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Andy Rooney on the war in Iraq
October 3, 2005 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm not really clear how much a billion dollars is but the United States — our United States — is spending $5.6 billion a month fighting this war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into.
Andy Rooney speaks out against the war in Iraq. Transcript and embedded Quicktime video. (via BoingBoing)
posted by handshake (145 comments total)

 
Yeah this war is aggravating, but what really gets on my nerves are those those cotton balls in aspirin bottles that take up half the space.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:01 AM on October 3, 2005


Wow, Rooney is *pissed*.
posted by bshort at 10:02 AM on October 3, 2005


Andy Rooney is a nincompoop, regardless of his thoughts on the war.
posted by OmieWise at 10:04 AM on October 3, 2005


Andy Rooney is America's favorite curmudgeon. I stopped paying attention him when he went on his stupid little rant about grunge music the week after Kurt Cobain escaped Courtney Love via shotgun.

But just think about what else could be done with $5.6 billion every month. Why, we could even rebuild New Orleans.
posted by fenriq at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2005


Way to take it beyond a one-link op-ed. But it's still just an op-ed.
posted by soyjoy at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2005


I don't know. I've always liked what he's had to say. It's not always grand or really that important, but I think he usually has something interesting to discuss.
posted by handshake at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2005


You know what really grinds my gears? This Lindsay Lohan.
posted by mfbridges at 10:11 AM on October 3, 2005


Gypsy: Quiet. It's time for the compulsory round. Each of you will have ten seconds to Andy Rooney. Your topic: soup.
Crow: Soup is funny. Not really a meal, nor is it really a first course... 'Cause it's mostly made of water. I find soup to be the most watery of foods.
Mike: Okay, uh... Some soups have beans in them, and there are beans that are as watery as soup, but they're not soup. I don't trust soups on the whole, no more than I trust stew.
Servo: There are soups with bread in them. I don't really understand that. To me it's arbitrary whether you put bread in the soup, or soup in the bread. You still have sloppy bread.
Gypsy: Freestyle!
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 10:13 AM on October 3, 2005


This Andy Rooney sounds like some kind of goddamn hippie peacenik to me. He needs to put away his birkenstocks and get a damn job!
posted by psmealey at 10:16 AM on October 3, 2005


i'm on the fence about ole andy. in some ways he reminds me of my dad. i agree that there are many useless kitchen gadgets, but i can't stand with him on his lack of compassion with gay rights. he's very self-interested, but that's what he does.

still, this was a moment of televsion zen, and he was right on the money.
posted by eatdonuts at 10:18 AM on October 3, 2005


People who still support the war in Iraq are becoming harder to find than giant squid.

Seriously, is there anyone left who does?
posted by wakko at 10:24 AM on October 3, 2005


I know without even looking how this (will be/is being) spun by the right: liberal CBS, what do you expect from the people who brought us Rathergate, etc. etc. Point anyone one who's pro-war at this and they'll just shut it out, like they do everything else. Doubtless working the words "propaganda" and "Michael Moore" into their dismissal. Remember, this is a country where in a debate, sighing is worse than lying, and Kerry bought more shit for mentioning Cheney's gay daughter than Bush caught for lying to start a war in the first place.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:25 AM on October 3, 2005


I think the only interesting thing about this is Andy is _so_ mainstream, that if he is publicly questioning the war we may have reached a tipping point of sorts
posted by edgeways at 10:26 AM on October 3, 2005


The man once did a 60 minutes segment about what he had in his desk drawers. I was so flabbergasted I can practically recite it from memory.

"In this drawer I have a watch that was given to me. I don't wear it because it doesn't have a sweep hand, and I like watches with a sweep hand." And "I have a lot of cords. This one goes to my electric razor. Why can't we just make cords that work with everything?"

And 60 minutes spiked their PJ O'Rourke/Molly Ivins segments a few years back so as not to offend this moron?

I don't give a damn what this guy thinks. Seriously. Crap post, I don't know why Boing Boing was interested in it, let alone the need to highlight this again here.
posted by Heminator at 10:33 AM on October 3, 2005


Two of my favorite Andy Rooney quotes: "I'm against prayer in schools for the same reason I'm against mathematics in churches." And "I belong to a political party of one. I disagree with everybody about something."

Andy is not the fool that some take him for.
posted by wadefranklin at 10:35 AM on October 3, 2005


Seriously, is there anyone left who does?

I do. So does the president of Iraq. And Britney Spears.
posted by loquax at 10:37 AM on October 3, 2005


Ever notice how people are constantly bringing up Ike's "warning" about the military-industrial complex? Why is it that no one ever brings up that Ike was a former general and established, during his 8 years in office, much of what is the military-industrial complex?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:37 AM on October 3, 2005


last week he had a pretty funny line where he was listing off the tv bigwigs who attended the Peter Jennings wake.

"and last and least, there was Mike Wallace."

the old coot's still got it.
posted by tsarfan at 10:39 AM on October 3, 2005


Andy Rooney is a nincompoop, regardless of his thoughts on the war.

OmieWise is an asshat, regardless of his thoughts on Andy Rooney.

(Gee, isn't namecalling fun?)
posted by alumshubby at 10:40 AM on October 3, 2005


That was pretty damned entertaining.
Ike was going to include 'Congressional' into that complex, but he wanted to keep the peace between parties. (Presidents get sentimental upon leaving office, I suppose).
posted by Busithoth at 10:42 AM on October 3, 2005


still got it

??

What? What did he have? What ever it is, he ain't using it right. He should give it back to who ever can use it better.
posted by tkchrist at 10:43 AM on October 3, 2005


People who still support the war in Iraq are becoming harder to find than giant squid.
posted by wakko at 12:24 PM CST on October 3


Pauline Kael of the New Yorker:
"How could Nixon have won? Everyone I know voted for McGovern!"

Seriously, is there anyone left who does?
posted by wakko at 12:24 PM CST on October 3


I do. Without hestitation.
posted by dios at 10:43 AM on October 3, 2005


Andy is not the fool that some take him for

the old coot's still got it

Um, when did he ever have 'it'? No he's not a 'fool' per se but he is annoying as hell, and I don't give a crap about parsing his on camera fits for some nugget of insight.

The fact that anyone would take comfort in what he thinks about the war at this late date is just simply a monument to how ineffectual the dissent has been and I for one find it depressing.

Seriously, how many of you had anything at all positive to say about him until this?
posted by Heminator at 10:45 AM on October 3, 2005


Seriously, is there anyone left who does?

Hell yes! Last week a whopping 400 people turned out in Washington for a rally in support of U.S. troops in Iraq. Oh, and don't forget the people that donated $600 to rebuild Iraq.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:49 AM on October 3, 2005


Why do they call it taking a dump? They should call it leaving a dump. I mean after all, you're not actually taking it anywhere.
posted by wigu at 10:52 AM on October 3, 2005


You might want consider cutting the old guy a bit of slack -- before he was a curmudgeon/cranky geezer, he was a war correspondent, and he has won a few awards.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 10:54 AM on October 3, 2005


Once Paul Harvey has come out against the war, then the worm will, in fact, have turned.
posted by drezdn at 11:00 AM on October 3, 2005


Andy Roney complains all the time but normally he complains about the kidsthesedays and other trivial problems. This a serious criticism of government and it matters because that's not Roney's thing. If Al Franken or Paul Krugman call the war a mistake it's normal, but when respected people who you wouldn't expect to have these opinions come out on the anti-war side it's a bigger deal. It's got a kind of man bites dog vibe to it. I take comfort when non-anti-war people are anti-war, I don't find it depressing at all.
posted by I Foody at 11:09 AM on October 3, 2005


I've always liked Andy Rooney. I have four of his books, and I've always enjoyed his segments on 60 Minutes. I thought his opinion on the war was the usual spot-on, well-written, and refreshing bit of common sense and sanity I've come to expect from him, especially amid the pro-war dreck spewed from untalented, hateful hacks like Ann Coulter and Paul Harvey.

On preview and post-JRun error, what I Foody said.
posted by fandango_matt at 11:27 AM on October 3, 2005


You know what really grinds my gears? This Lindsay Lohan.

A man can dream.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:54 AM on October 3, 2005


Seriously, is there anyone left who does?

People who have such faith in their own stupid theories that they are completely willing to kill tens of thousands of humans in an attempt to bring those sophistic theories to fruition.

Plus a few folks who don't really care to follow the news.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:58 AM on October 3, 2005


You know what really grinds my gears? This Lindsay Lohan.


"Well, I'll tell you what you want, you want nothing. You want nothing. All right?"
posted by stifford at 11:58 AM on October 3, 2005



posted by caddis at 12:00 PM on October 3, 2005


A man can dream

Yeah, especially if you dream about women with freakishly high belly buttons.
posted by Mr_Zero at 12:00 PM on October 3, 2005


"Seriously, is there anyone left who [still supports the war]?"

posted by sonofsamiam People who have such faith in their own stupid theories that they are completely willing to kill tens of thousands of humans in an attempt to bring those sophistic theories to fruition.

Plus a few folks who don't really care to follow the news.


You forgot Poland.


Also, word.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:05 PM on October 3, 2005


"I do. So does the president of Iraq. And Britney Spears."
You agree with Moe and Larry long enough, people'll call you Curly.
posted by klangklangston at 12:06 PM on October 3, 2005


Wow, from Rooney to Godwin in just over 2 hours! Not that Caddis's Godwin wasn't nicely designed and all...
posted by Pollomacho at 12:10 PM on October 3, 2005


At least Rooney fought in a war, and not in a cushy state-side PR desk job (cf. Reagan), or switching between polishing jet planes in Texas and going on AWOL benders (cf. W.). Real combat experience gives him a perspective and insight that few journalists today have, let alone politicians. It may be a good idea to pay attention to what he has to say.
posted by Rothko at 12:19 PM on October 3, 2005


Rooney's comparison of military budgets of United States with its allies is pointless. The US protects its allies and has done so for the past several decades. In turn these allies don't need to spend as much on military and provide financial assistance to the US and mutual benefit in other ways.
posted by StarForce5 at 12:19 PM on October 3, 2005


This overapplication of goodwin would have him (goodwin) rolling around in his grave.
posted by delmoi at 12:20 PM on October 3, 2005


*sigh* It wasn't a Godwin...you have to...aww forget it.
Here, just for you: Andy Rooney is Hitler!

-
drezdn, if Paul Harvey comes out against Iraq I’ll shit all over myself.
-
“Seriously, is there anyone left who does?”

In a limited way, I do. I support having a stable, non-antagonistic government in charge of a resource that we in the U.S. utterly depend on.

But I’m not a lapdog, so I don’t jerk my knee and say: “Yes!”

Insofar as I don’t see that objective being achieved by the Bush administration, then no, I don’t support it and I’m extremely upset with Bushco for lying about it.


Reminds me of something I saw in “Thief”, I believe, with James Caan. Willie Nelson plays a guy who’s in jail who did time with Caan. Caan asks him if he should tell this woman he’s seeing about his past. Nelson says (something like): “Lie to no one. If your going to be close to them you’re going to fuck it up with a lie. If they’re a stranger, then who the fuck are they you have to lie to them?”

Sage advice. Anything Bushco said after the lie was uncovered cut zero ice with me. They could tell me my house was on fire and I’d drive home and check before calling the fire department.

Rooney though also has a bit of cranial analitis.

We need those tanks for defense (what the hell do you think we have highways for?) and we need to spend that kind of money on bullets. We need to maintain our nuclear arsenal.
He’s right about the officer/men ratio though. Not enough specialists and warrant officers and where we have them, they don’t get the respect they should (even if they get a bunch, they should get more).


But the 'officers' we have now...It’s like calling everyone with a doctoral degree “Doctor.” Should be reserved for MDs. Same with officers in leadership positions. Skill to whatever degree in whatever field doesn’t equate to a right to command.

As far as spending comparisons, we’re not Japan or Italy.
We need the military we have for a host of reasons.
We’re just not using it properly.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:42 PM on October 3, 2005


This overapplication of goodwin would have him (goodwin) rolling around in his grave.

I'm sure Mike's wife will be shocked to hear the news.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:46 PM on October 3, 2005


Andy Rooney is like the first videoblogcaster.
posted by keswick at 12:46 PM on October 3, 2005


Godwhine, n., the debate about what is and isn't a Godwin, launched immediately after somebody calling Godwin.
posted by selfmedicating at 12:51 PM on October 3, 2005


A big turning point for public support of the war in Viet Nam was when Walter Cronkite began speaking out against the war. For a few years now I've been wondering who would be the Iraq war's Walter Cronkite... I never imagined it would be Andy Rooney.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:51 PM on October 3, 2005


posted by Smedleyman We need the military we have for a host of reasons. We’re just not using it properly.

What are some of the reasons we need the bloated, overfed military we have? I'm genuinely curious why we need 10,000 nuclear weapons.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:54 PM on October 3, 2005


I'm genuinely curious why we need 10,000 nuclear weapons.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:54 PM EST on October 3 [!]


To feed private engineering contractors and the nuclear energy industry with lucrative military contracts?
posted by Rothko at 12:58 PM on October 3, 2005


I think the only interesting thing about this is Andy is _so_ mainstream, that if he is publicly questioning the war we may have reached a tipping point of sorts

That's exactly what I thought when I watched it last night. I was all ready to run out to the store in-between 60 Minutes (the real stories) and Simpsons when Rooney starts talking about Iraq? WTF? Perhaps not a tipping point, but very definitely a milestone in the anti-war movement.

We need those tanks for defense (what the hell do you think we have highways for?) and we need to spend that kind of money on bullets. We need to maintain our nuclear arsenal.

How about the F/A-22? Remember when we gave Clinton so much shit for his $271 budget? Ah, good times.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:59 PM on October 3, 2005


Starforce5 has a point regarding Japan. They're constitutionally bound not to have a large military. But if you were to poll most European countries, the contention that the US protects them is laughable. The US protects its own interests.

More bluntly, no Iraqi ever shot at me.

Even more bluntly, I applaud his sentiment, but still consider him an egregious douche.
posted by bardic at 12:59 PM on October 3, 2005


This overapplication of goodwin would have him (goodwin) rolling around in his grave.
posted by delmoi at 3:20 PM EST on October 3 [!]


Goodwin will rock forever, dude.
posted by Rothko at 12:59 PM on October 3, 2005


I'm genuinely curious why we need 10,000 nuclear weapons.

In case of vampire invasion. It's not like you can just shoot them, you know.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:00 PM on October 3, 2005


billion
posted by mrgrimm at 1:00 PM on October 3, 2005


As an aside, I seem to remember Paul Harvey admitting to Larry King that he eventually came round to oppose the war in Vietnam. He didn't specify when he had this miraculous epiphany, but my guess was it happened about .2 seconds after Larry asked him.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:02 PM on October 3, 2005


I'm genuinely curious why we need 10,000 nuclear weapons.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:54 PM EST on October 3 [!]

To feed private engineering contractors and the nuclear energy industry with lucrative military contracts?
posted by Rothko at 3:58 PM EST on October 3


Correct me here, but isn't weapons grade nuclear material still produced under the domain of the government? So what private engineering contractors, those would be public engineering contractors.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:06 PM on October 3, 2005


Rooney's comparison of military budgets of United States with its allies is pointless. The US protects its allies and has done so for the past several decades. In turn these allies don't need to spend as much on military and provide financial assistance to the US and mutual benefit in other ways.

You might have a point, but Russia isn't exactly an ally, and we also spend more than all of our potential enemies combined.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:07 PM on October 3, 2005


I'm genuinely curious why we need 10,000 nuclear weapons.

A nuke in every pot!
posted by nofundy at 1:11 PM on October 3, 2005


Smedleyman,

But the 'officers' we have now...It’s like calling everyone with a doctoral degree “Doctor.” Should be reserved for MDs. Same with officers in leadership positions. Skill to whatever degree in whatever field doesn’t equate to a right to command.

That's ridiculously idiotic. You do realize that all those fancy cures those big time doctors dispense at the hospital are thought up by us medical PhDs, right? And that an MD is basically a technical degree, right? Ugh, people have no idea how medicine actually works in this country...
posted by slapshot57 at 1:13 PM on October 3, 2005


You are seriously curious? Weird. Its so everyone is kept in check by being scared of us. That's why we are so powerful....sweet power.
posted by markulus at 1:14 PM on October 3, 2005


what private engineering contractors

Bechtel, Wackenhut, Lockheed
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:16 PM on October 3, 2005


Andy Rooney is an entertainer on a news magazine show. His segment is targeted at older people who watch the show so he talks about things that are of interest to them. He is there for entertainment and ratings. CBS feels that it works for them. There just seems to be no reason to get worked up one way or the other over such a person.
posted by flarbuse at 1:18 PM on October 3, 2005


I'm genuinely curious why we need 10,000 nuclear weapons.

Didn't you see Independence Day? We must be prepared for any kind of attack. You must not be patriotic enough.
posted by caddis at 1:25 PM on October 3, 2005


"I think the only interesting thing about this is Andy is _so_ mainstream, that if he is publicly questioning the war we may have reached a tipping point of sorts."

That's actually a pretty good point. Around here it was my SO's grandmother, an old Baptist hillbilly lady with a grandson in the Marines (he recently came home from spending quite a while in Iraq): after having been a Republican all her life she switched to the Democrats in disgust at the Clinton impeachment brouhaha ("There are more important things than that!"), and Dubya's presidency has been pushing her further toward the Left. She's been antiwar since before the shooting started, and the Katrina thing had her sounding distinctly pink.
posted by davy at 1:26 PM on October 3, 2005


I Foody nails it.

Rooney has been out of touch with all but the Garrison Keiler crowd for decades. That is to say that he represents the view point of elderly midwesterners and not much else.

However, in that category of "not much else" you'll find "the domestic journalism community." It's important because, as I Foody says, when someone you don't expect says something like this, it's because he and a large portion of the journalists he works with are getting sick and tired of the bullshit. Consider this as close to a Howard Beale moment as Andy Rooney will ever get.

Regarding American military expenditure: anyone who claims it is completely validated and unavoidable is willfully deluding him or her self. Consider that Rooney specifically brought up military spending because of the vital programs that will be abolished to support it. No military spending is vital enough to destroy the kind of important domestic support that the current plan proposes. Maybe that's a problem with the plan, but Rooney doesn't discount that possibility. Furthermore, our military spending is (and has been for a long time) self-justifying. We don't spend because need to. We need to because we spend. The protection we offer other countries is precisely the kind of thing Ike was warning against and the kind of thing that George Washington said this country should avoid doing. Furthermore, that protection is not a noble cause. The majority of it amounts to petty extortion and favors performed for Arab Oil Interests to keep our gas prices among the lowest in the world.
posted by shmegegge at 1:26 PM on October 3, 2005


Correct me here, but isn't weapons grade nuclear material still produced under the domain of the government? So what private engineering contractors, those would be public engineering contractors.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:06 PM EST on October 3 [!]


For one, Bechtel is a large private multinational contractor that works on nuclear waste cleanup in Hanford, Washington.
posted by Rothko at 1:27 PM on October 3, 2005


Can we discuss Rooney's point rather than how old he is?

No one, including Rooney, seriously thinks that we can or should eliminate military spending. Even most of us liberals understand the need to fight against terrorism and that fighting terrorism is different than fighting the kind of land-based wars we fought in the past.

Both liberals and conservatives went along with the calls for war after 9/11. Most people misjudged how lengthy and expensive the battle would be.

However, four years later, Katrina seems to have given us another wake-up call and has made clear that despite all the money we have thrown at homeland security, we have not improved our ability to plan for or handle natural or man-made disasters.

In light of this, it seems reasonable to reexamine the other parts of our war on terror to see if they are still providing us with the "hoped-for advantages" (as Ike put it.)


Let's face facts. Iraq does not appear much closer today to becoming a self-governing democracy that will help us fight terrorism than it was two years ago when we declared "Mission Accomplished". Whether the original motivation for the war in Iraq was bad intelligence or simply a noble reaction to one of the greatest national tragedies in our history doesn't really matter. That decision is done. It is history.

What matters is that our ongoing efforts don't appear to be bringing us much closer to achieving our goal. The cost in both US and Iraqi lives is great.

We need to decide whether or not we want to continue risking our soldiers lives at the current level for the foreseeable future.

If we do decide to continue the war as it is, we will have to either raise taxes or decide to cut other spending programs to make room for what we have to spend on helping the people in the Gulf recover from Katrina and Rita.

We should make these choices today and not put the costs off on future generations.

If we do decide that we can't continue to spend that much money on Iraq, we need to start creating a plan for getting out in an orderly fashion. There is undoubtedly the risk that if we withdraw, Iraq will plunge back into dictatorship or continue to suffer anarchy for a time, but there is also the chance that the Iraqi people will conquer their problems and will choose to reenter the world stage as a responsible citizen.

It is time to leave Iraq to the Iraqis and start taking care of our own.
posted by notmtwain at 1:27 PM on October 3, 2005


I'm genuinely curious why we need 10,000 nuclear weapons.

You can't just make 'em and stand pat. They need to be maintained. Version 1.0 of anything is never as good as originally envisioned so updates are inevitable and planned. And, you need to stay ahead of the competition by building more / newer / bigger. People and companies are needed to do this. They need to be fed in the meantime. You gotta give 'em something to do or they start working on other things. 10,000? That's only 200 per state. Hardly seems enough...
posted by scheptech at 1:30 PM on October 3, 2005


pollomacho: sandia is run by lockheed, los alamos is run by university of california (okay, not exactly a corporation, but with universities these days...), and batelle, llc runs oak ridge, idaho nat'l lab, and brookhaven.
posted by slogger at 1:33 PM on October 3, 2005


people'll call you Curly.

I've been called worse. Curly was the funny one anyways, wasn't he?

Plenty of people still support the initial war to overthrow Hussein, and the continuing presence of the army for the security and preservation of the new government in the face of a variety of enemies, in conjunction with American, UK, UN, South Korean, Italian, Romanian, Australian, Japanese, Danish, Bulgarian and yes, Polish military and civilian support. I also support the continuing international efforts to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure and civil society. In many respects, it's working. It demeans your argument to dismiss support for these efforts as insignificant. While it may be waning in some quarters, it is most definitely not in others. To believe otherwise is to kid yourself, like it or not.
posted by loquax at 1:38 PM on October 3, 2005


Can we discuss Rooney's point rather than . . . .

His point is old hat, at least around these parts. What's interesting is that so many more people, like Andy, seem to jumping on the bandwagon as of late. Even a lot of people who whole heartedly supported the decision to go to war are now seeing it as a colossal waste of money.
posted by caddis at 1:40 PM on October 3, 2005


While it may be waning in some quarters, it is most definitely not in others. To believe otherwise is to kid yourself, like it or not.

I would be interested in seeing statistics to back this up. It's been my understanding that, while the involved countries (most of them, anyway) maintain involvement, overall support in and from those countries has waned. Support has certainly waned within America. Is there a country that has increased support for this war? Or even maintained the same level? I'm not saying there isn't, but I don't have the statistics in front of me, and I'm really interested in having a definitive answer one way or the other.
posted by shmegegge at 1:43 PM on October 3, 2005


Bechtel does cleanup, Wackenhut does security, Lockheed makes "delivery systems" all of which could work without a nuclear weapons complex.

Incidentally, what do you want to be that if we nuked someone in an invasion, say Iran, Bechtel would get the clean up contract?

On preview: Batelle does plant management, it could be a Ford Plant in Flint or an Army nuke facility, they just do stuff like make sure there are fresh donuts in the break room and fresh "clean suits" in the locker room.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:45 PM on October 3, 2005


The US protects its allies

How, exactly? Sure there's bases all over the world, but they've been used to strike at foreign targets that don't threaten the host country. Sounds more like "The U.S. is a 250lb roommate who reads Soldier of Fortune and leaves his dirty underwear in the bathroom"
posted by CynicalKnight at 1:51 PM on October 3, 2005


Not a bad rant, but calling it the "Military Industrial Complex" is a bit dated. They go by a new name now.

Neocons.
posted by wah at 1:54 PM on October 3, 2005


The U.S. is a 250lb roommate who reads Soldier of Fortune and leaves his dirty underwear in the bathroom

Dirty is such a subjective term.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:55 PM on October 3, 2005


shmegegge: I was mostly referring to the reasons that people would have had for supporting the war, rather than geography or even political slant. I would suspect you're right, that support overall has waned everywhere, however not to the point where it's "insignificant" as was suggested earlier (unless I misunderstood). If you were blindly following Bush, it wouldn't surprise me if you started to lose confidence now. Same goes for those who were convinced of the WMD argument (whatever its merits). And the list goes on and on.

Without going into the whole Iraq debate again, the reasons I had in supporting it have little to do with most of the reasons being discussed in the media, and I see no reason why efforts shouldn't continue. And not being American, I care little for Bush's public persona, or Republican rhetoric, and their actions or words affect me much less than if I were living in the states. If your expectation from the beginning was that the US would be in Iraq for decades, and spend hundreds of billions rebuilding, and there would be conflict among the religious and ethnic groups, and there would be thousands of dead on both sides, but the goal as you saw it was still worth it, the efforts in Iraq are still just as supportable as they were in 2003.
posted by loquax at 1:57 PM on October 3, 2005


Bechtel does cleanup, Wackenhut does security, Lockheed makes "delivery systems" all of which could work without a nuclear weapons complex.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:45 PM EST on October 3 [!]


I have no idea what this comment means. Was your question answered or not? Three people have stepped in to try.
posted by Rothko at 1:58 PM on October 3, 2005


"What are some of the reasons we need the bloated, overfed military we have? I'm genuinely curious why we need 10,000 nuclear weapons."

/long derail, sorry.
I conceded the bloated point. We do have too many officers. I also conceded that we’re misusing our military (and form follows function), so that should cover about 2/3rds of the issue. We had a nice organization at the beginning of the Bush term, albeit still a little shakey on post-cold war vision. But nicely tuned to fight low intensity engagements with precision. We were sprinters and we’re being used as marathoners. Marathoners have to eat more (to use your ‘overfed’ metaphor). Naturally there’s going to be a great deal of inefficiency (without going into the corruption)
That said, your question to me seems not related to function really but to policy.

I’m not prepared to debate all of the policies with you that necessitate having the kind of military we have. Partly because I disagree with some of those policies (I think the M-16 sucks, for example. I’d rather have, say the Styer AUG system, but politicians do so love their pork) and partly because StarForce5 nicely pointed up the military relationship we have with our allies.

Whether it SHOULD be that way is debatable. I’d argue there should be more equity in defense, on the other hand the “have the bases on their turf” thing works well in terms of real military applications.
I’ll stress: Military.
Not policy, not any other asymmetric warfare.
Terrorism aims at changing policy not challenging military force. In terms of having a military presence, we own the world. We also own the seas.
Bear with me here:
I’d posit that we should get away from land-based nuclear silos and concentrate on our sub-based nukes.
This means a reduction in some areas, but an increase in others.

I’d agree that the cold war era of Mutual Assured Destruction is over, but the nuclear gene is still out of the bottle. If nukes exist, we want to have them and enough of them to leave no doubt that it’s not worth risking retaliation. Proliferation is still a problem ( look at India) http://www.thebulletin.org/article_nn.php?art_ofn=so05norris


Which is why, while I support cooperative threat reduction, which we’re heading toward anyway, I oppose the use of tactical nukes against any humans outside a hardened position (any position built to withstand bombardment).

Because - obviously - where do you then draw the line?
At some point someone will start tossing multi-megatons instead of the tactical firecrackers and then all sides lose.

So, cooperative threat reduction depends on transparency and reassurance more than deterrence.

In essence: nuclear weapons = coin, in terms of leveraging strategic objectives. It’s really no more than a symbol to be traded and dickered about among major powers.
Conciliation is not a strategic concept, it’s just a tactic.

Which is why we need “10,000 nuclear weapons,” so we can reduce them. As a bargaining chip.

Why do you think India is getting more? They’re showing they want to be appeased.

As it is though, we’ll need to spend more on our nukes getting rid of the old ICBMs and tuning up for lower intensity warfare. We’ll need cleaner nukes with smaller yields to hit hardened underground targets.
Because anyone who hits with the really big nukes could end the world. No one wants that so we have to go to a ‘threaten, but use them extremely sparingly under limited circumstances’ stance.
We’ll likely have to build things that are nuke eligible in order to deal with other major powers (not on OUR turf of course).

It’s as obvious as mating a king in chess. You have to make ‘X,Y,’ moves to get to ‘Z’.

I’m not debating policy though. I’d like to find some way to cut the gordian knot here and render the damned things useless. I’ve you’re a Dr. Strangelove fan you know a doomsday machine is out of the question. So it has to be something else (this missile defense thing looks promising as an idea, but it’s shit in application and anyway it leaves the nukes in play).
Dunno. Telepathy perhaps? Holtzman shields? I have no clue.
I liked Frank Herbert’s concept of the control on nukes in Dune.

So, short answer, the best thing to do would be to have policies that render military force obsolete as political coin.
Otherwise, really, we’re stuck with a nuclear albatross around our neck with only two things we can do about it: nothing, and like it.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:01 PM on October 3, 2005


wah

I had never heard of the New American Century before seeing that video a few years ago. However, I found this at Wikipedia. It is truly frightening that this is occuring right out in the open.
posted by Mr_Zero at 2:07 PM on October 3, 2005


Same goes for those who were convinced of the WMD argument (whatever its merits).

The idea that Saddam was going to nuke an American city ANY MINUTE!!!!! was the only even slightly tenable argument for the invasion of Iraq.

The idea that the USA can "preemptively" (meaningless without WMDs) attack other sovereign states, unprovoked, just because they think it's the right thing to do is an absolutely abominable one. Only a fanatic could convince themselves otherwise.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:08 PM on October 3, 2005


I have no idea what this comment means. Was your question answered or not? Three people have stepped in to try.

No, not really. Are there any private companies that produce weapons grade nuclear material? The companies listed do logistical support for government operated facilities.

We could have listed Sysco or ARA too, I'd bet they run a cafeteria in a nuke fuel plant somewhere too. They may make a mean sloppy joe, but not that mean.

Anyway, those types of contractors exist seperate to the nuclear weapons industry. Lockheed would still make aircraft and missiles. Bechtel would still clean up waste. Wackenhut would still harass teenagers at the mall. Logistics contracts to support government engineers is not exactly what I'd call an engineering contract.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:11 PM on October 3, 2005


Well, sonofsamiam, we could get into a discussion about what our definitions of provocation are. Hussein's actions were certainly provocative to me, whether or not he had ICBM's pointed at Washington. I'm pretty sure his people felt pretty provoked by him too, but were unfortunately massacred any time they tried to do anything about it. Not an easy moral choice, I grant you, but ultimately the correct one in my opinion, and one that was 12 years overdue.
posted by loquax at 2:14 PM on October 3, 2005


The military budget of the US is equal to that of the next 40 countries combined - in other words, pretty much the rest of the developed world. There is no conceivable threat that can justify such an expenditure.

The war in Iraq is a perfect example of what happens when you think that any problem can be solved with military might. Sophisticated weapons systems are useless against a determined guerilla insurgency. George Bush might have learned that in Viet Nam, if he had bothered to go.

When you have the biggest, shiniest, most expensive hammer around, you tend to start thinking that you can solve any problem by bashing on it with your hammer.
posted by wadefranklin at 2:16 PM on October 3, 2005


No, not really. Are there any private companies that produce weapons grade nuclear material? The companies listed do logistical support for government operated facilities.

We could have listed Sysco or ARA too, I'd bet they run a cafeteria in a nuke fuel plant somewhere too. They may make a mean sloppy joe, but not that mean.

Anyway, those types of contractors exist seperate to the nuclear weapons industry. Lockheed would still make aircraft and missiles. Bechtel would still clean up waste. Wackenhut would still harass teenagers at the mall. Logistics contracts to support government engineers is not exactly what I'd call an engineering contract.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:11 PM EST on October 3 [!]


Pollomacho, the DoE regularly farms out nuclear reprocessing and purification work to contractors. National Lead of Ohio was the primary contractor involved in reprocessing uranium into a form ready to make weapons-grade plutonium at the Hanford facility from the 50s to 80s. That role has since been taken over by private contractors Westinghouse and Fluor Daniel. These companies make more than "sloppy joes". Let me know if this doesn't answer your question.
posted by Rothko at 2:19 PM on October 3, 2005


“How about the F/A-22? Remember when we gave Clinton so much shit for his $271 budget? Ah, good times.”

Who’s ‘we’, kemosabe?
I’d rather have had more A-10s back then, I’d rather have more now.
http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/a-10.htm
18,000-24,000 service hours for a low flying combat support aircraft. They’re built.


“You do realize that all those fancy cures those big time doctors dispense at the hospital are thought up by us medical PhDs, right?”
Nope. Not a clue slapshot57. No offense meant. Poor analogy perhaps. The point I was trying to make is as there are folks who actually operate on people, so too are there folks who actually lead men in combat.
I’m sure immuniologists do great work, but I don’t want one massaging my heart.
I don’t have a clue how medicine works, sorry. I don’t have an MD, sorry. Just never got around to it I guess. I’m sooo ignorant. YOU > me.



Policywise, I agree what notmtwain said.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:20 PM on October 3, 2005


Hey, smedley, However, in the last two centuries of popular use in English-speaking and many other countries, the noun doctor has come to be used widely to refer to physicians (medical doctors), who are also granted use of the prefix as a courtesy title, whether or not they hold doctorates.

Like slapshot, your comment concerning MDs really chapped my hide. Other than that, your comment on officers gets no opposition from me.
posted by linux at 2:21 PM on October 3, 2005


The U.S. is a 250lb roommate who reads Soldier of Fortune and leaves his dirty underwear in the bathroom

Yeah, except he's your cousin that you teased mercilessly while he was growing up, and he fixed your car and beat up the neighborhood bullies that wanted to hurt you, which was actually pretty dangerous and costly for him. How do you tell him you think you want the master bedroom back and that maybe he should consider moving out because he's embarrassing at parties and flirts with your girlfriend?
posted by fleacircus at 2:29 PM on October 3, 2005


Hussein's actions were certainly provocative to me, whether or not he had ICBM's pointed at Washington.

You were so threatened by the man that you think an unfathomable economic expenditure, the ruination of America's diplomatic credibility, and, most importantly, 25,000 deaths at minimum, are justified by his removal.

I sure hope you feel better now.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:30 PM on October 3, 2005


"your comment concerning MDs really chapped my hide"

Again, my apologies, poor analogy. Poorly worded. I'd hoped my meaning would be taken. But this is a medium subject to the emotion of debate without the nuance and inflection, merely the words. I'll try to choose them more carefully.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:30 PM on October 3, 2005


The idea that the USA can "preemptively" (meaningless without WMDs) attack other sovereign states, unprovoked, just because they think it's the right thing to do is an absolutely abominable one. Only a fanatic could convince themselves otherwise.

That's an awfully firm statement. How do you feel about Bosnia? Or any scenario in which there's an ongoing program of "ethnic cleansing" or another holocaust?
posted by pardonyou? at 2:31 PM on October 3, 2005


loquax: I strongly suspect you'd be very surprised by polling on support for the Iraq war.

While one could quibble about what insignificant means, it is very much the minority in America, let alone the rest of the world.

Most Americans want out of Iraq soon. Most Americans think going in was a mistake. Most Americans think it has been handled badly. Most Americans think we are going to lose.

Outside of America, the support is wholly insignificant. Only Britain has given real commitment. Of the other insignificant players in the coalition, all support tends to come directly at odds with the people those governments represent.

And at this point, the odds of a favorable conclusion are being laid as quite slim even by military hawks on the ground. So I find your "support" (whatever that means to you) somewhat baffling.

But Rooney is not tapping into some fringe sentiment here. Opposition and pessimism about Iraq is very much majority and mainstream in America now. It always has been everywhere else.

Indeed, at this point qualified support for the Iraq war is minority in America, and unqualified support is lunatic fringe minority.
posted by teece at 2:36 PM on October 3, 2005


pardonyou:

I suspect that his emphasis was on the word think. As in, there better be a whole lot more to back up that action than just suspecting that Saddam has wmds.

see, we didn't go to war to liberate iraqis. that was the after-the-fact rationalization. That's what upsets so many americans. and the international community. and iraqis.
posted by shmegegge at 2:39 PM on October 3, 2005


teece,

well said. not to mention the fact that whether saddam's loss of power was justified or not, that was tangential to why we entered the conflict. It could easily be some innocent country that gets invaded next, so long as those in power in this country can successfully lie long enough to launch the attack.
posted by shmegegge at 2:43 PM on October 3, 2005


For those of you too young to remember the Cold War:

Why does the US have "more than enough" nukes?

US has 10000 nukes because of constant upgrading of weapons systems and to make it very clear to any would-be nuke attackers that the US arsenal can not be destroyed with one or two strikes. The US arsenal is everywhere. With the USSR this was called "mutually assured destruction", without the USSR now its simply "assured destruction". I'm not cheering for this policy, I'm just saying this is a fundamental principle of defense.

How did/does the US protect its allies?

Let's review: What happened to eastern Europe and East Berlin right after WWII? That's right kids, Soviet take over and it wasn't fun for the people who lived though it. People scraped tunnels under the Iron Curtain to get the hell out of there and escape to the west. Religon: banned. Freedom of speech: no way. Right to a fair trial: there was no trial. Voting: you can't. What's on TV? Speeches and funerals for our esteemed leaders. Who kept this wonderful way of life from spreading into the rest of Europe? Mostly the American taxpayer. As for the Europeans the money they saved on military defense they were able to spend on socialist programs, good for them but it leaves everyone to assume that every nation afford to as generously socialist as Europe. Sorry kids but someone has to pay for the guns that keep fascism at bay.
posted by StarForce5 at 2:44 PM on October 3, 2005


You were so threatened by the man that you think an unfathomable economic expenditure, the ruination of America's diplomatic credibility, and, most importantly, 25,000 deaths at minimum, are justified by his removal.

I don't entirely agree with your characterizations, but in general, yes.

Indeed, at this point qualified support for the Iraq war is minority in America, and unqualified support is lunatic fringe minority.

I agree with you, or at least, have no reason to disagree. My support is also qualified. You'd have to be unreasonable not to qualify your support for a war, IMO. Also, I think you underestimate the support in certain parts of Europe, especially the former communist countries, but don't have stats on hand to support that. I certainly agree that even qualified support for the war is a minority opinion just about everywhere at this point.
posted by loquax at 2:47 PM on October 3, 2005


I saw the Rooney piece last night and thought it was a refreshing blast of intelligence of the sort that's long been lacking on TV news, but that seems to be poking it's head up more and more since Katrine blew the "compassionate" out of compassionate conservatism and exposed it for the self serving incompetence and croyism that it truly embodies. I also thought "Oh to hell with it, too little too late Rooney, no one cares anymore, we've given the country away to terrible people who deserve to be shot. We're screwed forever."

That being said, I found myself thinking about what he said again this morning on the subway to work. Sure he'll be dismissed as an "old crank" by the Fox type news mafia and I'm sure Rove's swift boaters are preparing to charge him as a VC sympathizer who is probably gay, but his words are going to resonate with folks in the heartland. A great many people there and around the country still like Ike.

Here's an hopeful observation I had a couple of weeks ago. It was a Saturday night and I met up with a friend for in the East Village (NYC). We walked around a bit and ended up at one of the older bars in the neighborhood on Ave B (Mona's) . It was a beautiful night, one of the first true Fall nights. The sidewalks were filled with people. Young and old. There was something in the air. I could've sworn I sensed an energy, like a restlessness or a hunger. Of this unique instance in time. Something pretty good, maybe. Something that can't be undone or taken away by a million Rove's and their Frankenstein fratboy W's.

Not much, but something along with W.'s plummeting approval numbers, Delay's Indictment, Katrina's ongoing exposure of this administration's glaring incompetence and Rove's day of reckoning to hold on to. That and the government scandel soon to envelope this administration that's going to make Katrina look like a walk in the park. I can dream right?
posted by Skygazer at 2:56 PM on October 3, 2005


Loquax: I think you'd be surprised at the position I take on Iraq. I support a lot of the goals of the invasion, but I am opposed to the methods that were used, and I'm not sure what should be done in the future.
But I'm not going to say that I'm unapologetically for the war, as you seemed to say about yourself (with the mention of your two cominded comrades).
posted by klangklangston at 3:18 PM on October 3, 2005


Hear hear slapshot57! It annoys me to no end when people (and some MDs) believe that MDs are these GODS just because they're paid more than scientists.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 3:25 PM on October 3, 2005


Pollomacho wrote: Ever notice how people are constantly bringing up Ike's "warning" about the military-industrial complex? Why is it that no one ever brings up that Ike was a former general and established, during his 8 years in office, much of what is the military-industrial complex?

I think the quote is only interesting because of his personal history. If he didn't have a military background, it wouldn't resonate with me at all.
posted by I Love Tacos at 3:29 PM on October 3, 2005


loquax: Also, I think you underestimate the support in certain parts of Europe, especially the former communist countries, but don't have stats on hand to support that

I can't find any recent polls but there's this from before the war, and :
Humphrey Taylor, head of Harris Interactive pollsters, noted "Eastern European countries feel somewhat more warmly toward the U.S." Still, the difference in popular attitudes between "Old Europe" and "New Europe" are not huge. As Taylor noted acerbically, "They are all old."
I think we can forget Poland.
posted by fleacircus at 3:31 PM on October 3, 2005


But I'm not going to say that I'm unapologetically for the war, as you seemed to say about yourself

I was just joking in response to a rhetorical question (although Britney is quite the conversationalist). I certainly have reservations about the methods, strategies, and objectives, and I acknowledge that circumstances could occur that would change my mind about continued involvement, but so far, given the qualifications I've mentioned, I won't apologize for supporting what's happened so far, while acknowledging the cost all around as what I believe to be a necessary and appropriate one.

Which brings me back to Rooney and various anecdote about previous "conservatives" now opposing the war. It all depends on why they supported it. If Rooney supported it just because he was a "Republican", well of course he'll change his mind once he's forced to deal with the realities of the cost, both financial and human. Same goes for other blind ideologues, cronies, the uninformed, and the uncaring. The news from Iraq is not pleasant, easy to understand or particularly palatable. It's not easy to justify, as others have pointed out, why it was/is a fundamentally correct/moral decision (and I won't bother to try here), and it's not easy to see the immediate short term and potential long term benefits of removing Hussein and occupying the country. As I've said before here, the biggest mistake the Bush administration made was taking the easy road in justifying the war and predicating it on unprovable WMD claims and other vague assurances in order to expedite support. The chickens are now coming home to roost for them in terms of the polls and the waning support being discussed, but that doesn't change the principles behind the action, except from a political perspective, which I'm not particularly interested in, not having a horse in US electoral politics. Had the American public bought into a war initially justified on humanitarian grounds or the such, and had they been made to understand what the ultimate cost would likely be, the seemingly rough going now would be much easier to stomach. As it is, I believe that waning support for the war is more an indictment of the methods of the administration than an indictment of the concept of liberating Iraq and re-integrating it into the global community. If I'm right, then I would wholeheartedly support Hilary in '08 or any other democratic president so long as Iraq was not abandoned. I bet Andy Rooney would too.

I think we can forget Poland.


Well, I acknowledge that I could certainly be overestimating popular support in Eastern Europe, however their governments are participating to a relatively large extent, and my general opinion after travelling through most of the region over the last few months is that they are far more sympathetic to the efforts in Iraq than most other countries.
posted by loquax at 3:43 PM on October 3, 2005


starforce5:

first of all, don't patronize me, punk, you seem to think you're king motherfuckin' shit because you remember the cold war. Wow gosh, what are you, thirty years old?

we had nukes because the russkies did, okey doke, so what's the excuse now? Now it's just 'assured destruction'? That fills me with confidence. Sounds great, i'm backing that.

You want to review, let's review:
America 2005: religion: state-funded. Freedom of speech: sure, if you can afford your own TV station. Otherwise: prepare to be branded a traitor. Voting: You can, but if you use a machine or are black, prepare for thousands of votes to be lost with no paper trail. What's on tv?: Speeches and funerals for our esteemed leaders. Reagan, okay? Reagan.

so about Europe: two world wars in one century, think about it, maybe they want peace. Maybe they have no more young men to kill. I'll bet you think the US won WWII aaall by ourselves. And that Reagan defeated communism. Shit, boy, communism defeated itself. Helped out by rock music and hollywood. It sure as fuck wasn't the nukes.

'someone has to pay for the guns that keep fascism at bay.'
Well aren't you the ruff tuff creampuff? Did you get that off a t-shirt or out of Soldier of Fortune magazine? jesus i don't know why i bother.
posted by Miles Long at 3:46 PM on October 3, 2005


posted by StarForce5 Sorry kids but someone has to pay for the guns that keep fascism at bay.

This is the most idiotic thing ever posted on MetaFilter.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:01 PM on October 3, 2005


This is the most idiotic thing ever posted on MetaFilter.

Just curious - why? It may be a little simplistic, but fascism/totalitarianism/authoritarianism rarely if ever acknowledges any external pressure but military strength.

And if we're talking about idiotic things posted to metafilter, what I could understand of Miles Long's shrill and juvenile rebuttal has to be up there.
posted by loquax at 4:13 PM on October 3, 2005


loquax: based on your argument, we should be in there helping every country that silences dissidents. So where next? Uzbekistan? Angola? And what is the equation used to figure out which country we invade first? And is cost (either in money or human life) not a consideration? Do the U.S. continue the liberation party overseas forever? Even when U.S. citizens are dying every day from simple causes such as disease and poverty? Is it more justified for our government to "spread Democracy" than to spend those same resources on U.S. citizens?
posted by sixdifferentways at 4:16 PM on October 3, 2005


Is it more justified for our government to "spread Democracy" than to spend those same resources on U.S. citizens?

You're right of course. It's a question of means and priorities, and the free, liberal countries than can afford to help the oppressed and imprisoned should do whatever they can, using force when appropriate, and diplomacy when it's not. God forbid we see a day when the people living under totalitarian rule are completely left twisting in the wind, while we twiddle our thumbs and let them fend for themselves. And I do think that the mere presence of totalitarianism in any form wherever it may be is a danger to liberal countries including the US, and should be treated as an immediate concern, balanced, of course, with the domestic priorities you mentioned and geopolitical realities. I don't mean to say that US or Europe have a perfect record on this front either, by any stretch. There are clearly deals that have been made with the devil, and a blind eye turned towards a great many suffering people in a collection of horrible countries, but that doesn't negate positives wherever they can be found.
posted by loquax at 4:25 PM on October 3, 2005


By the way, I don't know if this counts for anyone here, but it impressed me (it was lost in the immediate aftermath of Katrina):

President Welcomes President Talabani of Iraq to the White House

In the name of Iraqi people, I say to you, Mr. President, and to the glorious American people, thank you, thank you. Thank you, because you liberated us from the worst kind of dictatorship. Our people suffered too much from this worst kind of dictatorship. The -- (inaudible) - was hundred thousand of Iraqi innocent children and women, young and old men. Thank you, and thanks to the United States, there are now 15 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq liberated by your courageous leadership and decision to liberate us, Mr. President.
...
We are proud that one day will come -- as soon as possible, of course, we hope -- that American troops can proudly return home, and we tell them, thank you, dear friends, and you are faithful to friendship. Of course, we are sorry for the sacrifices of American people in Iraq, but I think a great people like America has a mission in the history -- they have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of their sons in the war -- first world war, second world war, and in liberating people in Afghanistan, Kurdistan. And the great leader, Mr. George W. Bush is continuing the same mission of the American people. We are grateful. We are grateful for American generosity, and we honor -- we honor -- sacrifices of America in Iraq -- and everywhere, not only in Iraq.


It's all quite interesting, if you can get past a little of the kowtowing.
posted by loquax at 4:46 PM on October 3, 2005


loquax:

you're right, name-calling is pretty juvenile. So is not addressing the substance of a post. i'm gonna leave it at that unless you actually say something besides insults. still don't know why i bother.
posted by Miles Long at 4:51 PM on October 3, 2005


What's the point.

It's like a Milgram experiment trying to talk to the die-hards. They're impervious, they have no sense of proportion, they can justify any immoral or illegal behavior on the part of their heroes after the fact. They think they are reasonable.

God protect us all from the foolish, foolish men who care more about validating their own worldview, who care more about their made-up theories than human life. There's no arguing with a true believer.
posted by sonofsamiam at 4:52 PM on October 3, 2005


Miles Long - Insults? I didn't insult you - I said your post was idiotic, shrill and juvenile, despite your sentiment. If you're honest with yourself, you'll agree. No permanent harm done, in the heat of the moment, sometimes we all go overboard.

Sonofsamiam - I don't know if you're specifically referring to me, but it's precisely because of the value I have for human life that I'm arguing the points I am. We can disagree, but if you really believe that the people on the other side of the argument don't value human life, you underestimate them and I suppose we have nothing else to talk about.
posted by loquax at 4:57 PM on October 3, 2005


loquax: ... the free, liberal countries that can afford to help the oppressed and imprisoned should do whatever they can, using force when appropriate, and diplomacy when it's not. God forbid we see a day when the people living under totalitarian rule are completely left twisting in the wind, while we twiddle our thumbs and let them fend for themselves. And I do think that the mere presence of totalitarianism in any form wherever it may be is a danger to liberal countries including the US, and should be treated as an immediate concern....

John Quincy Adams disagrees with you. Writing in 1821:

Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will [America's] heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.... She might become the dictatress of the world. She would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit....

If we were governed by gods of infinite goodness, wisdom, and power--or at least by saints and geniuses--your position might be more arguable. But since we have to make do with fallible human beings, I think we ought to set more modest goals for our governments. In particular, the US government is responsible for the safety and well-being of its own citizens. (As Katrina shows, this is a difficult enough task.) It's not responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone, everywhere.

Moreover, the best of intentions can produce terrible results. War is a very blunt instrument. Stanley Hoffmann, writing in 1969:

... often the greatest threat to moderation and peace, and certainly the most insidious, comes from objectives that are couched in terms of fine principles in which the policy-maker fervently believes, yet that turn out to have no relation to political realities and can therefore be applied only by tortuous or brutal methods which broaden ad infinitum the gap between motives and effects. ... What Vietnam proves, in my opinion, is not the wickedness of our intentions or objectives but the wickedness that results from irrelevant objectives and disembodied intentions, applied by hideous and massive means. It has its roots, intellectual and emotional, in elements of the American style that I have been at pains to analyze in detail. The Americans' very conviction that their goals are good blinds them to the consequences of their acts.
posted by russilwvong at 5:07 PM on October 3, 2005


loquax: I think any "algebra of suffering" that purports to justify so many innocent deaths is so fatally flawed on its face that there is indeed nothing to talk about.

Every atrocity in history was committed for what it's perpetrators thought were all the right reasons.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:09 PM on October 3, 2005


i really don't want to fight with you loquax, but i can't help but notice that you're still not addressing my post beyond calling it names. And one of the names is 'juvenile'. oookay. You're a good word-dancer, as your name would suggest but you're still not saying anything.

if you're honest with yourself, you'll agree
posted by Miles Long at 5:25 PM on October 3, 2005


God forbid we see a day when the people living under totalitarian rule are completely left twisting in the wind, while we twiddle our thumbs and let them fend for themselves.

When has it ever not been that day? We support totalitarian rulers when they support us. We oppose democratic leaders when they oppose us. It has never been about the people under them. The only question in my mind is whether you're kidding yourself or whether you know perfectly well everything you've said is nonsense and are trying to kid everyone else.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:35 PM on October 3, 2005


loquax, thanks for your reasonable comments on supporting the war.

I had many of the same thoughts as you before the war. I liked the thought of the world without Hussein; I wasn't squeamish about the spilling of blood for a greater good, and I thought major steps were called for. As part of a larger strategy to transform the Middle East, invading Iraq could make sense and I could have been for it.

But I was against the war because I doubted this administration could pull it off. The contempt for international diplomacy, the rush to war, the discarding of all other options, the alienating of allies and unilateralism.... They didn't demonstrate any sense of strategy or appreciation of the bigger picture. They showed all the markings of fools about to fuck everything up.

The "this gang can't shoot straight" argument, in other words. And this gang hasn't been shooting very straight. Iraq is not about to "stand up". It's in critical condition, and it's not even clear that it's improving. Also it's a real possiblity that Iraq might end up worse than it was for both Iraqis and the U.S.

Now that the mess has been made, though, I'm more on your side. I think that it's still possible that the war on Iraq could be turned into a net good, but not by the current crew in Washington.
posted by fleacircus at 5:36 PM on October 3, 2005


russilwvong - excellent points, and I don't fundamentally disagree with either.

The liberal countries in the world (and I'm specifically including the rest of the free liberal democracies), should not, as Adams said, "[go]...abroad, in chase of monsters" as a general rule, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore monsters when they present themselves. Adams wrote in a different time, before America had any "liberal" allies to speak of, when it's power to project force was limited, and when the only example of projected force was in the quest for conquest, dominion and empire. We may disagree on this point, however I don't believe that the US is following in the tradition of the imperial powers that preceded her, but in spirit of the lessons learned after the second world war, when an "unchased monster" ended up on liberal democracy's doorstep. There must be a balance between direct interference, and allowing the world on your doorstep to go to hell in a handbasket. It was one thing to strike an isolationist pose in the early 1800's, and quite another in the age of nuclear weapons, intercontinental travel, and the global economy. In addition, the US has certainly not directly acted whenever the opportunity presented itself. Iraq, Vietnam, and Korea stand out as exceptional cases of military involvement when placed alongside some of the brutal ideological dictatorships of the 20th century. Whether or not the US should have invaded Burma, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Rwanda, North Korea, Libya, and so on may be representative of restraint and diplomacy, or of inaction and incapability, but either way the US has certainly not turned into a global policeman or dictatress, for better or for worse.

As for the quote from Hoffman and your point about fallible leadership, I don't argue for a second that having good intentions is enough for action, nor am I saying that every liberal "interference" will be a success. There will always be disasters along the way, there will always be enemies that have a vested interest in the status quo of absolutism and totalitarianism, and there will always be those who believe that the price is not worth the reward. But for every Vietnam there is a South Korea, for every Nicaragua there is a Japan, for every Grenada a Germany. Hopefully, Iraq moves in the direction of the latter, but I certainly acknowledge the potential for mismanagement, a lack of commitment to the long term success of the mission, misguided intentions and ultimately failure. I think it therefore behoves the US and the other liberal countries of the world to do whatever it takes to prevent such a failure from occurring, rather than simply withdrawing, especially as the decisive move of invading has already been made. While wickedness *can* result from good intentions, they don't have to, especially given the lessons we've learned along the way.

the US government is responsible for the safety and well-being of its own citizens...It's not responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone, everywhere.

I believe that the two are inexorable linked, and that the safety of US citizens will never be completely assured as long there there are those diametrically opposed to the principles upon which the world's liberal countries are built. Especially when they have the means and the motivation to actively destabilize their neighbours, gain allies, build weapons, and confront us directly, leaving aside the inhumanity towards their own people. Of course the choice shouldn't be an either/or scenario between spreading liberalism and feeding your people, but I do believe there has to be a healthy serving of the former in order for the continuing survival and flourishing of liberal democratic societies.

I think that it's still possible that the war on Iraq could be turned into a net good, but not by the current crew in Washington.

I'm tending to agree with you more and more, however I believe that Iraq is already a net good. I just question whether or not the current administration can keep it that way and continue the progress made.

Every atrocity in history was committed for what it's perpetrators thought were all the right reasons.

Yes, but some perpetrators were right and some were wrong.

i really don't want to fight with you loquax

I don't want to fight with you either - peace.
posted by loquax at 6:07 PM on October 3, 2005


You can download the video of Eisenhower's farewell address here.
posted by augustweed at 6:15 PM on October 3, 2005


Am I the only one who laughed at bshort's Ferris Bueller quote up top?

loquax, I don't agree with you for the most part, but I'd like to thank you for a most reasonable discussion and presentation of your views, something that's been lacking around here of late.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:26 PM on October 3, 2005


Andy Rooney is great. His book My War, about WWII, is particularly good, and I am going to give it a re-read. In it there is a bit where he meets Hemingway, and iirc is not particularly impressed with the man.

If all you know of Andy Rooney has to do with his 60 Minutes appearances, you are missing the real depth he has that is revealed in his writing.
posted by beth at 6:42 PM on October 3, 2005


I gotta say, loquax has been the model of civility, here. If he called someone's post idiotic or whatever, he didn't fire the first shot.

That being said, I agree that starforce5's last comment about the weapons that keep fascism at bay is truly and utterly ridiculous. It reads like a McCarthy-ite chapbook written by a drunken captain america (who's pointing at his biceps when he says the line about "the weapons that keep fascism at bay.")

but outside of generalizing his post, let's make this one argument:

pointing to the actions of our country 50 years ago (during a period, mind you, that at times embodied the worst this country got until recently. red scare, I'm looking in your direction!) and using that justify every action since then is simply nonsense. It doesn't justify Korea, Viet Nam or just about anything we've done since then. Furthermore, the reasons for that activity simply don't apply to the majority of what we've done in the past 50 years. No amount of falsely patriotic chest thumping will make our numerous invasions altruistic in the slightest. We do these things selfishly, and we reap the benefits at the expense of the livelihood of the innocent civilians of the nations we invade.
posted by shmegegge at 7:02 PM on October 3, 2005


I gotta say, loquax has been the model of civility, here.

I agree, he/she is a class act. I can see his/her position. At one point I ascribed to some version of it. But the handling of things in Iraq has been so bad that, at this point, if you want things to get better it looks like America needs to leave. We are adding fuel to the fire. America's military is also stressed to near the breaking point, and it's getting closer to it every day, so what's right or wrong is going to become academic in the next two years. We send troops back for third, fourth, or even fifth rotations, effectively destroying the American army, we start a draft, or we come home. So in a very real sense what is right doesn't even matter. We are coming home in the near future.

So sure, I support the idea of a free and democratic Iraq, with human rights for all and religious freedom. We aren't getting that at all right away. I'd like an Iraq that doesn't descend into a chaotic civil war. Currently, American presence is not helping much on that front -- indeed, some have already said that the civil war has already begun, and they have a point.

I never supported the transparent crap about Iraq being a threat to the US or its neighbors, which was an obvious, blatant lie from the get go, which was my problem from the beginning with Iraq.

Whether or not invading to topple an asshole dictator like Saddam is a net good or bad, well, that's a harder question to answer. It leans towards good if you set up a truly peaceful, representative democracy. But it probably leans well towards bad if you fuck it up and create a nightmare of war and chaos. And that's what Iraq is -- it's almost impossible to argue rationally that Iraq is a better place.

And that was always the tricky thing about supporting this war: it was obvious to anyone that gave the issue even a cursory glance that it would be very easy to make Iraq worse by toppling Saddam. And that's what America has done to date. And now even American military people are saying we should just get the hell out, because we can only make it worse.

So Rooney's position is not in the least bit surprising. It's only surprising that the "official" opinion makers and politicians are still playing the "Iraq must be won" game. It's not even clear what the hell winning means now.
posted by teece at 8:29 PM on October 3, 2005


I gotta say, loquax has been the model of civility, here.

Well, thanks guys, but I think everyone's been pretty civil here, and like I've said a few time on MeTa, I think the general level of discourse has been headed pretty steadily up for the last little bit after taking a dip for a while. So, good for everyone I guess.

But the handling of things in Iraq has been so bad that, at this point, if you want things to get better it looks like America needs to leave. We are adding fuel to the fire. America's military is also stressed to near the breaking point, and it's getting closer to it every day, so what's right or wrong is going to become academic in the next two years.

Are you sure about this? A couple of links - first, The fourth rail, detailing various military operations (and I do mean detailing). I'll be the first to admit that I know no more of the details of what's happening in Iraq than what I read, and that I'm no military expert, but it seems to me that the fighting is getting further and further removed from the centre of the country, and the security situation is getting better everyday. Suicide bombs have been reduced, attacks are lower, and there have been fewer civilian and military casualties lately (see this Brookings institute report). The trend is downwards, hopefully it will continue. Al Qaeda has no credibility or support in the country, especially after declaring war on half the country after having initially claimed to be liberating it from the "infidels". In addition, the things that we used to hear about, Sadr's army, the caliphate of Fallujah and so on are no longer immediate threats to the stability of the country. The last I heard, Al Qaeda leaders in Iraq were encouraging fighters in Iraq to head back to their countries of origin in order to ferment revolution there - not exactly something you'd expect the winning side to say. I don't know enough about the inner workings of the US army to comment on whether or not fatigue is a serious problem or resources are stretched too thin, but every indication I hear is that slowly but surely Iraqi readiness is increasing. The recent announcement that 2 "battle ready" division of the Iraqi National Guard were reduced to second level strength was a red herring, and was really a technicality relating to standards and leadership (sorry can't find links right now for my last two claims, but I know I came across them somewhere). If I'm right about the situation getting better, it can only lead to reduced US troop strength, and more American flexibility with respect to deployment. Najaf and now Kerbala are the first two provinces that are completely under the control of Iraqi security forces. I still don't mean to suggest that everything is perfect, or going swimmingly - there have been and will be setbacks, but as long as the commitment is there from the Americans and their allies, including the UN, which is returning in strength and running ads proclaiming their support of a democratic Iraq, I can't envision the disaster you're predicting.

The second link is again to Chrenkoff's "Good news from Iraq" series. This is the 34th in the series. Again, not to suggest that the work is done, but there are a number of positive indications coming from the rebirth of civil society in Iraq, and the rebuilding of infrastructure and the economy.

Here's another link to a poll that claims that 88% of Iraqis will participate in the October referendum. Frankly, I think this is just amazing. Consider that every democratic, liberal event that has taken place in Iraq is a virtual modern day first in the Middle East. These things would have been unthinkable 5 years ago.

I disagree with some of the other things you said too, but mostly, I think you're underestimating the positive developments in the country, and the ongoing progress against the terrorists/insurgency. Also, I have to get to bed. 'Till the next time, good night!
posted by loquax at 9:18 PM on October 3, 2005


There are 500 attacks per week. Car bombings have killed more than 3000 people in Baghdad since late spring. There are 35 working ambulances for Baghdad's 5,000,000 residents. Doctors are fleeing the country "with the sharp rise in assassinations and kidnappings by insurgents." CBS News reports there's undeclared civil war. Iraq's president has called for the prime minister to resign. Al Qaeda in Iraq is a self-sustaining guerilla army. Last week Sadr's milita had a long-running gun battle with US soldiers.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:04 AM on October 4, 2005


Whether you like him or not, Rooney is reaching a vast segment of the population who only get news from the TV and newspaper, if that. They have a more limited view of what's going on in the world (as compared to much better-informed mefites). Rooney's points are good, even if he's an ass. There's a lot of overlap in his and Paul Harvey's audiences. This is good.
posted by wsg at 1:30 AM on October 4, 2005


loquax;

These events you mention are only positive developments if we make two assumptions. First, that American lives are more valuable than Iraqi lives. Second, that The US achieving complete control over Iraq is a good thing.

Murder is immoral regardless of the nationality of the victim, so I can't buy the first premise. And I think it's morally wrong for any country to take over any other country through force and against the will of that country's people. So I can't buy the second premise either.
posted by Clay201 at 2:56 AM on October 4, 2005


The invasion of Iraq was the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history,” a retired Army general said yesterday, strengthening an effort in Congress to force an American withdrawal beginning next year., Retired Army Lt. Gen. William Odom, a Vietnam veteran, said the invasion of Iraq alienated America's Middle East allies, making it harder to prosecute a war against terrorists.
posted by caddis at 8:13 AM on October 4, 2005


“The generals and commanders on the field in Iraq overwhelmingly are saying we need less in terms of occupation and more Iraqis up front, and that's the only strategy I think that will result in getting American troops back home.”

I agree with the General. The current troop strength seems unreasonable if it continues indefinitely. But this reconstruction effort should be considered as important as the rebuilding of Germany and Europe after WW2, and engaging and pressure the other totalitarian Middle Eastern states as important as the effort to contain and pressure the Soviet Union. There are still tens of thousands of US troops in Germany, Italy and the UK. If the effort to liberate Iraq is to be successful, an American/Allied/Global force must remain to deter those that would interfere with the process (supported by the vast majority of Iraqis) that has been put into place, whether from within or without.

I also think it's tough to argue that Iraq has alienated the US "Middle Eastern Allies". First of all, much of what I've read here express disgust that the US is even nominally allied with any of those countries. Second, it doesn't particularly concern me that a collection of despots, tyrants, princes and kings disapprove of the actions of more than 40 liberal countries. Especially when those actions involve actively bringing democratic ideals and principles to their doorstep. I understand how nervous and displeased Mr. Bashar is, and King Abdallah as well. And they should be nervous. If the liberal experiment in Iraq works, they're all in trouble, not from American guns, but from their own people, sick of being lied to and oppressed for a century, with Iraq as a model Arab constitutional democracy, in whatever form. Third, The only results of the war in Iraq that I've seen in the region have been positive. Local elections in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the apparent backing down of Col. Qadhafi's Libya, and the withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza strip finally resulting in true self-government for (at least some) palestinians. Aside from the bombs in London and Madrid, I haven't noticed a marked increase in global terrorism, and even those events arguable had little if anything to do with Iraq, rhetoric notwithstanding. 9/11 happened before Iraq, so did the bombing of the WTC in 1993, and the destruction of the embassy in Kenya. Even if it can be proven that global terrorism is on the rise because of Iraq, how exactly is that related to a lack of cooperation from other Middle Eastern countries? I don't exactly remember them being that cooperative before Iraq, and they probably have just as much to lose from terrorism within their own borders as anyone else.
posted by loquax at 10:03 AM on October 4, 2005


Report: U.S. Image Damaged Abroad
posted by caddis at 10:30 AM on October 4, 2005


Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts has been telling the Pentagon how to spin the war on terror..

His advice? “Call our struggle, the Fight for a Better World.”
...
The image of the war has become increasingly important as support for the Iraq conflict has declined. The key to winning, President Bush told the United Nations last Wednesday, is that “we must defeat the terrorists on the battlefield and we must also defeat them in the battle of ideas.”

Roberts' theme was that America had to change the way potential terrorists feel emotionally about the U.S., and that the current way American officials describe the war is hurting, not helping, matters. “The War on Terror doesn't have a lot of positive equity going for it,” he warned.
...
He then suggested that America seek to become as beloved a brand as Harley-Davidson or Apple, so that the country becomes a “Lovemark” for foreigners.

Roberts suggested that in addition to utilizing the U.S. armed forces (“a threatening, punitive, brutal and unilateral fighting force full of young, slightly pissed-off males”), America also needs to tackle poverty and disease.

“I'm not cynically proposing that you change the language and not actually do anything about making the world a better place . . . [America needs a] 21st century organization to tackle global AIDS, malnutrition and malaria . . . This becomes your 'product' that you communicate, campaign and recruit for, and advertise around.”

posted by caddis at 10:52 AM on October 4, 2005


I agree wholeheartedly with Roberts (minus the marketing-speak) - that's basically my argument, that the reasons for war were not articulated properly or in a way that would ensure long term buy-in by allies and the electorate, as well as an acknowledgment of the cost. Just like Roberts says, it's difficult to support an armed "occupation" of a country if there are not clear principles, goals and morals behind what is, on its face, an immoral act. Iraq is very much about ideas, and making a better world, or at least, it has the potential to be this way. The more the war and the region are discussed in this context, the way I believe it should have been from the beginning, the more support there will be for liberalizing efforts.
posted by loquax at 11:09 AM on October 4, 2005


Only men could vote in the April 2005 elections in Saudi Arabia, for only half of the seats, and the elections were swept by Islamic activists. Parliamentary elections in Kuwait, dating back to 1963, were restored in 1992 after having been suspended in 1985.

Saudi Arabia recently warned that Iraq is hurtling towards disintegration, and the main worry of Iraq's neighbors "is that the break-up of Iraq 'will draw the countries of the region into conflict.'"

The Iraq War did not Force Gadaffi's Hand: Libyan representatives offered to surrender WMD programs in 1999, and Libya's cooperation is credited to "the economic and diplomatic embargo slapped on Libya in the 1990s."

Lebanon's Independence Intifada is due more to the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and diplomatic pressure than it is a reaction to Iraq.

Global terrorism more than tripled in 2004, and terror attacks in Iraq were nine times the previous total. Most of the foreign fighters in Iraq were radicalized by the war.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:50 AM on October 4, 2005


I think Rooney needs to trim his eyebrows.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:33 PM on October 4, 2005


Quick reply: My mistake about Kuwait, I keep forgetting that. But at least there were elections in Saudi Arabia, even if the results were undesirable. Not trying to say it was a victory for the forces of good by any stretch, but an interesting first step towards something, maybe, and one that would have been unlikely without the events in Iraq, IMO.

As for Saudi Arabia's warnings, I simply can't take anything the Princes say at face value. There is just way too much conflict of interest inherent in any statement they make, and I'm not surprised that they have no interest in a successful transition to democracy in Iraq, and would actively work to prevent it.

No matter what events forced Qadhafi's hand, the fact is that the culmination of those efforts took place only after Hussein was deposed and in an Iraqi jail.

I agree with you about Lebanon, but would Syria had acted the same way had the Americans not been next door? Would Hariri have been as big a threat to them had Iraq not been on the path towards self rule and democracy?

As for global terrorism, we'll have to wait and see what the long term impact of Iraq is. I haven't seen any more attacks in the United States. My life hasn't changed as a result of terrorism, and I don't think terrorism directly related to Iraq (as opposed to general Islamic fundamentalist terrorism) has impacted the lives of very many people. This could change, but we need a larger sample size of data before the true impact of Iraq can accurately be measured, IMO.
posted by loquax at 1:07 PM on October 4, 2005


"Global terrorism more than tripled in 2004, and terror attacks in Iraq were nine times the previous total. "


Some of the posts here remind me a bit of Atheists arguing with Christians about God.
It’s tough when someone from a non-Judeo Christian POV chimes in and argues outside of doctrine.

It occurs to me that many of us seem to believe that fighting terrorism isn’t our goal although it has been stated as such by the administration.

Given this is the case, why would this be one of the criteria for whether the war in Iraq is being prosecuted well or not?

And so, further, as part of a global strategy, why is it then bad idea to occupy/stabilize/free/(insert choice word here) Iraq? *
Gen. Odom is correct that if the objective is to get OBL, etc. we’re not making the right moves.

But consider: the Mafia.
Why did the feds really start cracking down? It wasn’t because they were killing people or commiting crimes. It was because they were cutting in on the governments’s tax money (casino skims, etc.)
In the same way, acts of terrorism, as bad as they might be, is really no big deal to the government. Oil money is a different story.
So, like the mob, there is heat if you kill people and steal things, but nowhere near the kind of heat you get if your stealing hundreds of millions in untaxed dollars - as the mob was when they were running Vegas.
The mob isn’t running Vegas anymore. Corporations are. Corporations who’s money is out in the open (locked into a structure of some kind as opposed to out on the street somewhere) so the government can step on them if they don’t play it straight.

Any of this seem analogous to the situation in Iraq?

I’m not attempting to justify it, just trying to examine the nuts and bolts here.


*bearing in mind I am opposed to how we got there and I don’t -currently- see positive movement toward the legitimate objective of stabilizing that region and ensuring we’re not held hostage because we’re dependant on oil (even simply increasing MPG requirements here at home). I recognize the realities now that the die is cast.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:12 PM on October 4, 2005


Man,lousy grammar there.

I re-read it and tried to fix it...again, my computer here sucks.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:14 PM on October 4, 2005


Andy Rooney seemed to be a real asshole on 'Da Ali G Show'.
posted by Espoo2 at 11:28 PM on October 4, 2005


loquax: I believe that the [safety and well-being of US citizens, and the safety and well-being everyone in the world] are inexorably linked, and that the safety of US citizens will never be completely assured as long there there are those diametrically opposed to the principles upon which the world's liberal countries are built.

loquax, I'm not sure if you're still reading this, but if you are, I just want to say that we have completely different conceptions of national security. If I understand correctly, you're saying that the US must convert the entire world to its political and economic system, in order to ensure its security. Not necessarily by force, of course, since why wouldn't everyone want to adopt the US system, if they weren't being oppressed by evil dictators?

The US policymakers who actually were responsible for the reconstruction of West Germany and Japan that you admire so much--Truman, Marshall, Acheson, Kennan--had a much less messianic and much more modest view of US security. As Kennan described it in 1951:

Today, standing at the end rather than the beginning of this half-century, some of us see certain fundamental elements on which we suspect that American security has rested. We can see that our security has been dependent throughout much of our history on the position of Britain; that Canada, in particular, has been a useful and indispensable hostage to good relations between our country and British Empire; and that Britain's position, in turn, has depended on the maintenance of a balance of power on the European Continent. Thus it was essential to us, as it was to Britain, that no single Continental land power should come to dominate the entire Eurasian land mass. Our interest has lain rather in the maintenance of some sort of stable balance among the powers of the interior, in order that none of them should effect the subjugation of the others, conquer the seafaring fringes of the land mass, become a great sea power as well as land power, shatter the position of England, and enter—as in these circumstances it certainly would—on an overseas expansion hostile to ourselves and supported by the immense resources of the interior of Europe and Asia.

Or as Jefferson put it, much earlier: the enduring interest of the US lies in preventing the entire force of Europe from being wielded by a single hand.

This is why the US joined Britain and France against Imperial Germany in World War I, why the US joined Britain and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II, and why the US opposed the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Not because they were nightmare political states (which Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union certainly were), but to restore a stable balance of power in Europe and Asia, which these states would otherwise have been able to dominate.

Iraq simply wasn't that powerful. Iraq had several powerful rivals in the region, notably Iran, Israel, Egypt, and Turkey. Relations with Syria weren't very friendly, either.

And I think you're greatly underestimating the difficulty of converting Iraq, and the Middle East in general, to the US political and economic system; and the difficulty of self-government in general. I don't know if you're aware of this, but parliamentary government isn't unprecedented in the Middle East (see Lebanon), or even in Iraq. Iraq used to have a constitutional monarchy, with a parliament. It failed to survive.

If you're really interested in knowing what's going on in Iraq, I'd suggest that you start by reading about Iraq's history. I'd highly recommend The Modern History of Iraq, by Phebe Marr.

One final quote from Charles Burton Marshall (a colleague of Kennan's), writing in 1953:

I stress the obvious but often overlooked externalness of foreign policy. The fundamental circumstance giving rise to foreign policy is that most of the world is outside the United States. The areas in which our foreign policy has its effects are those lying beyond the range of our law. They include about fifteen-sixteenths of the world's land surface and contain about sixteen-seventeenths of its peoples. We cannot ordain the conditions there. The forces do not respond to our fiat. At best we can only affect them.

What happens in Iraq is mostly going to depend on the Iraqis (Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds), not on the US.
posted by russilwvong at 10:19 AM on October 5, 2005


russilwvong: I think there is a misunderstanding, or at least, I didn't make my point clear.

I don't believe that it's necessary for the US and Europe to convert other countries to their system of government or economics, far from it. I couldn't care less if a particular country was socialist, a monarchy, a religious theocracy, or anarchist, for that matter. As long as they are a free people.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is, however, that very rarely can true freedom in the classically liberal sense co-exist with any of the systems I just mentioned, or with any form of totalitarian/authoritarian/absolutist rule. By definition, people are not in control of their lives, and are of secondary importance compared to the state, which is often one man. As such, there is no rule of law, no rational system of governing and no individual freedoms. Of course, enlightened philosopher kings could come about and rule in a benevolent manner for some time, but that aside, it is inevitable that power will be abused, or at least misused, and that the people living in such a system will suffer.

Their suffering aside, the threat comes from the fact that any such country will be by virtue of its fundamental nature at odds with any liberal country that places value on individual freedoms and liberties, and checks the power of the state and it's rulers to the extent that the liberal democracies of Europe and the US. A totalitarian society (with few exceptions) will feel threatened by the freedoms enjoyed by the liberal countries (as glib as it sounds), and be under constant internal and external pressure to increase living standards, to allow more freedoms, and to allow people to leave. The solution is inevitably suppressing freedom even more, restricting access to information and the truth, indoctrinating the population with the "benefits" of the system as it is, and creating enemies of state of the free countries of the world. And they're right to believe that the US, and Germany, and France, and Canada are all enemies by virtue of their existence to a totalitarian state.

Conversely, totalitarian states are dangerous because of the inherent irrationality of their actions (within a liberal context and morality) and their lack of respect for the rule of law. They inevitably enter a cycle of having to oppress more and grow more militarily powerful just in order to prevent collapse, and they certainly have no qualms in sacrificing lives because of the fact that the individual simply doesn't count. Hussein believed this, so do the Mullahs in Iran, Kim Jong Il, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Charlemagne and so on.

Iraq simply wasn't that powerful

But it had been in the past, and had the potential to be again in the future.

Most such countries aren't taken seriously by liberal countries because they have little to no power to expand their boundaries or their power. After the cold war ended, most of the totalitarian countries left were poor third world nations with limited technology and resources (with the notable exception of China). The other exceptions are the countries of the Middle East. What makes them different, (particularly Iraq and Iran) is that they have oil wealth, and a vast amount of it. Hussein had the ability, for example, to effortlessly suppress any internal dissent, preventing the possibility for change from within. He had the ability to wage aggressive war against his neighbours, and fire missiles at Israel. He had the ability to build nuclear reactors and chemical weapons. He had the ability to pay millions of dollars to the families of palestinian suicide bombers. Granted, much of this power was constrained by the UN, the UK and the US after 1991, however it was clear that Hussein could afford to wait out the sanctions, wait out international resolve, and continuing profiting from his under the table oil sales while his people suffered. What would Iraq have been like under Uday or Qusay? What if the no-fly zones had been lifted and Iraq could have gone right back to making weapons? It's impossible to think that negotiations or external pressure would have ever changed the situation in Iraq, the best that could have been hoped for is a future less megalomaniacal totalitarian dictator that would have perhaps allowed chinks in the armour giving an opportunity for internal opposition to overthrow him, leading to god knows what.

I guess at least partially it boils down to that old maxim that "a free people will never go to war with other free people". To a large extent, that holds up. There are differences of religion, culture, language, economics, but basic freedoms must be held as the essential prerequisite for a state to be considered fully legitimate, IMO. Otherwise, it's a private fiefdom, a playground for rulers to do as they wish and experiment with the health of an entire nation. Why should Saudi Arabia have any more legitimacy as a nation than George Bush's ranch in Crawford? They pretty much boil down to the same thing, except the Saudi royal family does what it pleases and sets the rules for millions of people who have no choice but to do as they wish.

I also fully acknowledge that my argument is predicated on my bias that individual rights, freedom and classic liberalism are superior political and individual philosophies, as opposed to collectivism and socialism. To read what I've tried to get across here, but in a way that actually makes sense, read Hayek's Road to Serfdom if you haven't already, I'm basically cribbing from him.

What happens in Iraq is mostly going to depend on the Iraqis (Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds), not on the US.

I agree with you 100%. It behooves the UN, the US and its allies to ensure that the basic principles of freedom and individual rights are preserved, however, otherwise it is almost inevitable that we'll be fighting in Iraq in one way or another again in the future. Not to mention that Iraq would once more become a slave state.

Not because they were nightmare political states (which Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union certainly were), but to restore a stable balance of power in Europe and Asia

I think you have a point here, but I don't think it's the whole story. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were so aggressive and expansionist because they were nightmare political states. A non-nightmare political state would never have acted in the way those two did, and would have never required containing by Western Europe and the UN. Both those states also directly threatened the continued existence of modern Western civilization. They were ideological conflicts between classical liberalism and post modern socialism and totalitarianism, and as such, were more important than simply containing a rival empire, because if the rival empire won, the American, British, French, Canadian (and so on) way of life is over, it's not just a matter of getting a new taxman.

Iraq used to have a constitutional monarchy, with a parliament. It failed to survive.


And Hitler was elected by a democratic government and had the approval of the laws and the government of Germany as he exterminated millions. The point isn't that this system or that system of government is superior. Democracy is not the key ingredient, liberalism is. If people are free to chose for themselves, free to act as they wish, free to say what they want, any absolutist king will be overthrown as soon as he goes against the will of the people, any democratic government will be forced to abdicate under similar circumstances, and any strongman will never have the chance to gain power in the first place. It's only when freedom is suppressed and rule of law is compromised that horrific governments take hold and wars start. What is important in Iraq is not an installation of American-style government, or capitalist economics, it's a respect for laws, whatever they may be, freedom, which until recently was a pipe dream, and a reinvigorated civil society that has been nonexistent since 1968. After this is instilled (which admittedly is an enormous task, but arguably no more so than the efforts to do the same in Germany and Japan after 1945), the system of government or economics won't matter much.


(I know I'm all over the place, but I had to stop and start a few times while at work, and I lost my train of thought more than once, sorry for any incoherence or non-sequitors. If I failed to address a key point, let me know.)
posted by loquax at 12:08 PM on October 5, 2005



posted by OmieWise at 12:11 PM on October 5, 2005


Thanks for your response, loquax.

I don't believe that it's necessary for the US and Europe to convert other countries to their system of government or economics, far from it. I couldn't care less if a particular country was socialist, a monarchy, a religious theocracy, or anarchist, for that matter. As long as they are a free people.

The unfortunate fact of the matter is, however, that very rarely can true freedom in the classically liberal sense co-exist with any of the systems I just mentioned, or with any form of totalitarian/authoritarian/absolutist rule.


I think you're making a distinction without a difference: you're saying that US security depends on people everywhere being free (rule of law, individual human rights, civil society, etc.), so we need to make them free. As I said, that's messianic, utopian, and (IMHO) impossible to achieve. It's been tried before; see Revolutionary France.

I do not believe that US security depends on people everywhere being free. US security depends on a stable balance of power in Europe and Asia. The US has a strong interest in the stability of the Middle East (hence the first Gulf War), but you haven't explained how Iraq would have been able to knock off Iran (a much bigger country), Israel (a nuclear power), Egypt, and Turkey to achieve Hitler-level power.

Speaking of Hitler, and the stability of democracy....

And Hitler was elected by a democratic government and had the approval of the laws and the government of Germany as he exterminated millions. The point isn't that this system or that system of government is superior. Democracy is not the key ingredient, liberalism is. If people are free to chose for themselves, free to act as they wish, free to say what they want, any absolutist king will be overthrown as soon as he goes against the will of the people, any democratic government will be forced to abdicate under similar circumstances, and any strongman will never have the chance to gain power in the first place. It's only when freedom is suppressed and rule of law is compromised that horrific governments take hold and wars start.

I'm afraid I'm not following your argument here. Are you saying that the German people weren't free under the Weimar Republic, and that they didn't freely choose Hitler?

Or are you saying that they did? And if so, doesn't that demonstrate that free choices made by a free people can result in servitude and nightmare?

I'm afraid that I think your statement here--If people are free to chose for themselves, free to act as they wish, free to say what they want, any absolutist king will be overthrown as soon as he goes against the will of the people, any democratic government will be forced to abdicate under similar circumstances, and any strongman will never have the chance to gain power in the first place--is wishful thinking, as your own example (the death of Weimar) demonstrates.

In turn, this undermines the premise of your first argument, that US security can be ensured by freeing all peoples: a free people may not stay free. If their government fails to meet the challenges which it faces, it may fall and be replaced by a completely different one.

After this is instilled (which admittedly is an enormous task, but arguably no more so than the efforts to do the same in Germany and Japan after 1945)--

Again, you're talking as though the United States, though enormous effort, changed the way that Germans and Japanese thought. This is not the case. The US does not have the power to change the way people think and behave, no matter how much money and how many soldiers it has (and right now it's running short on both).
posted by russilwvong at 1:10 PM on October 5, 2005


Granted, much of this power was constrained by the UN, the UK and the US after 1991, however it was clear that Hussein could afford to wait out the sanctions, wait out international resolve, and continue profiting from his under the table oil sales while his people suffered.

I didn't really address this point. I agree that the US had no good choices in Iraq. But I thought getting UNMOVIC back into Iraq under Resolution 1441 (by threatening war) was a big step forward: it forced Saddam to back down, and it provided much better safeguards against Saddam being able to proceed with developing nuclear weapons (nuclear facilities are hard to conceal).

Another Charles Burton Marshall quote: it's a mistake to assume that the alternative to an unacceptable situation is preferable, for it may well be worse.

At any rate, I suppose that whether or not the war was a mistake, it can't be undone. The question now is whether the US and its allies are capable of re-establishing stability in Iraq, and if so, how to do it.
posted by russilwvong at 1:21 PM on October 5, 2005


Thanks for your post too, you make good, tough points.

As I said, that's messianic, utopian, and (IMHO) impossible to achieve. It's been tried before; see Revolutionary France.

I don't think the goal of achieving basic freedom is messianic or utopian - if anything I see it as the natural state of things. Government is an unnatural, artificial and oppressive human invention (although one that is necessary, obviously). Encouraging and fostering fundamental freedoms is an effort to ultimately reduce the level of government interference in individual lives and reduce the ability for dictators and the such to use the people of their country for personal gain or power. I am not saying that every free people across the globe must conform to particular standard of "freedom" or "liberty", or that every country should resemble the US, or Belgium, or Hungary, but I do believe that man is born free, regardless of their religion or political philosophy, and that freedom is a right that must be actively defended from those that would curtail it. Look at the liberal countries in the world today - many disagree, many have different religions or economic systems, many have different governments. Those are not important, what is important is the basis of these institutions, and the acknowledgement of fundamental human rights that cannot be brushed aside on the whim of a ruler, or a new law. I cannot see one positive from allowing that fundamental freedom of choice to be suppressed, except in the most dire of circumstances, where a nation's survival is in immediate peril, such as war mobilization.


how Iraq would have been able to knock off Iran (a much bigger country), Israel (a nuclear power), Egypt, and Turkey to achieve Hitler-level power.


I have no idea. I don't mean to imply that it was inevitable that Hussein would attempt to conquer the entire Middle East, but he had certainly tried in the past. What if he had developed nuclear weapons in 1980, or in 2010? What if the real threat was Iran feeling threatened enough by him that they invade, sparking a world war, or a nuclear exchange? What if Iraq played the part of Serbia in 1914, assassinating George Bush on a trip to Kuwait? These kinds of scenarios are (practically) unthinkable even with a functioning, semi-liberal country like Turkey, and will be with a free democratic Iraq (when and if that comes about). Hussein was a threat because of his potential capabilities and his lack of reluctance to use them.

Are you saying that the German people weren't free under the Weimar Republic, and that they didn't freely choose Hitler? Or are you saying that they did? And if so, doesn't that demonstrate that free choices made by a free people can result in servitude and nightmare?

Germany between the wars was not a classically liberal society. It was the birthplace of socialism, and that movement was growing, culminating in the National Socialist Party. It was also a defeated country, and one that had no traditions of individualism or democracy. The humiliation of the allied victory and the restrictive terms of Versailles meant that the people of Germany were essentially in allied servitude, rather than free citizens of an independent Germany. There were no underlying principles of freedom and liberty (as in, say, the US constitution) that would have given anyone in Germany pause as Hitler rose to power. Rather than respecting law, power was respected, enabling it to make law. There are parallels to Iraq of course, which is why the drafting and the popular acceptance of the constitution is such an important effort, more important than the security situation, or the oil, or anything really. For Iraq to develop into a free functional liberal state, or anything resembling one, these fundamental rules must be established now. If they are, even if civil war breaks out, or a mullah attempts to take power, there will be something in place, and hopefully something meaningful for people to refer to as a law above all others. So I'm saying that no, the German people between the wars were not "free", in my opinion, and yes, a free people can make bad choices, but are usually able to correct them, via elections, impeachment, or revolution. Even if they can't for whatever reason, resistance and hope is still possible. Look, for example, at the difference between communist Poland and Jong-Il's North Korea. The Poles were essentially a free people that had communism and dictatorship imposed on them. While there was hardship, and violence, and civil strife, the society remained cohesive and resistant, knowing that the state of affairs was unlawful and unacceptable, waiting for their chance to be completely free once more. In North Korea, any liberal "freedom" the people had is gone, completely crushed. There is no morality, no law, no religion but the words of the Leader. The can be no opposition because it is unthinkable, there is no context, no frame of reference for an ideal or a morality greater than the laws of the state. A non-free people can do nothing. I'm projecting a bit, but how easily do you think that Iraqis would now accept someone else like Hussein, given that they've had this taste of freedom, as ugly as it's been? Obviously this isn't the end of the road, but it's a huge first step, IMO. I hope I at least somehow addressed what you were saying.


a free people may not stay free. If their government fails to meet the challenges which it faces, it may fall and be replaced by a completely different one.


Exactly, but I'm not defining free as being the result of the type of government. Freedom and liberalism go beyond that, it's just that some form of democracy is the overwhelming choice of free societies. A free people may take a wrong turn towards authoritarian government once in a while, but it never lasts because the will of the people and the fundamental beliefs of the society won't allow it.

The US does not have the power to change the way people think and behave

No, but it does have the power to influence. The US is not writing the Iraqi constitution, or installing puppet governments (as far as I know). It is trying, along with its allies and the UN to lead by example, to institute basic inalienable human rights, to introduce the concept of voting, of citizen participation in government, of a rule of law that holds government accountable, and protects the citizenry from abuse. These concepts are, for all intents and purposes, new concepts in the modern Middle East. They need to be introduced somehow from the outside, because they could have never developed organically from the inside, at least that's my take on things. Otherwise, our grandchildren will be talking about King Hussein the 18th and Prince Abdallah the 9th. Europe's age of revolution against the excesses of royalty was a seminal moment in Western civilization, now, hundreds of years later, the Middle East has the same chance if they choose to act on it.

The question now is whether the US and its allies are capable of re-establishing stability in Iraq, and if so, how to do it.

Like I said, I don't believe that reestablishing stability (and I assume you mean by that the security situation/terrorism/the insurgency) should come at the expense of the political process that has been initiated and now continued by Iraqis themselves. The future success of the political process will be what will bring real, positive stability to the country, and destabilize Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the other local monarchies. It took Europe more than 175 years to get from the French revolution to the end of World War 2, but they did it without help or example, making things up as they went and having more failures than success. Hopefully for the people of the Middle East, the help that the modern liberal countries can offer will ease their transition and make it far less painful than it has been in the past. And yes, I know how naive and idealistic this sounds, but I do believe it to be fundamentally sound.
posted by loquax at 2:46 PM on October 5, 2005


I'm typing this on the bus, so I'll try to be brief.

As I understand it, you're saying that the way people think--their political habits and traditions, like respect for law and for individuals--is what's really important, more so than their institutions. A society with the political traditions of a free people may be temporarily oppressed (e.g. Poland under Communism), but not for long. Conversely, a society which has liberal institutions but lacks such traditions (e.g. Weimar Germany) can't be considered a free people.

I tend to agree that political traditions are more important than institutions (Tocqueville makes a similar point on the relative importance of circumstances, laws, and customs), although I think you're discounting the strength of liberalism in Weimar Germany. But this just highlights the difficulty of the problem in Iraq.

Setting up a constitution is one thing. Changing the way people think is much more difficult. When you talk about the US being able to "influence" how people think, or how it's necessary for outsiders to introduce liberalism and voting to the Middle East (which are hardly new--Lebanon was a democracy before the civil war, Turkey is a democracy today), you're still greatly overestimating what the US can do. How is it possible for an outside power to change a people's way of thinking, short of some kind of brainwashing?

[To answer my own question: IMHO, what shapes people's political thinking is primarily the success or failure of the governments and political models that they're familiar with, particularly their own. One reason Communism and Fascism were so popular back in the 1930s was the perceived failure of the liberal democracies to deal with the Depression. Conversely, G. M. Trevelyan cites one of the major wars between England and France--IIRC, it was the War of the Spanish Succession, 1701-1714--as greatly increasing interest in parliamentary government, and delegitimizing monarchical absolutism. A final example is that the occupation government in West Germany was able to provide for people's basic needs--food, shelter, employment, security--and this, along with the brutality of the Russian occupation of East Germany, was a major factor in the acceptance of liberal democracy in postwar West Germany.

In Iraq, the failure of the United States and the provisional government to deal with basic problems like security and unemployment has resulted in people looking to other models. In the Shiite south, the Islamic parties with ties to Iran are the strongest ones.]
posted by russilwvong at 10:09 AM on October 6, 2005


It was a pleasure to read the tail end of this. Excellent discourse gentlemen.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:37 AM on October 7, 2005


As I understand it, you're saying that the way people think--their political habits and traditions, like respect for law and for individuals--is what's really important, more so than their institutions.

Yes. Precisely. I'm a big fan of Tocqueville and Hayek, in particular, and they influence a lot of what I say, probably.

(which are hardly new--Lebanon was a democracy before the civil war, Turkey is a democracy today)

I think Turkey is a fascinating example of what we're talking about. A brutal empire for centuries fell at the turn of the century (approximately), and it took an absolutist dictator in the form of Ataturk to forcibly, violently dismantle the roots of totalitarianism in the country (or at least in the administrative centres of the country) and jerk the country into the 20th century. What happened in Turkey at that point was the rough equivalent of the revolutions that had occurred over the previous 200 years in Europe. And the process of liberalization is still not complete. IMO, this is why the Turks are so anxious to enter the EU. It will give them the impetus to finish the job that Ataturk started by standardizing laws across the country, including the remote regions that are essentially unchanged from what they were 100 years ago.

Let's say that Iraq today is roughly in the same position that Turkey was in 1919. I would fully except that it will take about 100 years for Iraq to reach the level of liberalization and democratization that Turkey currently has. I am not saying that I believe that the US or the UN or anybody has the power to "turn" Iraq into a Sweden in a quick 5 or 10 year mission, what they have the ability to do is spark the beginnings of this "reformation" and ensure that the process is allowed to continue until it is strong enough to fend for itself.

How is it possible for an outside power to change a people's way of thinking, short of some kind of brainwashing?

By presenting new possibilities, free of the restrictions on the truth and learning formerly placed on the people of a nation by a totalitarian regime. I fully acknowledge that in the case of Iraq, I'm speaking somewhat hypothetically, as in I don't know specifically how well efforts at encouraging liberalism are going in the light of local opposition to the American presence (and in light of vociferous opposition to it on the part of Islamic fundamentalists/theocrats, who are very much ideologically opposed to what the Americans represent). But at the very least, even if the current constitutional effort fails, even if this government is corrupt and is ousted, I feel that giving this generation of Iraqis a voice, however marginalized by circumstance, is a giant step in the right direction, and will be remembered no matter how the overall effort towards liberalization fares in the short term. What's needed is continued pressure on the opponents of liberalism, in the form of material aid, military support, and even rhetoric. That is where we failed the stunted democratic efforts undertaken in the past in the Middle East, by giving up on them, or taking the (racist, in my opinion) view that "their culture isn't compatible" with democracy or liberal values.

what shapes people's political thinking is primarily the success or failure of the governments and political models that they're familiar with, particularly their own. One reason Communism and Fascism were so popular back in the 1930s was the perceived failure of the liberal democracies to deal with the Depression


I certainly agree that the performance of a government operating under a particular political philosophy is part of whether or not a people accept the political philosophy, but I disagree that it is the primary factor. I believe that the communism/fascism of the early 20th century to be the logical extension of the ultra-rationalism of the 19th century, the belief that man can overcome nature, and that rational planning is the way of the future. They were primarily economic models that promised to resolve the chaos that the free market caused - never once did either claim to restrict freedoms, or enslave populations for the goals of the leaders, it just happened because there's no other way to run a command economy. Essentially, they were a grand trick pulled on populations that couldn't conceive of the inevitable results of starting down a road of noble but illiberal principles. Iraq is quite a different case. The people are more than familiar with what totalitarianism is all about. That system quite clearly failed them. What is less clear is whether or not they (and much of the rest of the world) realize that running an Islamic theocracy would be no better than putting Hussein back in power, at least in terms of the lives of Iraqi citizens. But if they do, I believe that it will be as a result of religious indoctrination being the current primary source of political philosophy in the region, thanks to Saudi Arabia and Iran, in particular, rather than a failure on the part of the current government. Hopefully any such rule would be temporary, before that too is rejected as a result of any fundamental liberal principles held by Iraqis along with international pressure and aid. It's for this reason that I'm very hopeful for Iran's future as well. While their government is abhorrent, it seems to me that the Iranian people are quite aware of this and are losing patience with them on a daily basis. It looks as though liberalism will win in Iran because the government has not taken despotism to the extreme, as Hussein, Jong-Il, Stalin and Mao did. That will ultimately be their undoing, relegating their system of government to the dustbin of history, like Jaruzelski, Ceausescu and Gorbachev before them. Keep in mind that I am taking a rather long view of things here. I think that non-Russian/Chinese communism was doomed from the get-go because of the traditions of the people of the satellite states, the cold war was an effort to manage the damage caused by it until it ran its course. The same is true here. Hungary could never have been freed from Communism because of Russia, therefore the liberal states could never directly go on the offensive against the ideology - the same is not true here. Whether or not Iraq instantly becomes a liberal democracy is not the point, in my mind. The point is that this action freed the Iraqis (and intellectuals in the rest of the region) to become exposed to new ideas, choose their government for themselves, and hopefully build the foundation that will protect them from future mistakes and lead the region out of the dark ages it currently finds itself it.

In Iraq, the failure of the United States and the provisional government to deal with basic problems like security and unemployment has resulted in people looking to other models.

I'm not sure how true this is. I would certainly not call the current efforts a total failure. Upthread I provided some links referencing positive developments, both civil and military. While there have been problems, I'm not sure enough of what the criteria for success should have been in order to declare this a "failure" or "success". certainly things could be worse. Hussein might have taken power back by now, or worse Bin Laden. The US might have already left causing instant civil war. The Sunnis may have continued to reject all negotiation, instead of returning to the bargaining table. The Kurds might have already declared independence. All told, despite the deaths and the continued problems, I think that things are progressing at a remarkable pace. The Iraqi army, after being dismantled, has been at least partially rebuilt and is growing in strength. Free speech in the form of newspapers, television stations and radio broadcasts is booming to a degree almost incomprehensible. NGO and human rights organizations have poured into the country, building citizen participation and providing aid in establishing civil society. The Iraqi economy is growing far above pre-war levels. The security situation is worrying, but I think that at this point it's clear that the opposition has no power to forcibly take control of the country, only to bomb unguarded innocents and lay traps for American soldiers. It's now, I believe, a matter of attrition, and in contrast to conflicts like Vietnam, the enemies in Iraq have no access to resources like the NVA had from the Soviet Union and China. It's a matter of time before their conflict either becomes moot or unwinnable, and they simply stop fighting. There may always be attacks on Iraq, for what it represents to Islamic fundamentalists, but in a way, this should be treated as a positive sign. It means that Iraq is a threat to them, like Britain, and Spain, and the US. They don't attack Jordan, they don't attack Syria or Iran, they attack Iraq because it is free. And yes, I'm aware that sometimes I sound like I'm reading Bush's speeches, but sometimes he's right, like in his speech yesterday that dealt with this problem as one of totalitarian ideology versus liberalism (for the first time, IIRC). Also, he mostly copies his stuff from, not the other way around.

was a major factor in the acceptance of liberal democracy in postwar West Germany.

A little tangentially, I'm not entirely convinced that Germany is all that liberal, along with France. Their political traditions are very different from much of the rest of Europe and North America, and I think it sets them apart somewhat (especially in terms of the current conflict). Of course, I'm not saying they're totalitarian regimes, but both nations are heavily socialist (compared to most other democracies), both have had serious interruptions in their democratic institutions, and both have shown inclinations towards sacrificing individual rights for collective rights. Communism and fascism were born from their thinkers and took their first steps in those societies. This isn't exactly a fully developed thought, but both would be examples of countries whose institutions are nominally democratic and liberal, but whose foundations I have doubts about, as opposed to a country like Sweden, that also leans quite collectivist, but whose liberal underpinnings seem more secure. Just a thought.
posted by loquax at 10:56 AM on October 7, 2005


Thanks again for your response.

I am not saying that I believe that the US or the UN or anybody has the power to "turn" Iraq into a Sweden in a quick 5 or 10 year mission, what they have the ability to do is spark the beginnings of this [100-year] "reformation" and ensure that the process is allowed to continue until it is strong enough to fend for itself.

I see where you're coming from. I think this view--that in the long run, [classical] liberalism will win, we just have to keep the process going--is very different from Colin Powell's "you break it, you bought it" view.

We appear to disagree on the question of whether the United States and its allies are responsible for governing Iraq or not. My answer is yes. If I understand correctly, your answer is no, that's the responsibility of the new Iraqi government; the US and its allies are just helping out, and if there's some problems, it's up to the Iraqis to sort it out. In my view, that's a blatant evasion of responsibility. It was the US and its allies who overthrew the previous regime. They're responsible for governing Iraq now.

Consider what the US did in West Germany and Japan. They set up military governments that actually governed: they provided law and order, and they got the economy going again, so that people could start rebuilding their lives.

Compare this to what's happening in Iraq. The basic problem is that the US went to war without enough troops to provide security afterward, as vividly described by neo-conservative Edward Luttwak. (I still find this incredible. Didn't anyone in Bush's inner circle remember the old cliche, "Hope for the best, plan for the worst"?) So it's never been able to establish effective government--that is, a government that can provide law and order, and get the economy going again. No, I wouldn't expect Sweden, but Paul Wolfowitz was suggesting prior to the war that something like post-communist Romania would be a likely outcome. It appears that Iraqis themselves were expecting a return to "normalcy", meaning something like life prior to the first Gulf War.

Of course, we also disagree about the current situation in Iraq. For example:

NGO and human rights organizations have poured into the country--

Mark Danner:

Amid the barbed wire and blast walls and bomb debris of post-occupation Iraq, you could discern a clear strategy behind the insurgent violence. The insurgents had identified the Americans' points of vulnerability: their international isolation; their forced distance, as a foreign occupier, from Iraqis; and their increasing disorientation as they struggled to keep their footing on the fragile, shifting, roiling political ground of post-Hussein Iraq. And the insurgents hit at each of these vulnerabilities, as Begin had urged his followers to do, "deliberately, tirelessly, unceasingly."

When, during the summer of 2003, the Bush administration seemed to be reaching out to the United Nations for political help in Iraq, insurgents struck at U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing the talented envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others and driving the United Nations from the country. When the Americans seemed to be trying to attract Arab forces to come to Iraq to help, the insurgents struck at the Jordanian Embassy, killing 17. When the Turks offered to send troops, the insurgents bombed the Turkish Embassy. When nongovernmental organizations seemed the only outsiders still working to ease the situation in Iraq, insurgents struck at the Red Cross, driving it and most other nongovernmental organizations from the country.


With respect to the broader situation, here's a couple assessments from the International Crisis Group, a well-respected group that provides advice to policymakers on dealing with crises. Reconstructing Iraq. What Can the US Do in Iraq?

Amid political instability and violence, Iraq's economic problems have been viewed as secondary and unrelated. They are not. U.S. and Iraqi institutions have systematically lost and the insurgency gained momentum as living conditions failed to improve. Economic hardship and violence (political and criminal) feed on each other: heightened popular dissatisfaction and unemployment swell insurgent ranks and the growing insurgency further hampers development. Without genuine reconstruction and a sustained recovery plan, any political success will be short-lived. Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) performance fell far short of expectations and needs and offers a fragile, dysfunctional legacy on which to build. The Interim Iraqi Government, its still-to-come elected successor, and the international community can ill afford to repeat its mistakes.

The ICG doesn't just criticize, it makes recommendations as well. I hope somebody's listening (but I kind of doubt it).

Finally, I don't think it makes much sense to say that things ought to work themselves out in 100 years or 250 years. Political time horizons just aren't that long. People can't live with ongoing violence and economic collapse for even five years. They're not going to wait; they'll follow the first charismatic leader who comes along with an appealing vision of the future. As you said, Hitler and Lenin didn't promise slavery and nightmares. Neither will whoever comes along in Iraq.
posted by russilwvong at 12:32 AM on October 9, 2005


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