April 02, 2006
Less Hubris, More Humility
MS. WOODRUFF: You mentioned that we’ve seen this neoconservative Wilsonian tendency embracing--wanting to export American values around the world, and this has been adopted by the Bush administration. Is this a conservative--
MR. BUCKLEY: I don’t think so.
MS. WOORUFF: approach?
MR BUCKLEY: No, I don’t think so. The neoconservative hubris, which sort of assigns to America some kind of geostrategic responsibility for maximizing democracy, overstretches the resources of a free country. So it is not conservatism. A conservative always measures capabilities and resources, and these are simply incapable--now, even as they were in the 1919--of bringing on democracy.
MS. WOODRUFF: Do you have a formula for the United States getting out of Iraq? You said it’s failed.
MR. BUCKLEY: No. No, I don’t have a formula. I think it’s important that we acknowledge in the inner counsels of state that it has failed, so that we should look for opportunities to cope with that failure.
But I don’t think there is a formula for withdrawal.
More, on George W. Bush:
MR. BUCKLEY: Well, Mr. Bush is in the hands of a fortune that will be unremitting on the point of Iraq. If he discovered the--if he’d invented the Bill of Rights, it wouldn’t get him out of his jam. If the Iraq venture fails, so also will he fail in terms of the ranking of his administration. Because there is nothing conceivable, in my judgment, that could rescue him if we proceed towards disaster in Iraq.
That’s a tragedy in the Greek sense of that one little failing which ends up being critical to the entire canvas. I hope it won’t happen, but it doesn’t look good.
I want to stress that there are aspects of neo-conservative doctrine that cannot be dismissed out of hand. The world has seen impressive waves of democratization through the 19th and 20th Centuries, and it's not implausible in the least to hope for further progress on this score, as many neo-conservatives hope and trust. But we have to move forward keenly aware of the resources available to bring to the fore, and we have to inject common sense and realism into our liberty exportation exercises. Spouting on about ending tyranny in the world, in toto, and arrogantly assuming people are clamoring for the American way of life in Damascus and Teheran and Caracas and Le Paz, strikes me as idiotic in the extreme. Let me be plainer: people who are chanting off the roof-tops for another regime change adventure (they know who they are) need to, quite simply, and put somewhat crudely, STFU. And not a moment too soon.
Some serious folk like George Will and William Buckley and Henry Kissinger understand this, but others, like, say, the merry gang of profoundly unserious commentators (a select few aside) at places like The Corner are still in la-la land, where the big issues of the day are enshrining an American right to torture, or buying Danish ham, or talking about the rice pilaf at Gitmo, or so very cheaply beating up on Jill Carroll's supposed Stockholm syndrome, and other such low-brow fare. WFB is above this inanity, and privately is likely embarrassed, to the extent he even pays attention, when the likes of Derbyshire revel in alerting us that he doesn't give a damn that 1,000 Egyptians are dead in a ferry disaster. But there are not many left like WFB around to chide, let alone develop, the next generation of conservative commentators, who have become increasingly cretinized in a climate rife with Coulterisms and obscenely dim clowns like Sean Hannity, so as to regain the sobriety and seriousness this country needs in elite policymaking and other opinion-making circles (perhaps George Kennan's elitism, often derided, isn't as unworthy as it may appear given this sorry state of affairs). We are in desperate need of advice that isn't but warmed-over faux Churchillianism a la VDH, or screw the A-rabs, all of 'em, a la Frank Gaffney/Charles Johnson types (Gaffney's stance on the Dubai ports deal was woefully hysterical), or the oft-exuberant kinda Brit-style neo-colonialist fervor of the Fergusons and Hitchenses (this last too often revealing the excessive zeal of the convert, when it comes to Mesopotamian happenings, anyway).
Let's be clear, a full-blown, overly gung-ho democratization strategy in the Middle East is likely destined for failure at this juncture. While I can cautiously advocate for elections in places like the West Bank and Gaza, even if it means a Hamas victory, as we can hope norms of democratic governance and accountability are thereby nurtured--we also have to think about all this in the context of the global counter-insurgency campaign we are waging against terrorists who seek to destroy the American way of life. And our enemies are using our thinly veiled hypocrisy (Hamas wins, we declare core components of their platform total non-starters and move to cut off aid), they are using propaganda from P.R. debacles like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (which needs to be closed in the next several years, the costs of keeping it open far outweigh any benefits), they take advantage of (often appropriate) inconsistencies whereby we rather warmly treat despotic satrapies like the Saudis or Kuwaits, at the same time we issue diktats to the Syrians and Palestinians.
Fukuyama is right. The time has come to, at least to some extent, decouple the war against terrorism from our forward democratization strategy. This doesn't mean that neo-Wilsonian instincts must be wholly shunted aside. Democracy exportation is part and parcel of a good deal of America's foreign policy history, and a strain of American exceptionalism that isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But the democratization strategy has to be better understood as a very long generational effort, undertaken soberly and methodically with allies, and not over the barrel of a gun, or via short-term, hastily organized attempts at rather clumsily stoking revolutions via a few dollars disbursed hither dither and the like. The situation in the Middle East is very delicate at the present hour, and Islamists in Egypt, Palestine, Iraq and points beyond are in the ascendancy, at least at the present time. Therefore order and stability, at least in the short term, need to trump fanciful talk of moving the entire broader Middle East region into post-Enlightenment democratic governance modalities. The Islamic world is not yet necessarily ready for a steady diet of Jefferson and Montesquieu, yes, even if we open up consulates in remote parts of Indonesia or near the corniche in Alexandria in some essay at 'transformational' diplomacy. This does not mean, as the easy straw man argument goes, that Arabs are not constitutionally capable of democracy, much like some said Confucians in Asia weren't after WWII. But the teeming Cairene masses, say, are likelier to gravitate towards the Muslim Brotherhood than Ayman Nour, alas, at least at this juncture. Let's be cognizant of such nettlesome realities, yes?
So rather than speak of Krauthammerian democratic globalism as some universalist panacea, we have to instead focus like a laser on fighting the most ruthless of the global terrorists, marshalling efforts on coordinating and obtaining intelligence to find and kill them, drying up their financing, and ensuring they no longer have quasi-sanctuaries in places like southeastern Afghanistan, parts of Pakistan, or portions of Iraq. Meantime, we need to continue to work to resolve the regional conflicts that contribute to a, yes, poisonous atmosphere in the region, foster economic development via increased trade ties and liberalization of economies (great job on Dubai!), and better employ 'soft power' through the region by better explicating the objectives of US foreign policy in the region to a very skeptical neighborhood. This is the kernel of our current struggle, not ensuring that everyone has the right to vote for Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas, at this very moment, in Lebanon and Egypt and Palestine.
Frankly, I don't give a damn about calling this some spring-time for realism, or sounding the death-knell for neo-conservative nostrums. We need ideas from both schools now, but more reasonably fused together and acted upon more soberly, whilst ensuring Jacksonian and/or isolationist trends (whether via paleo-cons, nationalist primitives, or various variants of leftist provenance) are kept in abeyance. But, if I can make one plea, it is for more sobriety, more humility, and less arrogance, less hubris. Not least, this means understanding that winning a war on terror means ensuring that our actions are viewed as legitimate by more key actors on the global stage, for instance, by continuing the trend of attempting to resolve critical national security challenges via multilateral efforts as we're doing with Iran and North Korea.
Charles Krauthammer, in his speech that he now derides Fukuyama for exaggerating as some "road to Damascus" moment in Fukuyama's disenchantment with neo-conservatism, said, in part:
Today, post-9/11, we find ourselves in a similar existential struggle but with a different enemy: not Soviet communism, but Arab-Islamic totalitarianism, both secular and religious. Bush and Blair are similarly attacked for naïvely and crudely casting this struggle as one of freedom versus unfreedom, good versus evil.
Now, given the way not just freedom but human decency were suppressed in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the two major battles of this new war, you would have to give Bush and Blair’s moral claims the decided advantage of being obviously true.
Nonetheless, something can be true and still be dangerous. Many people are deeply uneasy with the Bush-Blair doctrine--many conservatives in particular. When Blair declares in his address to Congress: “The spread of freedom is . . . our last line of defense and our first line of attack,” they see a dangerously expansive, aggressively utopian foreign policy. In short, they see Woodrow Wilson.
Now, to a conservative, Woodrow Wilson is fightin’ words. Yes, this vision is expansive and perhaps utopian. But it ain’t Wilsonian. Wilson envisioned the spread of democratic values through as-yet-to-be invented international institutions. He could be forgiven for that. In 1918, there was no way to know how utterly corrupt and useless those international institutions would turn out to be. Eight decades of bitter experience later--with Libya chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights--there is no way not to know.
Democratic globalism is not Wilsonian. Its attractiveness is precisely that it shares realism’s insights about the centrality of power. Its attractiveness is precisely that it has appropriate contempt for the fictional legalisms of liberal internationalism.
Moreover, democratic globalism is an improvement over realism. What it can teach realism is that the spread of democracy is not just an end but a means, an indispensable means for securing American interests. The reason is simple. Democracies are inherently more friendly to the United States, less belligerent to their neighbors, and generally more inclined to peace. Realists are right that to protect your interests you often have to go around the world bashing bad guys over the head. But that technique, no matter how satisfying, has its limits. At some point, you have to implant something, something organic and self-developing. And that something is democracy.
But where? The danger of democratic globalism is its universalism, its open-ended commitment to human freedom, its temptation to plant the flag of democracy everywhere. It must learn to say no. And indeed, it does say no. But when it says no to Liberia, or Congo, or Burma, or countenances alliances with authoritarian rulers in places like Pakistan or, for that matter, Russia, it stands accused of hypocrisy. Which is why we must articulate criteria for saying yes.
Where to intervene? Where to bring democracy? Where to nation-build? I propose a single criterion: where it counts.
Call it democratic realism. And this is its axiom: We will support democracy everywhere, but we will commit blood and treasure only in places where there is a strategic necessity--meaning, places central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that poses a global mortal threat to freedom.
Where does it count? Fifty years ago, Germany and Japan counted. Why? Because they were the seeds of the greatest global threat to freedom in midcentury--fascism--and then were turned, by nation building, into bulwarks against the next great threat to freedom, Soviet communism.
Where does it count today? Where the overthrow of radicalism and the beginnings of democracy can have a decisive effect in the war against the new global threat to freedom, the new existential enemy, the Arab-Islamic totalitarianism that has threatened us in both its secular and religious forms for the quarter-century since the Khomeini revolution of 1979.
Establishing civilized, decent, nonbelligerent, pro-Western polities in Afghanistan and Iraq and ultimately their key neighbors would, like the flipping of Germany and Japan in the 1940s, change the strategic balance in the fight against Arab-Islamic radicalism.
Yes, it may be a bridge too far. Realists have been warning against the hubris of thinking we can transform an alien culture because of some postulated natural and universal human will to freedom. And they may yet be right. But how do they know in advance? Half a century ago, we heard the same confident warnings about the imperviousness to democracy of Confucian culture. That proved stunningly wrong. Where is it written that Arabs are incapable of democracy?
Yes, as in Germany and Japan, the undertaking is enormous, ambitious and arrogant. It may yet fail. But we cannot afford not to try. There is not a single, remotely plausible, alternative strategy for attacking the monster behind 9/11. It’s not Osama bin Laden; it is the cauldron of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic world--oppression transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into virulent, murderous anti-Americanism. It’s not one man; it is a condition. It will be nice to find that man and hang him, but that’s the cops-and-robbers law-enforcement model of fighting terrorism that we tried for twenty years and that gave us 9/11. This is war, and in war arresting murderers is nice. But you win by taking territory—and leaving something behind.
Mr. Krauthammer, what are we leaving behind in Iraq currently? What has your "democratic globalism", a vaguely Trotskyite turn of phrase, it should be said, wrought in the Middle East? In Iraq? Substituting Saddamist totalitarian tribalism for quasi-anarchic variegated clannish despotisms in regional pockets of said country? How do you plan on implanting democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan's "neighbors", by which I take it you mean Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, when the Palestinian problem continues to fester (and, to many in the region, gives the lie to our democracy exercise), when Iraq is perhaps on the cusp of civil war, when Lebanon remains so fragile, when the Muslim Brotherhood gathers strength from Alexandria to Alleppo, and when many of your neo-conservative allies positively spit in the face of moderate Arab countries like the UAE?
Do you perhaps better understand that Fukuyama listened to your speech, and marvelled as to how little you pondered the near shambles our Iraq strategy finds itself in, the fact that you barely consider how to ensure international legitimacy for your maximalist vision of a democratic globalism unmoored from multilateral cooperation, the fact that you mostly ignore the massive intelligence failure of no WMD at the same time that you begin to cheerlead for the next great adventure in Iran? Or how about the reality, that apparently escapes you, that when (as we must) use harder forms of power, that we should do it more discreetly, to camouflage it, if we really mean to support democrats in Damascus and Teheran, rather than scream on endlessly from the bully-pulpits about the maniacal Mullahs and evil opthamologist Boy Asad, and ostentatiously and too openly pour money towards 'reformers' there (many of whom might will be tarred as foreign agents and discredited while you are giving your next rah-rah address at AEI to rally the Washington lumpenproletariat to the next great existential challenge in our midst)? Or, still, how about the fact that we should be more careful to scream on and on about airstrikes, so as to risk the unintended effect of bolstering rather than weakening Ahmadi-Nejad in Iran, by stoking patriotic sentiment in Iran, and so mute a bit the militarist bravado you emit week after week in your heated op-eds? Where is your humility sir, in the face of the immense difficulties and manifest unreality your strategy of democratic globalism has achieved to date?
Fukuyama is only sketching out a responsible Thermidor, of sorts, after the gross excesses of the past years. He deserves much better treatment than he has been accorded by many in the blogosphere, but of course, I'm not surprised to see what is being dished out. To stop and reassess, after all, would mean pausing and thinking. And this is much harder than, instead, choosing to spout inanities and blare on about weak-kneed cowardice and unmanliness and failure of will and how Fukuyama has been wrong about everything everywhere always since he first picked up the pen. Or something like that.
Posted by Gregory at April 2, 2006 07:44 PM
Take it easy Greg....everything will be alright.
Krauthammer claims that people have been mislabling neo-conservatism as Wilsonianism. Actually, they have been quite correctly describing it as muscular Wilsonianism.
I've read several long pieces you've put up recently and still haven't seen a clear cut answer to the primary question: knowing what you know now, with the thousands of tactical mistakes that Condi has pointed out, do you still think this war was better than the alternative of no war? You slam Krauthammer but are you fully on board with Fukuyama?
I still vehemetly disagree with several of your premises; I do not think it was the US and Britain that "unmoored" us "from multilateral cooperation," I think it was the bribe takers in France and Russia and Turtle Bay. As for your suggestion that we stealthily pursue regime change, the first image that came to mind was Kennedy's Bay of Pigs, where we really fooled those pesky Cubans by using unmarked planes. Do you honestly propose we could find some cut-outs to distribute funds that would not be seen though and trumpeted immediately? This kind of unrealistic proposal really detracts from your usually sensible analyisis.
Yes, I agree Iraq is a shambles. Yes, I agree, foregoing a tax cut for millionaires and applying those funds to really doing the job right would have been my choice, I'm sure McCain's choice, and I have no doubt Krauthammer's choice. But you go to war with the administration you have. If, worse case, we pull out with our tail between our legs in 2009, leaving quasi-anarchy in our wake, how is that so different than, say, South Africa today. The homicide rate, crime rate, level of corruption, etc. for both countries, even today, is very roughly comparable. For all the problems the latter country has, I don't think many people would deny it's an improvement on the apartheid regime. Likewise I would argue that for all our failures in Iraq we have succeeded in our primary mission: Saddam, and the ever ascending tragectory of Islamofacsism in the region, has been decisively spiked. The image of the US as an ever-accomodating weak horse has been crushed, and the vast majority of Arab/Islamic people are questioning what to do about the fascists/fanatics in their midst.
"...winning a war on terror means ensuring that our actions are viewed as legitimate by more key actors on the global stage..."
So this is Kerry's global test, once again: EUreaucrats as super-Senate.
Although I appreciate your desire for greater vindication, I have to disagree sharply with your measure of that particular metric.
The "global community" is a mythical beast. Real communities are still local; and so politics remains local. The average state actor acts, at best, in accordance with pressing local needs, few of which intersect the needs of neighbors; much less U.S. war policy.
It's not a charitable view, I'll grant; but it fits with what we see the allegedly "legitimizing" EUreaucrats doing, and not doing, on the global stage. Consider the angel-weeping crimes which they presently turn a blind eye to -- or even abet -- in their own region:
- in France, the government's frightened warehousing of unwanted Muslim immigrants, in endless off-limits suburbs
- in Palestine, a fawning half-century of subsidies for death-cult mind-control
- throughout the Muslim world -- including Europe -- countless millions of women and girls utterly dehumanized for the sport of Muslim house-tyrants, who live with no fear of the emasculated police
Why these moral failings? Let Occam's Razor slice it: European states desperately need Persian Gulf oil, and EUreaucrats have acted without a shred of moral fiber to secure that oil. They coddled oil-rich Muslim regimes, even to the point of cultural suicide. The crimes and tragedies listed above even today get a pass from EUreacrats, because -- to level a popular charge at more deserving men -- "It's all about the oil."
Now, you might say, "There are practical considerations," or, "Who are we to judge?" or "Are they really any worse than our own leaders?" But if you do, you're letting them off the moral hook, as though they were just incapable of acting morally. ---> Point being: why then grant them moral authority over *us*, when we're the conflicted idealists in this battle-cum-reclamation-project?
Yet you worry about the global community's reaction to another US military venture. Right now, that means Iran, right?
Will there be another war, this time against Iran? I don't know. If it comes, I hope goes, quickly.
Should it come to pass, what will the global community *do*? Not "say", but "do".
Hrmph. When the terrible act is done, and another war is won or lost, I predict the EUreaucrats and the other mandarins will turn stone eyes away, yet again. They'll level no sanctions on the US; build no new counter-alliances; make no *sacrifices* for a moral stance. They'll just run an updated tabulation of "me and mine" behind eyes of stone.
That's what I predict the "global community" will do.
Tough world, isn't it? It's tough in my view, and I can defend that view. You could work harder to sharpen and defend your own.
...Substituting Saddamist totalitarian tribalism for quasi-anarchic variegated clannish despotisms in regional pockets of said country? How do you plan on implanting democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan's "neighbors", by which I take it you mean Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, when the Palestinian problem continues to fester (and, to many in the region, gives the lie to our democracy exercise), when Iraq is perhaps on the cusp of civil war, when Lebanon remains so fragile, when the Muslim Brotherhood gathers strength from Alexandria to Alleppo, and when many of your neo-conservative allies positively spit in the face of moderate Arab countries...
"Less Hubris, More Humility"? No, this is an absolute rant. It contains elements of denial, wilful ignorance, fear, and agression.
The "order and stability" to the Middle East has failed. 9-11 was simply the signal Fascist dictators were never interested in following Europe's de-Ottomanization creed, that the Empire could be broken up into little states that would defend themselves against aggression; only little Israel does that by itself. Each fascist (whether Ba'athist or Islamofascist) wants to build an empire through terror, subversion, machismo, battle, and butchery.
If Iraq is a typical example, toppling the bad guys is the easy part. Building democratic societies is bloody, but so was post-Revolutionary France.
Going after the individual terrorists is effective, but like cutting individual leaves off a branch of ivy. It is more effective to get to the roots of the problem. This was the solution of English kings to French-supported revolts back in the Middle Ages.
Doing nothing is also a course of action -- a bad one that led to 9-11. Gregory, until you can address your own arguments more humbly and critically, it's two thumbs up for régime-breaking.
A great post, I agree with every word. And I am very encouraged by your recent acknowledgement of Iraq war failures.
With the possible exception of Wes Clark I also agree with your previous statements that the Democrats do not have anybody who seriously understands and can lead the nation in term of foreign policy. So with this in mind I am happy to see your clear, reality-based voice, along with that of Buckley, A. Sullivan and Bruce Bartlett.
But, I really have this nagging problem with one small issue. As far as I know (and I read your blog religiously) you've never said much about the U.N. I see now that you're starting to talk about the need for international cooperation in long-term strategies for Democratization. Does that mean that you, like Fukuyama, have come to a realization that organizations "like" the U.N. serve a useful purpose? I realize making such an admission would be a huge no-no for a self-admitted conservative, but you've already pissed off most of your conservative readers so I don't think you'll lose any more. And you might gain a whole lot of moderate, perhaps non-American readers who love America but who just can't understand why the hell the country that set up the U.N. is now hell-bent on its destruction.
I did not like Saddam and I would have supported any effort to overthrow him. But, my gut told me back in 2002/2003 that a war without international backing would be a huge mistake. Do you have any words at all for me on this? I'm not a very regular commenter, and I write very poorly. But on the Iraq war, even though I didn't know exactly how it was going to be a bad idea, my gut feeling was essentially right. And there are millions like me (one articulate one was Timothy Garton Ash).
So, please, comment today, in 2006, on my naive assumption that a broadly supported war like the one in Afghanistan was going to fare much better than a dubious one like the one in Iraq. Yes, I belive in the "good" of the U.N. In part because lots of competent and well-meaning people (some of them, I am proud to say, Norwegians like myself) devote their entire lives to it. So when the U.N. could not agree on Iraq I was worried. And my worst fears came true. In spite of the occational corrupt U.N. official from (mostly) developing countries.
wks says: "...the vast majority of Arab/Islamic people are questioning what to do about the fascists/fanatics in their midst."
Or I suspect, just wondering what the US will do about 'em.
A life of submission --
> "Islam means Submission!"
> "Would've never guessed."
A life of submission is incompatible with the Revolutionary Lifestyle (tm). Still, I do hope the young men of Iran have picked up some infidel thoughts along the way. They'll need infidel moxie if they're going to play a role in the overthrow of the regime.
OT: file under "Don't _over_estimate your enemies, either":
Saudi Arabia's patent office issued one patent last year.
A conservative always measures capabilities and resources, eh? We should acknowledge in the inner councils of state that the Iraq adventure has failed, and seek opportunities to cope with that failure, eh? A full-blown, gung-ho democratization strategy in the Middle East likely destined for failure, eh?
Greg writes as if he'd never heard thoughts like this expressed before, which I must say is wounding. He also goes on (and on, and on) about Charles Krauthammer, who is a newspaper columnist -- that is, a credentialed, well-connected and compensated blogger -- as if Krauthammer represented the driving intellectual force behind America's Iraq policy. As if, in short, rebutting Krauthammer mattered.
It doesn't. It never did. Good heavens, when Krauthammer uses the first person plural in his columns on foreign affairs it isn't even clear which country he has in mind -- "existentialist struggle," indeed. One might view Fukuyama similarly, a man who has never had and would never want real responsibility for conducting affairs of state but whose wisdom we are supposed to think indispensable now. Sportwriters have enough sense to write about what has happened on the field while ignoring what ESPN's commentators have said about it. Perhaps some of them should try their hand at writing about foreign affairs.
By the way, as there is so much talk about what failure in Iraq would mean, should we ask ourselves once again what success would look like? I don't mean according to the administration, to whom success looks like whatever is happening in Iraq, whatever it is. Rather, what could the United States seriously expect to gain from an Iraq with a stable, nominally democratic but faction-ridden government that remained dependent on large amounts of American aid and large numbers of American troops into the indefinite future?
It's seemed to me for a while that the best case is, not much. I know the debating points about all the money and time America devoted to reconstructing Germany and Japan after World War II, but here's the thing -- Germany and Japan mattered. When their respective cultures and polities went off the rails inthe first half of the 20th century it wrecked the world economy and brought misery and worse to fully half the globe. Iraq by contrast is one, mid-sized Arab country. It has oil and absolutely nothing else of any value to us. Its culture is backward, tribal, inferior to those able to sustain a demanding system of government like democracy. It is central to our foreign policy today because the Bush administration chose to make it so, for reasons that frankly don't look very good right now. The success in Iraq that appears to be the best we can hope for will still mean a continued flow of money into the country that America will have to borrow, every dime of it. And that success is no sure thing.
Well, the United States has made the commitment and must try in good faith to make it good. We ought to be clear, though, that the good faith requirement will have to be considered satisfied before too much more time has passed. American interests require that this commitment be liquidated fairly soon, whether the Iraqis pull themselves together or not. That requirement, imposed by fiscal and political realities, is unavoidable, and had best be faced squarely.
Many here will think me too optimistic, but I see the US as having accomplished much in Itaq (despite many errors in strategy.) We have:
-- overthrown Saddam,
-- located and arrested him,
-- established a fragile democracy, and
-- substantially weakened the insurgency (which we ought to have foreseen, but didn't.)
Now we're facing the possibility of a civil war and a breakdown of the central government. That may happen, but our record of success in these other items gives mesome confidence that we'll muddle through and avoid a civil war.
Interesting remarks as always, GD.
I read Krauthammer's speech last week, after years of skipping past his op-ed screeds in the Post. It just reminded me of what got me ignoring him in the first place -- I couldn't help asking myself, "Why does anyone pay attention to this man?"
So I'm curious: Why does he have the reputation he does? Did he publish something decades ago that got him on TeeVee? I do remember that he took a stab at "psychoanalyzing" Clinton during the Lewinsky affair -- that should have sealed his reputation as a clown. Instead, he's treated like he says stuff that nobody else could possibly intuit. Why? I just don't see the there, there.....
Mads speaks for "non-American readers who love America but who just can't understand why the hell the country that set up the U.N. is now hell-bent on its destruction":
I have to say, please don't confuse home repair with home destruction. Repair looks like destruction at first, but it gets better. :-)
Unless the structure is irreparable, of course... To my mind, the fact that UN representatives are unelected and living very far from home is a critical flaw in the UN structure. Given how much money is at stake, and how lax the accountability is, the system just *begs* for corruption.
(Does that sound familiar, Mads, there in EU state Norway?)
What reforms would help the UN? Maybe:
- kick out all non-democratic states? (No Freedom, No Freebies)
- let the US General Accounting Office audit everything, as a kind of "global test"?
- relocate from New York to NATO headquarters, to cut down on peacekeeping paperwork?
Just thinking out loud. Other ideas?
I was interested in your comment because I, too, have frequently asked Greg to write more about the UN. It's a special interest of mine and I think it's an underdiscussed topic.
I would be interested in the perception of the UN in your part of the world; is there any discussion whatsoever about the endemic corruption? You mention an occasional rogue third-worlder, but has there been any examination of how Oil-for-Food graft made this war inevitable, by paralysing any movement towards smart sanctions or other potential remedies? My initial speculation is that any such examination is deemed politically incorrect and therefore not undertaken, as it might make the analyst appear to be a lapdog of the boorish Americans.
I too believe in the ideals of the UN, but believe participating in the current sham is an insult to the memory of Wilson and FDR, and does more harm than good.
"With the possible exception of Wes Clark I also agree with your previous statements that the Democrats do not have anybody who seriously understands and can lead the nation in term of foreign policy."
Yes, the Republicans have done such wonderful job, what more could anyone ask for?
I am sure a fair amount of people will still buy the horse manure which is the Republican "competence" on all things military. But then we aren't just voting on Iraq are we?
We're voting on six years of gay bashing, Teri Schiavo, billions in deficits, American Taliban nuts like Pat Robertson, Hurricane Katrina, the Medicare drug plan, Immigration, and a conga line of GOP officials heading to prison.
I am so looking forward to November.
America is getting its ass kicked, in Iraq and Afganistan.
The United States is like a kid who f##ks hard but cums fast.
And then thinks he's Casanova for it.
but has there been any examination of how Oil-for-Food graft made this war inevitable, by paralysing any movement towards smart sanctions or other potential remedies?
No, because its total nonsense. Yes, Oil for Food was corrupt, but corruption in 3rd world countries is practically normal. I'm sure if you examine any multinational company operating in the third world, you'd see as much money going into the brown envelope fund.
But basically Oil For Food, with all its corruption worked in providing food to the Iraqi people (with some corruption).
What the devil are "smart sanctions" anyway ? The sanctions on miltary equipment seem to have basically worked in that Iraq had no WMDs.
Again more unreality, you fight with the administration you have. This grand strategical pondering seem somewhat irrelevant when you have Karl Rove in charge. Iraq war has worked relatively fine, especially the early part. Now it's not so dandy, but there are no mistakes, everything is fine, we are winning, they are losing. Repeat that, three times. So, all this backseat driving is kind of quaint. As a that horrid, strange thing, a foreigner I would offer the observation that when the US was leading alliances, you seemed to do better. Of course, you had to take lots of silliness but that is what it sometimes take to lead. Now, there was a moment of supermacy, and it seemed to the conservatives, neo and traditional, that you wouldn't have to take any silliness any more. You get what you order - it should not be a great wonder that people are not hugely interested in investing into a bankruptcy. You break it you own it. In any case there is no need for any assistance: things are fine in Iraq and getting better. We'll make a reassessment in January 2009, but so far so good.
To all the Neocons who hate the UN, where were you during the Cold War when the USSR could veto everything. The Mideast is the mess today because of US/USSR proxy states and actions. A Golbel Hegemony will not correct the ME, time and internal political growth will transform the ME.
I now see that some of the thoughts I've haphazardly expressed in this thread are better stated in David Warren's latest article. It's a reality-check on UN perfidy, written by a man whose contempt for the UN is bred of good familiarity:
I paste it all below. It's too late in the evening to add comment; nothing more than just... "Yes". "Yes," and, "It's OK to go through the motions, so long as you know that's what you're doing; and you know it's not the only thing."
East River Blues
April 1, 2006
This has been another week of infamy at the United Nations -- they have strung quite a few hundred of them together -- and while one can’t refer to a “low point” in an institution that is morally bottomless, the failure to do anything even mildly credible about the nuclear threat from Iran is at least worthy of note.
Three weeks after the urgent matter of Iran’s non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was referred to it, the Security Council issued a non-binding presidential statement. The members could not even draft a Security Council resolution. They could not bring themselves to repeat the grave charges tabled by their own International Atomic Energy Agency, nor formally acknowledge that the IAEA had presented the case to them for action. They found no fault in the Iranian president’s repeated promises to “wipe-out Israel”, or in his public musings about the Koranic apocalypse being at hand.
Instead, they expressed “serious concerns”, about e.g. "Iran’s decision to resume enrichment-related activities”, and called upon that country to “take steps ... which are essential to build confidence”. After which, Iran replied with a huge public raspberry.
Let me not exempt the Bush administration from criticism, in passing. By undertaking pointless bilateral talks with Iran over its sponsorship of the insurgency in Iraq, the U.S. removed such wind as it had put in the sails of its European allies. And by assuring everyone that the American response to Iran’s intransigence will be expressed only through the United Nations, President Bush let the air out of everything else. Granted, the Pentagon has been observed developing a “strategic plan” for dealing with Iran in the most direct possible way; but they produce one of those for every imaginable contingency. It means nothing until they call up troops.
To my mind, it is the height of irresponsibility to refer anything at all to the United Nations. This is the organization that previously enabled the intransigence of Saddam Hussein; which channelled billions of “oil-for-food” dollars to him and his stooges while pocketing the change; thus providing Saddam with the means to buy protection from politicians in France, Russia, and elsewhere. It is the organization whose “peacekeepers” are running paedophile rackets all over Africa. Which gobbled large sums designated for the relief of tsunami victims in Indonesia. Which operates under a secretary-general who persistently sabotages American and other Western efforts to fight international terrorism. I could go on.
At perhaps a deeper level of corruption, the “U.N. ideal” provides ideological cover to the whited sepulchres of the international Left -- a rhetorical cudgel to be used against any defender of Western values and moral norms, by posturing "revolutionaries" in the Third World, and the West’s own intellectual traitors. Behind and beneath them is what one of the U.N.’s own internal auditors has called “the culture of impunity”, wherein traditional diplomatic immunities have been freed from all traditional accountability, in a bureaucracy that appears to exist for no other purpose than to serve itself.
I shall never have the space in these short columns to begin pealing through the U.N.’s layers of perfidy and shame. Instead, I will refer my reader to the current (April) number of the monthly Commentary magazine, where the field is staked by Claudia Rosett, a journalist who has been covering this U.N. beat remorselessly for the Wall Street Journal and New York Sun.
But apart from all that, we must remember that even if the U.N. were honestly managed, and staffed by sages and saints, it would not be the appropriate forum for dealing with threats from such rogue states as Iran. For success in such a confrontation requires discipline, nerve, and tactical skill, under bold leadership. This can never be provided by a club that consists of nearly 200 members with conflicting interests, or by a Security Council in which several veto-wielding powers devote their joyful energies to tripping each other up. The U.N. can be a forum for formal and informal diplomatic exchanges; a “clearing house” of some sort; but it cannot offer transnational solutions to real world crises, because there are no such solutions to be had.
Sovereignty exists at the national level, where governments armed with police and soldiers tend national interests and cultivate the means to enforce their interpretation of a national will. This is the unchanging reality through the foreseeable future. Forget about “speaking truth to power”. The only way to say boo to Iran is with a bigger power. Read: the USA and a "coalition of the willing".
**** HEY, MADS! You gettin' Dave's word in Norway?
Hmm, another round in Iran? With what army? Speaking truth to power or to the public is clearly not an option, but somehow I doubt that this Iran idea will really take on. On the other hand the midterms are nearing, so if timed right (late enough to avoid the dire concequences of any military action in Iraq) Generals Rove and Cheney might be tempted to chance a sexy bombing campaign. But in a general sense the time for adventures is now over. This is why even the facts (and truth) matter: you have to have some actual competence in execution, the policy wedges in the ground must also work reality and not only in spin. Now we are many cakes short of a picnic in Baghdad and this will not be forgotten for a considerable time.
> I would be interested in the perception of the UN in your part of
> the world; is there any discussion whatsoever about the endemic
The UN does have some corruption problems but so do other government organisations. Or national governments for that matter; I think the U.S. does not fare too well in comparison to e.g. the Scandinavian countries although there is certainly less corruption in the US than in third world countries or even many industrialized nations.
I know Instapundit & other 'wingnuts like to flog the UN scandal for all it's worth, but I would like to see some comparative metrics on US corruption (gov't contractors, campaign lobbyists etc.) versus the UN. Bear in mind that there are LOTS of rumors about massive corruption among Iraqi contractors, although the GOP-controlled Congress is fairly good at blocking inquiries.
“…there are aspects…”
“…at least to some extent…”
“…it's not implausible….”
“…a select few aside…”
“…a full-blown, overly gung-ho…”
“…While I can cautiously advocate…”
“This doesn't mean that […] must be wholly shunted aside…”
“…at least in the short term…”
“…Not least, this means…”
“…it should be said…”
“…you barely consider…”
“…you mostly ignore…”
“…or something like that.”
What crisp composition! Masterfully-inept, trenchantly-subtle, clearly-opaque, and decisively iffy (sometimes and all at once)!
This is what they taught you at GUFS and GU Law? Give Daddy his money back.
Nha Bao Noi Lao, An Tien.
What was wrong with Bush's "pro-democracy" policy as applied to Iraq and more generally the middle east?
1. It was sold to the American people and the world based on a lie and a bait and switch, that Iraq was such a military threat to us (even assuming the WMD "intelligence" was true) that in preemptive self defense we needed to invade Iraq to remove that threat. The emotional appeal was based on fear of attack and the need to strike out at someone to demonstrate to ourselves our strength in the wider "war on terrorism". The American people didn't really sign on for spreading democracy. Because the legal justification for our democracy mission was based on this lie, it and any future such missions lack legal legitimacy in the eyes of much of the world.
2. Our purpose in "bringing democracy" to Iraq was to further our own national interest and foreign policy. We wanted to impose our own radical free market secular version of democracy regardless of how foreign that would be to the Iraqi society, culture and religion. We viewed democracy as an instrument to reshape the middle east in our own image. This was envisioned as a way to "fight terrorism" by offering an alternative to corrupt regimes and radical Islam. People in Iraq, the region and the world saw this for what it was, an instrument to impose U.S. influence and hegemony, not a genuine or disinterested promotion of democracy. No one doubted that if political forces unfriendly to the US gained power through the democratic process, the US would seek to undermine them. Few thought we would really press our regional authoritarian allies to democratise. And of course it has fueled the war of civilizations dynamic with radical Islam.
(Examples: cancelling local elections in Iraq because we were afraid we couldn't control who would be elected, the electoral victories of Hamas in Palestine, and the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt.)
3. You cannot impose genuine democracy at the point of a gun as in Iraq, unless you are prepared to commit a much larger military occupation force should that become necessary. The occupation of Germany and Japan are illustrative of this point. It's a long run project. We weren't prepared to do so though we certainly could have. While some in the region may respect and fear raw power, those were never the friends of our demoratic project.
4. The American people never really gave a shit about the Iraqi people. So they are unwilling to sacrifice much for them as the war and occupation has become more burdensome. The American government and people stood by while Sadaam murdered the Kurds and the Shiites long ago. The lip service we give today to Sadaam's old crimes now are a largely hypocritical intellectual justification for our invading and occupying their country.
5. The Bush and Republican foreign policy establishment is still ideologically committed to a nationalist go it alone approach unrestrained to the maximum extent possible by any countervailing power or rule of law. Secretary of state Rice may be trying to rein in these impulses in the name of realism, but that is the psychological predisposition of the Republicans with respect to all international institutions and law. I would maintain that you cannot credibly advance a genunine and not merely rhetorical pro democracy policy without enlisting an international consensus.
As to Iraq, I would like to see us leave something better and more stable behind than what seems likely now. We owe it to the Iraqi people. But it seems less and less likely that "staying the course" will succeed in doing so. However, if our troops retreat over the horizon to Kuwait as Murtha suggests, it will not be some great disaster. The terrorists elements may have some sanctuary in the Sunni heartland, but they and the insurgency will not take over the country. The Kurds and Shiites are too strong. While radical Islam can claim some great moral victory, the so called war on terrorism is way overblown. Radical Islamicists, widely scattered, poorly armed, with no state apparatus and a backward ideology, have no prospect of destroying us or our way of life, and we ought to recognize that. The Bush political machine has used this war for their own domestic purposes, so by all means I'm content to let them wallow in the slow bleeding now. Especially since no one has any plausible way out of this mess.
Replies to some questions raised above:
Tex: Just for the record: I live in Atlanta, GA and Norway is not a member of the EU. As for kicking out non-Democratic states and applying rich-world accounting standards: This essentially amounts to making the UN another rich-world-plus-Brazi-and-India club. There are many such clubs already. How will this improve its credibility with the populations of poor countries such as Iraq?
wks: The UN is highly regarded in Scandinavia. And unlike in the US it is not "feared" as an supranational power. It is regarded more as a forum where nations can come together and work out issues. Since the UN includes representatives and staff from extremely poor and ill-functioning countries it is accepted that there will be more corruption than in the West. That doesn't mean that Scandis "like" corruption (Norway is far less corrupt than the US by the way). It just means that they accept that there will be some bad apples in the organization from time to time. Sort of like the way that the CIA accept that some of the money it spends on foreign intelligence gathering will end up with dubious characters who would never meet the moral standards of US police officers. Of course those apples should be removed when possible (when "caught").
Richard Bottoms: I see your point, but name one prominent Democratic politician (other than Wes Clark) whose grasp of US foreign policy can even begin to rival that of Greg Djerejian?
Tex: I saw some useful points in David Warren's article but I found it hopelessly biased. My main point is this: The UN has many staffers who are familiar with nation-building. Yet when it came time to re-build Iraq Bush sent a bunch of twentysomething tax-cutting idealists recruited at the Heritage foundation. Would it not have been better to send people who have done this type of thing before? That is the key question I was hoping Greg would address.
Actually, they have been quite correctly describing it as muscular Wilsonianism.
Wilson's intervention in the Great War killed 50,000 Americans and set the stage for WWII. That ought to be "muscular" enough for anyone.
I hate to say it Greg, but -- I told you so. Glad you're finally chastened.
Too bad you had to see the disaster with your own eyes, instead of just reading the history books of the last forty years of how the foreign adventures of Western powers in even middleweight third world countries always turn out. The last time it worked out even remotely well for a Western power trying to put down an insurgency in the Global South was in Malaya and Kenya in the 1950s -- and a lot of that had to do with a willingness on the part of the Brits to do things that are totally unacceptable to even the torture-loving Bushies.
In other words, greg, your own conversion to reality will only be complete when you finally reject the meme that Iraq could have worked out if only the Bushies had had better execution -- in otherr words, once you abandon the "blame it on Rumsfeld" meme.
That's not to defend Rumsfeld for one second, of course.
So are you saying that "foreign adventures of (by) Western powers" should never, ever be undertaken?
As I see it, overthrowing Saddam would have been a great idea, if these conditions were met:
- The American taxpayer still supported it having been told truth about costs
- The American people had not been deceived into thinking there was a link with 9/11
- International support and committments to post-war support were present
- The world's foremost experts on nation-building in the State Department and at the UN had not been sidelined
Of course getting the international support would have been difficult and might have delayed the invasion. Let's not forget that everybody thought Saddam had WMD and was willing to use them. I think dismissing that dilemma as "irrelevant" is just as irresponsible as trashing the UN and sending Republican "kids" to do the work of men.
What specific WMD's was Sadaam credibly alleged to have, and what was the evidence that they were any sort of threat to the U.S. even if he had them? We could have rained destruction down on him, if he had somehow found a way to attack us with nerve gas or whatever.
Saddam had biological and chemical weapons, and he was working on nukes. But for some unknown reason he decided to destroy/hide all of them at some point before the war (this came as a surprise to many, even to one of his top generals).
I strongly recommend you read this:
"Anyway, the model occupation-born democracies of West Germany and Japan are historical exceptions. We're as likely to see an "Iraqi Yugoslavia", torn between Kurd, Shia and Sunni."
And note that this was written before the war started...
You didn't answer my question. So what specific alleged chemical or biological weapon was a threat to us and why? He had no delivery vehicles that could reach us, and even if he did I have seen no evidence that these alleged weapons were a serious threat to us.
Mads writes: "I live in Atlanta"
Hey, I don't stalk bloggers, man.
"Norway is not a member of the EU."
Cool fact! So why not? EUreaucrat corruption? Fear of a faceless overlord? I expect there must be a good reason, so do tell. It's good to know why honorable nations *don't* submit to the whims of unaccountable transnational bodies.
"[You propose] making the UN another rich-world-plus-Brazi-and-India club"
I suggested limiting UN membership to democracies, not "rich countries". Don't put words in a man's mouth -- that's just sloppy rhetoric, and you know better.
Limiting membership to democracies would kick out rich but monstrous regimes like those of Red China, Iran and - yeah, let's say it - Russia. Re-entry would be based on the regimes' willingness to give citizens access to the levers of power; hence, control over their own lives. I don't see how this could harm the UN's credibility.
"unlike in the US [the UN] is not "feared" [in Norway] as an supranational power."
I don't know about the general public, but I think the US Administration does not fear the UN much at all. They are however trying to *use* the UN; trying to make the UN *do* something on the most criticial issue of the hour; namely, Iran.
"I saw some useful points in David Warren's article but I found it hopelessly biased."
Note for aspiring journalists: Knowledge and conviction are not "bias". Bias is unfair influence. Anyone familiar with David Warren's work knows the difference.
P.S. He's Canadian, Mads. Not that it matters, but you seem keen on knowing where everybody lives.
"[The UN] is regarded more as a forum where nations can come together and work out issues."
Nothing wrong with that -- but the UN is not primarily a "forum where nations can come together". Its job -- its charter -- is to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war". HUGE difference. And if the UN won't do that -- e.g., by working night and day to pull the fangs of a nuclear Iran -- then it is indeed a superfluous club, and its New York HQ deserves not to be renovated, but to be sold for scrap.
"The UN has many staffers who are familiar with nation-building... Bush sent a bunch of twentysomething tax-cutting idealists..."
Iraq's a big job; there's room there for lots of God's chillun. And hey, no one's holding those UN nation-builders back. The UN's IRFFI, UNDG and ITF are all working in Iraq today, with the blessing of coalition forces. So what are you trying to say here, if anything? Come on man, speak straight and make a point. I mean, no offense, but you're dipping into dada woman-speak. Just a heads-up.
Mads point, such as it is, is: "overthrowing Saddam would have been a great idea, if these conditions were met"
His "list of conditions" is nothing reasonable: just "Bush lied" lefty cant, plus an appeal to the "world's foremost experts" on nation-building -- experts who rarely if ever go on foot patrol in the neighborhoods being rebuilt. Give credit where it's due, Mads; nation-building is not for the faint of heart.
Mads wants "truth about costs", retrospectively. But this is asinine (as in "resembling an ass, symbol of democratic party"). As though any Administration can predict the costs of war years in advance. As though the President had promised an EASY GO of it.
State of the Union Address, Jan. 29 2002:
"It costs a lot to fight this war. We have spent more than a billion dollars a month -- over $30 million a day -- and we must be prepared for future operations... My budget includes the largest increase in defense spending in two decades -- because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high. Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay."
No pretty lies in that.
"Of course getting the international support would have been difficult and might have delayed the invasion [of Iraq]."
As though it DIDN'T! Look at the long list of UN resolutions the US has supported, before and after the war:
Not a single UN resolution was required by US law. But US diplomacy worked with the UN anyway. Maybe it was worthwhile. I do still wonder myself just how much advantage was lost by the long delays of fickle diplomacy.
But enough: There's way too much historical revisionism in Mads' posts. He should know better. I hope other posters do.
"Come on man, speak straight and make a point. I mean, no offense, but you're dipping into dada woman-speak. Just a heads-up."
I think we're just about done. Thanks for the chat! :)
And the question is, "What would a coward say or do differently?"
broadly, Krauthammer is right, democratization IS a means and not just an end.
And in the long run, we probably will see both Afghanistan and Iraq as part of that. Though Rumsfelds tactical mistakes have certainly made it harder. (i agree with you he should be fired) Syria and Iran are both problematic. While there are risks to policies that support regime change in those countries, there are problems with every other policy. Id love to have an analysis of Syria or Iran, that focused on those countries, and not on the goings on at "The Corner"
Buckley is an overrated old reactionary, and Will is a blowhard. Kissinger, while a brilliant man, is largely responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place, with his support for the Shah. Thank the diety above, Im a liberal hawk, and not someone who has to apologize for conservatives, paleo or neo.
Why, BTW, does it need to be pointed out when CK sounds Trotskyite? Some very smart, very insightful people were Trotskyites. CK, however, Im sure was never a Trotskyite. If his position is wrong, than say so. Some people like to call neocons Trotskyites, but i miss the deep insight in doing so.
Thermidor? Thank heavens, thats unlikely. The strongest Republican, with the greatest chance of winning in 2008 is McCain. And while he may drive "teh Corner" crazy, hes no thermidorean, and is far closer to Kristol and Kagan than to Buckley and Will. In fact I suspect there are few people George (big donations are free spech) Will hates than McCain.
BTW, is it any surprise that Will isnt too keen on democracy in Iraq? Hes not all that keen on democracy in the US. And Buckley - my strongest memory of "firing line" is WB defending the apartheid regime in africa from the "jacobins".
As for the Dems, AFAICT the ones with the best shot are tied to pro-democratization DLCers.
"During the '50s, African-Americans living in our nation's Southern states were risking life and limb to secure the basic rights of citizenship. Buckley's contribution to this struggle was to refer to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as the "nonviolent avenger," and he advocated that King be "zestfully" suppressed by the forces of segregation.
Buckley's zealous anti-Communism led him to embrace a number of right-wing plutocracies, ranging from the apartheid reggime in South Africa to the Chilean military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The urbane and erudite Buckley was willing to countenance death squads in defense of privilege.
Buckley has probably never sunk to the depths of, say, Michael Savage or Ann Coulter. However, in the mid-'80s he advocated the Draconian measure of tattooing the arms and buttocks of carriers of the AIDS virus. If those with the virus wanted to marry, Buckley proposed that their spouses would have to agree to be sterilized.
When I think of all the people worthy of praise and admiration, Buckley is very far down on the list."
I wonder if Buckley and Will dont look at Iraq, and see privileged Sunni Arabs, and identify with them?
Y'know, "Tex" -- Mr. Kvalsvik took the time to answer your points in a polite and cogent way. Just because you found it difficult to counter his arguments (you were pretty clearly overmatched), it's no reason to be as snide as you are. Far better for you, I think, to welcome the learning opportunity.
I have to tell you how depressed your comments here make me about the ability to communicate the truth in the present environment. Greg lambastes anyone that argues that the MSM presents a distorted view of current events, yet here is someone of your apparent interest, intelligence and good faith that has been so misinformed on some fundemental issues about this war, especially Oil For Food and Smart Sanctions.
A few facts for your concideration: Comparing US scandals, even Enron, Halliburton, etc to OFF is like comparing shoplifting to the Brinks Job. The degree of flamboyant publicity does not always reflect the seriousness of the offense. Second, you say since American politicians are not as pure as the driven snow we should not focus on these poor third world kleptocrats. This is poor reasoning for two reasons: first, the problem we had with OFF corruption was not third world types, it was the corruption of the decision makers in Paris, Berlin, Moscow and New York that took all options short of war off the table. Second, corruption in Washington usually involves contractor A versus contractor B, trying to get the benefit of government work that is in the public interest. The malfeasance and structural corruption at the UN concerns how to thwart the primary mission of that organization.
I do not want to make this a diatribe, so I will try to make a few more short comments.
The UN was invited to assist in the rebuilding - they declined US military protection and were blown up by terrorists. Mr. Annan chose not to replace the UN mission.
I can see how fun it must be for a Scandinavian to throw rocks at these stupid Americans, I just wish you would remember that the last time America acted like Scandinavia, Scandinavia gave the world a new word -- quisling. For all our many, many errors I think we have been better on our worst day than any other major power has been on it's best day. If that makes me a jingo, I'll accept that judgment.
Comparing US scandals, even Enron, Halliburton, etc to OFF is like comparing shoplifting to the Brinks Job.
Even Enron? Wow! I had no idea it was on that scale.
So -- let's see -- that means that Saddam bribed these guys with hundreds of trillions of dollars! No, I got the decimal point wrong, it had to be tens of quadrillions of dollars!
I had no idea he had that much money! And under sanctions too!
Wow! Imagine how powerful Saddam would have been after sanctions were lifted and he didn't have to pay all those bribes. He'd be like ten times the rest of the gross world product. It's a good thing we stopped him before it got that far.
You have amazed me. I can hardly imagine corruption on that scale.
Wks and tex, i don't really have any interest in being this time: holy god, are you ever so full of shit.
What a joke you are wks, sliming all the way down to WWII references to flame Mr. Kvlasik's argument, as if it had any bearing whatsoever to the issue at hand. You're a jingo, wks. Enron was a fake company that left behind billions of dollars in debt. The oil-for-food 'scandal' was a case of superflous bribery in the background of a program that kept WMD and other banned weapons completely out of Mr. Hussein's hands, as the record showed. You're so fucking high and mighty, but what exactly is the UN supposed to do when all five members of the Security Council, including the United Fucking States, knew exactly what was happening with the oil-for-food scandal and effectively mandated that it proceed in this matter? I don't see you suggesting that the White House should be melted down for scrap, because George W. Bush junior was 100% complicit in allowing Turkey and Jordan to smuggle contraband into Iraq. The UN has the least amount of control of any relevant actor in the situation, and for reaons entirely related to your prejuidice and bias, you assign them the blame. Thus, I repeat: you're full of shit.
Oh, how exactly was Enron's, or Representative Ney's, corruption not 100 percent thwarting of the entire mission of their organization?
Every country you can name has serious corruption scandals with regularity, but most of those countries aren't doing incomparable good for the world, as the U.N. is. Most of these countries aren't running peacekeeping missions in twenty different countries on a budget the size of what the Pentagon spends on toilet seats in a year, nor leading the world's efforts to eradicate polio and cholera in poor countries in the WHO, or bringing all kinds of issues to the forefront of a global agenda that might not otherwise give a damn.
Most of the U.N's more egregreious flaws can be traced back to two bodies - the General Assembly and the Security Council - the two bodies over which it exercises almost no control.
Christ, the ignorant hypocrisy of people like you on this issue makes me positively nauseous. You don't like how the UN works? Fucking withdraw from it and be done, or shut the fuck up. This country and the other first-world powers broke it. They own it.
it was the corruption of the decision makers in Paris, Berlin, Moscow and New York that took all options short of war off the table.
Firstly, I have yet to hear of any German decision makers implicated in any of the corruption scandals. Even in paris, most of the people involved were past functionaries, not decision makers.
But the simple fact is that George Bush took all options short of war off the table back in 2002 and never took matters in the UN seriously. We know from British memos (including the one described by the NYT last week) that he was planning to drum up incidents for an invasion.
Finally, lets point out that the people of practically all of Europe (yes, even England and pro-US East Europe) were opposed strongly to the war. DEcision makers who went along with their public's desires were acting exactly as you would expect democracies to do.
Not to mention that the US tried some bribing of its own. 10s of Billions of dollars were offered to Turkey, but Turkish public opinion still turned down allowing American troops to pass through.
Comparing US scandals, even Enron, Halliburton, etc to OFF is like comparing shoplifting to the Brinks Job.
How about scandals in Iraq under US occupation ? By all accounts in barely 1/5th of the time Oil For Food ran, more money has been lost in corruption in Iraq than was lost in OFF. WIngnuts who froth about oil for food but rarely mention the massive corruption in Iraq are being hypocritical, especially when quite often US money was mis-appropriated (in OFF, it was not US money, but Iraqi money).
Hi. As Democratic Activists go, I'm pretty conservative, or at least non-dogmatic, foreign policy-wise. I'm not utterly opposed to the use of U.S. military force. I was fine with the war in Afghanistan. I might have supported intervention in Darfur. I don't think much of Jacques Chirac. GWB may have been right, or at least had a case, to dump Yasser Arafat (although he lucked out when he offed). Etc.
However, I have to tell you that I would rather stay home than vote for anyone associated with the DLC. One hundred percent serious.
Joe Lieberman came in about eighth in democratic primaries last year, and if you think that school of thought is *more popular among Democrats now, you're on crack. Furthermore, GWB can and will eat hopelessly compromised patroitism-lite fatheads like Lieberman for breakfast in an election.
The Republicans will only be beaten with the game and the playing field they have set - publicly civil but privately balls-kicking, militant opposition.
Not sucking-face, weasely, unconvincing half-disagreement.
Polite? How repulsive - What? Did Greg forget to tell you what STFU stood for?
Yes, Mr Glover, thanks for standing up for the bruised egos of Sycophant Central. (Actually, thanks to wks and tex, that is not yet a completely true statement yet (hey, look at me obfuscate - I'm getting all Djerian - just need to work in a few more commas...)
I look forward to the blogger here taking the high-road of politeness, civility and sanity. But until that time, let me just add that the war was the thing. They tend to cost blood and treasure - what? No one told you? I hope that my CinC is successful in creating sane and rational government in the muslim sphere, but I'll settle for their destruction. And I daresay so would most of the republic. Thank rankles - doesn't it. Oh well. It's easy to be truthful, and see the world as it is, when you don't have a bunch of State-department friends to impress.
Sorry if it offends, Greg - but you were searching for realism, no?
It is really disgusting and irresponsible for today’s generation of American to keep taking credit for the brilliance of their grandfathers. Jesus Christ, today’s American are nothing like their progressive pluralistic forefathers. Today’s Americans are right-wing nationalists trying to live off the successes off a dying generation.
Christ! There are even “liberals” pretending that invading and occupying anther nation by brute force is somehow “enlightened”
Get off it kids…you are nothing like your fathers. And the world is treating you accordingly.
Less Hubris, More Humility Indeed!
Anyone interested in facts rather than popping off might be interested in the following artical:
How Corrupt Is the United Nations?
by Claudia Rossett
If my quisling comment was taken as a slur to Mr. Kvalsvik, I retract it and apologise. I do want to keep this comments section on a higher plane.
No one denies that there corruption, cronyism and featherbedding in the UN. And I don't have any particular liking for most UN organs either.
But the notion that corruption in the UN somehow took "all options other than war off the table for Iraq" is utter revisionist nonsense. [And someone who is so concerned about corruption might indicate some concern for the huge corruption in Iraq post War, which has led to groups like Transparency International calling it the most corrupt country on Earth (which takes some doing, I assume you).
But what most wingnuts can't forgive the UN for is not corruption, its the fact that the vast majority of governments in the UN opposed the war in Iraq. And far more importantly, their people opposed the war in Iraq.
For all our many, many errors I think we have been better on our worst day than any other major power has been on it's best day. If that makes me a jingo, I'll accept that judgment.
It most certainly does.
The reality is that, as erg notes, the vast majority of world opposed the war in Iraq, and they did so for perfectly sound reasons- the United States failed to make a case for war. The evidence that was presented as the primary rationale was falling apart well before the first troops crossed the border; the forged documents that were the basis for the Niger yellowcake claim were exposed at least six weeks before the conflict started. Powell's UN presentation was filled with old, erroneous information and scary pictures of weapons systems from 1988 that no longer existed. That the war had such popular support here--although in fairness, there was a very substantial opposition, but they were completely marginalized both by the media and by just about every politician and thus were rendered ineffective--speaks to the collective psychosis that grips a country preparing for war, and just as importantly to the way in which that same case was packaged and sold (and those are the correct words in this case, as the case for war was put forward in much the same manner as a summer blockbuster might be marketed) to the country at large. In short, people in this country were receiving different information, information that was vetted not for accuracy but for its usefulness in making a case for war.
Tommy G stenographed --
"I look forward to the blogger here taking the high-road of politeness, civility and sanity. But until that time, let me just add that the war was the thing. They tend to cost blood and treasure - what? No one told you? I hope that my CinC is successful in creating sane and rational government in the muslim sphere, but I'll settle for their destruction. And I daresay so would most of the republic. Thank rankles - doesn't it. Oh well. It's easy to be truthful, and see the world as it is, when you don't have a bunch of State-department friends to impress."
Yeah, wow, you're a tough one. You know that war costs lives and money, and you're ready to cope with that. (Well, not directly, tangibly, but in a nice abstract sense, and that's what counts.) I commend anyone willing to spend hours in front of a CRT for Freedom. Huzzah!
There's a problem with your posing, though. See, it was guys like me who knew from Day Zero that this adventure would never be as cheap and easy as Bush painted it. The administration deliberately lowballed the costs of the Iraq disaster. They had to, else it never would have got off the ground. Of course, by doing so our strategic geniuses practically guaranteed that their project would be undone, when the public soured on it -- and so the present moment. Yet you insist in going on in your smug little way about things that war sceptics knew years ago, and you think it's some kind of revelation.
If war enthusiasts are so good at "seeing the world as it is", how come you and your camp need to do a different retroactive justification for the debacle every week? How is it that "tough" keyboardists like yourself get so rankled at three little words: Told you so?
Sglover, erg, glasnost - thanks for refuting the tired "oil-for-food" arguments.
Sean: "The reality is that, as erg notes, the vast majority of world opposed the war in Iraq, and they did so for perfectly sound reasons- the United States failed to make a case for war."
While that is definitely true, I keep wanting to stress the role of international collaboration in raising the competence of post-war nation building. Like many I predicted the lack of credibility that would result from not having UN Security Council backing for the Iraq war, but I did not anticipate the gross incompetence. Looking back, however, it makes perfectly sense: If a nation is left to do invasions "as they see fit" they have no reason to listen to anybody, be it Democrats, the State Department, UN nation-building experts or heads of European states.
Many people are starting to realize this. I already pointed out what Fukuyama said: "The one area that I've rethought concerns international institutions. I believe that the conservative critique of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the UN is right, but that we need a world populated by a multiplicity of others kinds of organizations. Iraq has changed my view on this."
And departing Economist editor Bill Emmott hints at the same thing: "The only argument against our decision that seems to me to have force is that a paper whose scepticism about government drips from every issue should have been sceptical about Mr Bush's government and its ability to do things properly in Iraq." He doesn't say explicitly that having to run decisions such as army disbandonment, prisoner treatment and policing by allies through some sort of UN cooperative mechanism would have made things better, but in my view that seems like a logical conclusion.
Governments tend to benefit from a bit of checks and balances. It seems reasonable to assume that Republican idealists engaged in nation-building might as well.
Leiberman was a poor campaigner, and was not well positioned on economic issues.
Do you think Hillary Clinton will go down so easily? In fact there are several DLCish candidates. I dont see any "anti-DLC" candidates building a head of steam.
and if they do then its President McCain.
By the way, if you think supporting the invasion of Afghanistan makes you relatively conservative, youre living in a cocoon.
My last comment on this thread.
You folks are either deliberately or subconsiously distorting my arguments. The options taken off the table were the various forms of sanctions we tried to utilize for most of the 13 years between GWI and GWII. No one on this thread has defended the Germans, for example, who put contracts to build Saddam's fuhrerbunker above enforcing the terms of the 17 UN resolutions. Ditto for France, Russia, etc. , who consistently tried to shift the blame for the suffering caused by Saddam's noncompliance to those beasty Americans [and Brits] trying to enforce sanctions. When Colin Powell tried to make smart sanctions his number one foreign policy priority, Saddam told the French and Russians to jump and they asked "how high?"
I agree the vast majority of Europeans wanted America to be sportsmanlike and allow Saddam to land the first [or was it the seventh or eighth?] blow before we said enough, but after 911 the vast majority of Americans decided we had had enough of accomodating Islamofascism. That's why we are fighting this war.
he options taken off the table were the various forms of sanctions we tried to utilize for most of the 13 years between GWI and GWII.
You are correct. George Bush took all other options off the table except war. He was only interested in war.
No one on this thread has defended the Germans, for example, who put contracts to build Saddam's fuhrerbunker above enforcing the terms of the 17 UN resolutions.
This statement proves that you are a liar. Saddam's bunker was built in 1982 or 1983. Remember those years ? When Rumsfeld went to Baghdad and shook Saddam's hand ?
Besides, I still dont see what additional sanctions were needed. The sanctions worked --Saddam had no WMDs, his air force and navy
were non-existent, his army was degenerating. You can talk of smart sanctions all you like, but your inability to define them reveals your intellectual bankruptcy.
I agree the vast majority of Europeans wanted America to be sportsmanlike and allow Saddam to land the first [or was it the seventh or eighth?] blow before we said enough, but after 911 the vast majority of Americans decided we had had enough of accomodating Islamofascism. That's why we are fighting this war.
Well, I could ask you to detail the 7 or 8 blows you refer to, just for fun. But in any case, Saddam had lost 1/3rd of his country, he could not control the airspace in half his country. He had a pathetic Potemkin army. For some strange reason, Iraq's neighbors, Turkey and Iran (a bitter enemy) didn't seem to be scared of Iraq.
Only the mighty US, several thousand miles away, was scared enough to invade. Most Europeans and most of the world rightly saw this as a rather pathetic excuse.
wks might not be lying, per se. I don't think it's considered lying when you believe what you're saying.
The fact that none of wks' beliefs correspond to reality argues instead that he's delusional.
It could also be that wks, like so many RW nutters, never paid any attention to the ME until Bush began calling for war. He doesn't know the US history of supporting Saddam; he doesn't know Iraq was a secular totalitarian state rather than an "Islamofascist" one; he doesn't know Saddam was in compliance with the UN resolution(s) that Bush presented among the ever-shifting reasons to go to war; it's rather doubtful he even knows what "Islamofascism" is. All he knows about the region, the history, and the politics is what he reads in other RW sites. (Which are themselves ignorant, mendacious and delusional.)
That he can stand up on his hind legs and insist on presenting as fact things which are not - which are easily refuted by anyone who knows how to use Google, or by anyone who even remembers events immediately preceding the war - is just more of that old RW solipsism.
Some serious folk like George Will and William Buckley and Henry Kissinger understand this, but others, like, say, the merry gang of profoundly unserious commentators (a select few aside) at places like The Corner are still in la-la land, where the big issues of the day are enshrining an American right to torture, or buying Danish ham, or talking about the rice pilaf at Gitmo, or so very cheaply beating up on Jill Carroll's ... the next generation of conservative commentators, who have become increasingly cretinized in a climate rife with Coulterisms and obscenely dim clowns like Sean Hannity, so as to regain the sobriety and seriousness this country needs in elite policymaking and other opinion-making circles
A-f*cking-men, dear Greg. You sing it brother and I'll turn the pages. To my sheer and utter astonishment, I, who spent most of my adult lifetime unhappy w/ a MSM that really was biased to the left, now find myself turning to CNN and even the NYT (!) in order to avoid the populist, unserious, and deluded fantasies at Fox and The Corner.
I've bookmarked you. This site is now on my "must read" list, having all but abandoned several others I used to enjoy who have dug in and defend Bush and his foreign/national security policies, no matter how strong is the evidence of failure and folly. Instapundit is also in la-la land, arguing that "if" we lose in Iraq it is sure gonna be perceived as caused by that horrible MSM. What. A. Crock.
I'm off that bus.
and arrogantly assuming people are clamoring for the American way of life in Damascus and Teheran and Caracas and Le Paz, strikes me as idiotic in the extreme.
Yes, much better to arrogantly assume they don't want freedom, prosperity, easier lives, etc. Idiocy, indeed. My God! Haven't we learned anything? These are the same arguments we heard in the Cold War from leftists.
"Soviet citizens don't want political freedom."
"It's reckless to promote democracy at the expense of stability."
Meanwhile, E Germany was building a wall to keep people from fleeing their socialist paradise, and stablity included the deaths of ten of millions of people.
While they opposed it, these paleocons didn't expect the Soviet Union to fall to democracy, and weren't particularly glad to see it happen at the expense of their precious stability.
Their time is over. The rise of freedom has only begun.
And our enemies are using our thinly veiled hypocrisy (Hamas wins, we declare core components of their platform total non-starters and move to cut off aid)
It's not hypocrisy, it's dealing with reality. Hypocrisy would be saying "Sorry, Hamas, we're backing a strongman to remove you."
If Germans resurrected and re-elected Hitler and started sending Jews to the gas chambers again, would we say "Well, OK, it's your country and that's the core of your platform. We won't make a big fuss."? Of course not. Elections have consequences.
Democracy is a process, in many ways a learning process for the voters. Palestinians spend their lives steeped in unimaginable hate propaganda. They have a lot to learn, and sometimes bitter experience is the price of wisdom. It's sad, but that's the hand they've dealt themselves.
and stablity included the deaths of ten of millions of people.
As opposed to say, invading the Soviet Union or China, which would have led to the deaths of hundreds of millions.
Hey, if you can advance strawmen, I can too.
We will liberate the world and crush those, who get in our way, with the jackboot of freedom!
"But the teeming Cairene masses, say, are likelier to gravitate towards the Muslim Brotherhood than Ayman Nour, alas, at least at this juncture. Let's be cognizant of such nettlesome realities, yes? "
Interesting that you mention that, like so many "realists" Mubarak is quite aware of the debates in America, and AFAICT has been crusing Nour and other secular dissidents, while tolerating the MB, precisely because its effective at scaring the US away from democratization. As long as we quake at an MB takeover, we're captive to Mubarak.
Look, Hamas took over. Today they announced the arab pledges werent enough to make their budget, and theyre almost broke. Meanwhile Israel elected a Kadima-Labour govt, and delivered an historic defeat to Likud. The skys not falling down.
"Damascus and Teheran and Caracas and Le Paz, s"
I suspect the masses in Caracas very much want the american way of life, INCLUDING all its material benefits. Previous regimes have failed to deliver that, so theyll try something different. I dont know what the masses in Teheran want. I think the Awazi Arabs, the Azeris, and the Kurds, and the Baluchis want something different from the Mullahs. Im quite sure the Teheran middle class wants something different. Whether thats enough to create a majority is not clear. It does seem like doing what we can to help the dissidents, without leading them on, makes a lot of sense. And we still need to do SOMETHING about the nukes. As for Damascus, I also dont know what they want. Im unconvinced that the MB could rule there democazrtically without a coalition, given the religious and ethnic diversity of Syrian society.
Ummm... what strawman did I advance? I quoted Greg's argument. Your response is a nonsensical non sequitur.
Jackboots are useful for removing obstacles to freedom (e.g., dictators). In fact, there are close to zero democracies that were not established by the use of force.
But the teeming Cairene masses, say, are likelier to gravitate towards the Muslim Brotherhood than Ayman Nour, alas, at least at this juncture.
That is a structural problem brought about by the very policies the paleos are advancing. We had fifty years of that already. It's a recipe for 9/11.
What their analysis fails to understand is that in these Mideast dictatorial states, there can be only two loci of power. One is the state, and the other is the only competitor the state cannot crush our of hand: the mosque. Absent democratic reform, that is never going to change. And worse, in the absence of democratic roads to power the religious radicals will turn to terrorism.
So Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc., will win some elections. Well, let them. See how popular their rule is absent reforms. Democracy is a process. As long as that process is respected and the newly elected parties aren't allowed to use the state to stifle their opponents, eventually the reformers will win.
We've seen this voter-education process can work in Iran. If the mullahs were respecting the democratic process rather than rigging the elections by removing reformers from the ballot, the violent radicals would have been voted out long ago.
If the mullahs were respecting the democratic process rather than rigging the elections by removing reformers from the ballot, the violent radicals would have been voted out long ago.
Judging by the last election, the violent radicals are more likely to be voted in against moderate reformists. [ Its true that many reformists were not allowed to stand, but there is no reason to assume any of them would have done better than Rafsanjani. [ The reformist Mustafa Moeen did not even make it to the top 3]. And turnout was fairly high as well. The fact is that the rural poor did seem to support the current President, at lest for now.
Jackboots are useful for removing obstacles to freedom (e.g., dictators). In fact, there are close to zero democracies that were not established by the use of force.
How many democracies were established after an invasion ? Only 2 that I can think of -- Japan and Germany. [ Not Korea -- it didn't become democratic for decades]
Besides, heres another question -- if neocons are such great believers in democracy, why did they not take into account the fact that that in almost all countries in the world, democracies or not, far more people opposed the Iraq invasion than supported it. The US is of course under no obligation to listen to foreign people but the absolute contempt that neocons have for world opinion indicate to me that they're not really interested in demoracy.
wks was right to exit the thread with Rossett's article. I'll do the same:
How Corrupt Is the United Nations?
by Claudia Rossett
No one here has challenged the veracity of these many hard charges. They are true and damning. These alone are ample reason for reform unto dismemberment at the UN.
"Saving us from the scourge of war" -- as if. The UN has fallen far from its charter standard, and even under the duress of imposed reform, it sinks farther. Unelected, coddled, corrupted, immune: UN "leaders" are men without chests; by their actions, cowards -- a trait manifest in many of their eager apologists.
Those of you, like Mads, who persist in hard-selling the UN as a counterweight and moral guide -- whorepainting the UN's shame -- you're fooling yourselves as you try to fool others. Cowardice explains but does not excuse.
So on this score, no respect.
From Rossett's closing paragraphs:
"...Where once the Soviet agency Gosplan issued five-year plans for an imprisoned people, the UN now aims to administer and profit from fifteen-year plans for the entire human community. Think of it as planetary socialism, supported and financed in “partnership” with private capital.
The United Nations was founded as a forum of governments. As we had ample occasion to learn over the decades, this arrangement presented quite enough problems of its own. Now the UN, in contravention of its own charter, is rapidly evolving into something larger, more corporate, and more menacing: a predatory, undemocratic, unaccountable, and self-serving vehicle for global government. Like the Soviet Union of old, the UN is unwieldy, gross, inefficient, and incompetent; it is also so configured as to reach deep into the national politics of its member states and, by sheer weight and persistence, to force at least some of the worst of its agenda upon all of us.
There will never be enough John Boltons to counter all of this—not that it was easy to come up with even one. Indeed, with notable exceptions, generations of American officials and policy-makers have been content, sometimes for reasons of state, sometimes for reasons of convenience, to look away from the UN’s multiform deficiencies and derelictions while occasionally indulging in minor punitive measures like withholding a proportion of our annual dues—akin to docking a delinquent’s bus money while continuing to pay for his liquor and his car. For many others in public life, and for many ordinary citizens as well, the institution itself, as the very embodiment of the multilateralist ideal, is still held in nearly sacred regard.
All the more reason, then, to force ourselves at long last to take a hard, undeceived look at what the institution has in fact become, put aside the lengthy and futile quest for its reform, and begin to think more concretely about how, with or without it, we can best work to advance the interests and values of ourselves and other members of the civilized world."