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Invasion Explained
April 7, 2003 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Iraq in a Nutshell
by O'Reilly Books (not really)

A WARMONGER EXPLAINS WAR TO A PEACENIK

A light hearted look at the oft repeated justifications for war in Iraq and their counter arguments.
posted by nofundy (85 comments total)

 
"Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb" - Allen Ginsberg (hipnik and beatster)
posted by Satapher at 12:09 PM on April 7, 2003


"The Grateful Dead are the antidote to the atom bomb" -- Joseph Campbell.

I prefer this e-sheep bit: Thin Ice.
posted by muckster at 12:13 PM on April 7, 2003


This was on warfilter last week. Thin ice is over there, too.

They're both masturbation aids for war protesters, nothing more. (The links, not warfilter threads)


posted by David Dark at 12:20 PM on April 7, 2003


One could just as easily write something like that to bash the anti war crowd.

War Monger: So why don't you want to go to war?

Hippie: Because innocent people will die!

WM: But innocent people are being killed by Saddam...

Repeat until boredom sets in.
posted by bondcliff at 12:26 PM on April 7, 2003


Iraq in a Nutshell

Or at least the simplistic naivety of the arguments against it in a nutshell.

A light hearted look at the oft repeated justifications for war in Iraq and their counter arguments.

Or rather, a light hearted look at a pile of oft-repeated straw horses. It's not difficult to win a chess game when you are playing both sides, and you determine beforehand that one side will win.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:29 PM on April 7, 2003


Maybe this can explain why listening to Bush & company makes me wanna join the protesters, but when I listen to the protesters I feel like hitting them in the head with a bat.
posted by jonmc at 12:37 PM on April 7, 2003


Is this dialogue something you need to have an e-mail account to have already seen several times? Because I have an e-mail account.
posted by soyjoy at 12:38 PM on April 7, 2003


Hey, Socrates did it.

masturbation aids for war protesters

Maybe so, but all I am seeing is unfounded asssertions that this could easily be turned around. It wouldn't hurt to bring up some actual arguments.
posted by muckster at 12:41 PM on April 7, 2003


Maybe this can explain why listening to Bush & company makes me wanna join the protesters, but when I listen to the protesters I feel like hitting them in the head with a bat.
I second that emotion.
posted by frenetic at 12:41 PM on April 7, 2003


They're both masturbation aids for war protesters, nothing more.

Wulfgar's parenthetical response to David Dark over at Warfilter is worth quoting here:

(The meaningless sarcasm is really unbecoming, and doesn't advance the validity of any point. I've asked several of the same questions and given several of the same responses as the "peacenik". I'm not a peacenik, but I am against this war because warmongers (and yes that is a foolish term) in the administration of the US have also failed to answer many of those questions. Worse yet, they tend to fall into the same platitudes and common knowledge sense malarky when pressed for answers. I'm not groovy, (believe me), but I have a right to know why we're doing this: what is the benefit, what is the cost, what are the future ramifications, and what is so morally compelling that we have to do this instead of follow an alternative? As in the "Iraq Explained", the answers haven't been very good.)
posted by y2karl at 12:46 PM on April 7, 2003


Me too, I agree with both jonmc and midasmulligan's points (and I've attended protests!) ... this is really just a grossly simplified and not very funny rehash of everybodies' arguments. Boo.
posted by malphigian at 12:48 PM on April 7, 2003


Eheh nice one. The peacenik doesn't know how to get out of circular aguments, and the warmonger is just repeating propaganda he heard from TV. A battle of minor habens.
posted by elpapacito at 12:49 PM on April 7, 2003


Even that famous lefty Robert Novak has joined the fun:

The real reason for attacking the Iraqi regime always has been disconnected from its public rationale. On the day after the U.S. launched the military strike that quickly liberated Afghanistan from the Taliban, my column identified Iraq as the second target in President Bush's war against terrorism. I did not write one word about weapons of mass destruction because not one such word was mentioned to me in many interviews with Bush policymakers.

Who among us would have thought that Unka' Karl Rove would lie to us solely for political gain?
posted by nofundy at 12:51 PM on April 7, 2003


Sure, you can easily put which ever side you don't like to socratic-dialogue ruin if you control both voices of the debate.

You know what would be interesting? If someone could create a website that flow charted arguments and counter arguments. Rather than having the same debate over and over again, it could serve as a kind of persistent, running record of arguments...
posted by weston at 12:52 PM on April 7, 2003


ArgumentFilter: You've made this argument before. No, you've made this argument before!
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:59 PM on April 7, 2003


Well, I must admit, this sums up exactly what the pro-war crowd sounds like...that's why the majority of them are so easy to deconstruct. Not there aren't some GOOD pro-war arguments out there, but they're not the ones presented on Fox News.
posted by iamck at 1:06 PM on April 7, 2003


not that Ashcroft, Bush, Cheney, Powel, Rumsfeld et al have been guilty of this or this when offering proof and/or justification
posted by ElvisJesus at 1:06 PM on April 7, 2003


Not there aren't some GOOD pro-war arguments out there...

And they are?
posted by Witty at 1:10 PM on April 7, 2003


Iraq is not a democracy, and is not free. Non-free, Non-democratic nations pose a threat to the security and peace of the rest of the world. Because we support democracy and liberty, it is our responsibility to ensure everyone has access to it. Starting with Iraq. War can be justified, and often when it is justified it is obligated.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:22 PM on April 7, 2003


A light hearted look
posted by thomcatspike at 1:27 PM on April 7, 2003


Thanks blue_beetle. Anyone else?
posted by Witty at 1:37 PM on April 7, 2003


One thing that seems to get lost in these debates is the fact that (one this sites and in other places) both sides are acting in ways they see as moral. There are not too many cold, calculating bastards that are in these debates, it's mostly people who generally do care about human life. there are only a couple of people on this site who are just totally immoral in their arguments. but there are so many who ASSUME that the other side is immoral.
posted by chaz at 1:40 PM on April 7, 2003


Maybe this can explain why listening to Bush & company makes me wanna join the protesters, but when I listen to the protesters I feel like hitting them in the head with a bat.
I fear that folks who criticize anti-war activists for oversimplifying complex issues miss the point of mass demonstration completely. The point is to show that large numbers of people disagree with policy matters, and to do so in such a way that those numbers cannot be ignored. Consider the protest a medium with certain limitations, but consider also that it is a medium that from time to time generates positive results.

Do you oppose Bush's foreign policy? Can you fit your argument on a thin piece of poster board? Or maybe that's what editorials, letters, phone calls, web pages, and face-to-face conversations are for? It's hard to be too critical of anti-war activism if the only real casualty is subtlety.
posted by cobra libre at 1:41 PM on April 7, 2003


Non-democratic nations pose a threat to the security and peace of the rest of the world.

how about our nuclear armed - extremist filled buddies pakistan? when are we invading them? or doing to encourage democracy there? buddy. ?

where were you and you, rush limbaugh and don rumsfeld when el salvador and east timor were fighting for their democracy?
posted by specialk420 at 1:41 PM on April 7, 2003


Not there aren't some GOOD pro-war arguments out there...

And they are?


Good in the sense that they follow some type of logic, not in the sense that I agree with them. To be pro-war you have to be pro-murder, even if it is in a utilitarian sense, and I try to adhere to virtue ethics.
posted by iamck at 1:54 PM on April 7, 2003


To be pro-war you have to be pro-murder, even if it is in a utilitarian sense, and I try to adhere to virtue ethics.

bullshit. you might as well be saying, 'you're either with us or against us' nonsense.
posted by poopy at 1:57 PM on April 7, 2003


Not there aren't some GOOD pro-war arguments out there...

And they are?


Well, I tried to make a couple at length here and here. They are, however, complex, and do not easily reduce to one-liners. The essentail argument is that the same transformation that the information technology and globalization trends have caused in legitimate business have also occured in the underworld of organized crime ...

"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. They have started outsourcing to each other for god's sake. 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."

While these comments were made over two weeks ago, I noticed an article today that seems to confirm them.
posted by MidasMulligan at 2:00 PM on April 7, 2003


Maybe this can explain why listening to Bush & company makes me wanna join the protesters, but when I listen to the protesters I feel like hitting them in the head with a bat.

Well, don't join the protesters then. Protest by yourself, or with people whose arguments won't embarass you, in whatever ways you think make sense. Think street-blockades are a waste of time? Compose some thoughtful letters to the editors of your local newspapers. Think letters to the editor are a waste of time? Print up a bunch of anti-war posters and stick them up on utility poles. This is the era of DIY activism. There is no movement, there is no organization, there is no platform except "the Iraq war is a bad idea." If you think the slogans are dumb, nothing stops you from making up your own.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:03 PM on April 7, 2003


And they are?

The middle east in general is a destabilizing anti-western force in the world. Iraq is one of the most destabilizing countries among them, but importantly is also centrally located. If we want to fight terrorism (and for this argument, let's assume for "terrorism" we mean "radical muslim terrorism against the US and the West") well, obviously they can't be fought in a war. The best way to fight terrorism would be to remove their bases of support, eliminate as much as possible their opportunity to get WMD, and create political alternatives to radical Islam ideology. By regime change in Iraq, we can remove it as a support base for terrorists, eliminate it's WMD capability, create an template for Islamic democracy, and use it as a base of operations for further military sorties (think 5-10 year time frame) or better, the threat of further military sorties, against hardline Islamic regimes nearby. At the very least the presence of the american military in Iraq creates an environment hostile to the continued support for terrorists in the surrounding countries. North Korea, despite their more advanced nuclear capability, doesn't destabilize the East like Iraq does the middle east, nor does the east (save for the Phillipines) have the same anti-western fervor. Plus, historically the North Koreans have rattled their sabres to gain some sort of political concession, and it seems likely they are doing so now. In addition, creating a stabilizing environment in the middle east over the next decade allows the west the time to concentrate efforts on oil alternatives and exploration of new fields, which will continue to erode the middle east's disproportionate affect on world events.

I figure, Iran's next, the mullahs are ripe for a fall. Egypt's probably next after that. Jordan, Syria will see the writing on the wall and start behaving like grownups; saudi arabia will renew their support for the US, as will Kuwait, allowing time for whoever is in charge to sort out the Israel-Palestine thing - Bush Jr and Co. might very well be handing Kerry the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 or so. Both will be grateful to the US for solving their problems. And thus, we end up with a defanged, reasonably democratic middle east which retains Islam in a more peaceful, more secular form and reduces the ability of terrorists to acquire succor and support.
posted by UncleFes at 2:09 PM on April 7, 2003


Because we support democracy and liberty, it is our responsibility to ensure everyone has access to it.
...in the USA.
Defending the above with that idea: our military is not for defending but policing the world. I support the Monroe Doctrine but with today's technology with missiles and the likes make it harder to determine how far to protect our border.

Came to a conclusion looking back at how France supported us in the Revolution. We asked France to help us in our cause, yet they did not fight our battle for us. Yes, they fought on the battlefields next to us, but under George Washington's command.

Then in the 80's we had the Iran/Contra scandal. It came to light that because of some lost ethics, money was first in the name of freedom. It made this way of helping a foreign land with democracy not a popular way of doing things. Sending mainly training and supplies to the people that wanted the democracy and were from the land. Let them die for it, but again money seemed to be what it was really about. Maybe not a loss of ethics just lost values. We borrowed the money from France and paid it back, not quite sure on the pay back. But with the Iran/Contra why would you buy then sell for a large profit in the name of Liberty...you don't. Unfortunately liberty is usually paid in blood, the horror of war.

Now with today's war, we send our defense, our military to police the world or even the world's military, the UN that we are a part.

PS, The war in Baghdad is more like a policeman's role, house to house, than a soldier's role on the battlefield. Or is that just called S.W.A.T.?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:15 PM on April 7, 2003


You know, Uncle Fes, I think you're right - but you'll die an old, shriveled virgin before that argument comes a-courtin' in public...

Because simplistic though it is, what the linked article does demonstrate - which no war supporter can refute - is that the Bush Regime has changed their public rationales for this military intervention every time a new poll rolled in since Rumsfeld first proposed using the WTC attacks as an excuse to take out Hussein in mid-September 2001. As each and every one of their strawmen have proven to be just that, they toss it onto the bonfire and flail about until they light upon another flimsy, soon-to-be-disproven "proof" that Hussein represents an imminent threat to Americans... We have American military personnel on the ground in Iraq, lives are being lost - and we still have presented with no credible, solid evidence that we're there for any other reason than because well, goshdarnit, we just don't like that guy! It's the PR-and-polling-numbers-driven policy making that causes them to appear to be weasels with something to hide, rather than men of conviction and action who've decided to use the power of being the last remaining superpower on earth to remove someone they are convinced is a threat to America and to global security.
posted by JollyWanker at 2:20 PM on April 7, 2003


"Both will be grateful to the US for solving their problems."

What color is the sky on this fantasy planet?
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2003


UncleFes, that's a chain of improbable causality worthy of Rube Goldberg, but even supposing we had the power, attention span and geopolitical engineering prowess to pull any of it off (and I'd be hard to convince we, or any power in history, ever had a fraction of any of those three), how do we accomplish this elaborate fantasy over the vehement, heavily-armed and suicidally-determined objections of the region without resorting to a degree of oppression that would make Saddam's jaw drop in admiration?
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2003


Me: I haven't heard one meaningful reason why it is this country's responsibility to impose our clearly imperfect form of democracy on another nation.

Them: Because we are free. With freedom comes responsibility. We have a responsibility to secure freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people.

Me: But how did we gain that freedom? Was it because some superpower came in and liberated us from undemocratic British rule?

Them: Yes. France.

Me: You're saying the financial support France provided during the Revolutionary War is the same as our bombing out Saddam?

Them: In contemporary terms, yes.

Me: And the fact that the US colonists took the initiative was not a factor in the establishment of American-style democracy?

Them: Of course it was. What is your point?

Me: That the Iraqis, and for that matter most other Arabs, have not taken that same initiative. So what makes us think we know best for the people of a different culture?

Them: American-style democracy is the most successful form of government in the history of the world, in terms of economics and human rights.

Me: And that gives us the right impose that form of government on another culture in an undemocratic manner?

Them: Saddam is a proven killer. You aren't a humanitarian?

Me: I think the logical foundation of American conservative politics (less government, more self-determination) is inconsistent with our current foreign policy.

Them: Well, you'll see.
posted by divrsional at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2003


Wasn't there already a post on MetaFilter about the war on Iraq?
posted by signal at 2:26 PM on April 7, 2003


Iraq is not a democracy, and is not free. Non-free, Non-democratic nations pose a threat to the security and peace of the rest of the world. Because we support democracy and liberty, it is our responsibility to ensure everyone has access to it. Starting with Iraq. War can be justified, and often when it is justified it is obligated.

um excuse me?......So we are suddenly no longer going to recognize a single solitary, undemocratic, dictatorial, militaristic regime? IF THAT IS what you are saying is the REAL reason for this war...why wasn't that stated Universally, instead of just in the case of Iraq and I suppose Afghanistan? Are we now insisting that all countries that we do business with guarantee freedom and liberty to all of its peoples?

If this is what this all about then why are we not instead stating emphatically that the USA no longer supports such institutions and takes more dramatic measures to support that statement. Such as suddenly not recognizing ANY governments who does not fit this standard. By the way, if any nation does not permit ALL of its citizen's a voice in their governing policies, they are NOT a democratic nation. I think you get my meaning.

Hello China

This is exactly why the rest of the world considers us hypocrites. We say we are honest, trustworthy and that our methods are just. We say we want access to freedom, liberty and democracy to all people,but we do not apply those policies across the board. Rather we apply them only when it suits some other need.

So my opinion about that theory >>B.S.

This is another attempt by those who are still angry and who demand violence as against anyone to satisfy their bloodlust. Those individuals are so filled with rage over 9/11 because they believe that it made us look weak in the eyes of the world; they are demanding that we show the world that we are still strong and powerful. So we find a horrible foe that the whole world hates (yes even those against the war) and we take out our vengeance upon them. So we get to feel better and we take out a evil dictator to boot. Hurray for us.

But we fail to see that because we use the above mentioned excuse for going to war, that the rest of the world will expect us to live up to it and follow through with every single human being living under such conditions. For that statement to be true, we would have an awful lot of work to do long after the work in Iraq is finished. Are we really going to end relations with China et al?
posted by SweetIceT at 2:34 PM on April 7, 2003


that's a chain of improbable causality worthy of Rube Goldberg

it seems sort of simple and elegant (in a realpolitik sort of way) to me. Stratfor believes this scenario to be the case. Keep in mind that the guys in charge of this are a bunch of former cold warriors, for whom this sort of complexity and planning was de rigeur. I know, it doesn't hold a candle to "it's the Oil, stupid" as far as placard-ability, but it doesn't seem unlikely to me in the least.

it's convenient and often pleasant to believe that the people who are controlling the events we see on the news are morons and evildoers, but reality is often not quite so simple.

but even supposing we had the power, attention span and geopolitical engineering prowess to pull any of it off (and I'd be hard to convince we, or any power in history, ever had a fraction of any of those three),

I would again point you to the Cold War, which lasted (if one counts from 1945) almost 50 years, and through more presidents and government changes than I feel the need to google.

how do we accomplish this elaborate fantasy over the vehement, heavily-armed and suicidally-determined objections of the region without resorting to a degree of oppression that would make Saddam's jaw drop in admiration?

by coercion, backed by threat of military force. Like always. You assume we need to conquer these countries to get them to do what we'd like them to. Not so. Just being ABLE to conquer them, and being in a position to do so, is probably enough. We don't need to oppress them, and it's not our style, to be honest. Americans make good soldiers, but awful oppressors. We just don't have the stomach for real tyranny.
posted by UncleFes at 2:40 PM on April 7, 2003


What color is the sky on this fantasy planet?

Well, there's grateful, and then there's "grateful," I suppose. Getting them to stop would be enough. Certainly someone will be glad if we can get them to stop blowing each other up.
posted by UncleFes at 2:49 PM on April 7, 2003


I still don't understand how you can solve crime by committing crime.
posted by psychomedia at 3:25 PM on April 7, 2003


Hey man, I'll be grateful if we can get them to stop blowing us up.
posted by Bonzai at 3:27 PM on April 7, 2003


UncleFez: I know more then one kind of destabilization (political or economical). Which kind of are you referring to ?

Also, if we consider a "stabilized region" as one in which no large scale -military- conflict is going on, then we could
achieve this objective a) by instilling an unholy fear that some superpower will come and "pacify" us by bombing anything
that moves..or.. b) by removing their ability to wage regional-war by not giving them access to weapons (I don't think
the war corporations will like this very much, massive infusion of money is needed to shut them up) ..or.. c) by making
them not self-sufficient (wage war, we cut supply solution) d) by installing "friendly" corrupt puppet governments (you
do what we want, here's a fat swiss bank account) e) by making the country people so -comparatively- wealthy that they
forget wagin war (unlikely, redistribution of wealth is already a sleeping trouble in USA and in much of west)

That said about the concept of how we make a long term "stabilized region" I don't see the reason behind the need to
make Iraq a base of operations for stabilizing m-east : turkey is already close enough for any military strike and much more pro-west then any other middle east country and they can be bought with little money (even if they recently showed they can't be bought, probably to reinforce the feeling of need for another base for US).

Also, from an economical point of view, you say middle east events have a disproportionate effect on world events, because
most of oil is in middle-east and because we need that oil. It is true (we all think so) that the -quantity- of oil avaiable
all over the world is relevant, but -access- to it at a -low- price is much more relevant then the quantity itself ; we see
the oil price jumping up and down, but the quantity of oil is always the same, only the perceived cost of getting it changes
and it's (somehow) reflected in market price. What any country wants is access to oil at comparatively -LOW- cost, nobody
wants to have his economy dictated by supplying countries.

That said about the supply of oil : middle-east only resource is OIL. They would sell it, no matter how low the price, to
finance their projects, because they don't have any other much appreciated resource and they have a lot of it. What probably
the west doesn't want is to have the price of oil dictated by east.

Well, so what's the point ? We go east, take the oil and say "We're doing this for your freedom, but don't even ponder
dictating the price of oil in the future". Maybe Iraqui people are getting a "much debateable kind of freedom" by giving up
control on oil and -much more importat- supply price of oil ? Maybe it's an attempt to break the Arab League ? And where
do the terrorist fit in the problem ? It doesn't take a nation of terrorist to produce the weapons needed by terrorist,
unfortunately. Removing iraq support for terror will not stop their operation, they're incredibly flexible and they
don't need any supporting nation, that's been true for many many years, but somebody still manages to see terrorist as
a controllable instrument.Somebody else would also like to instill irrational fear of terrorists.
posted by elpapacito at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2003


I figure, Iran's next, the mullahs are ripe for a fall. Egypt's probably next after that. Jordan, Syria will see the writing on the wall and start behaving like grownups; saudi arabia will renew their support for the US, as will Kuwait, allowing time for whoever is in charge to sort out the Israel-Palestine thing - ...we end up with a defanged, reasonably democratic middle east which retains Islam in a more peaceful, more secular form and reduces the ability of terrorists to acquire succor and support.

I figure, free ice cream's next, followed by snowing doughnuts. The police will see the light and give me a sirens blaring, lights flashing escort anytime I drive on the freeway. Fox and ABC will see the handwriting on the wall next and program more funny comedies with no commercial interrruptions. My parents will rise from the dead and support me for the rest of my eternally youthful limmortal ife--I end up with a harem of supermodels and repeal the law of gravity. World peace for everyone is a given.

Fes, if you're going to dream, dream big.
posted by y2karl at 3:56 PM on April 7, 2003


y2karl... if I had to pick one of the two dreams as most likely to happen, I'd have to take yours first.
posted by benjh at 4:09 PM on April 7, 2003


> Not there aren't some GOOD pro-war arguments out ther

Sadly, the responses to this question has nothing to do with Iraq's military threatening the US and its neighbors, its supposed ties to Al-Queda, and WMD capabilities which were reasons all used by the Bush administration as to why the US MUST goto war against Iraq ASAP.

Now its a rationaliztion-fest involving anything to make the decision to fight this war look good. The Iraqi war went from WMD/Terror to "lets drop some democracy bombs" in under a few days. Pathetic.
posted by skallas at 4:15 PM on April 7, 2003


I'm just glad that they finally ended that illegal peace. As in France, Germany, Russia violating UN resolutions in dealing with Iraq.
posted by HTuttle at 4:18 PM on April 7, 2003


UncleFes is stating a very simple and clear version of (the now much studied) neoconservatism. While I disagree with the basic principles of the neo-con position, I find it hard not to believe that what UncleFes and others are saying is the prime motivation of the US government. It's not about oil and oil alone, it's about control of a volatile region that threatens US economic interests and strategic alliances. We are moving now to defend those interest militarily.

I concede that Iraq is a destabilizing factor in a larger unstable middle-east. I do not, however believe that a US invasion will bring the kind of balance needed in the region. I fear the opposite. An invasion is giving middle-eastern population rhetorical fuel for their various fires. For one thing it makes Osama binLaden look more relevant and prescient then he would if the US and the west used diplomatic and economic pressures to achieve security in the Arab world. For another thing it fills Al Jazeera with images of US tanks and airplanes killing muslims, furthering the idea of the west as a imperialist aggressor. The US is invading Iraq first, but looking to go further later. Many people on MeFi seem to understand that invading Iraq is really about invading the middle-east as a whole. It seems that the average Iranian is probably of the same understanding.

Is that average Iranian going to love us or hate us? How about the average Syrian? These populations see the US as godless and aggressive. Read Al Jazeera and it is quickly apparent that the average citizen of the middle east is not going to give the US the benefit of the doubt. The armies of the US will not be viewed as liberators, but be viewed as what they are: invaders.
posted by elwoodwiles at 4:34 PM on April 7, 2003


"Now its a rationaliztion-fest involving anything to make the decision to fight this war look good. The Iraqi war went from WMD/Terror to "lets drop some democracy bombs" in under a few days. Pathetic."

Actually - it might just be that the reasons for war are a little more complex than you like? Like, maybe more than one?

It comes to this: Iraq became more of a threat than an asset, and thus Saddam had to go. The reasons are multiple - and to claimt hat having multiple reasons for doing something makes it suspect is silly.

I would like to think something like war woudl have multiple justifications.

So...

1) Iraq is a destbilaizing force in the region

2) Iraq is a place for terrorists to gain training, weapons, support and safety

3) While we are at it, it's a good thing to ring democracy to a nation oppressed by a murdering bastard

4) Iraq was rapidly pursuing a weapons capability to become a serious first immediate threat on its own.

5) Saddam's refusal to follow any of the steps needed to assure us from the first half of this war showed that diplomacy was useless.

I am unsure why having #3 (democracy) and also having #2 somehow means that #4 was bullshit and so on.

The world is not one dimensional.
posted by soulhuntre at 4:35 PM on April 7, 2003


I do think a democracy is nearly always a good thing for the citizens of a given country. But it's not at all clear to me that a democratic Middle East would be such a great thing for the U.S. If the authoritarian rulers in the Middle East were strongly anti-American crusader types and their citizens were peace-loving, pragmatic, and pro-West then the democray-as-stabilizing-force argument makes sense to me. But isn't the opposite generally true? My understanding is that leaders in the Middle East are far more willing to deal with the U.S. than the public at lage. And the current war is likely to make ordinary Arabs even more anti-American .

In other words, if we achieve the goal of a democratic Middle East, what's to stop the newly empowered Muslim majorities from electing leaders with extreme anti-U.S. views?

Or is this going to be the kind of democracy where they can elect their own leaders, but only so long as they elect who the U.S. tells them to?
posted by boltman at 4:42 PM on April 7, 2003


It would be much interesting to hear why, how and when did Iraq become a destabilizing country from the people that just state it is, in order to make this discussion even more interesting.
posted by elpapacito at 5:03 PM on April 7, 2003


Not to mention how the "policies of containment have failed" or how easily people can rationalize the Bush administration's excuses just to goto war. Amazing how to quote one poster, "the world isn't one dimensional" thus the legal pretext to war doesn't matter. I'm sure to use that excuse in court.

Your Honor, the world isn't one dimensional...
posted by skallas at 5:23 PM on April 7, 2003


I think the logical foundation of American conservative politics (less government, more self-determination) is inconsistent with our current foreign policy.

I quite agree.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:32 PM on April 7, 2003


Thanks for the explanation, UncleFes. It's nice to hear a justification for the invasion of Iraq that goes beyond nationalist slogans and bullshit sentimentalism. I disagree with your premises, but I appreciate the straightforward and respectful way you've phrased your argument.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:43 PM on April 7, 2003


Sadly, the responses to this question has nothing to do with Iraq's military threatening the US and its neighbors, its supposed ties to Al-Queda, and WMD capabilities which were reasons all used by the Bush administration as to why the US MUST goto war against Iraq ASAP.

Mine did.
posted by MidasMulligan at 6:04 PM on April 7, 2003


Ali Ismail Abbas, 12, wounded during an airstrike according to hospital sources, lies in a hospital bed in Baghdad, April 6, 2003. Abbas was fast asleep when war shattered his life. A missile obliterated his home and most of his family, leaving him orphaned, badly burned and blowing off both his arms. 'It was midnight when the missile fell on us. My father, my mother and my brother died. My mother was five months pregnant,' the traumatized boy told Reuters at Baghdad's Kindi hospital. 'Our neighbors pulled me out and brought me here. I was unconscious,' he said on Sunday.
posted by homunculus at 6:11 PM on April 7, 2003


1) Iraq is a destabilizing force in the region

Iraq was rendered virtually harmless 12 years ago, and in such time has identified and dismantled significant stockpiles of weapons. The idea that invading one of the larger nations in the region with borders to numerous others that has a massive resource value ISN'T destabilizing is ludicrous. Iraq's only true method of destabilization outside of WMD would have been short-range invasions that would easily have been repelled by an overwhelming force from nearly any surrounding country. Despite its massive holdings in the oil game, its earlier attempts to cut off oil shipments were compensated for by U.S.-friendly OPEC states, members of a market which would only be destabilized by long-term American military presence in nearby regions- something the Iraq war is likely to lead to. In other words, Iraq is not a destabilizing force in the Gulf region. The United States is.

2) Iraq is a place for terrorists to gain training, weapons, support and safety

If you are referring to Al-Qaeda specifically, then the rsponse would be: not proven prior to invasion, not proven prior to invasion, not proven prior to invasion (with the exception of the "gift to suicide bombers' families" story, truly a cause for full-scale war) and not proven prior to invasion. Even if any of these are proven after-the-fact, it does not remove the illegitimacy and immorality for killing thousands of people "on a hunch." If you mean terrorist groups in general, skip the United States' own history of training and financing terrorist groups from Latin America on and remember that virtually every other allied state in the region could face the same allegations. bin Laden was Saudi, as were most of the 9/11 terrorists. As I mentioned myself in a post just today, Taliban presence is returning to Afghanistan, with no apparent interest by the U.S. in long-term correction to this undoubtably potential problem. It would be impossible for the U.S. to invade the entire Gulf region to remove all terrorists, as the action would be both physically impossible and without question a true "destabilization" as feared from point #1.

3) While we are at it, it's a good thing to ring democracy to a nation oppressed by a murdering bastard

The idea of the financial and life cost of this invasion being summed up as performing regime change "while we're at it" during the course of aforementioned-unjust war is as offensive and frightening as saying we bombed Nagasaki because we had the extra nuke lying around. In addition, the decision of the Unites States to feign interest in the exploits of one murderous dictator whist ignoring the actions of countless others, many of whom were partially brought to power with U.S. help, renders any believable notion of something as awesome as international armed conflict over morality utterly useless.

4) Iraq was rapidly pursuing a weapons capability to become a serious first immediate threat on its own.

And it dismantled it, or at least according to its report which to this day has not been proven vastly inaccurate. In contrast, the majority of reports and statements on Iraq's weapons programs that have been proven to be either significantly incorrect or completely fabricated have come from the United States and Britain. Two weeks into invading Iraq, the U.S. has not found any traces of any Weapons of Mass Destruction. Again, as noted in #2, the fact that this invasion was commenced without this evidence renders illegitimate and immoral whatever future revelations of weapons are made, if any. Media sources have already noted how the rhetoric has been spun from "removing Saddam's WMD" to "verifying Saddam has no WMD," as if to say we've suddenly invaded Iraq like we're the world's most powerful and deadly search warrant; something truly hypocritical considering America's position that "it was not the job of UN inspectors to verify Saddam destroyed his weapons."

5) Saddam's refusal to follow any of the steps needed to assure us from the first half of this war showed that diplomacy was useless.

Following the bombings after a result of his 1998 defiance, the only guidelines ordered by the United States that Saddam totally ignored was the one demanding he flee Baghdad 48 hours prior to the war. The argument that "diplomacy has failed" has come from a nation that outright ignored the world body, demanded special exceptions and privilege in an international investigation of Iraq, lied multiple times about evidence supporting its desires, and proceeded to justify every action Iraq made in compliance with United States demands as "not good enough." The ironic truth is that Saddam's outright resistance to diplomacy would have immediately justified military intervention. Instead, Iraq's use of diplomacy led to Bush pronouncing its failure.

As far as UncleFes' scenario goes, yes, it does maintain the neocon long-term perspective, and likewise I respect the tone in which it was presented despite my disagreement with it, but it's overwhelmingly impossible to justify. This is a military action which has already defied the strategic expectations of the allegedly-most-advanced military intelligence program in human history, one already stigmatized by its failure to predict or prevent the terrorist attacks in the United States that sparked the overseas conflict to begin with. With the U.S. already changing its policy for the very status of Saddam's requirements vis-a-vis control in Iraq, it's very hard to justify plans for military intervention in three or four other entire countries with accurate outcome projections.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:13 PM on April 7, 2003


It's a relief to learn that we invaded Iraq because it is not a democracy, and also not a stabilizing influence in the Middle East.

For a minute there, I was worried that it had something to do with oil, or the way Saddam took a shot at Bush's Dad, or being easier to find than Osama, or demonstrating US force projection for the benefit of Russia and China.

I get so worried over nothing sometimes.
posted by anser at 6:17 PM on April 7, 2003


Your Honor, the world isn't one dimensional...

Just remember the part about Chewbacca living on Endor and you've got yourself a bullet-proof legal defence there.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:21 PM on April 7, 2003


I 'd have to agree this is the first time I've seen anyone around here make a case for the war in a reasoned way, without leaning on jingoism, mindless slurs against dissenters, evasions, blatant lies, or all of the above.

But as for the case itself, I think it's a house of cards: a preposterously optimistic edifice of oveweening hubris that doesn't have any room for the way things actually happen in real life. Just for example, our exercises in belligerent geopolitical engineering in SE Asia and Latin America indicate that this approach creates a holocaust of death and tragedy with at best ambiguous political outcomes. Do we have anything remotely resembling a success story? (And don't bother with the Cold War argument -- to say we "beat" the Soviet Union is like saying you beat another player at a Monte Carlo roulette table. We both gambled, we had more money so they went broke first. Though I'll grant that it was a victory for the capitalist system: the cold war enriched at least some Americans while consistently impoverishing Russians.)

Second, on the face of it it's nothing more than an elaborate third-party rationalization of the administrations' actions -- I know of no reason to believe that any of it is what actually motivates them. Certainly nothing that's come out of their mouths. There are simpler and more self-serving explanations that fit the facts at least as well, and are certainly more consistent with both the current behavior and the histories of those concerned.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:46 PM on April 7, 2003


In case anybody on the planet doesn't know what Coyote is referring to...
posted by anser at 6:46 PM on April 7, 2003


Nofundy, please think the following before submitting a link:

"Has this already made the rounds?"

I'm guessing next you will link to the hamster dance.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 6:49 PM on April 7, 2003


This is just like the Smothers Brothers and Vietnam all over again. ... God, I am showing my age aren't I?
posted by caddis at 6:58 PM on April 7, 2003


The rhetorical shell game used to justify the war operates on two analogous levels.

At the base level, individual "provocations" are kept in constant motion. It's missiles, it's inspections, it's nerve gas, it's human rights, it's terrorism, it's missiles, it's inspections, etc. Anything you focus on in detail is never "the real issue."

At the meta level, individual explanations are kept in motion. No matter how you debunk someone's lame attempt to justify the war, there is always supposedly someone else, somewhere else, who could really explain it.
posted by anser at 6:59 PM on April 7, 2003


There are simpler and more self-serving explanations that fit the facts at least as well, and are certainly more consistent with both the current behavior and the histories of those concerned.

Such as? Really, I would welcome hearing a different interprestation that made as much sense. Honestly, so far, this neocon/likudnik explanation seems to most closely match what little public knowledge there is about the motivations of the Bush Regime.

Assuredly the whole truth must be more complicated than this, but it's easy to see how some significant number of hangers-on would counsel Bush that destabilizing the Middle East by taking down Iraq will both better protect Israel and better secure American petrochem and other business interests in the Middle East.
posted by JollyWanker at 7:05 PM on April 7, 2003


they wouldnt have wanted them around to do any talking after the war....



posted by specialk420 at 7:16 PM on April 7, 2003


Midas: You've an interesting perspective going there - ever thought about writing a novel? However, I would have to disagree with your ideas on this matter. While you are quite correct in asserting the existence of extra-governmental organizations are dangerous to various nations and economies I find the idea that these organizations would directly aid islamic (or any other) terrorists is a reach. Organized crime isn't so amoral as to sell nuclear weapons to just anybody. Organized crime, in fact, is a form of business and like any business, is interested in creating the highest profits with the lowest overhead. If the mafia sold a WMD to a group that then destroyed Manhattan, they'd be making a bad business decision. First off they'd be killing their best customers and contacts. Second, governments that have historically been tolerant of organized crime would have to crack down and the bottom line of the mafia would get squeezed. The mafia is a business, illegal or not, and it's bad business to deal with terrorists. Organized crime is more likely working with intelligence agencies, as they have since before the cold war, to both enrich themselves and create a secure business environment. If you were right, why wouldn't the government declare a war on organized crime? I think that organized crime and governments are too deeply connected and work with each toward certain goals and against each other for others. In short, I feel they need each other too much for your theory to resound with me.

Read through UncleFes's posts again. While I disagree with his perspective as well, I do think it's the perspective members of are government are using.

The anti-war crowd (myself included) should study neo-conservatism in order to formulate a proper response that is nuanced beyond the "Bush is evil" and "no blood for oil" simplicities that pass for political science.

I would also like to thank everyone posting today for keeping this debate even-headed and on course. It's funny that it started with a bad post, but sometimes the community itself comes together to create a good thread out of nothing.
posted by elwoodwiles at 7:44 PM on April 7, 2003


JollyWanker, we are asked at this point to believe one of two things: that this war is in service to an elaborate, incredibly ambitious and historically none-too-promising geopolitical objective that will take a decade or more to play out; or that it is in service of immediate short term political and remunerative gains.

The second explanation fits all of the facts, and what's more it's largely a fait accompli: we may measure it not in terms of what it may accomplish one fine day, but by what it has accompished already: the war is a powerful club with which to silence opposition and dissent, and lest you call me paranoid, I remind you that it is being used as such on a daily basis. It provides a wealth of near-term profit opportunities which members of the administration and their backers are remarkably well-positioned to exploit. It is misdirecting public attention from alleged very serious abuses of office. It is affording opportunities to concentrate unprecedented powers in the administrative branch of government.

Contrast this with the elaborate rationale given by UncleFes. Occam's Razor is pretty decisive here: powerful near-term, already-realized benefits to the administration et al. vs. a case that almost no-one is making for a stunningly problematic, fragile and scarcely defensible scheme of a distant idea for geopolitical stability. Consider also that members of the administration historically are out for the main chance, and seize profit-making opportunites and exploit their position when they can, and think little of long-term consequences. Think Enron and Halliburton. The history of this crowd gives us nothing to put on the other side of the scale. The near-term exploitation potential fits both the facts and the known behavior. This hypothetical long-term strategy does not. It is also counterindicated by the state we've left Afghanistan in, and by the reckless abuse of our most important global alliances.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:19 PM on April 7, 2003


I also don't agree with UncleFes's points, but it is a view shared by the current US adminsitration. see New American Century
posted by plebmaster at 8:19 PM on April 7, 2003


I thought UncleFes's remark (up the thread) was notable: "I figure, Iran's next, the mullahs are ripe for a fall. Egypt's probably next after that. Jordan, Syria will see the writing on the wall and start behaving like grownups; saudi arabia will renew their support for the US, as will Kuwait, allowing time for whoever is in charge to sort out the Israel-Palestine thing - Bush Jr and Co. might very well be handing Kerry the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007 or so. Both will be grateful to the US for solving their problems. And thus, we end up with a defanged, reasonably democratic middle east which retains Islam in a more peaceful, more secular form and reduces the ability of terrorists to acquire succor and support."

OK.....Iran's next. But............Egypt?......don't those 4 billion -or so- US aid dollars per year buy us anything? Do you mean, UncleFes, that the Egyptian 'street' (radicalized and furious at the US invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran) will rise up and overcome the Egyptian army?

Yes, it could come to pass. But the second prediction - of a Democratized Mideast.......well: there are a few other factors in the equation. Such as Islamic fury at the tens of thousands of dead and hundreds of thousands of wounded civilians (and children) resulting the from those multiple US invasions. And then the responses of Pakistan, India, China, Russia, North Korea, Japan, Europe, Indonesia (All looking at the US and thinking: "Who's next...and what can we do about it?")

Consider the Law of Unintended Consequences.


MidasMulligan - (re: "The essential argument is that the same transformation that the information technology and globalization trends have caused in legitimate business have also occured in the underworld of organized crime ..."

Yes, your argument is ultimately valid if the "convergence towards the Singularity" phenomenon continues (and I don't see any sign that it will not). But you neglect the other solution: yes, it must be either US neo-empire, or Democratic One-World government....

I prefer World Democracy, but I fear that the US has lost faith that the great mass of the World's humanity can rule itself, and that Americans are unwilling to take any of the risks involved in handing over substantial power to the great unwashed masses.

So Rome it shall be.
posted by troutfishing at 8:21 PM on April 7, 2003


nice job folks this was a good thread that didn't turn into a shouting match. Funny, it was a simplistic link that set off a complex discussion. I commend you folks for pulling this off.
posted by jbou at 8:41 PM on April 7, 2003


I'm sorry, george_spiggott, I see now I didn't make myself as clear as I wanted to, because at heart I really believe that both of those equally heinous agendas are in play right now in Iraq. I guess I just so take for granted the self-centered, self-serving, money-grubbing, blood-sucking means of contemporary Republicans that I failed to include those arguably more obvious motivations. The "It's all about the oil!" canard isn't false; it's just not the whole story. Nor were the hundreds and hundreds of millions to be made by Halliburton, and don't forget that pipeline across Afghanistan some American company was being paid to build...

For the record, I don't personally think that this Grand Destabilization Plan will actually work, but that doesn't mean for one moment that Perle and Rumsfeld and whomever else has been bending Little George Fauntleroy's ear over this think it won't work. It would be funny if it weren't so monumentally catastrophic, but my reading is that Perle & Co. really do think it can work, and I believe between them and Cheney looking out for American corporations they convinced Little George that it will work.

I think it helps to remember that - at least from what I've read - UncleFes is taking forward into a logical extreme a position that Perle wasn't much interested in, namely, "spreading Democracy through the Middle East"; rather, he's just interested in keeping Israel's enemies off balance enough to significantly reduce the scale of the threat the represent. Instability and ambiguous lawfullness benefits the corporate interests as well, because then there's nobody running about trying to enforce pesky laws and regulations that might get in the way of just making money...
posted by JollyWanker at 9:27 PM on April 7, 2003


When I read a phrase like Islamic template for democracy or a defanged, reasonably democratic middle east which retains Islam in a more peaceful, more secular form , I gape slack jawed at the swarm of embedded presuppositions. George_Spigott's description of
Uncle Fes's scenario--elaborate rationale--is dead on.

UncleFes, I find it mindboggling that in the midst of building your dream castles in the air, you managed to ignore the elephant in the living room: Israel.

A realistic peace settlement between Israel and Palestine first, before starting to play board games with other people's countries, would do far more for Mideast peace than your fantasy of creating an Islamic template for democracy. If we gave the vote next week, next month or next year to every Arab living in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Yemen and so on, what do you think the foreign policy of the resultant governments would be towards Israel?

A workable peace settlement means compromise--both sides have to bite the bullet. If the so-called Road Map makes the Palestinians bite the bullet alone, it's not a peace settlement, it will do nothing to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict go away. A workable peace settlement means something more than creating Bantustans for the Palestinians, it means the elephant in the Israeli living room: removing settlements, lots and lots of settlements. When you look at the trouble Israel had removing settlements from the Sinai alone, before they turned it over to Egypt, and multiply that by a hundred, it doesn't seem so simple.

In World War II, we made an alliance with the Soviet Union to fight Germany and all of a sudden it was an emerging democracy and and Stalin was Uncle Joe. Building democracy is spin of the same sort. This is not about building democracy. As for nation building, George_Spiggott asked the right question: Do we have anything remotely resembling a success story? It's nice to write phrase like creating a template for Islamic democracy but it's never been done.

Stratfor believes this scenario to be the case. Keep in mind that the guys in charge of this are a bunch of former cold warriors, for whom this sort of complexity and planning was de rigeur.

In other words: trust me, it will work. Trust them, they know what they're doing. When is the American public going to be told what they've been signed up for? Don't they get a vote? Democracy should begin at home, shouldn't it?
posted by y2karl at 10:56 PM on April 7, 2003


I think UncleFes has nailed the administration's philosophy quite nicely. The big question, of course, is whether the unintended effect will be to destabilize the region further. Now that the war has gone beyond the point of no return, though, we'd best all hope that the result is more congruent to the neo-conservative expectation than to our worst fears (which is not to say everyone should embrace that vision).

Something that dissenting Americans need to consider, however, are the vast benefits all Americans derive from living in a superpower. The war on Iraq serves in many ways to maintain the nation's superpower status. Picture America that ceases to police the world. It's possible that it could maintain its dominance through economic and diplomatic means. But it's also possible (and in my opinion, more likely) is that such an America will be quickly displaced by emerging superpowers that are not ashamed to bully. This, in turn, spells America's decline -- America's decline, whether violent or not, spells a much shoddier life for its citizens.

Now, how many war protesters would be willing to live with such a possibility? A lot would agree to take the risk, but I'm certain there's a plethora of hypocrites out there as well.

Also, congratulations on a mature discussion, Mefi :)
posted by Krrrlson at 12:02 AM on April 8, 2003


Krrrlson :
i think that what you describe factors into the thinking of most americans. but i am compelled to ask why it is that citizens of many western european nations that are far from being superpowers -- and some of which never have been -- can enjoy higher quality of life (based on indicators such as literacy, infant mortality, etc.) than americans? i know that is a simplification, but the soviet unoin provides an example from the other direction: military power does not equal high standard of living.

i don't deny that my life has been easier because the united states has squashed a lot of people who would have made it hard. some of them by threatening my security, and others by organizing for fair wages and making my bananas more expensive.

i would even be willing to sign off on some of that shit, if there were some rules that everybody agreed to ahead of time. i feel like when a nation makes foreign policy, there is usually some form of blueprint document or constitution that can center or frame discussion (if we are lucky). but foreign policy, especially military conflict, has no centering force, and dialogue, values, and goals are always in tremendous flux.

you can even see this on a rhetorical level. when talking about international affairs, there is no line from the UN charter or universal declaration of human rights that is quoted as easily and cheesily as "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" or "all men are created equal".
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:33 AM on April 8, 2003


You hear the chant that the war is about oil. It seems simplistic and stupid.

No leader of the U.S. would go to war just to make his friends rich. And I think that's true.

But the war is certainly about oil. It's America's weakest point. We are dominant on the world stage in nearly every way. But if you have our oil, you hold our chain.

If you were in power of the biggest dog on the block, but knew there was a group of little dogs that could fence in your run, you would find a way to get ahold of your own chain and get ahold of those little dogs.

Thanks to our "liberation" of Iraq, we will soon have a seat at OPEC's table. "Iraq's People of the United States of America" will be in charge of the second largest supply of oil in the world and we will gladly pay them for it - at under market prices and with output guarantees. OPEC's largest customer - the U.S. - will suddenly be getting a steady supply of what "Keeps America Rolling" for years to come.

Behind the doors of today's Bush policy are men (and a few women) who honestly belive that America's dominance is paramount to the future of the planet. That dominance is predicated on strength on all fronts. Our biggest, weakest, and last remaining front (until we learn of steely determination of an occupied and humiliated foe/ally), is our dependency on oil. We are currently strengthening our only weakness.

This is the only way I see this war making any sense at all, and I have some faith that behind the rhetoric fed to the majority of Americans there is some real reason for invasion that can't be told to the people because of a perceived and probably quite real aversion to the sausage-making of international politics.

Please let Bush's policies be the result of such, and not a result of an interpretation of a speaking in tongues at a White House early morning prayer meeting. I fear that is second in the running in my mind for explanations for this mess.
posted by Sr_Cluba at 2:33 AM on April 8, 2003


I quite liked the linked article, myself.


And UncleFes is a beautful dreamer. Unfortunately, this seems to me the likelier endgame.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:55 AM on April 8, 2003


stavros, you may say he's a dreamer... but he's not the only one. I hope one day you'll join us, and the wooorld will live as one.
posted by Ljubljana at 3:02 AM on April 8, 2003


And UncleFes is a beautful dreamer.

He's advocating invading Iran and Egypt. What's beautiful about that?
posted by Summer at 3:57 AM on April 8, 2003


What's beautiful about that?

It was an Inverse Ad-hominem Attack™,silly. I was praising the man at the expense of ignoring the argument he put forward.

The point being, perhaps, that disagreeing with someone's politics is only that - a disagreement. The fact that I can avow that UncleFes is a beautiful dreamer does not have any connection to my level of (dis)agreement with his political arguments, which I think are considered but fundamentally wrong.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:32 AM on April 8, 2003


Iraq is not a democracy, and is not free.

I won't dispute that, blue_beetle....but can you tell me about the system used to elect the President of the US? It doesn't seem very democratic to me, and can lead to events such as we saw in 2000...events like blacks being denied their vote, for example? But I forgot. The USA is a democracy.

Non-free, Non-democratic nations pose a threat to the security and peace of the rest of the world.

[sarcasm]How noble.[/sarcasm] Maybe you should worry about the US policymakers and their frightening erosion of the US constitution, and then worry about the rest of the planet.
posted by tomcosgrave at 4:45 AM on April 8, 2003


Uncle Fes:
The middle east in general is a destabilizing anti-western force in the world.

In what sense? Why is it "anti-western". What has the West ever done for them?
Iraq is one of the most destabilizing countries among them, but importantly is also centrally located.
As far as the people actually living in the mid-east are concerned I think Israel would get many more votes than Iraq, but anyway, how is Iraq, destabilizing? What did they do in the last 12 years to destabilize anyone?

By regime change in Iraq, we can remove it as a support base for terrorists, eliminate it's WMD capability, create an template for Islamic democracy, and use it as a base of operations for further military sorties (think 5-10 year time frame) or better, the threat of further military sorties, against hardline Islamic regimes nearby.

How is Iraq a support base for terrorists? When was this proven or even hinted at by any evidence?
Since when can "democracy" be exported? when did the US acquire such trust among the Arabs that they will wellcome the US puppet regime to be installed in Baghdad as any sort of "template for democracy"? What if the Arabs democratically elect someone who is anti-American and (as is extremely likely) anti-Israel? Since when military sorties are "against regimes" only? How many civilians will die in these sorties? How many draft-age young men? Why wouldn't such attacks against Iran, Saudi Arabia the Gulf States and Yemen make the population even more anti-American and even more fundamentalist then they are already?

...historically the North Koreans have rattled their sabres to gain some sort of political concession, and it seems likely they are doing so now.

Whereas Iraq has attacked the US how frequently in the past?

In addition, creating a stabilizing environment in the middle east over the next decade

If you think that the result of this would be a more stabilizing environment in the Mid East, you are in for quite a surprise...

I figure, Iran's next, the mullahs are ripe for a fall.

They are presently, since popular and especially youth opinion is turning against them. But anti-americanism in Iran transcends the islamists. This is the country that the CIA "stabilized" by overthrowing the elected Mossadeq democratic government and installing the Shah, whose secret police and methods surely inspired Saddam in many ways. Please try to understand: there are few if any places in the Mid East where an american army would be greeted or considered as anything other than an invading force. An american attack would unite the Iranians around whoever is running the country (even more than it seemingly did in Iraq).
Egypt's probably next after that.
Egypt already is a quiet and handsomely paid US ally that represses the local - popular- islamist movement, why would the US mess with it?
Jordan, Syria will see the writing on the wall and start behaving like grownups.
What does behaving like a grownup consist of when speaking of countries? Also please note that while Syria is a dictatorial Baathist regime, Jordan has some form of democracy-light, in which some opposition is tolerated.
saudi arabia will renew their support for the US, as will Kuwait,
As if they had any other plans. You won't mind the Taliban-like islamism of the Saudis then?
allowing time for whoever is in charge to sort out the Israel-Palestine thing.
How? Any ideas? For the time being this issue seems to be in the process of being "solved" by Bush's buddies by the killing civilians and combatant Palestinians in large numbers.
Both will be grateful to the US for solving their problems. And thus, we end up with a defanged, reasonably democratic middle east which retains Islam in a more peaceful, more secular form and reduces the ability of terrorists to acquire succor and support.

That is such wishful thinking based in so many false premises that I cannot believe for a moment that there are people in positions of power, even in the Bush administration, that think this possible.
posted by talos at 5:06 AM on April 8, 2003


I'm busy as shit today, and as such can't reply as much as I would like, but first, let me ssay that this thread is exemplary of why I joined Mefi nearly two years ago: reasoned, sensible discussion sans the knifefighting. I commend you all, especially my old nemesi (you know who you are) for your forebearance, your openmindedness, and your tact.

OK, the main points against what I think the justification for the Iraq war are: (a) it's apparent complexity and concomitant inability of current administration to conceive/pull of such a scheme, (b) whither Egypt? (c) whither Israel? (d) the destabilizing anti-westernism of radical Islam and America's ability to ameliroate it. The 600 lb gorilla in the corner is, of course, the ethical and humanitarian considerations of such a plan, provided it even works. Really quick...

(a) It *is* a complex plan... but no more complex that many, I would think. I was able to sum it (albeit highly simplified) in about three paragraphs. Agreat many government documents run thousands of pages. The tax code, something millions of americans deal with each day, is 1200 pages long and reads like stereo instructions. I think our government officials are comfotable with complexity, espeically with regard to intelligence and military matters. Keep also in mind that, though Presidents and Administrations may change, the people who do the actual planning - CIA, NSA, Pentagon - remain. They are scenario spinners, and they are good at it.

(b) Billions of dollars have not made Egypt any less a haven for terrorists - we've simply backed a bad horse there. My feeling is that the long term goal of this plan is not imposing our supreme will on the region, but simply removing it's ability to support terrorism and stabilizing the political theater. Egypt is poor, radical, anti-western (even the government, for all their check-cashing) and, as middle eastern countries go, powerful both poltically and militarily. And virulently anti-Israel. It would need to be stabilized. I would bet against a military invasion - instead, I think we'd start supporting (like with assloads of money) governments more palatable/less repressive to the people who would be willing to try and tone down the anti-west fervor. Butter rather than guns here.

(c) US is the staunch ally of Israel, and we will NEVER back off that. If we wre going to, we would have already. That said, we aren't specifically against Palestine. The problem is cutting a sensible and workable deal between two parties who have lost most of their sense. My thought is that the administration will try to get Palestine to stop the suicide bombers with promises of taking their part at a 'summit to end all summits." Eventually, they will do so, even as Israel continues to lose the PR war worldwide with their heavy handed tactics (running over that girl with the tractor? Not at all good for Israel. Americans will remember that for a long time). Israel needs security, and if they can't take it they will BUY it, with America's help (and cash). I say we'll take care of Eqypt first because Egypt supports the Palestinians the most - co-opt that support, the Palestinians will come back to the bargaining table. Plus: Arafat's old, and his successor is likely to be a pragmatist.

(d) when I say "destabilizing," I mean in a variety of senses, but mostly in that the middle east spins out terrorists. The very idea of the middle eastern terrorist, with Kaffiya and AK-47, has become a stereotype! Simply put, America did not get deeply involved in combatting terrorism because it had always been in the past Someone Else's Problem. After 9/11, America has no choice BUT to get involved, and as always when when the big dog gets off the porch, someone is bound to get bit. We cannot continue to allow the middle east to have the ability to hurt us again this way. Since we are not traditionally conquerors, we will defang them using the time-honored and -tested method of carrot and stick. We have most of the money in the world, and by far the largest military: bigger carrots and sticks I cannot imagine.

Finally, the gorilla; I too do not like to see photographs of dead children, farmers with no arms, crimson marketplaces. y2karl's dream is WAY better than mine. But I just don't know any other way to create the middle eastern environment the west desperately needs to create. I do see our military doing it's best to minimize exactly this, and I believe that this attitude will continue and be recognized. I can't be glib about collateral damage: I am a husband and father, and those children in those pictures? They have my son's face. BUT if we can help thousands of children yet to come to NOT live in a world that straps dynamite to itself and goes into busses and clubs, that knows a bit of freedom and democracy, that doesn't see New York City as a nice place to take a backpack nuke, that does not fit the kaffiya-and-AK steroetype, that has enough food, water and education, and that decades from now meet my son on the world stage and not immediately hate him... I think that is a good thing. 9/11 was our crimson marketplace, and there were children on those planes, too. Not revenge, because how can one avenge such a thing? But we have to make it stop, by carrot or stick, and this is the best, most pragmatic and most realistically achievable scenario.

I can't post any more today, but I will read avidly the responses. Once again: thanks for exemplifying what I've always believe Mefi was about.
posted by UncleFes at 7:38 AM on April 8, 2003


UncleFes: It's impossible to go point by point here so let me just question two things:
- BUT if we can help thousands of children yet to come to NOT live in a world that straps dynamite to itself and goes into busses and clubs, that knows a bit of freedom and democracy.
You don't understand that it is only the most helpless and powerless that become suicide bombers. It's not a cultural thing. If the US did not support the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the appartheid tactics of the Israeli government, the US would not be a target.
- Your analysis of Egypt is to put it plainly, wrong:
Billions of dollars have not made Egypt any less a haven for terrorists - we've simply backed a bad horse there.
But they have. The Mubarak government is very actively chasing and catching Islamists, more so than any democratic government could afford to. American money buys two very undemocratic things: Passiveness as Palestinians are being slaughtered by Israel (a government that would promise to confront Israel would probably win any elections in Egypt right now) and internal repression of (Arab nationalist) dissent that wants redistribution of income and Islamist (again in free elections the Islamists could conceivably do very well).
So your proposal that:
we'd start supporting (like with assloads of money) governments more palatable/less repressive to the people who would be willing to try and tone down the anti-west fervor
is self-contradictory.
The main theme that underlines your argument that US interests are and must remain supreme all over the Middle East (the World), against the wishes and interests of everybody else (mainly the locals) is seen by the vast majority of this planet as arrogant and megalomaniac.
posted by talos at 8:17 AM on April 8, 2003


"The big question, of course, is whether the unintended effect will be to destabilize the region further...Now that the war has gone beyond the point of no return, though, we'd best all hope that the result is more congruent to the neo-conservative expectation than to our worst fears" (Krrlson)

"I cannot believe for a moment that there are people in positions of power, even in the Bush administration, that think this possible...[a Democratized, defanged Mideast]" (Talos)

Talos - Perhaps not. But they do seem to have a sweeping campaign in mind (see below).

Krrlson - On the contrary, I'd say that we'd better not hope that.

Actually, I'd say (and Josh Marshall concurs - see below for link to April 2003 Washington Monthly piece on this) that regional destabilization, and chaos - resulting from a rolling series of US invasions of Mideast regimes - is the both the plan and the real strategy of the Bush Neocons

[The first half of this is really a preface. Scroll down to the first link for the meat of my argument]

FIRST, though........Sure, Saddam Hussein's regime murdered at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians - as well as all of those killed on both sides in the Iran/Iraq war (both civilians and soldiers). He has a horrendous amount of blood on his hands. So: if Iraq existed in a vacuum, somehow unconnected to the rest of the world, I would be far more inclined to buy the utilitarian argument (ugly as it is) that the tradeoff - of civilian casualties vs. the removal of a monstrous tyrant - might be worth it. Utilitarian expediency - as in the "terrorists have planted a Nuclear device in a US city. Time is short. Do you torture the terrorist you have captured to learn where the bomb is?" - can not be discounted.

BUT.......Iraq does not exist in a vacuum. The Islamic street is watching this all on Al Jazeera, taking in graphic footage of civilian carnage in Basra, Baghdad and elsewhere. So, even though the Iraqi civilian casualty count might ultimately prove to be far lower than in most previous wars fought in the 20th century, those (relatively limited) casualties will appall Islamic sensibilities throughout the Mideast as much as if tens or hundreds of thousands had actually died.

It does not matter at all that Saddam Hussein's regime (or Syria government for that matter) have in the past killed greater numbers of civilians than the likely official body count in the Invasion of Iraq. Many (if not most) Muslims in the Mideast blame the 500,000 or so Iraqis who died as a result of the decade of sanctions against Iraq on the US rather than on Hussein (justifiably or not). And, of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict looms in the background and continues to recrudesce as a source of Muslim rage at Israel and at the US:

So, most Muslims will now be caught up in a tribalistic, polarized Islamic response to the War in Iraq - fed by past grievances and stoked by televised casualties and arrogant US diplomatic belligerence - so that the prevailing Islamic public mood itself becomes a kind of mirror image counterpart to the tribilistic, polarized US public response to the 9-11 attacks.

both reactions are charactorized by an instinctual reaction of tribal solidarity against a perceived outside aggressor, an Evil "Other", as well as calls for a Holy War, a Crusade or a Jihad against that menacing, Evil "Other". "Facts", in this, become almost irrelevant.

Back in June of 2002, with the initial rhetorical wind-up in the push for a US invasion of Iraq, I believed that the GW Bush Administration Neocons were ignoring basic human nature by neglecting the potential of an invasion of Iraq to destabilize the whole Mideast region (and even Southwest Asia too) and polarize the Islamic World. Now, in the face of the burgeoning US plans to invade Syria and Iran (with more invasions to follow, perhaps), I think "Chaos and destabilization is their plan". In the April 2003 issue of the Washington Monthly, Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo sums this theory up: "Practice to Deceive - Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario--it's their plan."

"the president has not even leveled with the public that such a clean-sweep approach to the Middle East is, in fact, their plan. This breaks new ground in the history of pre-war presidential deception....Today, however, the great majority of the American people have no concept of what kind of conflict the president is leading them into. The White House has presented this as a war to depose Saddam Hussein in order to keep him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--a goal that the majority of Americans support. But the White House really has in mind an enterprise of a scale, cost, and scope that would be almost impossible to sell to the American public. The White House knows that. So it hasn't even tried. Instead, it's focused on getting us into Iraq with the hope of setting off a sequence of events that will draw us inexorably towards the agenda they have in mind. "

Marshall was ahead of me in terms of his awareness of the scope of the Bush/Neocon agenda. I thought they were just after Iran, Iraq, Syria, and North Korea. Well, now I've added Lebannon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to the list. I guess it was all prefigured in a statement by Donald Rumsfeld a few days after 9-11 -" [the US should] sweep it all up, things related and not" (not an exact quite, I'm still searching for the source). I knew that Richard Perle had pushed in the direction of toppling the Saudis, but I was unaware that he and his crew were gunning for Egypt's Hosni Mubarek too.

What Marshall doesn't explicity address - something which has been on my mind for about six months or so - is:

Take into consideration the quite explicit warnings from the (then) co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committe, Bob Graham - Graham: Expect retaliation - The senator says briefings indicate a war with Iraq is ''highly likely'' to provoke terrorist attacks (St. Petersburg Times, published October 5, 2002) "....the senator said, "Briefings that I have recently received suggest that the likelihood of such strikes within the United States is not remote or even probable, it is highly likely."

Among the groups Graham identified as already present in the United States and poised for attack are Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and "agents of Iraq." ......Hezbollah in particular, he said, is a more serious threat to U.S. domestic security than most people realize. Hezbollah, or "party of God," has killed hundreds of Americans in bombing attacks in Lebanon, including 241 U.S. servicemen who died when a truck bomb destroyed their barracks in Beirut in 1983, but has not struck the United States at home. ....Until Sept. 11, 2001, Hezbollah had claimed more American lives than any other international terrorist group. "

So - with the Bush Adminstration underfunding of the domestic US "War On Terror", and it's new "rolling invasion" plan to topple nearly every regime in the Mideast (except for Israel, of course) - which is the most inflammatory approach towards the Mideast conceivable - it would be hard to argue that the Bush Neocons are not expecting and planning for another major terrorist attack in the US which, if carried out by Hezbollah, would provide the necessary pretext (in the US public's eyes) to invade both Syria, Iran, and Lebannon.

Also, US domestic dissent - against the virtul colonization of the entire non-Israeli Mideast, against Bush Administration domestic policies (or whatever) - could then be squashed quite easily, without fear of political repercussions.

You could say they are trying to actually provoke terrorist attacks (and you might be right), or you could merely say that they simply don't care how the Islamic World responds to a US campaign of multiple invasions in the Mideast, that they are completely unconcerned about any resulting terrorist "backlash" or "blowback" attacks in the US or view them as regrettable by-products - mere skirmishes in a much larger scheme (and you might be right also).

Whatever. Their intentions about this are closely guarded and opaque to us.

But I can vividly imagine Richard Perle leading a White House morning prayer session....."Let us pray for a domestic terrorist incident, for the greater good of the country and the World..."
posted by troutfishing at 10:53 AM on April 8, 2003


I won't dispute that, blue_beetle....but can you tell me about the system used to elect the President of the US? It doesn't seem very democratic to me, and can lead to events such as we saw in 2000...events like blacks being denied their vote, for example? But I forgot. The USA is a democracy.


Hear this a lot from people around the UK, France included. The USA is not the Mississippi of 1950's. No one likes hate and most Americans have never acted like that, yet it did happen, in Mississippi and elsewhere. Yet Mississippi was one of 48 states at the time, and bet they wouldn't like me either from what I read in history because born in California. Study our electoral votes, then the Electoral College. This is where the cheating is stopped. We have never elected by popular vote. Clinton was re-elected with 43.01% of the popular vote, which most forget when they think of a win by popularity from a majority.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:20 PM on April 8, 2003


Add: President to elected by popular vote
posted by thomcatspike at 6:45 AM on April 9, 2003


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