Derbyshire’s war

by John Quiggin on June 18, 2006

Quite a few people have commented in John Derbyshire’s apology for supporting the war in Iraq.

I haven’t seen anyone deny Derbyshire’s suggestion regarding his National Review colleagues who still publicly support the war that

If wired up to a polygraph and asked the question: “Supposing you could wind the movie back to early 2003, would you still attack Iraq?” any affirmative answers would have those old needles a-jumping and a-skipping all over the graph paper.
but then I haven’t looked hard. I’d be interested if anyone can point to any examples [1].

My main interest, like that of many others is in Derbyshire’s reason for recanting his support. While he wanted a war with Iraq, his idea was that the US should drop a lot of bombs, demonstrate that it’s a power to be feared and then leave, without wasting time on futile projects like nation-building. As lots of commenters have pointed out, Derbyshire’s position is worse, in moral terms, than that of most of those who continue to support the war.

It does however, raise some important issues that go to the heart of the debate between supporters and opponents of the Iraq war and the debate over war and peace in general.

In the leadup to the Iraq war, many different arguments were presented for and against going to war, and many different predictions were made about the likely consequences of war. People supported war for a range of reasons, some of which were logically inconsistent, and the same was true of people who opposed war. Many people made many predictions, many of which turned out to be wrong. However, there is a fundamental asymmetry here.

Among the supporters of war were people like Derbyshire, who wanted to reduce large parts of Iraq for rubble as revenge for the September 11 attacks (the absence of any proof of a direct link being, for many, part of the attraction), believers in the WMD threat who wanted to destroy the WMD threat and leave, militarists like Rumsfeld who wanted to use Iraq as a testing ground and permanent base for a new era of American military dominance, rightwing ideologues who expected to transform Iraq into a bastion of free-market economics and support for Israel, ruled by some pliant type like Chalabi, and “decent” leftists who who saw the invasion as a step towards a secular democracy that would bring the Iraqi left to power. While some of these groups might perhaps have reached a satisfactory accommodation, assuming a military victory, they could not all do so.

Of course, the opponents of war were a similarly disparate group, including isolationists and international realists who regarded it as an unproductive use of US state power, a large group (including most on the moderate left) who thought that the human costs of war would outweigh any benefits, opponents of a unilateral war carried out without UN support, advocates of national sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and those opposed to any military action by the US.

The crucial difference is that, while the opponents of war might have disagreed violently about their reasons for their position, these disagreements made no fundamental difference to the policy that they supported. In debates over wars of choice, peace is the status quo, and is a fairly unambiguous concept. (Perhaps not totally unambiguous – if the inspections had been allowed to continue and nothing had been found, differences would no doubt have emerged about what to do next, but peace leaves options like this open whereas war forecloses them).

By contrast, the supporters of the war were giving their support to very different kinds of war and assuming that their own preferred version would be the one that took place. But if they were honest with themselves (as Derbyshire has been, at least retrospectively) they should have looked at their allies and realised that there was no warrant for this assumption. Instead, they committed themselves to war with a whole series of implicit conditions. Many of them, in recanting, have blamed the Bush Administration for not delivering the kind of war they supported, or for mishandling the war in various ways that reflect entirely different assumptions and objectives. But, they had no reason to expect anything different.

The same asymmetry arises in predictions about the war. Opponents of the war variously predicted a military defeat for the US, a long and costly occupation, tens of thousands of civilian casualties, millions of refugees, the emergence of a new dictatorship, civil war on religious and ethnic lines, a stimulus to terrorism and so on. Supporters of the war derided all of these predictions and projected a variety of rosy scenarios including a quick military victory, roses and sweets showered on the liberating troops, and so on. Apart from the initial victory, not many of the optimistic predictions have panned out, but, as war supporters have pointed out, plenty of the anti-war predictions have failed too.

But this is the wrong test, and presumes a symmetry that isn’t there. War is doing harm, and only under very special conditions can it produce enough good to outweigh this. This is the point of what used to be called the Powell doctrine which allowed for discretionary use of force only with near certainty of success at low cost, clear and easily achieved objectives and a well-defined exit strategy.

Looking at the list of antiwar predictions, the realisation of any one of them would be enough to make war the wrong choice. As it is, several of them have been validated, and even some of those that seemed falsified, like the millions of refugees are now coming to pass.

Whatever the intentions of those who start them, most wars end up ruinous to both sides and even more to the people and land being fought over. The Iraq war has been no exception. There are occasions when there is no alternative, but we should be slow to go to war and quick to seek peace.

fn1. My only doubt on this concerns the reliability of polygraphs, but they serve well enough as a rhetorical device

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1

derrida derider 06.18.06 at 5:38 am

The last para hits it in a nutshell. The overwhelming burden of history suggests wars of choice based on pretexts have unhappy outcomes; which is precisely why they are illegal and their promoters are – literally – criminals.

“Burke ever held, and held rightly, that it can seldom be right that it can seldom be right to sacrifice the well-being of a nation for a generation, to plunge whole communities in distress, or to destroy a beneficent institution for the sake of a supposed millennium in the comparatively remote future. We should seldom sacrifice a present benefit for a doubtful advantage in the future … our powers of prediction are slight, our command over results infinitesimal … we should be very chary of sacrificing large numbers of people for the sake of a contingent end …”
– JM Keynes

2

soru 06.18.06 at 5:41 am

‘Of course, the opponents of war were a similarly disparate group’

Firstly, of the groups you list, which one does Saddam fall under, making the reasonable assumption that he was an opponent of the war?

Secondly, I’m not sure things are as asymmetrical as you think. Would peace then have meant a Derbyshire-style war, pure bomb-dropping, nowish?

The other right wing groups wanted things that were either impossible or deeply implausible, so their desires were not that important. What Derbyshire wanted was both very possible and very wrong: Operation Desert Fox killed thousands with essentially zero political controversy, something 10 or 20 times bigger would still not be much of an election issue.

Consequently, I think that needs to be placed in the balance of the ‘things that could have happened _instead_ of this war’ column.

3

Brendan 06.18.06 at 5:46 am

Bending over backwards to be fair, a lot of this has its roots in a value judgement, which is this: which is worse: a dictator or a civil war? There’s a strong tradition in Anglo-American political tradition to reply: ‘a civil war’. Thomas Hobbes was the most famous (or infamous) to argue that, if the alternative to civil war is dictatorship…so be it.

Others, on the other hand, argue that a dictator is simply the worst thing that can happen, and that it doesn’t matter how bad things get as a result of the overthrow of the dictatorship: it’s still worth it.

There’s no real way of deciding between these two viewpoints: it’s really a completely subjective thing.

The Achilles’ Heel of the pro-invasion case, of course, is that it’s by no means clear to me that the ‘civil war’ vs ‘dictatorship’ dichotomy is really an either/or. I can EASILY imagine some situation in ten years time in which at least some part of Iraq, and perhaps most/all of it, is under a dictatorship (perhaps a Sunni ‘rump’ state run by a Saddam lite, perhaps a Kurdish fascist regime) and the rest of it would hardly democratic by Western standards (the Shia theocracy). And the civil war could rumble on at the same time.

In other words, the dwindling band of ‘pro-warriors’ argue (implicitly, usually) that ‘this is as bad as it gets: it’s all uphill from now on’.

But I think that, au contraire, this is as good as it gets. A semi-democratic govt now in place, the death of Zarqawi…it’s been a good week for the Americans. But the difficulty is it’s very difficult to see any more ‘turning points’ that might happen in the future. The Americans have now achieved everything they set out to do (and much more) I suspect this last week really was the ‘turning point': i.e. the last week in which a sane person could feel optimistic about the occupation and war. I suspect that in a years time, everything will look VERY different. And ALL the predictions of the anti-war crowd still look possible to me…given enough time.

4

Kenny Easwaran 06.18.06 at 5:47 am

Overall I like the point, but I think the fundamental asymmetry that you point out might not be as fundamental as you suggest.

You say: “if the inspections had been allowed to continue and nothing had been found, differences would no doubt have emerged about what to do next, but peace leaves options like this open whereas war forecloses them”.

However, one could also say (probably not “one could just as well say”, but there’s some case here) that “once Saddam Hussein had been removed from power, differences would no doubt have emerged about what to do next, but war leaves options like this open whereas peace forecloses them”.

So there’s probably a bit more incompatibility among the peace options and less incompatiblity in the war options than you initially suggest. But you’re probably right that the incompatibility among the war options was more fundamental in some sense.

5

Kenny Easwaran 06.18.06 at 5:49 am

Looks like soru made a similar suggestion to me. And I overused the word “fundamental” in seemingly contrary ways.

6

abb1 06.18.06 at 6:29 am

But who died and gave Soru the authority to bomb countries ruled by dictators? This is exactly the same logic that tells others to bomb countries ruled by infidels. They are usually called ‘radical extremists’.

7

soru 06.18.06 at 6:51 am

Who died and gave abb1 the authority to support ruthless dictators in their maintenance of power?

I speak for myself, you speak for yourself.

8

abb1 06.18.06 at 7:24 am

I can’t remember the last time I was supporting or advocating to support any dictators, ruthless or otherwise.

Yet I do remember people like you advocating pretty much indiscriminate violence with the stated goal of removing dictators; just because you don’t like that particular arrangement, political system that’s a few millennia old. I think you have to agree that this is pretty radical.

I am asking: what gives you the right to advocate and use violence in this case? Philosophically speaking, that is.

9

roger 06.18.06 at 10:39 am

Well, if Derbyshire’s bombing option is immoral, than surely the immorality reaches back into the Clinton administration, which, we should remember, was very much in favor of bombing Iraq and did it at the drop of a hat — for instance, for ten weeks in Autumn of 1999, in the winter of 1998-1999, etc.

The assumption that it is more moral for the U.S. to go to war and then build up the nation with which it has been at war seems not that different from colonialism to me. When do these built up nations lose occupying troops? In Kosovo it has been, what, 8 years? And it looks like NATO and the U.S. are going to be in Afghanistan for at least that long, maybe longer. When the assertion of higher morality is made in tandem with the infinite provision of occupying troops, what you get is the Gladstonian model of imperialism. Which is, in effect, even worse than the Disraeli version of it — for all Disraeli’s jingoism, Gladstone actually annexed much more territory into the British empire, sighing morally all the way.

Going back and searching for alternatives to war has the tendency to select war as a telos, the thing giving meaning to the whole series of past events. But why not go back and search for alternatives to the way one conducted the peace? In the Gulf region, two things at least stick out:
1. The inability of the U.S., in the face of changes in Iran in the late nineties, to recognize Iran, much less acknowledge the reality of its place in the Gulf region, or the complexity of its relations with Hezbollah.
2. The inability to absorb the lessons of Northern Iraq — a place that, shielded from Saddam’s forces, fell into civil war. And then fell out of it, all of which occured without the U.S. occupying the territory.

Perhaps occupation can act as a magnifier of aggression, rather than as a stifler. In which case it isn’t more ‘moral’ to occupy a territory. If the British had done the moral thing in 1860 and occupied the U.S., they would have preserved the Southern system of slavery — which they were strongly inclined to do anyway. This would not have been the more moral option.

10

Jim Henley 06.18.06 at 11:45 am

Congrats, John, on efficiently recapitulating “Applied Hayek.”

11

Tom Hurka 06.18.06 at 11:52 am

Surely the Powell doctrine, as applied in the 1991 Gulf War, involved “low cost” only in terms of U.S soldiers’ lives lost. In other respects it was immensely costly. The U.S. sent many more soldiers to the Middle East in 1991 than to Iraq in 2003 (was it in the high hundreds of thousands?), at vastly greater economic cost. And the Powell strategy of bombing the hell out of Iraq, including parts far removed from Kuwait, before launching the ground war was immensely costly to Iraqi civilians and Iraqi society. It costs — your pocketbook and your enemy’s civilians — a lot to make a war as easy to win as the Powell doctrine requires.

12

Jean 06.18.06 at 11:53 am

I was at University with Johnathan. He studied Phil-Lit. And like most on that course, he knew more about Blanchot than about politics.

13

Dan Simon 06.18.06 at 12:16 pm

I can’t remember the last time I was supporting or advocating to support any dictators, ruthless or otherwise.

A helpful reminder, in case anyone still takes Abb1 seriously…

http://crookedtimber.org/2005/03/01/hey-maybe-freedom-is-on-the-march/#comment-63152

14

soru 06.18.06 at 12:17 pm

I can’t remember the last time I was supporting or advocating to support any dictators, ruthless or otherwise.

You seem to have a problem in taking responsibility for the consequences of the things you argue for. No war would have meant saddam, in all likelihood, still in power. If you disagree then try to make that case, rather than flatly denying what seems to me to be self-evident.

I don’t see it so much a question of right, as a question of ability. What gives you the ability, the capability, to so deny the consequences of th things you argue for, if put into place? Is it simply because you knew they would not be listened to, so could never have that connection to reality?

Breandan makes the rather more substantial point that, disastrous as things have been for the pro-war right, the pro-war left is very close to see all of its goals attained at rather lower than the widely predicted cost. Future disasters may, as he correctly points out, derail things, but right now, it is the left wing opponents of the war who should be examining their consciences, and doubting their position.

15

Jon H 06.18.06 at 1:11 pm

“. No war would have meant saddam, in all likelihood, still in power. “

And his faction would have the monopoly on abuses, rape, and murder.

Instead, now it’s a free-for-all, where all you need to be a junior Saddam is an AK-47 and a few friends likewise armed. And two-bit mullahs are setting up neighborhood fundamentalist zones each with its own idiosyncratic crimes against morality which are punishable by death.

I’m guessing most iraqis who aren’t thugs preferred life under Saddam, where at least they knew who to watch out for. It was probably easier to avoid being raped when the women mostly had to worry about staying away from Uday.

16

abb1 06.18.06 at 1:30 pm

Yes, it seems that the pro-war position has lost on all fronts: moral, legal, political, empirical, even military – total collapse. Hopefully the effect will last a few decades, but I doubt it. People are easy to frighten.

17

Brendan 06.18.06 at 1:57 pm

A helpful reminder, in case anyone is tempted to take Dan Simon seriously.

http://icouldbewrong.blogspot.com/

18

bob mcmanus 06.18.06 at 2:18 pm

“Yes, it seems that the pro-war position has lost on all fronts”

I don’t see that the pro-war position has lost a thing, among the people who really chose the war. I like kinda doubt that Bush and Cheney care what Derbyshire and Fukuyama think. Rove has Congress and 2-3 SCOTUS seats. Bush has his place in history. Halliburton and Exxon-Mobil have made a ton of bucks.

It isn’t as if they had a list of a dozen more countries they would try if Iraq succeeded. Iraq looks like a complete victory to me. Derbyshire may still get his way in Iran.

“Total collapse”? Criminy, there is groupthink at CT.

19

Brendan 06.18.06 at 2:27 pm

Incidentally, Soru, your point is that people should make predictions about what might happen if situation occurs, and then be prepared to change their opinions if their predictions are wrong. This is, I would argue, completely correct. It’s what scientists do. And as Christ Bertram pointed out in another thread, yes, I think that anti-invasion thinkers and writers should reconsider their position if Iraq is a thriving, multi-cultural, rich social democracy by, say, 2010. I would certainly change my opinion.

But not everyone agrees with you.

Here for example is that great hedge trader of our era, Oliver Kamm. ‘There is no development that would cause me to conclude I was wrong to support (the) war.’

In other words, Kamm’s arguments that things are getting better in Iraq, that Iraq is making progress towards democracy, are all simply by the by. So what if another dictator returns? A worse one than Saddam? So what if millions of refugees are thrown into the middle east, if Iraq splits, if Israel is led to intervene, if nuclear weapons are used, if Iraq is wiped off the face of the earth, with tens of millions of casualties?

‘There is no development that would cause me to conclude I was wrong to support war.’ (emphasis added).

This is also, as I understand it, the position of Christopher Hitchens.

20

abb1 06.18.06 at 3:08 pm

No, I mean the position – as in intellectual justification. Of course people have made tons of money. But political support collapsed. Empirically – it’s a disaster. Moral justifications are pretty much abandoned, except for a few hard-core lunatics. It’s a financial black hole, oil price in the stratosphere and will stay there. There’s no pro- argument anymore; well, unless you hate the person named Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti personally.

21

Brendan 06.18.06 at 3:31 pm

Incidentally I should have said ‘hedge fund trader’. I was not meaning to imply that Mr Kamm actually runs an undercover black market operation, trading garden hedges for, I don’t know…lawns or crazy paving or heroin or something.

22

roger 06.18.06 at 3:36 pm

Bob, your argument is becoming a common one on the left — what looks like a complete fiasco is actually a great victory for the Bush-Cheney sector.

Now, I don’t think there has been an intellectual collapse of support for worldwide war on jihadism — the odds on favorite to win the Dem nomination in 2008 is, after all, a firm supporter of Bush’s war.

But I don’t buy the logic that Iraq was intended to be a fiasco, to feed Halliburton and Exxon. Retrospectively intentionalizing Bush actions would then mean, for instance, that Bush gave the brushoff to reports about Al Quaeda in the summer of 01 because he was a shortseller in the market, and was planning to profit on the fallout of 01-02 on Wall Street. It would mean that Cheney bought Halliburton a subsidiary loaded with Asbestos liabilities cause, in some ingenious and never yet discovered way, he was going to make money on Halliburton stock going down. It means, in other words, positing that we are run by a bunch of long term Goldfingers.

I don’t believe that for a second. The story in the WAPO today about the Bush administration refusing to even reply to the Iranians in Spring of 2003 is much more indicative of their mindset: they thought of themselves as the masters of the universe. They thought Iraq was the base, and the next war was going to be on Iran, and/or Syria. I think that the next war might well have been on Iran, and/or Syria had the U.S withdrawn its forces when it should have, in the autumn of 03. The one unexpected benefit of the Iraq war, perhaps.

Iraq is not only not a ‘win’ for them, but it is likely the reason that the Bushies have properly tucked their tail between their legs and are talking to a much more hardcore Iranian government.

As for political hegemony — one has simply to look at what happened to Great Society liberalism to see what the effect of a great, open ended, mindless war can do to a domestic agenda in the long run. Interestingly, when Americans are asked to assess the great recent president, Jimmy Carter, of all people, comes in third — and Lyndon Johnson is neck and neck with Nixon for last. See http://www.slate.com/id/2143767/

So I’d say that the Bush vanity war in Iraq costs much more than any short term gains in Exxon profit — which is as much the result of Chinese and Indian increased use of oil, and a shortfall of refinery capacity going back to the Clinton years, and Katrina’s damage to the Gulf platforms, as it is of Iraq – is what it looks like: a fiasco for the Bush side.

23

abb1 06.18.06 at 3:54 pm

That’s right, they found their post-cold-war boundaries. Bush I declared a New World Order (New American Century?), Clinton bombed a European country for 3 months, and Bush II got drunk and crashed this truck into a wall. Boom – full stop.

24

John Quiggin 06.18.06 at 4:00 pm

Now you mention it, Jim, there is a Hayekian flavor to the argument. I don’t remember reading anything much by Hayek himself on this topic, though – is there anything I should look at?

Also, any hints on how to package this argument for Australian Hayekians, who’ve mostly been fencesitters or worse?

25

soru 06.18.06 at 4:02 pm

‘There is no development that would cause me to conclude I was wrong to support (the) war’

Yes, Kamm is a bit of a nutter. I suspect reading all the Chomsky did something rather unpleasant to his brain.

26

neil 06.18.06 at 4:28 pm

JQ, does your arument require you to look at how things might have gone had the war not taken place? You say of the pre-invasion situation “peace is the status quo”, but it wasn’t really “peace”, it was a dictatorship kept in check by the US and Britain.

If the pro-wr side had problems with their “allies”, as you put it, the allies of anti-war side included the governments of France, Russia and China, all of whom were motivated entirely by economic self interest. As it was they who prevented the war being sanctioned by the UN, which could only have made the post war period less troubled, they have a lot to answer for.

27

Steve LaBonne 06.18.06 at 5:12 pm

Ah, so other countries should go along with any damnfool war the crazy BushCo wants to start, just to prevent the outcome from being even worse. Fascinating theory, perhaps not all that practical though.

28

John Quiggin 06.18.06 at 5:18 pm

My argument does require me to look at how things would have gone, and I mention that this is not completely clear (as of course counterfactuals can never be) but not as unpredictable as war. Had Bush not gone to war in March 2003, weapons inspections would have continued for some time – judging by the time the postwar inspections took, I’d imagine a year or two. At some point it would have become clear that nothing much was going to be found, and the question of what kind of sanctions, if any, would continue would have come up.

Meanwhile, the financial and military resources not used in the Iraq war could have been used more effectively (in Afghanistan and Sudan for example)or reallocated to peaceful ends.

On your second para, what Steve said.

29

Brendan 06.18.06 at 5:23 pm

Incidentally, could I just apologise (if thats the word) for calling Chris Bertram Christ Bertram? Although the real question is to whom am I apologising………….

30

Brett Bellmore 06.18.06 at 5:42 pm

“‘There is no development that would cause me to conclude I was wrong to support (the) war’”

It is, in fact, quite reasonable to take the position that, if a decision was right in light of the limited information you had at the time you made it, subsequent developments can not establish that you made the wrong decision. They can only establish that you had inadequate information.

31

Brandon Berg 06.18.06 at 5:44 pm

Many of them, in recanting, have blamed the Bush Administration for not delivering the kind of war they supported, or for mishandling the war in various ways that reflect entirely different assumptions and objectives. But, they had no reason to expect anything different.

Careful where you point that thing, John, or you’re liable to end up a libertarian.

32

Steve LaBonne 06.18.06 at 5:50 pm

However, brett, you would also need to consider whether subsequent information shows that you should have realized that your information was inadequate at the time. That pretty well describes my own evolution.

brandon, just because the Republicans are totally incapable of running a government or a foreign policy does nothing to demonstrate that those tasks are impossible.

33

DC 06.18.06 at 7:32 pm

“There are occasions when there is no alternative”

I know what you mean of course, but more accurately there are always alternatives. Even if you are attacked/invaded war is not “the last resort” – surrender, or passive resistance, is. But sometimes the alternatives to war are less acceptable (more unacceptable) than a war. This was very obviously the question in Iraq – what was the worst alternative, a war (and post-war) prosecuted by Bush et al or a peace that entailed Saddam’s continuted rule in Iraq.

34

r4d20 06.18.06 at 7:46 pm

Many of them, in recanting, have blamed the Bush Administration for not delivering the kind of war they supported, or for mishandling the war in various ways that reflect entirely different assumptions and objectives. But, they had no reason to expect anything different.

It depends on exactly what you mean by ” they had no reason to expect anything different.”.

Do you mean it could not have gove differently under this president?
Do you mean it could not have gone differently under our “system”?
Do you mean it could not have gone differently given the totality of the world-situation?
Do you mean that things have not have gone differenty no matter what?

35

r4d20 06.18.06 at 7:59 pm

The Achilles’ Heel of the pro-invasion case, of course, is that it’s by no means clear to me that the ‘civil war’ vs ‘dictatorship’ dichotomy is really an either/or. I can EASILY imagine some situation in ten years time in which at least some part of Iraq, and perhaps most/all of it, is under a dictatorship (perhaps a Sunni ‘rump’ state run by a Saddam lite, perhaps a Kurdish fascist regime) and the rest of it would hardly democratic by Western standards (the Shia theocracy). And the civil war could rumble on at the same time.

Brendan,
That door swings both ways. Who honestly thinks that there would have been a peaceful transfer of power after Saddams death?

His power-structure was tribal in the way that he maintained power by setting many mutually hostile factions against one another – Uday had the fedayeen, other had the army, and others had the many intelligence services who all spied on one another too. Like Stalin he deliberately fostered mistrust and dislike amongst his lieutenants in order to forstall plots. Then we have the underground shiite militias who hated the regime, and certainly were NOT going to sit around idly while the Baath party worked out its internal power struggles. Of course, Iran isn’t stupid and would have gotten invovled to leverage their own influence in Iraq, as would many other neighbors.

The problem with alternate-history is that its ultimately guesswork and its best to leave the “I can imagine” approach aside and talk about realities.

36

r4d20 06.18.06 at 8:19 pm

Boy, it sure must be fun to play Inquisitor, shout “Make Confession!!”, and then burn the unrepentant heretics. That’s our future – the auto de fe.

The right is purging everyone who doesn’t tow the line and the response of the left is …. a purge of its own.

37

Cranky Observer 06.18.06 at 8:33 pm

> The right is purging everyone who
> doesn’t tow the line and the response
> of the left is …. a purge of its own.

I have no desire to “purge” anyone from the Democrat/progressive/liberal/left tent [well, except for Marshall Whittman, but that is another story ;-) ].

I simply want the “liberal hawks” to admit their error, sit down, and stop telling me (and by extension, the rest of the “the left”) what to do for, oh, the next 12 years. Then, IF and only if they demonstrate the ability to perform correct analysis, they can start participating in policy-making again on a /competitive/, not aristocratic, basis.

I mean, how long do organizations which routinely promote people who fail the biggest tests spectacularly usually last? And how do they typically collapse (hint: Worldcom).

Cranky

38

Stu 06.18.06 at 9:24 pm

Advocating for no war does not mean advocating for Saddam Hussein to be in power. There is a difference, but I’m not sure that your black and white world view allows you to see it.

39

Snooty 06.18.06 at 10:14 pm

Two very simple questions for those who continue to support the war:

1) What were the criteria applied to Iraq in March 2003 which caused you to support the case for war?

2) Would you now support the application of those criteria to war with other regimes (Iran, Pakistan, N. Korea)?

If the answer to question #2 is “no”, there is no intellectual heft to those making the case for war, and they can be safely dismissed.

And a bonus question: What would be the net effect to the US and the world if those conflicts were initiated? More or less strife?

40

Jim Henley 06.18.06 at 10:34 pm

Now you mention it, Jim, there is a Hayekian flavor to the argument. I don’t remember reading anything much by Hayek himself on this topic, though – is there anything I should look at?

John, I can’t point you to anything specific Hayek wrote on foreign policy. But your piece essentially applies a central Hayekian principle to foreign intervention. Recall Hayek’s explanation of how coalitions come together in support of central planning: each faction thinks that central planning will give IT the power to achieve its most cherished goals. But the factions’ visions are mutually incompatible, and only some of them are going to “win” – once the planning regime comes into effect, some of those who supported it, maybe most of them, are going to be on the outside of power rather than the inside.

In Road to Surfdom it’s political economy. In your post, and, well, the first two or three years of my own blog, it’s war. But the principle – a larger coalition forms to boost the intervention than can possibly be satisfied – underlies both.

41

Brandon Berg 06.18.06 at 11:06 pm

Steve (32): I’m not saying that it’s impossible. I’m just saying that those of you who clamor for more government power do so because you believe that people just like you will be the ones wielding that power. It may be wise to reexamine that belief.

42

Daniel 06.19.06 at 2:09 am

Congrats, John, on efficiently recapitulating “Applied Hayek.”

I see this more as the application of the principles behind the Hippocratic Oath; that millennia of clinical practice have shown that even if it looks like a really really serious emergency where something must be done, you are almost certainly better off not taking something to pieces unless you have a very glear idea indeed about what you’re going to do with the bits.

43

John Quiggin 06.19.06 at 3:00 am

The Hippocratic Oath occurred to me, too. There’s also a strain of conservatism (maybe derived from Oakeshott) that appeals to me in this context. I might do a longer post on it when I get some time.

44

abb1 06.19.06 at 3:15 am

If you think you’re a doctor, the “do no harm” it’s enough; you also need a proper license and patient’s consent.

You don’t just chase sick people, grab them, knock them out and amputate their limbs – even if you’re absolutely sure you’re saving their lives. Unless, of course, you’re mad, quite mad.

45

soru 06.19.06 at 5:03 am

Advocating for no war does not mean advocating for Saddam Hussein to be in power. There is a difference, but I’m not sure that your black and white world view allows you to see it.

If that difference exists, I am sure it is explicable, in some terms not equivalent to saying ‘I am not advocating for anyone to be killed, I am just advocating for them to be shot in the back of the head with a large calibre bullet’.

In my no doubt simplistic worldview, actions have consequences, so to wish the action is to accept the predictable consequences.

46

Brendan 06.19.06 at 5:04 am

‘The Hippocratic Oath occurred to me, too. There’s also a strain of conservatism (maybe derived from Oakeshott) that appeals to me in this context. I might do a longer post on it when I get some time.’

Back in the days of yore when I used to read libertarian anti-war sites, I seem to remember someone arguing that Ludwig von Mises used to talk in ways that could be adapted to this situation. For example, he (apparently) talked about situations where ‘things’ seemed to have ‘gone wrong’ and the immediate impulse was to dive in and try to sort them out, whereas von Mises argued (apparently) that this would be the worst thing to do, and that you would be better of leaving things well alone and let order self-organise out of the chaos. In other words, the impulse of the ‘state’ to meddle in the economy is analogous to the impulse of the Americans to continue to meddle and wander around aimlessly blowing stuff up in Iraq.

Von Mises also wrote: “War is harmful, not only to the conquered but to the conqueror. Society has arisen out of the works of peace; the essence of society is peacemaking. Peace and not war is the father of all things. Only economic action has created the wealth around us; labor, not the profession of arms, brings happiness. Peace builds, war destroys.”

47

john m. 06.19.06 at 5:23 am

..If that difference exists, I am sure it is explicable..etc

No, you’re not and the facile example you follow on with makes that explicit. What if you believe, as I do, that the Iraq war was a major mis-step in the effort to combat terrorism and secure western democracy? In what has been characterised as the war on terror, it was almost exactly the wrong thing to do at that time and had precisely nothing to do with Bin Laden and his bunch of fools. My objection to the war thus had nothing to do with the maintenance of the Iraq regime. It is a particularly asinine construction to suggest that all opponents of the war are de facto supporters of Saddam. You might also address #39 directly.

48

abb1 06.19.06 at 5:24 am

Soru, there are plenty of evils, plenty of suffering in the world.

I hope you do realize that by not advocating annihilation of the whole humanity, you’re in effect endorsing all kinds of cruelties, hideous diseases and horrendous tragedies.

Be consistent now. There’s only one way to end it all.

49

Jon 06.19.06 at 6:25 am

abb1:

I hope you do realize that by not advocating annihilation of the whole of humanity, you’re in effect endorsing all kinds of cruelties, hideous diseases and horrendous tragedies.

Of course, by merely endorsing the annihilation of the whole of humanity, abb1 is obviously advocating the continued unconscionable suffering of non-humans. And I thought these supposed members of The Left were supposed to be against suffering. How quickly the mask comes off!

It is only people like myself, who advocate the obliteration not just of mankind but the planet itself and the entire universe, who genuinely stand against suffering and embody The Left’s true intellectual heritage.

50

Jonathan Derbyshire 06.19.06 at 6:31 am

Could I point out to Jean (comment #12) that John Quiggin’s post is about *JOHN* Derbyshire, not *JONATHAN*?

51

John Quiggin 06.19.06 at 6:47 am

#12 had me very confused too, especially as some people seem to think I should be called Jonathan.

52

ajay 06.19.06 at 6:48 am

Roger: “If the British had done the moral thing in 1860 and occupied the U.S., they would have preserved the Southern system of slavery — which they were strongly inclined to do anyway. This would not have been the more moral option.”

Oh, what rubbish. Slavery in Britain went out in the eighteenth century, and in the colonies in 1834. By the time the US Civil War broke out, the Royal Navy had been sweating on the West Africa Patrol for decades, freeing slaves at five pounds a head.

If Britain had occupied the US in 1860, then the Southern system of slavery would have been swept away, just as it had been in Canada, in Jamaica, and everywhere else in the Empire, and any Americans found transporting slaves would have been tried for piracy and hanged at Execution Dock. And serve them right.

53

soru 06.19.06 at 7:24 am

My objection to the war thus had nothing to do with the maintenance of the Iraq regime.

If your firing of the bullet into the back of someone’s head was done purely for the purposes of testing out your weapon, and you bore no ill-will towards the poor guy, what would that change for the guy who’s brains got splattered?

There seems to me to be something fundamentally un-adult about that kind of sophistry, that simple flat denial of cause and effect.
As for #39:

1) What were the criteria applied to Iraq in March 2003 which caused you to support the case for war?

a. the repeatedly expressed support of the majority of the population of that country.

b. the military feasibility of the part of the plan I agreed with, i.e. the removal of Saddam.

c. the military impossibility of the parts of the plan I did not agree with, i.e. the imposition of permanent military bases and too direct a copy of the US/neoliberal social model.

2) Would you now support the application of those criteria to war with other regimes (Iran, Pakistan, N. Korea)?

Yes, absolutely. Iran and Pakistan fail the first criteria (by a very very long way), N Korea the second.

I’m not sure if there is any country world-wide that clearly meets those criteria, although Zimbabwe and Burma may come close.

54

john m. 06.19.06 at 7:54 am

Soru,

I did not address your example because it does not relate in any way to the issue as to whether objection to the war in Iraq was/is equivalent to supporting Saddam. Coming up with other scenarios seems pointless and unnecessary given that I understand the question being posed and I’m sure you do also. Your position that inaction is the same as support is clearly set out without recourse to examples that are actually based on deliberate actions. As for accusations of sophistry, I apologise if I gave the impression I was trying to argue with you – I know that you are not going to change your opinion, any more than I am – I was simply outlining why I disagree with you. You may fairly ask “Why bother?”. Also, why use the clumsy term “un-adult”? It seems childish to do so.

As for your response to #39, I admire your third reason for supporting the war being that you did not in fact agree with much of the proposed case for war and further that apparently the only place in the world that lived up to those criteria was Iraq. I admire it, mind you, because I find it completely incomprehensible. It appears to be a strangely limited policy but what do us children know anyway?

55

Jon 06.19.06 at 7:57 am

soru:

If your firing of the bullet into the back of someone’s head was done purely for the purposes of testing out your weapon, and you bore no ill-will towards the poor guy, what would that change for the guy who’s brains got splattered?

Indeed. And if the continuing refusal of abb1 to advocate the annihilation of all life on earth means innocent antelope of the 22nd century will suffer cruelly when eaten by lions, even if abb1 bears the antelope no ill-will what would that change for the poor antelope whose guts are splattered?

There seems to me to be something fundamentally un-adult about that kind of sophistry, that simple flat denial of cause and effect.

56

Barry 06.19.06 at 8:01 am

Well, Soru, get cracking. Go over to your right-wing friends’ sites, and start trolling energetically for a series wars.

57

Z 06.19.06 at 8:03 am

This is really a chilling comment, Soru. You supported the case for war because it was feasible and because the majority of the population of some country supported it (I write some country because I am not sure which country you are referring to by that: it should be Iraq but in March 2003, the “vast majority of the population” hadn’t expressed anything about anything and for good reasons)? I hear the majority of the population in some country support the immediate murder of anyone using Soru as their internet alias and that this country as very capable assassins all around the world. Do you support their case? If you don’t like hypothesis, a majority of the population of Iran may support the murder of some Danish cartoonists and that looks feasible to me: do you support their case?

Also, it is well worth remarking that adhering to a strictly cause/consequence point of view (as in “if you are against the war, you are for Saddam, because in all likelihood Saddam would still be in power without the war”) is probably more problematic for proponents of the war because by the same reasonning you can say “if you are in favor of the war, then you are for murdering children, torturing innocent people, locking away thousand of people without trials etc. etc.” because those were the very likely consequences of that war (and of most wars), were entirely predictable and were widely anticipated.

58

soru 06.19.06 at 9:17 am

And if the continuing refusal of abb1 to advocate the annihilation of all life on earth means innocent antelope of the 22nd century will suffer cruelly when eaten by lions, even if abb1 bears the antelope no ill-will what would that change for the poor antelope whose guts are splattered?

Nice rhetorical trick, but there are two specific differences between your analogy and mine:

1. not removing a dictator has the direct and predictable causal consequence of that dictator not being removed. This is different from speculation about the unknowable future of some animals hundreds of years later.

2. eliminating all life on earth is pretty unarguably a worse thing than the suffering of some C22 antelopes.

You may feel that the suffering caused by saddam’s rule had the same proportional relation to that caused by the war as the suffering of those antelopes versus the death of everyone on the planet – i.e negligible versus overwhelming.

I would disagree – it might be somewhat greater or lesser, but sufferring under Saddam was not trivial, not dismissable.

That makes the question of whether the war was justifiable or not an emprical one, one to be settled by actual facts, and the course of events that will reveal more of those facts, not by resorting to some simple and universal argument about asymmetry.

59

Not Really 06.19.06 at 9:44 am

At this point I am really wondering if the average woman in Iraq thinks that she is now and will be over the next 20 years better off in the current Iraqi society than under Saddam. She has traded a 0.01% probability of being kidnapped, raped, possibly impregnated, and possibly killed for a 95-100% chance of being culturally enslaved (and quite possibly physically abused) along with her daughters and grand-daughters. Knowing that, do you still support the Iraq war? Does she?

Not Really

60

roger 06.19.06 at 10:19 am

52 — you obviously aren’t familiar with, among other sources, Henry Adam’s account of British policy between 1861 to 1863. [See the Education, chapters 8-11] The British government’s view was heavily tilted to the South. The Lancashire cotton industry interests were very militant about supporting the south and protesting the blockade set up by the North. Palmerston and Russell were eager to recognize the South.

While it is very true that the British abolished slavery before the Americans did, in their own domain, the British view of the South was that it was ruled by gentlemen. And the north was ruled by a barbarian ape named Lincoln.

“London was altogether beside itself on one point, in especial; it created a nightmare of its own, and gave it the shape of Abraham Lincoln. Behind this it placed another demon, if possible more devilish, and called it Mr. Seward. In regard to these two men, English society seemed demented. Defence was useless; explanation was vain; one could only let the passion exhaust itself. One’s best friends were as unreasonable as enemies, for the belief in poor Mr. Lincoln’s brutality and Seward’s ferocity became a dogma of popular faith. The last time Henry Adams saw Thackeray, before his sudden death at Christmas in 1863, was in entering the house of Sir Henry Holland for an evening reception. Thackeray was pulling on his coat downstairs, laughing because, in his usual blind way, he had stumbled into the wrong house and not found it out till he shook hands with old Sir Henry, whom he knew very well, but who was not the host he expected. Then his tone changed as he spoke of his and Adams’s friend, Mrs. Frank Hampton, of South Carolina, whom he had loved as Sally Baxter and painted as Ethel Newcome. Though he had never quite forgiven her marriage, his warmth of feeling revived when he heard that she had died of consumption at Columbia while her parents and sister were refused permission to pass through the lines to see her. In speaking of it, Thackeray’s voice trembled and his eyes filled with tears. The coarse cruelty of Lincoln and his hirelings was notorious. He never doubted that the Federals made a business of harrowing the tenderest feelings of women particularly of women in order to punish their opponents. On quite insufficient evidence he burst into violent reproach. Had Adams earned in his pocket the proofs that the reproach was unjust, he would have gained nothing by showing them. At that moment Thackeray, and all London society with him, needed the nervous relief of expressing emotion; for if Mr. Lincoln was not what they said he was what were they?”

61

Jon 06.19.06 at 10:25 am

soru:

there are two specific differences between your analogy and mine

Perhaps, but I think they shared a more important, specific similarity: being extremely silly.

62

Richard Cownie 06.19.06 at 10:53 am

“The U.S. sent many more soldiers to the Middle East in 1991 than to Iraq in 2003 (was it in the high hundreds of thousands?), at vastly greater economic cost.”

.. but only for a short time. Which is more costly,
500K troops for 3 months, or 150K troops for 3+
years ? IIRC the Kuwait war cost about $50-70B,
(of which allies such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and
Japan paid the bulk) whereas the tab for Iraq is running around $300B and counting.

It’s a commonplace of strategy and tactics that
you should attempt to achieve a concentration of
force and overwhelm your enemy quickly. Here’s a
simple example: take 100 soldiers who can fire
10 rounds a minute, and suppose 1% of those shots
disable an opponent. Attack them with 100
soldiers of equal firepower and accuracy, and the
result is a tossup; attack with 200, and those
200 can disable them all in about 5 minutes,
losing less than 50; attack with 600, and you win
in about 1min40sec, losing less than 17.

I’m oversimplifying – defenders can skew the kill
rate in their favor, troops are never equal,
and the firepower on each side decays as soldiers
are lost. But the mathematical principle is
sound: if you want to win with minimum casualties
(and with minimum cost in terms of man-hours)
then overwhelming force is the right choice.

63

Elliott Oti 06.19.06 at 11:03 am

1. not removing a dictator has the direct and predictable causal consequence of that dictator not being removed.

Untrue.

If the US does not remove a dictator it does not follow that that dictator will not be removed. Recent examples available on request, including examples that do not involve tens or hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.

64

soru 06.19.06 at 12:51 pm

elliott: The English word _dictator_ covers two very different types of rulers, with the key difference between them being how they would react to a mass peaceful protest in the capital city.

Sometimes it is ambiguous what type of dictator a particular ruler will turn out to be, which is why participating in a peaceful revolution is a rather exciting activity.

Other times, there is not so much uncertainty. Someone who has massacred protestors 3, 4, 5 times is not likely to behave differently the 6th.

If you know of an example of a dictator of Saddam’s calibre being peacefully overthrown without external help, I’d be interested to hear of it.

65

ajay 06.19.06 at 1:12 pm

Roger, this is a side issue, but I am not sure that your logic holds. Yes, there was a good deal of support for the South in Britain at the outbreak of the Civil War.

But there is a great deal of difference between saying “a lot of people in Britain wanted the South to become independent” and what you said, which was “If the British had… occupied the US [in 1860] they would have preserved the Southern system of slavery — which they were strongly inclined to do anyway.”

The occupation of the US would have brought it back into the British Empire, where slavery was illegal. You are suggesting that Parliament would have carved out a special exemption allowing the continuation of slavery and the slave trade in the occupied southern states, alone in the Empire – well, I find that rather difficult to believe.

As you should know, the threat of British intervention was lessened considerably by the Emancipation Proclamation, which would have imposed a heavy political cost on any British politician who proposed supporting the slave-holding South against the emancipating North. In fact, late in the war the Confederacy even proposed ending slavery in exchange for recognition – an offer that London did not take seriously, but which shows that all three sides recognised that British public opposition to slavery was crucial to the diplomatic position.

66

Russell L. Carter 06.19.06 at 1:57 pm

“If you know of an example of a dictator of Saddam’s calibre being peacefully overthrown without external help, I’d be interested to hear of it.”

Ceauşescu

We’re gonna spend a trillion bucks for the exquisite pleasure of executing Saddam, and I really wish you would pay in proportion to your enthusiasm.

67

Steve LaBonne 06.19.06 at 1:59 pm

This Britain/South discussion is an utter red herring, since any British intervention would have been confined to recognizing the Confederacy and supplying it with arms, which would have been quite sufficient to secure the Brits’ economically motivated goal to maintain their cotton supply from an independent- and yes, still-slaveholding- Confederacy (as well providing as the secondary pleasure of putting the overly-democratic North in its place to the discomfiture of British radicals). Why on earth would they have been so daft as to contemplate occupying any part of the US? They had no such capability even had they had the desire.

68

Uncle Kvetch 06.19.06 at 3:35 pm

the military impossibility of the parts of the plan I did not agree with, i.e. the imposition of permanent military bases

So, Soru clings to the belief that a permanent US military presence in Iraq is “impossible,” on the basis of–well, nothing, as far as I can tell. Anytime the subject has come up in the past, we’ve simply been told that such a presence is “impossible.” There’s no shortage of evidence to the contrary, of course–maybe one of these days Soru will actually confront it.

sufferring under Saddam was not trivial, not dismissable

True. It’s equally true that you’ve consistenly trivialized and dismissed the suffering caused by the war.

69

Brendan 06.19.06 at 4:52 pm

Its particularly strange given that American plans to stay in Iraq for years or decades are hardly a secret any more.

“Military planners have begun to assess the costs of keeping a 50,000-man force in Iraq for a protracted period of time. At present the total number of serving American troops is about 500,000.

The plan has not yet received presidential approval. But it would fit with the administration’s belief that while troops numbers will fall, American forces will have to remain in Iraq beyond Mr Bush’s departure from the White House in early 2009.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/06/12/wirq12.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/06/12/ixnews.html

“MR. RUSSERT: What do we leave behind if it’s not a strong government?

GEN. McCAFFREY: Well, if it’s a government that works, we can probably sustain the U.S. troops, 50,000, 60,000, 70,000 troops there for 10 years and hope that Iraq turns into a responsible governmental entity that doesn’t attack its neighbors, doesn’t build WMD. I still think that’s a likely outcome if the political system can come together on the ground.”

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13189411/page/2/

And as for the idea that the Americans are ‘desperate to leave’ and ‘looking for an exit plan’ (the permanent refrain of Blairites like Andrew Rawnsley and most of the BBC).

“Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country, a lawmaker and congressional aides said on Friday.”

http://today.reuters.com/news/newsarticle.aspx?type=politicsNews&storyID=2006-06-09T205941Z_01_N09199214_RTRUKOC_0_US-SECURITY-CONGRESS-FUNDING.xml&pageNumber=0&imageid=&cap=&sz=13&WTModLoc=NewsArt-C1-ArticlePage2

The rather obvious question of “Why, if, as we are always told, the Americans and British ‘want to’ leave Iraq, they make no move to do so despite numerous chances, and in fact try desperately to stop anyone who wants to STOP them staying permanently” is a matter that seems to be mysteriously of little interest to the mainstream press.

70

soru 06.19.06 at 5:26 pm

Why are you quoting American politicians on this issue? Do you actually think that somehow what they think or say is going to at some point become relevant?

If they legislated that Iraq should levitate itself to a parking position 10,000 feet above Texas, the better to access it’s oil, would you be watching the skies for its arrival?

71

Uncle Kvetch 06.19.06 at 5:30 pm

Soru, feel free to ignore what “American politicians” are saying on the subject, and respond to Brendan’s final paragraph. You still have not offered a shred of factual evidence for your assertion on the “impossibility” of a permanent US military presence in Iraq.

72

soru 06.19.06 at 6:00 pm

I’d say that the person making the extraordinary claim that something so utterly unlikely given the history of the latter half of the twentieth century in general, and Iraq in particular, is, despite all that, and the evidence of the last three years, somehow possible, should be the one to offer a scenario of how such a thing could come about.

The only possibility I can think of is the near-term deployment of effective robot soldiers. I hear the Pentagon is doing a lot of work in that area, but I can’t really see it paying off in time.

73

rollo 06.19.06 at 6:20 pm

Now that the real mission’s been accomplished – Iraq broken beyond repair, destabilized and powerless for decades – it’s important to step away from the cut-outs and fall-guys, those who’ll take the blame for what will be respun as a “failure” and shamble off into history with it.
While the rest of the cast, including the architects and directors, stand safely out of the myopic limelight – careers intact, fortunes made, ready for the next go-round.

74

John Quiggin 06.19.06 at 6:47 pm

Soru, don’t you think a multi-year failed attempt to establish permanent bases (which could have been anticipated in 2003, given your premise that the effort must fail), is just as bad as (or worse than) a successful attempt would have been.

75

Russell L. Carter 06.19.06 at 7:53 pm

“I’d say that the person making the extraordinary claim that something so utterly unlikely given the history of the latter half of the twentieth century in general, and Iraq in particular, is, despite all that, and the evidence of the last three years, somehow possible, should be the one to offer a scenario of how such a thing could come about.”

Gitmo

Soru’s a dead ender people, he’s iteratively demonstrated an exquisite intellect utterly impervious to evidence. Museum quality, yes; debatable, no.

76

soru 06.19.06 at 8:09 pm

That’s certainly an arguable point – on the other hand, I think that apparent success in the short term would have very likely led to renewed conflict in the medium term, as in the first Gulf War (i.e. 9/11). It’s that likely conflict, not any inherent problem with bases as such, that is the downside.

The sad fact is, the bloody and doomed ‘war to establish US bases’, was, given the reality of politics in 2003, an unfortunate but in practical terms unavoidable consequence of the ‘war to depose Saddam’ I specifically supported. You go to war with the President you have, not the President you would like to have.

p.s. is it reasonable to ask that the people who repeatedly accuse me of not answering questions asked acknowledge that in that particular small area, they are wrong?

77

Uncle Kvetch 06.19.06 at 8:20 pm

OK, I’m thoroughly lost. I’m not trying to be deliberately obtuse here, Soru, but your scare quotes around “war to establish US bases” seems to suggest that you don’t believe that the US military intends to establish a permanent presence in Iraq. That is, after all, what you’ve argued up until now, and you’ve scoffed at anyone who would suggest that the US had any long-term intentions in Iraq.

Everything else in that paragraph, however, seems to suggest that the US does, in fact, intend to establish a permanent presence in Iraq–and that you’re OK with us, even though it’s a stupid and doomed idea that will cause (has caused) horrific suffering, because you only supported the other part of the war…you know, the good part.

Am I getting warmer?

78

No Preference 06.19.06 at 8:39 pm

Those who paint opponents of the invasions as supporters of Saddam, and present aggressive war as a morally neutral option, are the ones who twist reality. They deny the the horror of war itself.

Every intelligent man who lived through the American Civil War or World War I recognized that that the effects of war have little relation to purported war aims or expectations. Supporters of the invasion obviously still ignore, that truth as it applies to Iraq.

79

soru 06.19.06 at 8:57 pm

#75: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straits_of_Hormuz

The relationship between the USA and Cuba is not one where the US asks Castro nicely if he would be kind enough to let the troops there be resupplied with another month’s food and water.

#77: wasn’t intended to be scare quotes, just marking a descriptive name (probably should have been underscores).

Intent is not capability. The US certainly intended to have permanent bases in Iraq, what it lacked was the capability to execute such a plan.
(Of course, maybe I am wrong and Bush and those Republican senators are right. Anyone care to make that bet?)

80

Russell L. Carter 06.19.06 at 9:15 pm

“The relationship between the USA and Cuba is not one where the US asks Castro nicely if he would be kind enough to let the troops there be resupplied with another month’s food and water.”

Exactly. That’s the analogy. But you seem to be implying that the US does not now maintain an explicit veto right over any particular Iraqi government policy. That’s weird. Maybe they’ll kick us out, irregardless of what US politicians want. Right. That’s absurd.

soru, you’re not making much sense. You’ve been wrong about every factual question you’ve asked, you were wrong about every outcome of the war, and now you’re arguing for what, exactly? Another trillion dollars applied to your crusade? They’re going to execute Saddam very soon, the country is utterly destroyed, the three way civil war looks to be entrenched for decades, and we didn’t even get the oil.

My wife says we really should have invaded Mexico instead. The beaches are a lot better, and we could have gotten rid of the poor brother syndrome just as the Germans did. And the Mexicans have teh oil!

81

abb1 06.20.06 at 1:15 am

Soru, you should return to your last year’s position – that on the great scale of things the permanent bases and the client state status don’t matter. That it’s a lesser evil.

82

Brendan 06.20.06 at 2:49 am

Can I just reintroduce the vexed and usually ignored history of the British in Iraq at this point? As we know (or should know), during World War 1 the British invaded Iraq and took it over. For the next ten years or so they ran it as a straightforward colony. After this (not through choice) they were forced to slowly release power to the Arabs. (Let us remember that when the British invaded the first time, just like this time, the British promised a complete and total withdrawal of British troops, and, as this time, this withdrawal was to take place at some unspecified point in the future).

In 1930 Iraq was formally given independence, but, according to no less an authority than the BBC (and who better?) ‘most Iraqis believed that the British really ruled the country.’

To continue: ‘In fact Iraq remained a satellite of Britain for the next three decades, under the terms of a treaty signed the same year (1930), which included the retention of British military bases and an agreement to train the Iraqi army.’

(http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/iraq/britain_iraq_03.shtml)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/iraq/britain_iraq_04.shtml

Ignoring for a moment the reinvasion of ’41 (in which, I was interested to learn, the British also invaded and occupied Iran…..) the British continued to pull strings behind the scenes, being constantly pushed away by the Iraqs, but always attempting to bind Iraqi hands (the last attempt was the Baghdad Pact of ’55).

Kuwait of course didn’t break free of the British till ’61, at which point the Iraqis decided that they wanted it back : ‘In 1961, after Kuwait had gained independence from Britain, the Iraqi leader, General Kassem, claimed it as an integral part of Iraq and concentrated his troops on the frontier, with the intention of taking it by force. Britain was ready, however, and dispatched troops stationed in the Gulf region to dissuade the Iraqis from armed conflict. The crisis was settled temporarily by a coup in Baghdad that overthrew Kassem, and was organised – it would seem – with the help of the United States.’

This Ba’ath coup (‘it would seem with the help of the United States’) was the end of Iraq democracy and independence, of which they had had a grand total of 5 years in the 20th century. (the Ba’ath coup was in ’63). And we all know about the US’ cosy relationship with the Ba’ath and Saddam Hussein.

In other words, to most Iraqis, the presence of military bases and foreigners training their army are not viewed as in any sense positive things, but instead as part of a pattern of neo-colonialism that led to the rise of Saddam and Ba’ath party atrocities.

So if the Americans had ANY sense they would go out of their way to deny that they were going to position long term military bases in the country.

So why would they not do this, unless they WERE going to position long term military bases in the country?

83

soru 06.20.06 at 5:05 am

So, in short, the British, with hundreds of years experience of this kind of thing, probably relatively greater military force, definitely greater tolerance for casualties, and explicit poltical and cultural support for open imperialism, failed to establish permanent bases.

So if the Americans had ANY sense

I think I have spotted the flaw in your argument.

84

Ray 06.20.06 at 6:49 am

So, you’re arguing that the US couldn’t possibly be trying to establish permanent (at least 10 years) bases in Iraq, because they wouldn’t be able to do that? (And they wouldn’t be able to do that, even though the British held bases for 30 years, and didn’t have the same capacity for resupplying from the air) But you’re simultaneously arguing that Iraq is going to turn into a fully-functioning democracy sometime soon, and that this will make the war worthwhile? And you’re also arguing that you supported the war to depose Saddam Hussein, but you don’t support the war to establish bases, but you think the one inevitably followed from the other?

You know, I used to think you were at least coherent. Wrong, but coherent.

85

soru 06.21.06 at 5:56 pm

I really don’t understand how anyone could come to that conclusion from anything I wrote.

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