September 27, 2006

Vanity

A commenter in a previous thread says Iraq was a "vanity" war. I suspect many historians, a few years on, will increasingly take this view. There was the dynastic vanity of the son who wanted to right the perceived shortcomings of Poppy's prior Mesopotamian involvement. There was the Cheneyesque 'I know best' vanity of the soi disant wise, knowing elder calmly steering us through the choppy Hobbesian waters. There was the crude Jacksonian vanity of Rumsfeld, who never cared a whit for the Iraqis. There was the Wolfowitzian vanity of the too exuberant high-brow neo-cons (and there was also the "cakewalk" vanity of the low-brow, group-thinking, spittle-licking ones). There was the 'shock and awe' vanity of Tommy Franks. There was the vanity of good intentions, as with Colin Powell--soldiering on rather than resigning earlier--likely thinking he could temper all the cheap bravado and mitigate the fall-out resulting from the gross incompetence that surrounded him. And then there was something of a national vanity: that Afghanistan had been too easy, 9/11 too big, and so we needed to kick a little more ass, to put it colloquially.

Further, and we shouldn't forget or gloss over it, there were a helluva lot of us who got dragged along for the ride, played like chumps we now know with hindsight. Realist types like me mostly did based on fears of Saddam's supposed chemical and biological WMD capability (relying on Tenet's 'slam dunk' for the causus belli), thinking 9/11 might have inspired Saddam, and per 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend,' that he might decide to cozy up with transnational terror groups like al-Qaeda to deliver a severe second-round blow to the U.S. Like many New Yorkers and others who were impacted or witnessed the attacks, I suspect, I suppose I also felt much anger, fused with an ill-advised sense of absolutist, moral righteousness that was its own form of self-indulgent vanity too, one that helped spur on copious helpings of jingo-fever in the air--with too few of us asking the hard questions about the hows and why and whos of how the post-war nation-building effort would be pursued (I speak here of Iraq, not the fully warranted conflict in Afghanistan). Such public confessionals aren't particularly pleasant, of course, but they have the merit of being honest reflections of what I now believe, for whatever they're worth.

Yes, it is true, Saddam was an odious character, and few mourn his passing from the scene. But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that we've committed a major blunder in Iraq, having helped stoke a new generation of jihadists in the Iraq bog, while having taken our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, and now floundering, to varying degrees, in both places. Our national repute in the Middle East is at a low ebb indeed, not to mention many others parts of the globe. Repairing this damage will take many years, perhaps decades even. Meantime, Islamist sentiment is growing in countries like Egypt and Syria--and our crude and naive democracy exportation policy appears increasingly untethered from such realities. We have become a clumsy, self-gratified and cocksure power, navigating a hugely complex region too often like purblind ignorants (see the recent Lebanese fiasco, to use a word in vogue, or our unserious, lazy policies with regard to Iran and Syria, among other examples).

But I digress, as we were speaking of vanity, meaning really a decadent self-satisfaction, an arrogant refusal to admit mistakes, a bloated sense of American exceptionalism. The irony is, what other country can assume a responsible mantle of world leadership at this turbulent time, if not us? Certainly not China, or the EU, or Russia, or anyone else. But we are dropping the ball, alas, including critically the moral high-ground, with our "evasive, quasi-participation" with regard to the Geneva Conventions (General Batiste's phrase), via the Addingtonian machinations bent on ensuring the Legislative Branch (wink wink) has blessed the Executive Branch's right to torture, albeit disguised with legalistic obfuscations or barely credible disclosure requirements in the Federal Register, among other such profoundly irresponsible chicanery that would have previously been unimaginable in our country anytime in the post-war era, if not well before then.

Well, in my humble view, the time for vanity is past, the time for recklessness is past, the time for falling easy prey to bamboozlement is past, the time for 'new paradigmists' thrashing hard-won tradition is past. It's high time for walloping doses of reality and sobriety and, above all, competence. But where is it? Certainly not among the incorrigible Beltway cheerleaders calling for a rapidly pitched together air-war on Iran, whatever the consequences. Have they no sense of deliberate statecraft or basic professionalism? Above all, have they no honor or shame?

Posted by Gregory at September 27, 2006 08:39 PM
Comments

"public confessionals aren't particularly pleasant"

but can be very effective advertising.

I briefly read BD a couple of years ago but stopped because it seemed like just another exercise in admin apologetics. fortunately, I recently tried again and discovered that I had made a serious mistake (that's two admitting their errors - could it be a trend?). you now have one more devoted reader since I know that your opinions are sincerely held, though malleable in the face of new evidence.

-charles

Posted by: ctw at September 28, 2006 04:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Better late than never.

Posted by: crust at September 28, 2006 06:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Can we call Iraq a quagmire yet?

Those of us who have been "right all along" appreciate your admission
of error.... but it seems that you still believe that the war
is "winnable". And while I can entertain the idea of a theoretical
plan for victory without wanting to slap you upside the head with the
clue stick, it remains inconceivable to me that you still consider the
war winnable with Bush still in office.

Lets face it, the key to stabilizing Iraq isn't going to be more
troops (although they will be needed) -- the key is the support and co-
operation of the international community, especially Iraq's
neighbors. And that support isn't going to be forthcoming until
after January 20, 2008 -- the world doesn't trust Bush, and isn't
going to let America out of the corner Bush has painted us into until
the US has leadership that the world knows won't run amok if let out
of the corner.

And the question is how much damage the US will sustain over the next
28 months in Iraq, and is it worth it just on the off chance that the
US will "win" in Iraq under new (and enlightened) leadership?

To me, the answer is "too much" -- this is a "vanity war", and if the
NIE is any indication, the only reason to stay in Iraq is that we want
to deny "the terrorists" bragging rights. But "the terrorists"
already won their bragging rights long ago -- and every day that the
US remains stuck in Iraq, and each American that dies in Iraq, only
increases those "bragging rights".

We can't win the war on terror in Iraq -- we can only lose it there.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 28, 2006 06:09 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Lots of truth in this. Still:

"Yes, it is true, Saddam was an odious character, and few mourn his passing from the scene"

The pro forma disclaimer that "Saddam was a bad guy" is

a) painfully cliched
b) sort of missing the point - Saddam was not a cartoon supervillian, he was the product and helmsman of a much larger group of "bad guys."

"Yes, it is true, Ba'athism is an odious 12-step program."

Posted by: Knemon at September 28, 2006 06:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Above all, have they no honor or shame?

Well there are those of us who thought neither term applied to Republicans as far back as the year 2000 and certainly in 2004.

Of course, we voted for the other guys. So, sorry for your shame and despair. My feelings are basically, tough-titty, you voted for it, probably twice so suck it.

Now when you, and the rest of the folks who got suckered start calling for the unconditional replacement of Republicans responsible for this debacle you give me a call. Cause all I hear right now is the faint whine "but the Democrats would be worse."

It's a disaster and it's your fault. You live with it. My conscience is clear.

Posted by: Richard Bottoms at September 28, 2006 06:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This was beautifully written, I'm not sure I've seen it said better. Imagine being a liberal (or at least what passes for a liberal these days, on social policy anyway) who supported the war - there are alot of us out here and who need to admit our vanity as well. Imagine my thinking that somehow the inherint superiority of our ideals, military, governmental and international infrastructure would triumph over a manifestly dishonest and incompetent team running the thing. Imagine my vanity in trusting that it made sense if Tony Blair said it did. The lesson for people like me is that who is running a war is not merely important, it is *definitive*.

Posted by: Jill Cerino at September 28, 2006 06:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg--

You say this:

Realist types like me mostly did based on fears of Saddam's supposed chemical and biological WMD capability (relying on Tenet's 'slam dunk' for the causus belli), thinking 9/11 might have inspired Saddam, and per 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend,' that he might decide to cozy up with transnational terror groups like al-Qaeda to deliver a severe second-round blow to the U.S.

But did you not have doubts when the inspectors came back in March 03 and reported that there was no nuclear program and that they had found no evidence of WMD in any of the places the US had insisted they were to be found? Did you not find it disturbing that the security council consensus was to continue inspections, a consensus that was not presented formally because the administration withdrew a war resolution they were certain to lose (despite an earlier proclamation from Bush that there would be a vote regardless of the "whip count")?

I could see that people like Kenneth Pollack could have believed--extrapolating in the absence of evidence--that stockpiles had grown since 1998. But what I could never understand is why the evidence that did get gathered after the inspectors returned was so widely ignored, and is still seldom mentioned. As Pollack noted in an Atlantic article, the source for the intelligence cited by the administration was the pre 1998 work by the inspectors.

In March, it was absolutely clear that Saddam represented no threat to the US or to the region, that he'd had nothing to do with 9/11 or state sponsored terrorism, and that between sanctions and no-fly zones, his regime had been crippled. How was it that you did not see that then?

Posted by: jayackroyd at September 28, 2006 06:51 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

jayackroyd

"In March, it was absolutely clear that Saddam represented no threat to the US or to the region"

I agree. Given that intelligence claims are always probabilistic estimates, I could never see what weapons or capability Sadaam was even ALLEGED to possess that constituted an imminent or serious threat to the United States such as to justify or require an invasion. Whatever nerve gas or anthrax he may have possessed couldn't be delivered effectively or reliably against us, and we would have destroyed him if he had attempted any such attack.

But we needed to kick some more butt, and militarily conquest would be a cake walk. So the Bush administration hyped the fears, and those who were afraid to look weak in the face of a "threat" felt compelled to go along.

Posted by: chew2 at September 28, 2006 07:36 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Nice post, but to put it bluntly, I don’t think you’ve learned all the lessons our little misadventure in Iraq has to offer. Why should any one nation be the “responsible mantle of world leadership”? This is just a euphemism for being the biggest kid in the schoolyard, with all the possibility for arrogance and abuse of power that marked the run-up and execution of the war so far. I take no joy in seeing my country trapped between a prolonged engagement and a humiliating withdrawal, but we asked for it didn’t we?

Posted by: Wes at September 28, 2006 08:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

BTW, we are not cheering for defeat, we are saying unless you change the people running the show, now, defeat is inevitable.

Posted by: Richard Bottoms at September 28, 2006 08:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why invade Iraq. Because the Administration thought they could do it on the cheap just as they have done everything since 9/11 on the cheap. I.E. no need to expand the Army, ask the American People for any sort of sacirifce or even just stop their tax cuts. Saddam could be easily toppled, the Administration's money backers, Haliburton, etec would be rewarded with big juicy contracts, (Well at least that worked), the Iraqis would love us (well they did for about 10 minutes), the US would have the bases to launch Air & Ground Strikes against Iraq & best of all, Iraqi oil would pay for all the costs of the War & the Occupation. Given all these & other mistakes, does anyone have any confidence in this admistrations ability to do anything more complicated then a Boy Scott encampment?

Posted by: David All at September 28, 2006 10:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Why should any one nation be the “responsible mantle of world leadership”? This is just a euphemism for being the biggest kid in the schoolyard, with all the possibility for arrogance and abuse of power that marked the run-up and execution of the war so far.

because there is such a thing as leadership, and "being a bully" is separate and distinct from it.

I can't think of any President in my lifetime other than Bush II who did not understood the nature, and limitations, of international leadership. Previous presidents have understood that leadership is both a privilege and a burden --- Bush II sees it as an entitlement, and acted accordingly. And unfortunately, because of the trauma (and subsequent exploitation of that trauma by Bush II) of 9/11, the usual "checks" on a President who tries to take things too far were missing....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 28, 2006 11:13 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I've had a profound sense of dread and repulsion since this war in Iraq was started. As time went on that sense only became more profound, or more dreadful, or more repulsive. Sometime between then and now I stumbled across BD, as one stumbles across things on the internets, and I became a regular reader. At the start I read to try to understand how anyone with a lick of sense -- which Greg has, I think, though it's not much of a compliment to get such a characterization from someone like me, I suppose -- could give this war any sort of support. I've watched Greg become more and more disillusioned about the country's leadership, which confirmed for me his good sense and his intellectual honesty. But I don't care about having been "right" early on -- the utter squandering of America's fine young troops, its treasure and its good name simply beggars the imagination. How could we have been taken to such a point unless by someone with nothing but malice in mind? A vanity war? maybe, but it looks much worse than that to me. disaster, fiasco, catastrophe, etc etc -- we're going to run out of words for this soon.

Posted by: David at September 29, 2006 02:27 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


We should look forward. I figure we're like the man who stepped in it. He has two choices: he can pick up his foot and move it to a better place, or he can stand there in it in the hope it will become something else.

Posted by: frank H. Logan at September 29, 2006 03:24 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg,

Don't you think all this hand-wringing is just more vanity? "We wanted so badly to believe...", "the crucible of a nation...", a 21st-century update of Studs Terkel's Good War...just how much spit, piss and the bitterest vinegar does that all now seem? By permitting such a thoroughly nasty, dishonest, capricious band of mean spirits to take the reigns of power, what more or less would you have expected? Fukuyama & Co.'s high gloss of intellectual imprimature, the Fox News Pravda and the screaming shits of Coulter were all signs of vanity right from the get-go, and what stuns me more than your 'horrifying realization' of this wretched administration and this idiotic war is how you didn't recognize the vanity of any of it back then. Believe me, this 'vanity' which you now wear on your face like a rotten egg is nothing new, and the realization of it is just more vanity...I'm with Rich Bottoms on this one. It gives me no pleasure to say it, but - live with it.

Posted by: sekaijin at September 29, 2006 04:00 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This confessional, not the first one here, may well be an honest expression of belief, but to be an honest expression of fact it would have to include acknowledgment that Belgravia Dispatch had no impact on policy three years ago, and doesn't now either.

Years ago when I was working in Washington it dawned on me that being there and hearing about everything that was happening before the rest of the country did gave one the feeling of being part of great events. For the most part this feeling was a delusion, so I left. The blogosphere is like that.

You can throw together a lot of information (more than most people have time to digest), write about it, publish what you write, and get responses, all in a matter of a few hours. What that is, is the ability to start a conversation, to think out loud, to entertain, even to change a mind or two through analysis or polemic. What it is not, is influence.

This isn't true of all blogs. Blogs that break news have a niche now, since the mainstream media cover certain types of stories only slowly and with great reluctance. Every now and then they break a story that changes something in the real world; you could argue that Josh Marshall's persistence in following the story of Trent Lott's remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday party gave us Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (and thanks so very much for that, Josh, by the way). Blogs that focus relentlessly on one subject can become in a small way what the New York Times used to try to be, sort of a cyberpaper of record. Eric Reeves' Sudan blog fills that position with respect to Darfur. It may not be influence, but it's not nothing.

Most of the blogosphere is just talk, always has been, and shouldn't be thought of as anything else. There's nothing wrong with that, indeed there's much to be said in favor of conversation in written form (especially, as Churchill might have said, with oneself as chief conversationalist). As spectators observing great events we are surely entitled to comment on them, but -- as we were talking of vanity -- we are best to remember that spectators we are, and spectators only.

Posted by: Zathras at September 29, 2006 04:20 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good comment, Zathras, and great apology, GD.
The people are waking up to the disaster, and the main, perhaps insurmountable obstacle remaining is the corporate media's willingness to cheer on Bush for just a little longer.
CNN's absolutely shameless plugging for Bush is nauseating.
Whatever criticism they make of Bush, the decision to turn the fall season into "terror watch central" was clearly intended to benefit Bush.

Posted by: Marky at September 29, 2006 04:30 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great post zathras!
For all the handwringing on the internet about this war it is nothing more than talk therepy for the posters. The republican control of congress will carry on. The war will carry on until a point at which victory can be "declared" or until defeat can be laid at the feet of another president(maybe a democrat). The public voted for bush twice(ok the second time for sure) and will send his apologists back to washington in the fall. People choose to watch fox and chooses to believe that Saddam was 911 and we really found the wmd etc. The US get exactly the goverment it deserves.....did anyone see Greys Anatomy tonight?

Posted by: centrist at September 29, 2006 05:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

True, we have no direct influence on either the policy or the players, but perhaps we can influence a change elsewhere:

FIRST STEP: Remove the sycophant, rubber-stamp Republican majority in Congress from the administration's arsenal of enablement...

Posted by: jim in austin at September 29, 2006 04:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Realist types like me mostly did based on fears of Saddam's supposed chemical and biological WMD capability (relying on Tenet's 'slam dunk' for the causus belli).....

If Tenet's 'slam dunk' was revealed by Boob Woodward in April 2004, how is it possible that you relied upon it in 2003?

Posted by: milo at September 29, 2006 04:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

milo: good and fair Q. i meant this more figuratively, as in Tenet sitting behind Powell at the UN when the latter spelled out the bill of grievances on the WMD front to the int'l community, with Tenet's presence serving to 'confirm' same from Langley's perspective. 'Slam dunk' has become something of a rote, generalized way of saying 'the CIA thought it was the real deal' (meaning Iraqi WMD). to stress, i didn't have the chronology in mind writing this, and didn't mean i relied on Tenet's 'slam dunk' comment literally, but rather to the extent the CIA was on the record saying Saddam had WMD in the advent to war. hope this clarifies, but again, fair to point out. thx,gd

Posted by: greg at September 29, 2006 04:58 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The strategic necessity of the Iraq war is separate from Bush, and your own vain Bush-bashing (at least not using the potty-mouth words of most on Left, thank you for more cerebral insults) seems to have left out some issues.

There is no world cop.
The child-raping peacekeepers of the corrupt UN are the main "higher" moral alternative to US action.

If you are now arguing that it was wrong to support Bush in going after Saddam, after 17 UN SC resolutions, and after the official 1998 US policy was "regime change", you must be arguing for more of the UN.

The same UN which is allowing the genocide in Darfur -- but won't call it genocide, and won't send troops to stop Sudan's murderous allies unless Sudan agrees. And you think the UN is better than Bush's US? Talk about unhinged vanity.

Oh wait, you don't quite say that. Bush is horrible, yada yada, but ... no articulated alternative.
On Iraq -- anything is better! You want more troops, you've long wanted more troops, you like Gen. Eaton who says Bush & Rummy are wrong because there's not enough troops.
But where are the numbers? Where do claim that more troops mean only 2000 deaths (US)? or any number of less deaths for our troops?

You don't quite say that. But if not more troops ... LESS troops! Just pull out now, we can't win. We haven't lost a battle but if we don't do it the BD way, we should hit the highway!

Intellectual coward.

WE
ARE
WINNING,
slowly.

We only lose if we give up -- and you've become so anti-Bush you'd prefer to give up.

"our crude and naive democracy exportation policy appears increasingly untethered from such realities."

I don't see only this. There have been problems, since any Arab "allies" are dictators -- there are no Arab democracies except Iraq (and N. Lebanon, sort of).

It looks like there has been pro-democracy movement in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

As long as a significant force of the US is in Iraq, there won't be big battles between Sunnis & Shia. The question becomes, when do the Iraqis want peace enough to not only live in peace with other Iraqis, but stop their tribesmen who are still willing to use violence?

It's not Bush, not America (nor certainly BD or TG-LD) -- it's the Iraqis in Iraq. The time when Iraq is won is up to them. It took S. Korea some 25 years after 1953 before they had democracy. Isn't that considered a success? S. Vietnam, with 17 more years of patience (after 1972, to 1989) would also have been a success.


Oh, most of your personal arrogance critiques of Bush & Rummy & Cheney; they might all be true. But such stuff is NOT as important as the right strategy.
Pro-democracy.

Which you think you have, also, but spend most of your time whining about the personnel the US voters have chosen, rather than specifying what should be done now, and why.

Vanity insults.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 29, 2006 06:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Enough is enough. The hand wringing's gotta go. Replace it with outrage - healthy, righteous, inspired, rabid outrage. If blogs such as these could serve any purpose, it's this: what we need now is for bloggers, pundits and others out there to stop befriending power of the type rampant in our political corridors and start demanding accountability.

We no longer have a functioning legislature - what we now have, with this piece of 'legislation' (I use the term loosely), is proof of something more akin to a pre-revolutionary Czarist Duma - a legislature in name only, made up of career bureaucrats, flunkeys, sycophants, fellow travelers, and the type of useful idiots Lenin dubbed and that Tony Judt reminded us of the other week (if anyone noticed). What needs to howl damningly is a reckoning with the type of government we have - we all want to believe that we don't deserve it, but we do. If you truly want to make a difference on this and other blogs, what you need to do is cease and desist from all this 'we were buffaloed' horseshit and just admit it - you wanted to believe you could sneak into bed with this power, and even convinced yourself you did, when what you got was at best was a whiff of the sheets.

You cannot trust this power we have. Call it for what it is - and demand the resignations of every member of Congress who voted for this travesty. And while you're at it - scream as loud as possible and demand the resignations of every member of this administration, beginning with the President. Anything less than that is cybermasturbation. I realize it's unrealistic - but it isn't anything less unrealistic than the realization, after the fact, that you made no difference, and most likely gave more credence to people and things that never deserved it in the first place. Stop being so damned mortified and just FIGHT with what you have.

Posted by: sekaijin at September 29, 2006 06:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> there are no Arab democracies except Iraq (and N. Lebanon, sort of).

Another American proudly demonstrating his ignorance...


God, oh God, save us from American ignorance, terrorism, and lies...

Posted by: babylon at September 29, 2006 06:48 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

lIbErTy dad,
Even if,and it is a big if ,"democracy"(anarchy and failed states are more likely) breaks out in the middle east explain the benefit for the US? In many cases the population is 90+ anti-american...why shouldnt that translate into policy more hostile than the US backed autocrats. Tell me with a straight face that it is not the democratic will of the Iranian people to have an atomic weapon? Tell me with a straight face that their is not democractic will to wipe Isreal off the map. Tell me with a straight face that the democratic will in Pakistan does not ensure that bin laden is not caught. Tell me that the state department polls on Iraq that wont be released dont show popular support for attacks on US troops. We should spend how much power,prestiege, treasure and blood for how long to continue the folly?

Now you may naively in the "freedon agenda" rhetoric but Bush from his actions in Lebenon, palestine, egypt, pakistan and all of central asia clearly does not. The "freedom agenda" is nothing more than a rhetorical device to ensure politcal support for an open ended commitment of resources in Iraq until the end of the adminstration at which point people of your ilk will be all over the internet claiming we were making "great progress" until Mccain or Hillory "lost Iraq" Enough!!!!

Posted by: centrist at September 29, 2006 07:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Would the "17 additional years commitment(you claim) to win in Viet Nam" even be worth 1% of what it would have cost to achieve? Ill answer that for you ....NO. The poor global economy of the 70s was at least partially due to our commitment to that war however "limited" it may have been in your eyes. The US and the cold war turned out just fine despite our "loss"!

Posted by: centrist at September 29, 2006 07:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Tom Grey, Liberty Dad and Gaping Mouth of Freedom.

A few branches to put into your logic tree. May they bear fruit in the future:

1.) Denigrating one position does not support another by default. You sort of correct yourself, but you just HAD to put that UN slam in there, right? (Note that Greg does not mention the UN)

2.) Citing an argument from authority kinda doesn't work when you're using it to oppose that very authority. Defying the UN in order to enforce the UN's resolutions doesn't really work. (Note that Greg does not mention prewar rationale)

3.) You really should research facts (look the word up) before making objective statements.

4.) When determining the cost of a thing, you should first determine the currency. I would presume there is some upper limit to what you would accept in human deaths before 'giving up' is more valuable than slogging forward. Perhaps I shouldn't presume.

5.) A critique is not a solution. All recovery programs start with one important step, a step necessary before any solution can be offered. Consider reading about this process.

Finally, cut 'n' paste debating points betray, my friend. You've done little to respond to Greg other than vomit forth non sequiturs and insult our host.

I cannot hope that you will reconsider your interesting view on the world, but see if you can clean up your commenting skills. The denizens of the Internets will thank you for it.

Posted by: mafisto at September 29, 2006 11:05 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

To Mafisto:
1) Greg says "what other country can assume a responsible mantle of world leadership at this turbulent time, if not us? Certainly not China, or the EU, or Russia, or anyone else."
Yeah, why isn't the UN listed on Greg's list? Because he knows, and you know, that the UN is both corrupt and ineffective.
I've argued for years in favor of a Human Rights Enforcement Group, of democracies only, enforcing only two rights: free speech and free religion. It doesn't exist.
The other unspoken alternative is Unreal Perfection. If one criticizes the US policy without stating an alternate, its not constructive.

2) All ideas of the UN and of international law are confused, and where authority or responsibility lies is a mess. "Defying the UN" -- what UN SC resolution has passed which the USA has defied? Based on the total lack of enforcement, General Assembly resolutions are about as binding as Amnesty International condemnations. Right, the USA will veto any UN SC resolution we'd be willing to defy -- but then we're not quite defying the UN. No UN SC resolution, no "UN will", no defiance. This applies as well to China protecting N. Korea and Sudan and probably Iran.

3) facts... ha ha ha! Naturally, no examples! (No country names of Arab democracies?)

4) Cost & currency are excellent and important issues. So tell me, how many S. Viet allies would have to be murdered by Peace Accord-violating N. Viet commies before you think it was a mistake to leave, a mistake to vote for Dems in 1974 who cut off funds? For me, 600 000 murdered is too many -- the Dems cutting off funds to our (ineffective, incompetent, and corrupt) ally so as to allow N. Viet victory was terrible. And the Cambodian Killing Fields domino was the worst human massacre in my life.

I doubt that you have the courage quantify in deaths any of your own positions. Prior threads here, and on my own blog, show my consistent grading of Bush: less than 2500 US deaths is an "A", 5000 is a "B", 10 000 is a "C". With my quantities, unchanged for over 2 years, I don't rate Bush or Rummy as a failure or incompetent. Yet folks like Greg do -- without specifying a scale or a standard.
Rating somebody as "incompetent" without specifying what "competent" would actually look like seems cowardly to me.

5) A critique may not be a solution, and may even be good. It might also be a case of vanity gone wild and as an excuse to shovel insults against those whose decisions on policies one disagrees with. That's what I think Greg is doing a bit much on his post.

Centrist:
I support ME democracy even if results in some policies more hostile to the US than the autocrats we've been supporting. I sure wish Bush & Rummy were doing it better -- but the Bush-hate noise on the Left, and increasingly too often here on BD, drowns out any constructive criticism.

It is likely that a majority of Iranians would vote yes in a referendum on "Should Iran develop nuclear weapons". Not sure they'd vote yes on "Should Iran renounce the Non-Proliferation Treaty and develop nuclear weapons?"

I don't believe at all they would vote yes on "Should Iran wipe Israel off the map (even if Israel uses its nukes on Iran)?"

We should spend how much power,prestiege, treasure and blood for how long to continue the folly?
Where is your answer? How much was Iraq democracy worth? (And would stopping genocide in Darfur be worth that much?)

Certainly for at least 15 years, and at least 7000 more US casualties. I oppose reconstruction "aid" -- it should have been local Municipal bonds, to be repaid by taxes, initially all bought by the US gov't, but then to be made available on the market. There was a pre-2004 election debate, loans lost, aid won.
Aid teaches corruption. Corruption, in Iraq, the EU, China, Russia, the UN, and of course USA , corruption is part of democracy. (Voting for benefits -- the voters are corrupt, wanting Other People's Money). Loans are your OWN money, time displaced.

The "prestige" which the USA lost in Vietnam led to the surrender of the (corrupt, somewhat torturous) Shah -- and the rise of an Islam that thinks America is a Paper Tiger.

The historical example of Vietnam shows how terrible to leave Iraq now. The current example of Darfur shows an actual alternative to US action, waiting for the UN ...
I think Bush invading Iraq was correct strategically. I think believing "more troops" would have stopped suicide attacks is wishful thinking -- and Vietnam's 500 000 US troops is an actual example of that strategy not-quite working.

The real war is inside of Islam. Can Islam exist peacefully with Human Rights, with free speech, with free religion? The trend from 1979 through 2001 shows increasing Islamic desire to eliminate Western, Christian, American free speech. Not attacking Iraq, after 17 UN SC resolutions, would certainly have made more Muslims feel that the UN is weak. To claim fewer would become radical is a reasonable belief, but I believe in more would have become radical.

Further, Greg supported the Afghan campaign. Had Iraq not been invaded, probably Afghanistan would be a bit better -- but both Iran and Iraq would be funding Taliban to disrupt Afghanistan. And the French call for ending sanctions on Iraq would have become louder and almost certainly accepted by the US in order to get French support for NATO in Afghanistan. As I see that likely scenario, the mess we have looks a lot better than the mess we would have had.

What about the needed "sense of deliberate statecraft or basic professionalism?"

-- oh yeah. Rwanda shows how great that works.
"Above all, have they no honor or shame?"
That's my question for the anti-war folk who did prefer genocide in Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur rather than the lesser evil of US led war.

[This IS a vanity thread, after all...]

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at September 30, 2006 03:06 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It was all foreseeable.

Point: This War Will Destabilize The Entire Mideast Region And Set Off A Global Shockwave Of Anti-Americanism

Counterpoint: No it won't
http://www.theonion.com/content/node/34144


Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'
"We as a people must stand united, banding together to tear this nation in two," Bush said. "Much work lies ahead of us: The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it." http://www.theonion.com/content/node/28784

Posted by: more culpa at October 1, 2006 01:25 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

As spectators observing great events we are surely entitled to comment on them, but -- as we were talking of vanity -- we are best to remember that spectators we are, and spectators only.

Zathras, you bring up an interesting thought.

People talk about how to make a plan that can win in iraq, or that can successfully cut our losses. But the truth is, it doesn't make any difference what plan anybody makes up. It will be 2 years and 3 months before any new plan can be started, and by that time the situation will have changed drastically. The sort of reasonable plan that might have helped 2 years ago would be utterly irrelevant today.

So there are really only two plans available.

1. Let George do it.

2. Impeach George.

Unless we work toward impeachment we are only spectators, only passengers on the ship of fools. We can't do anything but observe, unless we actually get out there and start working toward a positive result.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 1, 2006 07:50 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> That's my question for the anti-war folk who did prefer genocide in Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur rather than the lesser evil of US led war.


Be fair -- every US administration has been anti-war as far as genocide goes. Every US administration dragged its feet, not wanting to join the UN Treaty on Genocide, even decades later after the Soviets had joined it. In fact, the US never really joined it -- Reagan was shamed into pretending to join it after his embarassment about his visits to Nazi war dead (when he refused to also visit Jewish Holocaust sites, there was an embarrassing public outcry), but the US didn't really join it, and so is not in a position to push genocide charges against any country. Every US administration refrained from using the word genocide -- or in the Rwanda case, they got clever enough to duck to the euphemism "acts of genocide", claiming that they had secret calculations which proved it wasn't actually genocide, it was only acts of genocide. Of course, no such secret calculations existed (how could they? Nothing was worse than what happened in Rwanda, in terms of numbers of dead per minute).

It was communist Vietnam that stopped the genocide in Cambodia, by the way, as we should all know.

As is said, the US never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to stop genocide.


Posted by: sampa at October 2, 2006 01:32 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> No country names of Arab democracies?

I suggest you learn to use the Internet; it is a fabulous tool that a person may use and decrease their ignorance.

The Palestinian Authority is a democracy that the US and Israel are trying to overthrow.

Admittedly, the US is funnelling tremendous amounts of cash and weapons to Egypt, Jordan, Saudia Arabia, and Turkey, to keep any democracy out of them. In fact, the US has been pretty successful in preventing any democracy in the Arab countries. But, it is odd to quote that success in preventing democracy in the middle of an argument structured so differently.

Of course the most famous middle eastern (but not Arab) democracy that the US destroyed was Iran -- I suspect that Iranian resentment for the US' destruction of their democracy (and imposition of a hated torturing dictator) still resonates and supplies popularity to any Iranian leader standing against "US tyranny".

Posted by: henry at October 2, 2006 01:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> The historical example of Vietnam shows how terrible to leave Iraq now.


Obviously point-of-view matters here.

The Cambodians were only saved from the horrifying Khmer Rouge genocide because the Vietnamese Communists had defeated the US "imperialists", and were willing and able to fight another war to stop the Cambodian genocide.

If the US "imperialists" hadn't been defeated yet, then noone would have stopped the Cambodian genocide.

Posted by: hwj at October 2, 2006 01:41 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The irony is, what other country can assume a responsible mantle of world leadership at this turbulent time, if not us?

Why does the world need anyone to "assume the mantle of leadership"? Even that phrase reeks, I'm afraid, of an unreconstructed vanity. Why must there be a global leader? Why not a concert?

There are only three issues which need to be dealt with globally -- policing terrorism, trade liberalization, and controlling greenhouse gas emissions (and perhaps other environmental issues). All of these are best dealt with multilaterally, rather than through unique, unilateralist "leadership." We've been down the "leadership" road, Greg, and it has failed us. "Leadership," in the sense you seem to use this phrase, is a euphemism for imperiousness, not to say imperialism.

After our history over the last 108 years of hard charging, it very hard for Americans to imagine the end of the American Empire. But in fact it is possible to walk away from empire, to turn away from imperial ambition -- it has been done many times by great nations. Moreover, such a turning need not be a disaster for a country, but in fact can represent a profound internal liberation. Just ask the Germans, the Japanese, or the English. In this regard, I strongly recommend the excellent new book by Lieven and Hulsman, Ethical Realism.

Posted by: Nils at October 2, 2006 06:35 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The irony is, what other country can assume a responsible mantle of world leadership at this turbulent time, if not us?

Why does the world need anyone to "assume the mantle of leadership"? Even that phrase reeks, I'm afraid, of an unreconstructed vanity. Why must there be a global leader? Why not a concert?

There are only three issues which need to be dealt with globally -- policing terrorism, trade liberalization, and controlling greenhouse gas emissions (and perhaps other environmental issues). All of these are best dealt with multilaterally, rather than through unique, unilateralist "leadership." We've been down the "leadership" road, Greg, and it has failed us. "Leadership," in the sense you seem to use this phrase, is a euphemism for imperiousness, not to say imperialism.

After our history over the last 108 years of hard charging, it very hard for Americans to imagine the end of the American Empire. But in fact it is possible to walk away from empire, to turn away from imperial ambition -- it has been done many times by great nations. Moreover, such a turning need not be a disaster for a country, but in fact can represent a profound internal liberation. Just ask the Germans, the Japanese, or the English. In this regard, I strongly recommend the excellent new book by Lieven and Hulsman, Ethical Realism.

Posted by: Nils at October 2, 2006 06:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

nils, the lieven/hulsman book just came in the mail today....best,gd

Posted by: greg at October 2, 2006 08:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

> it very hard for Americans to imagine the end of the American Empire.

Well, with the skyrocketing indebtedness, the terrible aging demographic spiralling up, the exporting of key strategic industries (IT, manufacturing, design, research), the increasing Chinese leverage (leading to control) over the US banking industry via ownership of debt, the falling employment in every sector except the (parasitic) health care sector), the rising poverty and always world-leading incarceration rates, and the dangerous and increasing dependence on petroleum resources abroad, it seems that pretty soon they won't have to imagine it -- they will see it become real.

Posted by: Gerald LeDuvoir at October 3, 2006 03:54 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think that's why there's such a push toward having an american empire now.

We used to say there was no such thing, we were a democracy, we made fair trade agreements with other nations without coercing them, we regrettably needed a certain amount of use-of-force in other countries to counter the USSR trying to take over the world, but we had no intention of trying to take over the world ourselves.

It's only when it's gone that we start talking about taking the gloves off and enforcing our will.

Posted by: J Thomas at October 3, 2006 07:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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