The Immorality of Preventive War
One of the astonishing events of recent months is the presentation of preventive war as a legitimate and moral instrument of U.S. foreign policy.
This has not always been the case. Dec. 7, 1941, on which day the Japanese launched a preventive strike against the U.S. Navy, has gone down in history as a date that will live in infamy. During the Cold War, advocates of preventive war were dismissed as a crowd of loonies. When Robert Kennedy called the notion of a preventive attack on the Cuban missile bases "Pearl Harbor in reverse," and added, "For 175 years we have not been that kind of country," he swung the ExCom--President Kennedy's special group of advisors--from an airstrike to a blockade.
The policy of containment plus deterrence won the Cold War. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, everyone thanked heaven that the preventive-war loonies had never got into power in any major country.
Today, alas, they appear to be in power in the United States. Rebaptizing preventive war as preemptive war doesn't change its character. Preventive war is based on the proposition that it is possible to foretell with certainty what is to come.
The Bush administration hawks just know, if we do not act today, that something horrible will happen to us tomorrow. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld evidently see themselves as Steven Spielberg's "precogs" in "Minority Report," who are psychically equipped to avert crimes that are about to be committed.
Certainty about prediction is an illusion. One thing that history keeps teaching us is that the future is full of surprises and outwits all our certitudes.
Consider the instant case: Iraq. The policy of containment plus deterrence has kept Saddam Hussein behind his own frontiers for the last decade.
What is it that our Pentagon precogs know he is plotting to do? What is the clear and present danger, the direct and immediate threat, to justify sending the Army into Iraq?
Do the administration's precogs expect that he will use his mass-destruction arsenal against Kuwait? Against Israel? Against the United States?
Since Hussein is not interested in suicide, he is unlikely to do any of these things. Aggression would play into American hands. By using his weaponry, Hussein would give the U.S. president his heart's desire: a reason the world would accept for invading Iraq and enforcing "regime change."
The one contingency that would very probably lead Hussein to resort to his ghastly weapons would be just this invasion of Iraq by the U.S.
Meanwhile, the containment policy seems to be working. If it doesn't work, war is always an option. And Hussein, after all, is mortal. He is sure to be gone one of these days. What is so vital about getting rid of him next week or next month?
The possibilities of history are far richer and more various than the human mind is likely to conceive--and the arrogance of leaders who are sure they can predict the future invites retribution.
"The hardest strokes of heaven," the English historian Sir Herbert Butterfield has written, "fall in history upon those who imagine that they can control things in a sovereign manner, playing providence not only for themselves but for the far future--reaching out into the future with the wrong kind of farsightedness, and gambling on a lot of risky calculations in which there must never be a single mistake."
Unilateral preventive war is neither legitimate nor moral. It is illegitimate
and immoral. For more than 200 years we have not been that kind of country.
comments powered by Disqus
Tewodros - 12/26/2003
Jessica - 11/26/2003
YOU AREN"T ANSWERING THE QUESTION I WANNA KNOW!
Dan - 9/29/2003
JOHN ROMAR B. HIGO - 4/28/2003
I AGREE THAT WAR IS IMMORAL, IT HAS NEVER BEEN A PROFIT FOR ANY NATION SUCH BUT A DESTRUCTION AND DEGRADATION OF LIFE AND ITS IMPORTANCE AND ITS VALUE AS GOD GIVEN GIFT
Chris Hord - 4/18/2003
I am opposed to preventive war and believe it to be a morally wrong policy likely to result in unintended consequences. Gulf War I was a justified and moral war where allies came to the defense of two sovereign countries invaded by Saddams' forces. Oil may be the reason why the US was allied with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, but this does not enter into the moral equation with regard to justifying a defense against invasion of allies. Under the classical view of justified war no UN resolution was even necessary. Thus, Gulf War II does not have to be viewed as a preventive war. Instead Gulf War II is simply an extension of Gulf War I after violations of a truce called by the Coalition in 1991 that gave Saddam a chance to mend his ways. He did not, therefore hostilities were reopened and continued to the final inevitable conclusion. A truce is not a treaty but merely a cessation of hostilities for a time. Diplomatic efforts to gain renewed UN support for attacking Iraq were done more to obscure the new US preventive war policy than as a requirement to act. In any event, a tyrant has been toppled along with his evil regime. For that we can all be thankful.
alex hay - 4/12/2003
If you recognize the wreck of a world we live in as the work of unholy, extralegal, well-dressed and very well-armed gangs of thugs and pirates, stand up. New York or Baghdad, it is all the same. Make and sell weapons, stir things up a little and equate “deniability” with “national security”. In other words, point, shoot and profit with impunity, Chicago style. How can this be?
Only our antiquated ideas about national identities give us cause for surprise. Geopolitical boundaries are a fiction established by war, maintained by bad law and selective amnesia, taxed by thieves and manned by ourselves. All citizens of the world everywhere must begin take an honest look at their particular national myths and see if they are worth the cost of maintenance.
The United States, for example, was founded as a Democratic Plutocratic Republic. What this means is we all have the right to be plutocrats, albeit it took two centuries to constitutionally extend our definition of we to include all of us. Our founding fathers liked their comforts, owned slaves and viewed the indigenous population as welcomed traders and future inconvenience but they did see that unregulated corporations (like the British and Dutch East India Companies) quickly grew to corrupt and subsume government. To put it another way, they recognized that unregulated monopolistic wealth would eventually threaten their democratic plutocracy. So in their wisdom they left to the States the sole right to charter corporations, define their rights and obligations to society , audit their performance and dissolve them without cause. Corporations were transparent. They had the rights of convicted felons because in the minds of our founding fathers, that‘s what they were. They existed at the sufferance of the State and represented a privileged legal fiction with well-defined social responsibilities. To summarize, corporate transparency was guaranteed by our Constitution because Democracy hasn’t a chance without it.
This Republic fell to a Northern-Industrial coup during our so-called Civil War. Lincoln literally sold the U.S. Government to “save the Union” and the beneficiaries were the Northern banks, arms makers, dealers and smugglers, the forerunners of our military-industrial complex. The issue was would we let the South waltz off with the Mississippi River and then find ourselves bidding against England for Southern cotton or would we simply seize it. The question was a no-brainer and the solution was a purposely prolonged war that reduced the Southern infrastructure to fire sale remnants to be snapped up by private interests to be refurbished by some taxpayer or other. And worse was on its way.
In 1886, our Supreme Court mysteriously and most egregiously ruled that corporations are citizens and are entitled to the rights of an individual guaranteed by our Constitution. It was the end of corporate transparency and the 800 pound gorilla was out of the cage. We date a war torn 20th century and our present crisis of global mayhem and massive corruption, shrouded by the corporate media and legally veiled in “national security”, from the time corporations were granted “freedom of speech” and allowed to take the fifth. The problem is, of course, that while corporations were given the rights of citizenship, they have seldom been held responsible for anything but the bottom line. Many of them have been very bad citizens.
The Patriot Act has been presented as a necessary compromise of individual rights, which is to say we all need to be a little more transparent in the ongoing war on terrorism. I say, what’s good for the citizen is good for all citizens including corporations. The fall of Enron and the rest, while simply symptomatic of a great institutionalized disease, is as far reaching economically as the fall of the two towers on 9/11. It was nothing short of economic terrorism. Why are those responsible, the ones who profited and then could not recall or took the fifth not being held to the Orwellian provisions of The Patriot Act? They’d probably tell you it would be unpatriotic. I suppose John Ashcroft would concur.
Kevin - 3/7/2003
"Meanwhile, the containment policy seems to be working. If it doesn't work, war is always an option. And Hussein, after all, is mortal. He is sure to be gone one of these days. What is so vital about getting rid of him next week or next month?"
Saddam's son is overtly anti-American and more militaristic than Saddam.
This is not an issue of precogs. Obviously Minority Report - having been produced while sanctions against Iraq and preemptive (preventitive as you label it) action was still being considered as plausible - seeks to invoke specfic sentiment. Spielberg and Cruise - both vehement anti-war activists - obviously kept in mind impending US action in the Gulf while making this movie. The movie's underlining thematic base issues a call to arms for American citizens to put sticks into what Spielberg would likely consider: the current political machine. Unfortunately Schlesinger, enthroned as the King Dunce of American foreign policy, failed to see this when taking his example into account.
The Iraq situatoin comes down to game theory. If we attack Iraq, innocent civilians will die and if Iraq decides to use basic WMDs, some American soldiers will die as well. If we attack Iraq and Iraq has no WMD, some Iraqi civilians die and America will be criticized until Bush leaves office in 2004 or 2008.
If we do not attack, either all will be peaceful forever more internationally while the Iraqis and Kurds suffer more domestic oppression, or something drastically horrible will occur.
Now, in order to understand this example of game theory, we must first also realize that Saddam places military targets on top of hospitals, schools, and apartment buildings. Therefore by his own choice are military operations analagous to civilian deaths. Inevitably Iraqi civilians will die at some point, provided that Saddam's *line of descedants* resumes its rule over Iraq. So essentially, if we do not go into Iraq and remove its rulers, there is a very high probability that eventually - down the line - Iraqi civilians will suffer casualties when Iraqi despots finally *do* do something worthy of the appeasment-happy Europeans' attention. Let us not forget the Vichy-oriented 1930s political force, which granted the social natoinalists of Germany (poetic for *Nazi*) Suedentanland and other German speaking territories in an effort to pursue peacful discourse and ignore the obvious.
Thankfully however, we now have Game Theory. With this new logistical tool we can easily find the dominant equilibrium; and that is that which provides for minimal cost, and takes terrestrial doom out of the picture.
Doug Porter - 2/28/2003
Unless we have some precognitive specialists that can see the future, attacking a country because of something that they 'might' do is unjustified. It is the equivilant of getting into a disagreement at a bar and getting a gun and killing the other person because they 'might' do the same to you!
Vonda Holland - 10/7/2002
Perhaps President George W. Bush should read these words of wisdom. Those who do not learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them.
J. Bartlett - 10/5/2002
History is "chronological". This means that if event B happens AFTER event B, event B could not have CAUSED event A.
In a war between two countries, it is important to know how the war started. That helps us to understand the causes of the war.
We can begin by asking whether one country attacked the other.
If this turns out to have happened, then we might say that the attacking country was the "aggressor" in the war. Sometimes it is difficult to tell which side was the aggressor. It is even possible in some cases that both sides were aggressors. Other times it is more clear cut as to which side started the war, and was the aggressor. Knowing the chronological order of events leading up to the war can also help us sort such matters.
A. December 3 1941: The Japanese attack fleet crossed the international date line on its way to attack Pearl Harbor,
the decision to secretly attack the United States having been made by the Japanese senior commanders in Tokyo.
B. December 7, 1941: In a minor incident, there was an exchange of fire between U.S. forces and a Japanese sub which found itself near Pearl Harbor.
C. Later on December 7, 1941: The main force of Japanese planes
bombed and strafed Pearl Harbor. Many American soldiers and sailors were killed.
D. December 8, 1941. The United States Congress declared war on Japan. (It is an interesting fact, that it was the Congress, not the assistant Secretary of Defense which made this decision).
And now a question for all the bright ten-year-olds here who have been paying attention: Which side was the aggressor in the war between the United States of America and Japan which started in 1941 ?
Roger Drowne EC - 10/1/2002
END... U.S.A. PLUTOCRACY... IMPEACH... the BU$H FAMILY, MULTI-MILLIONAIRE CLASS Plutocrats... they Rape, Pillage & Kill U.S.A. & Global DEMOCRACY & ENVIRONMENT for Personal Gain & is OUTRAGEOUS...
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DEMOCRACY is Dead... Now IT'S PLUTOCRACY STUPID... U.S.A. Government By the Multi-Millionaire Class
Re-Written DECLARATION of INDEPENDENCE 2002 ...U.S. Overwhelmed and Monopolized by Plutocratic Millionaires
Full text... Re-Written DECLARATION of INDEPENDENCE 2002 ...continued at...
16 DEMOCRACY, PATRIOT, POLITICAL, ...PAINTINGS Click here... Copy & Circulate...
WHEN IN THE COURSE OF HUMAN EVENTS, IT BECOMES NECESSARY for the PEOPLE of the United States TO ALTER or ABOLISH the United States Government as it exists in the year 2001 using the Authority, Law, and Intentions of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
And Now the People Step Forward and Charge High Treason, and Show that Democracy in its roots today, is Corrupt. And that the Constitution has been Altered and Betrayed in Favor of A Small Group of Millionaires, Over Another... the Governed, the People of the United States.
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Troy Torstrick - 10/1/2002
War on Iraq will succeed in 2 respects; 1) it will undermine the war on terror by diverting resources and 2) it will drastically increase the anti-American sentiments of millions of young Arabs and radical Muslims and spawn thousands of new terrorists hell-bent on America’s destruction.
I want to know why George Bush is so determined to undermine his war on terror, which he claimed shortly after 9/11 as his reason for being. Is it so that he can use the fear created by all the additional terrorist activity against America to push America into the fascist dictatorship he has wished for publicly on several occasions?
As we all saw, he and his party had no qualms about doing away with democracy in 2000.
Alice Choate - 9/26/2002
Azel Hill Beckner - 9/17/2002
There are so many ways to prevent war, the destruction of the state and people who are threatening war is the least desirable.
Gus Moner - 9/16/2002
Mr. Thorton, thanks for responding.
We do agree that going to war is the worst element of politics, and the last refuge for the incompetent. As with any profession, the armed services have their benefits and drawbacks. You have described them well, and on no occasion have I disparaged them. I sincerely hope we haven’t to see you off to fight anywhere. I am pleased that you take your profession seriously, for as you say; you can take and save lives with your actions or decisions. Not many jobs carry that level of responsibility. Moreover, you do well to study history in your profession. There is no better way to beat an adversary than to know them. However, that ought not to be the only reason to understand history from other perspectives. I hope to make that point in my reply.
If there are peaceful settlements to disputes in history is because they were attainable and all rose to the occasion. One example involving the USA is the Cuban Missile Crisis. There are many, many others. Unfortunately, they are forgotten, perhaps because there’s no glory in it. Especially if we hold diplomats in the regard you seem to. Each generation ought to have a higher standard for itself and the planet. That’s how we progress. It mustn’t be used as an excuse for doing more of the same. Peace treaties, by their nature, follow war. Inevitably they are written in blood. We agree on that, however that’s not justification for it.
I have read The Prince, Sun-Tzu and Clausewitz. It’s not an issue in our commentary. There’s no quarrel from most people with defending your nation if attacked. However one looks at it, Iraq has not attacked the USA.
So, the USA would be attacking Iraq, not defending the USA. It’s dangerous new ground.
You are right on the money when mentioning the legacy of European imperialism as being at the root of many current woes in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. I would temper and say that the US was a latecomer to the land grab, but got some bits. Otherwise, your next paragraph is a near brilliant analysis. I once used to favour Israel on emotional grounds. However, the hard facts are they are way over the top and need to be stopped. Still, I would wager like you that they’d come out of the dogfight on top, but not because they are right. They have lost the moral high ground, if they ever had it. And there is no justification for their actions now. That’s a whole other article.
In the next paragraph is where we diverge. The USA’s vital interests and “national security” cannot in any way be superimposed to any people’s right to have their house organised as they see fit. Western allies are not ungrateful to the USA. Nonetheless, intervening in Kosovo was seen as necessary for European security, and some European leaders saw another backslide into the same ethnic conflicts that have so often destroyed Europe. Most importantly, Europe is the USA’s biggest trading partner and allies abound there in NATO. Burundi may have some natural resources, but as you say, they are black, and stopping genocide is not an important reason to intervene anywhere, especially if they are black. If Kosovar genocide had been in Alma Ata, no one would have intervened. By the way, few Albanians are blonde.
Nations look after themselves, which is why they are organised as such. But nations in this interwoven Earth now need to approach problems together, for they affect us all. Gone are the days when a war somewhere between two nations was no one else’s affair. Morality in international relations suits the US as it defends against attacks by others, the Kyoto protocol being one example of that. If you lose that, there goes your following. To assert that
”The US is in the position to make rules but is not subject to them because might makes right”, flies against all logic. Might doesn’t make right, it makes bullies, whereas the right decisions win following.
As you rightfully said, I offered no “solution” to the dilemma. I can offer this concept. Once the point is proven that Iraq has WsMD, it’s up to all the nations of the world to determine if that is a threat and what to do about it. It’s mustn’t be that the US that is the sole arbiter. That is what diplomacy is about. Together, the nations of the world should confront the threat. Paraphrasing what I said before, violence is the last refuge of the inept. The entire Middle East is kindling for a fire from which enormously savage consequences could ensue. Please don’t light it selfishly, or ineptly.
Alec Lloyd - 9/5/2002
Apparently there are more than a few people who aren’t at all worried about the prospect of a nuclear-capable Iraq. After all, Saddam would keep them under tight control and being rational, he surely would never invite the massive retaliation that would ensue.
To these people I say: fine. Indeed, why bother to persist with an inspection regime if there is no real threat? In fact, why bother to persist in any nuclear non-proliferation program? If a proven aggressor such as Saddam can be trusted, who can’t?
Perhaps we should just give him The Bomb. Surely this is the best course of action. In this one gesture we could restore Arab pride (see, now they are a nuclear power) allowing Iran, Syria and North Korea to start spending their money on infrastructure and development, rather than arms. Indeed, we could also offer ICBMs and perhaps provide technical assistance to ensure the “threat is credible.” There’s nothing so embarrassing as to fire the Doomsday Weapon and have it wind up as a dud.
Think of the prospects for regional stability! Instead of one Cold War, we could have several: Iran vs. Iraq; Sunni vs. Shi’ite; Arab vs. Israeli; and of course West vs. Arab despotism.
To prevent intercenine rivalry, we would probably have to provide them to Syria, Libya, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states as well, with “Saudi” Arabia being a given.
Instead of the dangers of an American “hyperpower,” we would once more be returned to the sanity of a truly multi- (and I mean MULTI-) polar world.
Given that Iraq has already expelled weapons inspectors, evaded them when they were present and is hardly likely to be more forthcoming should they return, why not simply follow the inevitable result of the “wait and see” argument?
C. A. WILES - 9/5/2002
To Mr. Sheslinger, Jr. and To All Whom it does and should concern: Well thought out - Well stated - AND well appreciated by myself, and I hope; MANY others. I applaud your statements and the courage of your convictions!
Duane A - 9/5/2002
Had Castro pushed the button, Royal Carribean would probably be showing tourists where Cuba used to be. Get real.
Duane A - 9/5/2002
Interesting you should quote Henry Kissinger without mentioning his specific warnings about invading Iraq, some of which are reflected in Schlessinger's article.
Duane A - 9/5/2002
Would you supply an American supported insurgent with weapons of mass destruction if you were certain it would topple Saddam and could never be traced to the U.S.?
Back in the days when Osama Bin Laden was considered a heroic freedom fighter against the Soviets in Afghanistan would you have been willing to supply him with weapons of mass destruction?
Terrorists, insurgents, freedom fighters, mercenaries, contras, mujahdeen, or whatever else you might call them have one thing in common... their own agenda. Once armed, there's no turning back. Saddam may be vicious, but he isn't a fool.
Frontline Freedom Inc - 9/5/2002
I don't know shit about left/right or any of the bullshit fancy worded propaganda some of these posts contain...All I can and want to say is this if/when America invades Iraq many people armed and ready to fight against any Money hungry bastards that are willy nilly trying to control every resource they can will have more to think about than Saddam or Bin Laden I'm talking about the everyday joe blogg that works hard on the frontline for the minority of people to reap the benefits...Time will tell and change everything we've become accustom to in this Materialistic world!!!
Fernando Bauza - 9/4/2002
I have followed the arguments pro and con Mr Schlesinger´s article with increasing bewilderment. Perhaps a voice from outside the US is necessary, even more a voice without academic or military background. I fully support Mr. Schlesinger´s point of view that preemptive war is immoral, quotes from centuries old military analysts will not sway me from a belief that in politics or indeed any aspect of life, behaviour should be ruled by moral certitudes. I accept the accusations that Britain (from where I write)is aptly blamed for much of the injustices that followed the colonial rule just as much as the US has a lot to anwer for their adventures inside and outside the continental borders, it is in the past and the blame should fall on the right shoulders, I do not follow Mr. Schlesinger´s belief that immoral behaviour is no its country´s way but whatever the past it should not be the behaviour of the leader of the Western civilisation nor indeed any member of any civilisation. There are no vital interests superior to what makes our civilisation worthy or our way of life better if we are not prepared uphold our principles instead of showing contempt for what we believe in.
Buntarov - 9/4/2002
Seeing what is going on in this country, reading some of the comments here, I can tell you - fashizm is on the rise in the USA. And it is much, much worse than communism I lived in 13 years ago in my own country.
Mike - 9/4/2002
Saddam is a meglo-maniac. He is concerned about HIS power and HIS ambitions.
It is unlikely that he would give terrorists a nuclear weapon that would have a return address, "Baghdad, Iraq." Scientists and investigators are not so dumb that they wouldn't figure out its origins, and quickly.
The more likely situation is a greedy, though now poor, former nuclear scientist from a former soviet republic helping the terrorists. Yet, we are not so ready to start bombing their facilities.
It should also be noted that a number of other countries have or had rogue nuclear programs, Pakistan and Isreal come to mind. Yet, we are unlikely to bomb either of those countries.
Sometimes, I really wonder what people are trying to get at.
I think everyone needs to put more http://criticalthought.blogspot.com">critical thought into this.
Edward Harvey - 9/4/2002
"What if?" is not a credible argument in any context. One could say what if (fill in the blank) to anything but that would not make it so.
It is quite interesting that the argument is bought up of so-called liberals wanting to take guns away from law abiding adults due to the possibility that a person might kill 6-20 other people. By definition, a law abiding adult shouldn't be killing anyone. What does liberalism have to do with this anyway? Is it being suggested that non-liberals support the idea of a "law abiding adult" having a gun so he/she could kill 6-20 people? What is the purpose of having a gun anyhow if it isn't to kill? And, isn't killing wrong?
Since the issue has been raised, one is far more likely to be killed by one's own gun or by the gun of an acquaintance than to be killed by a terrorist's bomb. In fact one is far more likely to die by their own ignorance, ineptitude, or carelessness (they call these accidents) than from a terrorist's bomb.
Wouldn't a more reasonable approach to war be to formulate foreign policy that does not provoke others to lash out violently in response?
Orson Olson - 9/3/2002
Mr Lloyde writes: "There have been several credible press accounts of al-Qaeda training facilities in Iraq—facilities there before the September 11 attacks. How does Mr. Sellars know Saddam’s feelings toward bin Laden?"
Indeed, if I rightly recall Bodansky's biography of Bin Laden, his overtures to Hussein were rebuffed in '97 or '98--not once, not twice, but THREE times. Yet I, too, have read these media accounts of terror and hijack training facilities south of Bagdhad (although I don't believe thay were ID'd as "al-Qaida").
So the evidence is rather more mixed than unambigusou--much like the Iraq-Syria connection itself. It IS puzzling.
Orson Olson - 9/3/2002
Mr. Moner characterizes our leadership today thusly:
"In these Wild West Days where we shoot first and ask later, a calm and reasoned argument for remaining 'on target' but not pulling the trigger is welcome indeed."
One can only believe this if one does not know--as most do not--that since the Vietnam War, more American lives have been lost to attacks by Muslim terrorists, since 1979, than any other enemy--and that's before that number mushroomed four-fold on one single infamous Tuesday!
Should Mr. Moner be representative of American intellectual leadership, I fear for our future. It has no rudder.
Al Czervik - 9/3/2002
Hussein was "our boy" in the 1980's?
I guess that explains the massive levels of Soviet military aid to Iraq during that period.
Alec Lloyd - 9/3/2002
I don't recall where Sun Tzu said surrender was preferable to victory.
War rarely takes place in optimal conditions, a factor Sun Tzu recognized. Even the greatest general cannot dictate every battlefield condition, nor can he change geography through force of will.
So we make the most of the situation, study the enemy, know our own strengths and weaknesses, and thus strive for the victory.
- a member of the US military who has read Sun Tzu.
Alec Lloyd - 9/3/2002
I think I can summarize your arguments thusly:
Bush is evil and an unelected despot;
Cheney and Republicans built and armed Iraq;
The American people passively allowed these thugs to take power; therefore:
They deserve to be hit with anthrax, smallpox or whatever else al Qaeda dishes out.
Thanks for you comments. You have successfully proved rationality is a false assumption (at least in some cases).
William H. Leckie, Jr. - 9/1/2002
Cramer says I "recognize the brutality of Hussein;" actually, I link his regimes to the US, since was our boy in the 1980s and we helped make him the strongman he is or was. He--Hussein--has not been such a bad guy that US corporations such as Cheney's Halliburton, do busines with him through foreign susidiaries Cramer ought to also bring himself back up to speed about the 1930s and reconsider the tired old comparison of an Iraqi dictator to Hitler, an allusion that he deploys in a gesture of name-calling without foundation (pacifists allegedly assisting Hitler's rise to power?) characteristic of Rightist rhetoric. But then, who can expect honesty or consistency from the Right? Cheney lied during 2000 about his relationship to the regime he now wants so belligerently to change. Hypocrisy and dishonesty, I guess, have their rational applications.
Cramer also oughtn't to wade into the choppy seas of rational choice and markets, either, by the way. It's wonderful to read a reactionary who asserts that anti-trust is a response by a sort of conspiratorial "irrationality" of economic actors. Very odd, no downright bizarre, but then, the market-utopian US Right is a pretty weird, irrational thing anyhow. The purpose of such regulatory mechanisms--including those that attempt, without much success, it seems of late--to regulate the financial markets is to preserve the integrity of competitive markets and the the fundamental assumption of market theory: a universe of small economic actors possessing equal informastion about a "market." To make it work theoretically it must elide the constraints of history as well, which makes "rational choice" a crazy--and irrational--thing for "conservatives" to advocate.
So, returning to Iraq: Military-accomplished "regime change" (a euphemism that sounds quasi-technical, a fascinating one, now a mantra, that I have yet to see anyone explore; why not "overthrowing the government of another, and weak country by killing lots of people and creating chaos in the Middle East?), anyway, this kind of madness needs to be confronted. The sorts of attitudes it is nurturing are, in fact, evil themselves.
I recently had a conversation with a well-educated, well-established and -connected bond trader, a GOP contributor and cheerleader for our unelected regime. He assured me a war against Iraq would be cheap and short. "We'll just drop a thermonuclear device on Baghdad and another on Tikrit," Hussein's home town, "and it'll all be over."
"That'll be something we can be proud of," I replied. He agreed it would be. Let me suggest that we have an corrupt, unelected regime, which received a minority of the popular vote in 2000, was established by judicial coup d'etat, and which is pursuing an authoritarian, corporate agenda with the support of well-financed organizations and an enthusiastic media. More than ignorance and testosterone are at work on the Right; so is just plain evil. Our regime has supporters whose ideas about the use of force are as terrible--and irrational--as those of the folks who helped bring Hitler to power. Fortunately, we have the humane values, democratic processes, and institutional resources to impede it if we have the will to confront it with candor.
Markham Shaw Pyle - 8/31/2002
I take as my text today some comments made by Gus Moner in this thread: first, those entitled 'RE: In Other News...comments on comments,' and second, those entitled, 'RE: In Other News... a critique.'
I do so because Moner is among the more representative yet the more rational of those opposed to United States (and UK) action against the present Iraqi regime: he thus 'wins the duck' insofar as I am responding, through his advocacy of the same, to a certain overall position.
In his post 'RE: In Other News...comments on comments,' Gus Moner writes,
'Well, well. We are onto a debate with thought labelling. We really must transcend that business of conservative, liberal labelling …'
I quite agree. Which is why such pigeonholing did not appear in my remarks.
'… and remain focused on the topic, which seems to be to attack or not to attack Iraq. Bear in mind that when you attack Iraq, you attack its citizens, men women and children, defenceless against both the tyrant and the would-be tyrant changers. No matter how odious you find its leader.'
To the extent this is true – that when we 'attack Iraq, [we] attack its citizens, men women and children, defenceless against both the tyrant and the would-be tyrant changers' – it was equally true in 1939 through 1945: 'when you attack Germany, or Italy, or Japan, you attack its citizens, men women and children, defenseless against both the tyrants and the would-be tyrant changers. No matter how odious you find the Axis leaders.' The argument is thus unpersuasive.
Note that I said, 'to the extent this [Moner's admonition] is true.' To a very large extent, it is not true. Certainly the purpose in renewing – note that, please: renewing – hostilities against the current regime in Iraq is not to attack its citizens, but to liberate them; the target of the renewed hostilities will be the current regime. And of course the United States and those of her allies who deign to participate (my guess is that they will almost all speak English as their native tongue) will, in keeping with the laws of war, make a good faith effort to confine military operations to military, and not civilian, targets.
Gus Moner then, oddly, states,
'It is essential that dictators and nations be decoupled. If we are after Saddam, let’s get him. If we are after the Iraqi nation and its oil reserves, let’s say that. Don’t mix them up.'
This is odd for several reasons. In the first place, I can only imagine the howls, and from what I've seen hereabouts I cannot but imagine Moner howling as loudly as anyone, were the United States to target Saddam Hussein for assassination, say, which is all I can derive from the statement '[i]f we are after Saddam, let's get him,' at least in the context of 'decoupling' dictators and nations. Nor does this suggestion comport with Moner's demand that we somehow not 'personalize' foreign policy (I take it Moner is actually urging against personifying evils).
Mind you, I have no moral objection to tyrannicide, any more than did Aristotle or Aquinas: but as a practical matter, Hussein's structural tyranny must be destroyed along with him, and after years of Ba'athism, Iraq will require a form of de-Nazification similar to that carried out by Lucius Clay in Germany.
Oddest of all, though, is Moner's dragging in the straw man, 'If we are after the Iraqi nation and its oil reserves, let’s say that. Don’t mix them up.' No responsible individual or group has suggested that 'we' are 'after' that: it's a canard from the lunatic fringe, and it is, I fear, sadly indicative of Moner's true agenda that he advances this rubbish in a way that makes it appear an alternative being canvassed equally to the liberation of Iraq and the removal of the threat posed by the current regime there.
'No credible proof exists for either the assertion, that al Quaeda (however it's spelled) trains in Kurdistan, (if true, then we’d best speak not to Saddam but to the USA's would-be Kurdish allies) or that Saddam hates bin Laden and therefore does not. The latter is anyway irrelevant. The former is a mere allegation.'
Again the parallelism conceals, if imperfectly, the agenda. Moner is not seriously interested in invoking a plague on both my and Sellars's houses; he is, rather, concerned to dismiss the assertion that Iraq is sheltering al-Qaeda. To the extent this matters, I would note that the Telegraph (yes, the UK paper) reported on 25 August that the murder (I'm sorry: the very, very determined suicide, in which he shot himself numerous times. Snort) – the murder of abu Nidal was committed by the Iraqi Gestapo upon abu Nidal's refusal to assist Saddam Hussein in training al-Qaeda cadres being sheltered in Iraq. My point here is that this may be a 'mere allegation,' but it is of the same evidentiary standard as effectively all the evidence cited by either side in this debate, and it is from a source that may be dismissed by some as 'conservative' (and therefore, to them, inherently incredible) but that cannot be dismissed as a mere American mouthpiece.
You will note that I said of the al-Qaeda link, 'to the extent this matters.' In fact, Gus Moner and I are in some slight agreement here. Moner has, if perhaps grudgingly, admitted that a 'reasonably legitimate cause for belligerence against Iraq would be serious violations of the cease-fire agreements, of UN resolutions and/or proven possession of banned WsMD.'
And there is overwhelming evidence that Iraq is, has been since before the ink on the cease-fire dried, and remains in daily violation of the armistice and all applicable UN resolutions: evidence more than sufficient to support a renewal of hostilities. As a matter of black-letter international law (I don't know, by the bye, when or if Gus Moner was admitted to the bar; I was so admitted in 1988, though I am gleefully retired), the armistice that suspended hostilities is no longer binding on the coalition because of the incessant material breaches thereof on the Iraqi side. Just yesterday, on 30 August 2002, USAF and RAF aircraft patrolling the Southern No-Fly Zone in accordance with that armistice were targeted, 'locked-on,' by Iraqi anti-air installations, preparatory to being fired upon. This is a material breach of the cease-fire conditions; it is also the 100th such incident in this year alone.
This is doubtless part of the reason Prime Minister Blair said this very morning that the world could not stand by and allow the Iraqi regime to remain in 'flagrant breach' of UN resolutions.
In fact, pace Gus Moner, ALL 'reasonable evidence exists that any of the Warmongers' (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Fleischer, Pearle, Rice, et al) assertions about Iraq are true.' Iraq has violated the cease-fire terms since the moment they were signed, on a daily basis. It has committed hostile acts – including actually firing upon our aircraft, as well as regularly seeking to fire upon them – against US and UK forces on almost every occasion of overflight, any of which Iraqi acts are a lawful casus belli authorizing the resumption of hostilities. It has violated the sanctions regime. It has violated the inspection regime – and its shills and defenders now have the gall to complain that there is no proof of its acquisitions of weapons of mass destruction now that it has shut the international inspectors out of the country for years on end. (Apparently chutzpah can be found even in the enemies of Israel.)
As Michael Gove pointed on 28 August in the Times (London), it would be irresponsible for any Western leader to rely on Iraqi good faith or even Iraqi incompetence in working the evils the current regime so clearly wills. Gus Moner seems to believe that protecting the security of the United States is not the United States's business, but that of, say, the goons and grifters representing tinpot tyrannies who together compose most of the UN General Assembly. On the contrary: the President of the United States and all US public officers have an oath to, a duty to, and owe allegiance to, the United States, the Constitution, and the citizenry thereof. They do not owe duty or allegiance to any other power, people, or entity.
Moner next asserts, 'The USA has no more right to "want regime change" in Iraq than in Ottawa. It's simply none of the USA's business nor within its rights as a charter UN member to empower itself to cause regime changes by war or any other means, and its international obligations require it to refrain from attacks or interference in the internal affairs of nations.'
Similarly, in the post entitled 'RE: In Other News... a critique,' Moner states,
'We are not dealing with an invasion of a recognised foreign power, as was the case with Poland and Pearl Harbour (and even Kuwait). [***] The Rhineland was German sovereign territory and attacking Germany for its remilitarisation could have fallen within the confines of broken treaties and legitimate repercussions. However, those treaties also had limits and methods for reaction,' and again, 'What the USA leadership are saying is that Iraq may have WsMD, may be helping al Quaeda, may develop nuclear capability, etc. No Iraqi invasion is on the table anywhere yet. There are no reports of troop concentrations, movements into disputed lands, or any other clear cause for war. [***] There are internationally recognised bodies for dealing with the Iraqi case, at least as the USA leadership is making it. Use them, provide the proof and ask for authority to act. Or, if the case to be made is violation of existing UN resolutions prove that and ask for authority to act.'
Further in the post 'RE: In Other News...comments on comments,' Moner echoes this proposed remedy: 'Therefore, when such credible evidence exists, it should be swiftly brought before the appropriate UN commission and they should make a determination as to what ought to be done.'
This, of course, is rubbish. (I say that with the greatest respect.)
Gus Moner may not like my analogies, but the truth does not cease to true merely because of iteration. The situation as it now exists with Iraq is very like that that existed between the Great War Allied and Associated Powers, after the Treaty of Versailles, and the Weimar Republic (under which surreptitious rearmament actually began) and its successor the Third Reich. Germany was prohibited by the terms on which it was granted peace from acquiring certain arms and weapons and the manpower to use them, and violated that prohibition. Iraq has done the same. Germany was required as a condition of peace to demilitarize a portion of its territory, and violated that provision. Iraq has done the same.
At any time prior to the denunciation of the Versailles Treaty, or perhaps the Anschluss, appeasers could have argued as Moner now argues that Germany had not committed a clear-cut, overt act in violation of its treaty obligations. Indeed, they did so, and they bear considerable moral guilt for the consequences of their gospel of inaction.
The parallel with Iraq is if anything a fortiori, in that Germany was violating an actual final peace treaty, whereas Iraq has been granted only an armistice, a conditional suspension of hostilities – and has consistently violated those conditions. At any time in the past decade it has been liable to be lawfully attacked. Recall, please, that Moner said, 'The Rhineland was German sovereign territory and attacking Germany for its remilitarisation could have fallen within the confines of broken treaties and legitimate repercussions. However, those treaties also had limits and methods for reaction.' In Iraq's case, there are no limits on reaction, as there is only a cease-fire in place, which, once broken, is naturally succeeded by a resumption of hostilities to whatever levels we care to go.
And indeed, with Iraq now as with Germany in the interwar years, the sooner would have been the better. Waiting for irrefutable proof that Iraq has acquired or is within weeks of acquiring weapons of mass destruction would be in fact immoral, as increasing the danger to those then called upon to destroy the regime, just as it was not the proper moral choice but was rather an abdication of moral imperatives for the Allied Powers of the Great War not to nip German rearmament and remilitarization in the bud at the earliest possible moment (a failure which leaves those who counseled inaction forever guilty of abetting the Holocaust as well as the combat and ancillary casualties of the Second World War).
Nor does Moner's conviction: that the proper response to Iraq's institutional violations of UN resolutions already subsisting is to go back to the UN for more wind: pass muster. It was in no wise incumbent upon HMG and the French government, in 1936, to have begged the League of Nations for authority to block the German reoccupation of the Rhineland DMZ, or to have the signatories of Versailles or of Locarno reconvene. Nor were they somehow obliged to wait for a 'clearer' or 'more serious' violation, such as the Anschluss or the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia or the unveiling of the Reichsmarine and Luftwaffe, both forbidden under the treaties. The British and French governments of the day had the right and the power to act unilaterally in the Rhineland Crisis instance or any other instance of violation of the treaties; what they lacked was the will, and the consequences of their supine dereliction of duty are all too well remembered even unto this day.
The same applies, a fortiori, to the present situation vis-à-vis Iraq.
Gus Moner concludes his 'comment on comments' with the piety, '[p]erhaps then we’ll finally be on the way to peace.'
Peace has its merits, but it is not the highest of all goods, a fact appeasers – whether of the Thirties, the Sixties, or the moment never seem to grasp. Freedom and liberty and security from the threats of aggressors and tyrants are also things good in themselves. Peace at any price is not a desirable goal: nor in the end is it even possible, insofar as it remains true, in this fallen world, that – until some messianic millennium dawns – those who beat their swords into ploughshares end up doing the plowing for those who kept their swords. As between the illusive peace of serfdom and the dangers of resistance and liberty, I'll take the latter, thanks.
Gus Moner - 8/31/2002
Although I cannot agree with the assertions and conclusions, hats off for a well done piece to Mr. Pyle who has anyway captured the essence of the argument. However, it bears mention that the analogies don’t fit the case. We are not dealing with an invasion of a recognised foreign power, as was the case with Poland and Pearl Harbour (and even Kuwait). That Churchill warned the dangers of Hitler and was eventually right is fine, albeit a pity, for he was not the PM and the leaders got it wrong. But it’s got nothing to do with what concerns us today.
The Rhineland was German sovereign territory and attacking Germany for its remilitarisation could have fallen within the confines of broken treaties and legitimate repercussions. However, those treaties also had limits and methods for reaction. As for Japan, attacking a foreign submarine in your naval station’s harbour might well fall within the self-defence of a nation. No one justifies Japan’s invasion of China. It’s not moot.
Indeed, the majority, perhaps all the arguments from the past being brandied about as lessons tobe applied for the Iraqi WsMD issue today are, I am sorry to say, irrelevant. What the USA leadership are saying is that Iraq may have WsMD, may be helping al Quaeda, may develop nuclear capability, etc. No Iraqi invasion is on the table anywhere yet. There are no reports of troop concentrations, movements into disputed lands, or any other clear cause for war.
Therein lies the conundrum of the situation. Flailing about blindly with illusory arguments based on facts that have nothing to do with the point at hand weakens what could be a good case for action against Iraq in another setting. Please, to each and every one, limit your analysis and comparisons to like cases. The rest borders on demagoguery and detracts from your arguments.
There are internationally recognised bodies for dealing with the Iraqi case, at least as the USA leadership is making it. Use them, provide the proof and ask for authority to act. Or, if the case to be made is violation of existing UN resolutions prove that and ask for authority to act. But for heaven’s sake and that of the 7,000 million inhabitants of Earth, please stop acting like the USA owns the world and has a right to impose its will whenever and wherever it pleases.
Rome did that too, and it worked for awhile……
Gus Moner - 8/31/2002
Well, well. We are onto a debate with thought labelling. We really must transcend that business of conservative, liberal labelling and remain focused on the topic, which seems to be to attack or not to attack Iraq. Bear in mind that when you attack Iraq, you attack its citizens, men women and children, defenceless against both the tyrant and the would-be tyrant changers. No matter how odious you find its leader.
It is essential that dictators and nations be decoupled. If we are after Saddam, let’s get him. If we are after the Iraqi nation and its oil reserves, let’s say that. Don’t mix them up.
No credible proof exists for either the assertion, that al Quaeda (however it’s spelled) trains in Kurdistan, (if true, then we’d best speak not to Saddam but to the USA’s would-be Kurdish allies) or that Saddam hates bin Laden and therefore does not. The latter is anyway irrelevant. The former is a mere allegation.
In fact, no reasonable evidence exists that any of the Warmongers’ (Rumsfeld, Cheney, Fleischer, Pearle, Rice, et al) assertions about Iraq are true. If true, and as serious as they claim, then let’s get them out in the open in front of the appropriate international group (designed by the USA amongst others) to deal with these matters, the UN.
The real issue is supposedly weapons of mass destruction, WsMD, their legality in Iraq’s possession and what to do about it, not a single person, Saddam. It’s time to stop personalising foreign policy. There’s an obsession to always associate a face to an enemy, Quadafy, Arafat, Castro, Khomeni, Ho Chi Min, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Breshnev. The list is endless.
The USA has no more right to “want regime change” in Iraq than in Ottawa. It’s simply none of the USA’s business nor within its rights as a charter UN member to empower itself to cause regime changes by war or any other means, and its international obligations require it to refrain from attacks or interference in the internal affairs of nations.
The only reasonably legitimate cause for belligerence against Iraq would be serious violations of the cease-fire agreements, of UN resolutions and/or proven possession of banned WsMD. And the only legitimate body to approve such actions is the UN. Or can Syria attack Israel because they believe they have nuclear weapons? If the USA were to institute cowboy diplomacy the world would indeed be a dangerous place, everyone acting to prevent supposed threats.
Therefore, when such credible evidence exists, it should be swiftly brought before the appropriate UN commission and they should make a determination as to what ought to be done. The sooner the USA and all its (conservative, liberal and centrist) citizens accept and play by the international rules of behaviour they helped draft, the sooner we can get down the apparently serious business of dealing with the supposed threat of Iraq’s WsMD. And whilst we are in the business of enforcing UN resolutions, let’s also get belligerent with Israel (with its own WsMD) so that it too observes the resolutions relating to it.
Perhaps then we’ll finally be on the way to peace.
Markham Shaw Pyle - 8/31/2002
(I know about the Closed Shop, too. No Conservatives Need Apply. And mind you, I'm a Democrat.)
Alec Lloyd - 8/30/2002
Actually, Kissinger HAS “greenlighted this one.” Where do you get your information?
Self-preservation is not a given in dealing with dictators. Hitler didn’t allow himself to be taken alive and, had he had a nuclear weapon, surely would have used it.
Should Iraq acquire a nuclear weapon, it would utterly destroy our strategic security. Using the threat of a nuclear strike, he could once more invade Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else he chose with impunity. He could even give a device to al-Qaeda, which could use it anywhere in the US. Again, how would we retaliate in the face of a nuclear threat?
Totalitarian regimes are inherently unstable and we are very fortunate that the fall of the Soviet Union was a tidy as it was. One should not take this good fortune for granted.
Alec Lloyd - 8/30/2002
Evidently, it is beyond the comprehension of Mr. Sellars that other nations besides the United States make “allies of convenience.”
There have been several credible press accounts of al-Qaeda training facilities in Iraq—facilities there before the September 11 attacks. How does Mr. Sellars know Saddam’s feelings toward bin Laden? Is he privy to their private chats? It is a fact that the well-publicised acrimony between the Assad and Hussein regimes in Syria and Iraq has not stopped them from collaborating in smuggling oil and weapons to one another.
Indeed, throughout the middle east, one finds regimes that ostensibly hate one another cooperating against their-party enemies. Hezbullah and Hamas (which hail from different extremes of Islam) are quite happy to collaborate so long as they can kill some Jews. Why would the Butcher of Baghdad act any differently?
Ah, but I forget, it’s all about dirty nasty oil (the three thousand dead in New York are merely a detail, I suppose).
By the way, that was an excellent parody, Mr. Pyle. Well done.
Alas, you’ve been labelled a conservative, thus nothing you say can have any further relevance. So open-minded are we of the academe…
Markham Shaw Pyle - 8/30/2002
Mr Sellars's factual misapprehensions regarding the Iraqi threat may merit response, I suppose, but they are so abecedarian I can scarce be bothered. I may get back to that when I have time to kill.
What I find most remarkable, though, is how the pious Mr Sellars, who professes such horror, such agony of mind, at my daring to be even mildly sarcastic in the creation of a reductio ad absurdum, can yet be so cocksure that he has correctly divined my nationality, politics, party affiliation, qualifications, and, presumably, shoe size: ought I suppose some mysterious 'psychic' process is at work? Equally curious is the, um, gentleman's haste to tar all or (o, that saving qualification!) 'the majority' of posters here whom he perceives to be 'rightists' with the brush of thoughtlessness and base motives. One would almost think Mr Sellars in indulging in ad hominem argument, not to mention several other evident fallacies ... but of course that were impossible in a man of such ostentatiously paraded virtue, is it not?
When and if Mr Sellars has something to say that is logically consistent, factually correct, and intellectually honest, would someone wake me from my nap? (I fear that canting hypocrisy of this sort acts as a soporific upon me.)
Bill Bernard - 8/30/2002
It is too bad the military can't teach its soldiers how to read Sun Tzu. Sun Tzu advocated attacking the enemy's alliances before war, and said never attack an enemy's defended city. Sun Tzu would never advocate war on Iraq.
Nigel Sellars - 8/30/2002
Mr. Pyle's ad hominen attack on Prof. Schlesinger in the end is typical of conservatives who refuse to deal with the facts. What has been going in Iraq that raises questions about any need to attack Saddam Hussein other than to lay our hands on the nation's large oil reserves? For one, the al Queada terrorists are allegedly in hiding in northern Iraq among the Kurds, whom we are ostensibly protecting from Saddam. For another, Saddam Hussein reportedly hates and despises Osama bin Laden. So the Iraqi president both harbors al Queada terrorists -- whom he supposedly hates -- and attacks their protecters at the same time?
The mind boggles at this bizarre logic -- although studying the positions of the America right in the 20th century has led to me understand that this attitude, a rather "Alice-in-Wonderland" phenomenon, is quite common among such political types. Such types also like to write long-winded but short-minded diatribes filled with invective and bile and character assassination. So much easier than actually studying the topic -- which is why Churchill, who did study things closely, is a respectable conservative voice and the majority of the authors of the comments found on this topic are not.
Markham Shaw Pyle - 8/30/2002
... this week's recovery of a sunken 1941 mini-sub from the Imperial Japanese Navy in the roadstead at Pearl Harbor shows that the US Navy fired first on 7 December, 1941.
Professor Schlesinger has issued a statement condemning this 'preventive act of hostility.' The sub was sunk before the main Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor began, and therefore, Schlesinger points out, 'the US Navy wantonly attacked a vessel of a power with whom this country was at peace. We are simply not that sort of people. Such an act was very probably the one contingency that led Japan to attack Pearl Harbor.'
In discussing what might have motivated US leaders at the time to act 'illegitimately and immorally,' Schlesinger blamed 'the arrogance of leaders who were sure they could predict the future,' both American and allied. 'That arrogance - it's very ethnocentric. And un-American: FDR seems to have caught it from Churchill.
'Churchill, you will recall, was illusively certain that German rearmament and the reoccupation and remilitarization of the Rhineland would lead to war, and all his actions were directed towards making that a self-fulfilling prophecy. Imagine what richer and more various possibilities history would have held if, after the German incursion into Poland, Britain and France had taken the moral high road and instituted sanctions and a policy of containment. But Churchill and his allies had spent a decade stampeding the government into hostilities, creating a political climate in which that would have been seen as weakness. Bobby Kennedy would never have done that.
'That's the messianic virus Roosevelt caught from the British: the hawkish certitude that such incidents as the Marco Polo Bridge, Mukden and Manchuria and Nanking, were absolutely predictive of Japanese intentions. And you see the result: this blind arrogance on the American side led to the sinking, in peacetime, of a Japanese submarine. We fired the first shot: an act - an infamous act - very much false to the American character. Of course retribution followed; of course Nemesis took charge. After we had acted in that fashion, is it any wonder that the Japanese Navy responded by attacking Pearl Harbor?'
Dr Schlesinger was then led away by attendants, for his nap and what they assured him was some 'nice medicine.'
Clayton E. Cramer - 8/30/2002
The assumption that human beings are rational actors in conomics works, not because everyone is rational, but because those that are irrational individually usually don't have enough power to significantly alter the overall behavior of the market, and their irrationality prevents them from working together. You can find some exceptions to this rule, and this is part of why we have Anti-Trust laws and the like.
Saddam Hussein is, in some sense, a "rational actor." But that does not preclude him taking actions that would be strongly to the detriment of the United States, such as supply weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. This would provide him deniability, while still enabling him to do enormous damage to the U.S.
I find it fascinating that you recognize the brutality of Hussein, and yet insist that the threat he poises is "an irrational fantasy." This smells like the excuses and justifications that pacifists used in the 1930s to assist Hitler to power--to whom Hussein has more than a little similarity.
Alec Lloyd - 8/30/2002
I assumed you were familiar with international relations terminology. I apologize. “Realism” in the context of foreign policy is a philosophy which views states as rational, unitary actors seeking to increase their national security. Other schools of thought include dependency theory (which is primarily economic in view) and hybrids mixing economics and traditional statecraft. Thus, it is possible for a “realist” to be “unrealistic" (because, for example, a state is proven to be non-unitary, as in Yugoslavia, for example).
Your argument is, of course, ludicrous. We did not repudiate the ABM treaty: we withdrew voluntary as the treaty itself provided. Far from being alarmed, Russia acceded to our decision quite amicably. Indeed, given that the previous signatory no longer existed, it is hard to see how the treaty itself was binding in the first place. One may just as well claim to be bound by treaties with the Holy Roman Empire. Who would enforce it?
The leaps of logic you much make are breathtaking. The UN is utterly ineffective. To date it has not prevented a single crisis, save with massive US direction. The UN’s Human Rights commission is dominated by dictatorships and most of its member nations are undemocratic. Rwanda, Somalia, Bosnia, Cambodia, etc. all took place on its watch. It is interested to watch people excoriate US foreign policy mistakes and then point to the UN as the solution to current dilemmas. If the UN is so mighty, why didn’t it stop us back then? It possesses zero moral authority.
The fact is, neither you nor Schlessinger have proposed any meaningful course of action other than wait and hope. Just like the 1930s. Had Britain and France intervened in the Rhineland, war would have been prevented. Millions of lives would have been saved. Please demonstrate how your “logical” argument for inaction is better than mine for action.
If it is immoral to attack a known aggressor nation such as Iraq now, BEFORE it possesses nuclear weapons, will it be more moral to attack it AFTER it has used them? Do you seriously doubt that it WILL use them, at least as a deterrent whilst it launches further terrorist attacks?
Finally, I am a member of the armed forces of the United States. I am willing to fight and die for my country and for your freedom. I love my wife and children dearly, more than you can ever know, yet I re-enlisted because it is clear that we must take this war to the enemy, for they have already taken it to us.
You would counsel us to turn to the UN, which was powerless to stop India and Pakistan from developing nuclear arsenals and will be equally unable to stop Iraq, Iran or any other rogue nation from doing the same. We shall then be faced with a coalition of radical, nuclear-armed dictatorships, proven supporters of terrorists. They will act with impunity, murdering countless innocents until their goals of One World One Faith are realized. Any threat of retaliation on our part will be met with nuclear deterrence. Thus will the West be forced to surrender for want of courage now.
This is the clear result of your policy. All of your sophistries and clever comparisons cannot obscure this signal fact.
James Thornton - 8/30/2002
I admire your idealism and use of logic to deconstruct Lloyd's argument, but as proficient as you are at criticizing others you have failed to forward a solution to the dilema we now face. The Left and pacifists have no alternative plan. We have been attacked and we are at war. We now need to win that war, and it appears that our leadership calculates that imposing peace on the entire Middle East region will undercut Islamic militisim. Iraq is the Gordion knot of the Middle East, not Israel-Palestine. I will go to war today so that my children will not have to tomorrow.
William H. Leckie, Jr. - 8/30/2002
Defenders of military pre-emption on the Right seem to want to have their cake and eat it too: In economic matters, at least, all human beings are rational actors, and that assumption underpins the imposition (non-martial pre-emption) of market ideology on the rest of the world, of which I suppose Dick Cheney's business dealings with Iraq are a part; on the other hand, Saddam's rationality is in question as justification for a drastic exercise of power which could have consequences we could never undo. Frankly, the threat Saddam poses to us is obviously an irational fantasy or a deliberate propagandistic construction, and the penchant for secrecy, suppression of dissent, elision of the history of our past relations with the Iraqi regime (including our tacit support of gassing the Iranians), and rigid pursuit of a narrow ideological agenda at home by the Bush administration, all strike me as expressions of an irrationalism that ought to alarm us.
James Thornton - 8/29/2002
I appreciate Mr. Moner's rebuttal, and on the whole I find that we agree on many points. Foremost, Mr. Moner and I hate war, as it is the worst of human conditions. War spawns death, disease, and famine in nightmarish proportions and brings out the ugliest in human beings. There is honor and courage in belonging to the armed forces, and I am member of the US military. I do my duty to the best of my ability when I deploy because I am a professional, and hate leaving family and home. I have nightmares about widowing my wife and orphaning my children. Yet, I chose my profession to defend my country, and honestly believe that what I am doing makes a difference in improving the world (at least for the Flag, Mom and Apple Pie). I like to think that besides taking life in battle a soldier has as much opportunity to save the lives of his buddies, non-combatants, and even enemy soldiers. I am a student of history because it helps me understand the ongoing conflicts around the world as well as the mindset of allies and adversaries alike. I am admittedly prejudiced towards American accounts of history, but understanding other views enable me to better predict enemy courses of action. We can agree to disagree on whether justifications for past American wars are valid or ethnocentric ramblings.
War is a human institution. Unfortunately it is therefore most probable to remain with us for the duration of our time on this planet (however long that may be). I would love to retire to teaching history. The main point I wanted to convey in my earlier posting is that the US will wage war to further its interests, and will find the justification for doing so. Every nation has done so, and America is no better, although it is flattering that many here and overseas hold the USA to a higher standard. Nations settling disputes through peaceful diplomacy is not the norm. The US-Canada-UK border demarcations are rare occasions that come to mind. It is the victorious soldier on the battlefield that makes peace rather than the diplomat enjoying evening cocktails. Most peace treaties are written in blood.
Europe and most of the rest of the world seems to have a problem with American power. I invite those who think that way to read "The Prince" by Nicolo Machiavelli without passing moral judgement on arguments for the exercise or acquisition of power. I also recommend Sun-Tzu's "The Art of War" and Clausewitz's "On War". The reader should consider what actions any other nation in the current situation faced by the US might take. Would Chinese or Russian hegemony be preferable to US domination? How would Moscow or Beijing react to the destruction of the Kremlin or Forbidden City?
Not to excuse US behavior or justify American actions, but is it not the legacy of European Imperialism that has led to many of the woes now faced by the US? The 19th century was the Century of Imperialism, and America was up to its eyeballs right along with Europe. The indiscriminate drawing of international borders (Berlin Conference and Sykes-Picot agreement) without regards for ethnic or demographic boundaries in addition to the two devastating world wars are directly attributable to today's geopolitical chaos that was temporarily suppressed by the Cold War. I honestly miss the Soviets because the world seemed to be more predictable, and as a consequence, safer with them around. Anti-Semitism in Europe and Russia, the Balfour Declaration, and the Second World War led to Zionism and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Saddam and the Saudis are only feeding fuel to that fire, but if I had to pick a dog in that fight it is certainly the Israelis.
We (being the West) made our bunk and we must now lie in it. As a member and leader of western civilization the United States has the responsibility to impose peace and order on nations that threaten American national security and vital interests. Chief amongst those is the safety of our allies, ungrateful and enviable as they are, and our economic prosperity. Yes, economic undercurrents to US foreign policy do exist and sometimes are masked by the smokescreen of politics. How many dresses are in the closet of the Flapper named Globalization I know not. America did not get involved in Burundi or Rwanda because there was no compelling reason (economic or political) to do so except to stop genocide. The Clinton Administration did not believe American interests were threatened sufficiently enough to warrant intervention (Somalia Redux?), but did in Kosovo. Racism and economics conceivably factored in the decision. Only a mind reader could know for certain, but a dead Albanian infant with blonde hair and blue eyes will certainly have more impact on American evening news programs than bodies of black Africans stacked liked cordwood. Racism, slavery, and the treatment of Native Americans are certainly the darkest stains on America's historical record. What would be preferable though, the US returns to Isolationism or jump into every conflict on the globe? Either absolute is unrealistic so some rationale for picking and choosing must be constructed. There is no morality when it comes to international relations because states do not look out for each other unless it is in their interest to do so.
In that vein, complaints of American unilateralism will fall on deaf ears on this side of the Atlantic. Recent examples being rejection of the Kyoto protocol, the International Criminal Court, and the imposition of steel tariffs. The detention of the persons at Guantanomo Bay probably violates the Geneva Conventions and International Law (an oxymoron like Military Intelligence). However, the national security of the United States, in my opinion, trumps both. The Bush Administration has handled the situation as humanely as possible. The US is in the position to make rules but is not subject to them because might makes right.
Concerning Iraq, Saddam does possess Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Washington, London, or both will eventually make that point clear. Furthermore, Iran is hostile towards the US and if it weren't for the latent threat of US force in the form of carrier battle groups the mullahs would happily seize the Strait and hold global oil supplies (and American economic prosperity) hostage.
With that I will close and encourage everyone concerned to pray for peace. Perhaps Saddam and his entire regime will miraculously decide to retire to some remote island in the Indian Ocean. Otherwise, we (US Armed Forces) are prepared for whatever the commander-in-chief asks us to do, and we will win.
Clayton E. Cramer - 8/29/2002
"Paraphrasing Ramsey Clark, if we were to shoot everyone we perceived as a threat on US streets, we’d be after each other until we wiped ourselves out." I'm confused: are you suggesting that if we knew of people with Saddam Hussein's criminal history walking the streets, we shouldn't attempt to arrest him, using deadly force if necessary?
Clayton E. Cramer - 8/29/2002
Mr. Schlesinger thinks that Hussein would never use WMD for fear of American retaliation. Very true: Hussein would have to be a madman to engage in a direct attack on the U.S. with a nuclear weapon. But if an Iraqi nuclear bomb ended up Osama bin Laden's hands, and then went off in say, New York harbor, what would the U.S. do?
We wouldn't know for sure who did it, or where the bomb came from. Of this you can be sure: there wouldn't any parts left over to take fingerprints from. What would do then? Nuke Iraq because they MIGHT have supplied the bomb? I'm sure that Mr. Schlesinger would object to that as well.
What I find really interesting is that liberals support the government disarming law-abiding adults because there is a small chance that they might misuse that gun and kill 6-20 people.
At the same time, they are horrified at the idea of disarming a nation run by a mass murderer that has murdered tens of thousands with poison gas, tortured vast numbers of political dissidents to death, and started wars that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. If Hussein does complete his nuclear weapon building program, and he hands it off to bin Laden, we aren't looking at 6-20 people dead, but hundreds of thousands to millions.
Mr. Schlesinger, your argument won't fly as long as you and the rest of the liberal establishment trusts mass murderers with nuclear bombs more than you trust law-abiding Americans with handguns.
Gus Moner - 8/29/2002
I fail to understand the writer’s assertion that one is blinded by one’s own “realist philosophy”. The definition of realism according to HarperCollins is: “awareness or acceptance of the facts and necessities of life; a practical rather than a moral or dogmatic view of things”. Thus, if one is aware and accepts reality, where is the blindness?
That titbit aside, what Dr. Kissinger says about a new mode of thinking does not automatically mean war making and pre-emptive strikes against supposed threats. Paraphrasing Ramsey Clark, if we were to shoot everyone we perceived as a threat on US streets, we’d be after each other until we wiped ourselves out.
I agree that the advent of weapons of mass destruction (WsMD) and rapid delivery systems (provoked by the US’s obsession to have them) are not trivial details and require new thinking. That does not automatically mean, however, that waging pre-emptive wars is the logical conclusion.
The comparisons to Hitler’s era are superfluous and don’t merit comment. With Hitler the agreements were regarding the fate of nations or peoples. Disarmament treaties are often unilaterally repudiated, as the USA has just done with the solemn and binding ABM Treaty signed with the USSR/Russia. Using the author’s logic, was Russia then to launch a pre-emptive strike against us???
India and Pakistan, nations that have fought numerous wars and carry on armed conflict over Kashmir to this day have both recently tested nuclear weapons. Are we to strike them pre-emptively, to avoid a massive conflagration in the future? The arguments don’t hold water. Where does one draw the line? Any nation or group is capable of obtaining WsMD. The scenario about giving such weapons to terrorist groups is not unfathomable, but not just Iraq can do it. Iran, N. Korea, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia and countless other nations ruled by cliques and dictators can do so. Why the obsession with Saddam and Iraq? Why give N. Korea 2 nuclear reactors when, according to Bush II it is a founding member of the so-called Axis of Evil? Can the writer not see the underlying contradiction of the entire anti-Iraq argument he developed? Some evil is less evil than others, true. But why lump them all together if they are not alike?
The diatribe about clinging to 1939 Anglo-French strategy (and waiting for the US) has no foundation of fact. The conditions are totally different. There is a functioning UN now. And, no one is threatening anyone, except for the USA threatening Iraq of course. Using the writer’s logic, the world ought to be ganging up against the USA for threatening world peace by threatening to enlarge the Middle East conflict by striking Iraq.
Regarding the assertions, #1 has no basis in fact. Number two does need further evaluation, but does not automatically free any nation to attack Iraq. Israel has violated and continues to violate numerous UN resolutions without suffering US attacks, in spite of its ceaseless murder of civilians and targeted executions in violations of its own laws (it has no death penalty). Why does no one advocate attacking Israel? Russia wantonly destroys, murders, captures citizens without due process, rapes women and violates every form of human rights known to humanity in Chechnya. Why do we not act there too? It also has weapons of mass destruction, many more than Iraq ever hopes to have.
Regarding three, the “actual state of war” mentioned cannot be declared by any one. It must go through Congress. If there is a state of war it is caused by US and British attacks on it. Not its attacks on the USA.
The USA also abuses its citizens, killing them and seizing them without due process. Is that justification for attacking the USA? Is that moral, coercive tactics by police against its citizens?
What, then, is the danger we face? The danger of right-wing revenge seekers and opportunists, who see a tame public cowed by events and the unfounded fears promoted by its own government, igniting further the blaze of killing in the Middle East to further control oil supplies. So, let’s start there. Bring peace to Palestine by controlling Israel, pursue terrorists through the legal process and where selective military situations arise in Afghanistan, and then, let’s see what threats develop. Don’t create danger and threats as enough of them abound already.
In the end, all this war talk and drum-beating begs the question; who personally wants to go or send their children to fight in Iraq?
mark safranski - 8/29/2002
Professor Schlessinger's Cuban Missile analogy is deeply flawed - Khrushchev a first among equals of an oligarchic system, not Castro, retained control of the nukes in Cuba. Castro, a unilateral dictator, wanted to attack the US and would have if he had controlled Soviet missiles. Castro's dictatorship, like Saddam's today, lacked even the rudimentary caution of the Soviet Politiburo.
RFK's Pearl harbor analogy is likewise flawed and was merely an emotional touchstone used in Excomm to rally opinion against the " surgical strike " option. Had Castro not Khrushchev been the deciding factor on the other side the outcome of the Blockade might have been much different.
Alec Lloyd - 8/29/2002
Schlesinger is blinded by his own realist philosophy and hostility to the current US government.
As Dr. Kissinger points out, the new world order demands a new mode of thinking. There were no nuclear weapons in 1648, nor was there the potential for a massive surprise attack capable of annihilating millions. These are not trivial details.
He repeats the bleatings of the 1930s pacifist set, which first overlooked Hitler's repudiation of solemn disarmament treaties (which were legitimate causes for war), then, once German rearmament was well underway, used Hitler's growing military strength as grounds to fear a confrontation.
Thus: we must not strike until Baghdad has an atomic weapon, when of course it will be impossible to strike because of deterrence. Should Saddam make multiple weapons and offer one to al-Qaeda, it could then be used with impunity because (under S's obsolete realist model) no state actor would be responsible. Iraq could condemn the act, offer to "hunt down those responsible" and (conversely) threaten nuclear retaliation if any action is taken against it. This model is clearly self-defeating.
One wonders if S (and his supporters) have forgotten their Thucydides. Preventative wars are as old as civilization and often justified. The 1648 model (one of many through the ages) is no longer valid. We are now in an age when non-state actors defy conventional definitions of rational self-interest. To be blinded to this reality is to face strategic irrelevance.
S and his ilk cling to their outmoded views like the Anglo-French military establishments of 1939. Unwilling to take decisive action in the face of a clear threat, their war plan is simply to dig in and hope for outside intervention from the US. Shall we also sit passively until Iraq is ready to strike? Who then shall we turn to?
Of course, even using the realist model, our action would not strictly be "preventative." In fact, it is fully justified:
1. Iraq is complicit in aiding non-state actors in terrorist attacks against allies of the US and the US itself;
2. Iraq invaded a sovereign nation and was defeated, but now continually violates the terms of the cease-fire, thereby freeing the US of its constraints; and finally
3. The US is in an actual state of war with Iraq even now, with numerous acts of belligerence on both sides.
The fact that Iraq's government abuses its citizens adds more strength to the argument for swift intervention. Indeed, the failure of the US to stand up to immoral regimes in the past adds more moral weight, not less. If we are to right past wrongs, we must start SOMEWHERE, and Baghdad 2002 is the right place to begin.
In every international crisis, there are reactionary forces of caution, people who see only the risks and none of the benefits. These same people may have benefited from previous risks, but lack the vision to take their own. The Bush administration needs no crystal ball to see the future that clearly looms in front of us. By closing their eyes to the danger that we face, Mr. Schlesinger cedes his own moral authority and, should his delaying argument become policy, must bear responsibility for the civilian deaths that will surely result from inaction.
JMP - 8/29/2002
I'm late in getting here, but I really don't think that rationality needs to play much of a role in deterrence. All we need is an instinct for self preservation,
this presumably is present in all people, the supremely rational and the 'quasi' or imperfectly rational. For years we heard that the Soviets were irrational
and unpredictable, and yet we now mourn them as one of the more rational enemies we've had in the latter 20th century. Was Stalin any less of a threat
than Saddam? Why didn't we take Patton's suggestion and just finish the job after WWII? Was killing 20 Million of his own people heinous enough for
us? What about our active aid to Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980's? Rusmsfeld was there and knew Iraq was using a variety of poison
gasses to kill Iranian troops, why didn't he object then? Ditto for Nasser's use of gas on his foreign adventures in the Sudan. Were these cuddly despots
any better than Saddam? Why didn't we take them out then? What justification for war do we have now other than to finish the job of a prior feckless
Bush at removing a local despot? Why did it take 2,000 US troops to 'remove' the CIA's former asset Manny Noreiga in Panama? How can we afford
this madness and invade anyone that displeases us or is *supposed* to possess WMD? Why not Iran, N. Korea, Syria, Lybia etc. Can we do this and
still call ourselves a Democracy and upholding the 'rule of Law'? Hey even Kissinger wasn't green lighting this one, and that's saying quite a lot!
Gus Moner - 8/28/2002
Mr. Schlessinger writes with the benefit of experience and betraying an understanding of wisdom acquired through the ages. I have seldom read such a clear case for keeping one's wits whilst others are losing theirs, to paraphrase an old saying. In these Wild West Days where we shoot first and ask later, a calm and reasoned argument for remaining "on target" but not pulling the trigger is welcome indeed.
Thank you Mr. Schlessinger.
Gus Moner - 8/28/2002
Well, clearly Mr. Thorton has read his US-authored history books. The comment “The United States has always opposed the nation that initiated the war” is really inspired. I would recommend reading from other nation’s and people's points of view, as it might broaden his already well-versed knowledge that unfortunately lacks diversity of sources.
The War of 1812 and that of independence were caused by groups of dissatisfied merchants and bankers; there was no vast people’s uprising. However, the wilderness environment of constant danger and conflict, coupled with the poor living and educational conditions of the immigrant settlers and their offspring made fertile revolutionary ground. The vast majority of people were indifferent or for the British, as the hundreds of thousands of refugees who streamed into Canada demonstrate. By the way, the US has never honoured the treaty promising to indemnify the property and businesses seized by the rebels from loyalist subjects. However, entering into a debate about the justification of these wars is a moot point. But let’s get the facts straight. Following the aforementioned wars, the US has had a fair amount of conflicts.
I shan’t enter into discourse about the longest, the Indian Wars, as Mr. Thorton seems to recognize their illegality and immorality and thus we agree in principle. However, his other points demand amplification, clarification or outright rebuttal.
In the first paragraph, Mr. Thorton covers a lot of ground. So, I shall break each point I want to clarify down by numbers.
1. Mexico was set up for war by incursions and provocations caused by “Anglo” settlers and US led and financed interests to annex Mexican lands. These include US assistance to Anglo-Texan independence advocates, leading to armed conflict and secession. There were US military forces aiding and abetting these disloyal and opportunist rebels. No one "gave" the US anything in this war, it was all taken by machination and force in an obvious attempt to expand.
It was a peace at gunpoint, without real merit, cause or reason to justify such an enormous land grab. Well over half the nation of Mexico was seized, for what he described as a minor "attack" on US soldiers, a trifling incident, as he will surely agree, except, as he says, for Manifest Destiny, whatever that was.
2. There is to this day absolutely no proof of Spanish involvement in the sinking of the USS Maine. Indeed, Spanish investigators discovered that the probable cause was gaseous build-up in the coal and engine areas, problems previously documented in that ship’s log. The USA refused to participate in a joint investigation as offered by the Kingdom of Spain. Moreover, the sending of that warship to an island in rebellion was a direct provocation, even if there had been no explosion. No one has ever proven Cuban rebels or Spanish official were involved. So, that entire war is definitely unjustified and attributable to yellow journalism and imperialist Manifest destiny, whatever that is.
3. Entry into WWI was caused by:
a) US arms manufacturer's insistence on sending civilian ships with weapons to Europe's Allied combatants.
b) US Bankers who financed the Allies with debt to the hilt. Imperial Russia's impending collapse coupled with the likelihood of it being followed by France and Britain unless the USA intervened, threatened the entire nation’s indeed, the world banking and financial system.
Eventually, the sinking of one of the ships, The Lusitania (it could have been any other ship) was used as an excuse to save the bankers and arms merchants. It was, disastrously for the planet, too late to save Russia.
4. Regarding entry into WWII:
a) The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour can only be attributed to increased US pressure on Japanese commerce and resources while that Empire was involved in a war with China. Japan was facing a US embargo that would have brought it to ruin in six months.
b) Germany's declaration of war on the USA can be directly linked exclusively to the madness of Adolph Hitler, thinking the Nazi war machine, (unbeknownst to him, about to falter), could beat everyone and anyone.
5. The Korean War can be attributed to the Chinese and USSR’s machinations of the Cold War and is not, as far as we know, attributable in any direct manner to the US. Mr. Thorton is right on that score, at least based on currently available data.
6. The Vietnam War was indeed supposedly fought to “contain Communism”, yes. However, the USA bears a great deal of responsibility for the intervention on the heels of the French withdrawal, the escalation, carnage and disrespect for a nation’s rights to be united while refusing for years to negotiate a settlement. Remember, here too we were bringing democracy to people, in the USA’s everlasting Crusade for Democracy and Capitalism.
Eventually, Laos and Cambodia were devastated as well, and all three are still reeling from the disaster. Neither Communist Vietnam and Laos nor non-Communist Cambodia have managed to gain any real ground on the poverty, devastation and lost generations caused by “containing Communism”. Anyway, I am not convinced about his assessment on this as being just to “contain Communism” as hundreds, nay, thousands of US firms benefited enormously from the war-related contracts.
7. The Gulf War was fought strictly to protect US oil interests in the oil-rich Kuwaiti and its neighbouring fiefdoms. At the same time, (and even now) there were numerous other conflicts where nations were invaded the world over in which the USA failed to become interested in fighting for. To name but a few, Communist China seized part of Kashmir two decades ago, but we felt no impulse to defend international boundaries there, nor when they seized Tibet. Numerous wars in Africa and Asia are causing human suffering beyond description, yet no US intervention is deemed necessary to liberate these lands or protect their international boundaries. Christian Armenia seized Nogorno Karabak from Muslim Azerbaijan, yet the USA did not have to defend international boundaries there.
Let us remember that the Iraqi leader who apparently is now # 1 enemy, was our ally against Iran, and we supplied all sorts of military assistance to him and his “moderate” people (according to Bob Dole and others) to help Iraq avoid defeat against Iran, who had humbled the USA in overthrowing our puppet, the Shah and the ensuing hostage crisis. Just as many others before him, including Bin Laden and the sundry Afghan ethnic tribes, who later became the USA’s enemies, some of whom are now the USA’s friends again.
And that brings us to today. And back to Iraq.
Mr. Thorton’s number one and A) reasons justifying war with Iraq is that it will benefit US interests greatly. This chauvinism and disregard for other people is emblematic of today’s Manifest Destiny. The reason labelled C) about “beyond a reasonable doubt” would ring hollow to the thousands held illegally and incommunicado by US government agencies today, and to the thousands wrongly condemned, even to death, by twisted police tactics. Regarding D), what Iranian threats is Mr. Thorton referring to? I have heard of none so far, and none are given. As far as E) goes, what on earth are Iraq’s WMD programmes? I suspect he may be referring to war making capacity of some sort. Nuclear, chemical, conventional war, or whatever meant, it begs the question. By what logic or, international convention are the US, Israel, India, China, Britain, Russia, etc. allowed to develop insane weapons programmes of mass destruction, which will be used in the event of attack, and certain other nations, even those directly threatened by the US, Israel and others are not allowed to defend themselves with like weapons? Inalienable rights of self-defence apply to all nations, not to the ones the US chooses to allow to defend themselves.
If he believes the Palestinians are only immolating themselves for Iraqi money, Mr Thorton needs to return to the library and study the origins and development of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The momentum gained in the Oslo peace accord, now in smithereens thanks to Ariel Sharon and Arafat, and in no small part because of their intransigence regarding the refugee issue, was due not to the ”political momentum gained by victory”, but rather to the promises for such a just settlement if the Arab states participated or remained neutral. Needless to say, notwithstanding the solemn commitment, the US has failed to deliver such an agreement.
Point 3. “Democracy will finally be brought to the Arab people”.
Section A) “Today not one single Arab democracy exists” is a statement waiting for a reason to exist. Is this the ultimate? This is really an appalling comment. Who are the USA or anyone else to bring anything to anyone? Enough disasters have already been brought by US and European interference in Africa, Asia and the Middle East to end up with the world in the miserable state it is in today.
Let people in each nation sort out their own development, how and when. It is not the role of any nation to bring democracy, capitalism or religion to any other people or nation. Please, Mr Thorton, keep evangelism within the confines of the state you live in.
The only reason Mr. Thorton espouses to want peace in any region is when US interests (read oil) are at stake. Why not bring peace to Liberia, Burundi, Kashmir, Shri Lanka? In Point B) The idealism about the Iraqi people’s potential is, nonetheless, commendable, and Mr. Thorton’s organisation of their nation along federal lines (with a “strong central government no less) is imaginative as well. Nonetheless, it unmasks an ignorance of the region that is troubling for someone so ready to sort it out. Mr Thorton’s overall war mongering, however, is the most troubling aspect of the discourse. I wonder if he will volunteer to fight in the war.
James Thornton - 8/28/2002
War is immoral under all circumstances save one. Defending against direct aggression is the one time that war can be morally justified. Sadly though, war is neccesary to further the interests of the state. The United States has always opposed the nation that initiated the war, and America has always espoused justifiable griveances for waging war. The unfair taxation policies of the British crown and the points made in Paine's "Common Sense" justified the Revolution. British attacks on American shipping was used in 1812. An attack on American soldiers in Texas was the cause of the Mexican War. The Civil War was all about preserving the Union. The Spanish-American War was sparked by the sinking of the USS Maine. Both World Wars are chalked up to German and Japanese aggression. The undeclared wars in Korea and Vietnam were to prevent the spread of Communism. The Gulf War was to repel Iraqi aggression against Kuwait, and the Kosovo conflict was to repel Serbian aggression against Albanians. The underlying geostrategic causes for American wars can be debated ad nauseum. We will always, as Americans, eventually justify why we wage war. The Indian Wars under "Manifest Destiny" are probably the notable exceptions, and are justifiably the target of revisionists, but the Revolution granted us independence. 1812 was all about territorial expansion in Canada, Mexico "gave" us California, the Civil War saved the Union, and Spain "gave" us empire in the Philipines, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico. World War I and World War II established a new world order with America as the leading imperial power vice Britain (which ceased to be "Great" in 1947). War in Korea and Vietnam demonstrated American resolve to win the Cold War, and Iraq and Kosovo halted international aggression in areas of strategic importance.
Today's situation with terrorism is a new phenomena. Stateless actors have attacked our homeland, and have caused a catastrophic loss of life and property. The reality is terrorism will always exist, but we can end state sponsored terror and prevent the use of terrorists using WMD. The way to accomplish this is to disuade "rogue nations" from sponsoring terror. The means to do this in Iraq may mean military action, and may differ completely than the approach taken in regards to Saudi Arabia or Iran for example. But there also strategic reasons for replacing the Ba'ath regime in Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
1. The installation of a democratic government friendly towards the United States will benefit American interests greatly.
A. The US would be able to reduce dependence on Saudi oil by gaining access to Iraqi oil (2nd largest proven reserves in the world).
B. The new government of Iraq would be less likely to sponsor terrorism. Don't be fooled that Saddam isn't doing so now. Our criminal justice system requiring "beyond a reasonable doubt" does not apply here. Just because there is no "smoking gun" linking Saddam to 9/11 shouldn't imply Iraqi innocence.
C. The US would be able to shift the presence of US troops from Saudi Arabia to Iraq and thereby remove one of the irritants that extremists complain about. Iraq is even more strategically located than Saudi Arabia given it's central location and overland pipelines. Our oil supply would be less vulnerable to Iranian threats in the Strait of Hormuz, and revenues generated by pipelines to Turkey, Syria and Jordan would make nice rewards for services rendered and carrots for good behavior.
D. American military presence in Iraq will increase pressure on Iranian hardliners and speed reform in that country. Saddam will have been made an example of and other regimes hostile to the US will have been put on notice to tow the line. American power should not be squandered. This is Imperialism and someday historians are likely to highlight 9/11 as the beginning of Imperial America and the end of the Republic. History does repeat itself and if we are recast as Rome why fight it?
E. The US will be able to insure that Iraqi WMD programs have been dismantled. UN inspections will not be neccessary and sanctions can be lifted. The benefit to the Iraqi people will be immediate.
2. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be resolved.
A. Saddam would no longer be able to provide monetary rewards for Palestinian terrorists.
B. Remember that Oslo was only possible because of political momentum gained by victory in the first Gulf War.
3. Democracy will finally be brought to the Arab people.
A. Today not one single Arab democracy exists. A democratic government in Iraq under American mentoring will prove that democracy is compatible with Arab culture and Islam. The pressure on other regimes to change their ways will dramatically increase. Peace will be more likely in the region because democracies are more likely not to wage war on one another. The combination of democracy in Iraq and lessening dependence on Saudi oil will probably cause regime change there as well.
B. The population of Iraq is one of the most educated and cosmopolitan in the Arab world, and transition to democracy will be relatively smooth. A federal republic recognizing the rights of the Kurds, Sunni, and Shi'a with a strong central government will work.
Therefore, regardless of the reason for war, many people in power in the administration probably recognize that it is in national interest to go to war with Iraq. Justifying that war requires moral clarity and that seems to be the challenge currently faced by the administration. The pros vastly outweigh the cons which are concerns that the MEPP will be destroyed, that we will make more enemies for ourselves, or that it is immoral to attack a nation without justification. Machiavelli and Sun Tzu counsel that war is of vital importance to the state. It is a valid tool in the box of statecraft. Peace is made not negotiated and to the victor go the spoils along with the opportunity to write history. That is why in the end we will not be alone in this coming war.
don kates - 8/28/2002
I accuse HNN of having attributed sentiments to the great Arthur Schlessinger which not only contradict multiple aspects of his long-held public positions, but make him look like a credulous fool.
1) Schlessinger has himself recognized that Saddam is a leader in the model of Adolf Hitler. Surely such recognition cannot be rec- onciled w/ equanimity about allowing Saddam to have nuclear and biological weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
2) S long expressed disquiet at U.S. possession of such weapons; how could he possibly accept Saddam having them?
3) S was very nervous about the idea that a beneficent "balance of terror" between the US and the USSR effectively deterred each of them from using WMD. How could he assert that there is no reason to fear Saddam having WMD because he would be committing suicide by doing so -- i.e., the US would eliminate him? If that is not a "terror" argument, what is?
4) S has long endorsed "gun control" because ordinary law abiding people cannot be trusted w/ guns. Yet the sentiments expressed in this article would suggest not just that we need not fear arms in the hands of ordinary people, but that we should have no fear even if Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Andrew Cunanan etc. were out stalking the streets armed to the teeth. Would they "commit suicide" by misusing their guns (Indeed, even if they did, the danger to public safety would be tiny compared to the danger Saddam would pose w/ WMD.)
5) Obviously S, who actually served in a Cold War administration, would not compare the position of "loonies" who urged preemptive strikes against the USSR, w/ its nuclear weapons-cum-delivery systems, to the entirely rational, and supremely moral, notion of acting to prevent a homicidal leader from obtaining WMD.
6) Nor would S compare non-military options against Saddam to our blockade of Cuba. Sanctions against Saddam have already proven not only ineffective but terrifically adverse to innocent people of Iraq. In contrast, the blockade of Cuba was not a sanction or not primarily so. It was a direct impediment that made it impossible for the USSR to ship nuclear weapons and missiles into Cuba.
Andrew Frechtling - 8/27/2002
I'm a retired F-16 pilot with 500 hours over Iraq, so I take a great interest in this.
As I see it, Saddam started the war in 1990, has failed to live up to the cease-fire agreements that he signed to prevent the destruction of the rest of his armed forces in 1991, and has tried to assassinate a former President of the United States since then. We don't need any more causi belli.
Orson - 8/27/2002
The assumption of rationality--that Saddam Hussein is a rational political actor--is precisely the crux upon which the current war debate rages.
Schlesinger claims that the Iraqi dictator is not interested in suicide. But what evidence do we have that he is a rational actor? The claim that "containment policy seems to be working" is most dubious.
Hussein could get the lifting of all trade sanctions by simply complying with the Gulf War treaty terms; he flouts all of them.
And why? (UN sanctions preceed the Gulf War based on his signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferaqtion Treaty; he turned out to be within a year or two of gaining nukes.) Apparently, to continue spending on WMD--otherwise, why not comply with open and unrestricted UN weapons inspections?
And what of the assumption of rationality? Does a rational actor chemically gas his own people? His own troops?
Finally, Schlesinger writes: "Unilateral preventive war is neither legitimate nor moral. It is illegitimate and immoral. For more than 200 years we have not been that kind of country."
As Kissinger argues, since The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, the sovereignty of the nation-state has been international law. This butresses Schlesinger. But didn't Grotius write favorably of Englands pre-emtive attack on the Spanish Armada? Aren't we, similary, in the post 9/11 era, in a New world of WMD? That can be unleashed secretively--just as Hussein's Iraqi Intel aided the WTC-1993 bombers?
Doesn't this show us that the new fears and risks are realistic and call for change in accepted international law?
- Stanford historian uncovers the dark roots of humanitarianism
- Historian hailed for offering a history of the culture wars
- Scholars to set the West straight about "Apocalyptic Hopes, Millennial Dreams and Global Jihad"
- Why Eugene Genovese’s 2 sentences about Vietnam went viral in 1965
- Historians named to the 2015 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences