The Push For War (by Anatol Lieven).
October 4, 2002 1:38 AM   Subscribe

The Push For War (by Anatol Lieven). "The most surprising thing about the Bush Administration's plan to invade Iraq is not that it is destructive of international order; or wicked, when we consider the role the US (and Britain) have played, and continue to play, in the Middle East; or opposed by the great majority of the international community; or seemingly contrary to some of the basic needs of the war against terrorism. It is all of these things, but they are of no great concern to the hardline nationalists in the Administration....The most surprising thing about the push for war is that it is so profoundly reckless....What we see now is the tragedy of a great country, with noble impulses, successful institutions, magnificent historical achievements and immense energies, which has become a menace to itself and to mankind."

Excecutive summary: Lord Acton foretold all fruit of "military superiority".
posted by fold_and_mutilate (44 comments total)
My belief is that had Bush jr. acted as Bush sr. had and started a huge diplomatic scramble, by now he would comfortably lead a coalition similar to his dads in 1990-91 with a happily cooperating UN. But no, junior doesn't believe in the UN and "international" is a bad word to most of his administration. What did we get: pseudo arguments by non-credible shrieking hawks, abuse of congress and UN to rubber stamp a long taken decision, ignoring and bullying allies, boastful statements (e.g. "You're with us or against us") that lower trust in the US and many more dilettante moves from a neo-con crowd which believes acting alone is a virtue. It's such a waste, America will come diminished from this mess.
posted by ugly_n_sticky at 2:05 AM on October 4, 2002

Blah, Blah, Blah, Bush is evil, Blah, Blah, Blah, Saddam isn't that bad of a guy, Blah Blah Blah, Give Peace a Chance, Blah, Blah, Blah...

See you in Baghdad this January....
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:06 AM on October 4, 2002

As any Guardian reader knows, Anatole Lieven is always worth reading (although his best stuff is indeed in the London Review of Books). He's a Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I looked it up and found their Proposal For Coercive Weapons Inspection. It's in pdf format but it clearly lays out the problems involved and, even if you're a sceptic like me, is definitely stuff to be reckoned with.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:19 AM on October 4, 2002

steve, you've demonstrated, time and again, that you possess a glaringly reductive and compulsive view of this matter. you seem to fancy yourself some sort of pragmatist, but the truth is, you just misinterpret what people are saying to "contradict" them.

no one has said "saddam isn't that bad of a guy." not at all. as fucking if, in fact. but the truth is, we're doing a really lousy job of trying to get rid of him. there are cleaner, more discrete means at our disposal than what bush, inc. and his oil-defense cronies and their israeli-saudi lobbyist eunuchs keep throwing up in this most confusing and costly war of wars, this police juggernaut without end or oversight.

See you in Baghdad this January....

boner, much? does the thought of our dead troops and iraq's dead civilians arouse you that much?
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:21 AM on October 4, 2002

donkey, I have demonstrated no such thing...

The repeat flood of left-groupthink posts bores me. There is just as much material out there that one could post, that says the exact opposite of threads of this natural, but I have the common courtesy to stop posting them due to the fact that we now have the same drawn out arguments, that as of late have resulted in nothing more than name calling.

The broad generalizations made by members, like your self donkeyschlong, that the war is about oil (oil-defense cronies), Bush is stupid, etc have been disproved over, and over, and over again.... But it goes on...

Do you really think that you are doing more than "preaching to the choir" by posting these op/ed articles? Can we not agree to disagree? And move on?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:45 AM on October 4, 2002

Thanks, foldy. This is the most cogent analysis of the situation I've read so far.
Steve, you obviously haven't read the article posted, otherwise you'd know that "Saddam isn't that bad of a guy" wasn't not an inference that could be validly drawn from Lieven's arguments.
Anyway I don't have any plans for Baghdad this January, do you?
posted by talos at 2:47 AM on October 4, 2002

steve, are you a robot? you don't even debate the substance of the links -- you just vomit up this persistent preoccupation with what political pennant various members are waving. you're the one who can't move on. we get it. you're really hot for this war. we get it. you move on.

"groupthink" is as overused as "troll" now.
posted by donkeyschlong at 2:53 AM on October 4, 2002

Well I am so glad that you now make up the rules on what words I can and can not use....

you don't even debate the substance of the links
I don't have to for two reasons:

1. It is the same politico-bable that is posted over and over again.

2. With in a few posts it all turns back to "Yeah, well they are only in it for the oil, and Gore really won anyways..." bullshit that it always does....

posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:59 AM on October 4, 2002

Saddam isn't that bad of a guy

you denatured your own argument with that single bogus rhetorical tic. the rest was dry heaves.
posted by donkeyschlong at 3:02 AM on October 4, 2002

EXCELLENT LINK! fold_and_mutilate. Thank you for the lump in my throat.

I forget where, but if you'd read down a bit steve_@ you would have found yourself in living HTML, as the author refers to you quite a bit.
posted by crasspastor at 3:03 AM on October 4, 2002

While this is an insightful and worthwhile read, it's also a repost. Sorry. Shame on you Mr. Mutilate, you posted in the original thread.

Matt gave it a good, critical going over, especially digging into the Jewish and oil war points. The consensus seemed to be that this essay added a well-considered dimension to the realpolitik and diversionary electioneering theories behind Bush II's Gulf War II. (I guess the former is pro-Bush and the latter anti-Bush, depending on your persepective.)

In fact, Steve, Matt is a good role model for you here. He disagreed in a couple major ways with Lieven, and showed everyone reading incongruities in two arguments. Can MetaFilter expect that of you in the future? Matt's way was much more satisfying and enlightening.

Steve, "The repeat flood of left-groupthink posts bores me."

If they do indeed bore you, you have a funny way of acting that boredom out. You're very welcome to remain absent from the majority of threads if they bore you. That's what MetaFilter users tend to do.
posted by raaka at 3:15 AM on October 4, 2002

This war will trigger a world-wide depression.

You heard it here first. Remember that.
posted by sic at 3:18 AM on October 4, 2002

That's a repost.
posted by arha at 3:20 AM on October 4, 2002

Ouch. . .

That's pretty lame.
posted by crasspastor at 3:25 AM on October 4, 2002

I have to say though, I would have missed this excellent essay were it not for fold_and_mutilate's post. I think he should have made it known though that it had been posted before, however grateful I am now for reading it.

The breach in guidelines is inexcusable. This is our little blue land and it works because we follow the rules we've all agreed to. I hate to alienate one of the strong voices I usually agree with. But. . .

Why do I suddenly feel like I'm a congressman?
posted by crasspastor at 3:37 AM on October 4, 2002

Instead of talking about the future, which is a complete unknowable, despite well meaning crystal ball gazing, let us talk about the past. Disclaimer: I am FOR and attack on Iraq WITH International support.

1. World Wars 1 & 2: Basically, Germany was a war machine, that unlike Japan after WW2 was not properly rehabilitated following its first defeat. Lessons: To end the cycle, destroy the government completely and help the people build enduring institutions.

2. The American Revolution, The French Revolution, The Russian Revolution, The Communist Revolution in China: People will eventually get pissed off if their government treats them badly for long enough. Lesson: Ignoring the problem of political and social oppression is like boiling water with the lid on. Eventually, its going to be really really messy.

I don't want to have to use a nuclear weapon again. I don't want Saddam to kill and terrorize his own people any more. I think the defeat of the Taliban, REGARDLESS OF CASUALTIES, WAS A GOOD AND NOBLE THING. RAWA - Not a pleasant link No matter how bad a job we did in Afghanistan, we could never have done anything like the EVIL done before us by the Taliban.

Sorry for the rant, I should have put this: The Declaration of Independence is a battle cry, and better that a few hundred soldiers die than hundreds of thousands of civilians suffer oppression, torture, and death under the boot heel of a psychopathic tyrant.
posted by ewkpates at 4:40 AM on October 4, 2002

Oh I thought this was the joke thread, but I see it's another Israel/palestine/Iraq one. I really don't expect to read anything new, in fact it's already started. There is one thing, though that has not been mentioned before: China.

I think China has realized that it can go the way of dinosaurs and Soviet "communism" (which is actually present-day brutal fascist tyranny, or it can incorporate capitalism to raise some cold, hard cash. It has opted to do the latter. Which leaves it in a sticky situation.

The Chinese government is almost as brutal and tyrannical as North Korea's, and it gives not a jolly damn about what most patchouli-reeking hippies could imagine in their worst civil-rights nightmare.

Execution of foreign nationals suspected of crime without even embassy notification? Done, with not even a bullet wasted. Of course things have gotten much better since the communist cultural revolution, when the punishment for expected treason was not only execution, but execution of the suspect's entire family; parents and children included.

Some foresee the downfall of China, which will hopefully happen under the current regime of thugs.

Of course there's more, but I suspect yet another hate-Bush, "no blood for oil" shouting match is in the works, unfortunately.

On preview: People will eventually get pissed off if their government treats them badly for long enough.

Not the case in China: If you treat people brutally enough, they will break.
posted by hama7 at 4:48 AM on October 4, 2002

And your point is?
posted by niceness at 4:53 AM on October 4, 2002

For my money, the most convincing, effective pacifists are the employees of the military. As for the rest of you, you're pathetic.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:00 AM on October 4, 2002

ewkpates: interesting in the RAWA website one can find this statement (I've posted it before), which includes these assessments countering your claims as to the effects of the USA's intervention in Afghanistan:

"For ten long years the people of Afghanistan -Afghan women in particular- have been crushed and brutalized, first under the chains and atrocities of the "Northern Alliance" fundamentalists, then under those of the Taliban. During all this period, the governments of the Western powers were bent on finding ways to "work with" these criminals. These Western governments did not lose much sleep over the daily grind of abject misery our people were enduring under the domination of these terrorist bands. To them it did not matter so very much that human rights and democratic principles were being trampled on a daily basis in an inconceivable manner. What was important was to "work with" the religio-fascists to have Central Asian oil pipelines extended to accessible ports of shipment.

Immediately after the September 11 tragedy the US military might moved into action to punish its erstwhile hirelings. A captive, bleeding, devastated, hungry, pauperized, drought-stricken and ill-starred Afghanistan was bombed into oblivion by the most advanced and sophisticated weaponry ever created in human history. Innocent lives, many more than those who lost their lives in the September 11 atrocity, were taken. Even joyous wedding gatherings were not spared. The Taliban regime and its al-Qaeda support were toppled without any significant dent in their human combat resources. What was not done away with was the sinister shadow of terrorist threat over the whole world and its alter ego, fundamentalist terrorism."
"...Neither opium cultivation nor warlordism have been eradicated in Afghanistan. There is neither peace nor stability in this tormented country, nor has there been any relief from the scourges of extreme pauperization, prostitution, and wanton plunder. Women feel much more insecure than in the past. The bitter fact that even the personal security of the President of the country cannot be maintained without recourse to foreign bodyguards and the recent terrorist acts in our country speak eloquent volumes about the chaotic and terrorist-ridden situation of the country".
Sorry about the long quotes but I think they were pertinent.
posted by talos at 5:01 AM on October 4, 2002

And your point is?

China, not the you-know-what. There is a future.
posted by hama7 at 5:24 AM on October 4, 2002

posted by moonbiter at 6:29 AM on October 4, 2002

For my money, the most convincing, effective pacifists are the employees of the military. As for the rest of you, you're pathetic.

Wow, I'm a pacificist! Great, well, actually I'm pretty pacifistic when it comes to this war stuff. I don't like the idea of Saddam's Iraq, but I wouldn't want to sacrifice my life or those of an Iraqi army unless there was a real plan on what to do next.

As for international cooperation, international certainly isn't a bad word word, but it isn't always a good word either. I really want to like the U.N., heck I would love to join a joint force thingy, I only wish it came down on the real problem states and pushed for changes there. China would be good, Syria likewise. And as much as it would be nice to act with U.N. approval, it isn't necessary. The U.S. is a sovereign nation and doesn't need anyones approval, besides its own citizenry to act, and until there are enough people in the U.S. that don't want to attack Iraq, I'm afraid that the opinion of the international community is just an opinion.

Trust me, I really want a strong U.N. but until it acts in the best interests of constitute peoples and not the nations, I think it can more quickly become a tyranny. If the U.N. did that, I would be more than happy to lay down my life for citizens in another nation.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:40 AM on October 4, 2002

Steve_at_Linnwood & ParisParamus:

You might want to give this a quick read.

fold_and_mutilate: Great link. Thanks.
posted by gompa at 9:18 AM on October 4, 2002

Great link, fold! (I also missed the first one) and he does go a little overboard on Jewish influence, but is absolutely right on many things...

I think he sees this war as a done deal, with more to come (as do alot of us here, whether we're for it or against it), but I wonder whether there isn't something our allies (if we still have them) can do to seriously pressure the administration (with trade sanctions, or calling in our debts, etc) to stop this stuff, or at least rein in the most militaristic plans...
posted by amberglow at 9:28 AM on October 4, 2002

Yes, Miguel, coercive inspections are something that the experts need to look at. I've mentioned this before.
posted by sheauga at 9:40 AM on October 4, 2002

This article makes some great points; as per usual, we see that the most honest assessment of our actions is featured in the foreign press rather than by the media cheerleaders we have in the US.

What has bothered me all along is the way the public is buying into all of this. It's as if people would agree to anything to get back the illusion of security we had before last year. Most people I know talk more about television than about this, as if not knowing what is going on makes one more safe. In any case, I wouldn't want to be Bush down the road, as we learn more about the motives behind the secrecy of the administration, especially given that his administration has now put assassination back on the table as a viable method of getting rid of despotic leaders.
posted by troybob at 9:46 AM on October 4, 2002

I didn't want to make an FPP out of this, so I'm posting it here. Jeffrey Goldberg on why to attack Iraq.
Richard Spertzel, who was the chief biological weapons inspector for UNSCOM, told me that aflatoxin is "a devilish weapon. From a moral standpoint, aflatoxin is the cruelest weapon—it means watching children die slowly of liver cancer." Spertzel went on to say that, to his knowledge, Iraq is the only country ever to weaponize aflatoxin.
The administration is planning today to launch what many people would undoubtedly call a short-sighted and inexcusable act of aggression. In five years, however, I believe that the coming invasion of Iraq will be remembered as an act of profound morality.
posted by goethean at 9:49 AM on October 4, 2002

Oh, well, I tried. *sigh*

What has bothered me all along is the way the public is buying into all of this.

Hey, Mr. Troybob, aren't we the public?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:53 AM on October 4, 2002

Excecutive summary: Lord Acton foretold all fruit of "military superiority". --foldy
which I assume refers to:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."--Lord Acton, 1887
Thanks, foldy, for laying bare the vacancy of your philosophy. It seems that to you, the most powerful nation is bound to be corrupt, and morally wrong, no matter what it does. This is not a useful, practical or real-world, and thus not a valid, morality.
posted by goethean at 10:03 AM on October 4, 2002

gompa: doesn't donkeyschlong get a scolding, too? Let's be fair now. We adults need to set a good example.
posted by shoos at 10:10 AM on October 4, 2002

Sorry, Sheauga: I missed that thread. I always bookmark your links with "Sheauga" so I know where I got them from. I really must start using your user page more, instead of just dipping into the threads that seem interesting.... :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:14 AM on October 4, 2002

What has bothered me all along is the way the public is buying into all of this.

I've been working on an article for a local university publication about why the war is a bad idea, and one thing I've found is that most students are against the war on Iraq. The problem (also the topic of this Washington Post article) is that no one seems to be able to point out exactly why the war is a bad idea. This lack of knowledge is frightening on several levels: one, that dissent is being kept down by the administration's secrecy and, more importantly, that students aren't seeking out information about the situation on their own.

Lieven makes a lot of good points about the "young intelligentsia" ignoring the realities of the world, but my experience in talking with people about what I've learned is that they seem to anger and want to do something after finding out the scope of the war and where it could go wrong. There's no doubt in my mind that students (and others) could organize in a way to make Bush back down. The only question is whether it's already too late. (Yeah, it's a NYT link. I'm sorry.)
posted by thecaddy at 10:33 AM on October 4, 2002

What the heck does a "A general Middle Eastern conflagration" mean? It is like the criticism that stomping Saddam will lead to "instability" or "chaos." What are we talking about here? Dogs and cats living together?

His explanation for the push is likewise, vague, confused, and highly selective in his choice of evidence. He completely dismisses the WMD issue, the genocide issue, the regional threat issue, and instead zooms in on a handful of ideas such as partitioning Saudi that have been heavily criticized within elite circles. He combines this with some half baked Zionism/Fundamentialist Christian conspiracy theories.

And he actually does make the argument that Saddam isn't that bad. What a joke.
posted by ednopantz at 12:08 PM on October 4, 2002

What are we talking about here? Dogs and cats living together?

In some cases, pretty much.
posted by niceness at 2:05 PM on October 4, 2002

thecaddy you brought up an interesting point...

Most students are against the war...but they dont know why.

That is about as frightening as them not haveing the information that they should be seeking.
posted by Recockulous at 2:30 PM on October 4, 2002

no one seems to be able to point out exactly why the war is a bad idea
Shouldn't they be asked why the war is a good idea? I think they don't know why it's wrong because they can't think of any good reason it should take place at all. The burden of proof of the worthiness of any war should always be on those proposing it. Not my war, but this same turning of the tables crops up so often and is used so often on so many topics that even those on the receiving end begin to believe it has some validity.
posted by Zootoon at 3:16 PM on October 4, 2002

Zootoon: Exactly. War is inherently a bad idea; the burden is always on those who advocate it.
posted by languagehat at 3:39 PM on October 4, 2002

Shouldn't they be asked why the war is a good idea?

You mean other the than the fact that Saddam is a genocidal fascist dictator with a nuclear weapons program?

The case that I want to hear is how ovethrowing Saddam will end the sanctions that me and a lot of other liberals thought would peacefully curb the regime without shedding any blood. (Boy were we wrong!)

Sanctions do hinder Saddam's weapons programs, but since Saddam doesn't care about the welfare of his people, or even his long term national posperity and thus his power, the sanctions remain in place, mostly hurting the people they are meant to help. At least a war would mainly hurt people in uniform, and possibly a very small number should most conscripts do the smart thing and surrender.
posted by ednopantz at 3:40 PM on October 4, 2002

You mean other the than the fact that Saddam is a genocidal fascist dictator with a nuclear weapons program?
Yes, other than that. China is basically a dictatorship and have nuclear weapons but you're not going to war with them. Why Irak?
posted by Zootoon at 3:51 PM on October 4, 2002

There is one thing, though that has not been mentioned before: China.

James Webb has something to say about China, and how a U.S. occupation of Iraq would be to its benefit:
Nations such as China can only view the prospect of an American military consumed for the next generation by the turmoil of the Middle East as a glorious windfall. Indeed, if one gives the Chinese credit for having a long-term strategy -- and those who love to quote Sun Tzu might consider his nationality -- it lends credence to their insistent cultivation of the Muslim world. One should not take lightly the fact that China previously supported Libya, that Pakistan developed its nuclear capability with China's unrelenting assistance and that the Chinese sponsored a coup attempt in Indonesia in 1965. An "American war" with the Muslims, occupying the very seat of their civilization, would allow the Chinese to isolate the United States diplomatically as they furthered their own ambitions in South and Southeast Asia.
posted by homunculus at 4:11 PM on October 4, 2002

Well, we can take out Iraq at this point in time. I'd hate for him to stay in the power for the sake of consistancy.

No country can be perfect, and have a policy that always holds. As much as I would like to see a free China, even at the point of war, it just ain't happening, not with force anyway and probably not for decades to come. But we have the option to do something about Iraq right now. Whether we do it or not, at least we have the option.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 4:36 PM on October 4, 2002

russia, too, is also a playa :D
Russia's biggest oil company has been assured by President Vladimir Putin that it will be able to keep its huge stake in Iraq's oil fields should Saddam Hussein be deposed, as Moscow seeks to extract a heavy commercial price for backing the US's hardline position on Baghdad.

As Washington seeks to win Moscow's approval for a tough new United Nations resolution, analysts said Russia was using its status as a permanent veto-holding member of the UN Security Council to maximise its commercial gain from the situation.
china as well (among others) has commercial interests in iraq, which might affect their vote on the security council.

i don't necessarily think having russia, china or the US for that matter "benefit" is a problem at all, as long as the iraqi people benefit as well. else, you're again faced with the prospect of a failed state, which i think is counterproductive!
posted by kliuless at 7:49 PM on October 4, 2002

i understand when people say Saddam Hussein is a "genocidal fascist dictator with a nuclear weapons program," but when did GWBUSH prove that he is hardly anything less? he only recently started to worry about the repressed women in Afghanistan when it became politically beneficial. has anyone considered that a large part of the population of Iraq, just like a lot of developing nations in that region, is mostly children or very young people?
and on a tangent, how about the statement from Ari Fleisher about the "one bullet"? isn't soliciting for assassination highly irresponsible, if not just reprehensible, when we are supposed to be the epitome of morality?
if you need a reason for not attacking Iraq, what about the fact that one of Bush's explanations is that HE wants to attack the country because they have biological/chemical/nuclear weapons, which we also have and continue to make? that doesn't sound hypocritical or contradictory?
posted by memnock at 3:30 PM on October 5, 2002

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