest human rights coups in history.

So, we saved the world by propping up violent dictators and killing millions of people so the USSR couldn't prop up violent dictators and kill millions of people?

We successfully intervened in both Bosnia and took sides against Mubarak, both of which were arguably against our self-interest narrowly considered.

We took sides against Mubarak? That's a fucking lie. I watched the Egyptian revolution as it happened, and while they were huddled in Tahrir Square, begging for for their lives over the phone and through internet messaging, here's what the US government had to say:
Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.
—Hillary Clinton, January 25

Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he's been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region, Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel ... I would not refer to him as a dictator.
—Joe Biden, January 27
Pretend all you want, but you can't rewrite history.

So why did Nixon and Kissinger open up relations with China?

Because China was useful to our interests. How many times do I have to repeat it?

I also love how you point to that as a successful part of American foreign policy. I thought we were there to liberate people from Communism? Didn't we just kill a few million people and 50,000 of our own soldiers at that time in Vietnam to prevent communist China from taking over?

It doesn't matter what government you have. It's irrelevant. If you're a tinier country, the only thing that matters is that you obey orders. The only thing that matters if you're a world power is if you play ball most of the time. Hell, we'll watch you drive tanks over students at a democratic protest and not say a word while we set up free trade zones to exploit your labor force. No problem. You want Taiwan? No problem. You want to slaughter some Tibetans? No problem, just as long as you play ball.
posted by deanklear at 10:44 AM on February 7, 2012


How many American civilians died in the Korean War and Vietnam War? What was that about thinking before you write, again?

The entirety of history before the Middle Ages was not feudalism. In the 21st century we can confidently say that economies governed by commercial exchanges and institutions of lending existed millenia ago. But regardless of how sneeringly you want to split hairs about the definition, those things combined with the idea of corporations are not some sort of magic pixie dust that is so superlatively guaranteeing of human rights that killing millions of people and sundering nation after nation to ensure capitalism's geopolitical dominance is "one of the greatest human rights coups in history."

shivohum, listen to yourself. You are saying that anything less than creating murderous totalitarian regimes to fulfill one's geopolitical goals is a "fantasyland utopia".

By the way, did you read the rest of the article you linked to above? It's actually making the point that for all the noise and flag-waving about the U.S. cherishing freedom and human rights the U.S. Constitution does not protect many of the things considered to be human rights in the modern world.

I note that you left out the beginning bit of the Scalia quote, "Every banana republic in the world has a bill of rights..."
posted by XMLicious at 10:53 AM on February 7, 2012


We took sides against Mubarak

Liar.
posted by howfar at 10:53 AM on February 7, 2012


"Every banana republic in the world has a bill of rights..."

To make it painfully obvious what he's alluding to -- Banana republics were South American dictatorships created and backed by American corporate interests, and were ruled as corporate states to extract as much money from the country as possible.
posted by empath at 10:56 AM on February 7, 2012


(south/central)
posted by empath at 10:57 AM on February 7, 2012


Do you think Russia and China give two-shits about Palestine? Enough to switch directions on Syria? Russia (and China's) position on Syria is about protecting its interests and preventing a doctrine of intervention.

They voted for Palestinian membership at the UN, despite the diplomatic costs threatened by the US and Israel. But I guess in that case UNSC votes are meaningless?


They mean something, but your notion of "trading" Syria for Palestine is laughable.

I'm tiring of hearing these automatic denials without any evidence

Your "cite" of a 20+ year old Chicago Tribune article skirts the issue. It isn't about single individuals or even countries, but the general policy as a whole. The collapse of the SU and the freeing of the former bloc-states is/was good.
posted by rosswald at 10:58 AM on February 7, 2012


So, we saved the world by propping up violent dictators and killing millions of people so the USSR couldn't prop up violent dictators and kill millions of people?

Why yes, there's something called proportion. The world under them would be much more barbaric and murderous than the world with our intervention.

We took sides against Mubarak?

Why, yes, we did. “The U.S. government had been planning to topple the Egyptian president for the past three years _ that is, according to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks,” RT reported Saturday.

You can't rewrite history.

Because China was useful to our interests. How many times do I have to repeat it?

I see. So whatever I say the US did, you'll say "it was useful to our interests." Despite the fact that China did not "take orders," which you earlier said was the test -- but now that's changed.

You have a view of US interests that cannot be disproved. It's a sign of a fundamentalist religion, not an open mind.

I thought we were there to liberate people from Communism? Didn't we just kill a few million people and 50,000 of our own soldiers at that time in Vietnam to prevent communist China from taking over?

Yes, and we failed at that. So we decided to take a different tack. We adapted.

No problem, just as long as you play ball.

All right, I'm not sure in what world you exist where there are so many wonderful humanitarian options for the nation to pick from while also continuing to survive. Apparently the US should fall on a knife, keel over, and die -- and then its critics would probably say that was some conspiracy too.

--
I guess, unless you're one of the ones who was murdered by a US-backed murderous dictator.

Ok, so I assume you're an absolute pacifist then. Is that correct?

Because the only war in which no innocents are killed is an imaginary one.

The middle class was created by communist unions, something that capitalists fought against tooth and nail.

No. The middle class originated in the traders and artisans of the middle-ages and slowly expanded. Even in 19th century America, before the widespread power of unions, there was a middle-class and a strong element of equality in American culture; de Tocqueville noted it.

In the 20th century in America, the middle class was built out of numerous elements.

Capitalism itself massively increased production and prosperity. I mean, the US in the 20th century was the greatest prosperity engine the world has ever known. Without that prosperity, thanks to capitalism, there would be no middle-class.

Far-seeing capitalists like Henry Fords realized that consumers had to be paid well in order to consume and so paid their workers well.

Gov't played a role with things like the GI Bill. Who pushed for that bill? In part it was likely capitalists with some desire for an educated workforce.

Unions also played a major role, but their reforms weren't communist. Rather, they resulted in a vision of capitalism that acknowledged the reality of market failure and inequalities in bargaining power. The end result was a stronger, more effective, more realistic capitalism -- not communism or anything close to it. That's why Teddy Roosevelt said he wanted, with his progressive policies, to save capitalism from itself. He did.

--

those things combined with the idea of corporations are not some sort of magic pixie dust that is so superlatively guaranteeing of human rights that killing millions of people and sundering nation after nation to ensure capitalism's geopolitical dominance is "one of the greatest human rights coups in history."

It has nothing to do with magic and everything to do with simple reality: communism doesn't work and causes suffering on an unprecedented scale.

I mean, what's the alternative fantasy of what would have happened had the US sat back and done nothing? Clearly then we would all have danced in circles and ... world peace... Right? No death, no repression would have happened then. Certainly wouldn't have emboldened the Soviets. The South Vietnamese would not have fought the North Vietnamese and no one would have died. Oppressive regimes would all have ceased to exist. And the world would be a better place today. It's all so preposterous.

Was it ok or not ok for us to work with Stalin -- a muderous totalitarian dictator -- during WWII? I see you still are avoiding that question.
posted by shivohum at 11:02 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The collapse of the SU and the freeing of the former bloc-states is/was good.

It was, and I think a collapse of the American empire would be similarly good -- both for Americans, and for their client states.

Empires are bad, no matter who runs them.
posted by empath at 11:05 AM on February 7, 2012


Empires are bad, no matter who runs them.

OK. So which empire-less historical period do you think would be a good model for a post-America empire?
posted by rosswald at 11:19 AM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


communism doesn't work and causes suffering on an unprecedented scale.

The victory of capitalism has done that.
posted by howfar at 11:20 AM on February 7, 2012


The victory of capitalism has done that.

That's because of islamo-fascism, obviously.
posted by empath at 11:27 AM on February 7, 2012


Slaughter in Syria: Rocket attacks, blood in the streets and a relentless fight for freedom
posted by homunculus at 1:38 PM on February 7, 2012


Your "cite" of a 20+ year old Chicago Tribune article skirts the issue.

Should I link to a week old opinion piece based on someone's imagination instead? Since when is the historical record worthy of sarcasm?

It isn't about single individuals or even countries, but the general policy as a whole. The collapse of the SU and the freeing of the former bloc-states is/was good.

So, it's not about people. And it's not about countries. And it's apparently not about their human rights record. So what is it about then?

If you're ready to admit that every single decision we made was for American interests, and sometimes that happened to turn out okay for some nations, I agree with you. South Korea was lucky. Libya, so far, is lucky. But to call decades of violence and war "good" because it was executed in order to benefit American interests is not the same thing. It's a completely ordinary and unremarkable facet of an empire.
posted by deanklear at 2:03 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why yes, there's something called proportion. The world under them would be much more barbaric and murderous than the world with our intervention.

As evidenced by what? (Besides your opinion, of course.)

Why, yes, we did. “The U.S. government had been planning to topple the Egyptian president for the past three years _ that is, according to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks,” RT reported Saturday.

You can't rewrite history.


Did you read the rest of that cable?
XXXXXXXXXXXX said he wants to convince the USG that Mubarak is worse than Mugabe and that the GOE will never accept democratic reform. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted that Mubarak derives his legitimacy from U.S. support, and therefore charged the U.S. with "being responsible" for Mubarak's "crimes."
...
Comment: We have no information to corroborate that these parties and movements have agreed to the unrealistic plan XXXXXXXXXXXX has outlined.
The words. They mean things. We've given Mubarak 2 billion every year since 1981 (and to Egypt since 1979), and you think paying for a trip for an activist to NYC in 2008 means "we took sides against Mubarak?" At this point, I'm embarrassed for you.

Yes, and we failed at that. So we decided to take a different tack. We adapted.

Communism is going to conquer the world and kill everyone you've ever loved and it must be stopped!

Just kidding, we decided to offshore all of our jobs there. Good luck competing with prison labor!

I see. So whatever I say the US did, you'll say "it was useful to our interests." Despite the fact that China did not "take orders," which you earlier said was the test -- but now that's changed.

No, you don't get to change my words either. China agreed to allow us to develop their economy in exchange for Taiwan, and their ability to slaughter Tibetans and students without having to worry about us doing anything about it. That's the same deal we had with Mubarak, Saddam, Pinochet. You give us access to your markets, or you kill people we don't like, or you support us unwaveringly if you don't have anything for us to exploit, and we'll give you money and some side benefits. Benefits like repressing democratic freedoms to stay in power, or torturing dissidents as a national past time, or even some good old fashioned genocide. America is always ready to make a deal, if the price is right.

All right, I'm not sure in what world you exist where there are so many wonderful humanitarian options for the nation to pick from while also continuing to survive. Apparently the US should fall on a knife, keel over, and die -- and then its critics would probably say that was some conspiracy too.

It's sad that you have to pretend like you don't know what the humanitarian option is. Ready?

Don't support murderous dictatorships. Period.
posted by deanklear at 2:33 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, it's not about people. And it's not about countries. And it's apparently not about their human rights record. So what is it about then?

Really the problem is arguing against the path untaken. I wish there is some way that one could demonstrate that if McCain was president today then unemployment would be higher, but there isn't. And this allows the BS Republican narrative that Obama made the recession worse.

And the same is true of foreign policy. The historical record of the US' foreign policy is mixed obviously, but what are you comparing this to? An alternate history where the US was never an empire? A timeline where the US was completely isolationist? The Soviet empire? The British? The Romans? Would the world have been better off if the US was never founded?

You say the US has, in its self-interest, killed lots of people. I say the US has, in its self-interest, done lot's of things, improving on mistakes of previous generations while making some of its own mistakes.

In relevance to this thread, inaction in Syria is sickening, if not criminal. And I do buy some the Russian/Chinese argument that intervening has its own danger (for the interveners and the intervenees), but history has changed in the past 25, 75, and 200 years. Watching thousands die is the least acceptable it has ever been.

I personally don't buy the argument that the US foreign policy validates obstruction of some kind of action in Syria.
posted by rosswald at 2:47 PM on February 7, 2012


Watching thousands die is the least acceptable it has ever been.

I have a feeling that China and Russia are going to stand Assad down in the next few days..
posted by empath at 2:48 PM on February 7, 2012


The words. They mean things. We've given Mubarak 2 billion every year since 1981

We gave Egypt and Israel money to stop constantly shooting each other, and our economy in the process. Nasser and Sadat seemed to stay in power without the US, but Sadat's veep taking power is the US' fault?

Also, I thought I read somewhere that the reason Muburak didn't completely crush the Muslim Brotherhood was due to the US tying its aid money to elections and some form of political parties. Could be wrong about though, I have to run and can't look it up.
posted by rosswald at 2:51 PM on February 7, 2012


Russia and China are in the same position in Syria that the US was in Egypt during the Egyptian revolution. Do you think that the US would have allowed a Security Council resolution against Mubarak?

I think what will happen is that Russia and China will figure out a way to back away from Assad while saving face. It depends, I think on whether they think Assad can actually put the revolution down in the next week or so, and if they think he can't, then they'll let him go.
posted by empath at 2:52 PM on February 7, 2012


All right, Deanklear. You're right. Communism wasn't a big deal. All it would have taken for the US to do better is just be idealistic, like you. Why didn't they just ask someone smart like you?

You can go back to good 'ol Noam now and he can soothe you back to sanctimonious sleep.
posted by shivohum at 3:05 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you want to argue his points, argue his points. If you don't, then don't. What you shouldn't do is make up statements he didn't say, and guess at what the source of his beliefs are.
posted by empath at 3:15 PM on February 7, 2012


shivohum, so your argument comes down to better dead than Red? If your justification for every American abuse, adventure and atrocity of the last 60-odd years is "dirty Commies!" you'll probably embarrass yourself less if you stop pretending that it's the people who disagree with you who are the naïve idealists.
posted by howfar at 3:45 PM on February 7, 2012


And the same is true of foreign policy. The historical record of the US' foreign policy is mixed obviously, but what are you comparing this to? An alternate history where the US was never an empire? A timeline where the US was completely isolationist? The Soviet empire? The British? The Romans? Would the world have been better off if the US was never founded?

This is a false dichotomy. Tell me: what were the chances of Nicaragua or Grenada invading the United States? Why did we invent reasons to invade Iraq? Why did we invade Afghanistan if the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia? Why did Reagan declare a state of emergency because the Sandinistas were "two days drive" away from Texas? How is it even possible to consider Iran a threat to American interests when they lack the capacity to refine their own oil or transport aircraft out of Asia? Our foreign policy isn't just wrong, it's insanely stupid and paranoid and reckless with human life.

And as for Vietnam, I can perhaps understand our reasons for intervention in the 50s. But by the 1970s, we were pretending that burning people to death with napalm was acceptable because China was evil incarnate while we were secretly planning to open up trade relations. I'm sorry, but there just aren't any reasonable excuses for that. The reality is that we were trying to save face while we threw away the Vietnamese people, like we threw away the Iraqis, like we're about to throw away the Afghanis for the second time. If we're just going to use people as cannon fodder for our geopolitical ends, just admit it, like the good old days. Let's get back to the honesty of the Philippine war, where the Godless colored heathens were better off dead than under the rule of someone who didn't have our interests at heart. Let's get back to admitting that the whole world is our manifest destiny, and we have the right to choose leaders of other nations because we are the most powerful, and we deserve it, because we're God's chosen nation.

And if you don't believe that sort of rhetoric doesn't exist anymore, go to a GOP rally. Go ask your average evangelical about the goodness of America, and whey we're in the middle east. Listen to any State of the Union speech from Bush's first term. It's all there. We're good, they're evil, and there's a war on. Don't give me any of this specious pretend intellectualism about human rights. We don't give a shit. We never did, unless it was convenient, and that's as far away as you can get from a principle, isn't it?

You say the US has, in its self-interest, killed lots of people. I say the US has, in its self-interest, done lot's of things, improving on mistakes of previous generations while making some of its own mistakes.

Rationalizations are not worthy substitutes for values.

In relevance to this thread, inaction in Syria is sickening, if not criminal. And I do buy some the Russian/Chinese argument that intervening has its own danger (for the interveners and the intervenees), but history has changed in the past 25, 75, and 200 years. Watching thousands die is the least acceptable it has ever been.

I personally don't buy the argument that the US foreign policy validates obstruction of some kind of action in Syria.


Nor do I. But I know for a fact, because it just happened in Egypt and it's still happening in Bahrain, that if Syria were an ally, we'd have vetoed the motion just as easily as the Russians and the Chinese did. We forgave them a year after Assad's father murdered 20,000 people at Hama in exchange for the release of 39 American hostages and one airman. The Reagan administration even sold them some weapons for a few years, and recently we used Syria to practice our brand of Freedom and Democracy by asking them to torture terrorism suspects we kidnapped from other countries.

So, I agree that the Russian and the Chinese are wrong for the veto. But what's more important is that we react the same way when America does the exact same thing. If we're serious about democracy and human rights, we need to start practicing what we preach. Right now, no one can hear someone from the State Department say those words without wincing at the irony, myself included.
posted by deanklear at 3:57 PM on February 7, 2012


If your justification for every American abuse, adventure and atrocity of the last 60-odd years is "dirty Commies!" you'll probably embarrass yourself less if you stop pretending that it's the people who disagree with you who are the naïve idealists.

I'm fascinated by how lightly people treat of the communist threat. I wonder if you'd feel that way about justifications for world war 2. "If your justification for every Allied abuse, adventure and atrocity during World War II is 'dirty Nazis'..."

Hrm, doesn't sound so great. Yet Stalin's documented purges and famines of tens of millions of people is -- hey, whatever, no big deal. Let's laugh about how seriously people took it.

Obviously, there have been many other things at play than the Soviets, particularly in the 90s and after: our country's security generally, terrorism, relations with key allies, issues of resources and economics, etc.

But yeah, before that, communism and the threat of nuclear war with a paranoid, bloodthirsty, totalitarian dictatorship with a massive army, a subjugated continent, thousands of nukes, and a declared plan to create a sphere of influence around the world, spreading like a vast malignant cancer, all in light of Russia's historic aggression and territorial ambitions... yup, that heads the list of worries all right.
posted by shivohum at 3:58 PM on February 7, 2012


Our colonial and imperial interventions in foreign countries started well before the existence of the Soviet Union and continued after it was gone.
posted by empath at 4:10 PM on February 7, 2012


"If your justification for every Allied abuse, adventure and atrocity during World War II is 'dirty Nazis'..."

Upthread you seemed to justify the massacres of the civilian populationsw of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the "dirty Nazis" line. Even situations as black and white as WW2 aren't sensibly understood by everything done by the goodies being good, and everything done by the baddies being bad.

spreading like a vast malignant cancer

Bless you. This might be a pointless argument, but at least I got a laugh out of it. Do you dress up as Batman on your nights off?
posted by howfar at 4:17 PM on February 7, 2012


shivohum: you appear to have no qualms about death and destruction, as long as the killers share your ideological beliefs. If that is the case, what is the difference between you and Stalin?
posted by deanklear at 4:20 PM on February 7, 2012


Even situations as black and white as WW2 aren't sensibly understood by everything done by the goodies being good, and everything done by the baddies being bad.

Yes, I understand your highly original academic point about there being shades of gray. Unfortunately, decisions have to be made in binary: kill or don't kill, bomb or don't bomb. And ultimately the answer to that decision comes very much down to black and white moral decisions. Are they worse than us? Yes, they are worse than us. Would the world be better off without them? Yes, it would. That kind of thing.

you appear to have no qualms about death and destruction, as long as the killers share your ideological beliefs.

Are you an absolute pacifist? If not, then by your logic, you must be Stalin too.
posted by shivohum at 4:35 PM on February 7, 2012


Deanklear wrote: Tell me: what were the chances of Nicaragua or Grenada invading the United States?

In Grenada, the USA removed a military junta that had been governing for less than a fortnight and it restored democratic government. What is your problem with this? In Nicaragua it removed another repressive government, albeit one which had actually been elected. In subsequent elections, though, the Sandinistas lost every single time.

Why did we invent reasons to invade Iraq?

Why did Saddam invade Iran, then Kuwait, then re-arm?

Why did we invade Afghanistan if the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia?

Because al-Qaeda was based in Afghanistan.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:49 PM on February 7, 2012


In Grenada, the USA removed a military junta that had been governing for less than a fortnight and it restored democratic government. What is your problem with this?

Oh, nothing. If the Chinese had invaded after the botched 2000 election to restore Al Gore, I would have welcomed them with open arms. Wouldn't you?

In subsequent elections, though, the Sandinistas lost every single time.

I'm sure Daniel Ortega would be shocked to hear that claim from his Presidential office in Managua.

Why did Saddam invade Iran, then Kuwait, then re-arm?

The short answer is that Saddam Hussein believed he would be crowned as the successor to the Shah as our local bully in the Middle East, and he was right. The Kuwaiti invasion was a misstep on his part. He'd been allowed to murder his own people for years, was taken off the Sponsors of Terror list in '82 so we could sell him chemical weapons, and even killed 37 US sailors onboard the USS Stark without punishment. I guess he thought his leash was longer than it was.

Because al-Qaeda was based in Afghanistan.

Incorrect. Because Afghanistan is not Saudi Arabia, and Saudi Arabia is important.
posted by deanklear at 5:17 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the news reports on the tele right not it sounds like we might be about to get our war on again! Fuck yeah! It's been literally months since we picked some new people to blow up. Exploding Afghans gets old, you know?
posted by Justinian at 5:21 PM on February 7, 2012


Are you an absolute pacifist? If not, then by your logic, you must be Stalin too.

I can be a pacifist, believe in the right to self defense, and avoid murdering people who disagree with me all at the same time.
posted by deanklear at 5:24 PM on February 7, 2012


I can be a pacifist, believe in the right to self defense, and avoid murdering people who disagree with me all at the same time.

Ah well, you see, the thing you call self-defense someone else calls aggression. Haven't you heard any dictator talk about how they're only hurting people who hurt them first? Your definition of self-defense then becomes your ideology...which you're willing to kill over, apparently. Like Stalin.
posted by shivohum at 5:32 PM on February 7, 2012


which you're willing to kill over, apparently. Like Stalin./i>

And Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln! Wheee!

Seriously, what is the point of the hyperbole? Stalin also rode in cars but that doesn't make people who ride in cars like Stalin.

posted by Justinian at 5:45 PM on February 7, 2012


Whoops, little bit of an unclosed italic there.
posted by Justinian at 5:46 PM on February 7, 2012


Seriously, what is the point of the hyperbole?

Look upthread.
posted by shivohum at 5:48 PM on February 7, 2012


Unfortunately, decisions have to be made in binary: kill or don't kill, bomb or don't bomb

Yes. It's people like you who make this world an awful place. No morality, no kindness, no decency. Don't trouble me again.
posted by howfar at 5:49 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ah well, you see, the thing you call self-defense someone else calls aggression.

Perhaps you mean that you believe in the Bush Doctrine, but that doesn't mean that I do.
posted by deanklear at 5:52 PM on February 7, 2012


Perhaps you mean that you believe in the Bush Doctrine, but that doesn't mean that I do.

Huh? I don't think you comprehend. Do you believe that there is no such thing as a just war, because in every war, innocents are killed? Is that your position or not?
posted by shivohum at 6:10 PM on February 7, 2012


You can keep creating false dichotomies if you like, but it's not very useful. A better question is, do I believe that invading another country qualifies as self-defense? And the answer is no. You (obviously) believe the opposite, which is one of the foundational aspects of the Bush Doctrine.

If you find yourself extolling the virtues of an invading army, you are in piss poor company, historically speaking.
posted by deanklear at 6:24 PM on February 7, 2012


Wow, evasive, aren't you? I think it's because you realize your position doesn't make any sense and are trying your best to cloud the issue.

In World War 2, we invaded Germany. Was that ok or not? In the process, we killed innocent German civilians, including children. Ok or not? Or is that a "false dichotomy"?
posted by shivohum at 6:28 PM on February 7, 2012


Do you think that the US would have allowed a Security Council resolution against Mubarak?
posted by empath


I am in the minority of people who think the US handled it pretty well, considering the difficult position the US was in. Supporting the protests would have fed Mubarak's narrative of "foreign interference." Most importantly though, the US had to ensure that it backed the winning horse to keep its access to Egypt.

If the US came out in support of the revolution, and it failed, the US would have been effectively shut out of Egypt. Pre-revolution, the US was heavily invested in supporting democratic movements which it would have had to abandon had their position been compromised by supporting a failed revolution. Mubarak would have also found other ways to act out (domestically and internationally) that would have been pretty bad.

The US had to try to work within the system initially until absolutely clear the system would collapse. Not as a compromise of morals, but as a keen understanding that ending dialogue between Cairo and DC would not have been good for anyone, including the Egyptian people.

I should also point out the level of violence was wildly different between Egypt and Syria. (IMHO) If the crackdown had gotten worse (instead of Mubarak stepping down), it would probably have resulted in a non-vetoed UN resolution.
posted by rosswald at 6:34 PM on February 7, 2012


Deanklear, I've got a question - but here's the background:

Grenada was not an especially good democracy and the elections of 1976 were tainted, possibly fraudulent. In 1979 there was a communist-inspired revolution. The revolutionaries ("The New Jewel Movement") suspended Grenada's constitution and did the usual revolutioney things like shut down opposition parties and so forth.

In 1983 the leaders of the cabal fell out among themselves and there was an internal coup led by the deputy Prime Minister. He placed former Prime Minister Bishop under house arrest, but he was freed after popular demonstrations. Then the head of the military forces staged a second coup. He recaptured Bishop and executed him, along with seven other ministers and people associated with the former government. He announced a four day curfew during which anyone found outside would be shot. This is when the USA invaded, with the support of the Organisation of American States.

So here's my question. In what way does this remind you of "the botched 2000 election" in the USA?
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:24 PM on February 7, 2012


Wow, evasive, aren't you? I think it's because you realize your position doesn't make any sense and are trying your best to cloud the issue.

When I asked what the difference between Stalin and yourself, it was because I think you share similarities. You both seem to believe violence is one of the best solutions for solving ideological disagreements. Stalin solved them with purges, you seem to believe they can be solved with military invasions. The question wasn't entirely rhetorical, and I don't think killing foreigners instead of countrymen makes you look any better.

(Obviously you are not Stalin, but we all bear a certain responsibility for the actions of our government.)

If you're trying to compare the invasion of Iraq, or Vietnam, or Afghanistan with the invasion of occupied Europe, you're desperately grasping at straws. The differences are obvious and barely worth discussing. A better argument would be if I would support the invasion of Nazi Germany if they had stayed within their own national borders, but that would depend on so many other factors that I believe it would be pointless as well.

Here's an even better one: would England have been morally correct if they invaded during our Civil War to implement the "correct" style of government? What if they said they were doing it to stop our genocide of Native Americans? Or to liberate the slaves because they were afraid the North might lose? Do any of those ideas trump our right to self rule? Would it had led to a more lasting peace if we were under British occupation again? Would more or less people be dead? Would Britain have picked the "right" side?

The question of genocide is the toughest one as far as national sovereignty goes, but how many times have we invaded to stop genocide? Right now our allies in Turkey are busy destroying Kurdish culture and lives on their side of the border, but that's not something in the news, is it What did we do for East Timor? Rwanda? Darfur? The DRC?

If we're so concerned with human dignity, why aren't we spending more than half of one percent of our military budget on aid that would undoubtedly save lives, and for far less risk and cost?

It's pretty clear that genocide and human misery don't motivate us enough to invade, or even send a check, but if you threaten to cut access to valuable resources, or threaten our interests in any other way, we suddenly remember how just and righteous we are. Money talks; human rights and all that other bullshit walks.

Is that praise worthy? I don't think so. But I'm probably just trying to cloud the issues.
posted by deanklear at 7:25 PM on February 7, 2012


If you're trying to compare the invasion of Iraq, or Vietnam, or Afghanistan with the invasion of occupied Europe, you're desperately grasping at straws. The differences are obvious and barely worth discussing.

So let me get this straight. You're ok with us having killed innocent German children in WWII. They didn't start the war, or prosecute it. Yet we killed them with our bombs anyway.

To quote you, "[Y]ou appear to have no qualms about death and destruction, as long as the killers share your ideological beliefs. If that is the case, what is the difference between you and Stalin?"

You are willing to kill innocent children to further your ideological beliefs.

Why don't you just admit that and we can have an honest discussion -- putting aside the self-righteous nonsense about loving death and destruction -- and talk about when killing innocents is morally justified?
posted by shivohum at 7:33 PM on February 7, 2012


Here's an even better one: would England have been morally correct if they invaded during our Civil War to implement the "correct" style of government? What if they said they were doing it to stop our genocide of Native Americans? Or to liberate the slaves because they were afraid the North might lose? Do any of those ideas trump our right to self rule? Would it had led to a more lasting peace if we were under British occupation again? Would more or less people be dead? Would Britain have picked the "right" side?
Isn't context everything? If a modern day England could invade Civil War America, then sure why not? In addition to their advanced ideas on equality across the board, the electric tea-kettles would have been worth it.

And historical England had abolished slavery, but they were in India forchristsakes. Your premise is weird.
posted by rosswald at 7:38 PM on February 7, 2012


I think what he's saying is that it is very easy to talk about intervening in some conflicts as more moral than respecting rights of self determination of rule when it isn't your rights of self-determination which will be abridged but someone else's.
posted by Justinian at 7:57 PM on February 7, 2012


They were in India liberating the local hindus from oppressive Muslim tyrants.
posted by empath at 7:57 PM on February 7, 2012


shivohum, I know you want to speak in hypotheticals rather than discuss America's foreign policy record, so let's do it. Let's say, just for the sake of argument, that I'm a huge fan of killing German children during WWII. Can't get enough of it. The more dead children, the better.

What now? Does that somehow mean that you and I are the same? Or is it just that you know when it's morally justifiable to kill children, and I don't?
posted by deanklear at 8:07 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a false dichotomy. Tell me: what were the chances of Nicaragua or Grenada invading the United States? Why did we invent reasons to invade Iraq? Why did we invade Afghanistan if the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia?

The Soviets we're looking to expand their influence in the Americas by fomenting communist revolution and supprting political groups hostile to the United States. In a bipolar world countries which actively declared their support for our enemy were extensions of our enemy.

We didn't really invent reasons to invade Iraq. Everyone knows the war was about global supplies of oil and natural gas. We thought we were about to run out and we didn't want Saddam controlling the last drops.

Why did we invade Germany when Hitler was from Austria? The national origin of the 9-11 hijackers has nothing to with the location of their leadership. 9-11 was planned and managed from Afghanistan.
posted by humanfont at 8:23 PM on February 7, 2012


I know you want to speak in hypotheticals rather than discuss America's foreign policy record

Because WWII was purely hypothetical? That IS a part of America's foreign policy record, a huge part of it, the most important war in the 20th century. You don't want to confront it because it a) involved killing innocents and yet b) was widely considered a just war and a huge moral victory for the United States and the Allies. It also, incidentally, was also a war that served America's self-interest.

It involved supporting a "murderous dictatorship" -- Stalin's -- in order to win the war. Yet, of course, you've said above "Don't support murderous dictatorships, period." Clearly you don't fully believe that.

What now? Does that somehow mean that you and I are the same? Or is it just that you know when it's morally justifiable to kill children, and I don't?

What it means is that your real beliefs don't track your stated principals. We are allowed to kill innocents and ally ourselves with murderous dictators in WWII. The question is: for what reason? There can only be one good reason: because the consequences were highly beneficial overall. More lives were saved in the long-run, freedom and prosperity were ensured, justice delivered.

So whether US policy has been good or bad cannot be judged simply by looking at deaths caused and its support of murderous dictatorships when examined in isolation. The question is: what was gained in exchange for these admittedly profoundly painful bargains? What were the alternative options, what were their likely consequences? How well was the decision made or executed?

In other words, we have to go back to factors I listed long ago.
posted by shivohum at 8:24 PM on February 7, 2012


Anonymous exposes e-mails of Syrian presidential aides
posted by XMLicious at 9:15 PM on February 7, 2012


More lives were saved in the long-run, freedom and prosperity were ensured, justice delivered.

You make the perfect American intellectual. You have invented an evil enemy, imagined yourself superior to him, and now any atrocity of the wars you choose to engage in can be evidence your righteousness.

Where are you taking your principles next? I know Africa is out. The death toll for those wars are nearing ten million, but our righteousness never seems attracted to that sort of "humanitarian" intervention. Bahrain? Well, they're nice guys. They don't really mean to repress democracy. Ditto for Turkey's systematic destruction of Kurdish society. It's all one big murderous misunderstanding.

Saudi Arabia is executing people for apostasy, and denying women and non-Muslims the right to testify in court. Then again, they are buying 80 billion dollars worth of military hardware from us, so they're fine, as long as the check clears. Iraq is back to torturing people like it's going out of style, but the oil contracts are already in place, so no worries there. Big improvement from life under Saddam. No security or electricity, but way more sectarian violence and oil contracts. I would say Lebanon for round two, but Israel beat us to the punch.

Perhaps another troop surge in Afghanistan? I guess not. We're almost finished with that place. Fifty thousand dead, the Taliban ready to take over — again — so, you know, mission accomplished.

I guess there's not that many places left. Syria, Iran, or Yemen: what part of the world should we fix next?
posted by deanklear at 9:30 PM on February 7, 2012


On second thought, I should have said imperialist intellectual. Obviously a perfect American intellectual would not be an imperialist.
posted by deanklear at 9:55 PM on February 7, 2012


Where are you taking your principles next?

You're attributing views to me out of your imaginary caricature of an "imperialist intellectual." I haven't supported particular interventions regarding Syria here.

I love how the extreme left-wing is so contradictory about foreign policy. If the US interferes, they immediately scream that it has no right to interfere, that it's doing it for selfish reasons. If it doesn't interfere, then it's letting genocide go on untramelled.

If we interfered in Africa, you can bet within about .0005 milliseconds the Chomskyites would have an explanation as to our selfish role in it. Whatever we do is selfish and evil. Whatever we don't do it also selfish and evil. It doesn't matter what else would have happened. The important thing is to hissingly blame the US.

We're also incompetent to intervene, but we should intervene everywhere. If we intervene in one place but not another that's bad. But we've intervened badly so we shouldn't intervene anywhere. But if we intervene nowhere that's bad too because then we let bad things happen.

We shouldn't trade with evil dictators because they're evil dictators. But we shouldn't fight them because what right have we to do that. We should try to change them in other ways, peaceful ways. But not commerce, even though that's the main peaceful means of changing. But not fighting.

But we shouldn't be isolationist either and abandon our responsibilities to the rest of the world; that would be selfish too.

Well, maybe isolationism is exactly what's desired. It would lead to the demise of the US and the rise of other, far more malicious powers, which, blissfully, the set of carping critics could work on next.
posted by shivohum at 11:13 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I think what he's saying is that it is very easy to talk about intervening in some conflicts as more moral than respecting rights of self determination of rule when it isn't your rights of self-determination which will be abridged but someone else's."

Because I'm an internationalist (in the short-hand), I really have no problem with other countries intervening here in support of human rights. I doubt very much that it would come to invasion, but I'd have no problem with international sanction over, say, our treatments of detainees. I know many people would, but I don't find that a particularly effective line of argument, especially when you can say that extraordinary crimes require extraordinary interventions, i.e. there can be a utilitarian or moral calculus that gives more weight to some crimes than to others, and that international context is important.
posted by klangklangston at 11:37 PM on February 7, 2012


"Where are you taking your principles next? I know Africa is out. The death toll for those wars are nearing ten million, but our righteousness never seems attracted to that sort of "humanitarian" intervention. Bahrain? Well, they're nice guys. They don't really mean to repress democracy. Ditto for Turkey's systematic destruction of Kurdish society. It's all one big murderous misunderstanding."

This line of argument is pretty nonsense if you think it through.

That we did not intervene in every situation in which we might have doesn't mean that intervention in the cases we did was illegitimate. It's like arguing that it's unfair that some murderers get caught and go to jail while others roam free, and proposing the solution of not arresting murderers. You're actually arguing for more intervention, not less, which does conflict with the other side of the leftist coalition (here represented mostly by empath) which holds that any intervention is likely to have consequences too terrible to justify it. But at least he's got a coherent position.
posted by klangklangston at 11:42 PM on February 7, 2012


You make the perfect American intellectual. You have invented an evil enemy, imagined yourself superior to him, and now any atrocity of the wars you choose to engage in can be evidence your righteousness.


So are you saying that Bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin etc were imaginary or not actually evil? I'm confused.
posted by humanfont at 8:29 AM on February 8, 2012


I love how the extreme left-wing is so contradictory about foreign policy. If the US interferes, they immediately scream that it has no right to interfere, that it's doing it for selfish reasons. If it doesn't interfere, then it's letting genocide go on untrammeled.

You can't come up with very many examples to illustrate that imaginary point, otherwise you would have. Give me your top ten humanitarian missions from the past fifty years, and then let's look at the historical record and see what the USG was saying behind closed doors.

We're also incompetent to intervene, but we should intervene everywhere. If we intervene in one place but not another that's bad. But we've intervened badly so we shouldn't intervene anywhere. But if we intervene nowhere that's bad too because then we let bad things happen.

When we train, arm, and direct death squads to rape and murder political opposition in Nicaragua, we aren't "letting" bad things happen. We are making sure that they happen. When we sell Saddam Hussein 500 helicopters that are easily outfitted for gunning his political opposition down, or for deploying chemical weapons, we aren't accidentally supporting his dictatorship. We're giving him the tools he needs to wipe out dissidents so he can stay in power, so our goals for the region stay on target. When we lie to the American people about why it's important to invade Iraq, we aren't doing it because we care about Iraqis. We spent a good portion of the nineties watching them starve to death while we carried out airstrikes across broad portions of that country. In the 90s the legitimacy of "dual use" sales had a different meaning, but instead of giving Saddam helicopters for "farming," we were denying them generators for electricity.

I'm not against intervention at all. I'm against intervention for the wrong reasons, to achieve the the wrong results, and through the wrong means, which is undoubtedly a consistent feature of US foreign policy.

We shouldn't trade with evil dictators because they're evil dictators. But we shouldn't fight them because what right have we to do that. We should try to change them in other ways, peaceful ways. But not commerce, even though that's the main peaceful means of changing. But not fighting.

There is a huge chasm between supporting dictatorships and engaging in commerce with nations with human rights problems. It's convenient to pretend like there isn't any difference only if you're trying to defend US foreign policy through feigned ignorance. (Or in your case, perhaps it's genuine. I don't know.)
posted by deanklear at 8:42 AM on February 8, 2012


That we did not intervene in every situation in which we might have doesn't mean that intervention in the cases we did was illegitimate. It's like arguing that it's unfair that some murderers get caught and go to jail while others roam free, and proposing the solution of not arresting murderers.

In virtually every case of intervention, we did it for our own interests. Again, I'm looking for counter examples, not hypotheticals or similes or glittering generalizations. Where are your facts?
posted by deanklear at 8:50 AM on February 8, 2012


'They want to finish us,' Syrian resident says amid shelling in Homs
posted by homunculus at 9:41 AM on February 8, 2012


Syrians say Lebanon blocking escape: Activists says arrests by neighbouring state's army deterring more injury victims from crossing border for treatment.
posted by homunculus at 9:43 AM on February 8, 2012


I'd have no problem with international sanction

Sure, but there's a yawning gulf between sanction and letting slip the dogs of war.
posted by Justinian at 10:42 AM on February 8, 2012


"In virtually every case of intervention, we did it for our own interests. Again, I'm looking for counter examples, not hypotheticals or similes or glittering generalizations. Where are your facts?"

Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti would be three places the US sent troops that didn't earn us a dollar. And if you're actually looking for concrete examples, don't phrase your comment in a sarcastic flight of fancy, and don't get butthurt when people point out it's incoherent.
posted by klangklangston at 10:44 AM on February 8, 2012


Okay klang, I'll give you all three for the sake of argument. According the GAO and Air University, it looks like we spent about 4 billion a year from 1990 to 1999 for Haiti, Rwanda, Somalia, Iraq, and Yugoslavia including military, state department costs, and USAID. That's what we spent every couple of weeks in Iraq.

That means, if how we spend our money represents our value system, humanitarian crises are roughly twenty five times less important than securing oil resources and directing middle eastern politics.

That's an entirely conservative number, not counting long term costs to the United States for interest and Veterans Affairs. Looking at the 2000s vs the 1990s, you're talking about at least one trillion dollars of direct increased military expenditures versus 40 billion dollars spent on humanitarian intervention. The real figure, by the time we pay for everything, will be 2.4 trillion dollars by 2017 as estimated by the GAO. That does not include the costs of the war in Afghanistan.

I were a betting man, I'd bet against one of our military dollars going towards humanitarian crises, and I'd be right 95-98% of the time.
posted by deanklear at 1:41 PM on February 8, 2012


*If I were a betting man...
posted by deanklear at 1:42 PM on February 8, 2012


You seem to think that the price of heating oil and gasoline isn't a humanitarian issue.
posted by humanfont at 5:26 PM on February 8, 2012


You seem to think that the price of heating oil and gasoline isn't a humanitarian issue.

I certainly don't think it's morally correct to subjugate other nations to get low prices. If we can't build a society on our own hard work and natural resources, that's not their problem, and they certainly don't deserve to die for it.

Unless you'd welcome an invasion by China and Russia to keep wheat prices down, I'd say you agree with me when the gun is pointed in the other direction.
posted by deanklear at 7:00 PM on February 8, 2012


I certainly don't think it's morally correct to subjugate other nations to get low prices.

So it is better to let some corrupt dictator tax us with high oil prices whIle subjugating his own people? What if the alternative is a billion people starve to death?

If we can't build a society on our own hard work and natural resources, that's not their problem, and they certainly don't deserve to die for it

Our land? You mean the United States of America the nation whose geography encompasses land taken from thousands of aboriginal tribes. Its independence secured and constitution written by wealthy slave owners? Who's land is that you are standing so smugly upon while you expound the morality of your position?

Unless you'd welcome an invasion by China and Russia to keep wheat prices down, I'd say you agree with me when the gun is pointed in the other direction.
.


I disagree. The Chinese and Russians point guns and nuclear warheads at us everyday. The Chinese and Russians regularly make outrageous demands behind closed doors that suggest they will bring about nuclear Armageddon if we don't give in. The Chinese are also fond of threatening to crash the dollar. I beleive we should maintain our military and diplomatic supremacy to avoid the scenario you describe instead of hoping they will stop trying to bully us.
posted by humanfont at 8:39 PM on February 8, 2012


There are a lot of things we could do, but what's more important is to demonize two left-leaning nations while we plan, and probably execute, the third invasion of a sovereign nation in the middle east in a decade. How's that for principled morality?

China and Russia a "Left Leaning"!?
We could tie their support to adjust our position on the occupied territories in Palestine
It's the Arab League, who are typically the most concerned about Palestine, that are pushing the measure to do something about Syria.
We didn't put another dictator in power in Iraq. We could have just quickly installed an American puppet and left; we didn't. Of course, we didn't do very well at the occupation -- that's incompetence rather than malice.
Yeah we installed an Iranian puppet. AWESOME.
when Russia can simply invade Georgia and the rest of the world does little more than say "please don't do that".
Georgia actually started it. If you want to get all conspiracy theory, this was during the middle of the 2008 campaign, and McCain needed a game changer if he was going to have any chance of winning. Then, when Obama goes on vacation to Hawaii Georgia sends troops into an area that Russia had been administering. And here's the thing: One of McCain's chief advisors had been Saakashvili's chief lobbyists in D.C
And capitalism is fundamentally a more moral system than communism, one which over time empowers the middle class and thus tends towards greater democracy and human rights. We destroyed the idea of communism as a viable system by bringing down its standard bearer.
You're out of your mind.
Why, yes, we did. “The U.S. government had been planning to topple the Egyptian president for the past three years _ that is, according to diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks,” RT reported Saturday.
RT is a pro-putin cronies. The U.S has always been supportive of teaching Egyptians about democracy and so on, but that hardly means we were secretly trying to overthrow him and certainly doesn't mean we planned to take him down. We didn't publicly support the revolution until it was clearly successful.
Bless you. This might be a pointless argument, but at least I got a laugh out of it. Do you dress up as Batman on your nights off?
He sounds more like Rorschach.
Seriously, what is the point of the hyperbole?
Look upthread.
I've read the thread, you're not making any sense.
So let me get this straight. You're ok with us having killed innocent German children in WWII. They didn't start the war, or prosecute it. Yet we killed them with our bombs anyway.

To quote you, "[Y]ou appear to have no qualms about death and destruction, as long as the killers share your ideological beliefs. If that is the case, what is the difference between you and Stalin?"

You are willing to kill innocent children to further your ideological beliefs.

Why don't you just admit that and we can have an honest discussion -- putting aside the self-righteous nonsense about loving death and destruction -- and talk about when killing innocents is morally justified?
Uh huh, killing the nazis was OK so obviously killing anyone must also be OK. That's just LOGIC!
You seem to think that the price of heating oil and gasoline isn't a humanitarian issue.
It's... not? Gasoline is far more expensive in western Europe, and yet many people consider it a nicer place to live for the non-rich in the U.S. And furthermore, those wars don't actually seem to lower gas prices anyway. It would have probably been cheaper to issue gas vouchers to poor people then to invade Iraq.
So it is better to let some corrupt dictator tax us with high oil prices whIle subjugating his own people? What if the alternative is a billion people starve to death?
Are you seriously arguing that it's morally correct to invade oil-rich countries in order to lower gas prices?

This thread is chock full of crazytown. We should be moving away from fossil fuels anyway and even if invading these countries was profitable that still doesn't mean we should do it, rather then ameliorating the energy costs of the poor. You're essentially arguing that we should go to war and kill people, including civilians to save money that we would have to spend on energy assistance for poor people instead.

That's obviously morally depraved.

And even putting all that aside, it would be much cheaper to simply invest in energy infrastructure (solar, nuclear, wind) and provide people with free electricity to heat their homes and charge their cars. In fact, those wars didn't even do anything to lower those prices.
posted by delmoi at 10:13 PM on February 8, 2012


So it is better to let some corrupt dictator tax us with high oil prices whIle subjugating his own people? What if the alternative is a billion people starve to death?

Believing you have the right to procure other people's resources with state violence sounds a hell of a lot like totalitarian communism. When a nation asks a price for their resources and you don't want to pay it, you don't get those resources. That's not mysterious or evil; you can't say someone is taxing you by not selling you something. That's how markets operate.

There are, in fact, billions of people at risk of starvation already across large swaths of Africa and Southeast Asia. Are you prepared to spend some of our national wealth to do something about it, or are we just making shit up for the sake of making shit up again?

Our land? You mean the United States of America the nation whose geography encompasses land taken from thousands of aboriginal tribes. Its independence secured and constitution written by wealthy slave owners? Who's land is that you are standing so smugly upon while you expound the morality of your position?

I'm for giving Leonard Peltier another trial and giving genuine national sovereignty to the tribes, and finally giving them the funds they need to rebuild their society. It's the least we can do. If you haven't been to a native gathering, you'll be amazed at how patriotic they are considering what we've done to them. I'd much rather repair the damage we have done than use that money to blow up indigenous people in the Americas and in the Kurdish areas of Turkey, but what do I know.

I disagree. The Chinese and Russians point guns and nuclear warheads at us everyday. The Chinese and Russians regularly make outrageous demands behind closed doors that suggest they will bring about nuclear Armageddon if we don't give in. The Chinese are also fond of threatening to crash the dollar. I beleive we should maintain our military and diplomatic supremacy to avoid the scenario you describe instead of hoping they will stop trying to bully us.

The world is bad enough without having to invent this kind of nonsense. Is Alex Jones e-mailing you the details of these meetings? Where can I read them? Who said what, and when, to whom?
posted by deanklear at 10:44 PM on February 8, 2012


"That means, if how we spend our money represents our value system, humanitarian crises are roughly twenty five times less important than securing oil resources and directing middle eastern politics."

There are a lot of things wrong with your conjecture here. First off, I don't necessarily think that how we spend our money perfectly represents our value system. It does to some extent, but that's a little too close to the consumer capitalism morality for me, and it admits a whole raft of absurd conclusions if not properly framed, e.g. that it's more important to you that Chinese children die than go without a computer. Second off, modern US military intervention includes a fair amount of humanitarian relief work, rather by necessity because we have shifted in large part to counter-insurgency fighting, and counter-insurgency fighting includes stuff like having the National Guardsmen do the same dam building and well digging that they do in the US. But if you wanted to look at total foreign aid in humanitarian versus military spheres, I don't doubt that there's a huge disparity and that military aid comes out overwhelmingly ahead — I just think that it's worth being cautious when trying to draw conclusions there. Third, and I think this is really important and something that you're ignoring, is that you are confusing the argument that it's reasonable to be suspicious of US foreign policy and intervention goals with the argument that we shouldn't intervene. If there's too much intervention focused on US interests — which it's also worth noting do not inherently have to conflict with other global interests — relative to the amount that is more globally altruistic, it's reasonable to argue for more intervention on the whole in order to decrease that ratio.
posted by klangklangston at 11:37 PM on February 8, 2012


You don't seem to realize that the billions who would starve would be those same poor Africans who already go hungry. We arn't the only people who use oil. Iraq is just an artifact of the British empire. The Shiites and Kurds who live atop most of the oil rich lands never got to benefit from their oil. Saddam had no more a claim to it than we did and all we did was remove Saddam.

The world is bad enough without having to invent this kind of nonsense. Is Alex Jones e-mailing you the details of these meetings? Where can I read them? Who said what, and when, to whom?

A few examples of the posture of the Russians and Chinese.

China threatens to trigger US dollar crash

Chinese General Threatens Use of A-Bombs if U.S. Intrudes

Russian Bombers intercepted in UK airspace.
posted by humanfont at 5:19 AM on February 9, 2012


Deanklear, you seem to be incapable of reading comprehension. You're just listing bad acts again.

I'm not sure how many times I can say it, but bad acts alone don't prove anything. As I've shown, painfully, over and over and over in this thread regarding WWII. You can't just list bad acts and think that proves anything.

It depends on the reasons they were done and the alternatives to them. But I doubt think I'm going to persuade you away from your frothing anti-Americanism. No doubt in your fantasy world, without American intervention, there would have been no Nicaraguan civil war and no one would have died (neglecting the fact that the Sandinistas themselves were a dictatorship with plenty of human rights abuses all their own, who only allowed elections in 1990 due to Contra pressure); Iran and Iraq would have shaken hands and held happy mutual happiness parties -- rather than their being a war anyway topped by the possibility of an insane theocracy gaining complete hegemony in the middle east; and money given to corrupt African governments goes right into the mouths of starving children. Oh, also, in the absence of American power we just have a happy, peaceful balance of power where no one hurts anyone and everyone gets along peacefully.

Amazing.
posted by shivohum at 7:35 AM on February 9, 2012


You don't seem to realize that the billions who would starve would be those same poor Africans who already go hungry. We arn't the only people who use oil. Iraq is just an artifact of the British empire. The Shiites and Kurds who live atop most of the oil rich lands never got to benefit from their oil. Saddam had no more a claim to it than we did and all we did was remove Saddam.

If you're concerned about oil prices, we should start using less as the highest per capita consumer of the world by far. We have 6% of the population and we use 25% of the world's oil. If you want to start killing people because you're too lazy to make your transportation infrastructure more efficient, that's not any sort of moral high ground. Again, it's sounds a lot like the totalitarian communism you're so deathly afraid of.

We didn't take oil away from Saddam. We took it away from the Iraqi people, after we took it away from the Iranian people.

China threatens to trigger US dollar crash

And why are they doing that? According to their official propaganda, which is also the opinion of some independent financial analysts:
In its recent unremitting efforts to escalate the pressure on China to appreciate the yuan, Washington hopes to realize multiple intentions. An appreciating yuan is believed to help boost US exports, push forward its much-needed economic restructuring and help its economy recover faster at a time when domestic demand still remains slack. In addition, as China is the largest holder of US national debt, the rapid appreciation of the Chinese currency would cause many of the nation's dollar-denominated US debts to evaporate and promote the redistribution of wealth between the creditor and debtor.

Over the past half a century, the firmly established Dollar Standard System has proven to be an effective tool in helping the US promote international circulation of its huge debt. Washington has also managed to substantially increase its national wealth by monetizing its national debt or devaluing the dollar.

Statistics show that 48 percent of current international trade and 83.6 percent of international financial transactions are now priced by the dollar. About 61.3 percent of the world's foreign reserves are also dollar-denominated. As the issuer of the world's leading currency, the US is able to reduce its national debt by increasing the dollar's issuance through its devaluation. From 2002-2006 alone, around $3.58 trillion-worth of US debts disappeared in this way.
So, the US doesn't threaten to wage currency wars. We just do it.

Chinese General Threatens Use of A-Bombs if U.S. Intrudes
General Zhu, considered a hawk, stressed that his comments reflected his personal views and not official policy. Beijing has long insisted that it will not initiate the use of nuclear weapons in any conflict.

But in extensive comments to a visiting delegation of correspondents based in Hong Kong, General Zhu said he believed that the Chinese government was under internal pressure to change its "no first use" policy and to make clear that it would employ the most powerful weapons at its disposal to defend its claim over Taiwan.
It always helps to read the entire article, doesn't it? Can I can start quoting hawkish American generals as evidence of official US policy? Every time Obama says "no options are off the table" and all of Capitol Hill gives him a standing ovation, are we both going to pretend like we don't know what he's talking about?

The major difference between the United States and Russia is that while they have threatened to use nuclear weapons, we have used nuclear weapons. While they have threatened invasion over the last thirty years, we have invaded. I'm not sure why you think their rhetoric was more harmful than our very real violence.
posted by deanklear at 7:51 AM on February 9, 2012


We didn't take oil away from Saddam. We took it away from the Iraqi people, after we took it away from the Iranian people.

The Iraqi and Iranian Oil ministries say otherwise. Are you suggesting we just carted it all off with us during our withdrawal?

And why are they[China] doing that [threatening]?

Because they are a nation state and they are pursuing a policy based pursuing their national goals which include securing access to vital economic resources, supremacy in global markets, re-unification of China with Taiwan, securing their hold over their Western provinces such as Tibet and Xinjiang. Nothing we do will change these goals, but we may change their ability to achieve these goals or find a way to allow them to accomplish these things without harming our own interests.

While they have threatened invasion over the last thirty years, we have invaded.

Except for places like Georgia and Chechnya. See also their cutoff of natural gas supplies mid-winter to the Ukrainians just to make them understand who was really in charge.
posted by humanfont at 8:19 AM on February 9, 2012


I'm not sure how many times I can say it, but bad acts alone don't prove anything. As I've shown, painfully, over and over and over in this thread regarding WWII. You can't just list bad acts and think that proves anything.

Stalin's death toll is meaningless? Or is it just ours? I've never heard someone say that actions don't mean anything.

It depends on the reasons they were done and the alternatives to them.

I see... so Stalin or the United States can just claim that the alternatives were worse, as all totalitarian entities do. Shall we just give them the benefit of the doubt, or critically analyze their rhetoric and compare it to the historical record?

But I doubt think I'm going to persuade you away from your frothing anti-Americanism. No doubt in your fantasy world, without American intervention, there would have been no Nicaraguan civil war and no one would have died (neglecting the fact that the Sandinistas themselves were a dictatorship with plenty of human rights abuses all their own, who only allowed elections in 1990 due to Contra pressure)

I've never said America was the sole perpetrator of violence in the world. It's a simple fact that we commit the majority of interventionist violence, which also happens to have very little to do with to human rights. That doesn't make us evil. That just makes us a standard issue empire that happens to have a lot of amazing internal freedoms that are not reflected at all in our foreign policy.

Iran and Iraq would have shaken hands and held happy mutual happiness parties -- rather than their being a war anyway topped by the possibility of an insane theocracy gaining complete hegemony in the middle east

Iran did have a functioning democracy. We intervened, and took that away from them. Then when our dictator was ousted in the revolution, we had a choice: inform Saddam Hussein that war with Iran was a bad idea, or as Brzezinski said of our meeting with Saddam before his invasion, give him the green light by not explicitly giving him the red light. After we chose to not give him the red light and he started to lose the war, we chose to arm him and train his military. We chose to arrange financing to keep his war effort afloat. We chose to take him off the State Sponsors of Terror list to sell him chemical and biological weapons. We chose to sell him helicopters directly so he could quell Kurdish and Shiite resistance. We chose to push the UN to drop language that specifically targeted Saddam for the use of chemical weapons. Those were our choices. Did they have anything to do with improving the humanitarian situation in either country? I submit that they did not.

and money given to corrupt African governments goes right into the mouths of starving children

Oxfam and various UN organizations would be a much better choice. Who's talking about giving more money to African dictators? I'm asking the question: if we are so concerned with freedom and women's rights, why are we staunch allies of Saudi Arabia? Why aren't we spending the tiniest fraction on stopping wars in central Africa that we are on securing oil? If our values aren't represented in how we spend our resources, where are they represented?

Oh, also, in the absence of American power we just have a happy, peaceful balance of power where no one hurts anyone and everyone gets along peacefully.

Amazing.


In the absence of American interventionism, it's of course impossible to know what the world would look like. Since our money is largely spent on propping up murderous dictatorships, invading and killing to maintain access to oil, and engaging in proxy wars with Russia, I think it's fair to say that a lot less people would be dead, and a lot more democracies would exist.
posted by deanklear at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2012


Except for places like Georgia and Chechnya. See also their cutoff of natural gas supplies mid-winter to the Ukrainians just to make them understand who was really in charge.

Yeah, those evil Russians. Threatening to cut off natural resources to achieve their geopoliticals goals, using military violence to assassinate suspected terrorists without trial, and intervening in Georgia. What was the conclusion of the EU investigative body?
Even before the war ended, the question of responsibility for the armed conflict emerged, with the warring parties taking different positions. In response, several international organisations conducted investigations, including a large EU fact finding mission. The majority of experts, monitors and ambassadors agreed that war was started by Georgia shelling Tskhinvali, but Russia responded with disproportionate measures. Tagliavini commission concluded that while Georgia could have responded to separatist attacks, it could not justify full scale attack on Tskhinvali.
And with almost 2,000 casualties in the South Ossetia War, Iraq and Afghanistan certainly pale in comparison.
posted by deanklear at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2012


It's a simple fact that we commit the majority of interventionist violence

Because we're the only with the power to intervene -- and we were the ones expected to do so, certainly during the Cold War era.

which also happens to have very little to do with to human rights.

Again with the assumption that what is for our self-interest cannot also be for human rights. It can be both. We intervened not only because the Sandinistas were anti-democratic themselves and lowered the standard of llving of their people, but because the Nicaraguans were interfering in El Salvador.

Then when our dictator was ousted in the revolution, we had a choice: inform Saddam Hussein that war with Iran was a bad idea, or as Brzezinski said of our meeting with Saddam before his invasion, give him the green light by not explicitly giving him the red light.

Yes, and we supported the war to keep an Iran with hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East -- which would have been disastrous -- in check. Sometimes you have to play the bad guys against each other. Kissinger famously said that he was sorry both Iraq and Iran couldn't have lost that war.

I'm asking the question: if we are so concerned with freedom and women's rights, why are we staunch allies of Saudi Arabia?

Because it's the better of two bad options? Opposing the Saudi Arabian goverment would empower the madly theocratic, incredibly misogynistic, fundamentalist people bubbling up underneath them. There's no good solution at the moment.

I think it's fair to say that a lot less people would be dead, and a lot more democracies would exist.

No. That's where you're wrong. Far less benign powers -- like Russia and China -- would step into the breach and be vastly more aggressive. Power abhors a vacuum. In history, most moments without a ruling power were filled with immense bloodshed and war, not peace and stability.
posted by shivohum at 9:52 AM on February 9, 2012


We intervened not only because the Sandinistas were anti-democratic themselves and lowered the standard of llving of their people, but because the Nicaraguans were interfering in El Salvador.

Interfering with what?
Congress attempted to put constraints on aid to the government of El Salvador and make it contingent on human rights progress. Even as tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered by government and governmentally-allied forces in the early eighties Reagan stated that El Salvador was making "progress." Elliott Abrams, an administration official indicted in the Iran Contra Affair, also denied the existence of human rights violations and massacres in El Salvador like the El Mozote massacre. When congress tried to renew the human-rights stipulation to aid for El Salvador Reagan vetoed the bill.

This pattern of funding right-wing military and paramilitary groups would continue in Guatemala. In 1999 a report on the Guatemalan Civil War from the UN-sponsored Commission for Historical Clarification stated that “the American training of the officer corps in counter-insurgency techniques” was a “key factor” in the “genocide…Entire Mayan villages were attacked and burned and their inhabitants were slaughtered in an effort to deny the guerillas protection.” According to the commission, between 1981 and 1983 the Guatemalan government—financed and trained by the US—destroyed four hundred Mayan villages and butchered 200,000 peasants.
Your argument boils down to believing that if no one else was going to sponsor right wing militancy throughout the world and kill hundreds of thousands of people (and climb into the millions after our invasions in Southeast Asia and the Middle East) then Russia and China — each with militaries that are dwarfed tenfold by our own — would be committing that evil instead, so we might as well do the butchering.

This position could be somewhat defended among the incomparable ignorance and violence that pervaded US government foreign policy from 50s through the 80s, but now that position is devoid of meaning. It's completely obliterated by the historical record, and to try and pull the old trick of fear mongering communism isn't one supported even by the old hawks from the Nixon and Reagan Administration.

Why do you think Kissinger has sealed his records until after his death? Even he is embarrassed by our actions in those days, and that's saying something.
Transcripts of telephone conversations reveal that by December 1970 Nixon's dissatisfaction with the success of the bombings prompted him to order that they be stepped up. "They have got to go in there and I mean really go in," he told Kissinger. "I want them to hit everything. I want them to use the big planes, the small planes, everything they can that will help out there, and let's start giving them a little shock."

Kissinger responded by relaying the following order to the Air Force: "A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves."
posted by deanklear at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2012


"Again with the assumption that what is for our self-interest cannot also be for human rights. It can be both. We intervened not only because the Sandinistas were anti-democratic themselves and lowered the standard of llving of their people, but because the Nicaraguans were interfering in El Salvador."

Hey now, that's really some bullshit. The Sandinistas overthrough the Somoza regime, which was one of the flat-out worst in the Americas. The revolution started in earnest after the 1972 earthquake that basically gutted the country, with Somoza stealing emergency relief funds and doing fuck all for the country (except brutally repressing dissent). Carter actually supported the Sandinistas with development funds, and things were going pretty well for a poor, redeveloping country. Then Reagan took office, and saw development aid from Cuba and the Soviet Union as a threat to US interests, so he authorized Contra death squads and the mining of harbors. El Salvador's revolution was encouraged — but not in any real way materially supported — by the Sandinistas, and calling it "interfering" takes some chutzpah next to the US's interference there. The International Court of Justice found that the US's interference was illegal under international law, so the US ignored that ruling.

Seriously, your soundbite on this sounds like you got your news from Ollie North (and it's farcical to think that Reagan didn't know exactly what was going on with the Iran-Contra affair).
posted by klangklangston at 11:50 AM on February 9, 2012


Photo Essay: Syria Under Siege
posted by homunculus at 2:17 PM on February 9, 2012


Your argument boils down to believing that if no one else was going to sponsor right wing militancy throughout the world and kill hundreds of thousands of people (and climb into the millions after our invasions in Southeast Asia and the Middle East) then Russia and China — each with militaries that are dwarfed tenfold by our own — would be committing that evil instead, so we might as well do the butchering.

Uh, you can SEE from the historical record exactly what communist influence did for Russia and China. They killed tens of millions of their own people! They were incredibly aggressive and destructive, and produced unbelievable human suffering even within their borders. North Korea is THE most repressed society in the entire world, which is saying quite a lot. Vietnam is, decades later, still dirt poor and miserable. Spreading communism would have hurt hundreds of millions more people and endangered the security of the world.

So yes, we had a right -- an obligation -- to stop that.

You are smoking something strange if you don't think incredibly destructive wars would have happened in Nicaragua, Vietnam, and all the rest without the US. The difference might have been that lots of people would have died and THEN they would have gone over to the Soviet sphere of influence, causing even more damage in the long-run to their own people and to the security of the world.

Why do you think Kissinger has sealed his records until after his death? Even he is embarrassed by our actions in those days, and that's saying something.

I think a much simpler explanation is that he knew his quotes would be taken out of context and used for propaganda.
--
The Sandinistas overthrough the Somoza regime, which was one of the flat-out worst in the Americas.

Yes, the Somozas were bad. Yet the Sandinistas were worse. The standard of living promptly dropped like a rock after the Sandinistas took over. Malnutrition was rife and the whole thing was an economic and humanitarian disaster, much more so than under Somoza.

El Salvador's revolution was encouraged — but not in any real way materially supported — by the Sandinistas, and calling it "interfering" takes some chutzpah next to the US's interference there.
They shipped huge quantities of weapons across the borders to the rebels. For several years they--in league with Cuba and the USSR--were the chief source of arms for FMLN rebels. I'd call that very material assistance. The founder of the Sandinistas was a KGB agent, and they were working with the Soviet bloc to subvert Central America.
posted by shivohum at 2:20 PM on February 9, 2012


They killed tens of millions of their own people!

Earlier...

Our land? You mean the United States of America the nation whose geography encompasses land taken from thousands of aboriginal tribes. Its independence secured and constitution written by wealthy slave owners? Who's land is that you are standing so smugly upon while you expound the morality of your position?

Keep chasing your tail around. Very few democracies have arrived without a bloody revolution, and our ancestors not only killed millions (mostly through disease), displaced millions, enslaved millions, we also murdered our own people to keep the Union together. If there had been a million strong native uprising during the 1930s, do you expect we would have sought a diplomatic solution, or carried on slaughtering the native population like we had for hundreds of years? How do you think we would have handled a massive slave rebellion in the 1840s?

America was better in almost every way in comparison to Stalinist Russia, but if you think purges couldn't happen here, you're just fooling yourself. If disease hadn't wiped out the native cultures in the Americas, we would have. Even as late as 1898 we were butchering heathens in the Philippines because people like you said that was our right; our destiny. We were God's chosen nation. Some God. Some nation.

Some societies are ahead, some behind, but in no way does that give us the right to kill people because we think we know better. Our somewhat accidental success as a nation does not qualify us to be the judge, jury, and executioner of other nations. I would have thought by now you'd understand that a common problem between communist totalitarianism and our foreign policy was reckless hubris backed by massive state violence, but you're either playing stupid, or not playing stupid.
posted by deanklear at 3:25 PM on February 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Yes, the Somozas were bad. Yet the Sandinistas were worse. The standard of living promptly dropped like a rock after the Sandinistas took over. Malnutrition was rife and the whole thing was an economic and humanitarian disaster, much more so than under Somoza."

Citation needed. Nicaraguan GDP and GDP per capita continued to increase after 1980 until 1984, coincidentally the height of Contra activities, including mining the bay.

"The founder of the Sandinistas was a KGB agent, and they were working with the Soviet bloc to subvert Central America."

Mitrokhin's allegations aren't necessarily credible in their entirety, and Mitrokhin is the only source for that allegation.

But frankly, your ideological hard-on for capitalism and overselling of the Red Menace overshadows your legitimate criticisms of Dean Klear's reflexive anti-imperialism. I thought reactionary views like you're taking now died off in the '90s, so it's kind of fun to see one in the wild.
posted by klangklangston at 3:30 PM on February 9, 2012


Some societies are ahead, some behind, but in no way does that give us the right to kill people because we think we know better.

Ahead and behind? Wow, talk about euphemistically whitewashing atrocities. I mean, imagine if Charlie Manson used that logic. "Hey, America used to own slaves and killed Native Americans. Therefore it has no right to stop my creating a cult of serial killers. Hey, some social groups are just a little behind others." Huh?

Someone's great-great-grandparents owned slaves, so therefore we shouldn't stop a volatile, nuclear-armed superpower and its crazy ideology? We should just sit back and let things sort themselves out...and everything's going to be JUST fine. It's bizarre.

Under that system no one has will kill anyone except, hey, the people who are killing their own people, and those people when they invade other countries. That makes sense. And WWII then becomes--according to your logic--unjustified (since who are we to play judge, jury, and executioner on the Germans), a point which you still seem not able to grasp.
--
Citation needed. Nicaraguan GDP and GDP per capita continued to increase after 1980 until 1984, coincidentally the height of Contra activities, including mining the bay.

Probably because it took a while for the Sandinistas to implement their delightful communist reforms.

"How was this economic nightmare played out in the lives of the Nicaraguan people? The economic situation after five years of the Sandinista government was chaotic, with wages fixed below the poverty level and widespread unemployment. ... nearly every basic product was unavailable or in short supply ... The value of exports fell from $646 million the year before the revolution to $218 million in 1986 while imports over the same period rose from $594 million to $830 million ... By 1988 inflation had skyrocketed to 30,000 percent annually..."

Source: The Civil War in Nicaragua

Mitrokhin's allegations aren't necessarily credible in their entirety, and Mitrokhin is the only source for that allegation.

Yes, and he was a KGB archivist who had incredible access to information. His notes were a massive intelligence coup when he defected. He's a highly credible source.

I'd say I thought smug condescension towards capitalism had died of embarrassment in the 90s, but I'd be lying.
posted by shivohum at 4:31 PM on February 9, 2012


Someone's great-great-grandparents owned slaves, so therefore we shouldn't stop a volatile, nuclear-armed superpower and its crazy ideology? We should just sit back and let things sort themselves out...and everything's going to be JUST fine. It's bizarre.

If you're stopping the slaughter of innocent people and the denial of their right to govern themselves by slaughtering innocent people and denying them the right to govern themselves, why call yourself a hero? Even accepting the premise of your argument, the only difference is that more money and more power are gained for US interests.

Ahead and behind? Wow, talk about euphemistically whitewashing atrocities. I mean, imagine if Charlie Manson used that logic. "Hey, America used to own slaves and killed Native Americans. Therefore it has no right to stop my creating a cult of serial killers. Hey, some social groups are just a little behind others." Huh?

This is why I'm not going to try and discuss this with you any further. You're not paying attention. I didn't say horrible immorality excuses later immorality. That is, in fact, your position. The purges of Stalin, for you, prove that whatever evil we commit will be worth it, because for you, any country that has socialist elements will eventually murder millions of people. And that assumption, for you, means that we can murder millions of people as long as the body count doesn't crest the crimes of a dictator who has been dead for over a half century. Or the imaginary position that only the USSR and China have ever threatened to use nuclear weapons or trade wars to punish nations who don't cooperate. That's what all nations do. We aren't any different as far as our foreign policy is concerned.

But instead of confronting that issue, you're talking about Charles Manson. I don't care to talk about Charles Manson.

What I want to discuss is America's foreign policy, and why our stance on Syria is beyond hypocrisy, even if you only look at Syria. After they murdered 20,000 people in 1982 at Hama, we continued to work with the Assad regime so we could rescue 40 American hostages.

But that's not even the beginning.
On August 12, 1957, the Syrian army surrounded the U.S. embassy in Damascus. Claiming to have aborted a CIA plot to overthrow neutralist President Shukri Quwatly and install a pro-Western regime, Syrian chief of counterintelligence Abdul Hamid Sarraj expelled three U.S. diplomats, jailed dozens of officers and moved closer to Moscow. By month’s end, the U.S., along with Turkey and Iraq, was considering an action that could have escalated into a full-scale, Soviet-U.S. confrontation. This abortive CIA coup plot capped nearly a decade of covert U.S. meddling in Syria. As early as 1949, this newly independent Arab republic was an important staging ground for the CIA’s earliest experiments in covert action.

The CIA secretly encouraged a right-wing military coup in 1949. Repeated CIA covert action during the following decade stimulated Arab anti-Americanism, drove the Syrian left closer to the Kremlin, and made overt military involvement more likely.

In late 1945, the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) announced plans to construct the Trans-Arabian Pipe Line (TAPLINE) from Saudi Arabia to the Mediterra- nean. With U.S. help, ARAMCO secured rights-of-way from Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Syrian right-of-way was stalled in parliament.

Violent anti-U.S., anti-Israeli demonstrations in November 1948, forced Prime Minister Mardam to resign. He was succeeded by Khalid al-Azm. During this crisis, CIA operative Stephen Meade, made contact with right-wing Syrian army officers.

Declassified records confirm that beginning in November 1948, Meade met secretly with Syrian Army Chief of Staff Col. Husni Zaim at least six times to discuss the “possibility [of an] army supported dictatorship.” U.S. officials realized that Zaim was a “‘Banana Republic’ dictator type” with a “strong anti-Soviet attitude.”

Meade and Zaim completed plans for the coup in early 1949. On 14 March, Zaim “requested U.S. agents [to] provoke and abet internal disturbances ‘essential for coup d’ etat’ or that U.S. funds be given him [for] this purpose.” Nine days later, Zaim “promised a ‘surprise’ within several days” if Meade could secure U.S. help. As rumors of a military coup grew stronger, Assistant Secretary of State George McGhee arrived in Damascus, ostensibly to discuss resettling Palestinian refugees but possibly to authorize U.S. support for Zaim. Shortly thereafter, students protesting government corruption and mishandling of the war with Israel took to the streets. On 30 March, Zaim staged his coup, arrested Quwatly and suspended the constitution. Meade reported on 15 April that “over 400 Commies [in] all parts of Syria have been arrested.”
On the surface, this could be seen as a good idea. Western powers picked him because he was a secular Ba'athist, was open to negotiating with Israel, and playing ball as far as their desires for control over oil pipelines was concerned. He was certainly one of our softest dictators, but that is the crux of the problem. You cannot force a society to develop faster than they're ready to. So even though he didn't execute anyone, his suppression of opposition and declaration that he was the only candidate for the elections once again denied Syria independence after they were free of the French. Denied their right to elect their own leaders, Syria spiraled into a series of coups backed variously by Western powers and Communist powers which understandably radicalized their politics and their population. Zaim was executed 9 months after he took power.
Almost at once, the frictions that had bedevilled Syria-U.S. relations reappeared. Elections in November produced a victory for Hinnawi’s Populist Party, which announced plans for a Syrian union with Iraq’s Hashe-mite dynasty. On December 19, 1949, Col. Adib Shishakli ousted Hinnawi in Syr- ia’s third coup in nine months. This was the first of what would become seven civilian cabinets in 23 months.

The U.S. again encouraged a military quick-fix, this time with Shishakli cast in Zaim’s strongman role. Shishakli had approached U.S. officials in March 1950 seeking “military aid for army modernization ‘to maintain order.’” U.S. officials real- ized that Shishakli was “one of the strongest anti-Communist forces in the country.” Washington hinted that Syria might soon receive U.S. weapons.

U.S. officials confirmed in early July that “Shishakli had been making friendly overtures.” One of his chief lieutenants asked the U.S. military attaché, “What do you want us to do?” Shishakli had a “cordial 2 hour discussion” with the CIA’s Miles Copeland and others at the U.S. embassy on November 23, 195l. When Ma’aruf Dawalibi, long regarded by U.S. observers as pro-Soviet, announced a week later that he would head Syria’s eighth cabinet in less than two years, Shishakli dissolved parliament and set up a military dictatorship.

U.S. officials were aware of Shishakli’s plans in advance and wel- comed his coup. Chargé d’ affaires Harlan Clark cabled Washington on 30 November that “if U.S. is to profit from new sit[uatio]n, it will be more than ever necessary...to show Shishakli how and when we can help him.” The State Department won Pentagon approval “on political grounds” within days for “early delivery to Syria...of a limited amount of selected military material.”
Western indifference to independence and national will has a long historical record of radicalizing nations around the globe, and they very predictably go with the superpower who will give them more independence.
Anti-Western sentiment had been ever-present in independent Syria, resulting from deep disappointment over perceived British betrayal at Versailles and resentment of French policies under the mandate. It had reached a high pitch after the creation of Israel, considered another example of Western connivance against the Arabs, but was subdued by the pro-Western Shishakli. In 1955 it was vocal again under the stimulation of local politicians and Soviet propaganda. The British-French-Israeli invasion of Sinai in late 1956 gave it additional impetus.

The gradual ascendance to power of left-wing radicals brought close relations with the Soviet Union and other communist countries. Several barter agreements were signed between 1954 and 1956; cultural agreements were concluded, missions were exchanged, and an arms deal was signed in 1956. At the same time, Syria became increasingly isolated from its Arab neighbors.

—Syria Country Study, US Library of Congress, 1987
But the second coup wasn't the end of our meddling in Syrian affairs. From the first link, again:
Operation Straggle, to topple anti-Western leaders in Damascus, differed from the earlier Zaim and Shishakli episodes because the U.S. cooperated with Britain. U.S. Ambassador Moose suggested on 8 January that “thought be given to other methods,” including an “anti-Communist coup” engineered by the SSNP. In March, Allen Dulles and CIA Middle East chief Kermit Roosevelt flew to London, where they worked out the details for the coup with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).
Kermit Roosevelt was also one of the planners of the overthrow of Iran in 1953.
The original CIA-SIS plan appears to have called for Turkey to stage border incidents, British operatives to stir up the desert tribes, and U.S. agents to mobilize SSNP guerrillas, all of which would trigger a pro-Western coup by “indigenous anticommunist elements within Syria” supported, if necessary, by Iraqi troops. Nasser’s seizure of the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956, however, disrupted joint Anglo- U.S. planning for Straggle.
After Straggle was aborted, we moved to coup attempt number three, Operation Wappen.
During an unprecedented New Year’s Day meeting with key legislative leaders, Eisenhower requested congressional authorization to use U.S. troops to counter Soviet subversion in the Middle East. He “cited Syrian developments as evidence of Russian intent.” The House approved, 355 to 61 on January 30, 1957, and the Eisenhower Doctrine went into effect.

In August, Washington apparently gave authorization for Operation Wappen, the code name for the new U.S. covert operation against Syria. Howard Stone, a CIA political action specialist with experience in Iran and Sudan, had been planning a coup with dissidents inside the Syrian army for three months. Meanwhile, Shishakli assured Kermit Roosevelt that he was ready to reassume power in Syria. According to Charles Yost, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Wappen was “a particularly clumsy CIA plot” and was “penetrated by Syrian intelligence.” Patrick Seale in Struggle for Syria agrees: “Half a dozen Syrian officers approached by U.S. officials immediately reported back to the authorities so that the plot was doomed.
Syria, for the third time in 5 years, had to survive proxy power politics between Russia and the United States. The difference being, of course, that Russia threatened, and the United States acted.
The U.S. encouraged Turkey and Iraq to mass troops along their borders with Syria; and “if Syrian aggression should provoke a military reaction,” Washington would “expedite shipments of arms to the Middle East and would replace losses as quickly as possible.” “The Sixth Fleet was ordered again to the eastern end of the Mediterranean,” U.S. jets were sent to a NATO base in Turkey, and U.S. “‘ready’ forces, particularly the Strategic Air Command, were alerted.” For the second time in a year, an abortive CIA operation in Syria nearly triggered a superpower confrontation.

Eisenhower gradually edged away from the provocative scheme but the Turks refused to demobilize the 50,000 troops they had massed along the Syrian frontier.

As 10,000 U.S. marines waded ashore at Beirut on July 15 [1958], Eisenhower pondered U.S. problems in the Arab world. “The trouble is we have a campaign of hatred against us, not by the governments but by the people.”
I'll spare you the rest of their history, but by the time the Assad regime arrived, coups and murder and military repression of dissent were part of the reality of Syrian politics, in no small part to the unrelenting interference in Syrian affairs by the United States. And as I said before, even after the massacre at Hama, our position was not based on how the Syrian Regime treated Syrians, but how they treated us. Unless you respond with some hard evidence that the United States has ever acted in Syria for purely humanitarian purposes, I'm not going to respond. Our history in Syria speaks for itself, and while it doesn't mean we can't assist with peaceful means of conflict resolution in Syria, we are certainly the last country that should be picking their next government, or decrying Russian and Chinese interference in Syrian affairs.
posted by deanklear at 12:36 PM on February 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Video Shows Syrian Anti-Aircraft Tank Firing Randomly Into Peoples' Homes
The above video, uploaded on Saturday to YouTube, appears to show a Syrian army anti-aircraft tank firing wildly into an urban neighborhood in the city of Douma, just outside of Damascus. As the tank swivels and aims, apparently at random, two posters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are visible on either side of the turret.

posted by Joe in Australia at 7:15 PM on February 11, 2012


Arab League proposes peacekeeping force, support for Syrian rebels
[The Arab League] warned, "The use of violence against Syrian civilians with this extreme cruelty, including the targeting of women and children, lies under the jurisdiction of the international criminal law and requires the punishment of its perpetrators."

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a network of opposition activists, praised the Arab League for "making the decision to improve its performance in its national and humanitarian duty to the Syrian people."

"We therefore appeal to brotherly and friendly nations, international organizations and non-governmental organizations around the world to expedite development and relief programs to help Syrians in overcoming the daily oppression and injustice under which they live," the LCC said. "We also call on all Syrian political and activist entities to coordinate their efforts under a consolidated framework to ensure that relief supplies and other assistance are delivered immediately to those who need them."
posted by deanklear at 9:22 PM on February 12, 2012


Foreign media renting Tel Aviv rooftops for war with Iran

Here's a Google Translate link to the Hebrew media report.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:08 PM on February 12, 2012


Syria 'emboldened by UN inaction': The failure of the UN security council to take action has emboldened Syria to make an "all out assault" on opponents, the UN's human rights chief says.
posted by homunculus at 2:35 PM on February 13, 2012


Here's a possible explanation for the UN's behavior:
There have been only ten emergency sessions of the [UN General] Assembly in its history.

Five have been directed at Israel alone, and the most recent – the “tenth” emergency session – began in April 1997. The “tenth” session has been “reconvened” fifteen times – that is, kept as a private weapon in the political arsenal of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. An 11th emergency special session of the General Assembly on Syria would require ending the tenth session on Israel.

posted by Joe in Australia at 2:45 PM on February 13, 2012


Inside Syria: Fearful residents prepare for a bloody battle
posted by homunculus at 2:28 PM on February 14, 2012


The Tyrant’s Wife: As Syria’s first lady stands by her murderous husband, an Iranian activist remembers the Asma al-Assad she met on bike rides for peace
posted by homunculus at 7:25 PM on February 14, 2012


Tens of thousands of people were killed in Russia's wars in Chechnya out of a population only of roughly a million.

Since it was claimed that Russia has recently not done much invading to speak of, after which Chechnya was brought up and ignored, I suppose that deserves a reminder.
posted by Anything at 8:12 PM on February 14, 2012


From Homunculus' link about Asma al-Assad:
You are not the same woman who once spoke to me about the plight of children in Palestine and elsewhere[....] how can you stand by a man who gives the orders to execute entire families in their homes? How can you sing lullabies to your daughter and son when so many Syrian mothers, especially in Homs, now have no one to sing to?
As dictatorships fall the beautiful, brave, independent, wives and daughters we thought we knew are revealed as the bloody-mouthed whores they always were; their gentle-eyed philosopher sons and brothers spray spittle while denouncing the traitors who are bringing down the regime. Their publicity agents fed us a careful diet of Vogue articles and humanitarian press releases so that we wouldn't have to wonder who these people are and how they control the wealth of nations. Well, they're showing us how they do it and we can't turn away. Until the next news cycle.

Next up! Queen Rania of Jordan "advocates for global education and for world leaders to fulfill their commitments towards the second Millennium Development Goal, Universal Primary Education!"
"She was ranked as the third most beautiful woman in the world by Harpers and Queen magazine in 2005!"
Truly we are graced to have such an ethereal creature among us, so different from Asma al-Assad and Aisha al-Gaddafi. We now realise that their commitment to humanitarianism was a sham, but Queen Rania's is real and will go on and on, just like her beauty!
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:04 PM on February 14, 2012


Syria's slide towards civil war
"We killed them," he told me.

"You killed your prisoners?"

"Yes, of course. They were executed later. That is the policy for Shabiha."

posted by Joe in Australia at 2:46 PM on February 15, 2012


Anthony Shadid, a New York Times Reporter, Dies in Syria

Shadid won a Pulitzer in 2010 for In the City of Cement
posted by homunculus at 8:15 PM on February 16, 2012


The UN General Assembly has voted in favour of a resolution condemning human rights violations in Syria and calling for an end to the violence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:22 PM on February 16, 2012


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