What's up with this Iraq stuff?
November 27, 2001 11:53 PM   Subscribe

What's up with this Iraq stuff? No more formal way of putting it, sorry. Can anyone say what the hell is going on here, exactly, when bin Laden hasn't even be found and the Taliban is still putting up a fight? Is Bush, in saying Saddam will "find out" how the U.S. will respond to its refusal to allow inspections (again), just throwing a small bone to the hard right? Is the national press on too much of an adrenaline rush, or bored with Afganistan already? Or are the Dr. Strangelove wannabes talked about here really taking over?
posted by raysmj (81 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
i feared this. BBC Washington correspondent agrees. unfortunately the Reverend Blair recently went around the middle east promising that there wouldn't be any attacks on other muslim nations....

oh dear. perhaps he will drop his world statesman act ( he's been referred to as 'a high ranking US representative) and do the job he was elected to do, one he has failed in so far.

time to get back to your day job.
posted by quarsan at 12:26 AM on November 28, 2001


what is it you "feared"?

that the US might go after other tyrannical sponsors of terrorism?
posted by nobody_knose at 12:38 AM on November 28, 2001


no, i feared Blair was getting above himself and going round making promises he had no authority to make, with obvious repercussions.

try reading the post and the link.
posted by quarsan at 12:53 AM on November 28, 2001


I'm a Guardian linking fool tonight: but here's the Guardian's story on the above from a couple days ago.

Note the author's belief Blair would be opposed to the Iraqi quotient.
posted by crasspastor at 1:04 AM on November 28, 2001


crasspastor, that link's not right, but i'm a guardian reading fool too.....
posted by quarsan at 1:42 AM on November 28, 2001


As someone who is a strong supporter of the current War Against Terrorism, this whole Saddam bull-ca-ca seems like Bush's attempt to clean up his daddy's mess.
posted by owillis at 2:13 AM on November 28, 2001


well that's why he got the job. i would prefer the war against terrorism to be led by a democratically elected leader btw
posted by quarsan at 2:15 AM on November 28, 2001


Bush really must placate that hard right wackos like Sen. Lieberman. It's not like Gore had a different stance on the issue before this all went down.
posted by revbrian at 3:26 AM on November 28, 2001


no, i feared Blair was getting above himself and going round making promises he had no authority to make, with obvious repercussions.

I still don't know what he was thinking. Did he really imagine he was being listened to by the US? What a fool. Didn't he realise he wasn't talking to his pal Clinton anymore? How many billions has Gordon Brown now committed to the war?
posted by Summer at 3:47 AM on November 28, 2001


When so many people in the US don't care enough to vote, this is what you get. Operation Just Claws.

Watch out for the big, bad Wolf(owitz).
posted by mmarcos at 4:24 AM on November 28, 2001


Ahoy! The link to the Guardian I mucked up.

Thanks quarsan.
posted by crasspastor at 4:49 AM on November 28, 2001


The only thing extreme/wacky about attacking and invading and taking over Iraq would be NOT to do it. And soon. Wake up.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:50 AM on November 28, 2001


OK, folks, this is going to be long.

There is a strong belief now in certain third world nations that the US is a paper tiger. The idea is that the US has a huge military but no will to use it, because it can't stand blooding. It waves its weapons in the air and makes threatening noises but won't actually fight. So the belief goes.

This derives primarily from the experiences in Beirut and Somalia, where the US deployed forces, took a few casualties, and then lost nerve and sailed away. It's not helped by the fact that for years while combat raged in what used to be Yugoslavia the various western nations refused to commit militarily, and responded to the situation with "calls" for ceasefires, and ineffectual declarations of "safe zones" which were ultimately attacked militarily by hostile locals but not defended by the western powers.

The Gulf War was, of course, a counter example, but that hasn't shaken this opinion. So a lot of the tin-pot despots there have come think that they really can ignore the US and do things which are counter to US interests.

The earlier responses to various al Qaeda attacks didn't help this. After the first WTC attack, all the US did was respond with police actions. Some of the plotters were found and a few of them were put in jail, but the main response with respect to al Qaeda was years of futile attempts to deal diplomatically with the Taliban, which the Taliban ignored. (They talked, but didn't really negotiate in good faith.) The attacks on the embassies in Africa gained a one-shot attack by cruise missiles on certain selected locations in Afghanistan which really didn't make any difference. The US had no heart for a real war -- or so it seemed.

So one of the political purposes of the war in Afghanistan is to change that perception. We are making an example of al Qaeda and the Taliban. The Taliban themselves, not just al Qaeda but the government which hid and protected them, is going to fall and be ground into dust. American ground forces will be committed to it (and that just happened yesterday) to prove that we don't only fight using proxies. (That's critically important; it is vital to demonstrate that the US is willing to commit its own ground forces for direct conflict, in quantity.)

And the reason? Hopefully to avoid having to fight anywhere else. For years we've been telling Saddam to sit down and shut up, and he hasn't believed that we'd do anything about it. But now, Saddam and certain other nations will get told, "We're out of patience; we're pissed off, and we're no longer going to sit around and let you screw us over without response. From now on if any terrorist group attacks the US or its interests then the government of the nation from which they operated will not merely suffer a few unimportant commercial sanctions but will be militarily toppled and destroyed. This means YOU."

That's the point. There's not going to be any more "plausible deniability" or respect for their sovereignty. The announcements by Bush and Powell are the first part of a major diplomatic offensive to inform the Baath party in Iraq that it has exactly two choices: major and permanent reform, or destruction by US (note: not "coalition" or "alliance" or "NATO", but US) military might.

And that second is also critical: part of where that reputation for reticence came from was the US being held back by its allies in the name of "coalition building" and "multilateralism" and so on. That was the problem in Yugoslavia; it wasn't until the US issued ultimatums to the Europeans that we actually bombed there -- and in a couple of months ultimately cleaned up a mess which had been festering for ten years. (And even then, it was primarily the US which did the dirty work.)

Multilateralism is now viewed darkly in Washington. Ten years of attempts to coordinate foreign policy with Europe is seen as a failure, and Washington has decided to go it alone. The Europeans are welcome to come along, but they won't be permitted this time to stop us.

For example, in Yugoslavia the US for years argued for an attack and the Europeans said "We think we should try diplomacy instead". The US said "OK; let's give it a try" -- and the result was years of slaughter as the Serbians ignored that diplomacy.

So now in Afghanistan, the Europeans again said "We don't think there should be an attack; we think that diplomacy should be tried." And the US answer was, in essence, "Do whatever you want, but we are going to fight a war now and finish this off. You're welcome to join us if you really want to, but we're going to take care of this whether you join us or not."

And much to the embarassment of the Europeans, again war did the trick where years of diplomacy failed. (And after the war was clearly succeeding and was going to be won, the major European powers suddenly decided to make token commitments of their own troops.)

Now it's maybe going to happen again in Iraq. Ten years of diplomacy there and economic sanctions and "no fly zones" have not made any difference. The US is tired of European foreign policy and has tossed multilateralism into the trashbin, and is going it alone. Just as with Afghanistan, the problem in Iraq is now going to be taken care of, either by a coalition or by the US -- but it's going to be taken care of.

Part of the concern being expressed in Europe about this is direct concern about the policy being followed by the US (because as usual they want to follow more peaceful approaches), but part of it is a meta-concern that the US doesn't seem to be toeing the line any more and is following its own path. (And you see that in the liberal press, too, such as the Village Voice.)

And the hope in Washington is that the example being made of the Taliban will lend muscle to US diplomatic moves elsewhere so that we won't have to fight in those places. But if that doesn't work, then we will fight there -- and we'll fight alone if the Europeans won't help.

That is the explanation of what is going on. Maybe you agree with the rationale or think it is folly, but that's what our (American and European) leaders are thinking.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:16 AM on November 28, 2001


Paris: Why's that? What to wake up about? Please be specific, rather than cryptic. Is that so hard? And you might explain why you think an invasion could be justified (and justified to the nation, as well as to most of the world), and wise, even as Afganistan is hardly stable and bin Laden is still at large, and a world coalition is hardly stable, etc. Otherwise, that was a Paris P. brain fart, posing as commentary.
posted by raysmj at 6:26 AM on November 28, 2001


Before we ventured into Afghanistan, Bush told the world quite emphatically that our target was terrorism and the nations that harbor/support terrorists. Iraq is the next natural progression of that anti-terrorism effort, says former CIA Director James Woolsey. Colin Powell says, essentially, 'stay tuned.'
posted by verdezza at 6:32 AM on November 28, 2001


Paris: Why's that? What to wake up about? Please be specific, rather than cryptic.

Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. It is on the verge of having nuclear weapons. This is too obvious to need more elaboration.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:36 AM on November 28, 2001


Steven Den Beste - thank you for your cogent summary analysis. It was probably the most spin-free explanation I have seen. I commend you.
posted by yesster at 6:42 AM on November 28, 2001


...and, to piggyback onto ParisParamus' explanation: Saddam Hussein has demonstrated that he has no qualms about using said weapons of mass destruction; he has already used them on his own people to keep them in submission.

He has the means, he has the motive; we want to deny him the opportunity.
posted by verdezza at 6:45 AM on November 28, 2001


Steven: What do you mean by "Washington." As if there's unified opinion as to how to deal with Iraq there, or on multilateralism/unilaterlism? Please, already. No specifics are given, and I could find several articles which contradict the statement.
posted by raysmj at 6:47 AM on November 28, 2001


Verdezza: The article posted was about going headfirst into Iraq *now*, which Powell opposed, as to later. Read it, already. Also, if Saddam has weapons of massive destruction, what's to stop him from using them if the U.S. attacks? Wouldn't that be partially why charging in right now, while business is left unfinished elsewhere, would be foolish in the extreme?
posted by raysmj at 6:50 AM on November 28, 2001


The problem I have with all of this Iraq talk is that the situation in Afghanistan is still far from being resolved. Does anyone really want to see the U.S. engaged in two simultaneous wars in the Arab world? I have trouble believing the American people are ready for that, and so far the Bush administration has tried to make the argument that the "war on terrorism" is going to be a long fight pursued judiciously, not World War III.
posted by rcade at 6:55 AM on November 28, 2001


rcade, I'm with you. Troops Face Serious Threat, Rumsfeld Says; Mounting Disorder in Afghanistan A Concern; Marine Patrols Begin.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:17 AM on November 28, 2001


Multilateralism is now viewed darkly in Washington. Ten years of attempts to coordinate foreign policy with Europe is seen as a failure, and Washington has decided to go it alone.

Raysmj: What do you mean by "Washington"?

Washington == The Senate, the House, the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon.

Yes, there are dissenting voices, but they will not prevail. The consensus is that multilateralism is a feel-good way to lose.

What I was describing is the current foreign policy of the United States. It isn't important whether it is supported unanimously. Our policy is decided by consensus, not by unanimity.

I don't doubt that there are articles which contradict this, God knows. But what I described is what the United States is actually doing and the reason why it is doing it. (Journalists don't make foreign policy; they just bitch about it.)

RCade, we're not going to engage in two simultaneous wars. We won't commit militarily to Iraq (if we ever do) until after the situation in Afghanistan is stabilized. But now, as the Taliban are being crushed, is the very best time to deliver that most chilling of messages to Saddam: You're next.

"The clock is ticking. We're not ready to come after you just yet, and you still have a chance to prevent it, but time is running out and we are definitely going to be coming after you sooner rather than later, and this time there will be no half measures. See what is happening in Kandahar? That's what will happen in Baghdad unless you straighten up and fly right. Remember how we fought you in Kuwait and beat you but left you in power? That ain't gonna happen this time; we're not going to stop until you personally are dead or captured. You still have a chance to prevent it, but time is running out."

Remember, the goal for the US is to not have to fight again. We'd like to settle all the other trouble spots diplomatically -- but this time the diplomacy won't be friendly. It's going to be backed by really serious threats. It's not "Let's just get along" diplomacy, it's "Do what we say or we're going to pound you into the ground" diplomacy. Now is the perfect time to begin that diplomatic effort against Iraq, while we are actually in the process of pounding another government into the ground.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:31 AM on November 28, 2001


raysmj: Do you see us charging into Iraq *now*? No, because we haven't, of course, the panicky shrieking of the Village Voice notwithstanding.

If we do venture into Iraq, though, it's highly likely that we will do so before being "finished" in Afghanistan first, because our involvement in Afghanistan is going to endure for quite some time (i.e., politically, providing with humanitarian aid, assisting with rebuilding, etc). Maintaining the support of the fragile (but thus far quite firm) coalition we've assembled will become trickier and trickier as we widen our scope of operations; that said, however, the U.S. I live in is fully capable of carrying out successful missions in multiple theaters.

Also, raysmj, the MetaFilter community I enjoy being a part of doesn't condone the petty, sniping, trollish, attack-mode behavior you're engaging in with contributors to this thread (e.g., "Is that so hard?" "...brain fart, posing as commentary;" "Please, already;" "Read it, already;" et al). If I choose not to respond to any subsequent questions or comments you may have, rest assured it's not because I necessarily agree with what you have to say, but because I've determined that bothering to do so would be "foolish in the extreme."
posted by verdezza at 7:33 AM on November 28, 2001


verdezza: How is a post respected when it isn't even read, or comments are made in a snarky, glib sort of manner? Maybe I was wrong to make the "brain fart" comment, but why did Paris even bother? Why did you bother, if you didn't see what angle was taken in the story? (Nothing against Iraqi action down the line, but action now.) And what's the matter with being concerned about charging into Iraq, which some in the administration *clearly* want? Any replies will be answered via e-mail, by the way.

Meantime, Steven, the article posted about Lieberman's article says no other Democrats support his position, or at least are not known to.
posted by raysmj at 7:45 AM on November 28, 2001


"That is the explanation of what is going on" I thought this was about the mind-shaft gap."There is a strong belief now in certain third world nations that the US is a paper tiger. The idea is that the US has a huge military but no will to use it, because it can't stand blooding" your stacking the deck with nonsense right off the bat, why would i continue to read that?
posted by clavdivs at 7:53 AM on November 28, 2001


verdezza: hate to call the numbers, but in your seven weeks registered here, you've done far more sniping than raysmj in ten months. Having a hissyfit says more about you than him.

And Steven, the British government has said quite plainly that it won't support an extension of the theatre to Iraq without new, prima facie evidence of complicity in the Sept. 11th attacks. The US might have the military oomph for Baby Bush to avenge his father in the Gulf, but it's likely to be left fighting alone. And the last time it fought in such isolation was in a small pocket of SE Asia, where military superiority didn't count much. That's a good thing too, especially given the pompous bellicosity on display at the moment. And yes, as clavdivs says, the only people who believe the US is a paper tiger are the generals and the hawks in DC who want a chance to swing their prosthetic military penises.
posted by holgate at 7:56 AM on November 28, 2001


Clavdivs: Please do me the favor of not reading it.

Holgate: The whole point now is that America no longer cares whether Europe supports it. And that includes the UK.

Blair's support until now was most welcome. But if it goes away, it won't really change our policy. We have a purpose, and we don't require affirmation from allies to believe that purpose.

(By the way, notice that before November 9th, the spector of Viet Nam was also being applied to Afghanistan by critics of the war. Notice that no-one is saying that anymore.)

"That's a good thing, too." Are you saying that you hope that the US is defeated?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:06 AM on November 28, 2001


How is a post respected when it isn't even read...?

raysmj: That's twice now that you've presumed, absolutely incorrectly, that I didn't read the article. Talk about snarky and glib.

Why did you bother, if you didn't see what angle was taken in the story?

Have you bothered to read my initial contributions to this thread, which were links to 1) a speech, 2) an editorial, and 3) an interview that, collectively, offer reasoned counterpoints to the view taken in the Village Voice article you linked to, as well as to the questions you stated at the outset? If so, why are you suggesting I'm being anything other than fully engaged here?

I chose to let those links speak for me. But since you seem to be disregarding them as an appropriate or efficacious response to your initial questions, I'll have a go at them myself:

Can anyone say what the hell is going on here, exactly, when bin Laden hasn't even be found and the Taliban is still putting up a fight?

In asking that the way you do, it seems pretty apparent you're swallowing whole this argument in the Village Voice article:

Our policy guys are thinking Iraq. Our question is, do we make a move earlier than anyone expects?" To some, this goes well beyond madness: With Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda still at large and no obvious ties between Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein or Palestinian groups like Hamas or Hezbollah, taking the fight to Baghdad, Syria, or Lebanon makes little military or diplomatic sense.

I could not disagree with this position more strongly. What "goes well beyond madness" for "some" (Mr. Vest, CarolAnne, you, etc.) is genius or, at least, prudent to others (Steven Den Beste, ParisParamus, me, etc.). I don't want to put words in these other members' mouths, but I'm pretty sure they'd concur that we have a fundamental disgreement with the premise upon which this article was based, and that's what is at the root of our debate here.

Is Bush, in saying Saddam will "find out" how the U.S. will respond to its refusal to allow inspections (again), just throwing a small bone to the hard right?

No; I reject your notion that any expansion of our anti-terrorism effort would be done purely for reasons of political expediency.

Is the national press on too much of an adrenaline rush, or bored with Afganistan already?

Aren't they always? What's new? The unfortunate part is when they couple their combined ADD with a rash rush to judgment, which is exactly how I would characterize what Jason Vest has done in this Village Voice article.

Or are the Dr. Strangelove wannabes talked about here really taking over?

I assume you're only half-serious in asking that question. Allow me to give you a half-serious response: No. But don't stop looking over your shoulder for the black helicopters. ;)
posted by verdezza at 8:45 AM on November 28, 2001


The whole point now is that America no longer cares whether Europe supports it. And that includes the UK.

Well, isn't that nice? And Americans wonder why their country is regarded as an arrogant behemoth?

We have a purpose, and we don't require affirmation from allies to believe that purpose.

That's a pretty royal "we" you're applying there. "We" as in "we armchair generals, furtively thumbing our encyclopaedias of things that go boom"? It also suggests an attitude towards the conduct of the US on the world stage that hovers between the blasé and the naive.

Are you saying that you hope that the US is defeated?

No, I'm saying that I hope that unilateralist militarism is defeated. If the US chooses to take the path of unilateralist militarism, that's its own problem.
posted by holgate at 8:58 AM on November 28, 2001


The idea that the US was held back by its allies in Yugoslavia, or that the intervention actually solved the problems of the region is so ungrounded and so unsupported by fact that it cannot be answered in a reasonably short response. So I'll just mention a few details:
Kosovo's status is until this day disputed, there are ~150.000 Serb, Roma and other refugees, ethnically cleansed by the KLA, Serbia's infrastructure is still in shambles, the Danube is a heavilly polluted river, Kosovo is now the heroin capital of the world and Albanian Nationalism is running rampant in the Republic of Macedonia and Southern Serbia, threatening to destabilize the whole region.
In Iraq, the US (with the UK as a sidekick) is engaged for a number of years now in unilaterally bombing Iraq, with quite a few civilian casualties and with catastrophic effect on the population, without a UN mandate. The major problem facing an attack on Iraq is that there are very few targets left standing anyway.
I cannot remember a single instance in which the US was really held back by its allies.
An attack against Iraq will be so obviously unrelated to 9/11 that I don't think even Blair could spin it as a "defensive strike".
posted by talos at 9:09 AM on November 28, 2001


hate to call the numbers, but in your seven weeks registered here, you've done far more sniping than raysmj in ten months.

Prove it, holgate. I mean it. Please. Make the case -- publicly, or via e-mail; your choice. My record speaks for itself, and that's not what it says.

Having a hissyfit says more about you than him.

I'd counter that interpreting my comments out of context -- reading them as attacks on others, instead of as challenges to ideas and stated positions (a distinction I've tried with considerable success to uniformly make), or as benignly humorous remarks where they are so -- so as to opine that I'm prone to "hissy fits" suggests you have an axe to grind with me. (And if that is in fact the case, please rest assured the feeling is not mutual.)
posted by verdezza at 9:12 AM on November 28, 2001


An attack against Iraq will be so obviously unrelated to 9/11 that I don't think even Blair could spin it as a "defensive strike".

Do the hawks even need a reason now that they have popular support to do as they like? Missing this would be like missing your chance at that million dollar freethrow at the Bull's game. Congress let the military machine loose and it may now be impossible to assume it will act rationally.
posted by skallas at 9:32 AM on November 28, 2001


The United States should eliminate those who will do it serious harm. It should also make sure that its people are not in the position where we expose ourselves to such harm. I believe this involves both military action, and foreign and domestic policy changes.

While there will quite obviously be a strong reaction around the world regarding any military action against Iraq, it's also true that 99.9% of the world (including, strangely, Islamic Fundamentalists) would like to see Saddam gone. However no one wants the Iraqi people die in large numbers as they presumably will in any full-scale invasion of Iraq.

So how do those who are pushing for action reconcile those two aspects? Just because the US doesn't need world-wide support doesn't mean it doesn't want it. What is the best case any MeFi hawk can make for a large military action there? And I don't mean the case that says "he's bad, and we've got a big army."
posted by cell divide at 9:49 AM on November 28, 2001


I would say a second toss at Iraq would be a very rational move indeed, regardless of public support or armchair generalship. First, since support is high, skallas is right - the government has been presented a public relations opportunity, and it would be foolish (?) for them not to take advantage of it. Second, despite no-fly zones and embargoes, Hussein has been left to his devices for a couple years now, with no UN inspectors or even the most basic political opposition. It'd be naive for us to think that he's been growing vaccines in those factories. Thirdly, he is an overt supporter of terrorism, a specific supporter of Al Qaeda and bin Laden, a clearinghouse on the Libyan model for training and equipping terrorists of all stripes, an avowed enemy of the US, and a cult of personality in the Arab world. Killing him and severing Iraq from the the terrorists it supports would go a long way toward ending capital-T Terrorism. Fourthly, there are three known manufacturers of weaponized anthrax - the US, Russia, and Iraq. IT may very well be that the anthrax that has been mailed to various places in the US came from homegrown buttholes, but they got it from somewhere, and it's a good bet it came from Iraq. Putting them out of the anthrax business permanently benefits a lot of people, and not just in the US, since Hussein, as mentioned before, has little compunction about testing his bioweapons on Iraqi kurds, or whoever else happens to be on his shit list that day. Fifthly, the American military is already up and fighting, so the time-delay between sanction and shots-fired is eliminated. The sword is unsheathed. Lastly, attacking Iraq could easily be justified as part of the overarching War On Terrorism, thus making them a valid target. So, since the US described fairly clearly its aim when military action began (to wit: to wipe out terrorism worldwide), for our European supporters to balk now - when they knew that expanding military activities further after the Afghan mission was compete was a very real possibility - says more about their support and fickleness than it does about American militarism.
posted by UncleFes at 10:01 AM on November 28, 2001


? And Americans wonder why their country is regarded as an arrogant behemoth? Actually, most Americans don't wonder about that -- because they don't care what Europeans think of America. (We're used to European arrogance and contempt. It doesn't affect us any more.)

That's a pretty royal "we" you're applying there. "We" as in "we armchair generals, furtively thumbing our encyclopaedias of things that go boom"? No, "we" as in the more than 80% of American voters who support the war.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:01 AM on November 28, 2001


Line from the aforelinked BBC article:

Those hawks now seem to have found a friend in US President George W Bush. For the first time, at the weekend, he described Saddam Hussein as "evil".

I love how Bush has assumed the role of Head Evildoer Identifier. As if, with the office of the Presidency, you get some magic, Green Lantern-like ring that allows you to peer into the hearts of men.

I'm pretty pretty ambivalent on Iraq. I do think they have some weapons of mass-destruction something-or-other laying around in there, and that, for this reason, they are a legitimate target for a War on Terrorism. And I agree with Steven Den Beste point that "now, as the Taliban are being crushed, is the very best time to deliver that most chilling of messages to Saddam: You're next.". But this war in Afghanistan is viewed by many in the world as a war on Islam and the Arab world, and I think that once the battle moves on to another country these people will think that their worst fears are being realized, that the US is just going to hop from Arab nation to Arab nation until we've cleaned the Middle-East's clock and installed US-backed governments everywhere. This perception must be addressed before we move on, and I wish it were being addressed now, as we issue threats.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:04 AM on November 28, 2001


But this war in Afghanistan is viewed by many in the world as a war on Islam and the Arab world

Is that really true? I know that was the worry from the start, and I know from talking to my Arab friends that they're concerned about the war in general, but not one of them thinks its a war on Islam or Arabs. However most of my friends are Western-Educated and work in the media or business, so it's not necessarily a representitive sample... although it is of the people who make and influence policy.

Actually, that could be what American and Arab hicks have in common, they both think it's a war on Islam!
posted by cell divide at 10:13 AM on November 28, 2001


UncleFes:[Saddam]is an overt supporter of terrorism, a specific supporter of Al Qaeda and bin Laden.
No, Islamists generally hate his guts because he has created a very secular state and has killed his islamic opposition in large (nery large) numbers.
Steven Den Beste: Actually, most Americans don't wonder about that -- because they don't care what Europeans think of America. (We're used to European arrogance and contempt. It doesn't affect us any more.). You mean the US doesn't care what the world thinks of America... and it assumes that whatever the world thinks it is right and the other 6 billion of us are arrogant.
The way you describe it if the US was a person it would be institutionalized...
posted by talos at 10:21 AM on November 28, 2001


(We're used to European arrogance and contempt. It doesn't affect us any more.)

Well, Europe's pretty used to sabre-rattling from bellicose Americans who've long regarded the Big Outside as a place in which to carry out target practice, regime-building and the extension of US jurisdiction, all the while insulated from its effects. Of course, that kind of arrogance and contempt does affect the rest of the world. And as I suggested, your continued insistence on "we" and "Americans" suggests you feel happy to identify your own personal opinions with those of the majority, which proves nothing more than the self-aggrandisement that has characterised your ex cathedra pronouncements over the past couple of months.

As for Saddam, when you have people like Richard Butler stating publically that the place to deal with Iraq is the UN Security Council, it perhaps suggests the extent to which Iraq has been treated as a caged pitbull for the past decade, put on display on regular occasions as a prime example of how our leaders will protect us all from the Evil Evildoers of Evil. Yeah, right. Americans probably have more to fear from John Ashcroft right now.
posted by holgate at 10:37 AM on November 28, 2001


Green Lantern-like ring that allows you to peer into the hearts of men

Green Lantern can't peer into the hearts of men. You're thinking of The Shadow.

If Green Lantern gets cocky and starts unilaterally thinking he can tell who's good and who's bad, he's going to get a serious comeuppance. Probably from Batman in a big crossover.
posted by straight at 10:59 AM on November 28, 2001


Steven: Thanks for your roundup, I found it well put together and quite rational. Some points:

"There's not going to be any more "plausible deniability" or respect for their sovereignty." This is the start of the problems for the US, as they will now have to "eat their own dog food." As I've stated before, one man's terrorist is another man's political party (see the IRA and their actions post 9/11). From now on if the US plans on performing contra action outside of the US, their going to be up shit creek politically.

"part of it is a meta-concern that the US doesn't seem to be toeing the line any more and is following its own path." The current moves by the US are going to lead to one invetibility (and this may be years off, so it's a big call); a political showdown betweeen the US and the "rest of the world" (UN). The US will make a decision for military action in a country that is not condoned by the UN. The UN will have to come to terms with either a) sanctioning the US or b) instating the US as the world's "official" police force and setting up paramaters the US is happy to work within. The current "War on Terrorism" is putting the wheels in motion for (b), and is probably the smartest political move yet by the US in "world conquest". Once the US has the greatest financial strength, and the greatest military power (in every sense of the word), the world is, literally, theirs. 2100AD will be an interesting place to be, politically.

UncleFes: "there are three known manufacturers of weaponized anthrax - the US, Russia, and Iraq". I would dispute this, if it weren't for the "known" part. I would suggest certain parties in China, South Africa, and even perhaps the UK have the ability to manufacture Anthrax. Perhaps not military-grade, but certainly death-capable stuff.

Shadowkeeper: "Iraq. I do think they have some weapons of mass-destruction something-or-other laying around in there, and that, for this reason, they are a legitimate target for a War on Terrorism." Here we have to differentiate between the ownership of such weapons, and the usage of such weapons. American has these weapons. China does. Russia does. The UK does. India does. Pakistan does. By that reasoning, they should ALL be a target. The sad fact is that you can't convict a country for acts they may carry out; you have to wait until they do so before you can enact retribution. Now, I personally believe Iraq had a big hand in 9/11, and I'm sure the US Government has evidence of such, but until they make such evidence freely available, Joe Public shouldn't make up his mind about whether an attack on Iraq is appropriate or not.
posted by Neale at 11:27 AM on November 28, 2001


it's not Iraq that is soon to become a nuclear power-- it's Iran.
posted by gwint at 11:44 AM on November 28, 2001


SDB, I don't see how you can define this issue as U.S. v. The World. And it'd be nice to see some support for your claims about the general populace in the States not caring about what Europe or anyone else thinks. Where are you getting that?

Iraq was part of this situation from Day 1. When the response to 9/11 was initially being formulated, it was seen as a two-phase operation: 1. Stabilize Afghanistan and eliminate the threat from Al Qaeda; and 2. Eliminate the threat from other terrorist operations, most vitally that of Saddam Hussein, who everyone knows is doing everything he can to develop weapons to use against the U.S.

Moreover, some hawks thought it was a mistake to begin Phase 1 without simultaneously pursuing Phase 2 -- mainly because of the horror expressed around the world and the general consensus that the U.S. had some legitimate cause to protect itself. The engagement in Afghanistan would lessen the strength of both those sentiments, the hawks argued, and since the situation in Iraq will only grow more dangerous, the wisest course of action would have been to strike immediately (according to them).

These particular viewpoints do not call for unilateral action. On the contrary, from what I've read, Washington believes it needs widespread support in the rest of the world, to maintain the sanctions on Iraq, and monitor and contain its activities. It is also keenly aware that unilateral military action in Iraq will almost certainly destablize the Middle East and promote far greater anti-U.S. sentiment in the region; what starts as the U.S. v Iraq could quickly become U.S. v. the Muslim world. And the rest of the world would hardly stand idly by while America turned the entire region into an imperial police state.

There's no way Washington would risk any of that. Honestly, Steven, I don't know what you're talking about.
posted by mattpfeff at 11:57 AM on November 28, 2001


Islamists generally hate his guts because he has created a very secular state and has killed his islamic opposition in large (nery large) numbers.

I understand that Hussein was considered a secularist when he came to power (and still is to an extent, as far as I know), but just prior to and since the Gulf War his stock has risen sharply in the more religious Arab world; there's a great article in two-issues back New Yorker (sadly only available in print, you should subscribe though) that points up the high opinion he enjoys in the eyes of much of the middle east. It basically says he supplanted Khaddafi as the caliph-in-waiting, at least as recently as 2-3 years ago.

Americans probably have more to fear from John Ashcroft right now.

Nah. He would probably enjoy being head of an American Gestapo, but we have some fairly good checks and balances on that sort of thing, not the least of which is public opinion and a sharply divided congress. Ashcroft will get his way for a while, but Americans will ALWAYS, over time, trade security for freedom.

I would suggest certain parties in China, South Africa, and even perhaps the UK have the ability to manufacture Anthrax. Perhaps not military-grade, but certainly death-capable stuff.

I'm agree with you that they probably can - in fact, you could probably add Germany, Japan, Israel and India to that list - but they have yet to show any evidence one way or the other than they have, and they certainly haven't given the impression that, if they have, they're willing to export it. Iraq, otoh, has demonstrably weaponized and employed anthrax.
posted by UncleFes at 12:18 PM on November 28, 2001


UncleFes: "but they have yet to show any evidence one way or the other than they have, and they certainly haven't given the impression that, if they have, they're willing to export it. "

"More than a dozen nations have the ability to produce and use anthrax against U.S. forces."

"Egypt, North Korea and Libya are also suspected of experimenting with it."

"the Germans are known to have set up a laboratory in a private house in Chevy Chase, Maryland, where large quantities of anthrax and glanders organisms were grown... The Japanese used BW agents such as anthrax, plague, tularemia, and smallpox to gauge effects and to help them understand how to weaponize such diseases... Most conspicuous among other states often mentioned as possessing an offensive BW program are China, Russia, and Israel."

"the apartheid regime's Chemical and Biological Warfare (CBW) program... provided anthrax and cholera to Rhodesian troops for use against guerrilla rebels in their war to overthrow Rhodesia's white minority rule."
posted by Neale at 1:01 PM on November 28, 2001


The first one could conceivably have been written to justify anthrax vaccination at a time when its use was widely criticized; in the second, add 'em to the list, but there has been little reason in the last half-decade for either to consider employing anthrax, and Egypt is ostensibly our ally; the third is a report of WWII activities, and the incidents reported in the fourth could easily have been naturally occuring - the South Africans were more likely to murder a few key guys than poison a townsworth. Anthrax is a naturally-occuring, if rare, disease. I would venture that more people have died of Ebola in Africa than of Anthrax.

But even so, I concede the point. But afaik it still doesn't necessarily negate the justification (and benefit) for (and of) attacking Iraq/Hussein.
posted by UncleFes at 1:31 PM on November 28, 2001


UncleFes: But unless you can specifically tie something to 9/11 *as of this moment*, you can't so easily justify attacking Iraq now, which is which people like Wolfowitz have wanted to do as far back as October (NY Times did a piece on Oct. 12 - not online, but available for a fee). In other words, not after Afghanistan. Now. And the increasing saber-rattling from the administration suggests that Wolfowitz, etc., are becoming dominant (though I hope and have a smidgen of faith that it won't). You tried to make a case, which is very much appreciated - rather than saying, oh, we have to go in because of the paper tiger thing or Saddam called us wussies or other playground type stuff. You actually presented a case. But if those matters, including weapons of mass destruction, were so urgent before, why didn't we do something more serious about them a year ago? (We had a strategy of status quo going there - a Stragegy of No Strategy.) Why wasn't Saddam being talked about from Day One as a prime suspect, rather than bin Laden? Because the case wasn't clear, maybe, even if you know there's probably a case to be made out there? The case still isn't clear. The U.S. will gain a lot by waiting for a case to made, even if one of Perle's associates think children will sing songs about his super-hawk crowd one day.
posted by raysmj at 1:59 PM on November 28, 2001


And Americans wonder why their country is regarded as an arrogant behemoth? Actually, most Americans don't wonder about that -- because they don't care what Europeans think of America. (We're used to European arrogance and contempt. It doesn't affect us any more.)

Actually, most Americans are sick of passive, amoral, spine-less Europeans who don't even have the resolve to defend themselves; are econo-whores; and more interested in selling stuff to tyranical regimes than eliminating them. Diplomacy, Diplomacy, Diplomacy: FUCK'EM.

Were it not for the United States, do you really think Saudi Arabia or Kuwait would, today not be run by Iraq? Without the US, if OBL took out the Louvre or the seat of government in Berlin, I suspect the Taliban would still be in power.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:23 PM on November 28, 2001


The case still isn't clear.

True. I don't think they have a "case" as such at all, at least not to 9-11. Personally, I doubt that Iraq was more than tertiarily involved in the 9-11 attacks - perhaps in some sort of support aspect, if at all. And none of the attackers themselves (I think) have turned out to be Iraqi. I think that they're simply using high approval ratings, an already mobilized military, and Iraq's past connections with terrorists and propensity for bioweapons production to clean up an old mess, one that of late has increasingly drawn criticism. Barring the humanitarian costs of attacking Iraq, from a national security standpoint it's not a bad idea, and eminently justifiable in light of the administration's declaration toward eliminating all terrorists.

I guess I come from the idea that we're already blooded and we're already fighting - we might as well do what we can now to fix the problem as thoroughly as is possible. Public opinion and world support will flag eventually, and the further we get from 9-11, the less successfull a rallying cry "WTC Forever" will be. From a purely pragmatic standpoint, isn't it the wiser course to take advantage of a positive environment for "problem-solving" now than wait for the inevitable combination of short memories and fresh problems to disallow effective future action? Defanging Iraq now (and whoever comes after) while we have the chance and the momentum, both political and military, seems like it would save us more trouble down the line.
posted by UncleFes at 2:31 PM on November 28, 2001


Actually, most Americans are sick of passive, amoral, spine-less Europeans who don't even have the resolve to defend themselves; are econo-whores; and more interested in selling stuff to tyranical regimes than eliminating them. Diplomacy, Diplomacy, Diplomacy: FUCK'EM.

That's pretty rich, coming from MeFi's biggest cheerleader for the Israeli government, which is the high-class hooker of the "econo-whores" when it comes to US aid. $3 billion a year? That's an awfully professional service, especially as it's the US that gets truly fucked as a result. As for selling stuff: ever remember Iran-Contra? Checked out the political status of Saudi Arabia? Or Pakistan? The US has been propping up and supplying regimes that range from "repressive absolutist monarchy" to "military dictatorship" for decades. Fuck that shit.

Were it not for the United States, do you really think Saudi Arabia or Kuwait would, today not be run by Iraq?

With the US, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are still repressive absolute monarchies, but at least they're "friendly" tyrannies, yeah? Gotta love that oil, and the obviously huge efforts made to get the Saudis and Kuwaitis to show some gratitude for their protection by, y'know, introducing a few civil rights. Or perhaps elections. And let's not talk about them being the cradle of Wahhabism and thus Al Qaeda, no?

::

Barring the humanitarian costs of attacking Iraq, from a national security standpoint it's not a bad idea, and eminently justifiable in light of the administration's declaration toward eliminating all terrorists.

That's an awfully big "barring", Fes, that you pass over a little too quickly. Like Osama and Mullah Omar, Saddam's tucked up safe and warm: in fact, his defence facilities are much better. (After all, the West built most of them.) And while Saddam is an unmitigated bastard, he's been kept deliberately caged over the past decade to spread his malevolence over a confined space, rather like the Taliban after 1996, almost as if he's a necessary caged bogeyman.

From a purely pragmatic standpoint, isn't it the wiser course to take advantage of a positive environment for "problem-solving" now than wait for the inevitable combination of short memories and fresh problems to disallow effective future action?

Not necessarily: to expand the fight against terrorism in the name of expediency -- in essence, for GWB to settle an old score against his daddy -- gives the green light to any number of governments dealing with insurgents. Is the US going to judge who's a "terrorist" in Kashmir, or in Colombia? In Chechnya? In Turkish Kurdistan and Iraqi Kurdistan? In a sense, they've already done so, and not necessarily in a future-proof fashion. By setting that precedent, in the context of a pragmatic war with an absolutist label, you transform anti-terrorist "problem-solving" into the trigger for destablisation.
posted by holgate at 4:36 PM on November 28, 2001


do you really think Saudi Arabia or Kuwait would, today not be run by Iraq?

I would like to know; At what point did "the world" decide that one country taking over another was no longer "acceptable"? For hundreds of decades (or dozens of centuries) conquering and land grabs and expansion into "enemy" territory were all the rage, in every content, with every nation. At what point was it decided that such acts were no longer politically, socially, morally acceptable>

What is emperically wrong with Iraq taking over Kuwait? Or the Hutus and Tutsis and their attempts to take control of a country. Or the US using violence to set up a new government in Afghanistan?

Since when has a population had the right to be self-governing (Timor vs Northern Ireland), self-policing, and protected from invasion (Kuwait vs Tibet).

I'm not about to condone war, but history has generally shown that the only successful expansion of a population into another country's territory has involved the decemation, if not genocide, of the invaded party. Every successful culture has, at one point, performed that action (in the UK, US, Europe, Russia, Asia, Africa, Australia, etc). Any time where the genocide has NOT occured, the uspuring government has invariably fallen or left (India, Afghanistan, South Africa, Hong Kong, Yugoslavia, East Germany, etc)

Now we have placed strictures that say "No, you cannot expand like that." I can't see, with populations growing and resources diminishing, how the "no-expansion/no-invasion" policy can effectively remain intact for ever.
posted by Neale at 5:04 PM on November 28, 2001


“At what point was it decided that [territorial expansions] were no longer politically, socially, morally acceptable?”

Neale, you gotta ask yourself, who is doing the expansion? Or, what kind of expansion is the right kind? Is there a type of expansion a nation-state can execute that doesn’t redraw geo-political borders? Occasionally that latter necessitates violence, the initiators would moralize that its only the good kind of violence.

“I can't see, with populations growing and resources diminishing, how the "no-expansion/no-invasion" policy can effectively remain intact for ever.”

No is expects it to, they just have new ways of justifying it.

See point five, then read the book. London Review of Books did a much longer review.
posted by raaka at 6:36 PM on November 28, 2001


(Book available in PDF format here. And yes, the Deleuzean connection is a doozy.)
posted by holgate at 7:19 PM on November 28, 2001


you can download empire here. :) doug henwood wrote a nice review, too.

i think it's a pretty recent event that physical conquest is no longer as tenable, especially with MAD. anthony giddens pointed this out in an edge interview: "a transition between external risk and manufactured risk, or risk which stems from human creativity, scientific development and technology, and historical development."

but like raaka points out there are other means of control, like economic and cultural (civ III?) which gives rise to "structural violence" as it goes i guess. the result being the multitude get asymmetric on y/our ass.
posted by kliuless at 7:20 PM on November 28, 2001


During the British Mandate, Kuwait was a part of Iraq. And I believe (could be mistaken) the Kuwaiti Oil rulers were hand-picked by the British. Basically once American gained all of its territory, it became wrong for other nations to grab land. As it should be. Just because the past is chequered doesn't mean the future shouldn't be better.
posted by chaz at 8:47 PM on November 28, 2001


Figures I’d pay hard cash for a book that’s available for free.

“there are other means of control, like economic and cultural”

Biopolitical!
posted by raaka at 10:28 PM on November 28, 2001


Steven, I think you're totally wrong. I get the impression that Iraq is 'under control' right now. I'd be surprised if the US tries a similar tactic in Iraq as in Afghanistan, because it would unsettle the region. Iraq is more in the US' pocket now than it would be if there was a huge military action.
posted by skylar at 11:48 PM on November 28, 2001


That's pretty rich, coming from MeFi's biggest cheerleader for the Israeli government, which is the high-class hooker of the "econo-whores" when it comes to US aid. $3 billion a year?

Accepting aid is not econo-whoredome. What is, is doing lap danses for tyranical nations, such as building them nuclear reactors and selling them arms, and treating them as equals with democratic ones. Moreover, the $3 billion which goes to Israel comes back to us and the world, with value added; everything from ICQ to re-forestation techniques, to military advances.

I'd like to see some high-level official in Paris or Italy say: "Syria is run by a thug-in-training"; or "Arafat sleeps with terrorists"; or even "we hope Osama is killed."
posted by ParisParamus at 6:34 AM on November 29, 2001


Another whiff of reactionaries. When the chips are up, anything goes...
posted by mmarcos at 6:45 AM on November 29, 2001


I consider the operative syllable in "consensus" to be "con".
posted by mmarcos at 6:49 AM on November 29, 2001


Accepting aid is not econo-whoredome.

In other news, black is white. How many blowjobs does $81 billion get you these days?
posted by holgate at 7:22 AM on November 29, 2001


> Accepting aid is not econo-whoredome.

In other news, black is white. How many blowjobs does $81 billion get you these days?


Exactly. I hear they're adding a new, mandatory, supplementary course to the training for American citizenship. Prospective citizens are taught to intone: "The world is my bitch." (Native-born Americans know this phrase instinctively.) Those incapable of pronouncing this phrase with sufficient conviction will be denied citizenship and exported.
posted by mattpfeff at 7:40 AM on November 29, 2001


That's an awfully big "barring", Fes, that you pass over a little too quickly.

Agreed. But all war is bad for people, and I wanted to discuss the pragmatic political aspects rather than the humanitarian aspects. I think we're all in agreement that military action of any kind is best avoided if possible.

necessary caged bogeyman.

To what purpose? We don't really need a bogeyman in the Middle East, and even if we did Hussein's no Skeletor. I think Hussein is still in power because the political will and public opinion wasn't sufficient to previously justify finishing him off. Subsequently, the no fly zones and occasional chewing-up of rader stations.

By setting that precedent, in the context of a pragmatic war with an absolutist label, you transform anti-terrorist "problem-solving" into the trigger for destablisation.

Seems the region is rather destabilized now :) I see your point. But however much those who don't like Bush would like to believe that eliminating Hussein is simply fixing daddy's mess, there are legitimate reasons (Hussein's willingness to serve as a focal point for anti-Western activities and support, the likelihood of Iraq's continued production of bioweapons, Iraq's continued oppression of their ethnic minorities, etc), to take out Hussein that have nothing to do with personal political agendae. AND the Afghan campaign has demonstrated that America can conduct a military action swiftly, effectively and with a minimum of civilian casualities AND address humanitarian aspects at the same time - bombs to our enemies, food drops and diplomacy for the civilians and opposition leaders. The middle east is a shitmess, and it may take a great deal more destabilization to build the foundation necessary for long-term stability. Patching over the middle east's historical problems, as we have done in the past, has been shown ineffective. To continue doing so now, when we have the opportunity to really make a difference and know better, would be a colossal mistake.

How many blowjobs does $81 billion get you these days?

Depends on the local economy. In St. Louis, I believe you can get one for $50, $100 if you eschew the shemales. Assuming the latter, that's 810 million blowjobs. For one guy to get one blowjob per day, that's 2.2 million years of blowjobs. But if we assume that the blowjobs are spread out through the American male population of 135 million, that six blowjobs for every man in America.

There's probably a better way to spend tax money, but I can't think of one off the top of my head, can you?
posted by UncleFes at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2001


There's probably a better way to spend tax money, but I can't think of one off the top of my head, can you?

Better than Blowjobs Across America? What about Blowjobs Across Australia, coming in at around 180 blowjobs per man (pop 10m men, and US dollar x2 Oz dollar). That's one a month for the next fifteen years.

Is there a type of expansion a nation-state can execute that doesn’t redraw geo-political borders?

This reminds me of an old Jewish joke:

Two Jewish political leaders are discussing the fate of Israel. Years of war and aggression have worn on the old Zionist souls, and they realise a radical plan is needed if Israel is to survive into the next century.
The first politician, David, comes up with a plan.
"Let's declare war on America!"
Joseph, his colleague, is astounded.
"Why?"
"Well, if we attack the US, they will retaliate, conquer the area, move in with military support and aid money, create permanent base camps, and possibly make Israel a 51st state!"
Joseph thinks about it for a while, then asks:
"But what if we win?"
 
posted by Neale at 10:19 AM on November 29, 2001


That's a pretty royal "we" you're applying there. "We" as in "we armchair generals, furtively thumbing our encyclopaedias of things that go boom"?

Results of a Washington Post/ABC poll of American voters:

91% support the war in Afghanistan.
81% support U.S. military action against other countries that assist or shelter terrorists.
78% support military action against Iraq to force Saddam Hussein from power.
59% support the use of military tribunals.

---That's who "we" are. We are Americans who are tired of diplomacy and economic sanctions which don't work, tired of empty futile gestures.

Note that the question about Iraq did not include any requirement for proof of complicity in the 9/11 attacks. Note also that all the questions were phrased in terms of unilateral American action, not in terms of coalitions or alliances. The vast majority of Americans don't care whether Europeans approve.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 1:39 PM on November 29, 2001


"And God wept. I believe is the next verse."
posted by holgate at 1:50 PM on November 29, 2001


Note also that all the questions were phrased in terms of unilateral American action, not in terms of coalitions or alliances. The vast majority of Americans don't care whether Europeans approve.

That simply doesn't follow. And you have no way of knowing if these questions would have gotten the same response had they been given a context of European opposition -- which is scarcer now than it has been since the end of WWII, it seems, and at least since the end of the Cold War.

It also does not follow that Washington has anything even approaching a similar attitude of disdain for European concerns, or is in any way inclined to act unilaterally.

The simple fact is that a great number of Americans still identify very closely with the lands from which they originated, and, perhaps more vitally, American corporations (which pay Americans' salaries) make billions of dollars a month through foreign trade. We simply can't afford not to care what the rest of the world thinks.
posted by mattpfeff at 2:24 PM on November 29, 2001


There are degrees of caring. One of the reasons why an actual war between cross-trading capitalist nations is unlikely is that it would destroy the conomies of both nations.

If Europe were actually to use heavy non-token economic sanctions against the US, the result would harm them as much as it harms us.

Sure, on some level we've been doing that to each other for decades. Right now the US has a big tariff on French cheese, for reasons which are too complicated to go into. But that's minor.

The chance of European disapproval actually turning into a full-scale trade war is negligible. Aside from that, there really isn't a great deal that the Europeans can do to us.

But there is this: if the US does engage militarily again somewhere else, and if this time the Europeans condemn it, then NATO is history.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 2:57 PM on November 29, 2001


While support for some kind of action against Iraq is high right now, I do think long term Bush will have to have more proof to the American people beyond Saddam Is A Very Bad Man Who Upset My Daddy. Look, I'd like to see Old Big Mustache gone but if Bush can't muster up a coherent justification (doesn't have to be much - "pictures of Saddam and Mohammed Atta on summer vacation") I don't thnk it will go over well as a long term project.

And yes, we're frankly quite tired of finger wagging and hand wringing from Europe.
posted by owillis at 3:12 PM on November 29, 2001


it would destroy the conomies of both nations

This is just taking the backlash against the "e-" prefix too far!

posted by kindall at 3:15 PM on November 29, 2001


then NATO is history.
Oh hope against hope! I am not going to try to imagine that great day, as my heart has been broken too many times.
posted by thirteen at 4:08 PM on November 29, 2001


The US might have the military oomph for Baby Bush to avenge his father in the Gulf

I'm quoting holgate (for whom I have tremendous respect), but this particular straw-man is being used by liberals all over the place. It may make a great rallying cry for those that are already inclined to agree with you, but I'd like to point out how childish it makes you sound to everybody else.

And yes, we're frankly quite tired of finger wagging and hand wringing from Europe.

I'll add my man-on-the-street perspective as well. I think that Steven and Oliver are right: You may think us arrogant, but my sense is that if our government chooses to take action, in Iraq or elsewhere, without European permission, the average American won't even bat an eye. We'd like you to support us, but we don't need your approval.
posted by gd779 at 4:47 PM on November 29, 2001


The chance of European disapproval actually turning into a full-scale trade war is negligible. Aside from that, there really isn't a great deal that the Europeans can do to us.

True. But both sides are constantly making decisions about dealings between companies from each side. A loss of good faith could be costly in countless, relatively small ways that nonetheless add up to mentionable numbers of lost jobs and amounts of tax revenue. And, more to the point, every company with something at stake will pressure Washington to protect their interests.

I'm just saying there is an immense pressure, based on an ongoing situation that both sides have been counting on for decades, not to Mess Things Up. Bush & Co. were happy to act unilaterally so long as it jeapordized relatively little in their eyes (like the environment and human rights). Business is another matter entirely, as they see it.

That said, I've no doubt they'll exert every pressure they can to garner support for a move against Iraq, which is undoubtedly a serious threat. And they may even be willing to move without Europe's full support. But I doubt they'll move against Europe's expressed wishes.
posted by mattpfeff at 4:54 PM on November 29, 2001


Steven, “We are Americans who are tired of diplomacy and economic sanctions which don't work, tired of empty futile gestures.”

The poll you cite only states Americans favor “military action”. It wasn’t a “best option” type question where diplomatic tools were weighed along with war. Given the choice between nothing and revenge, I see why people would choose the military.

That is really a large criticism leveled against Bush recently. People are either for him or against him — there are no options or deviations or room to say “Maybe bombs aren’t the best way to do this.”

Your statement may be right on Americans being tired of diplomacy, but that poll doesn’t back up the statement.

gd, “our government chooses to take action ... the average American won't even bat an eye.”

Why though? Why are Americans so arrogantly complacent to US intervention abroad? This isn’t a question solely in response to September, there’s a long history of it, especially post-WWII.
posted by raaka at 4:56 PM on November 29, 2001


Raaka, you misunderstand. It's not arrogant complacence, it's active frustration. It's twenty years of "measured steps" and "proportional response" which were an abject failure and which led to two major buildings in New York City being destroyed and thousands of people dying.

We gave multilateralism and diplomacy a good try. It doesn't work for the particular enemies we're fighting. We discovered that on September 11, and now we're going to try something else.

The Europeans are trying to say that we should continue to act the way we acted during the 1990's, during which time al Qaeda planned and made five attacks against us with little interference.

Europe is welcome to continue that kind of thing, but America is ready for something more direct, more drastic, and much more conclusive.

The fact that we're willing to go it alone if need be isn't arrogance, it's determination. I don't recall reading the rule that says we have to be filled with self-doubt, or that we can never do anything unless other nations pat us on the head and tell us it's OK. (I sure can't find the section of the US Constitution that says that American Foreign Policy has to be approved by Europe.)

We (the US) can fight and win the war alone if need be. We need neither permission nor assistance. Those things are welcome, but not necessary, and we're no longer going to continue the diplomatic mistakes of the past. Our enemies in this war won't listen to reason, so trying to talk to them is pointless. Now we're going to kill them.

In the mean time, it's not that the US wants to go it alone. But if the price of cooperation is to be prevented from doing what needs to be done, then that price is too high. We didn't start this, but we're going to finish it. Y'all are welcome to come along, but you'll need to lead, follow or get out of the way. The one thing you are not going to do is stop us. (So you better get used to it.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:52 PM on November 29, 2001


Slate published a marvelously subtle, Kennan-esque analysis of the Iraqi situation today. Read it here.
posted by raysmj at 8:13 PM on November 29, 2001


In the aforelinked Slate piece, if you'll permit me to paraphrase, Steve Chapman argues that Saddam is now less inclined toward terrorist aggression because of the decisive action (and the resolve behind it) that he's seen us take against the first terrorist organization (and the country that nurtured it) to attack the U.S., with devastating effect, on American soil.

Agreed. And thank goodness that he is, arguably, feeling somewhat subdued.

Then Chapman opines that, should we decide to widen our war on terror to take on Iraq, Saddam would pose a greater threat to us than he does now.

It's a good argument, and that's what I think much of the disagreement in this thread and elsewhere is about. Are we better off trying to fend off aggression on his part by the threat we already pose to him, similar to the way the threat of our nuclear arsenal (and the USSR's) effectively kept WWIII at bay during the latter half of the 20th century? Or are we better off nipping this potential problem in the bud, and taking out him and his capabilities, with the understanding that in attempting to do so, we may be risking imminent Armageddon (or the closest that Saddam can muster to it)?

The question really applies to the entire "war on terror," not just Iraq, doesn't it? Is our strategy preventive and interventionist in nature, leading us to eliminate, preemptively, the possibility of further terrorist acts before they happen? Or is it, instead, a more purely responsive, distanced approach, wherein we only eliminate terrorists and topple regimes after they act to harm us? (Certainly the current sentiment among the majority of Americans is for the former, no matter how impractical, or impossible, that may be to carry out.)

I think the answer is going to be something of both, and that it will vary by terrorist organization and government.

On Sept. 20, Bush said that our enemy was any terrorist or terrorist group with global reach, as well as any government that harbors or protects them. That would seem to imply organizations that pose a threat to us by their very existence, not merely the ones that deem to act. (And if that is what Bush meant, then, of course, the next question is, is that a good and/or realistic policy?)

Even if you only want to go after those who first act against us, though, couldn't you convincingly argue that Saddam and Iraq have already done exactly that (since 1998), and are continuing to do so, by shunning U.N. weapons inspections teams and building up their WMD* armament in violation of signed agreements? Not that that's the end of the argument, but yes, I think you can.

On the issue of the threat posed to us by Iraq, I come down on the side that says it's less risky for us to move sooner rather than later, before Saddam has had still further opportunity to acquire, develop, and use WMD (especially if we think his WMD capabilities are still scant -- again, an arguable and, frankly, unknowable point). Which doesn't mean I think we should rush in and bomb the hell out of the place. I would hope it would be more of a covert intelligence endeavor with some military support as opposed to the other way around. (Of course, anything's possible, as last year's election suggested, and Sept. 11 proved beyond a doubt.)

*WMD = weapons of mass destruction
posted by verdezza at 2:13 AM on November 30, 2001


Oh, and one other thing: Steven Den Beste, I couldn't say it any better than yesster did yesterday: thank you for your cogent summary analysis. It was probably the most spin-free explanation I have seen. I commend you. (!) Wonderful stuff.
posted by verdezza at 2:19 AM on November 30, 2001


Reality Check:
Two former UN humanitarian coordinators on why a new attack on Iraq would be a bad idea.
posted by talos at 3:09 AM on November 30, 2001


Tony Blankley writes:

In fact, it is beginning to dawn on a few of the more astute European multilateralists that Mr. Bush is not in fact their brother under the skin. The Europeans, after spending the last decade relishing their prideful equivalence and opposition to the American hyper-puissance (hyper-power being even bigger than super-power) have been begging since September 11 to join the "coalition" as equal or almost equal partners with the United States.

First, Mr. Bush told the French that they could send some troops, but no, they could not sit in the strategy sessions and leak operational details to the enemy — as they did in the Kosovo war. Then he told the British that they couldn't send in their 6,000 troops because it would offend the Northern Alliance. In other words, we welcome the help and advice of fellow civilized nations in the battle against terrorism, but we are not going to yield our prerogative to make our own strategic and tactical decisions.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:24 AM on November 30, 2001


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