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September 25, 2002
9:34 AM   Subscribe

In the new LRB, a pretty good attempt to answer the pressing question - why do the Bush people want to attack Iraq so much?
posted by Mocata (20 comments total)

 
While I'm certain there are some deeper reasons for the Bush Administrations insistence on attacking Iraq (revenge, oil, etc.), the monomaniacal drive to do something they want to do is not out of character for these guys. Look at tax cuts. They wanted tax cuts, they said we could afford tax cuts because the economy was strong, the stock market tanked and then they said we needed tax cuts to stimulate the economy, they gave us tax cuts and now they refuse to even entertain the notion of repealing them. You can call it integrity or muleheadedness; either way, the truth is that these guys tend to zero-in on one issue with a laser-like focus and pursue it with a frightening (to me) intensity, regardless of what it is.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 10:00 AM on September 25, 2002


This is a great article. Why aren't there more clear and thoughtful analyses of US politics in US publications? (or, if there are, where are they?)
posted by originalname37 at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2002


The good news is that having turned to this link, I discovered that in Octorber, Prof Ed Said will once again publish an article in which he will berate both Israel and the PLO. Again. and Again.
posted by Postroad at 10:33 AM on September 25, 2002


" What we see now is the tragedy of a great country, with noble impulses, successful institutions, magnificent historical achievements and immense energies, which has become a menace to itself and to mankind."

Yipe.
posted by adameft at 10:46 AM on September 25, 2002


Why do the Bush people want to attack Iraq so much?

Here's one person's hypothesis (via NPR):

What else should reasonable people make of these facts? In June, a floppy disk found near the White House turned out to contain a presentation used by Karl Rove on White House strategy for the midterm elections. Focus on war was a key point in a talk that centered on the White House's desire to, quote, "maintain a positive issue environment." Around this time, Rove was criticized for telling a Republican group that the war and terror themes could play to the GOP's advantage in the November elections. Not long after, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was asked why the administration waited until after Labor Day to try to sell the American people on military action against Iraq. Card replied, `From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.'

Two months ago, the headlines were dominated by President Bush's past business practices, corporate scandals and the sagging economy and stock market. A little Iraq-invasion talk, and presto, they're all gone, creating the `positive issue environment' Rove wanted.

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:53 AM on September 25, 2002


I thought there were a lot of interesting points raised, and a generally articulate argument mounted. What is perhaps most useful to me is the way that argument assumes, as an utter given, that its readers should have little or no sympathy for Israel and that the Jewish presence in politics is a matter of dubious alien influences. I am ever more convinced that this is the essential gap between US and European politics: Jews are a negligible minority in Europe with little or no broad based integration into the relevant elites, whereas in the US, Jews are completely integrated into business, academia, and government, and everyone of consequence, of any political persuasion, who is not Jewish himself, has been constantly associated with Jews as neighbors, colleagues, customers, or business partners, since they began their advancced education, if not earlier.

That said, onto my largest qualm with the substance of the article: the Bush-Oil argument.

If we are to assume that Bush and Cheney are biased towards US oil interests, why in the world would they seek to stabliize the oil supply in the mideast? Oil prices are always the same globally, meaning that any issues with supply which cause oil prices to spike will vastly increase the profits of US oil companies. Any medium or long-term problems with US oil imports from the Middle East will remove political impediments to expanding offshore oil drilling and other exploitation of Western Hemisphere petroleum reserves (yet more to the bottom line of the US oil industry).

If, on the other hand, it is not a question of bias towards the US oil industry, but, rather, a concern to assure continued US access to a vital natural resource at (presumably) a free and open market price, why is this objectionable, and how does it differ, even slightly, with the position of moderates and moderate-liberals who have had their turn in government for the past 30 years?

I suppose the vast layer of taxes imposed in Europe upon gasoline by the time it is priced per liter at the pump has the effect of reducing the impact upon consumers of fluctuations in prices of the crude oil feedstocks, but at the base level, this level of natural resources concern in the administration is typical, rather than exceptional, of all Western governments, in the US as well as in Europe.
posted by MattD at 11:16 AM on September 25, 2002


This is only one side of the argument, but there is no doubt a lot of truth in it. The political and moral/ethical forces driving some in the United States towards war are very interesting to say the least.

One thing that strikes me in reading this article, however, is that if you believe that the US is indeed acting out nationalistic behavior that has the potential to be a great danger to the entire world, and you know that US military might is essentially unchallengeable, what is the appropriate response? Obviously one answer is to fly planes into buildings and kill innocent people. The other, far more palatable answer is to attempt to have an honest and open debate and convince the American people that the tactics by some in the administration are ruinous and morally/ethically challenging. There are presumably others but I certainly don't know what they are.

To those who subscribe whole-heartedly to this author's point of view, I ask: what are the peaceful, effective avenues that exist to refute what you see as reckless, dangerous nationalism?
posted by cell divide at 11:23 AM on September 25, 2002


There was another excellent article in the New York Review of Books which was reprinted in th Guardian here in the UK.
It dealt in much the same material and reached very similar conclusions. The regular, daily press seems much more interested in protecting their access to those in high places and also their advertising revenues. As an American living in the UK, I have to say my patriotism has been sliding down hill for quite a long time now. What adds to the mess is that, unmentioned in this article is the religious faction of the Republican right that that is also owed a large debt by the Bush administration. They are strong supporters of the Israeli right and it also suits them if the Bushies can stomp down hard on the Muslims. The war that the Republicans are fighting has more than one front. All I can see is a slide not only toward fascism -- i.e. the putting together of government and industrial interests, but also toward a kind of fundamentalist theocracy. But maybe I'm just feeling depressed.
posted by donfactor at 11:28 AM on September 25, 2002


The author lost me when he extrapolated from Iraq to the dismantling of Saudi Arabia and China. And labeled the Christian Right as rather simply racist.

"The modern incarnation of this spirit can indeed be seen above all as a reaction to the double defeat of the Right in the Vietnam War" ... what could he mean by this? Were Kennedy and Johnson right-wing?
posted by Isamu Noguchi at 12:32 PM on September 25, 2002


fold_and_mutilate, if you don't quit makin' sense right now, we'll blow our cover of hating each other.

cell divide - civil disobedience leads to authoritarian violation of the Constitution, leads to public sway, leads to Impeachment Proceedings for the current administration. Problem solved, peacefully and internally.

Notice, none of that involves attacking a country that we have kept the leader of successfully contained for over ten years. Up the world diplomatic pressure for Saddam's removal from credibility and power, maintain the no-fly zones, Saddam will go away as the anti-christ figure just like Quackdaffy. No appeasement, just containment as dictated by the world, not one man coercing one nation.

And by the way, I agree that the Christian Right (its the affiliation that sucks them in) is rather simply racist.
posted by Wulfgar! at 1:24 PM on September 25, 2002


If we are to assume that Bush and Cheney are biased towards US oil interests, why in the world would they seek to stabliize the oil supply in the mideast? Oil prices are always the same globally, meaning that any issues with supply which cause oil prices to spike will vastly increase the profits of US oil companies.

This is true in the short term. However, shocks can eventually have an effect on demand. Look at the shift toward more fuel-efficient cars in the late 70s/early 80s. Also, research into alternative fuel sources (not so much Russia, as mentioned in the article, but fuel cells, solar, etc.) would become more economical.
posted by originalname37 at 2:39 PM on September 25, 2002


posted by Isamu Noguchi at 12:32 PM PST on September 25

[off topic] Isamu Noguchi? I haven't thought about you for 20 years or so. You were one of my heroes back then. But I thought you died in 1988.
posted by LeLiLo at 3:03 PM on September 25, 2002


I'm moderately disappointed in the MeFi intelligentsia - here we have the most succinct, incisive and radical critique of US intentions in the Foreign policy field since - i dunno when - and 12 comments?

Jeez, do the rest of you know what's (gonna be ) happening out there soon?
posted by dash_slot- at 3:24 PM on September 25, 2002


Great article. Although I always get a little suspicious when authors trot out their favorite conspiracy theories, it was illuminating and possibly reflects the thinking of a few right-wing think-tankers. But I think the main drive behind this war, and most others, is simpler. National prestige, short-term election tactics and plain old revenge are much simpler and in my book more probable causes.

The political and mythical forces driving some in the United States towards war are very interesting to say the least.

Yes, you're right about that, celldivide. Oops sorry, I misread. You really wrote:

The political and moral/ethical forces driving some in the United States towards war [...]

:)
posted by Triplanetary at 3:46 PM on September 25, 2002


"I Want YOU To Invade Iraq"
posted by homunculus at 3:47 PM on September 25, 2002


here we have the most succinct, incisive and radical critique of US intentions in the Foreign policy field since - i dunno when - and 12 comments?

Perhaps that's why there's only 12 comments. If you want 86 comments, post this.

For what it's worth, I read half, printed out the rest, and will take it for my bus ride home. Haven't finished it yet = no comment from me.
posted by Shadowkeeper at 4:34 PM on September 25, 2002


How do we measure benefits of a war? Apart from the people who believe that going to war is bad in any case and find ways to avoid it at any cost, is initiated war justifiable if it can potentially save many lives and has a chance of getting rid of one of the most ruthless dictatorships on Earth? This article goes to many lengths trying to blame Jews/Israelis for this coming war, but seems to ignore the other aspect of it - the fact that millions of Iraquis are waiting and hoping for the US to overthrow Saddam's regime - something quite impossible to achieve economically.
posted by bokononito at 6:03 PM on September 25, 2002


Definitely the best republican foreign policy analysis I have read in a very long time. Although the author slips into the "unfounded radical claims" territory several times, overall a highly compelling presentation.
posted by azazello at 6:48 PM on September 25, 2002


"the fact that millions of Iraquis are waiting and hoping for the US to overthrow Saddam's regime"

Source this. I've heard it both ways now. Kurds want him out, but they're not in Hussein's control. The rest of the country either privately despise him or respect him for standing up to the US.
posted by raaka at 10:30 PM on September 25, 2002


If we are to assume that Bush and Cheney are biased towards US oil interests, why in the world would they seek to stabliize the oil supply in the mideast?

Can't answer that question, but there is another way in which Administration buddies--the same ones who designed Cheney's much-ballyhooed energy policy-- stand to profit hugely from this. An article on the sources of corporate scandal in last week's New Yorker (sorry, too late to link) pointed out that as soon as any major foreign oil source [e.g. Iraq] is threatened, two things happen: (a) the value of U.S. oil goes up, and (b) the value of all oil stocks shoots up--making instant millionaires of those who bought 'em cheap when oil was in plentiful supply.

So a lot of people stand to get very rich from the mere invasion (and consequent disruption) of Iraq, regardless of how well it goes from a military point of view.
posted by Raya at 11:19 PM on September 25, 2002


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