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Richard Perle in Guardian Shock!
March 21, 2003 2:46 AM   Subscribe

Richard Perle in Guardian Shock! Op-ed piece brought to us from the ever-balanced Guardian, bound to whip up a whirlwind of protest in the paper’s letters page tomorrow. Perhaps you might care to pre-empt Saturday morning’s correspondence.
posted by skellum (64 comments total)

 
Oddly I find myself agreeing with him.

Today anyway, I could believe the mincing of the UN hasn't amounted to much over the years and perhaps it's time to put the idea of post-state sovernty away.

Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow.
posted by Leonard at 3:53 AM on March 21, 2003


For further Guuardian news on Richard Perle (all in today's paper), and perhaps as a guide to his morality you could also see:

Amid general stock market jitters, one British company linked to the American hawk Richard Perle and dealing with secret intelligence is among the few UK commercial organisations that stand to profit from the Iraq war and its accompanying worldwide terrorist alert.

and this leader piece commenting on Perle, a US citizen, suing a US writer, for a piece in a US magazine, in the courts of the UK, why?

"...Our potential claimant is engagingly frank on this score: London is simply the best place in the western world for anyone wanting to take money off publishers. Why risk a fight in America, where the libel laws are reasonably balanced, when you're so much more likely to win in the Strand? "
posted by niceness at 3:53 AM on March 21, 2003


The only way that the UN has failed is that it has been unable to stop unilateral action by its most powerful member. Lets hope that international democracy and law prevails and that France or one of the other main war opponents has the balls to initiate war crime proceedings.
posted by jonvaughan at 3:59 AM on March 21, 2003


What exactly would be the benefit from a war crimes trial?
No way Bush is going to show up and it's not like they can go and get him. It would only make the UN look even more powerless.
posted by Leonard at 4:11 AM on March 21, 2003


(Leonard)

You never know how international opinion will change over the course of the next few months / years. This war may well be looked back on in the future, by Americans as well as everyone else, as a shameful event, and then the finger will be pointed at the individuals responsible.
posted by jonvaughan at 4:24 AM on March 21, 2003


Okay... I'm confused. Who had his throat cut a while back?
posted by twine42 at 4:31 AM on March 21, 2003


Bush would not show up to a war crimes trial because the US doesn't reccognise the international court. However Toady Blair does.

The UN is the only way forward for the world community, IMHO. A UN which doesn't always bend to the will of the US, as it has in the past. Perle atempts to spin the past to illustrate his point, and in doing so shows the weakness of his argument. He seems to have an issue with democratic representation. He repeats the 'humanitarian' argument for the attack on Iraq and even has the gall to mention Afghanistan, humanitarian disaster area that it is.

You have to buy into his US-centric world view to swallow this succotash, which I don't.
posted by asok at 4:32 AM on March 21, 2003


The benefit of a war crimes trial would be to make Bush the international pariah he should be after this horror of a conflict. This chucklehead has damaged, if not outright destroyed, both the UN and NATO in his rush to avenge his daddy and have his war.

His argument? No different from that of a man who, on his way to the courthouse for the trial of the drunk driver who killed his wife, manages to shrug aside police so he can shoot him over and over again in public - to ensure that "justice" is served. It's not like the world thinks Saddam is innocent - he has caused his people untold amounts of harm. But, the UN had a process in place that would allow a measured, controlled response - and Bush just pissed it away. Where's the outrage in our media? Not at Bush - that'd require a spine. Nope, it's at the UN for just not going along with it; the UN caused this, not Bush. Perle is one of the more rabid media dogs, but he's not the only dog in the pack - FOX and MSNBC have rolled over more tactfully, as well. While the world waits in outrage for this war to end, American media screams its excitement that it has something other than Bush's scandalous pillaging of our country's economy to cover.

For the more extreme, he has confirmed what many members have suspected - that the UN and NATO are supposed to be puppets of American policy. When they decided not to go along with the hawks, our country simply decided that international law was irrelevant and took matters into our own hands like some demented Texas version of Charles Bronson. The aftermath will be interesting - after all, there are a lot more countries pissed off at us, and some of them are nuclear-capable.
posted by FormlessOne at 4:44 AM on March 21, 2003


If Bush were held for the war crimes trial the US would just invade the Netherlands.
posted by sebas at 5:09 AM on March 21, 2003


"(The UN's) abject failure gave us only anarchy. The world needs order..."

Mmm... tastes like fascism, but it's kosher!

So, we need order, eh? Whose order?

"A dictatorship would be a lot easier." - G.W. Bush, Governing Magazine, 7/98.

"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." - G.W. Bush, CNN.com, December 18, 2000

"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it." - G.W. Bush, Business Week, July 30, 2001

That joke isn't funny anymore...
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:12 AM on March 21, 2003


Re the Seymour Hersh libel case, you have to wonder how the law will look upon Perle's labelling of Hersh as a terrorist.

It's that kind of knee-jerk inabilty to engage with the issues which brings us to the unprecedented theory and now practice of preventitive war. There's obviously no email address given at the foot of the article but if one was to critically respond to Perle's thesis you know he'd simply spam you back.
posted by skellum at 5:33 AM on March 21, 2003


insomnia_lj - Hey - You've collected one more "If I were a dictator" GW Bush quote than I have! For some reason, this makes me think of the "Cowardly lion" song from "The Wizard of Oz"......

Doesn't Richard Perle's attitude towards the UN - which could be also headlined as "Perle gleefully dances on grave of UN" - amount to saying "International Democracy doesn't work."? And if Perle does not believe that International Democracy can work, why would he think Democracy can work within individual nations........I must assume that Perle simply does not believe in Democracy itself.

I have to conclude that Mr. Perle's disdain for Democracy, together with his ties to a business concern which will profit from this war (Henry Kissinger also sits on the board and Mr. Cheney also has his own suspicious ties), and Perle's rather aggressive efforts to manipulate the course of the war (which are especially strange given that he is not, technically, a US government employee) all suggest that his real political stance is rather close the dictionary definition of fascism:

"Fascism: 1. A philosophy or system of government that advocates or exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with an ideology of bellierent nationalism." - From The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
posted by troutfishing at 5:39 AM on March 21, 2003


As if there was any need for confirmation, the assumed death of 'the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions' gives it to us straight - unilateral preventive military action is the only game in town and will be for fuck knows how long.

But for how long?

How many US bodybags will it take for the White House hi-jackers to be democratically decapitated?

There could well be someone in the Pentagon doing the maths on such an equation.
posted by skellum at 5:47 AM on March 21, 2003


intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions

So they're actually saying it out loud now? Does Chairman Tony know about this?
posted by Summer at 5:50 AM on March 21, 2003


Summer: Here, Perle - through his crude and gratuitious little victory jig over the grave of internationalism - plays the proverbial bull in the china shop on the British political scene.

I wonder if he is intentionally damaging Blair's already weak position? And if so, to what end?
posted by troutfishing at 6:16 AM on March 21, 2003


Here's the deal folks - every nation on earth either joins, or does not join, recognizes, or does not recognize international organizations based upon self interest. And the positions held by nations in arguments within those organizations are held due to self-interest.

You want to claim Perle has an "interest" in the war for business reasons? Fine, let's talk about, oh, maybe France, and TotalFinaElf as an example. It signed a contract in 1997 to develop a huge oil field in southern Iraq. That oil field alone holds an estimated ten billion barrels (for persepctive, that's close to a third of the entire US oil reserves). If sanctions are lifted and Saddam is still in power, it means a fortune to France. Who cares in the Iraqi people are still living under a tyrant. The World Court? Hhmmmm ... a good number of people want Mugabe (talk about a "demented version of Charles Bronson") to be the first indicted for what are pretty clear atrocities. This is the same Mugabe that recently had wine and croissants in Paris with Chirac. What do you suppose the chances are that he ever winds up in that court?

What the articles highlights, in pretty clear terms, is a truth about the United Nations that has been long evident. The fact that it is a place that has members from all over the world means it's fairly well useless when it comes to actually dealing with anything. There were absolute horrors commited in the Soviet states during the cold war. (Imagine living for 25 years under Nicolae Ceausescu). But the Soviets were on the Security Council. No action would ever be approved. The US and UK are going into Iraq to liberate a people, with no intention of destroying the country or culture. We've been condemned by China (another nation with veto power) for doing so. Let's talk about "international law" and Tibet, shall we boys?

The UN "bends to the will of the US?" Hell, it almost never has. The US is expected to pay a good deal of its costs, and bear a large percentage of any military risks when the UN decides it wants peacekeepers somewhere ... but it should just be another nation with one vote when it comes to any actual issues? Every other nation should use the UN to further their own self-interests, but the US should be condemned when it does? Ever other leader (including, most definately, Saddam Hussain) should be free to use the UN when it suits them, and igonre the UN when it doesn't ... except for the US, who must either humbly follow the collective dictates of everyone else's self-interest, or be accused of going against the "will of the world community" (which is always presented as occupying some pure moral high ground)?

Quite a paradox - people seem to be asserting that precisely because the US has the largest economic and military power on earth, it somehow has less right to exert power than any other nation.

No - the UN and NATO are not expected to be "puppets" of American policy. But neither should the US be expected to be a "puppet" of UN and NATO policy.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:22 AM on March 21, 2003


Mr. Perle, who as chairman of the Defense Policy Board has been a leading advocate of the United States' invasion of Iraq, spoke on Wednesday in a conference call sponsored by Goldman Sachs, in which he advised participants on possible investment opportunities arising from the war. The conference's title was "Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now. North Korea Next?"

Richard Perle clearly thinks the world would be better run as a business, and he's doing his best to get his seat on the board of directors. The shamelessness of the arrogance is astounding. What was that about absolute power?
posted by alms at 6:42 AM on March 21, 2003


The world needs order

And what Richard Perle orders, the world gets. I do hope that he goes through with his threat to sue Sy Hersh in London: I'll pay the congestion charge just for the opportunity to drive a bus past the courthouse as he's stepping out onto the road. Consider it a pre-emptive strike, since Perle's likely to want war with the UK in a few years time.

Truly, the man is evil. And speaking of which, I see that MidasMulligatawny has emerged from his three-martini breakfast to enter the fray:

every nation on earth either joins, or does not join, recognizes, or does not recognize international organizations based upon self interest. And the positions held by nations in arguments within those organizations are held due to self-interest.

But that doesn't mean that self-interest alone can allow a nation to defy and destroy those organisations. It's a standard premise of Lockean political theory: one sacrifices the absolute liberties of anarchy in order to guarantee the common protection of personal interests. Meaning that a commonwealth should serve as a highest common factor, not a lowest common denominator.

were absolute horrors commited in the Soviet states during the cold war. (Imagine living for 25 years under Nicolae Ceausescu). But the Soviets were on the Security Council. No action would ever be approved.

No action was ever proposed, actually: at least, not by the Americans, who were busy cultivating their own client states in places like Latin America to offset those of the Warsaw Pact. If you look at the record of vetos, while the USSR tops the 'nyet' pile, most of these took place before 1955. The one state that has got off lightly because of the veto power of a Security Council permanent member is, of course, Israel, and Richard Perle, being a Likudnik lickspittle, forgets about that rather conveniently. (In fact, it's generally accepted that the veto power is the one thing that has allowed the UNSC to remain respected for so long, since it means that the things which get agreed tend also to get acted upon.)

people seem to be asserting that precisely because the US has the largest economic and military power on earth, it somehow has less right to exert power than any other nation.

That's not a paradox at all, unless you've drunk the Ayn bRand Objectivist Orange Kool-Aid. 'With great power comes great responsibility' is a sci-fi cliché, but it's also a political fact. And the Perle-ist agenda of wielding power just because you can is an invitation to anarchy, particularly in a world of asymmetrical conflict, which would suit blustering power junkies like MidasMulligan just fine. There's a reason that the word 'overkill' exists these days.

Basically, Perle's argument (which Midas has lapped up like a cat in a dairy) is that the US should have the freedom to use its power on the world stage according to the same principles that Saddam Hussein wields power in Iraq, and that we just have to trust that George W. Bush will be a benevolent dictator rather than a malign one. No, really, this isn't moral relativism, because Perle's agenda is precisely amoral: Saddam has used his power to further his own interests, and employed all the instruments of power available to him in order to do so. And people seem to be asserting that precisely because the Saddam has the largest economic and military power in Iraq, he somehow has less right to exert power than any other Iraqi.
Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down - and you're just the man to do it - d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
No - the UN and NATO are not expected to be "puppets" of American policy. But neither should the US be expected to be a "puppet" of UN and NATO policy.

See, Midas, you've licked the cold railing of polarised politics, and I can't be bothered helping you extricate yourself. Timothy Garton Ash's argument shows that you're firmly in the Rumsfeldian camp. Which must be nice.
posted by riviera at 6:49 AM on March 21, 2003


Every other nation should use the UN to further their own self-interests, but the US should be condemned when it does?

I can see where you're coming from, but it's hardly surprising that the US is seen differently. The US is the most powerful country in the world, and its 'interests' affect people globally in a way that graft in France or Mali just doesn't. The internationalist objection to the present war is the way the White House has decided to ditch the UN process while operating under the pretext that it's going after Saddam for flouting the authority of the UN.

I wonder if he is intentionally damaging Blair's already weak position?

Well, I'm sure Perle sees Blair as a legalistic pinko like Colin Powell. But I've noticed a lot of (well-meaning liberal) American commentators harping on Blair's political trouble at home. They're being over-optimistic (or pessimistic, depending on your point of view): we're not going to see a credible challenge to Blair now that war has started, and I don't think we'll be seeing the back of him any time soon.
posted by Mocata at 6:50 AM on March 21, 2003


Nitpicking here, but the "chatterbox" isn't on the Hudson. It's on the East River.
posted by dyaseen at 6:51 AM on March 21, 2003


Richard Perle clearly thinks the world would be better run as a business, and he's doing his best to get his seat on the board of directors. The shamelessness of the arrogance is astounding. What was that about absolute power?

I see - so you don't want to talk about France and TotalFinaElf, or China or Russia or Germany, or anyone else that believes the world has been run as a business for a long time, already have seats on the "board", and have been using them with a level of "shameless arrogance" far beyond what any individual American businessman could.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:53 AM on March 21, 2003


Midas:

Once again, you've done a good job of summarizing the situation. Regardless one's personal feelings about Mr. Perle, his general point is correct: The UN is a paralyzed institution and virtually incapable of taking action on its own, and puts dictators on the same moral playing ground as legitimate democracies.

I do believe that the Bush Administration (can we *please* cease with the juvenile attacks against 'the junta', 'commander-in-thief', et al.?) has severely lacked in tact and diplomatic skill in forming the necessary coalition, but their general strategy is a sound one.

I've said it before and I'll repeat it again: Strategy good, tactics bad at the moment. We should not shun the United Nations entirely, there is a legitimate use for this organization in the field of humanitarian assistance, nation-building, health care, and education. However, I think that the United Nations as a "peace keeping" institution of "collective responsibility" is a well intended yet poorly executed concept.

We (everyone) need to recognize that there are many *many* opportunities for the use of legal norms and institutions to deal with rogue individuals and states. However, there will almost always be people who do not recognize legal institutions and will requite a swift kick in the arse to get them in line. It is the fault of the Europeans for believing (naiively) that military power is unnecessary today, just as it is knee-jerk of the Americans to believe that military power can solve every problem.

Balance, friends. Balance.
posted by tgrundke at 6:54 AM on March 21, 2003


Furthermore, those with the "great power = great responsibility" argument (which I share) should read Hedley Bull's THE ANARCHICHAL SOCIETY. I've mentioned it before in these forums, but he does a good job of describing the relationship between states and hegemons and the unwritten 'code' between them to keep the system functioning. Good read.
posted by tgrundke at 6:58 AM on March 21, 2003


But, the UN had a process in place that would allow a measured, controlled response - and Bush just pissed it away.

The UN process that was in place existed for one reason: Bush's military threat. You will recall that Saddam rejected the last dialog re: a return of inspectors. The only reason he capitulated in late 2002 was the imminent threat of US military action.

There was one way to avoid war and it was for the most part lost when 1441 passed with no "teeth." You hear about the "serious consequences" but -- if you actually read the document -- it was simply a reiteration of previous, unenforced threats of serious consequences:

3. Recalls, in that context, that the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;

That was as strong as the UN could muster. Without a clear, credible threat, it was clear to any reasonable observer of the past decade that he would play the same procedural games, with this obvious final result.

Had Saddam faced a clear, credible threat for noncompliance it's possible -- although certainly not guaranteed -- that he might have complied in such a way as to avoid this war. But we'll never know.
posted by probablysteve at 7:05 AM on March 21, 2003


To me, the most frightening line of Perle's piece was the last graf:

The most dangerous of these states are those that also possess weapons of mass destruction. Iraq is one, but there are others. Whatever hope there is that they can be persuaded to withdraw support or sanctuary from terrorists rests on the certainty and effectiveness with which they are confronted.

"Confronted," as in, "There will be more wars like this one, as we deem necessary."

My question is, at what point does this end? When Iraq/North Korea/Iran/Saudi Arabia finally fall to their collective knees? Won't there be more nations, by then, to take their place as "most hostile to U.S. interests?"

And, Jesus Christ, Midas, knock it off with the "shocked, I'm shocked" bit about Mugabe and France. What, the U.S. has never had murderous "friends" before?
posted by kgasmart at 7:17 AM on March 21, 2003


Thank you, probablysteve. Good post.

This reinforces what I, and many others, have stated many times: without the credible threat of overwhelming force, few well-entrenched dictators will volunteer to give up power.

The United Nations, on its own, has absolutely no ability to project its words with physical ability. Rarely has the United Nations been able to effect change in harsh regimes through dialogue.

Again: The United Nations *does* have a large role to play in the international system. However, as a 'peacekeeping' or 'collective security' organization it fails miserably.

We should *not* walk away from institutions such as the United Nations, and this is where I detract from those like Richard Perle. We should instead begin a very strong, concerted effort to fundamentally overhaul the United Nations system, moving it away from security issues and toward more humanitarian issues, which it is better geared toward.
posted by tgrundke at 7:20 AM on March 21, 2003


Kgasmart:

Good point in your last line about hypocisy. This is one of the issues that many "for-uh-ners" point out about the United States. This issue of incredible hypocrisy is one that I *hope* (but am not holding my breath for) we've learned our lesson about. It simply is not worth it to create a faustian bargain with those leaders who are completely morally depraived.

Kgasmart, Midas' point about Mugabe is a very legitimate one, however. I believe what we're seeing from France, Russia, and China is nothing more than good ole' fashioned power politics coming back into play. The French calculation is that there is more to be gained by working with Iraq than against it. America has taken a more principled stance on this issue (hypocrisy aside for the moment, please): He's a dictator, he's ruthless, and he needs to go.

Surely we understand that the United States has participated in the support of some wholly unsavory asshats throughout our history. My hope is that as part of our new National Security Doctrine we openly reject any support or cooperation with such governments and/or leaders.
posted by tgrundke at 7:25 AM on March 21, 2003


Kgasmart:

Yes, you are correct in your assumption that Perle's attitude and message is: Prepare for us to take out others like Saddam. For better or worse, Perle's message is a strongly worded threat to those leaders throughout the world who would like to take Saddam's place.

The National Security Policy here is in effect a "domino policy" with the belief that Iran, Syria, Pakistan, North Korea, etc. Will become far more malleable after they see that The United States means business.

Does this mean we will actually go into each of these countries and overthrow their governments? I sincerely hope not, but the *threat* may be just enough to topple their governments.

Is this the *best* policy? Nobody at all can say for sure. It is entirely possible that our actiosn could precipitate the exact opposite of what we intend. Its' a risk. I think we need to carefully balance our military threats with far better diplomatic, humanitarian, and 'good-will' efforts to keep other nations from developing the idea that we're on an empire-building binge.

This is going to require the United States entering into multilateral institutions that it otherwise would not like to do. It will require massive expenditures of money. It will require massive nation-hopping trips by The President and his senior officials in an effort to build good will.

I do not feel the current Administration has the skill or desire to perform such activities, but they will be extraordinarily necessary in an effort to maintain our position.
posted by tgrundke at 7:31 AM on March 21, 2003


so you don't want to talk about France and TotalFinaElf, or China or Russia or Germany, or anyone else that believes the world has been run as a business

There are two differences here, one related to Richard Perle and the other related to the United States.

It is accepted (albeit unfortunate) that countries set policies based on their national economic self-interest. However, what we're seeing in the Perle case is not national economic self-interest but personal economic self-interest. He is using his position to advocate military action, and he is simultaneously using his position for his personal enrichment. I don't see how this is anything other than a conflict of interest.

As relates to the United States: the difficulty that I have is the degree of power that the US wields, and the Bush administration's tendency to follow their own agenda regardless of what anything else thinks. I don't trust them to rule the world. Fascists may have made the trains run on time in Italy, but that's small comfort to the people who were killed or left to rot in jail in the process.

Democracy and transparency are messy and they slow things down. Bush, Cheney et al can't be bothered with the mess or the time, so refuse to listen to other's opinions and they refuse to tell any who they are talking to or what deals they are cutting. That's not Democracy. And even if the short-term outcome looks ok (I don't know that it will), the long term results will be horrible.
posted by alms at 7:44 AM on March 21, 2003


Does this mean we will actually go into each of these countries and overthrow their governments? I sincerely hope not, but the *threat* may be just enough to topple their governments.

One of the Reagan era pols, Frank Gaffney, was interviewed by the BBC on just this subject, and noted that during the 1980s, the same policy was used against the USSR and Warsaw Pact. To some extent, quite effectively: but, of course, he forgot to mention that the agents of that policy included, without doubt, Mr O. Bin Laden during the 1980s in Afghanistan, and to a slightly lesser extent, Mr Saddam H. in Iraq. Not to mention other 'proxies' who came back to bite the Americans on the backside. The point being that any domino effect usually includes more dominos than you're aware of at the time, particularly when you're playing power politics, and don't see the little dominoes which create the big effects.
posted by riviera at 7:44 AM on March 21, 2003


You want to claim Perle has an "interest" in the war for business reasons? Fine, let's talk about, oh, maybe France, and TotalFinaElf as an example

No, let's not, because it's stupid, irrelevant and infantile.

Unless your point is that two wrongs make a right, is it? What may or may not be motivating some parties in a nonparticipating country has nothing to do with Perle. This is even lamer than those who justify Bush taking a crap on the Constitution because Clinton lied about a blow job. Lamer because at least Clinton was an American President. But to bring up the French in the context of Perle, is weak, lame, and evasive.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:59 AM on March 21, 2003


Riviera:

Good point - and exactly what I've been discussing. It is my desire that the United States foregoes the use of such "proxies" in the future. I will fully admit that many of the "monsters" of the late 20th century (militant islam, latin america, international terrorism) can be directly linked to United States interventions and participation.

My hope is that we avoid this going forward.
posted by tgrundke at 8:41 AM on March 21, 2003


Perle and the rest of his American-supremacist bunch will use any excuse to grind their axe.

The UN arose from the ashes of a war that the League of Nations was unable to avert.

True enough, but one ingredient of the LON's failure was the USA's refusal to participate.

During the cold war the security council was hopelessly paralysed. The Soviet empire was wrestled to the ground, and eastern Europe liberated, not by the UN, but by the mother of all coalitions, Nato.

That's right, Richard, the security council is a bureaucracy, and people spend a lot of time talking, rather than shooting, That's the damn point. Int'l institutions like NATO and the UN both played a part in the cold war, and to imply that the UN was useless on that score is just fortune telling.

I think Perle's right that the UN should've confronted Saddam sooner, but on the other hand it's always funny when a former member of the Reagan administration scolds others for coddling dictators.
posted by Ty Webb at 9:08 AM on March 21, 2003


"what we're seeing in the Perle case is not national economic self-interest but personal economic self-interest. He is using his position to advocate military action, and he is simultaneously using his position for his personal enrichment. I don't see how this is anything other than a conflict of interest." ( Alms)

Alms - The Greeks have a word for this - atê : the intoxicating pride and overweening arrogance that sometimes clouds the minds of the strong. The problem with Perle's style of atê is that he believes he can simultaneously pursue his personal agenda (personal profit), advance the US agenda (as he sees fit), and even pave the way for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal (after all the Palestinian's allies are crushed). I think Perle's special form of atê lies in excessive intellectual pride and his belief in his own ability to maintain objectivity.
posted by troutfishing at 9:31 AM on March 21, 2003


It is entirely possible that our actiosn could precipitate the exact opposite of what we intend.

I think we need to carefully balance our military threats with far better diplomatic, humanitarian, and 'good-will' efforts to keep other nations from developing the idea that we're on an empire-building binge.

tgrundke - If as you've suggested, this policy may lead to the opposite of what's intended, could you explain why you believe the policy is a sound one? I find it extremely difficult, bearing in mind track record, stated political/religious ideology and naive-at-best diplomatic skills shown so far, to see just why you would consider this an any way realistic policy.
posted by niceness at 10:04 AM on March 21, 2003


Again: The United Nations *does* have a large role to play in the international system. However, as a 'peacekeeping' or 'collective security' organization it fails miserably.

We should *not* walk away from institutions such as the United Nations, and this is where I detract from those like Richard Perle. We should instead begin a very strong, concerted effort to fundamentally overhaul the United Nations system, moving it away from security issues and toward more humanitarian issues, which it is better geared toward.


This is one of the more even-handed, realistic comments I've read on MeFi for quite some time. I couldn't agree more. I think Perle makes a solid, if rather overstated point (though for some reason, people seem to want to Google Perle instead of talking about the point).

My problem with the way he states his case is that he uses the term "UN" instead of "UN Security Council". And my problem with the critics of the ideas is that they seem (to me) to be confusing the UN with an elected government. It was never designed to be a government, has no authority to function as one, and has never been successful when it has tried to (as it certainly has more than once).

It is a forum through which member states coordinate activities when they feel it is in their own best interest to do so, and in which they decline to participate when they don't think it is in their best interest. Every nation on the Security Council, and most definately the permanent members, have always - since its earliest days - treated it exactly like that.

It is not a governing body. In this current situation, it was a forum through which everybody attempted to advance their interests. America certainly tried to gain support for what it wanted to do. As did Saddam Hussain, who made absolutely certain the SC would be permanently split on the issue. The US (for it's own self-interest) would have liked more consensus, but France (for the sake of it's own self-interest) made it perfectly clear that it would veto no matter what (and 10 billion barrels of oil, at $20 a barrel, is one massive honkin' interest).

What everyone now is complaining about is that the US decided to ignore the UN and pursue it's own interests. But to even accuse the US of doing so assumes that the UN has some sort of governing authority - and that the US is not recognizing "international law". But no nation - and most certainly not France, Russia, or China - would ever acknowledge that the consensus of the UN superseded their own national sovereignty. There were big arguments about exactly this point during the founding of the UN.

I accepted Clinton as my President, even though I did not vote for him, nor like him. I now accept Bush as my President. What I, as a New Yorker, learned on 9/11 was that when a totalitarian regime somewhere in the desert decides to spout rhetoric about the US being the "Great Satan", and actively calls for the downfall of my country, it is no longer wise to just ignore it, especially when the sophistication of modern terrorists in the use of globalized telecommunications and shipping makes it fully possible to translate those threats into action. I did accept Clinton and Bush, because I could vote them in, or try to get them voted out. I do not believe that Jaques Chirac, for the sake of his nation's oil interests, has any authority over me or my nation.

If what people want is a "one world government" (which some do want), so be it. But the UN is not that government - and virtually no nation would have become a member if the intention was to make it that. It is a club, a forum ... not a state. It is always a failure when it tries to act like a state (which is what the Perle piece pointed out). What Perle missed, however, was that fact that as a club, or a forum, it is immensely useful to it's members in many cases. The WHO, for instance - in everything from it's eradication of Smallpox to it's recent role in coordinating information on the strange new respiritory virus that emerged out of Asia - almost alone justifies the existance of the UN.

It is not arrogant for a sovereign nation to defend itself - most especially when the action liberates a people that want a tyrant gone. It is arrogant, however, for the UN (or its supporters) to believe it has some sort of affirmative legal authority over a member nation.
posted by MidasMulligan at 10:12 AM on March 21, 2003


Not much time so:
Midas - 'a totalitarian regime somewhere in the desert decides to spout rhetoric about the US being the "Great Satan'

As opposed to a regime with totalitarian ambitions spouting rhetoric about a 'moral war' against 'evil'.

'sovereign nation to defend itself'

You believe that the US is defending itself? Or are you reffering to Iraq?

Please can peole give up on the 'liberating the people' excuse for the war? The people of Iraq are being used as pawns in this game, pawns with emotional impact used to cloud the issue of motivation.
posted by asok at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2003


What I, as a New Yorker, learned on 9/11 was that when a totalitarian regime somewhere in the desert decides to spout rhetoric about the US being the "Great Satan", and actively calls for the downfall of my country, it is no longer wise to just ignore it, especially when the sophistication of modern terrorists in the use of globalized telecommunications and shipping makes it fully possible to translate those threats into action.

You're against the war with Iraq, then? Since the ol' "Great Satan" epithet is a trademark of the (Shi'ite) Islamic Republic of Iran, rather than the nominally Sunni but practically secular Iraq, or the Sunni Wahhabist Osama bin Laden.

The fact that you want to bomb the shit out of Generic Middle-Of-Desert Totalitarian Republic, regardless of its culpability in the interruption to your breakfast on September 11th, makes you just as guilty as Richard Perle of being driven by ideology over facts. Perle has no solution to the problem of terrorism, or asymmetrical warfare, particularly in this happy globalised world we now inhabit. He talks the talk of the 1990s, where everything bad comes out of a state entity. That's patent bullshit, and you're swallowing it like a faithful coprophage.
posted by riviera at 11:07 AM on March 21, 2003


I do not believe that Jaques Chirac, for the sake of his nation's oil interests, has any authority over me or my nation.

Oh, how completely typical, MidasMulligan. You selectively condemn France while you shamefully ignore your own nation's oil interests, all the while asserting that the United States is somehow special and does have authority over other sovereign nations. And the rest of your argument can be summarized as follows: "we couldn't use members of the United Nations to our advantage, so fuck 'em."

And, as usual, the rest of your tired argument begs the same old question....in the world/worldview you inhabit, does anyone ever do anything because it's the moral or ethical or right thing to do? Is that a completely alien idea? Or, as EVERY argument you seem to make boils down to, in your imaginary world is EVERY human and national and international interaction merely a matter of shameless self-interest, greed and who can take the most using whatever means necessary?

If so, that's merely pitiable. And wrong.

It is not arrogant for a sovereign nation to defend itself

And thus spake every two-bit dictator from Hirohito to Hitler. Do let us know how many Scuds fell on Wall Street today, will you?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:45 AM on March 21, 2003


While I'm concerned about the U.N.'s ability to execute its authority, and whether or not it even possesses the authority any more, I am even more worried about another institution that is slowly dying on the vine. I speak of the U.S. Congress. How is it that with so many citizens of this country disagreeing with our general lack of interest in maintaining solid international policies and treaties abroad, and our President's disastrous economic policies at home, that our representatives can possibly be in so much agreement? Where are the voices of dissent? Members of Congress seem more interested in appearing united with the President than voicing their opposition or that of their constituents. I cannot help but think of ancient Rome in times like these, how their Senators once made policy, then later simply emphasized the policy of the Consuls (with few notable standouts like Cicero), and finally were rendered impotent and superfluous in the Empire. I realize this may be a tired analogy, but does anyone else think we've already read about our future ruin in the history books of dead democracies?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:50 AM on March 21, 2003


(Off-topic, I apologize, just a thought that keeps bothering me.)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:01 PM on March 21, 2003


regardless of its culpability in the interruption to your breakfast on September 11th,

Show a little respect.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:07 PM on March 21, 2003


Oh, how completely typical, MidasMulligan. You selectively condemn France while you shamefully ignore your own nation's oil interests, all the while asserting that the United States is somehow special and does have authority over other sovereign nations.

No, what has been "typical" in this entire debate is to focus with near fanaticism on US oil interests, and vehemently refuse to address anyone else's. What has been "typical" is to selectively condemn the US for self-interest, and for ignoring the UN, while studiously ignoring the fact that every other nation in the picture is pursuing their self-interest, and that Saddam Hussain has been ignoring the UN for the last 12 years.

No, I am not asserting that the US is somehow "special" - in fact, I'm asserting that it isn't special ... that it is acting exactly as the rest of the permanent members of the security council act. France? Russia? China? Every one of them have used force against other nations without UN approval. The difference being that the US is trying to remove a regime that threatens it, and intends to hand the country back to it's people ... while when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, or China invaded Tibet, the intention was to sieze and permanently occupy other sovereign nations.


And the rest of your argument can be summarized as follows: "we couldn't use members of the United Nations to our advantage, so fuck 'em."

Well, I suppose, to the same degree that all of your arguments basically reduce to "I hate Bush, so fuck 'im". Maybe there's just a bit more nuance than that in there? My actual argument - if you require reductionist thinking - is this: The UN is a forum, not a government. And pretty much every major nation can be accused of saying, at some time or another, "we couldn't use the members to our advantage, so fuck 'em". You, and others seem to believe that simply because the US currently has a few more jets and bombs than anyone else, it should somehow be held to standards that no other member state complies with. I disagree.

It is not arrogant for a sovereign nation to defend itself

And thus spake every two-bit dictator from Hirohito to Hitler. Do let us know how many Scuds fell on Wall Street today, will you?


And thus also spake every nation that defended themselves against Hirohito and Hitler ... including France, Russia, and China. No bombs fell on Wall Street today - they fell on Saddam Hussain's palaces. Which lessened the chances that bombs will fall on Wall Street in the future. Do let us know how many bombs you would have liked to see fall on Wall Street, will you?
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:49 PM on March 21, 2003


Which lessened the chances that bombs will fall on Wall Street in the future.

Jesus. Hook, line and sinker.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:59 PM on March 21, 2003


regardless of its culpability in the interruption to your breakfast on September 11th,

Show a little respect.


Actually Ty, to be honest, I have now and then reflected upon how deeply the events of the 11th may have altered my view of the world. It has made me a bit more militaristic. Prior to 9/11, my tendency always was to first advocate for commercial ties with other nations. Part of me believes that if we had dropped sanctions altogether in the early 90's, and instead attempted to enormously expand business ties between Iraq and the west, the regime would have liberalized (or fallen) of it's own accord. I do believe that Castro is still in power soley because of the embargo. The emotional impact of running through falling buildings and bodies still hasn't digested. (And I cannot even comprehend someone passing it off as an "interruption of breakfast" - there are no words with which to even respond to such a thing).
posted by MidasMulligan at 1:07 PM on March 21, 2003


Midas---thanks. As always, I am impressed.
posted by pjgulliver at 1:09 PM on March 21, 2003


(And I cannot even comprehend someone passing it off as an "interruption of breakfast" - there are no words with which to even respond to such a thing).

I find it hard to comprehend how you equate addressing the September 11th attacks with your vague talk about 'a totalitarian regime somewhere in the desert decid[ing] to spout rhetoric about the US being the "Great Satan"'. As Civil_Disobedient said, 'hook, line and sinker'. Hence my tone. If you're not prepared to remember precisely who carried out those attacks on your back-door, but are instead happy to accept the 'axis of evil' bait-and-switch... well, I don't call that 'respect' either. It's as if the British were bombing Burma to defend against the IRA.

And you still haven't addressed the fact that the Perle outlook offers nothing to counter the threat of non-state terrorist entities.
posted by riviera at 1:37 PM on March 21, 2003


"I do not believe that Jaques Chirac, for the sake of his nation's oil interests, has any authority over me or my nation."

How about international agreements that the US is a signatory to? Do our own international agreements have any authority over our actions, or does the word of the United States mean nothing and is not, therefore, legally binding?

It's worth remembering that even if France and Russia had abstained from voting, the US would still have lacked the votes needed to win at the UN.

Unless, of course, you think that France, by using words and expressing opinions, interfered with the US government's efforts to bribe and threaten countries for a few extra votes on the matter...
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:55 PM on March 21, 2003


riviera:

You have identified a new meme which seems especially popular these days among advocates of the conquest of Mesopotamia: faith-based coprophagy.
posted by rdone at 2:12 PM on March 21, 2003


Which lessened the chances that bombs will fall on Wall Street in the future.

Jesus. Hook, line and sinker.


Hhmmm ... so when someone agrees with you, it's because they've used independent thought to arrive at a principled, reasoned conclusion, while when someone disagrees, it's because they've blindly swallowed propaganda?

Is it even remotely possible in your worldview for someone to arrive at conclusions different than yours, but equally valid? My perspective is informed by my experience - as yours is. Currently, I happen to run a firm that does consulting with multinational financial institutions to assist in the technical compliance with laws and regulations. I have to deal with a lot of law enforcement, government officials, and risk management people within those firms.

There is a dark, shadowy world that most of the population never gives a thought to. It sits underneath the civilized world, and wields considerable power. Until the mid to late ninties, it was mostly dominated by the Big Five: The Chinese Triads, the Japanese Yakuza, the Italians (including the Mafia or Cosa Nostra, Camorra, 'Ndrangheta, and the Sacra Corona Unita), the Russian Mafiya, and the Columbian cartels (the five Mexican cartels called the "Mexican Federation" might be considered a sixth). Aligned with them sits a second layer - smaller, and more specialized - including groups based in Nigeria, Panama (though since Noriega is gone, it has diminished), Jamaica, PR, the Dominican Republic, and several other African and middle-Eastern states.

You gotta understand how potent these organizations are. In the mid ninties, for instance, the Cali cartel had profits estimated at $8 billion. It was the largest business on earth. (Exxon had profits of 7.5B, GE was at 7.3, Philip Morris was 6.3, and IBM was 5.4). And that is just one cartel in one of the big five. This huge volume of cash does have to ultimately move - through money laundering - into the legitimate banking systems ... which is not easy (forget what you've seen in movies where someone gets a briefcase with "a million in small, unmarked bills" and runs through an airport with it ... a million US dollars, in $20's, is really bulky, and weighs around 110 pounds). These people have gotten extremely sophisticated about the process of laundering money, and use modern IT and telecom resources at levels equal to the largest businesses on earth, and better than most governments. They can afford to.

The extremely disturbing trend of the last 3 or 4 years - that our FBI and CIA are aware of (as well as Interpol, the FATF, and other international law enforcement folks) - is that globalization has impacted these people every bit as much as legitimate business. They are increasingly able to coordinate complex activities, and have actually begun outsourcing to one another. They'll share financial expertise, and even contract to use one another's distribution networks.

Get clear about this - these people are utterly amoral. There's not a damn bit of difference to them between importing a dirty bomb or China white in a crate. They don't care whether lower Manhattan or central Bagdad blows up. I'm not privy to the specifics, but I'd wager that when the money trail that funded 9/11 is uncovered (though it probably will never be fully uncovered) at least a half dozen sub-organizations within this global web will have had their fingers in it.

Do you get this? 6 or 7 years ago, someone like Saddam Hussain, sitting in a desert and hating America, could actually do very little. Today - he is a man with several billion in personal money, the apparatus of an entire state, the facilities, inclination, and knowledge to produce pretty lethal substances - and more than that, he is well connected in that shadow world ... a world that now has highly effective IT, logistics, operations, and distribution skills ... and we are being protected by things like an FBI that, prior to 9/11, could not, as a matter of policy, even use Google to investigate Islamic groups.

If there is any room in your mind for a thought other than "Bush=Evil", please think about this when you see US acting, and assign it only the lowest of motives. The USA Patriot Act? ... Good grief, these people don't give a shit if a peace activist purchases Das Kapital with a credit card, they are trying to implement systems and process that will give them a remote chance of keeping up with criminals that have resources equal to the largest businesses on earth, and are cold-blooded in ways that are almost unimaginable. When you see the US Government going after the regime of Saddam Hussain (not the Iraqi population, and with no desire to permanently occupy Iraq), maybe leave at least a little room for the thought that there is a real and genuine threat it is addressing.

And France, by the way, is NOT threatened by Saddam - it has substantial business relationships, and knows full well that even if Saddam had gallons of Sarin, he'd never use it in Paris. Russia? Sweet Jesus ... it's not even a "shadow" world anymore ... over half the damn government is run by that leg of the big five. And yet the Russian and French UN vetos are something we're just supposed to humbly comply with?

Do you get it? The global underworld successfully imports billions in drugs, and arms (and in some cases even people) into the US every year. They have become highly astute business people, and are trending quickly towards the same globalization characteristics that legitimate business is. We are a very few years from the Saddam's of the world being able contract for the distribution of Anthrax in the US in the same way that Random House contracts with Barnes and Noble to distribute books. This scares the living shit out the men and women that do see it as their repsonsibility to protect this country's citizens. Any action they try to take to face this threat, however, is met with widespread condemnation (at least in some circles), and accusations that their motives are low and corrupt, or the result of control fetishes.

So go ahead, while you can, and call Ashcroft controlling for talking about the TIA, curse Bush for going after Saddam without the consensus of the "world community". Complain that the government uses disinformation to try to induce fear in the population. The truth is that this population is not nearly as frightened as it ought to be.
posted by MidasMulligan at 3:12 PM on March 21, 2003


...and that is why we as a people must put our faith in, turn our lives over to, pray for......Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger, John Ashcroft, George W! Bush...etc, etc....
(huge cheers)
posted by niceness at 3:49 PM on March 21, 2003


No, what has been "typical" in this entire debate is to focus with near fanaticism on US oil interests, and vehemently refuse to address anyone else's.

Why then the argument/warning that the oil and wealth oil brings belongs to the Iraqi people? I would hazard to say that my oil in The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge belongs to me too. Ah-ha. Why then do I buy gasoline at prices that reflect the ill-gotten cost of not only its procurement but its sordid legacy of extreme profit which also just so happens to buy favors above and beyond the oversight of the common citizen?

Near "fanaticism"? In your dreams you fanatical capitalist.

I'm reading you Midas. I really, really am. But you're missing the larger undergirding element:

So go ahead, while you can, and call Ashcroft controlling for talking about the TIA, curse Bush for going after Saddam without the consensus of the "world community". Complain that the government uses disinformation to try to induce fear in the population. The truth is that this population is not nearly as frightened as it ought to be.

Yeah and then what about the people, red and yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight? What happened to them and their world? I thought this was a moral issue, annihilating Iraq in order to save it and all.

I refuse to stand idly by while you and yours remake/destroy our planet into one that is more conducive to neo-con billionaires just because lawlessness abounds and we should be frightened about it.

Time to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
posted by crasspastor at 4:27 PM on March 21, 2003


That's damn scary, Midas.

US government agencies were infiltrated by the Church of Scientology back in the 70s and 80s. They've since gone on to infiltrate agencies in other countries, and indeed as recently as 1992 had plans to infiltrate the governments of Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, and Yugoslavia.

I don't think the Scientologists are a particularly sophisticated nor intelligent group of people. Yet they did manage to gain positions in the IRS, the RCMP, and even the US Congress.

In all likelyhood, then, the underworld gangs have gained positions of significant power in the world governments, if not outright control of them.

This would certainly explain a lot of US government behaviours.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:51 PM on March 21, 2003


midas - ok... let me get this straight - the world is full of bad bogeymen that we have to do something about now.

but bush and his droves of supporters (of which i assume you are one)

dont want to pay for it
posted by specialk420 at 6:48 PM on March 21, 2003


...and that is why we as a people must put our faith in, turn our lives over to, pray for......Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger, John Ashcroft, George W! Bush...etc, etc....

So to confront this world, we should put our faith in "the world community"? No, I didn't say we needed to turn our lives over to, nor "pray" for anyone, nor did I attempt to convince those who wish to converse at the level of the snarky one-liner. Rather, I attempted to convey at least a bit of the reality that the people charged with protecting our country live in on a day to day basis ... and attempted to convey it to those that have been feeling like they were missing a piece of the picture - and genuinely want to consider other views.

That Patriot Act and TIA was launched - which seemed to some like big overkill that didn't fully make sense. It was alledged by opponents that the prime motive was simply a "big brother" government using 9/11 as an excuse to spy on it's own citizens.

Endless months were spent trying to persuade the UN, and Bush finally went after Saddam without a UN vote. It has been alleged by opponents that it is "blood for oil", that Saddam poses no risk, and utterly self-interested commercial motives lie behind it. "Why now?" it is asked, why is he all of a sudden dangerous?

I simply attempted to explain what is a growing awareness among government officials (in far more than just our government). Volumes have been written about the transformation that happened in business in the 1990's. The emergence of the information age and all of it's enabling technology, coupled with the globalization of business processes and operations that arose from it fundamentally transformed the nature of business. It happened so quickly that to this day very few people fully understand what has happened. Those in government were, on the whole, way behind the curve when it came to understanding even legitimate business (including 'ol "Mr. Internet"). And almost completely missed the fact that the shadow world was not only undergoing a similar transformation, but was, if anything, an early adopter. To understand why our government appears to be overreacting to things, it is necessary to understand how badly behind the curve it had gotten during the 90's. Louis Freeh was a nightmare (the first thing he did when he took the FBI leadership position in 1993 was have the computer removed from his office).

While terrorists were using strong encryption, digital watermarking, dead drops and a whole host of technologies and tactics to plan 9/11, the FBI case management system was green-screen text only ... not even a mouse. You could search for "flight", and you could search for "school", but you couldn't search for "flight school". In the day or two after the attacks, the FBI was sharing photos of the attackers with it's branch offices via ... freakin' overnight mail.

The Bush Administration had understood, prior to 9/11, how bad the neglect had been. Replacing top people takes time, though, but Bush did replace Freeh with Mueller (unfortunately, it didn't happen until a week before 9/11). But the first thing Mueller did was ordered thousands of new Dells.

In the few hurried months after 9/11, public and private people involved in security understood for the first time the full scope of the uncomfortable truth about the transformation that had occured in the shadow world during the 1990's. That it had become immensely more sophisticated than the agencies charged with trying to police it. That it had become increasingly integrated (or at least open to "joint ventures"). That the same commodification of products and services that happened in the legitimate world had happened in the shadow world ... that the sourcing, processing, and distribution of any product - from anywhere, to anywhere - was increasingly possible. In other words, the same network that is so brutally efficient at taking poppies in Asia through the entire value chain necessary to distribute smack in Los Angeles, and launder the proceeds through the global banking system ... was also open - for the right price - to moving Al Qaeda funds, to buying and selling nuclear materials, to smuggling Saddam's oil onto the black market ... and helping him import anything he bought with the proceeds.

THIS is what our current government is facing - and what our previous one ignored (or at least did not wish to fully acknowledge). Bits and pieces of it were apparent a number years ago (the BCCI disaster, for instance, was in many ways unprecedented in scale).

Ashcroft and Ridge may be slightly overreacting (and in fact I disagree with the TIA concepts, because some of what is being proposed is technically impossible, and the parts that are possible will cost significantly more than is being budgeted) ... but make no mistake about the fact that it is a very real threat that they are reacting to ... and if they seem extreme it is because they are tasked with quickly making up for years of outright neglect.

Why is Saddam suddenly a danger? Not because he or his intentions have changed, but rather because the larger shadow-world environment in which he exists has changed dramatically in just the last few years - and the means at his disposal to realize his intentions are significantly enhanced.

You can curse Bush and his team, say they are overreacting, question their motives, and try to get them voted out of office - but whomever you want to vote in is going to be faced with the same world. It has nothing to do with whether it's Bush & Co. taking military and security steps, or Clinton feeling everyone's pain and being loved by the world ... this same trend progressed steadily over the last number of years ... and is driven by the same IT and globalization trends that affected legitimate business. The Russian mob, the Mexican methamphetamine manufacturers, the Yakuza, the Caymen money launderers ... don't give a flying shit if anyone gets UN consensus or not. There's a whole new world of business out there. If a guy with a billion dollars wants something - they can get it for him (so what if he tortures his citizens ... that's nothing but a reprimand in their HR policies) . If he needs it delivered somewhere in a way that evades law enforcement - they've got a helluva resume full of demonstrable experience at doing just that.

The world is much more dangerous right now than it was a decade ago. You certainly may not believe Bush is responding to that danger correctly, but do not believe for a minute there isn't something significant that he's responding to - or that anyone else that sits in his seat won't also have to face the same reality.
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:25 PM on March 21, 2003


Why is Saddam suddenly a danger? Not because he or his intentions have changed, but rather because the larger shadow-world environment in which he exists has changed dramatically in just the last few years - and the means at his disposal to realize his intentions are significantly enhanced.

~~~~~~WHY!!!!!!~~~~~~~~Didn't anybody know this before? Before the shit it the fan? Why? Oh yeah. Clinton.

Why didn't they let us know about this before?

Are you suggesting our government is fallible? They did not know? Is there some new benevolent memo that has you so worked up all of a sudden? Crooks have populated this planet since humanity emerged and now suddenly we're worried about the black market as an argument for why bombs and missles and troops should storm, scare and kill Iraqis?

Why then would we "shock and awe" anyone, any population, that just so happens to live under said downtrodden regime? Has not their suffering been great enough? We have experts who comprehensively study human nature and how to foil its will. We know that humans become supremely frightened by an uncontrollable barrage of million dollar missles and bombs from the skies. Why would we do that to the Iraqi civilians Midas, if they were not expendable, rather than forgettable namesakes to our own irascible nationalistic ego?

To say we are doing this for their benefit is the greatest prevarication upon humanity in recent history. You do not cause people to suffer in order to bring them happiness. You cause them to suffer in order to make them neurotic. That's the whole point of making somebody else suffer for the benefit of nationalistic ego. Shock and Awe etc.

Neuroticism among your subjects has its benefits only when you're a fascist cabal.
posted by crasspastor at 8:33 PM on March 21, 2003


One wonders, then, why the US government persists in its asinine "War on Drugs" instead of legalizing all that shit and implementing comprehensive, non-punative drug rehabilitation centres, safe injection sites, and increasing the amount of factual educational resources.

It seems to me that if the underworld is a threat, it is a threat because it bends the government to its will. If this were not true, surely the government wouldn't behave as it does.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:49 PM on March 21, 2003


Before everyone Pooh-Poohs MidasMulligan's arguments, I beg anyone who has any experience or research into the areas that Midas mentions to recall said information.

The field of international criminal syndicates is in fact relatively new and from my previous research (1998 and again in the last year) their strides have been nothing short of incredible. Read almost any available report from a credible website and it will send shivers up your spine. What is more frightening is contemplating those things we *do not* understand and know.

Again, I restate that my gripe with the current administration is that it does not appear to understand how to carry out a BALANCED strategy. This may simply be due to the fact that what we are confronting now is so utterly different from what we've known that the government is entirely incapable of formulating a coherent policy other than knee-jerk reactions for the moment.

I have plenty of personal experience in the speed and agressiveness with which such organizations take root and fester. From January 2001 through July 2002 I lived in a town called Castellón de la Plana in Spain - on the eastern coast one hour north of Valencia, about 1.5 hours south of Barcelona. An extraordinarily wealthy town with very a great amount of shipping and high-class tourism, Castellón tends to attract workers due to the high employment levels there.

In January of 2001 one noted a small but growing community of Rumanian immigrants in the area. There were not many tensions between the locals and the immigrants as work was plentiful and those who moved to Spain were indeed hard working and thoughtful residents.

However, the change that occured between October of 2001 and July of 2002 was nothing short of unbelievable. As word spread back to Eastern Europe about the 'fertility of the town' and the relatively lax policiing there, a very large, rutheless, and stunningly successful Eastern European conglomerate of syndicates moved in. Initially prostitution, petty theft - and at last measure the theft of automobiles, trafficking of narcotics and numerous daylight robberies have literally transformed this town into a virtual war zone at times.

Quite so I could hardly believe the transition in this town before my very eyes. Amazing. Having studied international crime syndicates for some time I was utterly blown away with the speed and almost ruthless efficiency of the organization that set up shop in Castellón.

Midas is most definitely on to something that I believe the administration has just begun to understand. It is something that the CIA and FBI have just begun to understand and that is going to affect us all in one way or the other. It truly is some scary shiiiite.
posted by tgrundke at 8:56 PM on March 21, 2003


They're not making anything any better. I tend to agree as well, that this can of worms was probably unintended. However the chaos is what drives them further. The threats they uncover lead to ever more stridency. The threats we're never told about secure it ever more. Because they can pick and choose which threats to let us in on thus making the populace more dependent upon them. This giving them more anti-democratic power.

I just cut my losses and merely live my life. I love to argue and I'm very ashamed and afraid for my country that I love, but one needs to keep good nature. We need to remember how to love life and not merely muddle through the threats, alerts and war coverage.
posted by crasspastor at 9:09 PM on March 21, 2003


Why is Saddam suddenly a danger? Not because he or his intentions have changed, but rather because the larger shadow-world environment in which he exists has changed dramatically in just the last few years - and the means at his disposal to realize his intentions are significantly enhanced.

So the argument goes something like this: There exist these big, bad organizations around the world whose only concern is making money, and who will supply whatever evil to whichever devil wants it.

But why do we go after the customers instead of the suppliers? I mean, Saddam is just one evil dictator. I'm sure there are plenty others around. Plenty of crazy fanatics that would like nothing more than to see the erradication of our Way of Life(tm). Doesn't it seem like a huge waste of time attacking people on the recieving end of this chain?

Here's a newsflash: as long as the world is set up the way it is, there will always be people that hate us, and a market for your wicked organizations. Always. With every capture of an al-Qa’ida operative there is another pissed-off radical waiting on the sidelines to replace him. Do you really believe that once al-Qa’ida, or HAMAS, or the PKK, or Abu Sayyaf, or Hizballah, or the ETA, or FARC, or whatever new terrorist organizations that emerge, that once we "get 'em" we can simply move on down our list until it's exhausted? As long as someone is willing to die to commit a terrorist act, there's basically nothing we can do to stop them.

You would have us attack the symptoms in an endless crusade against evil-doers and hate-mongerers, sacrificing not only the liberties that made this country great, but the international balance of power that has kept the world at relative peace for the past fifty years. Except this strategy has no end-game. After killing those that attack us, we now go after those who might potentially attack us. And that makes for one hell of a long list.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:30 AM on March 22, 2003


Midas - Globalisation increases opportunities for the bad guys of the world, agreed. How is alienating virtually the whole world community going to help tackle this?

I think of the CIA employee who has to cooperate with the French for details of the ricin found in Paris yesterday to help tackle the same threat in the States.

"...nor did I attempt to convince those who wish to converse at the level of the snarky one-liner."

I apologise if it appeared more snarky than intended, I thought it attained to your post as I saw it - a call-to-arms for freedom-loving people. The irony is that daily posts on Metafilter/Metatalk condemn the snarky, arrogant, self-righteous fundamentalism of many of us but if you turn on the news you will see Donald Rumsfeld employing similar rhetoric to patronise, bully and attack long-term former allies.

The US reminds me of the (soccer) star striker who, finding his team 3 goals down takes it upon himself to ignore the other players and like a headless chicken, goes tearing around attempting to get those goals back himself. Obviously he can't do it on his own and the team loses by more. As they fall further behind, the striker turns to harangue his colleagues for not supporting him.

I can also find no reason for the trust you put in Bush's team who have little intention of justifying their policies to the US people let alone the world community. You appear to ask: Drug dealers or Government? Even if Rumsfeld, Poindexter, Ashcroft, etc. had turned over an entire new leaf as regards their world outlook, I could never trust a government whose members in the past went out of their way to blur the line on precisely this question.
posted by niceness at 4:07 AM on March 22, 2003


oops... make that 'pertained' to your post.
posted by niceness at 5:31 AM on March 22, 2003


Midas:
I do believe that Castro is still in power soley because of the embargo.

Wow, we actually agree on something. ;)
posted by notsnot at 6:13 AM on March 22, 2003


Have time now:

I must admit to having trouble caring which robber-baron it is that benefits from which section of the world population.
'He may be a bastard, but he's our bastard' is just not good enough.
The FBI is a badly organised waste of money! What a revelation. Secrecy damages democracy, openeness fosters trust. It seems to me that some people think that you can control a population (including what they think), but all you can ever do is coerce.

The fact that such and such a foreign crime comglomerate is well organised is also not revelatory to me. People like the Prime Minister of Italy, a successful businessman with a string of legal proceedings running against him in several countries, can illustrate the vapourous line between legit and non-legit business practices. The complicity of US intelligence agencies in bolstering most of the worst regimes in recent history (all those not funded by the now-defunked USSR), and funding crime conglomerates is telling. Occasionally, these things come back to bite the US on the bum.

The world is not much more dangerous now than it was 10 years ago, even if the paranioa about hi-tech super regimented crime syndicates is well founded. All that has changed is that the violence and uncertainty that has been deliberately fostered by the US in order to keep certain despots in power/governments weak now has more chance to be distributed about the world. Equality.

Wild-eyed grasping for security and wealth can result in a greed lead society which doesn't value human life. Anyone who can ignore ethical concerns in business will triumph, the money doesn't care. What we need is more control over business decisions, lead by ethical and environmental concerns, rather than profit. Hypocritical laws which favour certain industries or products, and make others illegal should be ammended.

The final steady state of a capitalist system could easily be confused with socialism. Why wait until the world has been ravaged to adopt a conservative approach to nature?
posted by asok at 5:30 AM on March 26, 2003


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