Kto kogo ?

by John Quiggin on May 25, 2004

When you want the most succinct statement possible statement of the power politics view of the world, VI Lenin is your only man[1]. A lot of free-market advocates of revealed preference theory, and supporters of exit over voice, would be surprised to learn who they are quoting when they refer to people voting with their feet.

In relation to the proposed “handover” of power in Iraq on June 30, the only question that really matters is the one posed by Lenin “Kto kogo ?”, that is, “Who can do what to whom?”.

In particular, will the Iraqi government be able to issue orders to Casey (the new US military commander) or vice versa. The idea that there can be some sort of harmonious division of responsibilities in which this question does not arise is not worth taking seriously. Just consider the following cases, all arising within the past month, which would certainly have implied conflict between the US forces and any Iraqi government worthy of the name

  • The original assault on Fallujah and the subsequent decision to hand the city over to a Sunni militia
  • The decision to press charges against Sadr and the subsequent assaults in Najaf and elsewhere
  • The raid on the offices of Chalabi, an IGC member

If the “multinational force” has to seek permission from UN-installed Iraqi politicians every time it wants to do something like this, there’s bound to be a lot of angst among the US military. But there’s no alternative. A supposedly sovereign government that countenanced such actions without demanding direct operational control would be discredited in a matter of weeks rather than months.

It’s a positive sign that everyone, including Bush, has now effectively abandoned Clause 59 of the US-imposed interim constitution, which guaranteed the right of US forces to stay in Iraq more or less indefinitely. But I still can’t see the US accepting real Iraqi sovereignty, before or after elections, unless of course the US elections intervene.

fn1. As I argue here, it’s possible to get into a position when the power politics view is the only one that matters, and, when this happens, Lenin is the most reliable guide available. But the history of Russia shows that this is not the position you want to start from, wherever it is that you want to end up.

Update Blair has answered the question, in the way I had hoped. It remains to be seen if Bush and the Pentagon go along with this.

{ 28 comments }

1

keef 05.25.04 at 2:20 pm

John Quiggen Footnoted:

“As I argue here, it’s possible to get into a position when the power politics view is the only one that matters, and, when this happens, Lenin is the most reliable guide available. But the history of Russia shows that this is not the position you want to start from, wherever it is that you want to end up.”

As Digby writes, with supporting documentation:

“Grover Norquist is probably the most influential Republican the country has never heard of and he is a true believer in power politics…”

Norquist may be the most nakedly oriented toward power politics, but Delay, Bush, Rove are not far behind.

And, to extend the Bolshevik connection, Norquist (in a quote Digby says may be apocryphal) said in the eighties:

“A revolution is not successful unless it succeeds in preserving itself…(W)e want to remove liberal personnel from the political process. Then we want to capture those positions of power and influence for conservatives. Stalin taught the importance of this principle.”

Here’s the Digby post excerpted above:

Movement Defectors

Keef

2

keef 05.25.04 at 2:20 pm

John Quiggen Footnoted:

“As I argue here, it’s possible to get into a position when the power politics view is the only one that matters, and, when this happens, Lenin is the most reliable guide available. But the history of Russia shows that this is not the position you want to start from, wherever it is that you want to end up.”

As Digby writes, with supporting documentation:

“Grover Norquist is probably the most influential Republican the country has never heard of and he is a true believer in power politics…”

Norquist may be the most nakedly oriented toward power politics, but Delay, Bush, Rove are not far behind.

And, to extend the Bolshevik connection, Norquist (in a quote Digby says may be apocryphal) said in the eighties:

“A revolution is not successful unless it succeeds in preserving itself…(W)e want to remove liberal personnel from the political process. Then we want to capture those positions of power and influence for conservatives. Stalin taught the importance of this principle.”

Here’s the Digby post excerpted above:

Movement Defectors

Keef

3

keef 05.25.04 at 2:21 pm

Ouch, nasty double post. Sorry.

Keef

4

Doug 05.25.04 at 2:49 pm

What do more than forty years of limited German sovereignty tell us? The analogy may have been overdone by the right, but it’s not completely useless. The four occupying powers had a great deal of rights that limited German sovereignty over German territory, and this situation persisted for a protracted period. Not only that, but anomalous situations among the four powers, as well as between the powers and one German government or another, also persisted for long periods. The lesson I draw is that sovereignty is not as black and white as this post implies.

(In fact, once you start poking around in it empirically, sovereignty will probably turn out much squishier than this post implies: Europeans pool theirs, some states have none worth speaking of, others exercise it on far less than their full territory, still others are so constrained that they make little use of what’s nominally theirs, and the idea that the sovereignties of, say, Sao Tome e Principe and Japan, are equal is an only occasionally convenient fiction. Discussing whether or not Iraq is sovereign is meaningless without a definition of sovereignty, and without some reference to the real world where limited sovereignty is much closer to the norm than the exception.)

5

james 05.25.04 at 3:19 pm

Slightly off point I know, but I don’t have a blog and would like to get something off my chest.

Andrew Sullivan now seems to be saying that even if it was a wedding party that was attacked in Iraq “[i]t was a legitimate military target. If civilians were killed, the responsibility lies with those terrorists who use civilians as human shields for their deadly work.”

Now I’m not an expert on the laws of war. But I doubt he’ll express similar sentiment should (God forbid) a suicide bomber blow up an Israeli wedding party that happens to be attended by a few Israeli soldiers. And I think I have some idea how people would react if anyone did try to defend such an act.

6

Matt 05.25.04 at 3:20 pm

I really do hate to pick nits, but, whatever the conventions may be aside, please note that ‘kgo’ isn’t a possible russian word. Probably it should be ‘kogo’, which in turn should really be written ‘kovo’ if you want to be anything close to how it’s said. (This, at least, is what my Russian wife vouches for.) ;)

7

Mrs Tilton 05.25.04 at 4:30 pm

Probably it should be ‘kogo’, which in turn should really be written ‘kovo’ if you want to be anything close to how it’s said

Right on the first part, but I must object on the second. Or would you have the Russians write hoo and hoom?

It’s interesting, BTW, to note that the same construction was used by seminal pop duo TaTu. And some say the Leninist tradition is dead…

Note to Nat Whilk: the ellipsis above is utterly devoid of sinister portent.

8

Nat Whilk 05.25.04 at 4:47 pm

Mrs Tilton wrote:

Note to Nat Whilk: the ellipsis above is utterly devoid of sinister portent.

You seem to have me confused with Yabonn. Do you also think it was Danny Ainge who bit Tree Rollins finger?

9

Mrs Tilton 05.25.04 at 5:21 pm

Nat,

no, I was referring to this comment of yours on another thread:

How dark are the undertones of these ellipses from the Talking Points Memo you mentioned

I was concerned that you might see (or hear) dark undertones in my comment where there were none.

Do you also think it was Danny Ainge who bit Tree Rollins finger?

Ah, here you have exposed one of the many sad lacunae in my cultural literacy, I’m afraid. I have no idea who bit Tree Rollins’s finger. But I do hope Mr (or perhaps Ms) Rollins will recover speedily.

10

Nat Whilk 05.25.04 at 5:44 pm

Mrs Tilton

I was referring to this comment of yours on another thread:

How dark are the undertones of these ellipses from the Talking Points Memo you mentioned

If you were paying attention, you might have picked up on the fact that that statement was intended as a sarcastic response to Yabonn. To me, an ellipsis is just an ellipsis (and a sigh is just a sigh).

I have no idea who bit Tree Rollins’s finger.

No one bit Tree Rollins’ finger. Rollins bit Danny Ainge’s finger.

11

bryan 05.25.04 at 6:36 pm

‘What do more than forty years of limited German sovereignty tell us? ‘
the ruinous effects of the world war that iraq initiated, not to mention their numerous war crimes, make some decrease in sovereignty reasonable, also note that we will be protecting them from the commies, so they will definitely want us there.

‘sovereignty will probably turn out much squishier than this post implies: Europeans pool theirs’

with absolutely no cause for doing so other than having voted to do so. amazing. those europeans are freaks.

‘some states have none worth speaking of, others exercise it on far less than their full territory’

vassalage is really hip nowadays.

‘ Discussing whether or not Iraq is sovereign is meaningless without a definition of sovereignty, and without some reference to the real world where limited sovereignty is much closer to the norm than the exception.)

if you don’t have the power to tell us to fuck off, you are our bitch.

12

Giles 05.25.04 at 7:17 pm

“Just consider the following cases, all arising within the past month, which would certainly have implied conflict between the US forces and any Iraqi government worthy of the name”

I think this is a bit of a circular post – bascailly you’re saying that if they don’t disagree with the US, then they’re not worthy of the name.

As pointed out above there are countless examples of succesful shared, pooled and split soevereignty from the EU, Germany, Japan to the concept of the British Protectorates.

NB is the Queensland State Government worthy or not worthy of the name?

Why and why not?

13

Doug 05.25.04 at 7:50 pm

Thanks, bryan, it’s clearly easier to snark than to discuss. (Parenthetically, Germans, for one, have never voted to pool sovereignty. They have voted for various governments that have had pooling sovereignty as part of their policy. If you think that’s an airtight argument for voting to pool sovereignty, I give you the WTO. Also, pooling sovereignty, voted or otherwise, simply proves my point that sovereignty is much squishier than implied in the original post.)

A project I was peripherally involved with considered sovereignty as one measurement related to transformation. The key questions were “Does the state have a monopoly on the use of force in its entire territory?” and “Can the state effectively enforce its laws across its entire territory?” Getting out a globe and thinking about all the countries demarcated so bravely in solid colors shows how many states have to answer “No” to one or both those questions. It’s a fairly sobering exercise. Empirically, though, it’s beyond dispute that numerous states have severe limits on their sovereignty, and that over the last five to ten years, a number of states (Liberia, Somalia, Congo, Afghanistan) have collapsed to the degree that they have no sovereignty worth the name.

John’s picture of sovereignty as an on-off switch doesn’t get us very far, nor does pretending that all states in the system are equal.

Contrary to John’s assertion, the question of what lies between military occupation and coalition withdrawal at the behest of whatever Iraqi authorities come next is worth taking very seriously indeed, because that will be an important post-June-30 question.

14

Thomas 05.25.04 at 8:23 pm

It’s an interesting question.

But don’t we need to figure out the answer in Yugoslavia first? I mean, it isn’t clear to me what the status of Kosovo is, even now. I don’t know who can do what to whom, and yet no one is asking any questions about that arrangment of limited sovereignty within limited sovereignty. The sovereignty of Serbia, remember, was to be respected, at the same time it was violated, and Kosovars were to be given sovereignty, to the extent not inconsistent with the UN’s administration of the province and the sovereignty of the FRY. The UN’s power came, of course, from the loaded guns of Nato, not from the decisions of Kosovars or Serbians or even the UN. And of course the Nato action was taken without the consent or approval of the UN.

First things, first. Let’s figure out the wars of the 90’s before we puzzle over the wars of the ’00s.

15

Anatoly 05.25.04 at 10:31 pm

Two blunders in the title consisting of seven characters?

It’s “kto kogo”, without the comma. And it’s pronounced kto-kaVO, in case anyone cares.

16

Anatoly 05.25.04 at 10:35 pm

Not to mention that it doesn’t mean “who can do what to whom?”, but rather something like “who [will defeat] whom?”

Sheesh.

17

bryan 05.25.04 at 10:36 pm

It is indeed easier to snark than discuss if statements seem more snark worthy than discussion worthy. It can also be that certain statements seem so absurd to one that they prompt snarkiness because it is difficult to consider that they could in any way be honestly made. Case in point:
“Parenthetically, Germans, for one, have never voted to pool sovereignty. They have voted for various governments that have had pooling sovereignty as part of their policy. If you think that’s an airtight argument for voting to pool sovereignty, I give you the WTO. “

Well although one could with reference to games theory invalidate any form of modern democracy(not saying you do this, just noting it could be done) I pretty much go with normative understandings of democracy which suggest that if you vote for a government which has a policy of x then you have voted for x, of course if you vote for a government that has a policy of not-x and it implements x then you have not voted for x. A propos your example of the WTO, the WTO I’m betting does not loom as large in the minds of the voters of most democratic nations as the EU looms in the minds of EU nations. Not even near. That is the kind of example that makes me itch to snark, but I understand it is not helpful.

‘Getting out a globe and thinking about all the countries demarcated so bravely in solid colors shows how many states have to answer’
I’m sorry but this means nothing to me, indeed it strikes me as a form of misdirection. you want sovereignty in Iraq, but what is sovereignty, look at this globe, the globe however has not been acknowledged by me as an arbiter of what constitutes sovereignty. What has been acknowledged as the arbiter of what constitutes sovereignty? Well, probably the earlier referenced quotes about controlling violence and who does what to whom and so forth.

Then you say:
“it’s beyond dispute that numerous states have severe limits on their sovereignty, and that over the last five to ten years, a number of states (Liberia, Somalia, Congo, Afghanistan) “
again, I feel like snarking because I feel like I am being subjected to a very cunning form of trollery here, the mention of Afghanistan, which has had it’s sovereignty reduced in the same way that Iraq has had its reduced – by being attacked by the U.S – does not seem to me a good argument for why Iraq can still be a sovereign nation while taking orders from the U.S.
The snark would be, oh yes, Only by being subjugated by the U.S can a middle eastern nation be free to pursue its own destiny.

But of course there is another more essential argument here, which is that you indicate your example countries as ones without sovereignty as though this should indicate that sovereignty is a not understood quality. Funny ain’t it, we don’t know what sovereignty is, but in making your argument you refer to the quality all the time as though it does indeed have some well understood quality. By saying that these nations have no sovereignty worth the name it in no way invalidates that the sovereignty which Iraq will come to possess will likewise not be worth the name.

“Contrary to John’s assertion, the question of what lies between military occupation and coalition withdrawal at the behest of whatever Iraqi authorities come next is worth taking very seriously indeed, because that will be an important post-June-30 question.”

Oh hell, gotta snark: Of course the question of what lies between military occupation and coalition REFUSAL to withdraw at the behest of whatever Iraqi authorities come next is worth taking just as seriously as what happens after coalition refusal to withdraw.

In fact, my eyes must be getting tired but I can’t find the part where John makes any kind of assertion about the timeperiod between handover and withdrawal.

18

Carlos 05.25.04 at 11:07 pm

Doug, I don’t really understand your point. Sure, there are different states of sovereignty ranging from absolute to nonexistent, but if you look at the criteria employed in that project (which is a pretty low level) you’ll see that the future Iraki government will probably fail that test. So, yes, sovereignty is squishy, but only up to a point, and Irak will be at that point.
Of course there are arrangements out there with even less sovereignty than that, but they are usually forced by fear of an enemy or other cause and they are really the exception. Right now, the Iraki population doesn’t look very well disposed to this kind of diminished sovereignty and it will probably become a problem.

19

John Quiggin 05.25.04 at 11:12 pm

In response to giles and others, I’m not asserting that sovereignty is inherently indivisible and that Leninist power politics are always applicable. Rather I’m saying that the situation in Iraq is such that this is the case.

anatoly, I had it as you did, then changed because other sources seemed to give the kgo transliteration, but I’ve changed it back. As regards your translation, whatever the literal meaning, the one I give makes more sense as a claim regarding what politics is about.

20

Tom T. 05.26.04 at 2:11 am

Regardless of any substantive merits, Lenin’s statement seems to be losing some of the cited virtue of succinctness, if it has to be as heavily annotated as it has been thus far.

21

Giles 05.26.04 at 2:23 am

Perhaps an appropriate measure then would be to measure Iraqi sovereignty after 30/6 against countries in similar siutations.

So do we think Iraqis will have more soveriegnty than

a) Kosovo today
b) Haiti today
c) Germany/Japan in say 1947/8
d) Ivory Coast today
e) Gaza today
f) Sierra Leone today

I’d say yes to all of the above (except perhaps Haiti and IC), which is some acheivement considering that the US have only occupied Iraq for about a year – compared to Kosovo which has been reconstructed for the last 7.

22

Giles 05.26.04 at 2:23 am

Perhaps an appropriate measure then would be to measure Iraqi sovereignty after 30/6 against countries in similar siutations.

So do we think Iraqis will have more soveriegnty than

a) Kosovo today
b) Haiti today
c) Germany/Japan in say 1947/8
d) Ivory Coast today
e) Gaza today
f) Sierra Leone today

I’d say yes to all of the above (except perhaps Haiti and IC), which is some acheivement considering that the US have only occupied Iraq for about a year – compared to Kosovo which has been reconstructed for the last 7.

23

John Quiggin 05.26.04 at 3:01 am

Given that the invasion was presented as a “liberation”, I’d suggest that more appropriate comparators might be France or perhaps Italy.

But in any case, my point is not that some level of sovereignty is desirable in itself, but that, in the particular circumstances that apply in Iraq, this question can’t be evaded for long. Continued autonomy for the occupying forces would be a disaster, not because it would violate some abstract norm, but because it would guarantee the failure of the whole enterprise. Blair can see this, obviously.

24

Giles 05.26.04 at 5:01 am

the invasion of Kosovo, IC, Haiti and Sierra Leone were presented as a “liberation”/ ethical foreign policies.

But that aside, no army ever gives up autonomy – even UN peacekeepers generally adopt a take it or leave attitude e.g. Pakistan, Bangladesh in Somalia, Sierra Leone. So again I think your hurdle is too high. If they can’t have autonomy, they would simply leave and I don’t think that there is anyone else is prepared to go in and keep the peace on a non autonomous basis – so the US is the best option we’ve got.

Anyway the idea of withdrawl/soverignty seems to be a gradualist approach which I think makes sense; shock approaches have usually failed and would most definitely fail in Iraq now. Not a good idea.

25

Thomas 05.26.04 at 6:14 am

John, I’m not sure why you believe that there will inevitably be conflict between the US and the new Iraqi government. Do you forget that the US will continue to provide, so long as it is satisfied with developments, $20 billion in aid for reconstruction? Do you suppose the US would continue those payments if it weren’t allowed some autonomy? Do you think the Iraqi government would restrict autonomy at the risk of the $20 billion? I don’t think there’s likely to be much conflict between the two. And, as far as I can tell, you haven’t offered any reason to think that the lack of conflict will be the death of the new Iraqi government. As it is, there’s plenty of reason to think that both the US and Iraq will do whatever is necessary to keep the other happy, and there’s little reason to think that the Iraqi regime will pay a political price for the eventual accomodations necessary on both sides. I think this is a question that can be avoided for quite some time–two or three years even, though I don’t expect it will take that long to work things out.

26

BadTux 05.27.04 at 1:42 am

$20 billion dollars in “aid” are only going to American contractors, and so far have resulted in little more than whitewashed schools and a few repaired oil pipelines. The Iraqis may very well be willing to forego further such “aid” in favor of doing the work themselves using their oil revenue. As one noted liberal noted, Iraqi oil could generate $50 billion to $100 billion in revenues over two or three years. “We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon,” he told a House committee in March 2003.

Of course, the actuality is far less than what that dastardly liberal Paul Wolfowitz lied to Congress about in March 2003, but still, their oil revenues are nothing to sniff at. 2 million+ barrels a month at current oil prices is not peanuts.

-E

27

Doug 05.27.04 at 10:48 am

Bryan, I think I liked it better when you were just snarking, without having to pretend that you weren’t.

Nevertheless, I was actually thinking about Afghanistan pre-invasion, i.e., Taliban Afghanistan (not so much state-sponsored terrorism as a terrorism-sponsored state) and pre-Taliban Afghanistan. Somebody better versed in the history can say whether warlordism is the historical norm there, or whether there is a better period that could be a positive reference point. I realize this line of thinking could not be discerned from what I wrote, hence the extra post.

Will have to chime in with giles in noting that John says the only sovereignty worthy of the name is that which agrees with his political p.o.v.

As John says above, he’s trying to avoid making a general assertion about sovereignty, but I think he’s making the partisan point that giles notes.

Finally, I think bryan’s eyes were tired, because I was not talking about a time period between handover and withdrawal, but rather conditions along a continuum between occupation/military government and withdrawal. Contrary to what John says in the post, this is worth taking seriously. Or at least as seriosly as a blog can manage.

28

bryan 05.27.04 at 6:10 pm

‘ I was not talking about a time period between handover and withdrawal, but rather conditions along a continuum between occupation/military government and withdrawal. Contrary to what John says in the post, this is worth taking seriously. ‘

okay well I’ll rephrase: In fact, my eyes must be getting tired but I can’t find the part where John makes any kind of assertion about the timeperiod between occupation and withdrawal.

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