The Iraqi Resistance and the Noble Cause

by Daniel on January 13, 2005

The Iraqis will be going to the elections at the end of the month, so it is unsurprising that the insurgents have stepped up their campaign of blowing up tanks and chopping off heads. The is an awful lot of rubbish talked about the Iraqi insurgents; a simple look at the geographical distribution of their attacks shows that they unlikely to all be Sunnis or Ba’athists, and they are not targeting civilians in much greater proportion to military targets than we are. Whatever Christopher Hitchens thinks, they are the direct moral equivalent of the Viet Cong; they represent much of what is worst about the human condition, and any future in which they gained power would most likely be outright disastrous, but for all that, to take up arms against an occupying foreign army is not an ignoble thing to do, and I can quite understand why lots of people on the left have been sympathetic to them.

But history has passed them by. Iraq is not Vietnam (or more specifically, Iran is not China) and they have no hope of victory. All they can really do is prolong the occupation and therefore the misery. The time has well past by which anyone with brains in their head could reasonably hope for anything other than swift and reasonably democratic elections, a declaration of victory and for the coalition troops to jump in the tanks, start the engines and stop driving when they see the first McDonalds. Whatever happens, this war will have been a collossal waste of money and life; tens of thousands of excess deaths to create a puppet state. (By the way, as part of their debt relief deal, the Iraqis are currently negotiating a program with the IMF which will involve removing the market-distorting provision of subsidised food to the poor. I do hope that the Lancet will do a study into the effects of that, and that war crimes trials will result). But this is by the by as far as supporting the Iraqi resistance is concerned. Below the fold, I’ve posted a poem by Robert Burns that sums it up better than I ever could.

Ye Jacobites by name, give an ear, give an ear,
Ye Jacobites by name, give an ear,
Ye Jacobites by name,
Your fautes I will proclaim,
Your doctrines I maun blame, you shall hear.

What is Right, and What is Wrang, by the law, by
the law?
What is Right and what is Wrang by the law?
What is Right, and what is Wrang?
A short sword, and a lang,
A weak arm and a strang, for to draw.

What makes heroic strife, famed afar, famed afar?
What makes heroic strife famed afar?
What makes heroic strife?
To whet th’ assassin’s knife,
Or hunt a Parent’s life, wi’ bluidy war?

Then let your schemes alone, in the state, in the state,
Then let your schemes alone in the state.
Then let your schemes alone,
Adore the rising sun,
And leave a man undone, to his fate.

Adore the rising sun, indeed. There is a quite wonderful sung version of this on Eddie Reader’s album of songs by Burns.

{ 188 comments }

1

JJF 01.13.05 at 8:47 pm

“for all that, to take up arms against an occupying foreign army is not an ignoble thing to do.”

I’m not so sure. Taking up arms to defend human rights seems like a noble thing, but taking up arms to defend the honor of the fatherland? Morally neutral at best, at least in my book. Nationalism is notoriously intoxicating. It’s especially dangerous when it is not married to a program of liberal democratic reform.

2

jjf 01.13.05 at 8:49 pm

“For all that, to take up arms against an occupying foreign army is not an ignoble thing to do.”

I wouldn’t be willing to go even this far. Taking up arms to defend human rights seems like a noble thing to me, but taking up arms to defend the honor of the fatherland? Morally neutral at best. Nationalism is notoriously intoxicating; it’s especially dangerous when it is not married to a program of liberal democratic reform.

3

Ophelia Benson 01.13.05 at 8:56 pm

“to take up arms against an occupying foreign army is not an ignoble thing to do”

But doesn’t that depend? Surely if the country being occupied is, say, Nazi Germany (Harry to the contrary notwithstanding, no I know that’s a cheap shot), and the occupying army is the allies, not many of us would consider the taking up of arms to resist particularly noble. Or if the country is Rwanda at the start of the genocide and the occupying army is the UN in overwhelming numbers armed to the teeth – would we consider the resisting Interahamwe not ignoble? I think not. And so on. Obviously you know all this, and I’m not saying the occupying army in question is the equivalent of the allies or the UN – I’m just querying that particular generalization.

4

Charles Dodgson 01.13.05 at 8:59 pm

Cite on the IMF conditions (which I was unaware of) here for the curious; they include ends to food rations, fuel subsidies and privatization. (Unfortunately, it’s a pickled copy of a WSJ article from a few months ago, but it’s the best I came up with in a little quick googling…)

5

dsquared 01.13.05 at 9:03 pm

Since we’re in the realm of pure hypotheticals why don’t we say that the occupied country is the Land of Mordor and the occupying army is made up of cute little kittens with machine guns and led by Sir Yehudi Menuhin?

In that case, in whatever case, considered on its own as an action, it is not ignoble to defend your own piece of soil from invaders. It is ignoble to be a Nazi, or to massacre anyone, but viewed purely under that description, resistance is not ignoble.

6

Rich Puchalsky 01.13.05 at 9:07 pm

I don’t get this at all. Needless to say, I do not support the Iraqi resistance, but I do think that there is a good chance that they will win. Iraq may not be China, but neither are we the country that fought in Vietnam. I don’t think that we have the same capacity to sustain casualties over the long term — certainly nothing that Bush has said has prepared the country for it. And with Bush in command, I don’t think that the Iraqi resistance even needs to wait that long; Bush is most likely to declare victory with honor and abandon Iraq within the next year.

7

dsquared 01.13.05 at 9:07 pm

btw, I just realised that not everyone would have had the same rather bizarre education as me and might not realise that “the Noble Cause” is one of about a dozen seventeenth century phrases which are code-words for Jacobism.

8

tex 01.13.05 at 9:10 pm

…. they have no hope of victory.

Perhaps a reason or two that you think this would be appropriate?

As an aside, there is a MacDonald’s in Baghdad. Well, unless it’s been bombed recently.

9

dsquared 01.13.05 at 9:10 pm

Seventeenth century phrases for Jacobism? What the hell am I talking about?

10

Ajax 01.13.05 at 9:10 pm

“…Whatever happens, this war will have been a collossal waste of money and life; tens of thousands of excess deaths to create a puppet state…”

There’s some attendant vagueness in that statement. A “waste” for the people whose money it was, whose lives; or for the people who are spending that money and sacrificing those lives?
Not the same people at the end of the day, you know.
There is the tiny, virtually sub-audible but irritatingly persistent, question as to whether the stated goals of this bloody business were in fact what were motivating its planners.
Looked at from Mars, it could well be that the present result was what was intended all along. A broken Iraq, economically and militarily disunited – in fact disunity might be the best way to describe what was the real motive behind the invasion and occupation, from the get.
Disunity. Democracy was simply a selling point to seduce the funders – the American taxpayers.
It had nothing to do with liberation, and everything to do with neutralizing and dominating what was a threat, and is now merely wreckage.

11

Ajax 01.13.05 at 9:11 pm

“…Whatever happens, this war will have been a collossal waste of money and life; tens of thousands of excess deaths to create a puppet state…”

There’s some attendant vagueness in that statement. A “waste” for the people whose money it was, whose lives; or for the people who are spending that money and sacrificing those lives?
Not the same people at the end of the day, you know.
There is the tiny, virtually sub-audible but irritatingly persistent, question as to whether the stated goals of this bloody business were in fact what were motivating its planners.
Looked at from Mars, it could well be that the present result was what was intended all along. A broken Iraq, economically and militarily disunited – in fact disunity might be the best way to describe what was the real motive behind the invasion and occupation, from the get.
Disunity. Democracy was simply a selling point to seduce the funders – the American taxpayers.
It had nothing to do with liberation, and everything to do with neutralizing and dominating what was a threat, and is now merely wreckage.

12

Ophelia Benson 01.13.05 at 9:13 pm

Well what makes the soil ‘their own’ piece of soil? How did it get to be theirs in the first place, and how much of it is theirs? What if 99% of the population are desperate to welcome the occupiers? Is resistance still not ignoble?

And what’s all this about hypothetical? The first one wasn’t hypothetical, and the second was at least a real-world possibility. Of sorts.

But, whatever. I just find the generalization unconvincing.

13

P O'Neill 01.13.05 at 9:19 pm

The Iran-China analogy (or non-analogy) is interesting. What if, 12 months from now, the US has essentially punted on providing security for much of the country and the Shiites come under sustained attack during a Sunni uprising? If Tehran got a signal from the US, an April Glaspie style nod-and-wink, could they resist entering and trying to secure a southern “safe haven” for Shi-ite Iraqis?

And my Scottish history is not very good — do you intend a specific analogy between the removal of James II and Saddam? Or am I being too literal?

14

abb1 01.13.05 at 9:29 pm

…and any future in which they gained power would most likely be outright disastrous…

There are no ‘they’. I read a piece in the Guardian a while ago about a guy who works as a clerk in a bank and after work shoots RPGs at the Americans with a couple of his neighbors. So, who is this ‘they’ you’re afraid is going to gain power?

All they can really do is prolong the occupation and therefore the misery.

It’s exactly the opposite. If there is no resistance American troops will never leave – why would they? They’ll install a puppet government, build a dozen military bases and start looting natural resources – this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Why would they suddenly give it all up if there is no resistance? It’s not logical. After all, they still have troops in Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea, don’t they?

15

SomeCallMeTim 01.13.05 at 9:32 pm

Von:

I think this is really the most interesting thing from your post: “This is not to say that, given the history of, umm, Germany and the Holocaust, some out-of-line-i-ness is not understandable.”

At least at the socioeconomic std. most blog readers have reached, I suspect that accusations of an “-ism” are (in some fashion) predictions about both decisions and related outcomes that might result from the accused having power. And the rest of us are able to judge those claims for reasonableness given the totality of circumstances. So, for example, it’s reasonable to worry more about Trent Lott’s obliquely worrying statements about race than about Byrd’s long past membership in the KKK. Even if Byrd was a virulent racist (which I’m sure he’s not), the fact that African-Americans are a vital part of the Dem coalition makes it unlikely he’d have big negative effects. But Lott, as a southern Republican, doesn’t face those same in-built restraints (and had more power), so we worry more about potential outcomes.

Given that the Democratic party has been the de facto party of minority rights, Republicans are probably held to a higher standard, and that’s probably generally fair. This guy might have been working against that higher standard (which might be unfair in his case – I don’t know).

16

bellumregio 01.13.05 at 9:33 pm

Socialists, old Burkean conservatives and liberals can all agree that nations should determine their own ends according to their own traditions and values. Many people prefer their own dictators to foreigners. Some fight in Iraq for nationalism but we can be sure others fight for noble patriotism.

I wonder how Muslims perceive Texas capitalism. The anti-egalitarianism of Western capitalism and the classification of subsidies to the poor as “market-distorting” contrasts sharply with the spirit of Sharia and the Pillars of Islam.

17

Jacob T. Levy 01.13.05 at 9:34 pm

seventeenth century phrases for Jacobism

by which Daniel means Jacobitism, not to be confused with Jacobinism, for which there are many fewer seventeenth-century phrases.

18

Eve Garrard 01.13.05 at 9:37 pm

Daniel, you say: In that case, in whatever case, considered on its own as an action, it is not ignoble to defend your own piece of soil from invaders. It is ignoble to be a Nazi, or to massacre anyone, but viewed purely under that description, resistance is not ignoble.

But can we view actions ‘purely under that description’? It’s not ignoble, one might comparably say, to defend one’s own house from invasion by others, but it all depends on what you’ve been doing in the house. And if the house is Frederick West’s, and the invaders are the police, then surely there’s nothing noble or even respectable about defending the house. We can’t consider the action of resisting the police purely under the description of defending the house against invasion, because the significance of properties such as defending the house, or defending your own country, depends on the nature of the other properties which are co-present. You’re assuming a kind of atomism about the moral significance of activities like resisting invasion, but that’s a most implausible view. The resistance against the Nazis gets a large part of its moral significance from what the Nazis were like. Resistance against the liberating Allies doesn’t have the same moral resonance, because of what the Allies were trying to do, and also because of what those resisters were fighting to maintain. We simply can’t isolate a single feature (fighting against an occupying army) and expect it to have the same moral valency in all circumstances.

19

mw 01.13.05 at 9:40 pm

The is an awful lot of rubbish talked about the Iraqi insurgents; a simple look at the geographical distribution of their attacks shows that they unlikely to all be Sunnis or Ba’athists

Nobody every said they were likely to be *all* Sunnis or Baathists–that’s a straw man. But the fact that an attack occurs outside the Sunni triangle does not mean that the Baathist/Al Queda insurgency is not responsible. Nor, of course, have all attacks on coalition troops been carried out by the Baathists or their Zarqawi-led allies. Of course, months ago Sadr’s militia was shooting at the coalition forces rather vigorously, but they were not co-ordinated with the Baathists–they hate the Baathists (and vice versa).

and they are not targeting civilians in much greater proportion to military targets than we are.

Oh brother. From article linked to in your post:

“At just one sewage project in Baghdad, for example, as many as thirty Iraqi workers were shot in only three months late last year. It is an unusual record only because someone kept count.”

‘We’ are not targeting workers trying to earn a living while at the same time doing essential repair on the sewage system, the water system, or the power grid. ‘We’ are not assissinating labor leaders, election workers, professors, doctors and other professionals, etc, etc.

One could argue that US forces have been criminally negligent in protecting civilians in their fight against insurgents, but even if you believe that–to compare that to the INTENTIONAL, TARGETED killing of precisely those civilians working to improve the lives of Iraqis and to create conditions for democractic government–that is repugnant.

They are the direct moral equivalent of the Viet Cong; they represent much of what is worst about the human condition, and any future in which they gained power would most likely be outright disastrous, but for all that, to take up arms against an occupying foreign army is not an ignoble thing to do, and I can quite understand why lots of people on the left have been sympathetic to them.

No, I cannot understand it. To know that ‘they represent what is worst about the human condition’, to realize that ‘any future in which they gained power would most likely be outright disastrous’ (for the long suffering people of Iraq a thousand times more so than for us) and to *still* be sympathetic to those bastards…my God.

In the case of the Viet Cong, those on the far left at least shared a Marxist political outlook. But what progressive can have ANYTHING in common with Islamist terrorists? They are violently opposed to EVERYTHING that progressives should hold sacred–democracy, human rights, religious tolerance, secular government, equality for women, equality for gays…EVERYTHING. And yet there is sympathy for them simply because…well, because they are shooting at American troops.

20

Cheryl 01.13.05 at 9:42 pm

–“Whatever Christopher Hitchens thinks, they are the direct moral equivalent of the Viet Cong.”

And then this:

“But history has passed them by. Iraq is not Vietnam (or more specifically, Iran is not China) and they have no hope of victory.”

Really?

Those who are equivalent of the Viet Cong are really tomorrows Pol Pots, who will redo the exact same kind of Killing Fields and become a breeding ground for another Khmer Rouge (Saddam) that will be exactly like Cambodia. Anybody having to do with US interest and US relations will even end up in refuge camp or they will die.

And I know tht Iraq is not a jungle…or is? I guess it depends on what the meaning of jungle is?

The only thing that could defend the insurgency in Iraq at this point in time would be to kill all Middle Easterner people but that of course is genocide. So that it is almost exactly the same as Vietnam – US troops cannot tell who the enemy is…and that is precisely why the insurgency IS winning.

According to Newsweek, Rummy is considering death squads but in the land of Allah and Jihad, death isn’t something these people fear too much so we’re talking a lot of dead Iraqis because such an measure would likely lead to even more desperate acts by the insurgency.

AND NOW some of our military members are starting to buck their backdoor draft, so that even another duck hunt gift to a certain Supreme Court official won’t stop the end of this war, at least the end of US military involvement.

And if Bush were to call for a national draft – than it would most certainly be Vietnam.

21

BigMacAttack 01.13.05 at 9:43 pm

ajax,

Well if that is the case then I am glad the threat has been removed.

22

SomeCallMeTim 01.13.05 at 9:47 pm

Wierd. Meant to be posted on a different blog. I’m an idiot. Please delete my comment if easy to do so.

23

Jeremy Osner 01.13.05 at 9:47 pm

I have not heard the song but am reasonably certain the tune is the same as that to which Dylan sang “Pretty Peggy-o”.

24

mw 01.13.05 at 9:54 pm

It’s exactly the opposite. If there is no resistance American troops will never leave – why would they? They’ll install a puppet government, build a dozen military bases and start looting natural resources – this is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Why would they suddenly give it all up if there is no resistance? It’s not logical. After all, they still have troops in Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea, don’t they?

You are nuts! Are you suggesting that the only reason that the US still has troops stationed in Germany, Korea, Japan, and Italy is that no armed resistance has forced them out?!? And because Germany is still ‘occupied’ by ‘imperialist’ American troops that Gerhard Schroeder is an American puppet? That the US is using the presence of bases to loot Japan’s and Germany’s and Korea’s and Italy’s resources?

Do you even believe the stuff you write?

25

junius ponds 01.13.05 at 10:02 pm

>Those who are equivalent of the Viet Cong are really tomorrows Pol Pots, who will redo the exact same kind of Killing Fields and become a breeding ground for another Khmer Rouge (Saddam) that will be exactly like Cambodia. Anybody having to do with US interest and US relations will even end up in refuge camp or they will die.< You do realize that the NVA invaded and overthrew the Khmer Rouge, right? KR drew its strength from the rural countryside, which sympathized with the deposed Sihanouk. I'm reluctant to draw a direct analogy between the Viet Cong and the Iraqi insurgents, the Hue massacre and other depredations notwithstanding, because as a lefty I recognize a fundamental distinction between (post-)Stalinists and fascists.

26

junius ponds 01.13.05 at 10:07 pm

>rural countryside< Ack, dunderheaded redundancy

27

John Quiggin 01.13.05 at 10:09 pm

Ewan MacColl has a great version of the song, also. I never knew the words were by Burns.

28

Cheryl 01.13.05 at 10:13 pm

–“Whatever Christopher Hitchens thinks, they are the direct moral equivalent of the Viet Cong.”

And then this:

“But history has passed them by. Iraq is not Vietnam (or more specifically, Iran is not China) and they have no hope of victory.”

Really? I think the general consensus is that it is looking fairly bleak in Iraq.

Those who are equivalent of the Viet Cong are really tomorrows Pol Pots, who will redo the exact same kind of Killing Fields and Iraq will become a breeding ground for another Khmer Rouge (Saddam) just like in Cambodia. Anybody having to do with US interest and US relations will either end-up in a refuge camp or they will die.

And I know tht Iraq is not a jungle…or is? I guess it depends on what the meaning of jungle is?

The only thing that could defeat the insurgency in Iraq at this point in time would be to kill all Middle Easterner people but that of course is genocide.

Iraq is almost exactly the same as Vietnam – US troops cannot tell who the enemy is…and that is precisely why the insurgency IS winning.

According to Newsweek, Rummy is considering death squads but in the land of Allah and Jihad, death isn’t something these people fear too much so we’re talking a lot of dead Iraqis and US military personnel because such a measure would lead to even more desperate acts by the insurgency. And, Frankly, there are a lot of Scowcraft types that just wouldn’t go for the death squad thing, (hopefully somebody would leak to press) and I thought that Americans were NOT suppose to know about death squads.

AND perhaps not too many folks have noticed but some of our military members are starting to buck their backdoor draft, even another duck hunt gift to a certain Supreme Court official won’t stop the end of this war, or at least the end of US military involvement.

BUT IF Bush were to call for a national draft – than it would most certainly would be Vietnam.

And NO matter whatever anyone thinks, unfortunately for most Iraqis, this war is going to have Vietnam like ending. Osama bin Laden was right, Americans don’t have the stomach for guerrilla warfare and I sure hope they don’t have the stomach for death squads either.

29

dsquared 01.13.05 at 10:24 pm

You’re assuming a kind of atomism about the moral significance of activities like resisting invasion

No, I’m explicitly not. I think the words I used about the Iraqi resistance were “they represent much of what is worst about the human condition”. What I’m saying is that they can be considered as defenders of their country and considered as such, they aren’t ignoble. Genghis Khan, or Moses, or Napoleon, or Julius Ceasar can all be viewed in ways which make them look noble or ignoble. They all have their defenders; I have a soft spot for Bonaparte myself.

30

Ophelia Benson 01.13.05 at 10:35 pm

“What I’m saying is that they can be considered as defenders of their country and considered as such, they aren’t ignoble.”

Well sure, they can be. Anyone can be considered anything. That seems like such a general statement it amounts to an empty one. Serial murderers can consider Fred West noble for fighting off the police, but what of it? Does it follow from that that Fred West really isn’t ignoble?

“considered as such, they aren’t ignoble”

Eh? They aren’t ignoble, period, or they aren’t ignoble, tautologically enough, to those who consider them not ignoble?

31

Eve Garrard 01.13.05 at 10:48 pm

Dsquared: I didn’t say you were being atomistic about resisters – that would have been false, for the reasons you give. But you *are* being atomistic about the activity of resisting invasion – you think it’s not ignoble, and under that description those who engage in it are doing something not ignoble. But what I’m suggesting is that atomism about such activities is mistaken – it *is* ignoble, and thoroughly wrong , not to say evil, for Frederick West to resist invasion of his house to put an end to his hideous tortures and murders. We can’t say that under the description of resisting intruders, what he’s doing isn’t ignoble. It’s ignoble because of what he is and what he’s done. Atomism about the moral significance of single features just won’t work.

32

dsquared 01.13.05 at 10:48 pm

Is this a serious debate? Are you asking from me a full and definitive answer as to whether Napoleon was a noble or ignoble figure, and further to that, a definitive answer on the epistemological status of the claim “X was noble” where X is Napoleon?

If you’re asking for that, then you’re asking for far too much; write your own damn PhD thesis. If you’re asking for my opinion, you’ve already got it.

33

dsquared 01.13.05 at 10:54 pm

The above post was to Ophelia. Eve doesn’t appear to me to be asking trick questions, so she gets more of an answer.

The word “noble” belongs to non-consequentialist morality. A Homeric Greek would definitely say that, for example, it would be more noble for Hitler to have gone down fighting to defend his bunker than to surrender, and would probably have said the same about Fred West. I think that the word has preserved that sense today; if you think that it carries an implicit endorsement of someone’s project, feel free to insert Homeric scare-quotes.

34

abb1 01.13.05 at 10:55 pm

Mw,
The Germans have freedom to elect their government as long as they stay within certain parameters.

Imagine that their communist party (I’m sure they have one) or some other bad people become active or win a national election. What do you think is going to happen? Hint: look what happened in Greece in 1967.

Same is true about Japan, Korea, Italy and many other places.

There’s nothing crazy about it – domination is the game, it’s called imperialism. It doesn’t mean that the US is worse than the others, any military superpower would do the same.

It’s really very basic: once you own something you don’t give it up unless the price you pay is too high. Iraqi resistance is the price. Once they stop fighting the US and UK will own the place and they won’t let it go.

What is it you don’t understand here, it’s so simple and obvious.

35

rdb 01.13.05 at 10:57 pm

The Asia Times articles The taming of Sadr City and The devastation of Iraq add some perspective.

The US effort to destroy the insurgency in Iraq can only succeed if it also destroys the ability of the Iraqis to govern their own communities – hence the attack on the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah. Yet Sadr City, the vast slum in Baghdad at the heart of the Shi’ite rebellion, has evolved into a virtually independent city-state, a “liberated area” in the classic guerrilla warfare model. Something will have to give. – Michael Schwartz

36

dsquared 01.13.05 at 10:59 pm

Rdb: I saw US troops in Sadr City on the news last night handing out frozen chickens and helping to repair sewers. I think those articles may be out of date.

37

Eve Garrard 01.13.05 at 10:59 pm

Are you asking from me a full and definitive answer as to whether Napoleon was a noble or ignoble figure, and further to that, a definitive answer on the epistemological status of the claim “X was noble” where X is Napoleon?

Er …. no. I’m extremely uninterested in Napoleon’s moral status. I was pointing out a problem with your readiness to say that those whom you call the resistance in Iraq are not ignoble qua resisting foreign invasion. To get that conclusion you have to believe that resisting foreign invasion is always not-ignoble considered in itself, in isolation from other features. That kind of atomism is a mistake, as the Frederick West example shows.

38

roger 01.13.05 at 11:02 pm

Interestingly, there surely wouldn’t be elections now if there hadn’t been armed resistance after the period of looting that ended about August, 2003. The Americans were pretty clear about what they wanted, and what pushed them to give in to Sistani’s demand for elections.

So if the phrase history has passed them by means that the resistance has been historically inefficient, that is wrong. In fact, history seems more likely to pass by the Americans, the original schemes of which now lie in ruins, along with their excuses for occupying in the first place.

The thing to hope for, I think, as a non-Iraqi, is both taht the elections successfully give some Iraqi government some legitimacy in the eyes of the only groups that count and that with that legitimacy the budding Iraqi state can successfully kick the Americans out and suppress the Islamicist wing of the insurgency. The later task can’t fall to the Americans or joke American trained Iraqi troops — but it can be accomplished when Iraqi troops aren’t clearly in cahoots with the country’s occupiers. One hopes that time is coming. In the meantime, one unintentional consequence of the Islamicist insurgency has surely been to lessen Osama bin’s popularity with the wealthier but disaffected segment of Saudi Arabia, who — up until ex alky Zarqawi started beheading people — were pretty sympathetic to the bin Laden criticism of the ruling class in the Peninsula. Hey, an accidental advantage for the U.S.A!

39

dipnut 01.13.05 at 11:02 pm

I have a soft spot for Bonaparte myself.

I can guess why. He was such an organizer! One might say that Bonaparte’s was the first postmodern government.

Myself, I have a soft spot for the British Empire, and a corresponding grudge against Germany for WWI.

40

Jim Harrison 01.13.05 at 11:04 pm

Local insurrections can always be put down by force and cooption; but in the Iraqi instance, resistance is not simply an expression of Sunni or Iraqi nationalism. It’s perfectly possible that the insurgents can outlast our power by drawing strength from supporters in the surrounding Arab and Muslim countries who, not unreasonably, may view the struggle as the last best chance of combating the American domination of the region.

41

dipnut 01.13.05 at 11:05 pm

I have a soft spot for Bonaparte myself.

I can guess why. He was such an organizer! One might say that Bonaparte’s was the first postmodern government.

Myself, I have a soft spot for the British Empire, and a corresponding grudge against Germany for WWI.

42

Eve Garrard 01.13.05 at 11:05 pm

dsquared: sorry, I replied to what I took to be a response to me before your explanatory comment came up.

43

dsquared 01.13.05 at 11:37 pm

Interestingly, there surely wouldn’t be elections now if there hadn’t been armed resistance after the period of looting that ended about August, 2003. The Americans were pretty clear about what they wanted, and what pushed them to give in to Sistani’s demand for elections.

Roger makes a good point here; it should be seen in the context though that the al-Mahdi Army is no longer part of the resistance and Sadr has a slate in the elections (he’s not standing himself).

44

abb1 01.13.05 at 11:45 pm

To get that conclusion you have to believe that resisting foreign invasion is always not-ignoble considered in itself, in isolation from other features. That kind of atomism is a mistake, as the Frederick West example shows.

Actually, they didn’t resist much to the invasion. They’re resisting the 2-year-long foreign occupation and the intensity of resistance seems to be roughly proportional to the duration. Maybe this could help with this vital ‘non-ignobility’ controversy.

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Eve Garrard 01.13.05 at 11:56 pm

dsquared: I’m sure you’re right in thinking that ‘noble’ has retained some of its Homeric connotations. But that doens’t mean that we use it to make Homeric moral judgements. After all, ancient Greeks might well have thought it noble for a man to beat an uppity wife, but I don’t think we (er, Western liberal enlightenment types) would be inclined to share that judgement. We just wouldn’t regard it as noble. Similarly I certainly wouldn’t regard Fred West as noble in resisting arrest, nor would I regard the torturers and beheaders of civilians in Iraq as noble, even in their resistance to foreign invasion. Would you regard the remnants of the Nazis who resisted the Allies’ attempts to liberate the concentration camps in Germany as noble? If not, then you’re conceding the anti-atomistic line I’m trying to push here.

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roger 01.14.05 at 12:02 am

dsquared — you are certainly right — there aren’t any monocausal chains in recent Iraqi history. However, Sadr’s rebellion was amplified by the fact that there was already an insurgency in the Sunni areas of the country. Without that contextual threat, the Americans would have blundered on, destroying other Shi’ite cities. As it is, they blundered on and destroyed Sunni cities. The Americans were able to do this because, after Najaf, and with the increasing appearance of an anti-Shi’a group among the insurgents, no major Shi’a group protested the destruction of Fallujah. Interesting to compare that to last April, when the American withdrawal was conditioned by the universal condemnation of the attack by both Shi’a and Sunni groups.

The question on the mind of any Shia leader is probably how to deal with the necessary instrument of coercion the Americans have offered them. Clearly, they have to act quickly to distance themselves from the Americans — otherwise, Sadr’s support is certain to grow — while at the same time having some means of enacting violence that will be respected by Sunni groups.

The stop the war groups that oppose the election are, I think, deluding themselves with ideology — there is no other instrument that will really end the occupation. Certainly its farcical to think that sympathetic London demonstrators are going to do it.

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seth edenbaum 01.14.05 at 12:05 am

The Viet Cong overthrew Pol Pot. Was there anything noble about defending them?
Of course times change. but there are still many reasons to prefer the Viet Cong to the Ba’athists. And try replacing ‘nobility’ with ‘bravery.’ I’d say try honor but I doubt that would work either with this audience

Everything about your post is confused, D, except your comments about the IMF. Thanks for that bit of news.

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dsquared 01.14.05 at 12:10 am

Would you regard the remnants of the Nazis who resisted the Allies’ attempts to liberate the concentration camps in Germany as noble?

I would have said that the defence of their posts was noble and fitting to a soldier. They themselves would presumably have been concentration camps and therefore human filth, but given that they had already morally degraded and disgraced themselves, they showed less ignobility by standing firm and fighting for their corrupt ideals than they would have done by surrendering. I’ll even spot you that my favourite Nuremberg defendant is Goering, for committing suicide rather than allowing the tribunal to execute him.

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George 01.14.05 at 12:19 am

A big shout-out to Daniel for arguing at least somewhat against interest. He may have opposed, and still oppose, the war itself, but recognizes that the dynamics of the situation favor a Coalition victory and the defeat of the insurgency. I think he’s right: if the Coalition (meaning primarily the US) has the political will to stick it out, the insurgency will be defeated and Iraq will become a functioning democracy. Whether or not it will have been ‘worth it’ is a separate question, on which we differ. But in my book, Daniel is leagues ahead of, say, Spencer Ackerman or Andrew Sullivan; the first opposed the war and the second supported it, but both now seem hellbent on turning an odds-on success (however grinding and imperfect) into a far worse catastrophe.

But on the matter of the insurgents themselves: Daniel says

[T]o take up arms against an occupying foreign army is not an ignoble thing to do, and I can quite understand why lots of people on the left have been sympathetic to them.

Perhaps so, but is that what the ‘insurgents’ are doing? Certainly many are, but the bulk of the attacks I read about in the news seem to be assassinations of Iraqi officials and massacres of new Iraqi police and soldiers. Though Coalition soldiers obviously continue to lose their lives to firefights and roadside bombs (over a thousand combat deaths and counting), organized attacks by the insurgency on Coalition soldiers or military assets (like the Mosul mess-hall bombing) seem to be far outnumbered — or at least out-bloodied — by attacks on their fellow Iraqis.

Maybe the insurgents really do rationalize to themselves that killing anyone cooperating with the occupiers is morally the same as fighting the occupation. Maybe they’re just fighting a dirty civil war, occupation or no. Maybe these two are not mutually exclusive. But either way, whatever nobility is inherent in armed resistance, surely a lot bleeds out when most of those you kill are your own countrymen.

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dsquared 01.14.05 at 12:29 am

The Viet Cong overthrew Pol Pot

Seth this isn’t right. The Viet Cong were a guerilla movement in South Vietnam during the war. They were more or less wiped out after the Tet offensive; the war was won by the North Vietnamese army, which wasn’t a guerilla movement, it was an army. Pol Pot was deposed by the Vietnamese Army, after the war. The Vietnamese managed to kill almost as many Cambodians as the Khmer Rouge during their occupation (which ought to be the final nail in the coffin of the doctrine of “humanitarian interventions, btw; this was the best possible chance for a humanitarian intervention and it didn’t work), and at exactly the same time they were turning their own country into somewhere which lots and lots of people regarded as a worse bet than small boats on the South China Sea.

(as you can tell, I have a special macro on my keyboard to produce autopilot rants against the romanticising of Third World guerillas in general and the Viet Cong in particular. Vietnam post about 1985, however, I have a lot of time for as a developmental state).

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No Preference 01.14.05 at 12:43 am

There is no sign that either the US military or the Iraqi government has a good idea of how to defeat the insurgency. It seems a little rash to announce its doom.

I don’t believe that the US occupation will ever be accepted by Iraqis. Nor will any Iraqi government that’s the offspring of the occupation.

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Ophelia Benson 01.14.05 at 1:20 am

“A Homeric Greek would definitely say that, for example, it would be more noble for Hitler to have gone down fighting to defend his bunker than to surrender, and would probably have said the same about Fred West.”

Oh, that kind of noble. I get it. I thought it was just an all-purpose hurrah-word. (I cheated, I read the answer addressed to Eve as well as the one addressed to me even though I was being punished for asking a ‘trick’ question, so I got some enlightenment that I wasn’t entitled to. How ignoble of me. But I wasn’t asking a trick question, I just didn’t realize noble meant Homeric-type nobility. In that case I do see the point. It was Homerically noble for Odysseus and his crew to drop in on an island and kill all the men and enslave the women on the way home, so sure, defending the ol’ homeland against invaders is the noble thing to do, no matter what the circs.) (You could have just said that, but nooooooooooooo.)

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dsquared 01.14.05 at 1:25 am

Well for that matter you could have thought for five minutes about what I might have meant and then decided that since there was a perfectly sensible interpretation, you probably weren’t going to be able to score any points off me. But, no.

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Blixa 01.14.05 at 1:26 am

What eve garrard said – squared.

The blanket notion that “to take up arms against an occupying foreign army”, qua taking up arms against an occupying foreign army, “is not an ignoble thing to do”, is absurd. It is a dangerous myth that ought to be abandoned the sooner the better.

The problem is that, unless perhaps you are a college undergraduate, the statement ‘Group X Is Taking Up Arms Against An Occupying Foreign Army’ simply *does not give you enough information* one way or the other to render judgment as to its nobility, morality, or anything else. Pretending that it does – or believing that it does – or acting on the ignorant (or lazy) assumption that it does – has the effect of playing into the hands of the most vicious nationalists in any given country, by paralyzing all others in the face of their “noble” resistance. The principle put forth here, if and when believed, effectively glorifies and protects fascist causes, while achieving no other good purpose. It is a noxious principle that has caused much harm.

P.S. That doesn’t even get into the whole issue of how exactly Mr. Zarqawi (NOT an Iraqi) being in Iraq and plotting the killing of, among other people, Iraqis (NOT only the occupying foreign army) falls under the rubric of “taking up arms against an occupying foreign army” in the first place. I still can’t figure that one out. Actually, even if you believe in the “resistance is noble” principle, why do not Mr. Zarqawi & friends count as an occupying foreign army themselves? The creepy preference granted to fascists that’s embodied in this “resistance is noble” bromide occurs on more than one level, apparently.

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Richard Cownie 01.14.05 at 1:40 am

“no hope of victory”

Absolutely wrong. Here’s how the insurgents can win:

1) Mount increasingly effective attacks by IEDs and ambush on all supply convoys on the roads. Already 25% of convoys are attacked: recently more powerful IEDs have been destroying Bradleys and tanks.

2) Pull out the approx 7000 missing portable SAMs and start concerted attacks against resupply flights.

The US forces are very effective while they have supplies of ammunition, fuel, food, and clean water. Without any one of those they’re in big trouble. The supply line is long and unsafe, especially vulnerable at bridges. If it fails, we’re looking at a military disaster with thousands dead or captured.

Right and wrong is one thing; the military situation is another thing altogether.

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Blixa 01.14.05 at 1:40 am

P.P.S. And the valiant attempt at a save by saying “oh I just meant the Greek form of noble” doesn’t quite fly. If you meant Homeric-nobility all along, then perhaps you ought to explain why you (as a direct result of the “not ignoble” principle) “can quite understand why lots of people on the left have been sympathetic to them”. How do you get an equation such as “it’s Homerically-noble => I can understand why many on the left symathize”. What, exactly, do you find particularly “leftist” per se about the ancient-Greek notion of “noble”, one can only wonder? Nothing, of course.

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Blixa 01.14.05 at 1:42 am

P.P.S. And the valiant attempt at a save by saying “oh I just meant the Greek form of noble” doesn’t quite fly. If you meant Homeric-nobility all along, then perhaps you ought to explain why you (as a direct result of the “not ignoble” principle) “can quite understand why lots of people on the left have been sympathetic to them”. How do you get an equation such as “it’s Homerically-noble => I can understand why many on the left symathize”. What, exactly, do you find particularly “leftist” per se about the ancient-Greek notion of “noble”, one can only wonder? Nothing, of course.

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Blixa 01.14.05 at 1:42 am

P.P.S. And the valiant attempt at a save by saying “oh I just meant the Greek form of noble” doesn’t quite fly. If you meant Homeric-nobility all along, then perhaps you ought to explain why you (as a direct result of the “not ignoble” principle) “can quite understand why lots of people on the left have been sympathetic to them”. How do you get an equation such as “it’s Homerically-noble => I can understand why many on the left symathize”. What, exactly, do you find particularly “leftist” per se about the ancient-Greek notion of “noble”, one can only wonder? Nothing, of course.

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Ophelia Benson 01.14.05 at 1:57 am

I wasn’t trying to score points, dammit, I was trying to have a discussion and to think about the issue. What you meant was not self-evident. How could it be? People do often use words imprecisely, people do use ‘noble’ as a general hurrah-word – how was I supposed to know you meant Homeric?! I’m not a mind-reader, not even if I spend five minutes thinking about it.

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john c. halasz 01.14.05 at 2:00 am

Just to take a stab at what D-squared seemed to be getting at in terms of “noble” -(or “honorable”)- conveying for us moderns a kind of distantiated, second-order moral judgment, one that acknowledges a moral quality without connoting any moral approval for its content, without getting into all sorts of entangling hypotheticals: we respect a certain consistency with which someone comports himself in terms of his own identity-conferring values and normative commitments and the integrity with which he holds to the consequences of those beliefs even though we may violently disagree with the content of those beliefs and the consequences of such comportment. In Kafka’s story “In the Penal Colony”, for example, the Old Commandant is an incomprehensibly gruesome tyrant, yet, when he impales himself in the end on his own writing machine, we are left with the integrity of his “sacrifice”, even as we find loathesome that for which it stands.

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Ophelia Benson 01.14.05 at 2:03 am

Hmm, yeah, what Blixa said. So that was a late save after all. Interesting.

Gee, sorry I didn’t take five minutes to figure out what you were planning to say later.

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john c. halasz 01.14.05 at 2:06 am

Just to take a stab at what D-squared seemed to be getting at in terms of “noble” -(or “honorable”)- conveying for us moderns a kind of distantiated, second-order moral judgment, one that acknowledges a moral quality without connoting any moral approval for its content, without getting into all sorts of entangling hypotheticals: we respect a certain consistency with which someone comports himself in terms of his own identity-conferring values and normative commitments and the integrity with which he holds to the consequences of those beliefs even though we may violently disagree with the content of those beliefs and the consequences of such comportment. In Kafka’s story “In the Penal Colony”, for example, the Old Commandant is an incomprehensibly gruesome tyrant, yet, when he impales himself in the end on his own writing machine, we are left with the integrity of his “sacrifice”, even as we find loathesome that for which it stands.

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Blixa 01.14.05 at 2:13 am

That’s actually a pretty good try, *john halasz*, but even if we’re going to all agree that the “insurgents”, and more generally any people who Take Up Arms Against Occupiers, have a certain consistency with which they comport themselves in terms of their own identity-conferring values and normative commitments and the integrity with which they hold to the consequences of those beliefs even though we may violently disagree with the content of those beliefs and the consequences of such comportment,

…that still doesn’t make it any easier to understand why some on the “left” would necessarily “sympathize” with them (lacking other information). Or why dsquared would understand that sympathy as somehow following from their perceived “nobility” as defined by your preceding explanation (an explanation that explicitly disavows any necessity for sympathy).

(Or something. I’m tired now.)

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Mill 01.14.05 at 2:19 am

dsquared:

“I would have said that the defence of their posts was noble and fitting to a soldier. … given that they had already morally degraded and disgraced themselves, they showed less ignobility by standing firm and fighting for their corrupt ideals than they would have done by surrendering.”

So, not having read the entire Western canon I’m not sure we have the exact same definition of “noble”, but are you saying that you would think less of a Nazi soldier who suddenly decided “wait a minute, this is all wrong” and surrendered to the allies?

So in that case you must have no problem with Bush persisting with mistaken policies even after the facts have proven him wrong? He is after all “standing firm and fighting for his corrupt ideals”.

Hell, you must think Bush is the greatest President ever! He NEVER changes his mind about those ideals!

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derrida derider 01.14.05 at 2:25 am

abb1 is perfectly correct. If there were no resistance, there would now be 10 permanent US military bases in Iraq (which we we’d use to invade Syria and Iran – surely there’d be no resistance there, would there?).

By now Ahmed Chalabi would have disappeared his Sunni enemies, accumulated a massive Swiss bank account and ensured we get lots of free Iraqi oil.

Sorry, neocons, but your dreams were always just that – dreams. Time to wake up.

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derrida derider 01.14.05 at 2:26 am

abb1 is perfectly correct. If there were no resistance, there would now be 10 permanent US military bases in Iraq (which we we’d use to invade Syria and Iran – surely there’d be no resistance there, would there?).

By now Ahmed Chalabi would have disappeared his Sunni enemies, accumulated a massive Swiss bank account and ensured we get lots of free Iraqi oil.

Sorry, neocons, but your dreams were always just that – dreams. Time to wake up.

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BigMacAttack 01.14.05 at 2:53 am

‘Actually, they didn’t resist much to the invasion. They’re resisting the 2-year-long foreign occupation and the intensity of resistance seems to be roughly proportional to the duration. Maybe this could help with this vital ‘non-ignobility’ controversy.’

Good point. As the intensity, the murder of Shia clerics, the car bombings aimed at Shia gatherings, and the beheadings of aid workers, mounts the nature of the insurgents becomes increasingly clear.

It is all so simple, if the US stays Iraq is a puppet like Germany and if elections are held an the US is asked to leave they will have been defeated by insurgents.

A win win situation.

Daniel’s remarks about resisting occupation don’t strike me as constroversial or incorrect. I just think it is silly to pretend that those sympathetic to the insurgents are motivated by anything but the blind anti-Americanism Abb1 so consistently displays.

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john c. halasz 01.14.05 at 3:11 am

Blixa:

I avoided talking about the specific empirical case of Iraq there. But you should consult Juan Cole today about the Baathist element to the organization of the resistance, which is entirely gruesome and was predicted before the war, as the origins of the Baathists are as an underground conspiritorial party. There is certainly no temptation to sympathy, let alone endorsement there. But the resistance is highly decentralized and includes many other cells and elements, including clearly some Shias. And the careless and heavyhanded technologized violence with which the U.S. has gone about trying to secure its occupation, -(for reasons unknown)- and the wanton irresponsibility with which they have gone about the whole business from beginning to end, leaves the U.S. with virtually no credibility with the Iraqis themselves and no chance of actually securing the situation. So a generalized sympathy for the plight of the various peoples of Iraq, however different in their mores and views they may be from us, and an understanding of their refusal to contenance any continued long-term occupation is certainly defensible. The U.S. needs to get out of Iraq, A.S.A.P., and let the Iraqis deal with each other on their own terms, even if it means civil war, which was always the worst fear of the thinking anti-war left. Any possibility that the U.S. could play a constructive role in the stabilization of Iraq has by now been shattered. (I do not speak of the justice of the thing. But just consider the hopelessness contained in the leaks about a Salvadorean option.) So it is understandable that some on the left might attribute a degree of legitimacy to the insurgency, inspite of its many disreputable elements and characteristics. Partly because leftists tend to be the sort that can not sort out and separate their sympathies and their judgments and thus tend to misattribute them confusedly. But calls for sufficient information to make proper moral judgments are rather beside the point are and betray a sheltered consciousness. For the whole point is that judgments in these types of situations, for anyone engaged with them, occur without adequate information and without morally feasible alternatives. If moral judgment always falls first and formost on one’s own head, still its point is not to make oneself look good.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 3:15 am

Richard Cownie:
I agree with you that there are scenarios where the insurgents come to represent a much more substantial threat in the future (of course, it is also easy to envision circumstances where we militarily turn the corner on them as well), but the Dien Bien Phu (DBP) like circumstance that you hint at (thousands captured) just isn’t in the cards. The factors you mention are worrisome, but simply will not be sprung fast enough or in a sufficiently coordinated fashion to do something like that. Not even close. Tet and the attendant situation at Khe Sahn were probably the best chance of something like that happening to us, and the VC and NVA came up short (militarily). The insurgency cannot now, and will not for the forseeable future, be able muster anywhere near as significant a challenge as they did then. There is no part of Iraq where we won’t be able to evacuate in force if we have to do so. Even if they drive out our air presence (and SAMS will hurt us, not stop us), US forces will still be able to move in force out of the affected area. The enemy in Vietnam brought down thousands of helicopters and hundreds and hundreds of support aricraft, and it just wasn’t enough (and the geography there was much tougher, and our supply network far less robust than that of the modern US military). The worst case scenario for us would probably be a consolidation of forces in more defensible positions (of course, I concede that at that point we have ceded much of the country to the insurgents). DBP was a really extraordinary convergence of circumstances, and while some of the same qualitative elements are there in Iraq, quantitatively the situation is very different. I think, however, that the factors you mention could feed a very real Tet like scenario: an offensive that fails militarily but succeeds at finally snapping the will of the median voter to even countenance holding out.

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Robert McDougall 01.14.05 at 3:30 am

Time I fear is on Ophelia Benson’s and Eve Garrard’s side. Time was, questioning the nobility of fighting for your country was the mark either of a saint or a moral idiot. In a generation or so, it’ll be the other way round.

A generation or two back, the U.S.-preferred side in China and Vietnam were called the “nationalists”, to show they were the good guys. Now nationalism is what Milosevic and the Iranian mullahs do.

For the new democracy-spreading multicultural post-nationalistic generation, freedom means only individual freedom, national freedom is not a value. So William Tell expelled the Austrians; what’s so great about replacing an undemocratic multinational regime with an undemocratic indigenous regime? In Braveheart, for Wallace to be a hero, it’s not enough that he should fight for Scottish independence, he has to fight against ius primae noctis and crap like that. Or consider the incomprehension / rejection that met Jim Henley’s remark that “the American revolutionary tradition gives weight to both conceptions of freedom”.

I read in a secondary school student’s essay the other day, that Einstein sympathized with Zionism “except the nationalist aspects”. First take, this made no sense — like saying he enjoyed physics “except the scientific aspects”. Second take, I realized the student meant “except for whatever was wrong with it”.

Used to be commonplace in Britain to admire the skill and courage of Rommel and the crew of the Bismarck. It seems normal to me to admire even the courage with which the SS were said to fight — on the wrong side of the justest war in history. If this Fred West character committed atrocious crimes and then died game, I’d have no problem blaming the one and praising the other; or if he fought bravely for wicked ends, to praise the courage and blame the ends. But nowadays there are good guys and bad guys and that’s that; and if anyone praises e.g., the courage and discipline of the attackers of the USS Cole, he must figure them for the good guys so he must be a terrsymp.

The ranks of Tuscany find forbearing to cheer pretty easy to do these days.

So dsquared, I agree with you and we’ve been right about this for about seven thousand years which is a pretty good trot but we’re on shaking ground now and in a few short years we’ll be wrong as hell.

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c 01.14.05 at 3:50 am

Anti aircraft defenses was much less developed during the Vietnam war than it is now. Stinger like weapons didn’t really exist yet nor had anybody thought about using anti-tankrockets against heli’s. Without those advangements the only way to shoot down a heli by insurgants is with a lot of lead and that requires a lot of men which are than reason enough to use massive air bombardments.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 3:51 am

Robert,
I can’t make general statements, but the people close to me who were in Nam and WWII (Europe and Japan) described war w/out human mercy where there was little regard for the enemy. The Japanese were the targets of intense racism, dead enemy troops of all stripes were posed in degrading positions, enemy trying to surrender were routinely shot, etc. (I’m not judging these people when they tell me these things: I’m not in a position to do that until I’ve walked in their shoes.) It seems to me that where such regard is extended (and all do report extending it), it was only in retrospect. I’m not sure the situation is really all that different now. And believe me Robert, the bombers of the Cole did not hold the crewman of the Cole in any regard whatsoever. I’d bet my life on that one.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 4:06 am

c,
You are correct of course, but tactics and countervailing measures have also evolved allot. But helicopters really aren’t that vulnerable to anti-tank missiles and more general RPGs: our losses in the “Black Hawk Down” incident, for instance, had more to do with the fact that the battlefield was extremely concentrated and our helicopters were caught out for a while in a situation where they essentially had to hover low. That circumstance may be repeated in Iraq, but not enough to make a militarily significant difference in terms of our remaining capabilities. Believe me, if it were that easy to bring down a chopper under typical operational circumstances we would have already seen far greater losses.
Also, you didn’t need that much lead to bring down many Vietnam era choppers under many circumstances: it was the tempting target created by the OH-6A for comparatively small enemy concentrations that made Snake&Loach operations such a good trick. (The OH-6A was robust, but small pockets of enemy could be goaded into taking shots at it b/c they thought their chances of bringing it down were decent). We can do more with tactical measures to offset these developments than I think you give our pilots credit for.

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Donald Johnson 01.14.05 at 4:11 am

Dsquared, I’m more than a little skeptical that the Vietnamese came close to killing as many Cambodians under their occupation as Pol Pot did when he was in power. I vaguely remember Shawcross making some such claim about the famine in 1979-80, but I have never seen anyone since then who claimed that. There were close to 2 million deaths under Pol Pot, according to Ben Kiernan–are we supposed to think there was another 2 million under the Vietnamese? Is there hard evidence of this?

As for the VC, I agree that guerillas of any sort tend to be brutal nasty sorts–it’s hard to think of any exceptions, though of course the guerillas who mouth politically agreeable slogans are usually dubbed “freedom fighters” by silly Westerners on the left or the right. That said, after a thirty year civil war Vietnam wasn’t likely to be a nice peaceful place for the losers no matter who had come out on top. (And returning to Cambodia, from what I’ve read Lon Nol and Henry Kissinger would have been happy to have won the war against the Khmer Rouge by bombing the rural areas out of existence.)

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Phoenician in a time of Romans 01.14.05 at 4:22 am

But history has passed them by. Iraq is not Vietnam (or more specifically, Iran is not China) and they have no hope of victory. All they can really do is prolong the occupation and therefore the misery. The time has well past by which anyone with brains in their head could reasonably hope for anything other than swift and reasonably democratic elections, a declaration of victory and for the coalition troops to jump in the tanks, start the engines and stop driving when they see the first McDonalds.

You’re making two false assumptions here. Firstly, that “swift and reasonably democratic” elections are even possible under the occupation and resistance. They’re not; what’s on offer is not a real election but a way of legitimising a Vichy government. A third of the parties banned outright by American fiat? No list of who you’re voting for? No means of confirming the count?

This isn’t an election; it’s a farce.

Given this, a declaration of victory and the Americans driving their tanks out of Iraq IS a victory for the insurgents. The place will probably collapse into civil war within a week, and if the Iraqis are very lucky a theocracy will arise soon thereafter.

But the theocrats will be there, and the Americans will be gone. So the theocrats will proclaim themselves the winners.

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Robert McDougall 01.14.05 at 4:39 am

Peter: I’m not sure what in my comment your comment is supposed to address. If you’re imputing to me the position that up until 1995 or so, war was all good clean adventure and chivalry and “Messieurs les Anglais, tirez les premiers”, no that’s not what I was saying at all.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 4:52 am

Robert:
I was responding to the sentence “But nowadays there are good guys and bad guys and that’s that; and if anyone praises e.g., the courage and discipline of the attackers of the USS Cole, he must figure them for the good guys so he must be a terrsymp.” I thought that you were trying to suggest that we take a one-dimensional, black and white view of the enemy today and question the motives of anyone who does otherwise (which I could agree with) and my only point (assuming at the time that that was what you were trying to say) was that this is true but unexceptional. I think, for instance, that meaningful grudging admiration of the enemy is something that often settles in only in retrospect. I’m sorry I mis-characterized your point, but what were you trying to say with that sentence?

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Richard Cownie 01.14.05 at 5:05 am

peter: I think your confidence is misplaced. Already accounts from Iraq suggest that supply problems have been severe and units have often been short of food and ammunition. And the attacks seem to be getting larger, better planned, and more effective. Blow up one or two fuel dumps and bridges, block a few more roads and significant defeats become very possible.

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Blixa 01.14.05 at 5:12 am

john halasz,

“refusal to countenance” is not the same thing as “taking up arms against”. I think that’s my problem with the “resistance=noble” people; doing the former does not *necessitate* doing the latter, and yet they act like it does.

I don’t blame any Iraqi person one bit for *resenting* the occupation, for example. But the quickest way to end it is to work peacefully w/the occupiers to transition to self rule. The “insurgency” has only the effect of prolonging it.

You accuse (I think) me of a “sheltered consciousness” for asking for sufficient information to render a moral judgment. Yet I have not done so! I am simply noting that sufficient information is lacking, and therefore asking folks like dsquared to refrain from pat, sweeping moral judgments like “resistance can’t be ignoble”. Like hell it can’t.

I agree with you that “sufficient” information is probably unavailable to us all. However, that’s no excuse to limit one’s inquiries to the cartoon exercise of Figuring Out Which One Is The “Occupier” And Which One Is The “Resister” And Declaring The Latter “Noble” (in some weird way) On That Basis Alone. Am I not allowed to wish for *more* information, than that, to be integrated into peoples’ judgments? Oops, there I go again, me and my “sheltered consciousness”.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 5:25 am

I *hope* I am right (for their sake, not mine). And I’m not saying that your scenario is impossible. I’m just saying that on balance I do not think the smart money is on possibilities like that. I just think that these sort of scenarios have been advanced again and again (the Battle of the Bulge, various points in Korea and Vietnam, etc.). The dire predictions never worked out and the relative threat was arguably much greater in those other cases. Even if they blow up a bridge, we’ll just erect and fortify a replacement. It may be uncomfortable, but we can do it. But you are truly wrong about road blocks: these are simply untenable for the insurgents. I suspect that our military leaders would love it if they went after more predicatable positional targets like you suggest.

The best chance of something dire like this happening to us was Khe Sahn, and it simply didn’t pan out. (And you must concede that we were facing a far larger, tighter, more coherent force in Vietnam: even with much more organization the insurgents still would not be at the orgnaizational level of the VC/NVA.) Underestimating the resilience of the US military in these extreme circumstances is an old and oft repeated mistake.
I’ve heard the accounts you mention as well and just respectfully disagree with you: our forces, even stretched, are far too deep and redundant to face a big, Dien Bien Phu like positional defeat. They can cause us problems, but in the end the firepower imbalance is just too great. If they blow up a fuel dump, we’ll have to make adjustments, but that’s war: its only in the last decade or two that Americans have come to expect an effortless cruise to victory. Our military has and can withstand much, much worse.

Note that this is not meant to be grandstanding or anything like that: I’m just offering my frank assesment of the military circumstances.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 5:34 am

By the way, Richard, I want to be clear about one thing: I am not saying that the enemy isn’t going to inflict casualties on us or stage spectacular attacks. I agree with you that this will happen. What I am saying is not likely is something like the Varan disaster of the Teutoburger forest or Dien Bien Phu. The enemy simply does not (and will not) have the positional strength to pull that off. And they can hurt us in the air, but our air forces have survived much worse and remained tactically effective.
I got the feeling that the “thousands captured” line in your posts alluded to something along these lines. That is what I was responding to.

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baa 01.14.05 at 5:39 am

The Aeneid: touchstone for progressives! Who can forget Chomsky’s magnificence in dragging Kissinger’s body around the walls of Troy?

This has been a Comdey Classic. The only downside: it distracted the thread from mw’s feeling (and acute) “oh brother” above. Another slipperiness that merits attention.

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baa 01.14.05 at 5:40 am

The Aeneid: touchstone for progressives! Who can forget Chomsky’s magnificence in dragging Kissinger’s body around the walls of Troy?

This has been a Comedy Classic. The only downside: it distracted the thread from mw’s feeling (and acute) “oh brother” above. Another slipperiness in dsquared’s post that merits attention.

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Blixa 01.14.05 at 5:51 am

robert mcdougall’s post is a good read. However, it doesn’t sit right that he purports to be talking about –

“the nobility of fighting for your country”

Who, pray tell, in this equation is “fighting for [their] country”? How exactly does killing their countrymen – election workers, union leaders, policemen job applicants – get to qualify as “fighting for [their] country” in anyone’s book? And what kind of a sick, objectively-prejudicial-towards-fascist-tendencies book is that?

And I hate to keep bringing this up but what about the likes of Mr. Zarqawi. How exactly is he “fighting for his country”? Particularly since, I hasten to add, Iraq is not “his country” in any sense that I can see. Ditto for any Yemenis, Syrians, Saudis, Jordanians, Iranians, etc etc who may be there. “Fighting for their country”, is it?

Odd. Very odd.

If these issues are not cleared up then the post becomes something of a non sequitur. A: Zarqawi- and/or Sunni Baathist-linked group assassinates Iraqian election official. B: robert brings up and waxes poetic about the lofty, abstract notion of “fighting for your country”.

Relevance of B to A please?

I won’t even try to comprehend what acts, in your view, are exhibiting “courage”. Pressing a button to detonate an IED? Beheading a bound and gagged prisoner to create an internet snuff film? Perhaps it’s “courage” that needs waxing poetic about, since it has evidently been cheapened beyond recognition.

Does killing people wantonly in the presence of an Occupation automatically qualify one to claim inclusion into the “courageous”, “fighting-for-one’s-country” club? That seems to be all it takes, is there anything else to it? If not, then I can only hope robert is correct, that such twisted notions are on the decline.

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bad Jim 01.14.05 at 8:20 am

As a late addition in the vein of Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, let me recall the film Die Brücke, in which a platoon of German teenagers defends a bridge against the invading American army at the end of World War II. Their efforts are undoubtably heroic, no matter how futile or pointless.

With respect to Iraq, the last survey I saw counted coalition forces killing twice as many Iraqis as the insurgents. Is there any reason to think this ratio has changed recently?

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clew 01.14.05 at 8:30 am

I agree with dsquared’s definition of fighting to the bitter, unexamined end as ‘noble’; indeed, this is why nobility is an excellent trait in a rooster, and a terrible criterion for a government.

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abb1 01.14.05 at 8:32 am

The Vietnamese managed to kill almost as many Cambodians as the Khmer Rouge during their occupation…

I didn’t know that. Could you post a link, please.

BigMacAttack:
I just think it is silly to pretend that those sympathetic to the insurgents are motivated by anything but the blind anti-Americanism Abb1 so consistently displays.

And I thought you were one of more reasonable here. Well, don’t forget my anti-Semitism too.

And as far as nobility/sympathy goes, I don’t think anyone mentioned here that some people just tend to root for the underdog. David and Goliath kinda thing, you know. Defiant courage of the underdog has a powerful appeal. Well, for some of us, at least; others always root for the Home Team.

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Trickster Paean 01.14.05 at 8:42 am

“How exactly does killing their countrymen – election workers, union leaders, policemen job applicants – get to qualify as “fighting for [their] country” in anyone’s book?”

Well, George Washington fought and killed his countrymen, betrayed his country, and was a founder of another one.

Someone’s revolutionary may be another person’s traitor. I can easily see how someone might view an election worker as a traitor to one’s country. I deplore their deaths all the same.

A lack of empathy with one’s enemies, a lack of understanding of their perspective, leads to poorly thought out strategy.

“Pressing a button to detonate an IED?”

How about… Pressing a button to send a bomb into a row of houses where “insurgents” are staying? Busting into a house in the dead of night, taking the inhabitants hostage, and then torturing them in prison?

Alas, poor “courage”, you cowardly mongrel, alone in temperament, bereft of sanity or sense, full of folly and glory.

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abb1 01.14.05 at 9:38 am

Hey Blixa
And I hate to keep bringing this up but what about the likes of Mr. Zarqawi. How exactly is he “fighting for his country”? Particularly since, I hasten to add, Iraq is not “his country” in any sense that I can see. Ditto for any Yemenis, Syrians, Saudis, Jordanians, Iranians, etc etc who may be there. “Fighting for their country”, is it?

1980, the USSR invades Afghanistan, installs puppet government. Freedom-loving Afghan mujahideen and brave volunteers from all over the Muslim world organize a resistance. They cut heads, blow up tanks with IEDs, terrorize and kill collaborators.

Did you feel the same way back then? I know I wanted the resistance to drive the Soviets out, what about you? You probably hated those Islamofascist savages, didn’t you?

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Robert McDougall 01.14.05 at 9:48 am

Peter:

a one-dimensional, black and white view of the enemy today . . . true but unexceptional

Fair emough. I agree that was the weak point in my comment. It assimilates too much Ophelia Benson’s bemusement with nationalism — which I think does reflect or at least fit in with a singular change in attitude in our generation — with Eve Garrard’s insistence on some kind of holism in moral evaluation. Even if the latter does connect with some broader cultural tendency to resist shaded or mixed judgements (which is a bit of a stretch itself), there is (as you say) nothing very novel in that.

Blixa: What my comment “purported to be about” wasn’t Iraq at all but current cultural attitudes as reflected in OB’s and EG’s comments. But still it’s fair enough to asks what happens when you take the alternate not-so-current attitude and apply it there. So here goes:

* Lined up against the U.S. and the Allawi government there are a bunch of people fighting prima facie for a bunch of different causes, both subnational — for tribe or city — and supernational — pan-Arabism or the Umma. I don’t make any moral differentiation between them based on how they define the country and community they’re fighting for (though there’s a political differentiation to be made, according to how that definition fits in with any practicable nationalist project).

* The individuals so lined up are apparently grouped into a vast array of different outfits doing different things, from massacring “collaborators” through planting IED’s to (occasionally) standing up against the U.S. military in firefights as in Najaf or Fallujah. It seems to me entirely normal both to loath the cruelty at one end of the spectrum and the courage at the other (and that admiration e.g. for the courage of the Sadrists at Najaf sits perfectly well with total rejection of their political project).

* Since we do know that the insurgency is highly fractionalised, but often don’t know the affiliations of particular actors, it seems best to avoid holistic moral judgements on the insurgency and to judge each action on its own merits. I don’t assume that J. Random Ahmed found dead with an AK-47 in his hand in Fallujah was necessarily fighting for all the worst deeds of the Zarqawi group. Which of course is not to deny that inferences can be made where affiliations are known.

Where this gets me to in the end is: (1) In the present mirky state of our knowledge, it seems probably that many of the opposed individuals have taken up arms in defence of (variously defined) country and community. At a personal level (on the basis of some fairly old-fashioned attitudes), this seems to me more admirable than despicable. (2) We know that various insurgents have committed various despicable acts; needless to say, contempt rightly attaches to the groups and individuals that commit them, where these are known. (3) At a political as opposed to personal level, the insurgency deserves no outside sympathy, since there is no apparent constructive political program attached to it.

Which, as it happens, seems fairly close to what dsquared was saying in the first place.

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abb1 01.14.05 at 11:08 am

At a political as opposed to personal level, the insurgency deserves no outside sympathy, since there is no apparent constructive political program attached to it.

Constructive political program is right there, all over of it. It’s called ‘anti-colonial struggle’. How you could miss it – I don’t know; you must’ve tried real hard.

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Brett Bellmore 01.14.05 at 11:24 am

Hey, thanks! You know, I’d felt kind of dirty after voting for Bush back in November; Might have been the lesser evil, but not enough “lesser” to make me comfortable with the vote. Or so I thought.

But after reading this thread, I feel much better… It’s good to be reminded exactly what I was voting to keep out of power.

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Lorna 01.14.05 at 11:26 am

Is that to the same tune as “You noble Diggers all, stand up now”? That’s how it’s playing in my head…

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dsquared 01.14.05 at 12:00 pm

Dunno; I don’t really like folk music so I’m not familiar with that one. Here’s the amazon page where you can listen to excerpts.

I must say I never thought that the dulce et decorum thesis would have needed to be defended, and am very glad indeed that Robert McDougall stepped into the breach, like Horatio, and did a much better job than I would have done.

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Fifi 01.14.05 at 12:00 pm

They have no hope of victory. All they can really do is prolong the occupation and therefore the misery.
First of all, US troops would certainly not leave Iraq if it was all quiet with a nice cudly puppet government in place. They would stay there for the next 50 years.
And then define victory.
Go all the way to Washington and get a USS Missouri moment from whoever is at that time the President of the then defeated United States of America ? Of course not, but the US didn’t loose the Vietnam War in that definition. They simply withdrew and lost all influence in the region for the next twenty years.
The Iraqi insurgents are well on their way to achieve a similar result in the Arab world. Turn Iraq in a meat grinder for USians on the ground, force them to withdraw and, in the process, shatter the credibility of the US military in the whole region. And that would be quite a result as the fear inspired by US power is what motivates most local potentates to ally themselves, for their own protection, with a country which is universally despised by their populations. If the USA loose that aura of strength, they will find themselves without any friend in the region. This loss of influence would be an enormous blow and open the door to other powers, China first of all.
Probably, most insurgents don’t take the long view but their goal is to humiliate the USA in retreat and it’s working rather well if you believe the corridor noises on the Hill. Cutting and running is becoming fashionable in Washington. Whether this is wrapped in a democratic election won’t make a lot of difference. No matter the result, Iraq will descend in civil war. And that’s clear victory for the insurgents.

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x 01.14.05 at 12:40 pm

bq. People do often use words imprecisely, people do use ‘noble’ as a general hurrah-word – how was I supposed to know you meant Homeric?!

Maybe from the premise that “they represent much of what is worst about the human condition, and any future in which they gained power would most likely be outright disastrous“?

No mind-reading necessary, only reading, period – without the intention to attribute to the writer an overall hurrah-like moral endorsement of the insurgency which was clearly not there.

In theory, every single word containing any form of judgment is always ambiguous. You usually look at the words around it to see what it refers to. It was self-evident to me that it refers to the act of figthing a foreign occupying power. Obviously how you view that cause has to take in consideration what and who it is fighting for and against, and how. Hence that “worst” and “disastrous”.

But to take a very real example as comparison, the same mujahedeens who are now fighting the US were fighting _for_ the US in Afghanistan against the Soviets, as the foreign occupying power. I seem to recall their cause was sold as very noble and very worthy and very just to the American public. Now that the roles are switched… Of course many other things are different, but when does it stop being a matter of considering different contexts for the same action, and starts becoming a matter of hypocrisy?

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x 01.14.05 at 12:48 pm

“It’s exactly the opposite. If there is no resistance American troops will never leave – why would they? “

abb1, the US will never leave, even when most troops are out, no matter how much resistance there is.

But the existence of an insurgency, of a terrorist nature to boot, is what justifies not only the military presence today but also retroactively the war itself. It’s become the main justification for war. See, there’s terrorists, we were right to go there after all! Wonderfully circular reasoning which conveniently forgets there were _no_ terrorists _before_ the war. But what matters is that now there are, so we need to stay there. That’s the official position of Bush, Blair, and the rest of them. So paradoxically the fact more terrorists are being created is no longer a fault of the strategy, it’s become a validation of it. You have to admire how it works!

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Hektor Bim 01.14.05 at 2:09 pm

The Iraqi resistance is not the Viet Cong, because they don’t have popular support. The Kurds and the Shiites, in general, are against them, and are regularly assassinated for their troubles. (Al Sadr isn’t part of the Iraqi resistance, for example, because he isn’t fighting and is biding his time.)

Think about that again. The Iraqi resistance does not have the support of the vast majority of the population. Whatever you think about the Viet Cong, they did have vast popular support.

The Iraqi resistance, unless we or someone else disarm the Kurds and Shiites, have no prospect of taking power. That’s another way in which they are not the Viet Cong.

I really think drawing parallels between the Iraq situation and Vietnam are cute but not helpful in this instance.

In fact, rooting for the Iraqi resistance to win means that you want to go back to the bad old days where a small minority crushed everyone else in Iraq under their boot heels.

Al Qaida in Iraq is run by virulent Arab supremacists and Shiite haters. It’s pretty simple what they would do if they got power. They are not to be admired.

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Tom T. 01.14.05 at 2:15 pm

The lacuna that I see in Mr. McDougall’s analysis is that it overlooks the fact that, however imperfect it may be, there is a participatory political process available in Iraq. Personally, I think it’s a tenuous assumption that the various insurgents are fighting for recognizable communities, as opposed to simply seeking power for the leader of their particular armed band. Even if we grant that assumption, however, these groups are still seeking despotic rather than democratic authority, and I believe that to be adequate grounds in this case for denouncing them all, both on a political and a personal level.

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Hektor Bim 01.14.05 at 2:17 pm

The insurgents are not the Viet Cong. They don’t have anything like the popular support the Viet Cong did – notice none of the Shiites or Kurds complained about Fallujah? That’s because they suffer just as much from these guys as the Americans do. Unless some outside force tips the balance, there is no way the insurgents can take control while lacking the support of something like 75+ percent of the population.

I’m against the insurgents for the simple reason that they won’t form a reasonable government if they take power. Their political prescriptions are not clear, but leading lights in the insurgency seem to be either ex-Baathists or Al Qaida people, both of which are committed to oppression for the Shiites and Kurds, who make up together the vasat majority of the population of Iraq.

There’s nothing to cheer here. One must resist the inclination to choose sides. One doesn’t have to support the actions of the US Army or the actions of the insurgents.

I prefer to support democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Hopefully we can get that in Iraq, but if we can’t, that doesn’t mean I have to bed down with fools and murderers.

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novakant 01.14.05 at 2:18 pm

they [the Nazis] showed less ignobility by standing firm and fighting for their corrupt ideals than they would have done by surrendering. I’ll even spot you that my favourite Nuremberg defendant is Goering, for committing suicide rather than allowing the tribunal to execute him.

Wow, dsquared is defending the death marches – this is just abhorrent.

I suggest you take a good look at this site and especially click the link entitled “Personal stories” (Realplayer required) to listen to the stories of survivors. All of this happened because the Nazis in charge were oh so nobly standing firm and fighting for their corrupt ideals, which – needless to say – included the extermination of Jews.

And your favourite Nuremberg defendant is that despicable, cynical swine Goering, for committing suicide rather than facing his well deserved punishment. Not von Weizsäcker or von Papen, whose guilt was comparatively small, nor Albert Speer or Hans Frank, who showed at least some remorse (the latter saying “A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased”), but the unrepentant Goering, co-architect of the “Final Solution”.

I urge the powers that be at Crooked Timber to take note…

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jet 01.14.05 at 2:24 pm

Abb1,
If you think that if Germany elected a communist government then the US would invade, you are crazy. There is no getting around it. You sir, are a victim of Too Much Masturbation? Although, in your case, it was all mental.

And someone else may have corrected this, but I saw it mentioned several times that the Viet Cong overthrew Pol Pot. I expect more from CrookedTimber posters than this crap. The Viet Cong (what was left of them) were killed or sent to “reeducation” camps after 1975. It was the government of Vietnam (the North Vietnamese) who invaded Cambodia. You might even call it a little Kosmic Karmic Joke considering the history of Cambodia and Vietnam, although the Vietnamese were much kinder in their invasion.

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Richard Cownie 01.14.05 at 2:38 pm

peter: I hope you’re right. However, in those past conflicts we had much larger forces available. In Iraq we have about 150000 total, but with the tooth-to-tail ratio probably only about 30-50K of those are fully trained for combat (rather than being cooks, mechanics, truck drivers etc – obviously in a pinch everyone can fire an M16, but you wouldn’t send those guys and gals to assault Fallujah).

US military doctrine and planning seems to have placed a heavy emphasis on firepower and mobility, rather than numbers. So we’ve ended up with numerically small forces which are capable of rapid movement (as long as they have fuel) and heavy and accurate fire (as long as they have ammunition).
I think this is very different from what we had in Vietnam, so I doubt we can take much comfort from that.

The especially discouraging feature of Iraq is that weapons are ubiquitous – it’s a country of 25M people where almost everyone has an AK47, grenades are cheap, RPGs are common. And apparently explosives capable of destroying heavy armor are now surfacing. If just 0.25% of Iraqis decide to join the insurgency, you could suddenly be facing 60K well-armed attackers.

Perhaps most worryingly, the C-in-C and the DoD appear disconnected from reality and unwilling to listen to any bad news. That in particular could lead us to postpone any retreats even when the military and logistical situation is very dangerous.

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jet 01.14.05 at 2:50 pm

X said “But to take a very real example as comparison, the same mujahedeens who are now fighting the US were fighting for the US in Afghanistan against the Soviets, as the foreign occupying power.”

So you’ve tallied names against the Official List of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan? Since the US backed the native fighters in Afghanistan and the lifespan there was so short over the last 15 years, I’d hazard a guess that not very damn many of the mujahedeen even survived long enough to partake in attacks on the US, let alone were left with the health and vigor to travel to Iraq.

X, before posting this garbage any more you should offer a refutation of the CIA’s insistence that the non-Afghani mujahedeen where under the influence of Saudi instead of the US. I’m sure you can given how you are never prone to assume anything and are solidly grounded in the world of verifiable facts. For your refutation to be taken seriously it should also offer your understanding of what groups made up the “mujahedeen” in Soviet invaded Afghanistan.

I look forward to the sound of crickets.

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jet 01.14.05 at 2:54 pm

X said “But to take a very real example as comparison, the same mujahedeens who are now fighting the US were fighting for the US in Afghanistan against the Soviets, as the foreign occupying power.”

So you’ve tallied names against the Official List of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan? Before posting this garbage any more you should offer a refutation of the CIA’s insistence that the non-Afghani mujahedeen where under the influence of Saudi instead of the US. I’m sure you can given how you are never prone to assume anything and are solidly grounded in the world of verifiable facts. For your refutation to be taken seriously it should also offer your understanding of what groups made up the “mujahedeen” in Soviet invaded Afghanistan.

I’d respond myself, but I’ve had this discussion with you before.

I look forward to the sound of crickets.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.14.05 at 3:05 pm

Blixa:

I don’t blame any Iraqi person one bit for resenting the occupation, for example. But the quickest way to end it is to work peacefully w/the occupiers to transition to self rule. The “insurgency” has only the effect of prolonging it.

And there’s where the discussion hits the wall: I don’t believe for one second that the occupiers give a rat’s ass about Iraqi “self rule.”

The Bush administration deliberately led the country to war under false pretenses. If that didn’t make their utter contempt for “democracy” and “self rule” patently clear to all, then nothing will. And yet so many of the comments on this thread proceed from a blind faith–even after Abu Ghraib, after Fallujah, after al-QaaQaa, and on and on–that somewhere deep down the US military is acting in the best interests of the Iraqi people. I find that nothing short of delusional.

As for “nobility,” two thoughts: 1) The insurgency is monstrous. 2) It is a monster that owes its existence to the actions of the United States. Sorry if I refuse to pick a side to “root” for in this particular bloodbath.

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dsquared 01.14.05 at 3:10 pm

Hektor:

Whatever you think about the Viet Cong, they did have vast popular support.

I don’t agree with this. The VietCong didn’t have all that much popular support, not in the South.

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abb1 01.14.05 at 3:17 pm

Jet, buddy,
If you think that if Germany elected a communist government then the US would invade, you are crazy.

First of all, the whole point was that they don’t even need to invade, they’re already there, 80,000 troops or so.

And second, those US soldiers are officially there to defend Germany against communism.

So, are you saying that the official reason is a lie or you’re managing to hold two contradictory beliefs at once?

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Brett Bellmore 01.14.05 at 3:27 pm

“And there’s where the discussion hits the wall: I don’t believe for one second that the occupiers give a rat’s ass about Iraqi “self rule.””

Yes, that’s definately where this discussion goes off the rails; This tendency on the left to hold the malevolence of the Bush administration as such an unshakable premise, that somebody can toss a bomb into a line of people volunteering to join the Iraqi police force, and you’ll see it as an act of heroism, just because the administration wants them to have a police force.

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Brett Bellmore 01.14.05 at 3:28 pm

“And there’s where the discussion hits the wall: I don’t believe for one second that the occupiers give a rat’s ass about Iraqi “self rule.””

Yes, that’s definately where this discussion goes off the rails; This tendency on the left to hold the malevolence of the Bush administration as such an unshakable premise, that somebody can toss a bomb into a line of people volunteering to join the Iraqi police force, and you’ll see it as an act of heroism, just because the administration wants them to have a police force.

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Brett Bellmore 01.14.05 at 3:33 pm

Sorry about the double post. Didn’t seem to “take” the first time.

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Cranky Observer 01.14.05 at 3:37 pm

> This tendency on the left to hold
> the malevolence of the Bush
> administration as such an
> unshakable premise

The requirement that one sign a loyalty oath before being allowed to hear George W. Bush’s campaign speech really gave me a lot of confidence in the non-malevolence of the Bush Administration. As did the Gonzales torture memorandum and the recently commissioned death squads.

Cranky

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Jeremy Osner 01.14.05 at 3:46 pm

How is Uncle K’s belief in the malevolency of the current administration — leaving aside the question of this belief’s straw/not straw status — differ from Brett’s belief in Uncle K’s malevolency, as evidenced by Brett’s statement that “[Uncle K] will see [the bombing of Iraqi police recruits] as an act of heroism”?

Well… Uncle K bases his belief on his reading of the historical record of the administration’s actions. Brett bases his belief on his reading of Uncle K’s posts and (I am presuming, since Uncle K said nowhere that the bombing of Iraqi police recruits was a historic act) the posts of other people who Brett believes somehow to be associated with Uncle K. I will leave it to the reader to decide which belief has a firmer basis in reality.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.14.05 at 3:52 pm

This tendency on the left to hold the malevolence of the Bush administration as such an unshakable premise, that somebody can toss a bomb into a line of people volunteering to join the Iraqi police force, and you’ll see it as an act of heroism

As Jeremy just pointed out, this is exactly what my post didn’t say. Nice one, Brett.

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Jeremy Osner 01.14.05 at 4:02 pm

D’oh!!! “heroic” somehow became “historic’ the second time I typed it. This was not intentional. Please make the appropriate correction as you read my previous post.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 4:08 pm

Richard,
You are absolutely correct on your main three points:
1. Only a small portion of the US forces in Iraq represent real primary combat units and the force is dominated by support personnel.
2. The country has a population loaded to the gills with small arms and some have assets capable of hurting our armor.
3. US military planners are ” disconnected from reality and unwilling to listen to any bad news.”
However, points of perspective:
Point 1. has been true of every modern American war. I can recall reading a history of the Battle of the Bulge and learining with astonishment how small a portion of the US troops in the 30 miles leading up to the front were combat troops. And these trends only accelerated through Korea and VN. It is true that combat troops today are better supported (in terms of the array of resources available to support them) but it is also true that the Army’s support network has also grown far more efficient and effective. The overall combat troops to support personnel ratio depends of course on who is doing the counting, but my understanding is that it has not moved that much by any of the estimates since Vietnam: the vast majority of US troops in Vietnam saw no action either. They were support personnel. It is a vulnerability, you are right (behind all of the praise heaped on them, I was really fearful of the implications of the utter failure of Jessica Lynch’s unit to perform in combat). So, I agree that this is a weakness but disagree that it is one new to Iraq.
2. is also true but they fall far, far short of the firepower necesary to inflict a big DBP type defeat on us. In fact, I would submit the following: even of you transmitted the entire current active Iraqi resistance across time and space to replace the Vietminh at DBP, and gave them the same command of the heights the Vietminh enjoyed, facing a French force that is not particularly capable by modern US military standards, they would not overwhelm even those French forces then and there. Why? B/c they simply lack the mass firepower the Vietminh had then (and discipline the Vietminh exercised to employ it). And no where outside of the Kurdish regions of Iraw offers terrain anywhere near as favorable as DBP was to the Vietminh. You will not beat US troops with RPGs and Ak-47s alone: the best chance of that was Mogdishu (a more desperate fight than I think allot of people realize) and it didn’t happen then either. You are also right about the anti-armor weapons, but it is again a matter of degree: the Palestinians in the Terrirories and Hezbollah in Lebanon possess similar capabilities (they essentially vaporized a few Merkava tanks over the years, for instance) but that created problems. It was not strategically decisive. Even if (extremely unlikely) we had to withdraw much of our armor, we can be comforted by the fact that we didn’t need it for force protection against other armor anyway. Finally, the insurgency does not have access to anyhwhere near the full outstanding reserve of weapons in the Iraqi civilian arsenal. Regardless of what has been said in this thread, the insurgency is vulnerbable: the reservoir of trouble has a remarkably narrow political base in Iraqi society (and they themselves have worked hard to narrow it further). I think that the characterizations in this thread of the Vietcong as popular are not exactly accurate: you don’t have to be popular in the strict sense to exercise as a guerilla movement poltical control of a population and there were many other arguably more truly popular (sometimes local) groups and movements in South Vietnam (the Buddhist establsihment, religious sects like the Cao Dai, etc.). But it is true that the VC had until probably the year after Tet control of a much larger portion of the resources of S. Vietnam’s civilian pop than the active Iraqi insurgents do in today’s Iraq.
Point 3. is unfortunately probably correct but was also true in Vietnam. Remember that famous line about deep shit and wings in Apocalypse Now?

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jet 01.14.05 at 4:09 pm

abbone,
You said “And second, those US soldiers are officially there to defend Germany against communism.” Is that so? Atop the bob-wired gates of the US military bases sit plaques enscribed with those words? Might those bases have to do more with NATO agreements?

Perhaps they teach a more revisionist version of history accross the pond and they leave out the events that brought the US to Europe and the events which caused the US to remain. Just keep in mind that up until 1989, for every US tank in W. Germany, there were 20 Soviet tanks in E. Germany. US military doctrine wasn’t could they stop the USSR, but how many *weeks* could they hold Erope before it fell.

And being accross the pond, you might not be in tune with the conservatives of America. But there is a strong pull to stop wasting money keeping soldiers in places like Germany. There is no need for it, and it wastes cash. Those bases remain out of outdated treaties and international politics to keep the welfare coming (in the form of free defense).

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Dan Simon 01.14.05 at 4:10 pm

Hey, thanks! You know, I’d felt kind of dirty after voting for Bush back in November; Might have been the lesser evil, but not enough “lesser” to make me comfortable with the vote. Or so I thought.

But after reading this thread, I feel much better… It’s good to be reminded exactly what I was voting to keep out of power.

Brett, this is terribly unfair to John Kerry and the Democrats. Heck, even Dsquared is being admirably moderate and sensible compared to the nonsense that’s being spouted here in the comments thead (and for the most part even in absolute terms). To infer the Democrats’ program, had they been elected, from the rantings of a bunch of true loony leftists on a leftist blog’s comment thread is a bit like inferring George Bush’s views and policies by cherry-picking the very worst comments from “Little Green Footballs”. That is, it’s exactly analogous to what the crazies are doing here.

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Elaine Supkis 01.14.05 at 4:48 pm

America is going bankrupt. The insurgent resistance to American Imperialism is costing the USA $100+ billion a year and is destroying the military machinery at a pretty rapid rate.

The demoralization of the imperial storm troopers is causing suicides, mass or serial murder and other problems at home, note the lastest gun battle between a 19 year old Marine and the cops or the three Marines gunning at each other in heavy traffic in NC.

It will get worse and worse as the rage of the troops who are committing war crimes turns home again just like when Tim McVeigh decided to blow up the Federal Building…etc.

We are seriously doomed.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 5:21 pm

Elaine,
Calm down. All of this has come to pass before (remember Vietnam?) and we muddled through just fine.

People, there are allot of of really good points made in this thread, but the utter panic in some corners is just totally unjustified.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.14.05 at 5:26 pm

All of this has come to pass before (remember Vietnam?) and we muddled through just fine.

Yeah. A couple of million Vietnamese died, but only 50,000 Americans, so at the end of the day it’s no biggie.

122

Antoni Jaume 01.14.05 at 5:28 pm

NATO was all about anticommunism, it was not created for the reason that brought the USA into the WWII. As for your affirmation on “US military doctrine”, that was pure propaganda. No more credible than Iraq’s WMD. Yes, those WMD that did not appear anywhere in Iraq.

DSW

123

Richard Cownie 01.14.05 at 5:31 pm

peter: thanks for your very reasonable response.

As you say, the tooth-to-tail ratio has always been low. What is different is that in WW2 we had a total force of maybe 2M in Europe;
in Vietnam we had approx 500K; in Iraq we have only 150K. So the absolute numbers are frighteningly low – such small numbers of front-line troops will be quickly overwhelmed if they lose the tactical edge given by firepower and mobility. If they run low on ammunition or fuel, it’s over very quickly.

Dien Bien Phu was a terrible miscalculation by the French – they thought it was impossible for Vietnamese to get artillery there, and they were just wrong. Not a close analogy, though it does give some indication of the difficulty of supplying a large force by air (even before the existence of SAMs)

Recent analysis of the casualty figures suggests that while we aren’t suffering a lot of deaths (thanks to body armor and unprecedented medical support), the ratio of insurgent casualties to US casualties is about 4:1 or 5:1.
At those rates it seems possible that the insurgency is growing whereas we are losing front-line strength (probably 600-1200 per month), as we are stretched thinner local defeats become quite likely.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.14.05 at 5:38 pm

More grist for the mill:

War created a haven, CIA advisers report

Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of “professionalized” terrorists, according to a report released yesterday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director’s think tank.

Iraq provides terrorists with “a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills,” said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. “There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries.”

Source:
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/6823913/

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abb1 01.14.05 at 6:27 pm

x,

abb1, the US will never leave, even when most troops are out, no matter how much resistance there is.

But the existence of an insurgency, of a terrorist nature to boot, is what justifies not only the military presence today but also retroactively the war itself. It’s become the main justification for war.

I don’t think making them run out of excuses is a plausible strategy, they have a number ‘think-tanks’ creating and testing various talking points as we speak.

126

NeoDude 01.14.05 at 6:33 pm

127

Antoni Jaume 01.14.05 at 6:35 pm

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States . . . .”

Well, why bother with nobility titles when property titles are more effective?

DSW

128

Antoni Jaume 01.14.05 at 6:37 pm

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States . . . .”

Well, why bother with nobility titles when property titles are more effective?

DSW

129

Antoni Jaume 01.14.05 at 6:38 pm

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States . . . .”

Well, why bother with nobility titles when property titles are more effective?

DSW

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abb1 01.14.05 at 6:49 pm

Brett,

Yes, that’s definately where this discussion goes off the rails; This tendency on the left to hold the malevolence of the Bush administration as such an unshakable premise…

It’s not about the Bush administration, it’s just that any national government is advancing the perceived interests of its constituency – I hope this idea is not controversial.

To think that the Bush administration (or any other administration) is pursuing any other goals than advancing interests of its main constituency would be nothing but a loony conspiracy theory.

That’s why this talk about US government being so concerned about Iraqi democracy sounds so silly.

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Brett Bellmore 01.14.05 at 7:05 pm

“To think that the Bush administration (or any other administration) is pursuing any other goals than advancing interests of its main constituency would be nothing but a loony conspiracy theory.

That’s why this talk about US government being so concerned about Iraqi democracy sounds so silly.”

But you’re missing the point: The Bush administration, as a result of 9-11, came to the conclusion that “rogue” governments were an intolerable danger to the American people. And has set about a long term strategy to replace them with less dangerous governments, ideally democracies. NOT because it’s good for the people living in those countries, that’s just a bonus. Because if those countries become democracies, they’ll be less of a danger to US.

So wanting Iraq to become a democracy IS pursuing the interests of Republican constituencies.

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Peter 01.14.05 at 7:07 pm

All true. The Vietnam thing varied, however (it wasn’t always 500k). In 1965 (probably the high water mark of the VC) we had mainly support personnel there. The first truly dedicated pure combat personnel were about 3-5000 (I forget exactly how much) from the 173rd Airborne Brigade that I believe arived in April or May of 1965. We already had a big mainly support contingent on the ground before that, however. By the end of 65 we had only around 180k troops in Vietnam (again, heavily dominated by support) and I suspect that 30-40k alone of NVA infiltrated in in just that year. (VC strength estimates for, say, 65 are always controversial, but even conservative estimates far exceed private estimate of current Iraqi insurgent numbers.) So, even in Vietnam our vulnerabilities would seem to have been similar at many points. Anyway, I believe the 500k mark was passed only in one year (68) and even closely approached in maybe 67 and 69. At the long tails of the war the situation was much closer to Iraq. With one exception: the VC/NVA were far more formidable in 65 than the Iraqi insurgency today.

On reflection, where I do think your scenario could play out is an attack on a support column a la the Jessica Lynch incident. This would involve far fewer troops (maybe a few dozen at best), but I will admit that there is a non-trivial probability of a platoon or company sized force being wiped out while moving in a column. Even then though, so many things have to come together for the insurgents. And then the real risk for them becomes whether they can disengage before rescue forces arrive. If they can’t, they are caught out in the open in a large formation, and we’ll kill them.

I’m more afraid of what we’ve seen: this continuous trickle of casualties. And what does a failure to win here do to our future security credibility? With a loss here and in Vietnam, we won’t really be able to offer the kind of credible threat in certain places (Darfur, for example) that we would have had these vulnerabilities not been as apparent.

I agree: good exchange.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.14.05 at 7:26 pm

But you’re missing the point: The Bush administration, as a result of 9-11, came to the conclusion that “rogue” governments were an intolerable danger to the American people.

One teensy problem: in the case of Iraq, that conclusion was not based in reality. Therefore, in order to rationalize the war, they sold their “conclusion” to the American people with trumped-up “evidence” and out-and-out lies. And in the process of invading a country that, in fact, posed no threat to the United States whatsoever, as the article I cited above points out, they’ve actually created a greater long-term threat in the form of a breeding ground for more terrorists.

Now, what exactly is the point that we’re missing, Brett?

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Uncle Kvetch 01.14.05 at 7:32 pm

But you’re missing the point: The Bush administration, as a result of 9-11, came to the conclusion that “rogue” governments were an intolerable danger to the American people.

There’s one teensy problem: that conclusion had no basis in reality. Therefore, in order to sell the American people on the war, the administration resorted to fear-mongering, trumped-up “evidence,” and out-and-out lies. And in the process of invading a country which, as we now know, posed no threat whatsoever to the US, they’ve created an even greater threat in the form of a breeding ground for more terrorists, as the article I cited above suggests.

Given all this, what exactly is the point that we’re missing, Brett?

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Blixa 01.14.05 at 7:48 pm

A few responses, probably late, probably will not be noticed, but whatever.

*trickster paean*

“Well, George Washington fought and killed his countrymen, betrayed his country, and was a founder of another one.”

Correct. Now, was the end state superior to the prior state? And is that what the insurgents, if successful, will achieve? Also, generally speaking what tactics did Washington employ – and in particular, were things such as marketplace slaughters of random civilians generally among them? What I’m saying is that (to not sound silly) you have to actually do the boring, annoying grunt work of looking at details. Perhaps the “resistance is not ignoble” principle stems from sheer laziness, a reluctance to have to think about things like details. So boring! Can’t there just be a hard and fast general rule, like “resisting occupation = noble”, that we can slap on every single situation and be done with it? (Says the undergrad in his dorm room….)

“I can easily see how someone might view an election worker as a traitor to one’s country.”

This statement almost speaks for itself. And yet, it says less than it appears to, I suppose. Sure, I too can see how someone might view an election worker as a traitor. If that someone is a fascist, for example. By the same token, I can see how someone might view a short skirt as an invitation to rape – if that someone is a rapist. Have we learned anything?

“How about… Pressing a button to send a bomb into a row of houses where “insurgents” are staying? …”

How about it? Have I ever called doing that “noble” (or more passively “not ignoble”)? What exactly did you think this argued against?

*abb1*

“Freedom-loving Afghan mujahideen and brave volunteers from all over the Muslim world organize a resistance. They cut heads, blow up tanks with IEDs, terrorize and kill collaborators. Did you feel the same way back then?”

No. I was basically too young to feel one way or the other about Afghan mujahideen. In hindsight I can see that one of them was OBL and to me that speaks for itself.

“I know I wanted the resistance to drive the Soviets out, what about you?”

Yes. Me too, at least in retrospect. It is possible (and, I would say, less puerile) to root for this occurrence out of realpolitik, without taking the extra step of deluding oneself into thinking that they are by nature “noble”.

Getting back to the Iraq situation, it’s even dumber than that, because seemingly we have people who *don’t* root for the Iraq insurgents and yet still feel some kind of emotional need to stake out a claim that what they are doing ought to be thought of as noble.

Of course, maybe in some cases the people saying this do root for the Iraq insurgents, which would explain this impulse a bit better….

*robert macdougall*

“I don’t make any moral differentiation between them based on how they define the country and community they’re fighting for”

That’s an error IMHO. Do you make a moral differentiation between people in the 1940s who perceived themselves to be fighting for “The Aryans”, as opposed to those who may have perceived themselves to be fighting for some town they lived in or whatever? How about Klansmen who took up arms in “defence” of the “white community”?

“It seems to me entirely normal both to loath the cruelty at one end of the spectrum and the courage at the other”

Indeed! And that is precisely what I am asking for! Instead of tossing a blanket “not ignoble” judgment over the whole lot based *solely* on the Resisting Occupiers label, *make distinctions*. Use your brain. Yes! If only others would do the same. Understand my frustration now?

“it seems best to avoid holistic moral judgements on the insurgency and to judge each action on its own merits”

HALLELUJAH! Preach it! Was it not clear that this was my point all along? “Resisting occupation is not ignoble” is a holistic moral judgement about virtually each and every person currently killin’ people in Iraq. (Even more offensive, it is an assertion or a concession that all of their acts are “resisting occupation”…)

“I don’t assume that J. Random Ahmed found dead with an AK-47 in his hand in Fallujah was necessarily fighting for all the worst deeds of the Zarqawi group.”

And neither ought you assume that he was “fighting for his country”, “resisting occupation”, or that he demonstrated any “courage”. Right?

“it seems probably that many of the opposed individuals have taken up arms in defence of (variously defined) country and community”

Sigh. I don’t know how you get there at all. Some fraction of them are taking up arms because they like the idea of killing Westerners and/or infidels, and that’s about it. Some fraction consists of simple psychopaths. Some fraction consists of run of the mill criminals. (Some fraction has committed attacks because of threats to them, or their families.) You have very little idea how large or small these fractions may be, any more than I do. Of course, perhaps even for these fractions, whatever impulse is driving could be (by squinting one’s eyes) spun as “taking up arms in defence of their community”. For example, killing random white infidels = “defending the Arab-Muslim Community”. Just as what the Nazis were doing could be spun as “taking up arms in defence of the Aryan Community”.

But no one whose moral compass isn’t on the fritz would insist that others cannot make a moral distinction between that sort of “community defence” and any others!

“At a personal level (on the basis of some fairly old-fashioned attitudes), this seems to me more admirable than despicable.”

Regardless of the “community” and what they do in “defence” of it? That is warped. Which is my point. *details matter*! Is this just laziness that makes people want to be able to make judgments about what’s admirable and what’s despicable based solely on the most vague, general outlines of the situation?

“We know that various insurgents have committed various despicable acts; needless to say, contempt rightly attaches to the groups and individuals that commit them, where these are known.”

Apparently it’s not needless to say, because people, including yourself, keep paradoxically insisting that something uniformly “not ignoble” attaches to what they all are doing – making no distinctions. Unless I’m misreading.

“At a political as opposed to personal level, the insurgency deserves no outside sympathy, since there is no apparent constructive political program attached to it. Which, as it happens, seems fairly close to what dsquared was saying in the first place.”

I confess not to really know what dsquared thought his point was, at this point. I’m not sure I understand this distinction you’re making between a “personal level” and a “political level” of judgment; if enough people sympathize on a “personal level”, this will naturally translate into sympathy on a “political level” will it not? Hence my annoyance with the personal level-sympathy people.

*uncle kvetch*

“And there’s where the discussion hits the wall: I don’t believe for one second that the occupiers give a rat’s ass about Iraqi “self rule.””

The discussion does hit a wall consisting of that belief of yours, yes. Thanks for sharing that belief anyway.

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abb1 01.14.05 at 7:52 pm

Brett,
I think you’re saying almost exactly what ‘the left’ is saying: the Bushies are actively perusing world domination.

I don’t see, though, that a democracy is more beneficial for the Republicans (Venezuela?), especially in the ME, where Islamic parties are likely to win elections and take over real quick (as happened in Algeria in 1991). So, what they really want is a rule by US-dependent strong-men in these ‘rogue’ states. Which is exactly what ‘the left’ is saying.

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wood turtle 01.14.05 at 8:00 pm

I’m looking forward to the sound of frogs in Iraq, water and tree.

138

George 01.14.05 at 8:18 pm

abb1 said:

Constructive political program is right there, all over of it [the insurgency]. It’s called ‘anti-colonial struggle’.

Wow, it’s rare to meet an unrecontructed Leftist these days. (And I say that without trying to be snarky.)

More broadly — and in an effort to maybe soften the edges of what brett said — the US certainly does pursue its own interests in foreign policy, as does everyone. What I think distinguished the US from other superpowers of memory (with the possible exception of the British) is that our foreign policy is, at its best, animated by enlightened self interest, not merely self interest. We prosper when others prosper; hence our interest in promoting stable, healthy and liberal states, sometimes seemingly against interest: Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, Poland. Obviously we’re not always at our best (we’re as human as anyone else), and the Mideast in particular has gotten the short end of this policy stick for too long. We’ve promoted stability at the expense of liberality, not recognizing that the two must eventually go together. It’s not just a matter of who directly threatens us; I agree that that part of the Iraq rationale was largely bunk. But overall, the brewing catastrophe that is the Arab world threatens the world, and as the prime guarantor (and beneficiary) of the current world order, that threatens us.

Well, now that’s changing. Official US policy is now to promote democracy in the Middle East. If you say that we’re hypocrites, that we are after only our own interests, you’re free to do so. But must the two be mutually exclusive?

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Uncle Kvetch 01.14.05 at 8:43 pm

Germany, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, Poland.

Pinochet, Marcos, Duvalier, Somoza, Karimov, Pahlavi. Your turn.

Well, now that’s changing. Official US policy is now to promote democracy in the Middle East.

Yes…and every photo from Abu Ghraib, every flattened city, every 500-pound bomb accidentally dropped on the wrong house, brings us one step closer to that goal.

140

abb1 01.14.05 at 8:46 pm

It’s nice, George, you have nice, wholesome thoughts, good for you. It’s good for your appetite, digestion and for the sound sleep. Try to avoid eating raw tomatoes after 9pm, though.

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David Sucher 01.14.05 at 9:15 pm

The error of this post starts with “… but for all that, to take up arms against an occupying foreign army…”

The Baath fascists are killing their own people in an attempt to reestablish (it seems) the old regime. Killing Americans is somewhat of a sideshow and only important so that the election will either be called off or appear illegitimate. They are reactionary forces who deserve no sympathy or respect. If they were true Iraqi patriots they would simply go vote later this month.

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NeoAmerican 01.14.05 at 9:41 pm

yankee go home.

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George 01.14.05 at 9:49 pm

Pinochet, Marcos, Duvalier, Somoza, Karimov, Pahlavi. Your turn.

I’m not going to dispute any of that. (Well, almost any of it. The US gets more grief than it deserves for Uzbekistan. Last year, the US withdrew the bulk of the discretionary assistance we had been providing the Karimov government, for insufficient progress on human rights etc. He promptly asked for it — and got it — from the Russians.) We’ve supported some pretty ugly thugs, no question. (And you left out Mobutu Sese Seko, but maybe you were saving him for the next round.) That’s why I said that at our best, we work for the greater good because it redounds to our own benefit. Unfortunately we’ve departed from that standard early and often. That we are coming back to our better instincts now — embracing our inner Wilson, tossing out the Scowcrofts and Kissingers — is nice to see.

Besides, the bar I set was not the Netherlands, but ‘other superpowers.’ Every empire, including the US, sets up puppet governments in its vassal states, which are as a rule cruel and unrepresentative. How many invest so much of their own blood and treasure building healthy and representative states? The American innovation is to recognize (occasionally) that the latter are actually better allies than the former.

It’s nice, George, you have nice, wholesome thoughts, good for you. It’s good for your appetite, digestion and for the sound sleep. Try to avoid eating raw tomatoes after 9pm, though.

I don’t expect you to agree with me. (If I claimed the sky was blue, abb1, you’d dispute it.) I’m trying to demonstrate that even if (shocker!) the US did not invade Iraq purely out of altruistic concern for the Iraqi people, that doesn’t mean our overall goals do not include a better future for them.

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George 01.14.05 at 9:49 pm

Pinochet, Marcos, Duvalier, Somoza, Karimov, Pahlavi. Your turn.

I’m not going to dispute any of that. (Well, almost any of it. The US gets more grief than it deserves for Uzbekistan. Last year, the US withdrew the bulk of the discretionary assistance we had been providing the Karimov government, for insufficient progress on human rights etc. He promptly asked for it — and got it — from the Russians.) We’ve supported some pretty ugly thugs, no question. (And you left out Mobutu Sese Seko, but maybe you were saving him for the next round.) That’s why I said that at our best, we work for the greater good because it redounds to our own benefit. Unfortunately we’ve departed from that standard early and often. That we are coming back to our better instincts now — embracing our inner Wilson, tossing out the Scowcrofts and Kissingers — is nice to see.

Besides, the bar I set was not the Netherlands, but ‘other superpowers.’ Every empire, including the US, sets up puppet governments in its vassal states, which are as a rule cruel and unrepresentative. How many invest so much of their own blood and treasure building healthy and representative states? The American innovation is to recognize (occasionally) that the latter are actually better allies than the former.

It’s nice, George, you have nice, wholesome thoughts, good for you. It’s good for your appetite, digestion and for the sound sleep. Try to avoid eating raw tomatoes after 9pm, though.

I don’t expect you to agree with me. (If I claimed the sky was blue, abb1, you’d dispute it.) I’m trying to demonstrate that even if (shocker!) the US did not invade Iraq purely out of altruistic concern for the Iraqi people, that doesn’t mean our overall goals do not include a better future for them.

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NeoAmerican 01.14.05 at 10:40 pm

The United States has a history of killing foriegn colored people who disagree with them, today is no different.

George, you sound like a pedophile priest telling his victims that they should feel blessed that Jefferie Daumer didn’t get to them because he rapes and kills and eats young boys…now bend over.

146

roger 01.14.05 at 10:50 pm

George, the problem with the occupation of Iraq is not that the Bush administration to a man secretly and intentionally plan to make life uniformly worse for Iraqis. In fact, all the players over there aim for the good — they simply have radically different definitions of the good. At least, this is a good Socratic premise.

But nations exist partly because different people’s have different interests. And the occupation of one country by another doesn’t suppress the interest of the occupying country, no matter what the good will of that country. This doesn’t mean all occupations are bad, but as a rule of thumb, they are counter-democratic.

Let’s take an example. How about Iran. The Americans going in there depended on Iraqis who the Bush administration felt were “like us” — the Chalabis and Allawis. People who would be more than willing to split up a centralized economy, work with Sharon’s Israel, and put military pressure on Iran.

In other words, people who felt like the interests of the U.S. (seen through the neo-con prism) and the interests of Iraq were identical.

The problem is that they aren’t. Iraq’s real interest vis a vis Iran has to take into account a long border, a past, disastrous war (urged on by the U.S.), and the fact that Iran gave refuge to many of the people who now want to run Iraq.

So: why should a rational Iraqi politician want to end up running a state with a forward military post, manned by American soldiers, that is aimed at making trouble with Iran? Or Syria? If you exclude American interests from the equation, it becomes much easier to govern Iraq (whether democratically or non-democratically) by establishing good relations with Syria and Iran. It is true, foreign fighters are coming in from Syria — as well as Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But good relations with Syria would do more to staunch this than anything else. And allowing the Americans, for whatever perverse reasons, to aggravate the situation by training “special forces” to raid Syria will not help Iraq at all. If anything, it might tip the balance within the insurgency to Islamicists, who are supported by the Wahabi power to the South.

As for the great policy turn to democracy — wasn’t that effected under Jimmy Carter? Which didn’t prevent Carter from hosting Sadat, any more than the democracy turn under Bush prevents aid from going to Egypt, and to Pakistan, or gets in the way of the close relationship of the U.S. and Kuwait (which, in 91, was going to be the next great democracy. If the U.S. has influence anywhere, it should be in Kuwait, which would be an undigested piece of fat in the Iraqi belly if the U.S. hadn’t rescued it. In the fourteen years, since, the Kuwaiti government still doesn’t allow women to vote. Notice that nobody, but nobody, in the U.S. press or public cares. If there is no constituency for a policy in the U.S., it is a good prediction that policy will fail. Which is what I would predict for the great ‘democracy turn” in U.S. foreign policy. More importantly, it is what any Middle Eastern leader worth his rationality has to bet on.)

So the skepticism about the Bush intentions and plans and what really guides them isn’t simply malign and blind Anti-Bushism, but a cool and objective analysis arrived at by summing over U.S. behaviors.

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Cranky Observer 01.14.05 at 11:06 pm

> What I think distinguished the US
> from other superpowers of memory
> (with the possible exception of the
> British) is that our foreign
> policy is, at its best, animated by
> enlightened self interest, not
> merely self interest. We prosper
> when others prosper; hence our
> interest in promoting stable,
> healthy and liberal states,

George,
What percentage of the rest of the world’s citizens do you estimate shares that view of the United States? Do their voices count for anything?

Cranky

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NeoAmerican 01.14.05 at 11:23 pm

Most lynch mobs, in the American South or Arab South are animated by “righteous and honorable justice” it doesn’t make the lynching any less brutal.

And Arab honor, for what ever it’s worth, will kick our “self-righteous and honorable” asses.

Your good heart doesn’t excuse you from your crimes. No matter how “sweet and light” you believe you are.

I understand that God doesn’t let your self image absolve you from sin.

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NeoAmerican 01.14.05 at 11:35 pm

Honor and nobilty seem like more excuses to violate God’s laws and just murder and kill and steal your little hearts out!!!

——————————-

Sword of honour (The ancient code of insult and revenge in America’s South)

Paul Robinson on the ancient code of insult and revenge that is still prevalent in the American South

Southern Honor

—————————–

Sword of Honour (The Ancient Code of Insult & Revenge in the Arab World)

The downside of using humiliation against a man whose life revolves around his honor is that he is thereafter bound to hate you, and to someday take his revenge. I wonder how many of the “insurgents” who have blown up so many US troops had been “controlled” this way in Abu Ghuraib or elsewhere.

posted by Juan @ 12/6/2004 06:10:52 AM

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Doctor Slack 01.14.05 at 11:38 pm

Look, I know I’m coming into this about one day and a hundred-odd posts too late, but I’m wondering if d-squared can explain something to me:

But history has passed them by. Iraq is not Vietnam (or more specifically, Iran is not China) and they have no hope of victory.

[An aside — this isn’t my main question yet — I’m sure someone already pointed out in all of yesterday’s voluminous commentary that the various factions of the Iraqi resistance don’t have to turn it into “Vietnam.” They simply have to refuse to be governed, and leave the US Army only in control of whatever patch of ground it currently occupies. That appears to be the current situation — if anything, they’ve outdone the Viet Cong’s success in this regard — and to all appearances it’s working for them just fine. An occupying power that can’t govern is already defeated, no matter how much conventional military superiority it has; its only alternative is to level the whole country out of spite. This is something that US Army, designed to fight ever-bigger and faster versions of WWII, will probably not be able to cope with effectively until and unless it develops a modern counterinsurgency doctrine.]

The time has well past by which anyone with brains in their head could reasonably hope for anything other than swift and reasonably democratic elections

Here’s my question: how can anyone with brains in their head be “reasonably hoping” for “reasonably democratic elections” to take place in a warzone? (Yes, in terms of the intensity of the combat environment, Iraq is Vietnam.) How, exactly, are Iraqis supposed to hold anything like a democratic election while living under the gun-barrels of American troops and voting for slates of American-approved candidates, most of whom they know little or nothing about? Could you think of a circumstance where you would find that situation “reasonably democratic”?

To my mind, the whole “democratization” chimera is the last of a swiftly-toppling set of delusions that formed the Iraq War’s supporting rationale. They came in three primary categories:

The “Iraq is a Threat” Delusion: Consisting of “imminent threats,” “grave and gathering dangers,” “weapons drones” made of balsa wood and so on. It’s pretty safe to say that anyone who can’t bring themselves to admit at this point that Saddam’s Iraq posed no real threat to the US — via WMDs or terrorists or anything else — is either profoundly sheltered or stark barkers. This was obvious to most of the planet before the first boots broke sand; it should now be obvious to the entire planet.

The “It’s All Going Fine” Delusion: AKA “They’ve Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Our Bombs.” Naturally, Glenn Reynolds and his fellow-travelling flock of ostriches still believe that there’s all kinds of great news being deep-sixed by the “MSM,” and that the various factions of the Iraqi Resistance “lack popular support.” I’m sure someday they can explain how organizations so “lacking in popular support” are able to defy almost all attempts to gather intel about them and infiltrate every Iraqi police and military unit the US tries to train. Or not.

The “Iraq Could Still Be Germany and Japan” Delusion: This is the last one standing, largely among a class of observers desperately clinging to a last shred of hope (or, if they supported the war, of ego). But it was always just as boneheaded as the first two. The chances of the West remote-engineering Muslim societies via invasion were slim to nil even before the egregiousness of the Iraq debacle became plain. Now said chances are even more remote.

And the reason for this is one that should been grasped, long ago, by the proverbial “anyone with brains in their head.” Of course people will fight for the people, places and society that are familiar to them and against foreign invaders. And of course they will do this regardless of abstract calculations about their local organization’s overall standing in the worldwide human rights sweepstakes, or of how well-intentioned the invaders might think they are. It’s pointless to speculate whether this is “noble” or “ignoble;” it is a fact, just as surely as it’s a fact that Americans would take up arms and any necessary tactics against any foreign invader on their soil, and damn the opinions of anyone who thought less of them for it.

It takes extremely extraordinary conditions to supersede this basic tendency, particularly being overwhelming defeat in a war in which one’s side was clearly in the wrong — and in which the victors showed competence and statesmanship after the war. That ship had already sailed in Iraq long before 2003, and it’s simply time to acknowledge it.

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George 01.14.05 at 11:49 pm

Roger, I don’t disagree with much of what you say (though some of it I don’t quite follow, particularly the Iraq-Iran stuff). You can find plenty of bad stuff in the history of US foreign policy — even in the past 60 years — that makes us look pretty bad. But I still say the US is perhaps the only superpower of the modern era that occasionally, even erratically, recognizes the value of — and has been successful at — what has recently become known as nation-building. Your point about whether we still have the attention span we did in the post-WWII era is reasonable; I guess we’re going to find out. But 60 million Americans (less those who voted solely on gay marriage) saw fit to give Bush another four years to see this project through, despite how rough it’s been so far. I’ll bet a lot of people, in the US and around the world, were pretty surprised by that.

(Jimmy Carter, incidentally, is a good and decent person who doesn’t deserve the ridicule he often gets. In retrospect, it’s clear he suffers from the same delusion that Clinton did: the belief that everyone else in the world is at heart a good and decent person. But just because I’m a neocon doesn’t mean I hate either one.)

cranky: I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter to me. Memories are short; twice in the last century, the US fought far from its own soil to keep France free — the second time, in a war the French themselves could barely be bothered to fight — and look what gratitude that’s gotten us. Whatever debt we Americans owed France from our own War of Independence, it’s been repaid, with interest.

neoamerican: what the hell are you babbling about?

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NeoAmerican 01.14.05 at 11:58 pm

You are a person who praises immoral acts, you should ask God to forgive your little nihilistc heart…it’s time for you to give up this sin in Iraq and come home.

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Jim Rockford 01.15.05 at 12:10 am

Wow. It’s really ugly in here. Too many leftists parroting Pitchfork Pat Buchanon. Hint: when you sound just like Pitchfork Pat it’s a sign you’re wrong. Heck we even have folks admiring Goering.

Indisputable fact: Saddam ran Iraq like a frickin abbatoir, killing and oppressing anyone who was not a Sunni Baathist; and reigning with terror.

It’s absolutely right that we could have chosen NOT to invade Iraq; but that just pushed the troop problem around to Saudi and Kuwait and Oman and Qatar. Plus gave the initiative to Saddam who was unpredictable and had no moderating superpower leash.

Saddam could have avoided war by allowing the inspectors in, instead he chose War by not believing Bush was serious post 9/11 and thinking his payoffs to Chirac, Schroeder, and Putin plus China would stop Bush. He gambled and lost; everyone paid.

Iraq today is in the throes of a slow motion civil war which would have been inevitable when Saddam died. The Shias and Kurds would not be oppressed forever, and the prospect of Uday or Qusay was even worse than Saddam. We have a deal with the Shia and Kurds; so they are not attacking us; only 22% of the population, the Sunnis are.

The US military does not possess the initiative; the terrorists can set the time and place of the ambush; but their only weapons are assault rifles, RPGs, IEDs, and some machine guns. We have on call close air support, A-10 warthogs; “Spooky” aka the flying artillery base; plus arty. The amount of damage we can do is simply awe-inspiring; no guerrilla force can stand against it. SAMs and stingers don’t work against a JDAM released from 10 miles away by a supersonic fighter-bomber flying at 25K feet. Plus of course we have Wild Weasels to jam the real SAMs.

The terrorists weak point is the NCO level; it takes skill and leadership to mount an ambush where most of your guys don’t get killed against this firepower, not to mention the technical expertise needed to wire up an IED. We are currently killing off a lot of these guys; aided by Sunnis who are tired of this crap and want to get on with their lives (they know Saddam lost and ain’t coming back).

Terrorists can mount ambushes, but quick response by air can wipe them out quick, if it’s anything but an IED and “run away.” THOSE type of attacks are bigger in scope but fewer in number, suggesting that the NCO corps is being wiped out.

Mogadishu points out the lethality of the US military. With NO aircover to speak of (no A-10s, no JDAMS and close air support, no C47 Spookies, just a few vulnerable helicopters) the Army’s very small force (around 100 men) fought off and killed more than 1000 dead out of an opponent probably numbering in the several thousands. Basically, Roarke’s Drift.

In Iraq, we have aircover available for almost anything, with incredible lethality.

But, far too many here seem to hate America, love tyranny and murder, and want us to lose. Sigh.

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George 01.15.05 at 12:11 am

Dr. Slack: I said memories are short, but I had no idea. Remember that guy who used to run Iraq? Started two wars of aggression? Killed an estimated 300,000 of his own people and over a million others? Did nice things like feed people into plastic shredders or pave them under hot asphalt? Flouted 17 UN resolutions and gave weapons inspectors the runaround for seven years? Operated illegal chemical and biological weapons programs through at least 1998? Almost had a nuclear bomb in 1990? Tried to wipe out at least two ethnic groups en masse? Tried to assassinate a US President? Anyway, he seems to have slipped from the headlines these days, but deposing him was the foremost objective of the invasion of Iraq.

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NeoAmerican 01.15.05 at 12:22 am

And when he did his sins he was a warm friend to Reagan…you do not get to chose the time and place and geo=politicaly clever time to obey objective, transcended laws…moral laws are not subject to your fears and prejudices…you wanted to kill thousands of arabs and followers of Islam because you were bitch-slapped on 9-11 and could not go after a revolutionary from Saudi Arabia, so you still needed oil and save some honor…so you used Hussein as the excuse to rape and kill other men…you did it in the name of a political theory conserning representitive government and the sinns of the Iraqi people’s leader…you lied to killl thousands of Iraqis….there has been more death and chaos since you came and you still believe children should feel blessed that a priest raped them instead of a maniac.

jeez, no wonder you are losing Iraq.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.15.05 at 12:30 am

Saddam could have avoided war by allowing the inspectors in,

Jesus H. Tap Dancin’ Christ. He DID let the inspectors in, Jim. Even Bush isn’t using this line anymore.

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Uncle Kvetch 01.15.05 at 12:35 am

But 60 million Americans (less those who voted solely on gay marriage) saw fit to give Bush another four years to see this project through, despite how rough it’s been so far.

A goodly number of those voters did so on the basis of patent falsehoods: that Saddam had WMDs, and that he was directly involved in 9/11. Both falsehoods that were skillfully perpetuated by the Bush administration. For people who are supposedly so concerned about democracy, you neocons are awfully sanguine about a government that lies through its teeth.

Never mind the fact that the project hasn’t been all that “rough” for the overwhelming majority of American people (i.e., those who aren’t in the military and don’t have immediate family who are).

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Doctor Slack 01.15.05 at 12:44 am

Indisputable fact: Saddam ran Iraq like a frickin abbatoir, killing and oppressing anyone who was not a Sunni Baathist; and reigning with terror.

Indisputable fact: Iraq remains an abattoir without Saddam in power. Relying on people to embrace you because you think you’re less bad than the other guy is bad practice generally — look what it got John Kerry — but it’s particularly silly when it comes to war. Case in point: when Germany invaded Russia, there were Russians signing up to fight Stalin, as nasty a bastard as ever ordered a purge (and compared to whom Saddam was Mary Poppins). This lasted precisely until they got a good taste of the German troops’ contempt for them… at which time they were back fighting for Stalin with a vengeance.

Both the US and Saddam, of course, pale in comparison to the atrociousness of the SS or Stalin respectively. But the overall principle isn’t that much different.

Saddam could have avoided war by allowing the inspectors in

Forgotten all about Hans Blix, have we?

The amount of damage we can do is simply awe-inspiring; no guerrilla force can stand against it.

They don’t have to. They just have to stand where the Americans aren’t*, and render the country ungovernable. This shouldn’t be too fricking hard to understand by now: guerilla wars don’t have the same victory conditions as conventional set-piece wars.

[* Unless they’re well-arrayed in close urban combat, where they can negate much of the American tech advantage: hence US casualties in the battle for Fallujah were comparable to those suffered in the battle of Hue in Vietnam, forcing them eventually to just level the city.]

But, far too many here seem to hate America, love tyranny and murder, and want us to lose.

You mean this standard warflogger dodge line hasn’t been retired yet? Yeah, the “acknowledging reality = loving tyranny and murder” approach has worked out well for you so far, hasn’t it? Fer f*ck’s sakes…

Remember that guy who used to run Iraq?

Yes, he was supposedly so awful and dangerous that war was preferable to another solitary day of his continued rule. Except, well, it’s not looking so simple now, is it? (Put it this way: how many Iraqis do you think you’ll find — remember, the people who actually lived through all those atrocities? — who think the current anarchy was worth seeing him deposed?)

. . . Anyway, he seems to have slipped from the headlines these days, but deposing him was the foremost objective of the invasion of Iraq.

No, deposing him is the last slender reed of a justification for the invasion of Iraq. Not the same thing.

As I remember it, the “foremost objective” was supposed to be (going down the list of excuses):

1. Saving the US from his non-existent nuclear programme / biological weapons programme / “mobile weapons labs” / “ties to al-Qaeda,” all of which proved bunk.

2. Saving the “credibility” of the UN (apparently by demanding that the US be allowed to flout its procedures for abrogating a ceasefire), because Saddam had flouted and defied it for years. (Turned out the sanctions regime and the weapons inspections programme had both worked, actually, but never mind.)

3. Then it was supposed to be securing the region against aggression that everyone in the region agreed he could no longer mount. (Actually, that came before the WMD crap but was also peddled alongside it. Even Israel didn’t buy this one.)

4. And then it was supposed to be “democratization” and turning Iraq into a beacon of liberal democracy. I’ve commented on the likelihood of that already.

5. Failing all of that, the “objective” was supposed to be punishing him for killing all the people he killed and doing all the nasty things he did. (Of course, we don’t know how many people have been killed, tortured or oppressed in the course of meting out this punishment — or how many will yet bed — which tends to take the sails out of the argument, but never mind.)

Of course, the more plausible objective was always securing Iraq’s oil and strategic position in the region. During the run-up to the war, mentioning these things was supposed to be tantamount to treason — how dare anyone suggest that the US’ motives could be less than pure and good? Now, Bushists and armchair “hawks” are fond of listing these things as achievements of the war. And so goes the pitiful dance.

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George 01.15.05 at 1:06 am

Kvetch, I’ve read plenty of your comments, you’re an intelligent guy and I don’t necessarily disagree with your worldview. (Not all commentors fit that description.) But just because I’m in an adversarial mood:

A goodly number of those voters did so on the basis of patent falsehoods

So what? I’m sure plenty of people voted against Bush based on falsehoods — like, for instance, that he invaded Iraq for oil. Furthermore, there’s quite a difference between a falsehood and a lie. Here is the truth status of these various claims:

* Saddam had active WMD programs at the time we invaded — almost certainly false
* Saddam was directly involved in 9/11 — no evidence
* The Bush White House claimed that Saddam was directly involved in 9/11 — false

A lie is when you *knowingly* present a falsehood as the truth. If you have evidence that Bush or Cheney or anybody else knew for a fact that Saddam had no active WMD programs in 2003, at the time they were saying he did, let’s see it. Otherwise the most that can be said is that they were wrong — which they clearly were on that point. Nearly everybody was.

9/11, on the other hand…it’s true that there’s a sizable chunk of Americans who do believe that Saddam was behind it, and another chunk that thinks there’s a “significant chance” he was behind it. At one point, I think a majority held one of these opinions. But the White House has *never* said that Saddam was behind 9/11. Now, they often lumped Saddam into the same group as bin Laden as the type of dangerous unaccountable threat to world peace that could no longer be tolerated after 9/11, but that’s a lot different than saying he did it. They were pretty clear that he didn’t.

I note that you didn’t actually come out and explicitly say that Bush blamed Saddam for 9/11, which would of course be false. But had a Republican “skillfully perpetuated” a similar falsehood, I know what you would call it.

Just offhand, your last point is maybe not such a fruitful line of argument, since of those Americans who *are* closest to Iraq — the military and their families — my understanding is that Bush won by a landslide.

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George 01.15.05 at 1:17 am

Dr. Slack: I hate it when I run out of time for a good debate, which is what’s happening right now. But real briefly, it’s just baffling to me that someone can claim that deposing Saddam is some after-the-fact rationalization, desperately grasped only because it has actually been accomplished. Bush was ready to call it all off if Saddam and his sons left Iraq, remember? (A claim that at the time struck me a little like ‘Surrender Dorothy.’) And when he didn’t, they tried — a couple of times I think — to get him in a precision strike, before any troops crossed the border. Strange behavior, if their real aim was to just grab all the oil.

And believe it or not, there are lots and lots of Iraqis (possibly a majority, though I don’t recall) who to this day still say it was all worthwhile to get rid of Saddam.

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Doctor Slack 01.15.05 at 2:06 am

Bush was ready to call it all off if Saddam and his sons left Iraq, remember?

Ummm, no.

It’s useful, and in fact necessary, to be able to differentiate between the propaganda points of this or that speech and the overall drift of a government’s actual policy. If you seriously believe that Bush would have sent the American army home the moment he got a communique that “Saddam has left the building,” I’d have to say you’re tragically naive; Administration flacks were talking for weeks and months before the invasion about a thoroughgoing social engineering project in Iraq called “de-Baathification,” which had nothing to do with Saddam. It was clear that those troops, and their war, were not going anywhere.

Of course, they would rather have been welcomed as “liberators” by cheering crowds then have had to fight even the paltry two-week battle that ensued; such was the now-infamous “cakewalk” dream. But that had nothing to do with calling it all off if Saddam left.

And when he didn’t, they tried — a couple of times I think — to get him in a precision strike, before any troops crossed the border.

The “precision strikes” on his empty palaces took place during the “Shock and Awe” bombing, and were meant as a showpiece of American military tech, not a quick way out of deploying troops.

And believe it or not, there are lots and lots of Iraqis (possibly a majority, though I don’t recall)who to this day still say it was all worthwhile to get rid of Saddam.

In the last opinion poll the US conducted, 80% of Iraqis expressed no confidence in the “coalition,” but did express confidence in Moqtada al-Sadr, at that time involved in a deadly struggle with American troops. If that looks to you like a populace whose “majority” thought it was “all worthwhile to get rid of Saddam,” then we’ll be agreeing to disagree… ;-)

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Steve M (Ethesis) 01.15.05 at 4:43 am

Iraqis are currently negotiating a program with the IMF which will involve removing the market-distorting provision of subsidised food to the poor. I do hope that the Lancet will do a study into the effects of that, and that war crimes trials will result).

That thread got left out of the discussion. I’d like to hear a further amplification.

I know there has been a lot of research done in the past decade about the destruction of native agriculture by subsidies with long term starvation as a result, and I wondered if you were commenting on that (do you really think the current aid has been that destructive?) or something else.

I’m not sure I see the current aid structure as destructive as others, especially not to the “war crimes” level. But I miss a lot.

Which is why I’m asking for more information.

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MQ 01.15.05 at 6:04 am

Recent (I think this week) statement by the U.S. embassy spokesman in Iraq when asked about a timetable for withdrawal:

“They’re perfectly aware of what our position is and that is that we will stay in Iraq for as long as necessary but not a day longer. We’re not prepared at this time to establish a date for our withdrawal.”

In other words, we will occupy their country as long as we want. This is straight up colonialism. The fact that we have sometimes been nice colonialists (although sometimes we have been nasty ones) is not sufficient recompense for taking control of somebody else’s country. Guerilla war and civil war are nasty business, and the Iraqi resistance appears to be unusually nasty even for that. But if we want something better and different to emerge we need to offer the Iraqis back their freedom.

The statements by Brett Bellmore and other neoconservatives above show the complete inability of neoconservatives to understand or imagine the world from anyone’s perspective other than a blinkered American suburbanite. In our “good war” the U.S. killed several million Japanese civilians because they sank some of our ships and wanted to take over as the main power in the Pacific. Yet here we are wanting to occupy and control Iraq itself and the response of the Iraqi resistance shows that they are an evil without parallel since Pol Pot etc.

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Papa Ray 01.15.05 at 6:25 am

This is a little read that will give you an idea of how one man feels.

Aiding and Abetting the Enemy: the Media in Iraq

Papa Ray
West Texas

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Robert McDougall 01.15.05 at 7:17 am

Getting a bit warm in here.

abb1: Thanks for criticising from the other side, it gives a gives a nice cosy feeling.

. . . the insurgency deserves no outside sympathy, since there is no apparent constructive political program attached to it.

Constructive political program is right there, all over of it. It’s called ‘anti-colonial struggle’.

No, that’s a negative program. Maybe sometimes that’s sufficient, just throw the invaders out and get back to what you were doing. But not this time. “Anti-colonial struggle” hasn’t won over the Shiite majority, they prefer “Wait a few days for the occupiers to transfer power to us”. That leaves the insurgents with a choice of two programs, Sunni Arab secession or restoration of Sunni Arab dominance, neither of which deserves support.

[One could also argue — I guess dsquared would — that they’re so far from success that any programs they may have are irrelevant. I think there’s some merit in that but I don’t want to rely on it.]

Tom T.: Thing I like about your comment is it illuminates one of the mechanisms I think behind the current delegitimization of nationalism, democracy equals freedom so put down your gun and vote already. So I think you’re writing from close to the centre of the new orthodoxy, and I have no expectation of persuading you against it. I’ll try however to explain why I’m not in turn persuaded (some of this is unabashedly Iraq-irrelevant; I think the new anti-nationalism is an interesting topic in itself):

* First, democracy is not generally sufficient. The southern Sudanese would be well advised to take their independence regardless of the form of government in Khartoum. The troubles of the Irian Jayans are as grave as those of the Tibetans, though Indonesia is a democracy and China a despotism.

* You say the insurgents are “seeking despotic rather than democratic authority”. Every independence struggle between the fall of Athens and the American War of Independence, insofar as it sought authority, sought non-democratic authority; does that mean they were all illegitimate? A better conclusion is that even without democracy there’s something worth fighting for.

* Unlike you I incline to the view that main motive driving recruitment to the insurgency is anger against (the conduct of) the occupation, and that many of the insurgents especially at the lower levels have no program beyond the one abb1 declares sufficient, “throw the invaders out”. (The evidence for and against would be a good subject for discussion if time could be found.) It may be the case that the best remedy is to lie back, stop struggling, and try to relax; if so those insurgents are misguided, nothing more.

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cirdan 01.15.05 at 7:59 am

‘anti-colonial struggle’

‘No, that’s a negative program. Maybe sometimes that’s sufficient, just throw the invaders out and get back to what you were doing.’

Er…a necessary condition for self-determination is that you not be a colony. It follows that the anti-colonial struggle is a necessary first step for any genuine form of participatory government.

Unlike you I incline to the view that main motive driving recruitment to the insurgency is anger against (the conduct of) the occupation…

Being a colony isn’t nice, and they’ve been there before – British colonial policy is within living memory. The insurgents know what happens when imperial powers come calling.

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Tom Doyle 01.15.05 at 10:31 am

LAWS&CRIMES 1 of 2

This focuses on the legality of the invasion, and the history of some of the applicable rules. The main article was written before the war, but the law hasn’t changed.

A Supreme International Crime – Any Member of a Government Backing an Aggressive War Will Be Open to Prosecution

Mark Littman March 10, 2003
UK Guardian accessed at Common Dreams

“The threatened war against Iraq will be a breach of the United Nations Charter and hence of international law unless it is authorized by a new and unambiguous resolution of the security council. The Charter is clear. No such war is permitted unless it is in self-defense or authorized by the security council.”
————————————————————————————
Charter of the United Nations


Article 2
The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

[…]

3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

——————————————————————————————-
“Self-defense has no application here. Neither the United States nor the UK, nor any of their allies, is under attack or any threat of immediate attack by Iraq.

“In the absence of such a resolution, the attack would, be unlawful…

“What would be the consequences of such illegality? Most obvious would be the human, economic and environmental costs, including any further violence that a war against Iraq might trigger. An illustration of how unpredictable and incalculable such costs might be is furnished by a recollection of the events of [August] 1914. ….. Who can say with certainty where today’s threatened war might lead?

“A second consequence would be of immense world significance, for it would mean the end of the United Nations and with it the final collapse of the efforts of the past century to create effective international institutions that would replace perpetual war with perpetual peace. If attempts to create such international institutions were abandoned, the clock would be turned back to a time when nations had to depend for their security on the uncertain and shifting patterns of alliances and their own military defenses.”
———————————————————————————–

Tufts-Fletcher-News
The US and the UN: a (Surprising) Historical Perspective

“The driving force behind the UN’s creation in 1945 was in fact the United States.

“The story of the San Francisco conference that led to the UN’s creation is told by Steven Schlesinger in his recently published book, Act of Creation. ….Schlesinger said….that the central figure in the UN’s formation was Franklin Roosevelt: “He [a]..vision that if America was to survive the Second World War, there had to be an international security organization that would come out of it. Otherwise, the war was in a sense a fruitless effort.”

“Seeking to replace the failed League of Nations, Roosevelt secretly instructed the State Department in 1939 to begin working on a new international organization…He insisted on key changes from the League of Nations, such as reducing the universal veto power to the five most powerful countries (France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and China) and making the Security Council’s decisions to take action binding on all member states. [The] State Department ….prepared the draft of the UN Charter….[According to] Shlesinger…Roosevelt “realized that power alone was not enough. Our security rested in working with all the other nations of the world in a common enterprise[.]”

“When Roosevelt died thirteen days before the San Francisco conference, the fate of the UN fell to [his successor] Harry Truman.” … Truman also dedicated himself to making the conference happen, and stayed in close contact with the US delegation during the…. nine week[] of the conference[, which]..was extremely “disputatious,” [but ended with] the successful ….of the UN Charter in June, 1945.”

——————————————————————————

“A third consequence might be grave for members of the governments that brought about this unlawful war. The United Nations Charter is a treaty, one to which 192 out of a total of 196 sovereign states in the world are parties. It takes precedence over all other treaties.

“At the Nuremberg trials, the principles of international law identified by the tribunal and subsequently accepted unanimously by the General Assembly of the United Nations included that the planning, preparation or initiation of a war contrary to the terms of an international treaty was “a crime against peace”. The tribunal further stated “that to initiate a war of aggression… is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime”.

“It was for this crime that the German foreign minister Von Ribbentrop was tried, convicted and hanged. This case and the subsequent case of former Chilean president Pinochet show that it is not only governments but also individuals who can be held responsible for such a crime. Jurisdiction to try such a crime is not, for the foreseeable future, within the scope of the new International Criminal Court. It is, however, open to any country in the world to accept such jurisdiction.

“Some are already moving in that direction. Instances are the proceedings in the Belgian courts against Ariel Sharon in relation to alleged crimes in the Lebanon, and the active involvement of the courts of Spain in relation to alleged crimes against humanity said to have been committed by Pinochet. Members of any governments actively involved in bringing about an unlawful war against Iraq would be well advised to be cautious as to the countries they visit during the remainder of their lives.”

—————————————————————————–
Doug Linder
“Nurenberg Trials” Famous Trials Website,

“1944, when eventual victory over the Axis powers seemed likely, President Franklin Roosevelt asked the War Department to devise a plan for bringing war criminals to justice….. . Allied leaders had[various] ideas… Churchill reportedly told Stalin that he favored execution of captured Nazi leaders. Stalin answered, “In the Soviet Union, we never execute anyone without a trial.” Churchill agreed saying, “Of course, of course. We should give them a trial first.”

[Initially the main concern was that Germany would re-arm and start another war, not an unrealistic fear given the history. One plan favored by some:] .
“suggested summarily shooting many prominent Nazi leaders at the time of capture and banishing others to far off corners of the world. Under the …plan, German POWs would be forced to rebuild Europe. The …aim was to destroy Germany’s remaining industrial base and turn Germany into a weak, agricultural country.”
[…]
“The [War Department] … proposal would try responsible Nazi leaders in court. The …plan labeled atrocities and waging a war of aggression as war crimes, and, it proposed treating the Nazi regime as a criminal conspiracy.”
[…]
“Roosevelt eventually chose to support the War Department’s plan. …[T]he Big Three] issued a statement in Yalta in February, 1945 favoring some sort of judicial process for captured enemy leaders.

———————————————–

After Roosevelt died Pres. Truman appointed US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson as US Chief Prosecutor. Subsequenty The US, UK, USSR, and France agreed on:

The Charter of the International Military Tribunal

[…]

“The following acts, or any of them, are crimes coming within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal for which there shall be individual responsibility:

(a) CRIMES AGAINST PEACE: namely, planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression, or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances, or participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the foregoing;

(b) WAR CRIMES: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity;

( c)CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war; or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

CONTINUED

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marklatham 01.15.05 at 12:41 pm

The vietcong were patriots.
They were local guerillas in the bush who had fought the french,japanese and american invaders for 80 years.
Sounds good to me.

169

abb1 01.15.05 at 2:55 pm

Robert McDougall,
you’re welcome, always glad to help.

Maybe sometimes that’s sufficient, just throw the invaders out and get back to what you were doing. But not this time. “Anti-colonial struggle” hasn’t won over the Shiite majority, they prefer “Wait a few days for the occupiers to transfer power to us”. That leaves the insurgents with a choice of two programs, Sunni Arab secession or restoration of Sunni Arab dominance, neither of which deserves support.

Cirdan is right (and I don’t think it’s controversial) that self-determination is a prerequisite for any ‘positive’ program.

But I also disagree that “Anti-colonial struggle” hasn’t won over the Shiite majority. I understand that British forces in the South are being attacked every day: Our troops’ life in Basra: smile, shoot, smile…. It’s only a matter of degree.

It’s not the Shiite majority, but the Shiite leaders who prefer “Wait a few days for the occupiers to transfer power to us”.

Cheers.

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Cranky Observer 01.15.05 at 4:43 pm

> cranky: I don’t know and it
> doesn’t really matter to me.

George,
Glad we have that on the table. So you propose the United States roam the world Doing Good(tm), even if those to whom we are doing it don’t appreciate our efforts and we have to kill a few hundred thousand of them to get the message across. But not in Rwanda where oddly enough very little oil is pumped.

You might want to read Jerry Pournelle’s essays on this topic. He is considered a proto-fascist by the left but oddly enough he cautioned against invading Iraq for exactly the reasons you counsel should be the guiding light of US policy – and he predicted exactly what would happen a year in advance.

Cranky

171

Anarch 01.15.05 at 6:33 pm

and he predicted exactly what would happen a year in advance.

Which of us didn’t?

172

Otto 01.15.05 at 7:00 pm

ABB1
In terms of getting US bases out, it is possible: the Philippines managed it after getting rid of Marcos. If the Germans wanted to get rid of the bases, the German government together with persistent demonstrations and occupation of the bases would do it. If there’s ever a democratic government in Cuba, they’ll get the US out of Gitmo in a couple of years.

173

Tom Doyle 01.15.05 at 7:03 pm

An English Plea For Peace With The American Colonies

My Lords, this ruinous and ignominious situation, where we cannot act
with success, nor suffer with honour, calls upon us to remonstrate in
the strongest and loudest language of truth, to rescue the ear of Majesty
from the delusions which surround it. You cannot, I venture to say, you
CANNOT conquer America.

What is your present situation there? We do not know the worst; but we
know that in three campaigns we have done nothing and suffered much.
You may swell every expense, and strain every effort, still more
extravagantly; accumulate every assistance you can beg or borrow; traffic and
barter with every pitiful German Prince, that sells and sends his
subjects to the shambles of a foreign country: your efforts are forever vain
and impotent-doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely; for
it irritates to an incurable resentment the minds of your enemies, to
overrun them with the sordid sons of rapine and of plunder, devoting them
and their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an
American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my
country, I never would lay down my arms! -Never! Never! Never!: William
Pitt – – November 18th 1777
Posted at medialens by David Soori

174

Cranky Observer 01.15.05 at 8:30 pm

> Which of us didn’t?

Anarch,
Perhaps you comment would be better rendered “Which of us [here] didn’t?”. I did, in letters to my congressmen before the vote, but that doesn’t mean anything.

Pournelle however is generally considered a warblogger when he is considered by the left at all (as he says, he was read out of the Republican Party in Tennessee for opposing segregation and read out of the Democratic Party in California for taking up with Hermann Kahn, leaving him his own man). And indeed one could easily get that impression by scanning his site. But when you read some of his longer essays on appropriate US reaction to 9/11, the runup to the Iraq invasion, and the probable outcome of that invasion, you find (or at least I find) a “strong defense” advocate who is also trying to implement John Adams’ theory of “the United States is the friend of liberty everywhere but the guardian of its own”.

Or maybe he is just another techo-warblogger, albeit one with a global audience. Which still makes his statement of some interest.

Cranky

175

abb1 01.15.05 at 8:51 pm

Otto,
In terms of getting US bases out, it is possible: the Philippines managed it after getting rid of Marcos.

Yes, it is possible – it took a volcano eruption to get them out.

They rest of your post is highly speculative.

I suppose you’re right that the Germans could do it – Germany is the central part of the EU now, so direct US intervention in Germany is unlikely; but I don’t see any reason to think that the US will leave Cuba when there is a democratic government there. More likely they’ll build a couple more bases right in the middle of Cuba. Just in case.

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Anarch 01.15.05 at 11:41 pm

Cranky,

Oh, I know. The correct instantiation should have read “Which of us [who were actually paying attention] didn’t?” but that would have seemed catty ;)

177

Mill 01.16.05 at 10:08 am

I know it’s a bit late now and the party’s over, but just for posterity: the whole “US bases out of [insert nation conquered during WWII here]!” thing is not as simple as I see people here making it out to be. Of course people don’t like the idea of US soldiers walking around their country with guns, but on the other hand they also don’t like the idea of their local economies and employment rates going into the toilet when those soldiers leave, and take their paycheques with them.

Thus in each country there are some people who wish the Americans would just leave, and some whose entire careers hinge on the presence of bored American soldiers, and thus would really rather prefer that they stayed. And no doubt there are many people who are torn between the two extremes.

I offer this news story as at least one example of this phenomenon and I submit that it is not unreasonable to consider it part of a broader pattern:

http://www.timesleader.com/mld/inquirer/news/nation/9418680.htm

Whether one uses this fact to argue “even if the US bases stay, it won’t be so bad!” or “look at how dependent [X] has become on US bases! we have to get them out of Iraq before that happens!” is a whole nother story.

178

abb1 01.16.05 at 10:26 am

Mill,
your own link says: In host countries such as Germany and Japan, local governments have paid much of the cost of stationing U.S. troops.

I presume ‘local’ here means ‘German and Japanese’, not ‘municipal’

So, what’s the point? Wouldn’t it be more efficient for the German government to send the check directly to this Baumholder resident Iris Schoen, rather than funneling it through the Pentagon?

179

Mill 01.16.05 at 12:29 pm

Sure, I’m sure Iris would like that just fine, abb1, but clearly the German government hasn’t offered to do so or she wouldn’t be upset about the whole thing. And then there’s the other guy who mentions friendships. I guess the government could send a spare secretary over to play scrabble with him, but..

All I’m trying to say is, military bases are a complex issue, and arguing about “getting bases out” as though it were a clear-cut issue where every (say) German wants the US vampire gone, right away thanks, is not really getting anyone anywhere.

180

abb1 01.16.05 at 1:16 pm

All I’m trying to say is, military bases are a complex issue, and arguing about “getting bases out” as though it were a clear-cut issue where every (say) German wants the US vampire gone, right away thanks, is not really getting anyone anywhere.

Mill, I respect your opinion, but I simply don’t see why having foreign military bases in your country is a complex issue. I mean for the country as a whole – of course you can find a bunch of indiviuals who benefit; sure – if NY city is destroyed, then the value of my house near Boston may jump up – so what? It doesn’t make the judgement on the destruction any more complex.

I don’t think it’s any more complicated than, say, having cancer in your body. Yeah, sure, you’re going to get a lot of insurance-paid medications and maybe even some new friends and free food in a hospital, sure.

181

liberal 01.17.05 at 2:25 am

jim rockford wrote, Saddam could have avoided war by allowing the inspectors in, instead he chose War by not believing Bush was serious post 9/11 and thinking his payoffs to Chirac, Schroeder, and Putin plus China would stop Bush. He gambled and lost; everyone paid.

Well, the inspectors were in, shortly before the war commenced. And the reason they had been gone for a few years was that they left when the US told them to leave, prior to increasing bombing of Iraq.

182

liberal 01.17.05 at 2:26 am

george wrote, Dr. Slack: I said memories are short, but I had no idea. Remember that guy who used to run Iraq? Started two wars of aggression? Killed an estimated 300,000 of his own people and over a million others? Did nice things like feed people into plastic shredders or pave them under hot asphalt?

You mean the guy we leaned towards in the Iran-Iraq war?

Oh. That guy.

183

liberal 01.17.05 at 2:32 am

george wrote, A lie is when you knowingly present a falsehood as the truth. If you have evidence that Bush or Cheney or anybody else knew for a fact that Saddam had no active WMD programs in 2003, at the time they were saying he did, let’s see it.

Completely laughable—no one has access to the requisite records, and this isn’t a criminal trial, requiring evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

As hypotheses go about politicians, the claim that Bush knew he was lying is a far better bet than that he didn’t know he was lying.

184

Mill 01.17.05 at 10:39 am

abb1, I respect your opinion too, and the problem probably is just that — we’re talking about opinions, not specifics.

Also, I don’t believe in “the country as a whole” in that sense. For example, who represents South Korea “as a whole”: the older generation, who Remember The War(tm) and most definitely want the US bases to stay, or the younger generation, who want closer ties with the North and believe (rightly, no doubt) that the bases make this difficult?

I would feel uncomfortable telling either side that they are wrong and -I- know what’s best for South Korea. Which means that I also can’t say whether the US troops in SK are, overall, a worse thing for the country than their absence would be, which means I can’t get behind an argument that all US bases are unproductive cancers.

(I could certainly be convinced that certain particular US bases are, in countries with less dramatic division of opinion, but this comment thread isn’t the place for that.)

185

abb1 01.17.05 at 9:14 pm

Mill,
I was arguing with someone about US military forces in Korea recently. I searched the web and it turns out that Korea has something like (off the top of my head) 600,000 troops of its own. There are 30,000 US troops that used to be located mostly in Seoul, but now they are being moved further South, further from the demarcation line. What do they defend there? I don’t know.

186

Cranky Observer 01.17.05 at 10:05 pm

There are 30,000 US troops that used to be located mostly in Seoul, but now they are being moved further South, further from the demarcation line. What do they defend there? I don’t know.

The 30,000 troops existed to (a) help slow down the North Korean blitzkrieg (b) die in the process, thus triggering off the involvement of the (ex-SEATO) Pacific allies and eventually the NATO allies, and to provide a rallying cry for the US public – committing the US to the defense of South Korea.

Pulling those troops back from the DMZ (while very good for them individually) leaves the US in the worst of all possible worlds: involved but not committed; there but not critical.

The way the Bush Administration has screwed up the US’ friendship with Korea, one of the only true friendships the US has in the world, is another in a list of disasters from the mind of W.

Cranky

187

W. Kiernan 01.18.05 at 11:50 pm

Jim Rockford sez: But, far too many here seem to hate America, love tyranny and murder, and want us to lose.

There it is, political debate as it is practiced in the U.S.A. circa 2005. You right-wingers, honest to God, it’s impossible to discuss anything at all with your camp nowadays. Do you seriously think left-leaning readers of Crooked Timber love tyranny and murder? You know that’s bullshit, we know that’s bullshit, so why did you defame us like that? You’re not standing in a bar full of halfwits in Kansas yakking about the absent them, why do you throw crap in our faces as you did? It’s pretty much the same thing as if I concluded a political argument with “Jim Rockford just loves raping six-year-olds”; given that I am perfectly sure you do not, in fact, molest six-year-olds, what excuse would I have for assaulting you with an absurd and disgusting insult like that? Conversely, if insulting strangers is your only purpose for posting, why not save yourself the effort of typing all those words and words, and simply post “FUCK YOUSE LIBRULS!!!1!” instead?

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Keith M Ellis 01.19.05 at 12:04 pm

“You’re not standing in a bar full of halfwits in Kansas yakking about the absent them, why do you throw crap in our faces as you did?”

But, hell, I’m seeing some of the same sorts of stereotypes thrown around and strawmen knocked down on the left side of the fence here. George, bless his naive heart, has been villified and psychoanalysed in the most vicious ways.

It’s an ugly thread. Not for the least reason that dsquared, as is typical (I’ve come to realize after reading him for two years), engages in some ill-considered hyperbole or careless rhetoric and, when challenged, creates ex post facto explanations of what he really meant and, oh, why didn’t you go to the trouble and read what I wrote, with some other little snarkism thrown in here and there. Sigh.

That notwithstanding, it was a pretty good post. Not such a good ensuing discussion, however.

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