May 08, 2005

Blind Spots and The Politics of Faith

I'd wanted to wait a couple of days before giving a conservative take on the Washington Monthly's panel on Middle East Democracy. Kevin Drum organized an online discussion with Dan Drezner and Marc Lynch on the Political Animal site: he summarizes the exchange in this post that contains all the necessary links, but both it and the pieces by a panel that included Sen. Biden and Wes Clark are worth reading in full.

The discussion is intended to be one among Democrats, and touches on who should get the credit for recent encouraging developments in the Middle East and what their lessons are. Generally, except for Dan and Jonathan Clarke, the consensus is that President Bush does not deserve credit, or if he does deserves it for his rhetoric and not for the Iraq invasion. Absolutely, positively not for the Iraq invasion.

There is some good stuff here, and much that I agree with. I was impressed, though, that such a large, diverse and experienced panel should have some really notable blind spots -- by which I don't really mean areas about which I think they are mistaken, but subjects they just miss completely. Recent readers of this blog can probably guess one of the subjects I'm referring to, but I'll get to that in a moment.

The first and most surprising blind spot for this group is the American people. Everyone in the WM group has thought about how "we" ought to talk to the Arabs, and non-Arab Muslims, and various other foreign audiences. Which is fine, except that in a political environment dominated by the permanent campaign foreign audiences are almost never the primary ones for the President and his senior officials. They certainly are not in a campaign-centered, message discipline-oriented administration like this one.

For me this has always been one of the least admirable -- actually infuriating -- things about George W. Bush. Of course a President must speak to his domestic audience, even if he isn't campaigning. Foreign policy that has no domestic support can't be long sustained, and foreign policy that is not explained to the public won't attract much enduring support. Some Presidents, for example Truman and Nixon, excelled at building domestic support for their foreign policies even when they themselves were personally far more unpopular than Bush is now, while leaving foreign audiences in no doubt about American goals and intentions. But Bush's rhetoric about freedom and democracy, obsessively echoed by his senior officials, is mostly a collection of cheer lines aimed not at explaining or justifying American foreign policy but instead at proclaiming sentiments he knows his domestic audience will share and pointing to encouraging trends he hopes they will associate with him.

"Freedom is on the march." How many times have we heard that line and others like it from this President? What does it mean? What it is supposed to mean is that a value all Americans value -- freedom -- is advancing, and Americans should feel good about that. What it means to Arabs or anyone else beyond our shores is an afterthought.

One could argue that his rhetoric shows that the President recognizes something essential about American attitudes toward democratization anywhere, including the Middle East: namely, that they think it is or would be a good thing, but are not that interested in the specifics of how other countries govern themselves. I'd like it if he did, and if his Democratic critics did, but it may just be a coincidence.

Two other things about the WM groups' blind spot for the American people: Bush is exceptional among American politicians in this focus on the domestic audience only because he is President. And in all their discussion of Arab attitudes toward the United States the WM's panelists spared no time to consider American attitudes about Arabs.

These are buffered, as is the case with people in most very large countries, by distance and the press of business with more immediate impact on people's lives than foreign affairs. That said, no one in this country has forgotten where the 9/11 hijackers came from; Palestinians are widely identified with terrorism and suspected of being much more interested in killing Jews than in peace; when the federal building in Oklahoma City was blown up in 1995 the immediate public reaction was that someone of "Middle Eastern origin" had to be behind it. Generally speaking, American public attitudes about Arabs and particularly Arab leaders are strongly negative, and if the Arab genocide in Darfur were more widely publicized they would be even worse. In the Arab press you can find any number of imaginative and occasionally delusional explanations for this, often having to do with Jewish control of the media or racism of some kind: explanations that most Americans, rightly, would regard with contempt. Since they never address the subject it's hard to say, but I certainly hope none of the WM's panelists have any thought that American efforts to make the United States less disliked in the Arab world can be anything other than one lane of a two-way street.

A second blind spot for this group concerns the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obviously the elections in Iraq could not have taken place without the American invasion; but since 1991 American military action has either removed from power or heavily damaged three forces that certainly would have opposed democratization had they remained, these being Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and the Taliban roughly in that order. The failures in planning for and execution of the occupation in Iraq have undone some of that good work, but I wonder if the WM's panelists really think that the positive developments in the Middle East they believe Bush deserves no credit for would have been quite so positive in a region that still had all the regimes that were in place four years ago.

There is another aspect to this, of course, one that reflects far less favorably on administration policy toward Iraq in particular. Operations in Iraq have and are being paid for entirely with borrowed money, billions upon billions of dollars borrowed from Asian central banks. This can't continue indefinitely. The cost for this noble democratization mission (as it now is, even if that was not the original reason for it) was not counted beforehand, and even its critics seem not to be focused on this. "We must succeed in Iraq," is Sen. Biden's sentiment, with which I am in full sympathy. But our present commitment to success in Iraq and the Middle East, as both the administration and most of its critics have defined it, will make it more difficult for the United States in other parts of the world, where we also must succeed. Almost all of those regions -- Latin America, Europe, certainly the Pacific -- are more central to the great destinies of this country than is the Middle East. I'm all for "standing with" aspiring democrats in that region, but I also don't believe in making promises we can't keep. The question of available resources is certainly relevant here.

The last of the WM panel's blind spots is Darfur. I don't think any of the contributors even mention it. This is really remarkable for a group of Democrats eager to proclaim their superior morality on the subject of human rights. One of them needs to explain to me what possible difference it can make for the United States to take some marginal steps to encourage labor unions in Egypt or NGOs in Saudi Arabia when Arabs as a whole are indifferent or worse to genocide being committed by other Arabs right under their noses.

Sustaining representative democracy is about more than one free election. It is also about more than building institutions either public or private. Fundamentally, democracy in any country places great demands on that country's people as well as on their leaders. How do we know if the people of, say, Saudi Arabia or Egypt will be able to meet these demands? Their attitudes and actions toward some disaster in a distant land that victimizes people with whom they have no connection may not be a good indication; but when the disaster is inflicted by people of their own race and religion in a neighboring country -- and on people of their own religion, no less -- and they say and do nothing, that ought to give us pause.

So those are the WM panel's blind spots. There remains the question of its politics of faith. As Heather Hurlburt points out, these have been best expressed by someone who shares them completely, George Bush:


“It should be clear to all that Islam—the faith of one-fifth of humanity—is consistent with democratic rule.... Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe—because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.”


Now, one can quibble with this sentiment; "consistent" should be replaced with "compatible," since the case that Islam actually contributes to democracy as opposed to being an obstacle that can be overcome under the right circumstances does not appear strong. One can also heckle it; in the long run we're all dead, and stability adresses present needs. America always talked about freedom in Eastern Europe, after all, but for almost half a century we acquiesced in the Soviet occupation, recognizing that the alternative to stability was not liberty but war.

But the important thing to observe about this declamation is its faith. This includes faith that democracy is possible now, everywhere; that people who have never known either liberty or democracy as we understand these terms not only desire them but are capable of seizing and holding them; that where liberty and democracy have not taken hold this must be because American policies were mistaken; and that setting a new, moral course will steer us clear of the difficulties that must have been caused by our old, amoral policies.

The nature of faith is such that it cannot always be argued against. Historical evidence that repressive regimes "propped up" by the United States would have muddled through without American support, or else evolved rapidly into something much worse, doesn't matter. Current limitations on our political system's capacity to produce leaders who do not spend almost all their time addressing their domestic audience don't matter. The American public's limited interest in promoting political change in other countries, restrictions on the resources available to do this, and the many more important if not more urgent claims on America's foreign policy attention don't matter. The idea -- no, the fact -- that there are worse things in this world than a lack of democracy doesn't matter. And that key equation between promoting freedom and reducing the appeal of terrorism against Americans to people motivated by religion is assumed as a matter of course.

The ablest, shrewdest, and most successful practitioners of modern American foreign policy -- Theodore Roosevelt, Marshall, Acheson, Kissinger -- would all have regarded this kind of faith as a poor guide to action. We should, too. A foreign policy that measures its success by the amount of political change it produces in other societies is a policy doomed to disillusion, disappointment, and imprudent disregard of vital American interests. That is the charge against President Bush's policy in the Middle East, and if his Democratic critics took over direction of that policy tomorrow, the same charge could be made against them.

Posted by at May 8, 2005 01:59 AM | TrackBack (52)
Comments

Joe----

You seem to be making an honest effort to understand the conversation that occurred at WM on democracy.

But you have one rather large blind spot yourself. Genocide is a crime against humanity, and constantly harping on Darfur as an "Arab problem" or an "Arab responsibility" is, quite frankly, racist. The Holocaust wasn't a "white problem", and the failure of "whites" to respond appropriately and effectively did not say anything about the character of "white people." Rwanda wasn't a "black problem". And Darfur isn't an "Arab problem."

The fact is that the Arab League has made some efforts in the Sudan, but the Arab League is a highly fractious organization --- not some monolithic group. Arab nations such as Eqypt (which of course has a long border with Sudan) have contributed troops and observers to various peacekeeping initiatives, and Saudi Arabia has contributed millions of dollars toward relief efforts.

(And to a very large extent the US is quite happy that Arab nations are so incapable of taking concerted action. Considering the widespread antipathy of Arabs toward the US invasion of Iraq, if the Arab League had been capable of acting in concert in a crisis there would have been an oil embargo when the US invaded---and the US would have had no Arab nations in which to station its troops. And, it should be noted, it appears that the biggest impediment to a more aggressive Arab response to Darfur is America's new best friend, Libya.)


Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 8, 2005 07:31 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree that Bush's ham-fisted diplomacy has cost this country dearly. I was a big McCain supporter and still think he would have been head and shoulders above Bush as President. That said, I think you give too much credence to the idea that democracy promotion is somehow a post hoc rationalization of the war. Bush has many faults, but a lack of sincerity is not one ot them. He has believed in the neocon's mantra of democracy solving our problems as much as anyone. Just as Lincoln infuriated the Frederick Douglass contingent for the first 2 years of the Civil War by focusing on saving the union, Bush was talked into "international law" WMD type rationalizations until too late in the game. America lost a lot of support (that would have been grudging and unspoken in any case) because of that decision.
I also agree that we should emphasize that democracy is not going to be a panacea -- look at the new crop of thugs arising in Latin America as an example. Still, for the Democrats to say Bush has not moved the world forward is as petty and small as their scorn of Reagan, and will be rewarded by the public in the same way.

Posted by: wayne at May 8, 2005 02:02 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

this darfur thing is becoming an obsession, methinks. was US democracy undermined by the Indian Wars? were we uncivilized barbarians for cleansing the West of Indians?

Posted by: praktike at May 8, 2005 02:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That said, I think you give too much credence to the idea that democracy promotion is somehow a post hoc rationalization of the war. Bush has many faults, but a lack of sincerity is not one ot them.

People who try to figure out why Bush does stuff don't really understand his character --- Bush first decides on a course of action, then finds a way to justify it. He doesn't do things because they make any rational sense --- he does them because he wants to do them.

So, when we talk about Iraq, we can say that Bush wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but its impossible (short of projecting psychological reasoning) to explain why. It certainly wasn't because Saddam was a threat --- Colin Powell made that abundantly clear early in 2001. Nor was it because he wanted to bring democracy to the Middle East --- there was simply no emphasis in the administration's post-invasion planning for creating the institutions necessary for democracy.

(in fact, Iraq had a perfectly workable constitution that, with a few minor changes, could have acted as the framework for democratic government in Iraq. The fact that the Bush regime ignored the existing constitution and decided that Iraq had to start from scratch strongly suggests that "democracy" was not a high priority. Indeed, the US cancelled local elections in Iraq in the early days of the occupation, and it was only because of massive popular pressure brought about by the Shiite clergy---especially al Sistani --- that any elections were held in January. )

If one looks at what US priorities were once Saddam was deposed, one would assume that the goal of the invasion was the installation of a corporate plutocracy to run Iraq. But to say that was Bush's goal would also be inaccurate --- all Bush wanted to do in Iraq was overthrow Saddam Hussein, and he left it to his subordinates to figure out what to do after that was accomplished.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 8, 2005 02:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Actually, lukasiak has it wrong. Again.

The entire sanctions regime against Saddam was beginning to collapse in the Security Council in the summer of 2001. Powell himself was forced to retreat to the fig leaf of "smart sanctions". Once the sanctions were off, Saddam would have been back in business, as the Deulfer report makes eminently clear. Indeed, that report indicated that Saddam's direction was away from chump change (CBW/biowar) and towards the Big Enchilada-nuclear weapons.

Of course, arguing with people who believe that Saddam was a choirboy while Bush is Himmler is a bit hard, but let's proceed.

The Iraqi constitution was an artificial construct designed to keep Saddam and the Ba'ath in power. As it was, that Constitution was routinely ignored by the regime. Sistani himself did insist, and rightly so, on elections and forced Bremer into setting them up for January. That's how we got this far. But there was no serious opposition to Sistani from either Bremer or Bush to setting up elections. Both Americans understood that elections were the key to legitimacy. The whole idea of regional caucuses was summarily dropped after no one in the Iraqi political community would sign on save for a few intellectuals.

We never found WMD (perhaps they did end up in Syria, as Deulfer implies, or in Russia with that SPETSNAZ battalion that came into Salman Pak just before the war and left just before the invasion), but we appear to be on the way to achieving Bush's larger purpose-to install a democratic virus in the Middle East that would spread throughout the region and provide an intellectual alternative to Islamic Fascism.

This entire campaign is about a lot more than setting up some corporate plutocracy to make Bush's Pioneer friends a lot of money. But God knows, I won't waste my time trying to convince lukasiak of the obvious.

Posted by: Section9 at May 8, 2005 03:15 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

in fact, Iraq had a perfectly workable constitution that, with a few minor changes, could have acted as the framework for democratic government in Iraq.

Perhaps thats why the Bushies gave the Iraqi generals 48 hours to put Saddam, Uday and the crew on a plane before we attacked. Maybe if our first bombing (that left Saddam rattled with dust on his face) had been 10 meters closer we would have been able to test your hypothesis. You guys can't have it both ways -- but as the comment above notes, anyone who thinks Colin Powell is a slippery double crossing weasel and Jacques Chirac is an exemplar of integrity and rectitude will be hard to convince of anything.

Posted by: wayne at May 8, 2005 03:34 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

...a couple of notes:

1) young george has no foreign policy - what he has are seemingly random excuses for invading a soveriegn country that could do america no harm on the one hand, while blithely ignoring 2 that realisticly might hurt us. - BECAUSE HE CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THEM. his own fault, of course.

2) young george seems to believe that if he repeats 'freedom is on the march' often enough, people might accidentally confue him with ronnie and 'morning in americ'...

Posted by: doc at May 8, 2005 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"A foreign policy that measures its success by the amount of political change it produces in other societies is a policy doomed to disillusion, disappointment, and imprudent disregard of vital American interests."
Vital interests are a slippery thing.
After WWI, America decided that it's vital interest is not to interfere in the European mess. It had to pay the bill.
After WWII, America decided that the success of its foreign policy should be measured in producing political change in other societies, especially in Germany, but also in the entire Western Europe. It was a great success.
After 9/11, America decided that it's time again to produce change in other societies. If not, it would have to pay the bill again. It had been warned.
That's the reason why America has its troops in Iraq, and does - all in all - a great job in transforming the country. That's the reason why Syrian troops have been forced to withdraw from Lebanon. And so on.
The question is - will it stay the course? There is a lot of resistance, in the region and on the domestic front. But I think that there is no alternative to the transformation of the region. It will take 20, 30 years, but it is in everybody's interest, except the current elites in the region who will loose their grip on the population.

Posted by: ulrich speck at May 8, 2005 06:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The entire sanctions regime against Saddam was beginning to collapse in the Security Council in the summer of 2001. Powell himself was forced to retreat to the fig leaf of "smart sanctions". Once the sanctions were off, Saddam would have been back in business, as the Deulfer report makes eminently clear

what the Duelfer report made clear was that there was not a single iota of solid evidence that suggested that Saddam had any intention of revitalizing his WMD programs. (That is not to say that he wouldn't have tried to do so, but that there was no evidence that he was preparing to do so.)

Duelfer went to great lengths to exaggerate what little evidence he found --- going so far as to identify a strain of botulin toxin that was completely useless for weaponization, and that had been sitting in the back of a scientists' refrigerator for over a decade, as a significant find.

The Iraqi constitution was an artificial construct designed to keep Saddam and the Ba'ath in power.

your ignorance of history is astonishing. The Iraqi constitution was created in 1925, decades before the Baathist's took control of Iraq. It established Iraq as a constitutional monarchy (and it is the provisions regarding the monarchy that would have to have been scrapped.)

Saddam maintained his power by ignoring key provisions of the Iraqi constitution....he didn't "construct" it to keep power.

But God knows, I won't waste my time trying to convince lukasiak of the obvious.

first, you'll have to convince me that you have the first clue about Iraq and its history ---- and given your display of ignorance so far, I don't expect much.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 8, 2005 08:14 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Let's see.

Iraq's former constitution was/is a workable document.

The Ayatollahs were a hair's breadth away from allowing true democracy in Iran, but were stymied by Bush & Co.'s hamfisted foreign policy.

Why get exercised about maybe-it-is-but-maybe-it's-not-really genocide in Darfur? These things happen. For example, it's just like the US genocide of the Native Americans 100 odd years ago.

The picture is getting clearer and clearer. Yes, what a beautiful world it could be. If only....

Posted by: Barry Meislin at May 8, 2005 10:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Iraq's former constitution was/is a workable document.

insofar as it was modelled after Britain's constitutional monarchy, and Britain's government is eminently workable, this is obviously true.... but do yourself a favor, and read it yourself.

http://www.geocities.com/dagtho/iraqiconst19250321.html

The Ayatollahs were a hair's breadth away from allowing true democracy in Iran, but were stymied by Bush & Co.'s hamfisted foreign policy.

no one said they were a "hair's breath away". But this is typical of wingnuts when they are confronted with facts that are contrary to their opinions ---- if they don't like the facts that have been cited, they simply redesign the presentation to make it possible for them to ignore those facts. This level of egregious intellectual dishonesty makes it virtually impossible for sane people to engage in civil discourse with wingnuts.

Why get exercised about maybe-it-is-but-maybe-it's-not-really genocide in Darfur? These things happen. For example, it's just like the US genocide of the Native Americans 100 odd years ago.

who here has suggested that we "not get exercised" about Darfur? This is just another straw man....

Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 8, 2005 11:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On the subject of Darfur P Luksiak is quite wrong. The Arab League has done nothing at all, as it did in many other instances when Arab Tyrants murdered their own people by the thousands. Egypt could end the killing in several weeks if wished by simply sending an expeditionary force or even just it's air force. The OIC has also kicked the problem aside. Saudi and Egypt have acted to keep the matter (along with the Chinese and French) from consideration by the UN Security Council for military action, partly out of solidarity with another Islamic Arab regime and partly because they do not feel that African lives (regardless of the fact that they are also Muslims) are worth any trouble.

This is the problem with Leftists ... they live (like Al Qaeda ) in a fantasy ideology. Unlike the fantasy ideology of Al Qaeda's terror, where killing 3,000 people overturns the US (shared by the various radical chic terrorists beloved of Leftists, from Sendero to the Baader-Meinhof to Red Brigades to the various Palestinian terrorist or IRA); the Leftist fantasy ideology is inherently ... comic book driven.

Leftists want the US to stop the killing in Darfur, instantly, by waging a war that kills no one and leaves the present government intact. Essentially, a job for Superman and his Justice League Pals. Out here in the real world the solution is simple:

*ONLY the US has the ability and the potential political will to stop the killing. The French and Chinese and Arabs will all trade on Sudan's oil largesse, appetite for military goodies, and pan-Arab solidarity.

*The UN, the ICC, the UNHCR, various NGOs are a total failure when it comes to stopping killing like this (or Rwanda). Want to stop it? ONLY the US will do, all others are useless.

*The US can and should act alone, by stripping (permanently) troops from NATO and Germany (where they protect against hordes of Russian job-seekers I guess) and destroying the regime in Sudan so the killing DOESN'T happen again.

A good secondary goal would be to make Egypt, Libya, and Saudi Arabia pay a price for not acting to stop the killing. May I suggest a cut or elimination in aid to Egypt?

"this darfur thing is becoming an obsession, methinks. was US democracy undermined by the Indian Wars? were we uncivilized barbarians for cleansing the West of Indians?"

I want to say that praktike's remarkably ugly and despicable comment is why I no longer consider myself a Leftist. Memo: evil is still evil EVEN when done by non-white, non-American people. I guess Praktike's view is that Africans in Darfur are less than human, don't deserve the basic human right not to be murdered for their ethnic identity, and that anything Arabs do is OK since they "oppose" the US. This is the moral bankruptcy of the US, which Joe has learned that people dying in the Al-Anfal campaign, or a Kabul stadium has a direct connection to airliners flying into buildings and incinerating thousands of innocent New Yorkers.

For such outwardly pacifist folks, Leftists LOVE their Anti-Western thugs, the more they kill the more they love them.

"what the Duelfer report made clear was that there was not a single iota of solid evidence that suggested that Saddam had any intention of revitalizing his WMD programs."

Unlike P Luksiak, I HAVE read the entire, dry Duelfer Report. His conclusions, based on interviews and documents seized, including top regime officials such as Azziz and Saddam himself make clear that Saddam felt that possession of WMDs was his trump card and the clear intent was to resume production of them at the earliest possible moment when sanctions were lifted. Regime officials reported to Saddam PERSONALLY that they could restart chemical weapons in six months and bio weapons in a year. Nuclear was estimated at ten years.

As for the constitution Saddam ruled under, rationally it had zero legitimacy given that Saddam ignored it with impunity. You don't respect the cop who allows the thug to beat you regularly. It was a joke and had to be scrapped.

The larger problem is that Dems continue to live in variations of the fantasy ideology of Superman. Biden, Dodd, the rest seem to think that the US can just call in the Justice League and people will be so cowed as to stop killing in Darfur, or attacking us with mass-casualty terror attacks. Bush at least draws a connection between people's oppression in dirt poor foreign lands and the non-state terror actors who work with connivance of failed/failing states that run on tyranny and murder. He sees the solution as spreading democracy, on the theory that even Tammany Hall is better than Al-Qaeda/Iran/Saddam's Murder Central. You may believe in Kissingerian terms that guys like Saddam, Pinochet, Marcos, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler keep disorderly populaces in line and make the trains run on time, but that's a hard sell outside of a very specific Cold War confrontation practically mandating nasty proxy wars to avoid a global nuclear exchange killing everyone.

Posted by: Jim Rockford at May 9, 2005 08:42 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

On the subject of Darfur P Luksiak is quite wrong. The Arab League has done nothing at all,

You really should stop lying. Here is a quote from an article CRITICAL of the Arab League, proving that it has not done "nothing"....

"Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo this month opposed any form of sanctions against Sudan. They agreed to send observers to monitor a ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese government and rebels, but rejected outright "any threats of coercive military intervention in the region." "

The Arab League (over the vehement objections of the Sudanese Government) also strongly condemned the human rights abuses occurring in Darfur last May.

As I noted earlier, the Arab League as an organization is extremely fractious and weak --- and that's how the USA likes it. American foreign policy requires that Arab nations not be able to work as a group, and it comes as no surprise that the Arab League has been ineffective in addressing the Darfur crisis appropriately.

Of course, the Bush administration isn't exactly helping matters in Darfur. The Senate has passed unanimously the Darfur Accountability Act as an amendment to the supplemental appropriations bill Bush wants to fund our occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq----and there is strong support in the House among both Republicans and Democrats for the amendment. The Act would impose sanctions on Sudan, and provide the African Union with $90 million dollars needed to enforce cease-fire agreements. ($90 million may sound like a lot, but its less than we spend each day in Iraq.) The Bush regime is trying to ensure that when the bill comes out of committee that it does not include the Act, because the Sudan regime is a "partner" in Bush's "war on terror."

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0505/S00106.htm

like most wingnuts, you create a "leftists" straw man and then proceed to knock it down, rather than deal with the real complexities of the issue at hand. I know of no one who thinks that the US should unilaterally try to solve the Darfur crisis --- but us "leftists" do support things like the Darfur Accountability Act, and we do believe that US leadership is absolutely necessary in this situation --- especially when it comes to pressuring our "partners" in the "war on terror" who are part of the Arab League to get more involved in stopping the killing.

His conclusions, based on interviews and documents seized, including top regime officials such as Azziz and Saddam himself make clear that Saddam felt that possession of WMDs was his trump card and the clear intent was to resume production of them at the earliest possible moment when sanctions were lifted.

Duelfer's "conclusion" was based on the same kinds of assumptions and "evidence" that lead him to categorically declare that Iraq had WMDs prior to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. He came up with no SOLID EVIDENCE to support his assertions --- he simply assumed it to be the case, and then concluded it was true while ignoring all contrary evidence. Asking about POTENTIAL is not evidence of intent to pursue a course of action based on that potential. (Does the fact that Presidents ask about our ability to fight a nuclear war mean that they INTEND to do so? )

The problem with wingnuts like yourself is that it is impossible to hold an intelligent conversation with you. I made it clear that the lack of evidence to support the claim that it was Saddam's intent to immediately restart WMD production was NOT evidence that he did not plan on doing so.

The problem, which wingnuts refuse to acknowledge, is that people like Duelfer are willing to distort the intelligence they do have in order to justify their own beliefs --- and that there is NO QUESTION that Bush administration officials have deliberately ignored all evidence that contradicts its conclusions. Rational people need to be skeptical of the information coming out of the Bush regime --- but wingnuts not only take everything they say as gospel, they extrapolate it even further in an effort to justify their own prejudices.

As for the constitution Saddam ruled under, rationally it had zero legitimacy given that Saddam ignored it with impunity. You don't respect the cop who allows the thug to beat you regularly. It was a joke and had to be scrapped.

another example of wingnut logic. The fact that Saddam ignored the constitution is not evidence that it was a bad constitution ---- if anything, it is evidence that it was a good constitution. It didn't matter what the Iraqi Constitution said --- if the "Interim Constitution" designed by the USA had been in force under Saddam, he would have ignored that as well.

The sheer idiocy of judging a set of laws based on the fact that the laws were violated with impunity by those who were charged with enforcing and maintaining those laws is beyond belief. How do you expect anyone to take you seriously, when you are so devoid of anything approaching rational thought?

Posted by: p.lukasiak at May 9, 2005 01:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This has been an interesting and informative thread, aside from the usual shouting and labeling - and very boring... At least the accusations seem to be equal opportunity. There are several questions that seem to come from blind spots on both sides of the aisle (or is it each corner of the ring?). If the regime in Sudan is removed, what would replace it? This seems to be a much bigger challenge than the relatively simple task of droppping some bombs in the right locations. Who would decide on the new government and who would monitor it? We've got an up and down problem now in Iraq, for example, and I'm not getting the vibe that any one on this post would be thrilled by Ayatollah Houmeini II, a disturbing possibility, especially if you factor in the Saudi and Kurd reaction. I'm also curious to know who believes that diplomacy could hhave accomplished anything with Sadaam? There is some indication that there is a third way, combining the two approaches - serious saber rattling, and infiltration, or a combination dependent upon the specific regime in question. For those who haven't read about it please review 'Bringing Down a Dictator' and Peter Ackerman. They seem to have been responsible for the 'successes' in Lebanon and perhaps Egypt. The methods are non-violent, but depend upon some form of access to media, not likely a starter in Khartoum, but maybe in Riyadh.
My take on the insurgency's revival in Iraq is the massive corruption of government contractors. How to prevent this corruption, I'm not sure. It seems to be an equal opportunity game in every war. The result is the same, economic deprivation of the populace. The Marshall Plan seems to be the big exception. Is anyone here familiar with it's methods? I don't seem to recall the level of corruption that I see in US endorsed contractors in Iraq. Speaking from a business standpoint it seems like extremely poor long term investment strategy to allow the corruption, including the pocketing of billions of dollars in fees for no work. I know the excuse was security problems that prevented work from starting, but, who's the wimp here? We get results, we get whining, or we get garbage. Which do we want? The more results that are achieved the more we are admired. In this case there needs to be an approach that works effectively and I'm still waiting for more than baby steps, and a few small projects in small towns. The devastation in Europe exceeded Iraq by a great magnitude, and the distrutst of the German people was enormous but we overcame that. What were the differences?

Posted by: D Pecan at May 9, 2005 10:49 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Marshall Plan seems to be the big exception. Is anyone here familiar with its methods?

Reasonably so. It didn't start until several years after the end of World War II, during which all of postwar Europe was completely devastated and horribly, horribly poor and starving. John Dos Passos wrote a big cover story for Life about how we had "won the war but lost the peace." (Actual quote) The article explanined how nothing was planned for, and how all of Europe, allies and enemies, resented and hated the US.

The Marshall Plan was conceived of after the fact and planned ad hoc. As time has passed, it has transformed into myth and been viewed as a much easier thing than it actually was.

The ablest, shrewdest, and most successful practitioners of modern American foreign policy -- Theodore Roosevelt, Marshall, Acheson, Kissinger -- would all have regarded this kind of faith as a poor guide to action.

Hmm. You should study Teddy's China policy better. Consider how the US Open Door Policy affected China, especially in the matter of Chinese Railway Loans. Examine US actions under Roosevelt with regards to Manchuria, including both Russian and Japanese actions, and the Russo-Japanese War. (Peace negotiated by Roosevelt.) Also explain how his Panama policy mixed traditional faith in democracy and revolutions in Latin America with practical commercial goals.

In truth, traditional successful US foreign policy has always included a strong faith component, especially faith in the universality of democracy.

Posted by: John Thacker at May 10, 2005 05:18 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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