Ignoble Lies

by Henry on August 27, 2004

Over the last couple of months, Brad de Long has been documenting how difficult it is to find independent academic economists who are prepared to defend Bush administration policy. I haven’t seen anyone else saying this, but the same is true of international relations scholars. For a long while, the consensus among right-leaning realists, as well as liberal and lefties, has been that the invasion of Iraq was a disaster. I don’t know of any serious IR scholars who are prepared to defend Bush’s foreign policy (I’m not counting policy wonks in AEI etc, who face what we may politely describe as a different incentive structure). There have to be some out there – but as best as I can tell, they’re keeping very quiet.

Which is all by way of context for John Mearsheimer’s paper on “Lying in International Politics,” to be presented at the forthcoming APSA meeting in Chicago (thanks to Martin Weiss for bringing it to my attention).

Mearsheimer is on the right – he’s one of the heavyweights of IR theory, and a trenchant critic of liberal multilateralism. Despite all this, the paper is less an exercise in high theory than a very thinly veiled attack on the recent policy of the Bush administration. Mearsheimer notes that the Bush administration probably believed that it was acting in the national interest in its “lies about WMD and Saddam’s links to al-Qaeda,” but doesn’t pull his punches. While he is not opposed to lying in international relations per se, he suggests that the type of “fear-mongering” employed by Bush is fundamentally anti-democratic, and liable to “backfire and lead to a foreign policy disaster.”.

This kind of lying is based on a certain amount of contempt for the public and for democratic processes. Elites, according to the logic, cannot trust the wider public to support the correct foreign policy if it is given a straightforward assessment of the threat environment … The problem here is that the elite’s contempt for the public is likely to spill over into the domestic realm as well. Once a state’s leaders conclude that the people do not understand important foreign policy issues and thus need to be manipulated, it is not much of a leap to employ the same line of thinking to domestic issues.

Mearsheimer also draws the obvious link between fear-mongering and policy – policy debates in which elites are lying to the mass public are unlikely to lead to happy outcomes.

It is … possible – maybe even likely—… that the reason the elites are having difficulty making their case in the face of public doubts is that they are pushing a wrongheaded policy. If they had sound arguments, they would be able to defend them in the marketplace of ideas and not have to deceive the public. In such circumstances, the government’s policy is likely to have bad consequences.

This is strong language for an academic paper. I’ve thought for a while that the Iraq war and its lead-up are likely to replace the Bay of Pigs as the standard IR case-study of a foreign policy screw-up. Mearsheimer goes one step further – he seems to be saying that the administration’s foreign policy is not only disastrous in itself, but is having a more general corrupting effect on US politics. I’m not sure if I altogether buy the underlying causal argument – the administration’s penchant for lies didn’t begin with Iraq – but he’s surely onto something.

Update – proper link to Mearsheimer’s paper added thanks to “mdp” in comments.

{ 45 comments }

1

Ophelia Benson 08.27.04 at 1:58 am

Interesting. But…

“If they had sound arguments, they would be able to defend them in the marketplace of ideas and not have to deceive the public.”

But that’s not always true, is it? Depending on how you define ‘sound arguments,’ of course, and ‘have to’. Did the US ‘have to’ get involved in WWII? Maybe not. Maybe it would have survived and even prospered if it hadn’t. But what a nasty world it would have had to do it in.

Sorry, I’m being cryptic. But the reason I say that sentence is not always true is because surely Roosevelt told a good many whoppers before Pearl Harbor. That he had no intention of taking the US into the war, for example. He could have given sound arguments for why a Nazi victory would be undesirable, but would he in fact have been able to defend them in the marketplace of ideas? That’s doubtful, isn’t it? Everything I’ve ever read on the subject said the US public was just adamant that it did not want to get into that war.

Not that I’m defending Bush; I’m not. I’m just wondering if that one sentence is really true. It seems a little Pollyanna-ish, to me. As if sound ideas are never simply rejected in the marketplace of ideas.

2

Henry 08.27.04 at 2:07 am

Mearsheimer discusses the WWII example at greater length in the paper, although he doesn’t really give a satisfactory way of distinguishing WWII situations from Iraq-type situations.

3

Dutch 08.27.04 at 3:22 am

The paper was a good read, but I think it would have been better if the author had limited his scope to the US. I had difficulties applying his reasoning to a (small) EU country. Yet the references to the current political situation in the US were unmistakable.

4

Giles 08.27.04 at 3:25 am

“If they had sound arguments, they would be able to defend them in the marketplace of ideas and not have to deceive the public”

Unfortunately the marketplace you describe seems to have somewhat limited access:-

“I’m not counting policy wonks in AEI etc”

In your market you can buy any idea – as long as its consensus red!

5

MDP 08.27.04 at 3:32 am

If you don’t want to dig through the APSA’s labyrinth of menus, you can read “Lying in International Politics” here.

6

Giles 08.27.04 at 3:57 am

there is also the simple rationality problem – if Bush knew that there were no WMD, then he knew that invading Iraq would reveal this and therefore dispel the public’s fears. So fear mongering would seem like a fairly short sighted strategy.

The paper would have been better if it addressed Blair not Bush – ie an elite that exagerated because of its charecter, not as a result a deliberate/rational policy.

7

JRoth 08.27.04 at 4:34 am

Ophelia-

Of course you know that the US had no choice whatsoever about participating in WWII – war was declared on us, not vice versa.

But your point seems to be about FDR before Pearl Harbor. Surely he was cagey, if not outright dishonest, in his public pronouncements about the European war prior to Dec. 7. But that caginess was the opposite of Bush’s, understating his own convictions and intentions in response to American popular opinion. In other words, he allowed himself to be lead, to some extent, by public opinion – exactly the correct position for the leader of a democracy.

To be more clear, Bush in FDR’s position (and with his intentions) would have started claiming German vs. US aggression in lae 1939, would have reminded people of WWI, would have exaggerated the near-term threat posed by Hitler. FDR worked more by coaxing along, relying on the goodwill most Americans felt towards embattled England to move public opinion in a more interventionist direction.

But of course the analogy implodes almost immediately, because the Axis actually was a threat to the US. Unlike the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, arguably WWI, and certainly Gulf War II, WWII was a war of necessity, one which needed no official lies to involve the US.

This is a bit of a mess. Let me be clear: FDR might have been able to truthfully (as in, win in the marketplace of ideas) goad the US into the war sooner – the atmosphere through much of 1941 was “Hitler’s a bad one; we’ll probably have to get involved at some point” – but FDR recognized that taking a divided country to war is a recipe for disaster. Bush counted on being able to (dishonestly) convince a scant majority to go to war, then count on rallying around the flag. It worked in the short term, but has led to big troubles for him and for us over the last 12 months. WWII would not be The Good War if we’d jumped in, over the heads of the America Firsters, in 1940. Instead, it would remain an ambiguous, embittering war that would still divide the country to this day.

8

Brian Weatherson 08.27.04 at 4:36 am

Precisely what is the evidence that Bush doesn’t lie because of his character? Blair has never tried to pull a stunt like Bush did with the lies _to his own party_ about the cost of the prescription drugs bill. That’s the kind of thing that reveals poor character.

9

cw 08.27.04 at 4:47 am

I think there is a good possibility that Bush himself was decieved and that he believed what he was saying was true. The problem is, in this scenario, that he doesn’t have the critical thinking capacity to figure things out on his own, so he has to trust his advisors, who are a canny, evil lot.

10

Thersites 08.27.04 at 4:54 am

So taking a democratic nation to a badly-planned war by hysterically pimping flimsy lies (nonsensical nuclear claims, patently absurd AQ ties) to a populace traumatized by an enormous national catastrophe (9/11) is a… Bad Thing?

What a radical notion.

Academic papers, or torches and pitchforks? Hmmm…

11

Mark 08.27.04 at 5:00 am

I suppose it would be asking too much for someone on the anti-war left to actually present a coherent argument – using evidence mind you, rather than bumper-sitcker catchphrases – that the war was a bad thing. I mean, there is that small matter of liberating 25 million human beings from a fascist dictatorship. Remember what is was like to oppose fascism instead of supporting it?

12

woodturtle 08.27.04 at 5:39 am

Another essay on the Iraqi future and narrow media coverage.

http://arabnews.com/?page=7&section=0&article=50432&d=25&m=8&y=2004

13

Kimmitt 08.27.04 at 6:05 am

Remember what is was like to oppose fascism instead of supporting it?

Thinking that a particular war against a particular dictatorship is bad policy is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as supporting dictatorships (or the idea of dictatorship). Which you must know, if you have the wit to post a grammatically correct sentence on the internet. So good on you for trying to redefine the debate, but your terms are nonsensical, and I decline to adhere to them.

14

Barry 08.27.04 at 7:02 am

The argument is not only nonsensical, but self-contradictory: ‘using evidence mind you, rather than bumper-sitcker catchphrases’, then later ‘Remember what is was like to oppose fascism instead of supporting it?’.

15

Barry 08.27.04 at 7:13 am

I have to take exception to Mearsheimer’s belief that spinning is easier to defend against that lying. The point of mentioning ‘Saddam Hussein’ as close to ‘9/11’ as possible, as many times as possible, was that that wasn’t a refutable assertion, which a flat-out lie would have been. However, it still had a nice effect (IIRC, >50% of Americans thought that Saddam was involved with 9/11).

16

vernaculo 08.27.04 at 7:32 am

“…distinguishing WWII situations from Iraq-type situations…”

Meaning the moral imperative of the one and the venality of the other? All the cards aren’t on the table though are they? There are moral imperatives in Iraq, as there were in Poland, and China, and there are people who have benefited militarily and economically from what was and is a disaster for pretty much everyone else involved.
The naive optimism behind the view of Bush as someone who’s almost too simple to drive a car, who yet had the Napoleonic will and manipulative cunning to engineer a bloodless legally-obscured coup that netted him the leadership of the most powerful government the world’s ever seen, is endearing, but it makes me wistful and sad.
It seems to be forbidden to discuss the true motives of the Iraq invasion and occupation except in terms of greed and hubris; an agreed-upon failure.
But it may have been a success, if its goal was a politically destabilized, economically ruined Iraq.
A resounding success, in that that’s exactly what we have now.
Is it possible the current situation wasn’t anticipated? I suppose it is.
Is it possible the current situation was anticipated? I suppose it is, as well.

17

bad Jim 08.27.04 at 7:36 am

Sadly, Barry, a rather substantial proportion of Americans continue to associate Iraq and September 11 and consider Iraqis our enemies.

18

Jack 08.27.04 at 7:39 am

The WWII example is something of straw man isn’t it? From the quotes in the article he at least doesn’t start by denying a role or attraction for expediency. If anything quite the contrary.

In the second passage he is also clearly right in saying that liars cut themselves off from feedback.

Surely the general rule about lying to people to get them to do thngs is that you are responsible if the people you lie to don’t like it when you get found out. If you made the right decision either the people will be happy or it will be worth suffering their opprobium to have done the right thing. A similar case is the torture in case of a terrorist with an atom bomb example. Faced with that situation you should go right ahead and torture and then throw yourself at the mercy of th law and, if you got it right be pardoned.

The WWII exculpation, by suggesting forgiveness because it seems to have been rather useful in another case and introducing subjective criteria as a defence, opens the floodgates in exactly the “where will it all end?” kind of way that Mearsheimer seems to be worried about.

19

bad Jim 08.27.04 at 9:02 am

The current situation in Iraq, plus instability in Venezuela and Nigeria, does seem to be driving up oil prices. Perhaps it’s not out of the question that this was the desired outcome.

20

ajay 08.27.04 at 9:21 am

WWII would not be The Good War if we’d jumped in, over the heads of the America Firsters, in 1940. Instead, it would remain an ambiguous, embittering war that would still divide the country to this day.

I personally would respect Tony Blair a good deal more if he had said “Just as America supported us against Hitler, we will stand by them against Saddam Hussein. Go to it, Mr Bush – we’ll join you in a couple of years’ time. In the meantime, if you run short, we can sell you some obsolete Land Rovers in exchange for Puerto Rico.”

21

Martin Wisse 08.27.04 at 11:58 am

” I mean, there is that small matter of liberating 25 million human beings from a fascist dictatorship. “

Two words:

Abu Ghraib

HTH.

22

Mark 08.27.04 at 1:36 pm

“Thinking that a particular war against a particular dictatorship is bad policy is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as supporting dictatorships (or the idea of dictatorship).”

This is an attempt to re-write history (something else the left has often done). The anti-war left did not just “think that a war against a dictatorship was a bad policy”. The anti-war left, through old & new media, campuses, professional organizations, state organizations, etc. mobilized public opinion in an attempt to stop the war. The effect of their opposition would have been to condemn Iraqis to slavery, mass torture and genocide. Although Saddam’s fascist Baath party and the anti-war left are two distinct entities, the practical effect of the policies championed by both would have been the same for Iraqis.

The anti-war left supported fascism. If it makes you feel any better, it wouldn’t be the first time.

If you want to argue that the abuse at Abu Graib tips the scale of suffering in favour of keeping Saddam in power, and justifies the left’s support of him, go for it.

23

Jim Miller 08.27.04 at 2:03 pm

Henry –
Here’s a simple question: Can you name a single academic department in which arguing for Bush would be good for one’s career? Or one’s relationships with colleagues? A single department, that’s all I ask.

We alll know how important the open discussion of ideas is to academics, so I am sure there must be one such department.

24

dsquared 08.27.04 at 2:36 pm

Blair has never tried to pull a stunt like Bush did with the lies to his own party about the cost of the prescription drugs bill.

Hmmmm there were a lot of us who thought he came close on the last higher education bill.

25

kevin donoghue 08.27.04 at 2:49 pm

“Can you name a single academic department in which arguing for Bush would be good for one’s career?”

No, nor one where it would be a good career move to argue the case for a flat earth, creationism or the possibility of perpetual motion. It should be noted however that I don’t live in America, where some of these ideas may have their defenders.

My main problem with this question however is that I have no idea what a pro-Bush argument, fit for presentation in an academic setting, would look like. Non-academic arguments read like a portrayal of a disturbed state of mind: evil…freedom…appeasement…God…terror… oil for palaces… with us or against us…Islamofascist…Leadership…Euro weenies…Saddam brutal tyrant…resolve…9/11…WMD…flip-flops…world war four…liberals…character…. evil…freedom…appeasement…God….

26

Steve 08.27.04 at 4:12 pm

If you want to argue that the abuse at Abu Graib tips the scale of suffering in favour of keeping Saddam in power, and justifies the left’s support of him, go for it.

And if you want to argue that 10 to 20 thousand dead Iraqi civilians (so far), who-knows-how-many wounded, the widespread destruction of crucial infrastructure, and the very real possibility of Iraq tumbling into a decades-long spiral of instability, chaos, and civil war are of no importance in this little game of moral calculus, that’s your right. There seem to be quite a few Iraqis who feel differently, but what do they know?

27

Steve 08.27.04 at 4:13 pm

If you want to argue that the abuse at Abu Graib tips the scale of suffering in favour of keeping Saddam in power, and justifies the left’s support of him, go for it.

And if you want to argue that 10 to 20 thousand dead Iraqi civilians (so far), who-knows-how-many wounded, the widespread destruction of crucial infrastructure, and the very real possibility of Iraq tumbling into a decades-long spiral of instability, chaos, and civil war are of no importance in this little game of moral calculus, that’s your right. There seem to be quite a few Iraqis who feel differently, but what do they know?

28

praktike 08.27.04 at 4:14 pm

Kevin, I think you could make an academic argument for Bush based on military history.

But the problem is that we don’t live in a world where you can just slaughter people at will anymore.

29

Michael 08.27.04 at 4:18 pm

Mark,
I suppose it’s too much to ask rightwing American politicians, who have spent 59 years overturning democratic governments and installing fascists dictatorships (Iran, Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, IRAQ, etc.) – or just supporting fascist dictatorships (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Nicaragua,South Korea, apartheid South Africa,Pakistan, etc.) to explain when and why they decided this ONE fascists – Saddam – was bad?

30

Andy 08.27.04 at 4:43 pm

I don’t know anything about Mearsheimer, but I note his Chicago affiliation, and it’s interesting that his “Lying” paper is a great corrective to what I call the “pop Straussianism” that has become identified with the neocons.

The problem with the noble lie is that it assumes the philosopher-kings possess the truth. Once that assumption’s gone, then the free market of ideas becomes a better alternative than the elite machinations of people who are at least as deluded as the masses they seek to manipulate.

I suspect that Leo Strauss would’ve inclined much more to Prof. Mearsheimer’s point of view than he would to that of his supposed modern disciples.

31

Mark 08.27.04 at 5:25 pm

Steve,

I’ll take on your challenge. You can start: source your evidence and identify the moral theory you are using.

Michael,

Your assertion is a type of ad hominem tu quoque; prior allegedly immoral conduct is irrelevant to the moral nature of the Iraq war. Even the left-leaning HRW has correctly noted the fallacy of this view. Try again.

32

Barry 08.27.04 at 7:01 pm

Posted by Jim Miller:

“Here’s a simple question: Can you name a single academic department in which arguing for Bush would be good for one’s career? Or one’s relationships with colleagues? A single department, that’s all I ask.

We alll know how important the open discussion of ideas is to academics, so I am sure there must be one such department.”

[Note – this is based on publicly available information, since I have little or no access to faculty gossip, in any institution]

Here are the academic connections of current Bush admin people. For the obvious reason, I’ve got to work backwards in time, with the exception of Glenn Hubbard:

Hubbard – currently dean of the Columbia Business School.

Mankiw – Harvard econ department.

Kass – University of Chicago

Wolfowitz – Dean and Professor of International Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of The Johns Hopkins University.

Condoleeza Rice – provost and professor at Stanford University.

So that’s Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Chicago and Stanford.

33

Redshift 08.27.04 at 7:09 pm

I find it highly likely that Bush honestly believed that Iraq had WMDs. People who compulsivly lie even when there appears to be no particular benefit are frequently adept at lying to themselves.

34

Sebastian Holsclaw 08.27.04 at 7:11 pm

“Thinking that a particular war against a particular dictatorship is bad policy is not the same thing by any stretch of the imagination as supporting dictatorships (or the idea of dictatorship).”

And talking about being against dictatorships while pretending that they tend to go away without the use of force isn’t supporting them either. It just doesn’t tend to get rid of them in less than two or three generations. Which is fine for those of us who don’t live under them I suppose.

35

Steve 08.27.04 at 7:30 pm

Which is fine for those of us who don’t live under them I suppose.

In much the same way that wars of choice are “fine” for many people who stand no chance of being killed in them.

36

Steve 08.27.04 at 7:51 pm

Steve, I’ll take on your challenge. You can start:

Nice try. If you want to “take on my challenge,” you can do so by responding to the substance of my post, rather than challenging me to name my “sources.”

And speaking of “sources,” what precisely do you dispute in what I wrote? Is the estimate of 10 to 20 thousand civilian deaths in Iraq just one more myth promulgated by the “antiwar left”?

On a more general level, given that the Iraq war was a war of choice waged against a country that posed no immediate threat to the US, I would contend that the burden of justification is on the prowar side. Tell us by what measure you feel that the benefits of the war outweighed the costs. (I realize that this is an imperfect exercise, given that those costs continue to accumulate as we speak.)

And in addition to the costs that I’ve already enumerated, we might as well address the subject of this thread. Somewhere in our cost-benefit calculation, we need to account for the fact that what we’re now told is the greatest benefit of the war is, in fact, not the reason we were given for the war in the first place. Under what “moral theory” is getting rid of Saddam such a moral imperative that it justified a deliberate campaign of outright deception in order to gain the support of American public opinion?

In other words, Mark, you start.

37

Mark 08.27.04 at 9:38 pm

Ok, Steve. Here goes.

Using a rough utilitarian moral theory, and basic HRW estimates of slayings under Saddam’s regime, the moral case for the war is as follows (see Norm Geras for a further explication): HRW estimates 290,000 dead under Saddam, with 230,000 confirmed (this is excluding the 1 million killed in the Iran/Iraq war). He ruled for 23 years or thereabouts, so that’s about 10,000 dead per year. In anticipation of your counter-argument, excluding part of Saddam’s rule from this calculation must be reasonably justified. Likewise, arguing that “Saddam was finished killing” should also be reasonably justified, preferrably with reference to case studies of killing rates of other genocidal fascists. Note also that the figure of 230,000 is low, and is thought to be higher by many of those who lived under him. The project to catalogue the victims in his mass graves is ongoing.

I dispute your figure of 20,000, but let’s assume it is correct for a moment. Set the aforementioned figures against your figure of 20,000 (unsourced); on a death-rate calculation, the liberation saved more lives than it will have taken in 2 years. You can speculate that more Iraqis will continue to die, but after the passing of the short term, you have to confront the fact that more Iraqis will have been alive now than would have been under Saddam.

In addition, you are going to have to set the post-war insecurity, & pre-war slavery, mass torture and genocide under Saddam against the democracy already practiced in Iraq (municipal elections in the South and Kurdish North), and proposed democracy (elections in Jan, 2005 or thereabouts) & the freedom of speech, religion, thought, movement, contract, etc. One should also account for Iraqis’ views in all this – out of a sense of decency if nothing else – who, contrary to your outrageous suggestion, overwhelming favoured an end to Saddam’s rule. A deontological moral theory would favour the pro-war side, in my view.

Your turn.

38

james 08.27.04 at 9:49 pm

steve – Amnesty International estimates deaths by Saddams government in the hundreds of thousands. Exactly how many deaths are required before intervention is morally justified?

No WMD’s where found. What was found where several hundred mass graves from Saddam’s rule and hundreds of disappearances. If someone supported the war solely on the WMD issue, they where wrong. If someone opposed the war solely on humanitarian concerns, they where wrong.

39

Tom 08.27.04 at 9:53 pm

“Surely the general rule about lying to people to get them to do thngs is that you are responsible if the people you lie to don’t like it when you get found out.”

Maybe, but there’s also the desire to aviod regret. For about 45% of the electorate, admitting that Bush has misled the country repeatedly would involve acknowledging that one’s vote for him was misplaced, as was one’s faith in his ability to lead.

Fortunately for those people, the proliferation of pick-your-own-ideology media (and the increasing post-modernism of conservative discourse) means that epiphany need never come.

40

kevin donoghue 08.27.04 at 10:08 pm

“Mearsheimer goes one step further – he seems to be saying that the administration’s foreign policy is not only disastrous in itself, but is having a more general corrupting effect on US politics.”

Surely this is not a very radical view? IR realists have always been concerned that an aggressive foreign policy, disregarding whatever type of international law prevails, eventually undermines respect for law at home.

41

vivian 08.28.04 at 3:01 am

The problem is that academic right/left doesn’t map well onto the US political right/left scale. Mearscheimer and Huntington and so on have been academic-work-right-wing for a long time now, but if I recall right, take some pride in being centrist-democrats. Some of the academics and recently-privatized academics who supported the war on Iraq did so despite historic ties to Clinton and/or vocal oposition to other Bush policies (pharm, protection, stem cells, ashcroft, etc.). There was some academic support for a leaner and faster-responding army, but not for using the invasion/occupation to push that ideological line. Mearscheimer is academic-right-wing in having a unitary-rational-decision-maker, billiard-ball model of each country’s decisionmaking, doesn’t respond to objections, clarifications and alternative models. (Though he’s always courteous and civil in person.) Actual politicians can’t ignore domestic power-squabbling whichever party they join (yes, even Nader).

42

steve 08.28.04 at 3:17 pm

Mark & James:

The thread has gone cold so it’s probably too late at this point, but:

Mark cites HRW’s estimate of casualties of Saddam. You’re probably aware that HRW has explicitly rejected any humanitarian justification for the invasion of Iraq. I won’t go into their argument because I think Ken Roth makes the case far more eloquently and effectively than I could hope to do:

http://hrw.org/wr2k4/3.htm#_Toc58744952

It strikes me that both of you are relying on a very straightforward analysis based on numbers killed under Saddam vs. deaths resulting from the invasion. I still haven’t heard how all the other costs of the war get factored in. Is a child who lost an arm in a US bombing half a casualty, for this purpose? Do we consider the marchers gunned down by Iraqi police in the last few days semi-casualties, since they weren’t directly killed by Coalition forces? How do you account for the unintended consequences of the decision to invade? If Iraq falls into a state of all-out civil war such that, say 100,000 people are killed in the next 5 years, will the invasion then be 50% less justified than it otherwise would have been? Or will it no longer be our problem by then?

These are the kinds of factors that I think need to be brought into the equation…that’s the point I tried to make with my original post.

And neither Mark nor James has yet addressed the topic of the thread: the fact that this act of humanitarian altruism was made possible only because the US and British governments engaged in a deliberate campaign of manipulation, fear-mongering and outright deception. How many “points” for that?

43

Eric Rasmusen 08.29.04 at 12:04 am

For a cost-benefit analysis of the Iraq War by three top economists that finds it clearly worthwhile (vs. a containment strategy), see the paper by David, Murphy, and Topel at Chicago:

http://gsbwww.uchicago.edu/fac/steven.davis/research/War%20in%20Iraq%20versus%20Containment,%20Weighing%20the%20Costs%20(March%202003).pdf

As to whether being pro-Bush would hurt a scholar’s career, you have to look at it department by department. Every once in a while one sees an actual count of registered Republicans in poli sci departments, often coming up with figures like “1 out of 19” in a department. Just because Bush can staff his Administration with economists from top departments not mean he could do so with poli sci profs from top departments. Are there are any poli sci departments know for, say, having even half as many Republicans as Democrats? Thisis particularly striking since we might imagine it hard for someone in poli sci to get publications nd tenure based on his brilliant methodology even when people hate his policy conclusions and consider them pernicious.

44

JamesW 08.30.04 at 4:49 pm

Mearsheimer: “For example, if we replayed the 1930s, most people would probably applaud any lies told to enhance public awareness of the threat posed by Nazi Germany.”
The few members of the élite like Churchill who did identify the threat from Nazism based their insight on clear evidence of the character and intentions of the Nazis: their rabidly antisemitic and ultranationalist writings, systematic street violence and intimidation of critics, and extreme political unscrupulousness.
Lies of the WWI “Huns bayonet babies” type would have weakened, not strengthened, the difficult case for standing up.
Communists did tell lies about Nazis – they were tools of German capitalists, weren’t they? – and surely counterproductively.

45

Jay 08.30.04 at 7:06 pm

there is also the simple rationality problem – if Bush knew that there were no WMD, then he knew that invading Iraq would reveal this and therefore dispel the public’s fears. So fear mongering would seem like a fairly short sighted strategy.

I think Bush knew there were no NUKES, but the phrase “Weapons of Mass Destruction” was intended to lump together chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear weapons. Nukes scare people in a way the chemical weapons do not.

So it wasn’t really lying, though it was misleading.

If we had found chemical weapons, Bush would have declared himself vindicated, but the sleight-of-hand fell apart when none of them even showed up.

I endorse Mearsheimer’s view. I never thought that 70 percent was a high enough approval rating for a wartime president.

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