Thursday, October 21, 2004

Snapshot of my 2003-04 views on the War on Terror, part 2

Snapshot of my 2003-04 views on the War on Terror, part 2


Pure_Azn, don't worry, we're doing fine. I don't write only for you in this public forum, so I explicate. I do appreciate and thank you for the compliments. I can easily find this debate at school. The main reason I've written so much in this thread and it's predecessor thread (War in Iraq poll) is a comment one poster made that irked me. He said something to the effect that people who support the US mission in Iraq or the Bush admin's foreign policy in general were ignorant Americans who were easily duped, and even claimed that anybody with even a rudimentary college education would oppose the Bush admin's actions. You know, too many of our guys and gals - better people than any of us - are working overtime, hurting and dying in Iraq right now, doing the right thing, for me to let comments like that go, even on In terms of morale, it is very important to our soldiers as they endure many hardships in Iraq and Afghanistan that they know the American people back them and support their mission. My goal with my posts, along with fellow posters, is to show that there is an informed, intelligent basis for Americans to be patriotic and/or to support post-9/11 US-led missions, without abandoning critical faculties.

The issues don't change. As you guessed, this isn't the first time I've held this sort of discussion, especially given the school I attend. A reason I can hold this discussion is that I can empathize with criticisms of US foreign policy. It helps to be a 1st generation "minority" American whose parents were Vietnam War protestors, who grew up in an "international" city surrounded by a great diversity of immigrant offspring, who grew up critical of US foreign policy. If I hadn't had the opportunity to judge with my own eyes from the other side, I'd probably be protesting, too - shouting rhyming slogans, doing die-ins and all of that stuff. It was a wake-up call for me while I served overseas, first to reevaluate the protest propaganda I grew up with, then to discover that despite the trendiness of over-indulged Americans to fantasize about being "world citizens", the vast majority of citizens in the rest of the world stand firmly with their own country. When non-Americans criticize the US, they criticize from their own perspective, not a global perspective. And that's fair. At the same time, for Americans to reject patriotism is the great conceit, an act of self-aggrandization that is, in reality, selfish irresponsible citizenship that weakens us in the eyes of the world. To stand firmly with our own country, as non-Americans stand with theirs, is the essential act of brotherhood with our fellow man. After all, how can the world's peoples trust Americans to stand with the world if we are too self-absorbed even to stand with our own country?

The fundamental weak point in your argument is that you try to associate the attacks of 9/11 with a broad-spectrum international dissatisfaction with US foreign policies as though the specific attacks - or even the al Qaeda phenomenon - were somehow the result of some voodoo global socio-psychological distress. When we parse out the issues, the universal application of the terrorist attacks quickly breaks down. When the terrorist leverage is removed from your foreign policy criticisms, the urgent need to up-end US foreign policy disappears. As I said, a level of dissatisfaction and unhappiness with the top player (the US, for now) is to be expected in the globalised competitive model. It doesn't help your case to ascribe your opinions (elitism, unfair trade practices, self-interest, American arrogance, etc, etc) to the terrorist acts in order to lend leverage to your criticisms, but then disassociate your position from the terrorists' when we delve into their actual motivations.

Are your gripes about US foreign policy fair? Sure, I respect your perspective, but I am responsible for judging your gripes from my perspective, which is to say, as an American. Gripes about US foreign policy deserve to be studied and we should evaluate them on a case by case basis. Our government SHOULD continually reexamine our foreign policies as a matter of course, with the many evolving considerations involved in such a process. I am confident that the process of reevaluation and negotiation is ongoing, even if the results aren't always to the satisfaction of all involved. But to use Iraq, north Korea or the terrorists as the stage to blow up a greater level of urgency for gripes covering the panorama of US foreign policies - as a plethora of critics of US policies have tried to do since 9/11 - seems opportunistic and exploitative. I suppose critics of the US are not above using 9/11-generated uncertainty and fear as tools to achieve their own ends. That's to be expected in a competitive world. I gotta admit - it's a nice try.

At the same time, I'm not convinced, either, that we approached our foreign policy effectively before 9/11. Remember, before 9/11, Bush Jr wasn't exactly overwrought about our foreign policy either - if anything, he leaned more towards isolationist practices. Even now, post-9/11, Rumsfeld likes to talk about reorganizing our forces so that we reduce our presence in Western Europe and Korea.

The lesson of 9/11 isn't an increased urgency to relieve any and all international gripes about our foreign policies. The lesson is the value of attention to detail, a better sense of priorities, timely appropriate actions and a warning against complacency. An emphasis on problem-solving and follow-through as opposed to polls-oriented politicking.

So, we both predicted the terrorist attacks. When I was in the Army, we talked about it a lot. For us, the growing prospect of a terrorist attack on the US was a matter of WHEN, not if. We knew it was coming not because of trade policies with Canada, sanctions on north Korea or the School of the Americas. We recognized that the Clinton administration, motivated by its chosen set of priorities, was following a foreign policy path that severely undermined our national security. Like greater Europe with Nazi Germany, we paid for inadequate measures against an aggressive threat.

BTW, the base DoD budget hasn't significantly changed from Clinton to Bush, although obviously, deployment costs are up, not to mention the rebuilding costs for Afghanistan and Iraq. (The budget deficit IS taking a big hit right now.) The 21st century transformation of the military from the large Cold War military to a smaller, more sophisticated, versatile force began long before Bush Jr was the president. It was in full swing while Clinton was President and remember, Clinton exhaustively deployed the US military as Commander in Chief. He was just reluctant to do so in a productive manner. Clinton's foreign policy was marked by a clear recognition for the need for military intervention (eg, Bosnia, Haiti, bombing terrorist camps, bombing and containment of Iraq) but he undermined his job by his lack of political will to deploy adequate measures. He DID have his positive side, mostly in domestic issues. He just proved to be an unsuitable Commander in Chief for the globalising world's leading nation. Of course, to be fair, Clinton lacked the mandate of 9/11 to act properly as CinC, and to his credit, he has defended the war on terrorism and Iraqi Freedom.

Those who hold up Clinton's foreign policy are defending a lemon. He's the same president who surrendered to Aidid in Somalia then immediately pretended he was ignorant of Rwanda's genocide. He's the same president who gave in to north Korean demands for increased aid to stop their growing nuclear program, when they clearly continued that program (the idea that nK's nuclear program is a reaction to Bush Jr is laughably ignorant). I was serving in Korea at the time, and we recognized nK had successfully blackmailed us AND continued their nuclear program. He's the same president who bombed a few sites in response to the series of terrorist attacks, thus misleading a generation of young Americans into thinking that bombing alone is an adequate military intervention. (Bad Clinton habit: talk big, do little) In the military, we knew Clinton had hardly dented the terrorist infrastructure and that such a weak response would only encourage them - which it did. He's the same president whose response to Saddam's repeated violations of the UN resolutions were sanctions and the withdrawal of inspectors. When he finally resorted to Desert Fox in 98 - using nearly identical language as the lead-in to Iraqi Freedom - he showed the world, including emboldened terrorists, that the greatest extent of American response was . . . more ineffective bombing. And after Clinton's tough talk and bombing in 98? Status quo. Sanctions continued, US planes were still taking anti-aircraft fire in the no-fly zone (I have buddies who worked that mission), and Saddam was still in power and non-compliant with the UN resolutions. Perhaps as bad a trangression was Clinton's failure to tackle the growing dysfunction of the UN while simultaneously placing the US in the role of enabler. Between the UN, Saddam and bin Laden, Clinton left Bush Jr a heck of a mess to clean up.

As far as US sanctions, remember that we stopped short of regime change in Iraq in 91 and opted for the alternative - a set of conditions for Saddam set forth by the UN resolutions. Those resolutions needed to be enforced somehow, and the enforcement burden fell entirely upon the US. Sanctions were considered a peaceful, economic-based alternative to military action, and of course, Saddam's reaction to our non-military pressure was almost immediate non-compliance. Saddam made his money clandestinely, anyway, and if the famous 500,000 dead Iraqi children accusation is true, it's apparent that the humanitarian exemptions in the embargoes were withheld from the Iraqi people. By Rez 1441, Saddam's non-compliance was established. Our choices were (A) post-Desert Fox, continue the embargoes and no-fly zone indefinitely, (B) (favored by France) an indefinitely prolonged inspection process, backed by overwhelming US military presence (with no help from the French), (C) end the UN mission in Iraq and effectively surrender to Saddam, or (D) (what we did) accept the failure of policy, change course and bring about regime change. To denounce the US for using sanctions against Iraq to enforce the UN resolutions is to promote the alternatives - in other words, earlier military-led regime change or leaving Iraq entirely with Saddam in power.

So, what about non-terrorist unhappiness with US foreign policies? Of course international concerns should be considered, but it's hard for me to take the problem as seriously as some folks make it out to be when those same folks feel the need to associate 9/11 with their individual gripes in order to make them sound more important.


Re: Re: Re: Re: By Popular(?) Request... (post #46)

Originally posted by Minstrel!

Why are you characterizing me as "sniping" when you said that left is "terrified of defending our way of life" and dedicating to "sticking their heads in the sand"?

You can suggest all you want, but
1) It does nothing to answer the question. No alternative strategy has come forward. The response from the left has been little but a collective "NOO!!!!". What is that if it ISN'T sticking one's head in the sand and being afraid to fight (when it's in response to a call to fight?!).

2) The diatribe might speak to why there's no "true liberal candidate", but it doesn't speak to the question I posed, which is why has no true liberal alternative been posed? (By the way, the analysis seems entirely wrong unless you are somehow suggesting that John Dean or Dennis Kucinich or Al Sharpton are not liberals ). Anyway, that was never the topic at hand... and it seems a needless diversion.


As far as what my plan is, I can't say that I have all the information or resources to form international policy. However, I probably would have looked at the fact that Osama bin Laden was Saudi Arabian and that the vast majority of the hijackers were Saudi Arabian and settled on a country other than Iraq. Like maybe...Saudi Arabia. I'd like to believe that actually protecting this country's interests would come ahead of cronyism if I were in charge.

This, on the other hand, gets to the crux of the matter. One idea, put forward timidly (you don't have the information or resources to know the right policy, but you have the information and resources to know the wrong one? Please, let's be serious here ). It's a start though, so let's analyze it on the merits.

Outwardly, I agee that it makes perfectly good sense. Saudi Arabia is the PRIME exporter of Wahabism, the radical, fundamentally anti-Western, anti-gay, anti-woman, anti-commerce form of Islam espoused by Bin Laden. Their government represents the polar opposite of EVERYTHING we stand for. Even worse than the totalitarian socialist thug that Saddam are the theocratic thugs of Saudi Arabia.

So why not Saudi Arabia? And don't feign this off on lack of knowledge. All the knowledge you need is readily available to you. It's very apparent why not Saudi Arabia (and conversely, why Iraq).

Let's think about why Iraq (this is posted with permission), and as we do so, keep in mind how many of those "whys" would be applicable to Saudi Arabia. Not many of them:


Already a problem

The existing sanctions process against Iraq (including patrols over the "no fly" zones) was a failure and was unsustainable. One way or another the status quo was going to end soon. Lifting the sanctions and ceasing to enforce the "no fly" zones without removing Saddam from power was too risky.

Saddam represented a substantial long-term threat. He had demonstrated utter ruthlessness and viciousness in two external wars and uncountable internal repressions. He showed no sign of abandoning his ambition to develop nuclear weapons irrespective of how long it might take or how much it might cost or what political sacrifice might be required.

Saddam had been providing immense support for terrorist groups, both monetarily and in other ways. There were known terrorist training bases in Iraq and he had been providing money and arms. It appears that little of that support went to al Qaeda. Most of it went to various Palestinian groups such as Hizbollah.

Saddam had placed a bounty on Israelis by stating that he'd pay a lot of money to the families of any successful suicide bomber, no matter what group the bomber came from.

Saddam had developed and used chemical weapons against Iranian troops and on Iraqi civilians. Left to himself there was a non-trivial chance of his giving such weapons to terrorists. After the war in 1991 and 12 years of Anglo-American enforcement of sanctions, Saddam had a grudge against the US, and the chance of him surreptitiously aiding terrorist attacks against us out of spite was too great to ignore. It's a matter of record that he attempted to have the senior George Bush assassinated. (George Bush Sr. had been President during the 1991 Gulf War.)

Military feasibility

The leaders of Kuwait feared Saddam and owed us a big favor from 1991, so Kuwait could be used as a base from which to launch an invasion of Iraq.

NATO ally Turkey shared a northern border with Iraq and it was expected that a second invasion force could be massed there. (As it turned out, this didn't happen.)

Iraqi terrain between Baghdad and the Kuwaiti border was well suited for mass armored assault.

Because of ongoing low-level combat in enforcement of the southern "no fly" zone, it was possible to do most of the essential air preparation slowly over a period of months before combat began.

Though the Iraqi military was large and had a reputation with the "Arab Street", in fact it was deeply crippled and likely to be much less formidable than many expected.

Political feasibility

A casus belli existed that could be leveraged to justify conquest in certain international fora.

This related to Saddam's failure to abide by the truce terms signed in the aftermath of the war in 1991, particularly in cooperating with international inspections to eliminate Iraqi chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and development programs.

Saddam's possession or intent to acquire such weapons represented an indirect and long term threat, but was not in actuality the primary justification for the war.

There had been substantial support by American voters since 1991 for military operations to remove Saddam from power. There was far less support for invasion of Iran and no support at all for conquest of any other nation in the region.

Strategic suitability

Iraq is centrally located with borders on Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. It has major ports through which supplies and troops can move. Thus if we occupied Iraq, it would be ideal as a potential base of military operations against any of those other nations later, should that become necessary.

The governments in the region know it. Having American troops on their borders, or even the threat to move troops there, was guaranteed to get their attention.

If the military victory over Iraqi forces was overwhelming, that would make the threat even more impressive. The military forces of the other nations in the region were even less formidable than that of Saddam's Iraq.

This would make diplomatic threats against them far more effective and inspire much more cooperation from them than had been forthcoming to that point.

Potential for Reform

Among the major nations of the region, Iraq before Saddam had been relatively mercantile, relatively secular, and had originally had a relatively well-educated and cosmopolitan population.

Iraq had a history of democratic government, albeit not very successfully.

The Kurds had already established a government similar to what we needed to create.

Iraq's oil wealth could be used to offset much of the cost of rebuilding after the war, as well as making the nation economically viable and prosperous and helping to finance diversification of its economy.

Symbolism and propaganda value

Saddam had become a hero to the "Arab Street". He was thought of as a strong Arab leader who was standing up to the West. Though Iraq's military had been decisively defeated in 1991, Saddam survived politically and this actually enhanced his reputation. He hadn't won against us, but at least he'd tried, which was better than anyone else seemed to be doing. The "Arab Street" was proud of him for making the attempt. (This involved a lot of revisionism, such as ignoring Saddam's earlier invasion of Kuwait, or the participation of large Arab military forces in the coalition army which fought against Iraq.)

Iraq's military had the reputation of being the largest, best armed and most dangerous of any in the region. If it could be decisively crushed it would be psychologically devastating.

Baghdad historically was one of the great capitols of classic Arab civilization. Having it fall to outsiders would be symbolically important.

Other factors

We owed the southern Shiites a moral debt for not supporting their attempted revolution in 1991, and for our failure to make any attempt to prevent the retaliatory slaughter inflicted on them by Saddam afterwards. (I consider this the most important and most shameful lapse by the US since the end of the Cold War.)

The Kurds had prospered under the umbrella of the northern "no fly" zone. If the sanctions against Iraq had ended and we had stopped enforcing the northern "no fly" zone, the Kurds would then have been crushed, in a repeat of the 1991 slaughter inflicted on the southern Shiites.

Without invasion, reform in Iraq was impossible. The sanctions had failed, and after the debacle of the 1991 Shiite uprising, there was no further possibility of revolution. Removal of Saddam and beginnings of reform in Iraq could only be imposed from outside by military force. Thus invasion of Iraq would have been necessary eventually even if it wasn't the first target.

Potential problems

Saddam might use nerve gas or biological agents against the invading force, or the buildup in Kuwait. The possibility existed that the cost of the war in casualties could be extremely high.

Iraq isn't really a single nation; it is at least three, depending on how you count. Creating a unified nation out of it involved problems due to ethnic divisions.

It also included both Sunnis and Shiites, who generally felt about each other the way that the Catholics and Protestants feel in Northern Ireland.

It could be expected that neighboring nations would try to support factions inside Iraq to work to prevent creation of a democracy there. Iran, in particular, was certain to try to inspire the majority Shiites to establish Iraq as another Khomeinite Islamic Republic.

Preparing for war

Development of a "coalition of the willing".

NATO was a hopeless waste of time, especially since some NATO members sided with Saddam and tried to use the mechanisms of NATO to prevent our attack.

The British and Australians openly sided with us. The British in particular could offer substantial military and diplomatic assistance. Australian assistance was smaller but no less welcome.

Canadian opposition was a major unpleasant surprise.

Other nations were willing to help, though in some cases they didn't want to admit it publicly until the last minute.

It was necessary for Congress to pass an authorization for war.

The one passed in September of 2001 (under which we had fought in Afghanistan) could not plausibly be interpreted as authorizing war in Iraq unless the Bush administration claimed that Saddam's government was directly implicated in the 9/11 attack, and no such evidence existed. There's no reason to believe that Saddam was directly involved.

An attempt to try to use the one passed in 1991, or to go into combat without one using the 60-day clause in the 'War Powers Act', would have caused a constitutional crisis.

It would have been wrong to try to bypass Congress, violating both the spirit and letter of the Constitution.

It was vital that the Congressional authorization for war in Iraq not include any provision that would give hostile foreign nations (e.g. France) the ability to veto the war. Thus it was vital that it not require UNSC authorization or NATO approval or participation.

We had to attempt to deal with the UN.

Tony Blair required UN approval (or an "unreasonable veto") for domestic political reasons. In the British system, a decision for war is made by the cabinet, but if Blair had done that without any attempt to gain UN approval it would have led to a party revolt.

It was clear that the UNSC would never actually grant permission for armed invasion. By going to the UN in September, it had become abundantly clear by October that the UN wasn't going to cooperate, so Congress defeated all attempts to include a requirement for UNSC approval in its authorization.

Wrangling with the UN ended up covering the primary period of troop deployment in Kuwait and restraining Saddam from a preemptive attack against us before we were ready. (Not yet known if this was deliberate or fortunate side effect.)

Dealing with the UN required arguing the case on the basis of Iraqi failure to comply with previous UNSC resolutions, and to concentrate on the issue of inspections and WMD disarmament. This was not the real issue for anyone involved.

All negotiations at the UN happened on two levels. Speeches and announcements all talked about Iraq. The real issue was the fact that the French feared the US more than Iraq. It was a keystone of French foreign policy to use all possible means to restrain US military power and diplomatic influence.

After Congress passed an authorization for war without requiring UNSC approval, and after the Republicans won the November election and gained a majority in the Senate while keeping control of the House, European opponents of war were chastened and permitted Res 1441 to pass. It started one "last chance" opportunity for Saddam to cooperate with inspections, and was ambiguous as to whether war would automatically be authorized if the inspections failed. The US claimed it did; the French that it did not.

To no one's surprise, the new inspections were a joke.

After Saddam yet again failed to really cooperate with inspections, the US and UK introduced one final resolution in the UNSC that effectively would have authorized war. Those opposing the US, in particular the French, continued to oppose this. The debate became surreal because the true French position was to oppose the US irrespective of the merits of the situation.

Chirac ultimately overplayed his hand and gave the US and UK the diplomatic opportunity to walk away. Tony Blair had as a practical matter gotten his "unreasonable veto".

Despite the setback of Turkish non-cooperation (due to another French political maneuver) logistical buildup was complete and CENTCOM told Bush that it had sufficient force in place and was ready to go. The attack was launched, and we won.

And throw in a couple more why nots, like:
* Much wider spread dislike/distrust of the US in Saudi Arabia
* The fact that if Muslims dislike images of Americans ocupying Bagdad, they'll really hate images of Americans occupying Mecca.
* The fact that we basically have no justification or international support for such a war.

Then, let's consider what the effects of a successful win in Iraq would have on Saudi Arabia. What is suddenly not feasible, because of the absense of many of the "whys" above, is now feasible.

* Just like Kuwait with Iraq, we now have a base from which to act against Iraq.
* We are no longer as dependent on Saudi Arabia
* The presence of a successful, democratic Iraq is a spur to change in Saudi Arabia that simply invading or putting political pressure on would not have been. Perhaps war would no longer be necessary to bring about change. That'd certainly be nice.

To highlight the last point, let me highlight one more news snip of the effect of change in Iraq on the potential for Saudi Arabia:

* Saudi Arabia is also feeling the effects of Iraqi regime change. Last month King Fahd ordered the creation of a Center for National Dialogue where "issues of interest to the people would be debated without constraint." The center will be open to people from all religious communities, including hitherto marginalised Shi'ites. More importantly, the gender apartheid, prevalent in other Saudi institutions, will be waived to let women participate.

Encouraged by the current state of flux, Saudi women have organized several seminars in the past few weeks, in which they called for equal legal rights.

The Iraq effect has also been felt in the Saudi media. Newspapers now run stories and comments that were unthinkable last March. Words such as reform (Islahat), opening (infitah) and democracy (dimuqratiah) are appearing in the Saudi media for the first time

The article goes on to point out that all this may come to naught (the whole article is worth a good read), but it's a step in the right direction, and it's part and parcel of change in Iraq leading to change in the rest of the Arab world.


Hey NYC,

Absolutely I can. I'm a big fan of your posts by the way... I'd contribute more in those threads but I'm a bit crunched for time (I work full time and I'm also working on a Ph.D. in economics ). Anyway...
is where the Iraq stuff came from.

WRT your point below about how badly the govt presents the case, I agree in the general sense, but I often wonder how much they're hamstrung by what they can say and what they cant.

I'd almost suggest the opposite is the case. Common sense is what tells us we need to reshape the political landscape of the Middle East into one that isn't fostering tyrannical theocrats. That is obvious to everyone and I think our policy is geared towards that common sense objective.

The issue is that political discourse doesn't take place on the level of common sense . Not only does that sound amusing... if you think about it it's actually true. If we have trouble getting support at the UN when we point out that Iraq has continually broken UN resolutions, what chance would we have if we say should overthrow a government of a heretofor "friendly" nation such as Saudi Arabia? Contrary to popular belief, political "pretexts for war" seem to take a while to develop. At least if they're gonna be at all believable . I'm not sure if that's what you were getting at, but that's my take on it.




Originally posted by Genjuro!

Let's be clear, the support in U.S. for the Irak war was huge. American people believed everything the government said about WMD and terrorism links (there's a poll out there reflecting that more than half of Americans believe that Saddam had something to do with 11-S). To me, that's a matter of concern.

Those weren't the only reasons to support the war in Iraq, although they are legitimate reasons. The link between Saddam with WMD was well-established by the UN during President Clinton's administration and Saddam does link with terrorists (at the very least, the "martyrs" who kill Israelis) although I'm not altogether convinced he worked substantively in any way on 9-11. Our president has, somewhat belatedly, made clear the disconnect between Saddam and 9-11.

Did our president lie? Perhaps, although I would tend to characterize the Bush Jr admin's marketing of the war as alarmism and overstatement. The imminent nuclear threat contention certainly was embarrassing - I was skeptical when it was proposed. But what Bush has discussed as per Iraq's greater WMD threat has been a reasonable extension of the established US position on Iraq as per President Clinton.

"Regime change" in Iraq as the preferred option by the US was established in October, 1998 by Clinton. Military and unilateral US enforcement of UN resolutions regarding Iraq was established in December, 1998 by Clinton. The Bush Jr admin did escalate American policy on Iraq relative to the Clinton admin, but in a reasonable progression, not much greater than Clinton's own escalation of policy regarding Iraq in relation to the Bush Sr admin and the escalation within the time-line of the Clinton adminstration. The Bush Jr admin's argument for war in Iraq is more legitimate than most detractors would have the public believe.

Factor in the impetus of 9/11 for the US to take a more active role in fundamentally changing the increasingly dangerous dynamic of the Middle East, factor in Clinton-led precedents of US policy towards Iraq, factor in long-standing US interest in political and economic stability in the Middle East, and it adds up to the US undertaking a daring and risky nation-building project to bring a dose of health to the region.

US actions in Iraq have not borne out accusations of colonialism or imperialism. Evidence points to a sincere and very costly commitment by the US to bring progressive democracy, stability and economic viability to Iraq. At the same time, opposition efforts seem focused far less on the future health of Iraq than on destabilization of joint US-Iraqi rebuilding efforts. Their general strategy seems designed to further propaganda aims rather than significant confrontation of coalition forces, which indicates weakness in actual tactical capability. The aims of Islamic extremists and Baathist loyalists opposing the US-led efforts are not in line with the majority of Iraqis.

If nothing else, honor is at stake. We owe a blood debt to the Iraqi people for defeating Saddam in 91, and then cheapening the death and destruction of the Gulf War by leaving Saddam in power. For promoting internal regime change and then standing by as Saddam slaughtered the Iraqi people who trusted America and heeded our call. For inflicting 12 years of economic suffering with the UN through embargoes, the so-called peaceful alternative to military action. For making a cruel joke (in light of the failed Shiite rebellion) of continued calls for internal regime change, all because we lacked the will to do the job the only way it could be done. When Clinton made regime change in Iraq our position in 1998, did anybody honestly expect the Iraqi people to be able to bring it about on their own? If there is distrust for American action in Iraq, it is because we politicized and diplomacized the plight of the Iraqi people without actually helping them. It took 12 years for us to finally do the job we should have finished in 1991 under Bush Sr. That's 12 years of blood debt we owe the Iraqi people with interest, 12 years of which we borrowed against our national soul, and now we're paying off.

I too am dismayed to be misled by our president, but then I think - was there any other way for our country to fix the situation in Iraq? Not likely. Bush Jr IS going to pay in 2004 for taking us into a "war of choice" by selling it as a "war of necessity," and he rightfully should pay, but it was for a good cause. I will remember that even as I vote against him.

If our mission in Iraq and, in extension, the Middle East fails, Bush Jr will be remembered as a historical villain. If the mission succeeds, Bush Jr will be remembered as one of the great peace-makers of this era. Quite a gamble, one that many so-called leaders would be unwilling to make, but that's the thing about heroes - they sacrifice themselves (at least their place in presidential history) for the greater good.

Last item. Who said this?

"Heavy as they are, the costs of action must be weighed against the price of inaction. If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people.

And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them.

Because we're acting today, it is less likely that we will face these dangers in the future.

Let me close by addressing one other issue. Saddam Hussein and the other enemies of peace may have thought that the serious debate currently before the House of Representatives would distract Americans or weaken our resolve to face him down.

But once more, the United States has proven that although we are never eager to use force, when we must act in America's vital interests, we will do so.

In the century we're leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community, fear and hope. Now, in the new century, we'll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past, but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace.

Tonight, the United States is doing just that. May God bless and protect the brave men and women who are carrying out this vital mission and their families. And may God bless America.""

A bellicose President Bush Jr? No. This belongs to President Bill Clinton, announcing Operation Desert Fox on December 17, 1998. The irony is that (if I recall correctly so far back) Clinton took plenty of political heat from the GOP for Op Desert Fox. Just goes to show something about the American presidency, I guess. In any case, I disagree with Bush Jr on many issues, but I find it difficult to lower him when it comes to our mission in Iraq. Dislike Bush Jr - I have no problem with that. However, our American mission in Iraq is worth supporting.


Originally posted by Genjuro!

Excellent point.

Bottom line, though, NYCbballFan is right. U.S. just tries to keep its power. It's basically what other superpower countries had done before. And the superpowers have benn always hated.

The odd part here is that most Americans (I think) believe they are doing the right thing from a moral point of view. We live in an age where many people expect morality actions from the people who rule the world. But that obviously doesn't happen. The greed and the selfishness asociated with power is too big. But the countries try to keep a moral face (the political correction). So, in the end, it's ridiculous to see, for example, Bush's efforts to justify Irak invasion.

But one thing is what politicians do and what we as citiziens do. Some of you won't mind what happen beyond you frontiers if you keep your comfortable life. But I won't support any goverment committed to war. What I want to say is that we're not innoncent. We chose our government, and if they do horrible things, we're also guilty.

I understand where Minstrel is coming from, but it's an argument that loses steam where College Walk ends and Broadway begins (local reference - I attend Columbia U in NYC and College Walk is where our politically active students like to "table" and promote discourse).

I tend to believe that people in general will be people, for better or worse. But as a collective, we are capable of becoming something better, ie, for the "greater good." The definition of that "greater good" is up to the individual. So, Minstrel has a legit point - when you argue from a relative perspective, bin Laden's goal of a global Islamic "Caliphate" is AS relevant a worldview as Bush Jr's (and Clinton's) goal of progressive, secular democracies participating in a global economy. It very well might be, just as the same argument has been made to uphold fascism and communism as legit worldviews when they competed with the American worldview.

In that sense, Minstrel upholds the characterization of the war on terror as a "clash of civilizations."

At some point, though, each of us needs to decide where we stand. Certainly, al Qaeda followers know where they stand. Baath party loyalists know where they stand. Do all Americans? It's not a decision that's stressed in our education. Some of my classmates at Columbia consider themselves "world citizens" who are too sophisticated in their relative outlook, and too self-important to stand with their own country. That's their right as Americans, but there you go. I suppose they stand with Antartica or some such international zone.

Yes, by definition, you can't be a world power without protection and maintenance of that power. That won't ever change, nor will global competition for power. The real-life game won't ever be roses and chocolates.

And yes, the US looks out for its own self-interests. Where Americans can claim a moral foothold is how we've tried to affect the big picture, even in our self-interest, in the 60 or so years as a world power. The fight against fascism and communism (even when the fight turned ugly), promoting democracy, liberalism and globalization, supporting our allies, promoting international organizations and multilateralism (before Bush Jr, anyway), promoting stability and security. It hasn't always been smooth, but not a bad track record for a nation whose internal political system institutionalizes change and conflict.

Far from seeking some 18th century Euro empire, the US is trying to funnel global competition into economic parameters rather than military competition (globalization AKA capitalist world peace). Despite our own dreams, though, reality politics asserts that denying war as an application, even as horrible as it is, is simplistic. Globalization or any aspiration of prosperity is built upon security and stability, two conditions highly reliant on force. In the real world, the enemy and his effects aren't only a product of our sins. If the US carries the greatest burden of force to defend that security and stability, that's the price of leadership. Ask any Iraqi trying to start up his business in the post-Saddam era, but is harassed by the thugs Saddam released from prison, and the uncertainty of Baathist and religious extremist strife. Ask him which side is now working hard to establish a secure, conducive environment for his business and future prosperity. Ask him what he thinks of Euro and American protestors demanding for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq. Ask his cousins, the South Korean businessman, the Japanese businessman, the (West) German businessman, whether it would help for the US to stick around for a while.

Much as idealists once hoped WWI would be the "War to End All Wars", we Americans hope the war on terror, to include the mission in Iraq - drawing on 60 years realpolitik of successful global stewardship - can indeed finally establish the conditions necessary for a true globalization.

Defeating the terror phenomenon, bringing democracy to Iraq, and in the long run, stability to the Middle East, engendering a more-vigilant and active global community - all of these are in American national interests. I'm not sure how any of these goals are less than moral, although like many grand endeavors in the real world (not to relativistically disclude fascism, communism and bin Laden's goals), the process can be ugly in places. But to our credit, even in an inherently destructive phase, such as the war in Iraq, we try to minimize the damage and fix what we can. Believe me: just as the enemy is drawing on textbook methods of guerilla warfare (especially propaganda in the opponent's populace), there are textbook methods to defeat guerilla warfare - harsh ones - that coalition forces ARE NOT employing so that damage is minimized as much as possible. Even if the cost is more American soldiers dying because we're holding back, and the enemy does not. (Typical cynical self-knowledge from a US Army marching cadence: "Nothing in this life is free . . . Except for the lives of the Infantry.")

International good will is critically important in the current US campaigns, but seeking the good will of folks (thinking Euro in this case) who were incapable of dealing with Milosevic in their own backyard without American intervention should only be pursued to a certain point. After all, the days of Clintonian avoidance of necessary actions for the sake of popularity is past, burned away with the Twin Towers. At some point, power has to be used responsibly and leaders need to lead, even under the burden of criticism.


I can live with that. Ultimately, my goal isn't to convince the world to love my country. It's to offer this layman's perspective about the US's post-WWII history when the issue comes up. More relevantly, I hope to offer a perspective from which reasonable folks might be able to understand, if not support, the US-led mission in Iraq.

In the end, discourse is a great thing but there's still an on-going mission in the real world with real people relying on us and the future at stake. Denying nobility to the US mission in Iraq is acceptable, to me at least; however, it would be highly irresponsible to use the original-Mujahadeen, Arafat, Pinochet (although the degree of that relationship is debatable), Stalin, Mao AND Chiang Kai-Shek, Diem - or any other of the uncomfortable working relationships the US has had in the course of conducting its post-WWII foreign policies - as an excuse to fail on the American commitment to the Iraqi people. Your contention that the US mission in Iraq is based at least in part on national (and international) interests as opposed to pure charitable indulgence - does that make the American commitment to and investment in a successful Iraqi future less or more reliable?

You know, concepts such as multilateralism, internationalization, coalition-building, when put into practice, especially on a long-term global scale, at times, means cooperating with folks who you wouldn't invite to an Independence Day barbeque. Heck, just check out the roll of nations doing business within the halls of the UN. Nodody's free of bad company in the international community, and the US has more pressure and responsibility than any other nation to work in the global community.

Someday, the US is going to take flak for working with folks like Musharraf in the war on terror, just as the US gets criticized often for its trade relationship with China. Even today, critics of Prez Bush Jr say that he should work harder to establish more congenial relationships with nations like Syria and Iran, even north Korea. I don't advocate unilateralism as SOP, but I suppose one benefit of sacrificing cooperation for unilateralism is to decrease guilt by association, and thus appease critics who like to refer to historical examples like Pinochet and the Contras. Forging diplomatic relationships in the Middle East has never been a simple affair, as complicated and frustrating as our efforts to bring stability to the region. At least with Saddam, we cut our ties after he gassed the Kurds in 1988. I've wondered, though, if by cutting our ties with Saddam, and thus our diplomatic influence, if that then freed him to attack Kuwait and threaten Saudi Arabia. I guess it's a similar debate to folks who assert that the US, in trying to avoid an imperialist-type label, was irresponsible by withdrawing its "civilizing" influence (and resources) from Afghanistan after helping the Mujahadeen defeat the Soviets - that by not extending our involvement, we enabled the eventual power-grab by the Taliban and Islamic extremists in general . . . anyway, this is a tangential discussion on what it means to be a responsible world power and contextual to the changes in US foreign policy evident today.

Certainly, the geopolitical stature of the Middle East, to include its oil base, is a significant factor in any political calculation. Security, economic, social, environmental, political, military issues have always been bound together. (Ask any progressive social liberal, like me, how much economic factors - even self-interests - are involved in the viability of any realistic application of "helping mankind and making the world a better place.") The Middle East is, simply, a vital region to the world, which makes stability in the Middle East and her nations' and peoples' ability to healthily participate in the global community vitally important to the resident world power and de-facto leader.

Old Europe, of course, had its model of globalization, which more or less died with the World Wars. I think the modern American model of globalization is better, more agreeable with our own pluralistic outlook. So, if bringing our nation's resources to bear to engender a better future for the Iraqi people and the Middle East, if honoring our commitment, is only a side-benefit of American national interest, I can live with that compromise. After all, other nations and peoples of the world have benefited from comparable American national interests. It's too bad some folks, like terrorists and our own homegrown retro-socialist activists, are so ideologically cornered, they oppose the compromise and the benefits it offers to the people of Iraq.


Originally posted by Genjuro!

If doing that, you have to sacrifice some thousand people, some democracy or give money and weapons to the first phsyco killer you meet (Saddam or Bin Laden), that's the tough decission.

This specific point is worth addressing, which I didn't do specifically in my last post.

"[S]ome democracy" being Allende's government, right? Allende actually offers an interesting case study of a government entering democratically on a relatively moderate platform, but then internal and external extremist elements transforming the government to a more traditional autocratic Communist state. Pinochet as an alternative was bad, too - we all know THAT history - but it's interesting how Chile retained capitalism and democracy rather than return to an Allende-type government. Today, of course, relations between Chile and the US are good. The US involvement wasn't one of our prouder episodes, especially since it helped bring Pinochet to power, but Allende wasn't the answer either. At best, US involvement in Chile has produced mixed results, much more fruitful in the long-term than the short-term.

And of course you refer to the original Mujahadeen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, where a young, ambitious Osama first came to prominence as a relatively minor figure, and the preference the US, for a time, held for secular Iraq over Islamic extremist, rhetorically anti-US Iran (although they apparently weren't too anti-US to deal with Reagan's covert ops).

Anyway, that's not the point I want to address.(below portion replaced by . . . ).

Go to Part 3.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

<< Home

<< Newer
Older >>

Powered by Blogger