More on Miliband and Pol Pot

by Chris Bertram on May 13, 2008

I was pretty much determined to let the question of Ralph Miliband and Pol Pot lie. Blog spats are generally pretty unpleasant and tend to degenerate into a mush of claim, counterclaim and obfuscation. But along comes Brad DeLong , of whom I’ve generally had a good opinion in the past. Unfortunately Brad lets his rage and disgust overcome his critical faculties whenever certain key figures come into view (Paul Sweezy, Gunther Grass and Noam Chomsky, to name but three).

Brad writes:

It seems Kamm complained about the late Ralph Miliband’s support for Pol Pot.

Brad is then kind enough to quote, in extenso, the passage from Miliband that exemplifies this “support” (emphases added by me):

A subsidiary argument, which has sometimes been used to justify some military interventions, notably the Vietnamese intervention in Kampuchea, may be considered at this point. This is the argument that, whatever may be said against military intervention in most cases, it is defensible in some exceptional cases, namely in the case of particularly tyrannical and murderous regimes, for instance the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda and of Pol Pot in Kampuchea ….
The argument is obviously attractive: one cannot but breathe a sigh of relief when an exceptionally vicious tyranny is overthrown . But attractive though the argument is, it is also dangerous. For who is to decide, and on what criteria, that a regime has become sufficiently tyrannical to justify overthrow by military intervention? There is no good answer to this sort of question; and acceptance of the legitimacy of military intervention on the ground of the exceptionally tyrannical nature of a regime opens the way to even more military adventurism, predatoriness, conquest and subjugation than is already rife in the world today.
The rejection of military intervention on this score is not meant to claim immunity and protection for tyrannical regimes. Nor does it. For there are other forms of intervention than military ones: for instance economic pressure by way of sanctions, boycott and even blockade. Tyrannical regimes make opposition extremely difficult: but they do not make it impossible. And the point is to help internal opposition rather than engage in military ‘substitutism’. As noted earlier, there are rare and extreme circumstances where nothing else may be possible—for instance the war against Nazism. Hitler’s Third Reich was not only a tyranny. Nor was it merely guilty of border incursions against other states. It was quite clearly bent on war and the subjugation of Europe. But neither Uganda nor Kampuchea are in this order of circumstances…

Anyone see a problem with the claim that that amounts to “support for Pol Pot”?

What’s driving DeLong (and Kamm’s) animus here is actually the fact that Miliband’s view of the facts at the time appears to have been influenced by Chomsky, and past association with Chomsky is the mark of Cain. (Tacit exception granted for Hitchens C.)

Of course there were people, at the time, who opposed the Vietnamese invasion that overthrew the Pol Pot regime but who wielded more power and influence than the minor Marxist academic who is the object of Kamm’s and DeLong’s contempt. Who, for example? Well, one would be Senator Henry M. Jackson. I mention Jackson partly because Kamm is a founder member of the Henry Jackson Society, an odd British think-tank, named in the former Senator’s honour, that advocates a “robust” foreign policy. Jackson thought that the Vietnamese invasion was just one part of strategy of Soviet expansionism and that the US should have done more to oppose it. On February 4 1980 he wrote :

They [the Soviets] have heard very little from us as their Vietnamese surrogates have pressed in to Laos, into Cambodia, and threatened the borders of Thailand.

I’m sure that if you’re a serious student of international politics and history, as Kamm, for example, is, it is easy to explain why Miliband’s reluctant and considered view that intervention is, on balance, not to be supported is contemptible but why Jackson’s attitude that the US should have done more to oppose it is commendable.

{ 201 comments }

1

john b 05.13.08 at 3:26 pm

“I’m sure that if you’re a serious student of international politics and history, as Kamm, for example, is”

This must be some new definition of “serious student of international politics and history” of which I was previously unaware.

2

soru 05.13.08 at 3:47 pm

Anyone see a problem with the claim that that amounts to “support for Pol Pot”?

I find it thoroughly unproblematic. If you say ‘my country right or wrong’, while your country is being ruled by a Hitler (or a Bush), then who would not read that as declaring, in practical terms, that you are on the side of the current leader?

The statement ‘the ruler of any country, anywhere, any time, right or wrong’, in the context of a discussion of Pol Pot, is surely in the same category.

What practical distinction are you intending to draw? I suppose, if asked, some of his supporters would have given different reasons for their support – for example, there were certainly those who supported him simply because he was an enemy of Communist vietnam.

Such details might be tactically or pragmatically useful. But I can’t see why the stated reason for the support changes it’s nature.

3

John Meredith 05.13.08 at 3:58 pm

Kamm and DeLong are clearly right about this. Miliband may mouth a bit about the crimes of Pol Pot (as some bloggers do about Castro, say, before trumpeting their admiration for his autocracy) but his substantial point is that Pol Pot should be free to do as he likes in his own country without forceful outside intervention because he is not as bad as Hitler (according to the convoluted definition of ‘as bad as Hitler’ that Miliband constructs). Repulsive.

What I find so strange about this is the way that Bertram, who is presumably paid to know how to read carefully, keeps re-posting the very comments that prove his opponents’ case. I think this confirms DeLong in his suspicion that Bertram is ‘possibly the stupidest man alive’.

4

Matt Weiner 05.13.08 at 4:00 pm

Tacit exception granted for Hitchens C.

This may apply to Kamm, but not to DeLong; he doesn’t have time for Hitchens.

5

Matt Weiner 05.13.08 at 4:02 pm

…aaaaaand it looks like several commenters are still unwilling to distinguish between “not invading” and “supporting.”

6

abb1 05.13.08 at 4:13 pm

So, Soru and John Meredith, I take it you guys aren’t at all concerned about opening “the way to even more military adventurism, predatoriness, conquest and subjugation than is already rife in the world today”?

Do you disagree with the “already rife” characterization or you view these things as positive?

7

ejh 05.13.08 at 4:15 pm

Miliband may mouth a bit about the crimes of Pol Pot (as some bloggers do about Castro, say, before trumpeting their admiration for his autocracy)

Could you refer us to the bit where Miliband trumpets his admiration for Pol Pot’s autocracy? If not, what are you on about?

(Don’t stand sideways while you’re doing it, we’ll be able to see all the way through.)

8

ajay 05.13.08 at 4:17 pm

3: Meredith has failed to notice that there are other forms of intervention than invasion; a point made at length in the excerpt above.

And he fails to address Miliband’s central point, also made above, of the ‘slippery slope’ – that if one approves of an unprovoked invasion which takes place for reasons one finds laudable, one will have difficulty disagreeing credibly with another unprovoked invasion which has less laudable ends, and so the safest position is to be against unprovoked invasions full stop.

9

harry b 05.13.08 at 4:22 pm

Miliband is basically supporting one of the fundamental tenets of international relations, the principle of national sovereignty. Pol Pot’s right to do what he wants within his own borders is limited by everything we can do to undermine him short of invading. This principle is widely supported by non-leftists, and very reluctantly supported by Miliband in the excerpt. Supporting that principle does not amount to supporting any government that one regards as protected by that principle, as CB knows because he is, indeed, paid to be a careful reader.

Do Kamm and DeLong reject the principle? If so, that’s fine (me too) — but then their beef is with the established mainstream of thinking about international relations, not Miliband in particular.

I think Miliband’s reasoning is bad in this passage. But it is very familiar bad reasoning, and it seems odd to pick him up on it when it is of a kind that is pervasive, and when it is clear from the context that it is not a cover for any underlying fondness for/sympathy with the regime in question (and, in fact, Miliband, like DeLong and Kamm, is clearly moved partly by distrust of official communism — the invaders were not liberal democrats but Stalinists).

DeLong is old enough, I think, to have had an informed and considered opinion abut this at the time. What was it, does he remember? I do remember mine, which was the right opinion for the wrong reasons — I was well-disposed to the invasion largely for the bad reason that I believed that the American government recognised the legitimacy of the Pol Pot regime.

10

matt 05.13.08 at 4:25 pm

This is more typical dishonest red-baiting from DeLong. He’s really bad about it. I’m sure he’s busy deleting and editing comments on his blog now, too, in his common and dishonest way. He can’t stand anyone to his left and becomes completely unhinged and highly dishonest when dealing with them. It’s frankly sad and pathetic from someone as accomplished as he is.

11

dsquared 05.13.08 at 4:27 pm

Meredith has failed to notice

Or possibly he’s noticed perfectly well and decided to pile on because he has a feud with Chris; I only offer this up as a possibility because there’s certainly someone called “John Meredith” who does have a feud with Chris and who has behaved in similarly unconstructive manner in the CT comments section in the past.

The passage concerned is crystal clear; Milliband is actually an interventionist when it came to the Pol Pot regime, even up to the level of a blockade. He simply thought that invasion would make things worse. A lot of people, including a lot of Cambodians, Senator Henry Jackson and the US government of the day, agreed.

12

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.13.08 at 4:28 pm

Maybe the difference between “not invading” and “supporting” Pol Pot’s genocide isn’t worth wasting ink over. No one is suggesting (well this is the internet so someone may be suggesting, but none of the major players here are suggesting) that Miliband was raising money for Pol Pot. Supporting arguments for the continued existance of Pol Pot’s regime despite massive evidence of genocide is quite enough and that he clearly does.

Further, you should note that Miliband isn’t objecting on “it can’t work” or other consequentialist grounds. He is objecting on a “who’s to judge” ground. He is arguing that becuase the borderline cases will be hard that you shouldn’t act even in the genocidal cases.

13

rea 05.13.08 at 4:30 pm

Of course, this is the same argument we had about invading Iraq–the war supporters claim was that opposing the invasion was the equivalent of supporting Saddam. Oddly, I remember DeLong being on the correct side of the argument in that case.

14

dsquared 05.13.08 at 4:39 pm

Maybe the difference between “not invading” and “supporting” Pol Pot’s genocide isn’t worth wasting ink over.

Of course it is, just as (as rea notes) the parallel argument about Saddam Hussein is and was. Anyone trying to claim that “not supporting the invasion of” means “supporting the continued existence of” is carrying out a dishonest warmongering argument which needs to be stamped on early and often.

Supporting arguments for the continued existance of Pol Pot’s regime

No! Milliband is clearly not supporting “the continued existence of Pol Pot’s regime”. He is in favour of it being brought down by domestic rebellion, supported by sanctions, diplomatic pressure and blockades. He is in favour of giving assistance to domestic anti-Pol Pot movements, not even ruling out giving them weapons. He’s against military invasion by the neighbouring Stalinist power.

He is objecting on a “who’s to judge” ground

Wrong again. “Who’s to judge” would imply moral equivalence which Milliband clearly doesn’t assert. His actual objection is “Who will judge”, the implict answer being “the most belligerent and usually the most tyrannical and expansionary powers going, usually Stalinists”.

He is arguing that becuase the borderline cases will be hard that you shouldn’t act even in the genocidal cases.

This is a consequentialist ground and thus inconsistent with your previous sentence. In related news, how’s that genocidal case in Iraq going?

15

P O'Neill 05.13.08 at 4:40 pm

I think we’re all supposed to be more confused now about our respective positions on Burma, as everyone accuses everyone else of hypocrisy as their Iraq positions get mapped into some assumed proposal on Burma.

16

harry b 05.13.08 at 4:41 pm

Sebastian’s second para — is that right? Isn’t the argument, indeed, consequentialist (this is suggested by the use of the word “dangerous”) — once we give up on the principle of no military intervention even in clear cases we can expect that it will be used in borderline cases. Its something like an argument for adopting a simple rule on the grounds that following that rule will have better consequences than establishing a different rule (“invade only when it makes things much better in that case”) the following of which will, in fact, have dreadful consequences. I agree with you that the reasoning is bad, but its not ridiculous, and it seems consequentialist to me (I might be wrong).

17

engels 05.13.08 at 4:42 pm

Maybe the difference between “not invading” and “supporting” Pol Pot’s genocide isn’t worth wasting ink over

Now that is the most depressing thing I have read for a while. Is it really possible that five years after the invasion of Iraq you have learned nothing?

18

David Weman 05.13.08 at 4:43 pm

Delong and Kamm clearly misstates the point of the cited passages. On the other hand, Miliband does seem (seem!) to be kind of a moral idiot, maybe.

19

abb1 05.13.08 at 4:46 pm

Is the Khmer Rouge period officially classified as genocide or is it merely ‘genocide’ defined as ‘mass-atrocities we don’t approve of’?

20

David Weman 05.13.08 at 4:48 pm

Actually, forget about the essay. If the initial post summation of Miliband was fair, then presumably he was a moral idiot. But Chris seems to think he wasn’t.

21

David Weman 05.13.08 at 4:51 pm

It was democide, not just atrocities. What do you mean by official? Most democides doesn’t meet the UN’s criteria for genocide, but this has nothing to do with how bad they were.

22

Great Zamfir 05.13.08 at 4:53 pm

Perhaps no one is arguing that he was raising money for Pol Pot, but people are arguing 28 years after it was written that this piece of text is offensive enough to drag it out of the archives, into the light, just to show how EVIL mr Miliband apparently was.

Even if you completely disagree with his arguments, you can’t claim on basis of this text, nor any other part of the article, that he was a supporter, or apologist, or sympathetic in any way to Pol Pot.

23

geo 05.13.08 at 4:56 pm

Sebastian@13: Supporting arguments for the continued existance of Pol Pot’s regime despite massive evidence of genocide,/i>

By this reasoning, someone who questioned the advisability of assassinating the perpetrators of an illegal and murderous military intervention (eg, the Bush administration) rather than organizing political opposition to them would be supporting the perpetrators’ continuance in power.

24

abb1 05.13.08 at 4:58 pm

David, a lot of people say that what’s been going in Palestine in the last 60 years is a genocide. Sometimes they say “slow genocide”, sometimes just “genocide”. Many of them seem to know what they are talking about. Presumably, if you’re not a moral idiot you should demand – what? You tell me.

25

dsquared 05.13.08 at 5:01 pm

I don’t think he’s really all that much of a moral idiot either; of all the solutions to the problem of Pol Pot, a fifteen year occupation by an expansionary Stalinist power almost certainly wouldn’t have struck me as necessarily the best either.

26

dsquared 05.13.08 at 5:02 pm

is it merely ‘genocide’ defined as ‘mass-atrocities we don’t approve of’?

are there any mass atrocities that we do approve of?

27

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.13.08 at 5:04 pm

You’re right, the argument he makes is a consequentialist argument, though a bad one. So I was wrong on that part.

He wasn’t suggesting that it couldn’t or wouldn’t work (The non-pacifist Iraq objection). He is suggesting “For who is to decide, and on what criteria, that a regime has become sufficiently tyrannical to justify overthrow by military intervention?”

D-squared’s interpretation that he is warning “the most belligerent and usually the most tyrannical and expansionary powers going, usually Stalinists” doesn’t strike me as very convincing especially considering Miliband’s rather tepid condemnation of the Soviet Union. But even if that is correct, it is a rather odd objection. Stalinists didn’t need much in the way of justification, so destroying regimes like Pol Pot’s wouldn’t suddenly open the door to Stalinist regimes deciding to conquer near-by countries. They were already doing that on a regular basis. That door was already wide open.

28

engels 05.13.08 at 5:09 pm

May I ask what a “moral idiot” is? Ideally, it would also be nice to have some hint as to your reasons for pronouncing Ralph Miliband to be one, but at this point I do not really have high hopes for this discussion…

29

dsquared 05.13.08 at 5:11 pm

They were already doing that on a regular basis. That door was already wide open

Do you know who once wrote a really rather good article in Socialist Register about how it was completely wrong for socialists to make apologetics for Stalinist regimes and their expansionary invasions? Ralph Milliband, you should check it out.

doesn’t strike me as very convincing especially considering Miliband’s rather tepid condemnation of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union in 1980 were not Stalinists, hth.

30

ejh 05.13.08 at 5:11 pm

at this point I do not really have high hopes for this discussion…

I do: here’s the figure to beat…

31

christian h. 05.13.08 at 5:29 pm

Stalinists didn’t need much in the way of justification, so destroying regimes like Pol Pot’s wouldn’t suddenly open the door to Stalinist regimes deciding to conquer near-by countries. They were already doing that on a regular basis. That door was already wide open.

Sebastian, you must have mis-typed there. I’m sure you meant to say “liberal democracies were already invading near-by and far-away countries on a regular basis.”

After all, the way you wrote it is simply bullshit.

32

abb1 05.13.08 at 5:30 pm

are there any mass atrocities that we do approve of?

OK, if Palestine is too controversial for a rational discussion, there was also that East Timor thing around the same time. Also often called ‘genocide’.

The UN Security Council had a unanimous vote for Indonesia to stop its invasion and to withdraw immediately from East Timor’s borders, and was blocked by the United States from imposing any economic sanctions or other means of enforcing this mandate.

33

Hidari 05.13.08 at 5:39 pm

In response to Sebastian, Soru and the other Decents.

As Francis Fukuyama pointed out a few years ago, absolutely and utterly the key flaw in the Decent’s arguments for ‘humanitarian intervention’ lies in the concept of reciprocity. If you believe that country ‘A’ has the right to invade country ‘B’, and topple its government, and effectively run it for a few years (or forever)…as I say if you genuinely and absolutely believe that, then the only thing that is relevant is the ‘trigger’ for this ‘intervention’. The identity of the country is irrelevant.

So, in other words.

If you believe that it is desirable for the United States to invade Iraq, topple its government, impose a different socio-economic system and, effectively, run the country for years (or decades, or centuries), you must ipso facto, believe that there are certain circumstances under which it would be possible, desirable even, for Iraq to invade the United States, topple its government and etc.

Now some Decents simply lie and state that they would be perfectly happy to be colonised by the Iraqis, (or the Guatamelans, or the Nicaraguans, or the Japanese, or the Angolans), under certain circumstances.

If you believe that, just try and conjure up the image of Sebastian, Soru et al, happily and joyfully agreeing to go through Angolan checkpoints to get to work, running the risk of being strip searched by Nicaraguan troops if those troops think you might be guilty of ‘terrorism’, having to learn Spanish to understand what your new government is telling you because the occupying forces can’t be bothered to learn English…and so on.

And if the response is that the United States (or the British) have never carried out sufficient crimes against humanity to earn such an ‘intervention’ then I think the native Americans, or African Americans, or the Irish, might have a few words to say about that.

Saying you don’t want to invade and colonise a country is not the same thing as saying you approve of the government of that country!!!!!

34

Hidari 05.13.08 at 5:47 pm

Incidentally I just read Brad’s piece. He really shoots himself in the foot here:

‘Ralph Miliband’s position is that military intervention against the likes of Pol Pot or Idi Amin is illegitimate because they are not as bad as Adolf Hitler.’ (emphasis added)

NO!!!!!! Miliband’s position would unquestionably have been that the British should not have brought Idi Amin to power in the first place.

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa5391/is_200606/ai_n21392722

Brad obviously doesn’t know about this, and so he doesn’t realise that asking the British or the Americans to do anything about Idi Amin is undoubtedly the most lunatic suggestion one could make and would have been seen (and would, in fact, have been) an absolutely grotesque act of hypocrisy.

35

Christopher Colaninno 05.13.08 at 5:53 pm

I don’t think he’s really all that much of a moral idiot either; of all the solutions to the problem of Pol Pot, a fifteen year occupation by an expansionary Stalinist power almost certainly wouldn’t have struck me as necessarily the best either.

I agree that ‘moral idiot’ isn’t accurate, but I think it’s more a question of supporting the only course of action that was going to take place or not. It’s a little like (or like the opposite of ) these goons that had lots of unrealistic provisos to their support of the Iraq war, but still supported the invasion despite the fact their little provisos weren’t going to taken into account by the Bush administration.

36

Hidari 05.13.08 at 6:35 pm

I do apologise incidentally. I joined this discussion under the impression that Oliver Kamm was a serious journalist whose views were worth paying attention to. Then I read this.

‘The Berkeley economist and former Clinton administration official Brad DeLong kindly offers me critical support in the murky business of the late Ralph Miliband, Marxist theorist and minimiser of the crimes of Pol Pot. Professor DeLong has himself had cause to query the views, on another issue, of the blogger Chris Bertram, an academic at Bristol University and an impressive candidate for “the stupidest man alive crown”. ‘

This is what Kamm thinks constitutes civilised political debate.

I honestly do think Chris should have second thoughts about ever discussing Kamm’s ‘ideas’ ever again.

37

dsquared 05.13.08 at 6:37 pm

Just to note: I would not necessarily endorse the entirety of comment #10, but I have in fact just had a post deleted from Brad’s blog which simply asked, civilly, what the basis would be for opposing an invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein if one believed that Milliband was a moral monster for opposing an invasion of Cambodia to remove Pol Pot (and, also civilly, protesting the deletion of another post by John Band which also made the same point). I don’t think that this is a particularly ethical moderation policy.

38

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.13.08 at 6:48 pm

“Do you know who once wrote a really rather good article in Socialist Register about how it was completely wrong for socialists to make apologetics for Stalinist regimes and their expansionary invasions? Ralph Milliband, you should check it out.”

That’s great. I’ll be happy to check it out. But I’m not seeing how that is a response to my suggestion that it is silly to worry about emboldening Stalinist expansionary invasions by allegedly providing legitimacy through trying to stop Pol Pot. They weren’t worrying about such things.

You correctly quote me as saying: “They were already doing that on a regular basis. That door was already wide open.” but I don’t understand what you think you are saying about it.

“The Soviet Union in 1980 were not Stalinists, hth.”

So again, what is your point? In #14 you write:

Wrong again. “Who’s to judge” would imply moral equivalence which Milliband clearly doesn’t assert. His actual objection is “Who will judge”, the implict answer being “the most belligerent and usually the most tyrannical and expansionary powers going, usually Stalinists”.

as (I presume) your interpretation of Miliband’s statement. But if there weren’t any Stalinists to worry about at the time (1978, unless you are going to claim that there were lots of scary Stalinists in 1978 but they all vanished by 1980) how is your #14 relevant to the discussion at hand?

I feel like you are hopping back and forth between mutually incompatible positions just to be snarky. But it could be that I just don’t understand you.

39

ejh 05.13.08 at 6:50 pm

minimiser of the crimes of Pol Pot

I can see this becoming a popular Decent sport. Don’t think Stalin killed quite as many people as the Black Book of Communism reckons? Well, that makes you a minimiser of his crimes.

And so on.

40

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.13.08 at 6:55 pm

For the record, while I agree for the most part with DeLong about this issue, and many others, I’ve personally experienced that his comment policy can be both draconian (in the sense of grabbing fairly tepid comments) and annoyingly non-transparent (deleting comments without notice often throughout long discussion threads leaving them completely cryptic with out of context quotes that can’t be judged against the original).

41

Stuart 05.13.08 at 7:12 pm

I can see this becoming a popular Decent sport. Don’t think Stalin killed quite as many people as the Black Book of Communism reckons? Well, that makes you a minimiser of his crimes.

And so on.

If I post on a blog with some estimate that Stalin killed a trillion people, would that then make everyone including the authors of the Black Book of Communism minimisers of his crimes?

42

matt 05.13.08 at 7:14 pm

Dsquared- just be glad that DeLong didn’t edit your comment to make it look like you supported Saddam Hussein. That’s another trick he likes to do. He’s really dishonest with this. And just think- if he does this with someone like you that he generally respects, think of how it does it to those he doesn’t know at all. He’s really bad about this sort of thing.

43

steven 05.13.08 at 7:26 pm

Surely the problem here is merely that Kamm and DeLong are buffoons who are incapable of reading what is in front of them.

44

ejh 05.13.08 at 7:36 pm

Kamm strikes me as unable to have a disagreement with anybody without trying at the same time to belittle and crush them. In that respect he reminds me of Nigel Short, another noted obituarist.

45

dsquared 05.13.08 at 7:53 pm

38: Sebastian, the Vietnamese government in 1978 could fairly be described as Stalinists, as could a number of developing world regimes. But the Soviet Union itself was definitely post-Stalin by that point.

46

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.13.08 at 8:06 pm

Ok, so…. is the point that Stalinists didn’t apparently need any excuse to be expansionist just something that you aren’t going to directly respond to?

It is kind of a large portion of my point, it seems like on #14 you believed it was important to your point, but since then you seem to have abandoned it.

47

dsquared 05.13.08 at 8:15 pm

Ok, so…. is the point that Stalinists didn’t apparently need any excuse to be expansionist just something that you aren’t going to directly respond to?

the entire point of Ralph Milliband’s article is that the various expansionary Stalinist regimes had been getting far too much in the way of excuses from British Stalinist sympathisers. Other than that, I don’t see what your point is.

48

John Quiggin 05.13.08 at 8:15 pm

One notable point here is the implicit re-emergence of the libel that anyone who opposed the invasion of Iraq was a supporter of Saddam.

That said, I think Miliband clearly got it wrong regarding Pol Pot – the Vietnamese invasion made things a lot better, and they could hardly have got much worse. But as Chris points out, plenty of others were far worse, notably the governments, such as that of the US which aided and supported Pol Pot right through the 1980s.

49

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.13.08 at 8:28 pm

D-squared, you wrote:

“Wrong again. “Who’s to judge” would imply moral equivalence which Milliband clearly doesn’t assert. His actual objection is “Who will judge”, the implict answer being “the most belligerent and usually the most tyrannical and expansionary powers going, usually Stalinists”.”

You seemed to think that was important for some reason and I’m trying to figure out what it was.

My response was that if that were Miliband’s argument (though I’m still not certain from the context that it was in fact his argument) that it was a rather odd argument because Stalinists and/or ‘the most tyrannical and expansionary powers going’ don’t really need excuses to be tyrannical and expansionary. As such it seems silly to worry that getting rid of Pol Pot gives them additional excuses because they are already using silly pretextual reasons anyway.

50

ejh 05.13.08 at 8:31 pm

That’s likely so, Sebastian, but is the argument actually being directed at the Stalinists? I very much doubt that Miliband thought he had Hanoi’s ear.

51

CK Dexter 05.13.08 at 8:34 pm

“are there any mass atrocities that we do approve of?”

Hiroshima? Nagasaki? Better: Nagasaki qua chaser?

52

christian h. 05.13.08 at 8:36 pm

That said, I think Miliband clearly got it wrong regarding Pol Pot – the Vietnamese invasion made things a lot better, and they could hardly have got much worse.

Is that true, though? I’d like to believe it, and obviously the previous crimes of the Pol Pot regime were atrocious, but is it true that the 20 years of civil war following the Vietnamese invasion (with the US supporting.. the Khmer Rouge and their allies with money and arms) were obviously “better” than what we might imagine would have occurred without it?

I ask because this kind of argument is also employed by Iraq war hawks who have a habit of ignoring the fact that Saddam’s worst atrocities were a decade in the past by the time of the invasion.

53

muzzyology 05.13.08 at 8:38 pm

Thank you hidari for post 33. Calm, clear and devastating.
Blogging at its best imho.

54

dsquared 05.13.08 at 8:52 pm

52: the Vietnamese occupation did make things better on balance, but it’s nothing like as obvious a call (particularly from the perspective of 1980) as everyone seems to be assuming. The Hun Sen government was not a good one and the Vietnamese oustayed their welcome by about ten years; the civil war was also pretty bad, however the highest credible estimates of the total casualties I’ve seen have been in the tens of thousands rather than the hundreds.

Things get worse if you add the Chinese invasion of Vietnam into the accounting, because this was a pretty definite and proximate consequence. That led to about a hundred thousand deaths and could easily have been much, much more.

On the other hand, of course, Cambodia pre the Vietnamese invasion was not a stable situation; it was awful and getting worse. The balance of risks was much more favourable to the pro-intervention case than it was in Iraq.

But this is of course with the benefit of hindsight. As of 1980 it was not at all obvious that the Vietnamese would get out of Cambodia without a bloodbath, that the Chinese invasion wouldn’t turn into something worse, in general that things wouldn’t get even worse than they had been under Pol Pot (I disagree with John on this question – there’s always a dozen ways that things could have got worse). If we’re going to start hanging people for not having the perspicacity to see the Vietnamese invasion as a very rare exception to a very good general rule, then the consequences with respect to the Iraq War may end up causing a global rope shortage.

Where I think Miliband is also wrong is in downplaying the external aggression of Pol Pot’s Cambodia and Vietnam’s legitimate interest in self-defence against him.

55

blah 05.13.08 at 8:58 pm

The proper course would have been to drop a nuclear bomb on Cambodia. Anybody who disagrees is in love with the Khmer Rouge.

56

Barry 05.13.08 at 9:04 pm

Sebastian: “Maybe the difference between “not invading” and “supporting” Pol Pot’s genocide isn’t worth wasting ink over”

engels: “Now that is the most depressing thing I have read for a while. Is it really possible that five years after the invasion of Iraq you have learned nothing?”

Some people have learned that even a horrible failure isn’t that bad, in terms of consequences for them and their causes.

57

roger 05.13.08 at 10:54 pm

The Vietnamese were far from Stalinist, although the Khmer Rouge were supported by the U.S. and the Chinese – which I suppose makes the U.S. Maoist. I always knew I despised Ronald Reagan for some reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on!

Anyway, it is a far different thing to invade a country with whom you have a border who is assembling to attack you. I think Vietnam was quite right to overthrow Pol Pot, just as I thought the U.S. was right to overthrow the Taliban. I don’t think a blockade would have done anything except starve more Cambodians.

Anyway, since supporters of Pol Pot are, defacto, supporters of mass murder, I do hope that Sebastian writes a letter to the rightwing economists who just released a letter supporting John McCain. The signitaries include George Schultz, who, as I recall, was secretary of state when the U.S. decided to support the Khmer Rouge. Certainly it is time to put that man on trial in the Hague, don’t you think?

58

John Emerson 05.13.08 at 10:59 pm

Also Barbara Ehrenreich.

59

John Emerson 05.13.08 at 11:09 pm

Are there any mass atrocities that we do approve of?

If we’re fundamentally serious, of course there are. But self-dramatizing lightweights striking pious moral attitudes will always pretend to believe that mass atrocities are always EEVUL. A thoughtful, nuanced position is beyond them.

60

Matt Weiner 05.13.08 at 11:14 pm

That said, I think Miliband clearly got it wrong regarding Pol Pot

I tend to agree. But let’s be clear: The original discussion wasn’t “Was Milliband right or wrong?” It was “Did Milliband support Pol Pot or not?” Sebastian made an attempt in #12 to argue that it was fair to say that he did support Pol Pot (or “support[ed] arguments for [his] continued exist[e]nce”), but hasn’t been trying to defend it much since then — because it’s utterly indefensible.

The discussion about whether Milliband is right or wrong is more interesting than the original discussion, but we should be clear that that isn’t what was originally at stake; what was originally at stake was (as rea and John Q. have pointed out) an attempt to rehabilitate the sort of intellectual dishonesty that led war proponents to call war opponents supporters of Saddam.

61

John Emerson 05.13.08 at 11:23 pm

Sebastian’s argument seems to be that the default position in the case of any dictatorship should be invasion and overthrow, as though wars were routinely successful and more or less cost-free, international law and internationalist principles were of no account whatsoever, and successor regimes could confidently be expected to be superior to overthrown regimes.

Much of American public opinion, including many high-powered opinion leaders, has agreed with Sebastian on this ever since the beginning of the Iraq War. It’s a really frightening transformation, and it’s quite unpleasant observing this kind of social pathology from the inside. (Though less unpleasant than having the bombs falling on you.)

62

Sebastian 05.13.08 at 11:52 pm

“Sebastian’s argument seems to be that the default position in the case of any dictatorship…”

You could say that if you believed Pol Pot was just like any possible dictator. Do you believe that?

63

harry b 05.13.08 at 11:57 pm

This is a much better thread than the previous one, Chris.

64

John Emerson 05.14.08 at 12:00 am

Do you believe that wars are routinely successful and more or less cost-free, international law and internationalist principles are of no account whatsoever, and that successor regimes can confidently be expected to be superior to overthrown regimes?

Beyond the fact that you’ve misread Miliband, I don’t think you’ve dealt with the fact that Miliband was more or less in agreement with Henry Jackson and Secretary of State Schultz. I suspect that you would not condemn them with comparable vehemence.

65

joseph duemer 05.14.08 at 12:28 am

“…the Vietnamese oustayed their welcome by about ten years.”

I have a distinct memory from when I was teaching American Literature at Hanoi University in 1998 of a Vietnamese colleagues saying, “We ere right to go into Cambodia, but we stayed ten years too long.” The context was American intervention in central Europe at the time. (Even the most pro-American Vietnamese believed that the bombing of the Chinese Embassy had been premeditated at the highest levels.)

As an aside, I’d say that the use of the epithet “Stalinist” in this thread, while accurate in a broad-brush sort of way, tends to obscure the realities of a Vietnamese regime that has proven both robust and flexible within the limits of its founding ideology — or perhaps just within the rhetoric of its founding ideology.

66

soru 05.14.08 at 12:41 am

Now some Decents simply lie and state that they would be perfectly happy to be colonised by the Iraqis, (or the Guatamelans, or the Nicaraguans, or the Japanese, or the Angolans), under certain circumstances.

So your claim is that if my government was, each year, murdering ~8% of the population, if my mother had been raped by a policeman, my son tortured to death in front of me, 15 people out of my school class of 30 were missing in gulags, I would still back it against anyone waving a different flag, or wearing a blue helmet?

And not only that, you find it incredible, unbelievable, that anyone could think differently. A Jew in a death camp must, on seeing a British corporal, raise their emaciated arm to strike him as a hated foreign invader in violation of sacred German sovereignty. Not once, not most times, but every time, without exception – nothing else is credible, the idea of things being different can only be an implausible lie. All the personal testimonies on sites like http://www.andybrouwer.co.uk/bookrev.html don’t need to be explicitly dismissed – they are transparently fake, no human being could possibly say things like ‘ liberation by the invading Vietnamese’: it’s an inherent contradiction, does not compute.

Sarcasm aside, you basic mistake is obvious – no principle of equality or symmetry applies to societies, nations, classes, or anything other than individuals. Pol Pot was not an equally legitimate ruler as Bush, Putin or even Hu. Not being equivalent, there is no obligation to treat him equally.

67

Randy Paul 05.14.08 at 1:19 am

Miliband is basically supporting one of the fundamental tenets of international relations, the principle of national sovereignty. Pol Pot’s right to do what he wants within his own borders is limited by everything we can do to undermine him short of invading. This principle is widely supported by non-leftists, and very reluctantly supported by Miliband in the excerpt.

It was also the argument used by Pinochet’s defenders when he was arrested in London in 1998. They argued vociferously that only Chile could Pinochet, when in fact, Pinochet while in power, did just about everything to make that well nigh impossible.

68

christian h. 05.14.08 at 1:54 am

randy, are you seriously suggesting that arresting a former head of state abroad is the same as invading a country? Goodness.

69

Randy Paul 05.14.08 at 1:59 am

No, and please don’t put words in my mouth. The issue of national sovereignty was used as the defense against arresting Pinochet. That was my entire point.

Sheesh!

70

Martin Bento 05.14.08 at 2:17 am

There are 3 basic positions the US could take with regard to the Vietnam/Khmer war:

a) non-intervention
b) intervention in support of Vietnam
c) intervention in support of the Khmer Rouge

Miliband argued for a, and the disputes now seem to be between

1) those who still support a,
2) those who think a amounts to supporting the Khmer Rouge, an indefensible heinous crime which should result in a permanent abdication of moral authority, and
3) those who support b, but do not think supporting a implies what group 2 thinks it does.

What has been lost in the structure of the debate, though some here have mentioned it, is that the US chose c, support the Khmer Rouge. Whether position b constitutes supporting the Khmers or not, position c certainly does.

So if those in group 2 – Kamm, Delong, Sebastian, soru – really are objecting morally to what they claim to be objecting to, they must condemn the US government in even stronger terms than they condemn Miliband, since the US offered tangible support not mere non-interference. And this condemnation should apply both to the Democratic Carter administration (which embargoed Vietnam), and the Republican Reagan one (which gave military support to an insurgency dominated by the Khmers, and fought for the Khmers as the legitimate government). Oddly enough, I’ve heard none of this. I’ll call Delong out specifically, since he might actually read this. I’d post it on his blog, but it would likely be either deleted or subjected to hostile edits, which is why I don’t go to “Grasping your mouth with both of my hands” anymore.

Delong, if your position is that opposing intervention on the side of Vietnam in that war is the only position that one could have taken and have any moral credibility today, how do you assign moral credibility to the US government or either of its major parties?

71

engels 05.14.08 at 2:19 am

The issue of national sovereignty was used as the defense against arresting Pinochet.

Supposing Pinochet had relied on the ‘issue’ of due process as part of his defence, I assume you don’t think that would be a very good reason for scepticism about the concept of due process…

72

Martin Bento 05.14.08 at 2:32 am

“Whether position b constitutes supporting the Khmers or not, position c certainly does.”

should be:

Whether position a constitutes supporting the Khmers or not, position c certainly does.

Easy to get ahead of yourself with lists.

73

Randy Paul 05.14.08 at 2:35 am

Given that Pinochet had actively tried to thwart due process both in Chile and abroad, I believe that would be as likely as Hannibal Lecter extolling the virtues of veganism.

In answer to your question, of course not, but the fact that Pinochet and his backers used national sovereignty as a defense while he had sabotaged due process by having his cousin write an amnesty for himself and creating the position of senator-for-life with parliamentary immunity makes the example rather irrelevant.

74

engels 05.14.08 at 2:47 am

So in your eyes whether general legal concepts like national sovereignty or due process have any value is contingent on whether or not Pinochet’s lawyers attempt to make use of them?

75

Randy Paul 05.14.08 at 2:50 am

No, I just can’t stomach hypocrisy – and I’ll leave it at that.

76

engels 05.14.08 at 2:57 am

I am not clear as to what relevance you think the Pinochet judgment has to the question of whether invading a country to effect regime change is a violation of national sovereignty.

77

Randy Paul 05.14.08 at 3:02 am

Jesus Christ, I never said it was. Please go back and read this comment:

Pol Pot’s right to do what he wants within his own borders is limited by everything we can do to undermine him short of invading. This principle is widely supported by non-leftists, and very reluctantly supported by Miliband in the excerpt. [my italics]

I was echoing the fact that the argument of national sovereignty has been used by the right by citing those who used it on Pinochet’s behalf. Got it?!?!?!?

78

LC 05.14.08 at 4:12 am

#70:in the last paragraph, first sentence, I think you meant to write “supporting” (not “opposing”)

The post that started this thread referred to Miliband as a “minor Marxist academic.” I think this is too dismissive, although I’m familiar with him more by reputation than by reading his work (though I did once dip into ‘The State in Capitalist Society’ and I remember references to ‘the Miliband-Poulantzas debate’ about the view of the state in Marxist theory).

But even if he’d been the most important Marxist writer of the second half of the 20th century, I don’t see why something he wrote in a few paragraphs of one article should be the focus of this kind of intense discussion. Whether he was right or wrong about the merits of the Vietnamese invasion, it’s patently obvious that, as numerous commenters have said, he was not supporting the Pol Pot regime.

I think it might also be worth pointing out that the problem/issue of armed ‘humanitarian intervention’ has been a vexed question in international law and normative IR theory for a long time, long long before the debates of 1990s and the 2000s. I believe the traditional position in international law was that such intervention, and the concomitant breaching of the principle of state sovereignty (or ‘national’ sovereignty,as this thread has it), was justifiable only in very rare cases of conduct so egregious that it “shocked the conscience” — that, plus the intervention had to be judged to have a reasonable chance of success. On these criteria, there is a pretty good — not ironclad, but defensible — case to be made that the Vietnamese invasion qualified as a justifiable humanitarian intervention (even if Vietnam’s *motives* were purely geopolitical not humanitarian). But none of these cases is easy, all of them are debatable, and to beat up on Miliband for taking the other view in his 1979/80 essay is, to my mind, ridiculous. I don’t know anything about Oliver Kamm (except what I’ve read here), but Brad DeLong should know better and should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.

79

Martin Bento 05.14.08 at 5:48 am

lc, correction noted. Thank you. And Delong should know better but doesn’t. He has certain buttons, and Chomsky is one of them. And I agree with the poster who suggested the subtext here is Chomsky (Delong even slipped Noam into the title of his post).

80

magistra 05.14.08 at 6:12 am

I just read the long quote from Milliband and thought how prescient he was on on that specific point. He says that justifying invasions on humanitarian grounds will lead to a slippery slope. Anyone still arguing against that post-Kosovo and Iraq? He was wrong on the specific point as to whether an attack on the Khmer Rouge was a better outcome, but these things are far easier to judge with hindsight. If anyone who ever made a wrong judgement about whether or not a war was justified has to be condemned, we’ve got a long condemn-a-thon on our hands. (I was wrong on Gulf War I, right on Gulf War II and still not sure about the Falklands).

81

abb1 05.14.08 at 7:03 am

Taking the conceptual/legalistic angle of this thing: I see many of you attacking what you perceive as the excessive emphasis on the concept of “national sovereignty”. However: the guy quoted in the post is clearly emphasizing a slightly different concept, that of jurisdiction.

I’m reminded of the Bonnie And Clyde movie I once saw, where the state police in hot pursuit would stop and turn around as soon as the gangsters cross a state border, from one US state to another. Is it because the gangsters suddenly acquire ‘sovereignty’? No, of course not – the state police have a defined area of jurisdiction, and the gangsters are now outside that area, that’s all.

Does it make sense? Create some entity with an army, a set of laws and world-wide jurisdiction – and the conceptual/legalistic problem is solved, gone. Would John Meredith and others accept this solution?

82

Sebastian 05.14.08 at 7:07 am

“I suspect that you would not condemn them with comparable vehemence.”

Since the vehemence level of this particular condemnation is already low (I certainly wouldn’t have been writing about it even just in comments if someone else hadn’t brought him up) I suspect you’d be wrong. The US tried to play lots of people against the middle and it often was a very bad choice.

83

ejh 05.14.08 at 7:11 am

I don’t see why something he wrote in a few paragraphs of one article should be the focus of this kind of intense discussion.

I seem to remember making this point in the last thread regarding Kamm and Monty Johnstone.

84

Hidari 05.14.08 at 7:18 am

And here is Soru, to back up my claims.

‘So your claim is that if my government was, each year, murdering ~8% of the population, if my mother had been raped by a policeman, my son tortured to death in front of me, 15 people out of my school class of 30 were missing in gulags, I would still back it against anyone waving a different flag, or wearing a blue helmet?’

No my argument is that, to repeat you would in reality NOT enjoy: ‘agreeing to go through Angolan checkpoints to get to work, running the risk of being strip searched by Nicaraguan troops if those troops think you might be guilty of ‘terrorism’, having to learn Spanish to understand what your new government is telling you because the occupying forces can’t be bothered to learn English…and so on.’

As I say, there really is no point in continuing this discussion. I genuinely and honestly believe that when the Decents pretend that they would be happy about this they are simply lying and I don’t see how this point can be rationally resolved. Most Decents are American or British nationalists and get hysterical when their countries are even criticised (which is really what Decentism is all about). I literally cannot imagine what they would do if their country was actually invaded.

(I might also add that Decents assume they would be the victims of whichever regime was in power. How do we know that they would not be collaborators?)

Incidentally, like most of the Decents you seem to have little idea of what actually happened in WW2. Most of the death camps were in Poland or Eastern Europe, and they were liberated, generally speaking, by the Soviets. So your sentence should read:

‘A Jew in a death camp must, on seeing a Soviet corporal (would not) raise their emaciated arm to strike him as a hated foreign invader in violation of sacred Polish sovereignty.’

Well no, they were too ill and near death. But of course when s/he was well enough, I find it highly plausible that a Polish survivor of the death camps really would strike the Russian as a violator of sacred Polish sovereignty especially when he found out that the Russian was an anti-semite and planned to run their country for the next fifty years.

85

Guano 05.14.08 at 9:21 am

This is indeed an interesting thread, with contributions 33 and 70 the most interesting. I would just like to add a few points.

1. Tanzania invaded Uganda and deposed Idi Amin Dada in April 1979 after Uganda had annexed some northern areas of Tanzania. Idi Amin lost the war that he had started.

2. In January 1979 Vietnamese forces and those of the United Front for the Salvation of Kampuchea entered Phnom Penh after a 2 year border war between Vietnam and Pol Pot’s Democratic Republic of Kampuchea. In 1977 Pol Pot had refused to recognise the borders with Vietnam agreed between Vietnam and the previous Cambodian government, and had sent Khmer Rouge troops to invade Vietnamese territory. Pol Pol lost a war that he had started.

3. With the support of China and the USA, the Khmer Rouge managed to maintain UN recognition as the country’s legitimate government throughout the 1980s. The UK and other western governments went along with this. The stated reason was international law.

4. Fast forward 20 years, the US administration and the UK government are strangely silent on the issue of international law. They appear to believe that they have the right to invade distant countries to change their regimes, even though those regimes have been contained and even though this means going back on the agreements made at the end of a previous war. However you cannot get the government to openly debate the issue of inmternational law and whether their attitudes to international law have changed.

5. People like Ollie Kamm are pointmen for these charlatans. They try to obscure important present-day issues (like “what actually are out governments’ attitudes to international law?”) by digging out the works of Marxist academics from 28 years ago. (Though Ollie does at least take the trouble to go the library and do this: Nick Cohen just makes up strawman arguments to support his theses.)

6. For Tanzania and Vietnam, these were not “wars of choice”. They were poor countries, faced with troublesome, unpredictable regimes on their borders who were indeed making threats. This is all a long way from the US and the UK claiming the right to “invade countries like Iraq” withou a UN mandate.

86

soru 05.14.08 at 10:24 am

I genuinely and honestly believe that when the Decents pretend that they would be happy about this they are simply lying and I don’t see how this point can be rationally resolved.

Obviously, you can’t rationally resolve an issue when one party is an out an out nutter with not merely no comprehension of anyone who isn’t an ultra-patriot prepared to die for the sacred flame of their eternal nation, but the explicitly stated belief that every single person on the planet is as mad as they are, and anyone who claims not to be is obviously lying.

For the dubious benifit of those reading this who are not totally gaga, the issues involved should be pretty straightforward to disentangle: war and occupation are different things, with no necessary connection. A relatively large number of wars, perhaps 10%, have positive humanitarian outcomes – the Indian response to the genocide in Bangladesh is one that hasn’t been mentioned, and there is a more or less endless well of further examples (and , of course, several times as many counterexamples).

Foriegn military occupations are rather different – there are only two I can think of that ended well (germany and japan after WWII), and whatever caused those to work doesn’t seem to be a repeatable formula. When Hidari talks about the obvious defects of that form of government, he has one of his occasional moments of non-wrongness.

Things is, there are any number of wars that didn’t end in such occupation, with the US intervention in Kuwait being the most relevant. Of all wars since 1945, only three ended with a significant population perceiving themselves as miltarily occupied. Anyone tying to two things together as inevitable has an angle to sell.

They typical way things are framed in american and british debate is that occupation is an obligation owed to Iraq to make up for the violation of its soveriegnty implied by the war. This is the view of the most anti-war mainstream UK party (Lib Dems), of the most anti-war mainstream us candidate (Obama), of customary international law, probably that of the majority of people reading this blog.

Unsurpisingly, it is completely backwards – occupation is a dubious and temporary privilege granted by right of having done the heavy lifting in overthrowing Saddam. His overthrow granted a large legitimacy budget, which has largely but not entirely been squandered: the Vietnamese faced a similar situation, and the Soviets totally overspent theirs. As can happen in other contexts, a large budget merely serves to enable a large fuckup.

87

ejh 05.14.08 at 10:31 am

Of all wars since 1945, only three ended with a significant population perceiving themselves as miltarily occupied.

Could you list them for us? I’m not sure which ones you refer to.

88

Chris Bertram 05.14.08 at 10:51 am

#88 “… the US intervention in Kuwait”

That would be the UN intervention in Kuwait.

89

ajay 05.14.08 at 11:37 am

87: I would imagine, at a guess, the Six Day War, the invasion of East Timor in 1975 and the invasion of Cambodia by Vietnam?

90

abb1 05.14.08 at 11:55 am

Tibet? Somalia recently?

91

soru 05.14.08 at 12:24 pm

I was thinking Six Days, Chinese annexation of Tibet, and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. East Timor does count – I knew there would be at least one clear case I was missing.

On the other side, foreign military occupation not associated with an invasion, with a contested international war, is about equally common – e.g. Syria/Lebanon, Russia/Afghanistan, Ethiopia/Somalia, all of which the occupiers were more or less invited in by recognised governments (or recognised abscence of such).

So any position taken on the virtues or vices of foreign occupation logically has to be independant on the degree to which someone is anti-war, at least unless you wanted to ban all forms of basing treaties, security guarantees, military aid and so on. Which, as far as I can see, would mean being against all forms of military alliance.

I suppose, like pacifism, it is at least a logically consistent position.

92

Matt Weiner 05.14.08 at 1:01 pm

Off the top of my head (and with some help from Google), you’re also missing Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982-5.

Anyway soru, since you were the one who introduced the “opposing war against a government = supporting that government” canard into this thread, you’re not really in a position to complain about people being rude about the possibility of rational discussion with you.

93

christian h. 05.14.08 at 1:23 pm

So the US occupation of South Vietnam doesn’t count? The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? The NATO occupation of parts of Serbia? NATO troops still occupying Bosnia? Because, I guess, the occupier were “invited in” by governments created for that express purpose? Give me a break.

In any event, we were talking about so-called humanitarian intervention. I can’t think of a single case of a war claimed to be of that nature that didn’t entail at least a medium-term occupation.

In fact, if you support the concept, how can you possibly claim that you do not, however, support military occupations? How do you suppose it’ll work – you bomb the country until the dictator steps down and is replaced by… what exactly? I’m baffled.

94

Michael B 05.14.08 at 1:27 pm

“The argument is obviously attractive: one cannot but breathe a sigh of relief when an exceptionally vicious tyranny is overthrown . But attractive though the argument is, it is also dangerous. For who is to decide, and on what criteria, that a regime has become sufficiently tyrannical to justify overthrow by military intervention? There is no good answer to this sort of question; and acceptance of the legitimacy of military intervention on the ground of the exceptionally tyrannical nature of a regime opens the way to even more military adventurism, predatoriness, conquest and subjugation than is already rife in the world today.

“The rejection of military intervention on this score is not meant to claim immunity and protection for tyrannical regimes. Nor does it.”

Of course it does. It’s not “meant” to, but, in terms of practical effect, that’s precisely what it does. And no, that’s not to support some type of general, much less a default principle of intervention, it’s more simply to acknowledge a sui generis quality for each specific situation is to be granted its due, together with the practical, real-world ramifications stemming from that quality. Sudan is not Zimbabwe, is not Iraq, is not Afghanistan, is not Bosnia, etc., they each are marked by their own more salient and more subtle particulars. Still, what Miliband is highly suggestive of here, is that a general principle be established, which, excepting in the most blatant and extreme situations (e.g., Hitler, but not Pol Pot? And Hitler in 1941, but not Hitler in 1938?)

So yes, in practical terms, Miliband, in part influenced by Chomsky, Herman, Porter, Hildebrand and others (presumably), was supporting Pol Pot. The real world is the world where choices are made, where one fork in the road or the other is taken. The real world is not some place where idealized imaginings are readily reified, as if it’s all about the desiderata of aesthetic delectations or intellections.

95

ejh 05.14.08 at 1:40 pm

Deciding that people are objectively in favour of things that they are actually against is, ideologically, the road to hell.

96

Matt Weiner 05.14.08 at 2:15 pm

Well said, ejh.

97

abb1 05.14.08 at 2:17 pm

But Michael B, he’s only talking about the military intervention carried out by nation-states – being aware of their tendency to conquest and subjugate and all that. Concerned and unselfish citizens like yourself should have no problem forming some sort of Abraham Lincoln Brigades and fighting side-by-side with your brothers from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army or Kosovo Liberation Army or Maquis or Hamas or whatever.

98

Michael B 05.14.08 at 2:31 pm

ejh,

No. No one is “deciding” anything. What is being acknowledged, broadly conceived, is that reality is not ideality; what is being acknowledged is a type of intractable first principle.

For example, when Miliband states “… attractive though the argument is, it is also dangerous,” that reflects a false dichotomy because doing nothing is also dangerous, albeit, perhaps, dangerous for a different group of people. But that’s one general example only.

abb1,

No, you too miss the point being made. I’m not simplifying the world, I’m not advancing a reductionist thesis or agenda. Indeed, in acknowledging the sui generis qualities of each situation that non-reducible complexity is being acknowledged, front and center.

99

soru 05.14.08 at 2:34 pm

I can’t think of a single case of a war claimed to be of that nature that didn’t entail at least a medium-term occupation.

India/Bangladesh, Tanzania/Uganda.

100

ejh 05.14.08 at 2:34 pm

No. No one is “deciding” anything.

Well, yes they are. They are putting someone on a side that he was not.

101

Chris Bertram 05.14.08 at 2:57 pm

The general points made against michael b are, of course, correct. He’s also incorrect to state that Miliband’s position amounts to doing nothing, since in the excerpted passage Miliband clearly writes:

_For there are other forms of intervention than military ones: for instance economic pressure by way of sanctions, boycott and even blockade. Tyrannical regimes make opposition extremely difficult: but they do not make it impossible. And the point is to help internal opposition rather than engage in military ‘substitutism’._

Sanctions, boycott, blockade and helping the internal opposition are not “nothing”.

(Incidentally, in another context, the decents are very clear that boycotts are “something”.)

102

Michael B 05.14.08 at 3:04 pm

chris bertram,

“Of course” they are not. And do tell us what boycotts did – or would have done (absent Hildebrand, Porter, Chomsky, et al.) – in the case of Cambodia. (Btw, it was none other than McGovern who advocated intervention in the case of Cambodia during that era.)

103

Hidari 05.14.08 at 3:14 pm

‘So yes, in practical terms, Miliband…was supporting Pol Pot. ‘

Could I just point out that there really need be no further comment on Decentism than that this is seriously proposed as being as an intelligent contribution to the debate.

104

christian h. 05.14.08 at 3:21 pm

India/Bangladesh, Tanzania/Uganda.

Yes, that is because in both cases, the intervention occurred in support of a local liberation movement enjoying popular support. Completely different from, say, Iraq.

105

Michael B 05.14.08 at 3:32 pm

hidari,

What is being said is not that Miliband positively supported, much less enthusiastically supported, in the manner suggested, what is being said is that Miliband, took a certain fork in the road and taking that fork in the road had very practical ramifications. That was the purpose of the “in practical terms” qualifier.

The problem is you’re reducing everything to ideological and political categories and that’s not what is being addressed. But do continue with the tout court and incurious dismissiveness.

106

Hidari 05.14.08 at 3:40 pm

Right Michael. I can see like all Decents, as well as being Decent you are also Very Serious. Indeed you would seem to be a Very Serious Decent, the highest category (a bit like the Thetan in Scientology).

And your Very Serious argument is of course, that if you don’t want to bomb a country, you are, personally, morally responsible for all that goes on in it. And so I am faced with another Very Serious (and Decent) argument, which is that I personally am responsible for the evils of China, and North Korea, and Iran, and Saudi Arabia, and Equatorial Guinea and…well I could go on all night. Why? Because I don’t think it’s a good idea for the United States to invade or bomb them.

As I say, this is a Very Serious charge, and I will respond when I feel sufficiently Decent.

107

Chris Bertram 05.14.08 at 3:42 pm

_what is being said is that Miliband, took a certain fork in the road and taking that fork in the road had very practical ramifications._

Actually, I find it very hard to believe that Miliband’s writing of his paragraph had any practical ramifications.

108

John Emerson 05.14.08 at 3:42 pm

In practice, deciding not to go to war against any given regime is supporting that regime. To be safe we should probably go to war against all regimes, to avoid supporting their wrongdoing. At least, whenever a war is proposed, anyone who fails to support it is joining forces with the proposed target.

This is Schmittianism to the max. The fundamental concept of sovereignty is Enemy. Everything is that is not me is my enemy.

The Estonians have been treating their Russians at least as badly as the Poles were treating their Germans in the summer of 1939. I say, go get ’em.

109

ejh 05.14.08 at 3:44 pm

<i<taking that fork in the road had very practical ramifications

E

110

engels 05.14.08 at 3:47 pm

So Miliband supported Pol Pot but he didn’t positively support him. Is that what you are saying?

111

ejh 05.14.08 at 3:48 pm

taking that fork in the road had very practical ramifications

Even if this were so, there is an enormous difference between something being the unintended consequence of a mistaken policy, and something being the calculated consequence of a deliberate policy. It’s a differnce that, among much else, does not permit us to use the word “supporter” to somebody who is in the first category, as if they were in the second.

112

engels 05.14.08 at 3:57 pm

And more importantly, was he a true Scotsman?

113

Michael B 05.14.08 at 4:13 pm

All the language used here is for purposes of a blanket dismissiveness, from “Decents” to Bertrams smarm concerning writing a paragraph and on to the remainder. The term “supporter,” as I am employing it, is used because it emphasizes the fact that practical ramifications ensue, regardless as to what the “intended” consequences are. But beyond that, yes, I’d be fine with some other word; what I’m not fine with in acknowledging this type of first principle is imagining rhetoric or some virtual equivalent thereof can be considered a substitute for more probative thinking.

And of course all the difficult questions are being avoided as well – e.g., Hitler in 1938 vs. 1940 or ’41; the practical non-consequences of “boycotting” Cambodia during that era. (And I never said anything to suggest boycotting cannot be a useful tool is other situations.)

And engels, I’m saying the practical consequences, the real-world and actual consequences that resulted represented a de facto support.

114

ejh 05.14.08 at 4:21 pm

Ah, “de facto support”. What a harmless formulation that is.

115

dsquared 05.14.08 at 4:26 pm

I’m saying the practical consequences, the real-world and actual consequences that resulted represented a de facto support.

yes, it’s that bit that’s the silly bit. All the rest is reasonably OK.

116

engels 05.14.08 at 4:27 pm

So if the practical consequences of someone’s actions are that somebody is killed, would you refer to him as a ‘murderer’ (or a ‘de facto murderer’)? I suspect that you might offend quite a lot of people (not least in the US and UK governments and militaries) were you to start talking in that way, but don’t let that stop you…

117

Chris Bertram 05.14.08 at 4:39 pm

A look through earlier comments threads reveals that michael b. routinely does this: i.e. comes out with stupid and provocative generalizations and then complains, passive aggressively, that he is being “dismissed”, that others are “sneeringly dismissive” etc etc. He’s done it tens of times, maybe more. Ignore him.

118

Lazynative 05.14.08 at 4:42 pm

I don’t know anything about Kamm; De Long while he may be a competent economist, has in the past showed a spectacular misunderstanding about Asian politics/society. Also people are being really generous here about his comments policy but this is besides the main point.

My understanding is, though admittedly shaky perhaps too influenced by reading Samantha Power’s work on genocide, while the principle of non-intervention is the default mainstream view; isn’t one of the few (if only exceptions) to this, if you suspect a genocide to be occurring you do have a clear obligation to do something to stop it – with the use of force if necessary. I thought part of this is to remove the excuse of “non-interventionism” that can be used by great powers who don’t want to intervene to stop a genocide when they don’t perceive any strategic benefit in doing so. I would assume the reluctance of the US to explicitly accept the Rwandan genocide as such, was to avoid in effect exactly such an obligation – who can forget the how many acts of genocide does it take to make an actual genocide fiasco.

the upshot is that when a genocide is happening, it constitutes what Miliband terms as an exceptional case and you have to intervene to stop it. If my reading of international understanding on genocide is correct and the UN system; I would assume that this is one case where non-interventionism doesn’t apply.

Would appreciate any responses from people more knowledgable than me on this point

119

Martin Bento 05.14.08 at 4:45 pm

soru, distinguishing between the war and the occupation doesn’t work because the KR was never vanquished, just contained in a smaller territory. The Khmers were capable of taking back power anytime Vietnam left. Largely because of that US support I mentioned (as well as Chinese support). Since US support of the Khners went much further both in effect (considerable) and in the abstract (from non-interference to active support) than Marxist academics, I find it curious how few of Miliband’s attackers seem to have any outrage left for a much greater offense.

120

Martin Bento 05.14.08 at 4:51 pm

lazynative (also relevant to David Weman’s point), when the peace was negotiated between the Khmers and Vietnam, Vietnam wanted KR atrocities classified as genocide and had, as I understand, a very good case. The US blocked it, not wanted to admit to having defended perpetrators of genocide.

soru also wrote:

“For the dubious benifit of those reading this who are not totally gaga”

As, of course, perception of clear benefit will be limited to those who *are* totally gaga.

121

geo 05.14.08 at 4:53 pm

I find it curious how few of Miliband’s attackers seem to have any outrage left for a much greater offense.

I don’t.

122

geo 05.14.08 at 6:06 pm

Some sympathy for Michael B. His arguments are all wrong, but at least he hasn’t (so far, unless I’ve missed something) said anything completely bonkers or called any of his interlocutors unpleasant names. Should we really ignore him?

123

Hidari 05.14.08 at 6:47 pm

‘Should we really ignore him?’

Yes.

124

abb1 05.14.08 at 6:48 pm

Actually, those are not arguments but rhetorical constructs. Rhetorical constructs can’t be reasoned with, they can only be trumped by stronger, more dramatic rhetorical constructs.

125

Sortition 05.14.08 at 6:52 pm

I want to add my voice to those who noted that DeLong is an intellectual thug. I would also add that he is a self-important, over-rated one. His attacks on Chomsky are pathetically weak.

He is a Democrat at its worst and another feather in the cap of U.C. Berkeley in particular and the elite academic establishment in general.

126

dsquared 05.14.08 at 7:29 pm

122: It’s not so much “abusive” as that it’s an extremely serious accusation, repeatedly being made on the basis of an argument that more or less everyone agrees is silly to the point of frivolousness. (I’d note that someone like Henry “Scoop” Jackson would accuse MichaelB of being “practically” in favour of the expansion of Soviet Communism if he followed this line of thinking). After a while, simply refusing to accept that your argument isn’t convincing becomes rude and annoying in itself, as anyone who’s ever argued theology with Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you.

127

ejh 05.14.08 at 7:44 pm

Have you performed that task?

128

dsquared 05.14.08 at 7:56 pm

yes, and that’ exactly what they said I was like.

129

ejh 05.14.08 at 8:42 pm

For future reference, “I’m sorry, I’m a Catholic” is the way forward on this one (if not in the search for theological truth). Recommended by Shaw, apparently.

130

Phil 05.14.08 at 9:49 pm

I was once approached by a pair of Mormons in Carlisle. I cut them off in mid-sentence with “No, actually I’m an atheist.” They apologised for bothering me, I turned away. Then I turned back, before they could walk away and added, “And an anarchist”.

I suppose saying ‘Satanist’ would have been even more effective, but to do so I would have had to lie.

131

abb1 05.14.08 at 9:59 pm

No gods, no masters… It’s enough to be an anarchist.

132

Michael B 05.14.08 at 10:40 pm

By all means do ignore me, though what you’ve ignored is not me so much as the not too difficult logic that’s reflected in the original comment. Again, it has to do with ideality vs. reality and not confusing the two; it has to do with acknowldeging practical ramifications resulting from decisions made in the real world. Reality cannot be dealt with in the same manner as ideality; those categories – assumming clarity of thought, clarity of practical considerations, etc. is desired – need to be distinguished.

Too, the religion or “theology” on evidence here in rejecting that not so difficult logic is the theology of negation. Hence all the chest thumping and mutual reassurances, even the request or command from Bertram, apparently acting as the resident high-priest now, to ignore that very reasoning.

(And please, I don’t need, or desire any “sympathy”. This is a bit like Ripley entering the queens nest and I had no illusions about that fact from the beginning.)

133

Michael B 05.14.08 at 10:57 pm

“So if the practical consequences of someone’s actions are that somebody is killed, would you refer to him as a ‘murderer’ (or a ‘de facto murderer’)? I suspect that you might offend quite a lot of people (not least in the US and UK governments and militaries) were you to start talking in that way, but don’t let that stop you…” engels

It depends, I might, if genuine negligence is involved, think of him or her as a “de facto killer,” for the sake of argument. Indeed, even in the law a sufficient amount of negligence can result in such a charge, or at least a similar charge. But again, I already noted how I qualified the term – i.e. was using it for rhetorical purposes, for emphasis – and am fine with some other term. The main point being is that practical consequences result both when positive choices (positive commitments) are made as well as when positive choices are not accepted, are rejected. Hence the emphasis upon distinguishing reality vs. ideality. If you will, reality cannot be aestheticized by recourse to one’s imagination, by recourse to one’s ideological or ideational imaginings.

134

Michael B 05.14.08 at 11:50 pm

And Bertram, in perhaps seven years now and w/o exaggeration I doubt I’ve commented in more than ten threads here total, probably five or six times in the manner being claimed. So, you’re additionally wrong in that vein.

135

Michael B 05.14.08 at 11:53 pm

Finally, in terms of practical ramifications as a result of choices made or choices not made, Lebanon, presently, is one such example. I’m not talking about “shoulds” or should nots” here, I’m again emphasizing practical, real world ramifications resulting from choices made and choices not made, whether consciously or less consciously.

136

Brownie 05.14.08 at 11:57 pm

Most Decents are American or British nationalists and get hysterical when their countries are even criticised (which is really what Decentism is all about).

Yep, you’ve got them ‘decents’ taped, alright.

One notable point here is the implicit re-emergence of the libel that anyone who opposed the invasion of Iraq was a supporter of Saddam.

Which isn’t really what any serious supporter of the war was claiming. The point was that ‘no war’ had consequences, some of which were more unpalatable than others, and one of which was continuation of Saddam’s rule over Iraq and all that this entailed. No right-minded person – not so fast Hidari – would objectively “support” a mass-murdering megalomaniac with a predilection for WMD and a penchant for waging war on neighbouring states. But those who opposed war certainly did support a policy that necessarily ensured Saddam would remain in power longer than a war would permit. We can disagree about the position this consequence occupies in the hierarchy of pro- and anti-war consequences, but not about whether it is a consequence at all.

The truth is that too many advocates and opponents of war did a pretty shitty job of acknowledging the inescapable consequences of their preferred policies. The pro-war camp was no better, but no worse than the stoppers in this regard.

137

geo 05.15.08 at 2:15 am

The truth is that too many advocates and opponents of war did a pretty shitty job of acknowledging the inescapable consequences of their preferred policies. The pro-war camp was no better, but no worse than the stoppers in this regard.

Sorry, Brownie, I don’t see this. Leave aside the disaster that has actually followed the invasion, which may or may not have been inescapable if the Cheney/Bush junta had been shrewder. The two main inescapable consequences were:

1) If we went to war: Since it was a war of aggression by the world’s military hyperpower, and one more example of its disregard for international law and the UN charter, the already dim hope of a law-abiding international order would be still further undermined.

2) If we didn’t go to war: Saddam Hussein would not be immediately overthrown and replaced by a US client state but might, given some combination of diplomatic/material support for the Iraqi opposition and changes in the sanctions regime that might lessen Saddam’s choke hold on the population, eventually be overthrown by Iraqis.

Number 2 was universally acknowledged by the war’s opponents. Number 1 was never acknowledged by the war’s supporters.

138

ejh 05.15.08 at 6:57 am

Which isn’t really what any serious supporter of the war was claiming.

We’ll assume Nick Cohen isn’t “serious” then. He’ll be upset.

139

dsquared 05.15.08 at 7:01 am

Which isn’t really what any serious supporter of the war was claiming.

there’s an old proverb in my part of town: “Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining”.

140

Guano 05.15.08 at 9:00 am

Brownie: the people who were advocating the invasion of Iraq were Governments and mainstream political parties. They have a duty to make a clear case for advocating a high-risk venture like an invasion. They have access to information and good access to means of communication. They didn’t make the case that you are outlining in comment 136 before the invasion; they made a case based on the fiction of Iraq already having chemical and biological weapons and being within 2/5/10 years of developing nuclear weapons. The opponents of the invasion did not have access to much information and did not have easy access to the media: but day after day in the letter columns of the press and handing out leaflets in the street they pointed out the flaws in the case being made for the invasion.

Now, why didn’t the proponents of the invasion make the case that you are outlining in point 136? I would suggest that it is because it would raise too many awkward questions. In 2001, Tony Blair had said in the House of Commons that Iraq was contained: it would be very odd for him to say in 2002 that Iraq wasn’t after all contained. The justification that you are making raises many important points of principle: about international law, about pre-emptive and preventive warfare, about whether in fact a UK/US invasion can create a better outcome than the default outcome of a contained Iraq ruled by Saddam (which would have difficulty in acquiring WMD and threatening its neighbours). I would suggest that the proponents of the invasion just didn’t want to have a debate about these points of principle and still do their best to avoid them. They want to have international law when it suits them, and then to ignore it when it suits them.

I was speaking recently to someone whose sister lived in Baghdad in the mid-1980s: she lived with an arms’ dealer. I had this vision of a Harry Lime-type existence, stuck in a hotel room, meeting people in shop doorways, creeping through the sewers. But then I saw the photos: parties, plays, sporting events. There were hundreds of Western arms’ dealers in Iraq in the mid-1980s, at the time that Saddam did have WMD and was at war with his neighbours. Not only was this support for a megalomaniac it probably helped to bring out Saddam’s tendency for megalomania. But oddly enough the West only discovered that Saddam was a megalomaniac when he was no longer in a position to put it into practice.

I would have thought that o right-minded person would say that turning Iraq into a failed state was better than continuing to contain Saddam. But apparently they are!

141

abb1 05.15.08 at 9:50 am

I would have thought that no right-minded person would say that turning Iraq into a failed state was better than continuing to contain Saddam. But apparently they are!

That’s because they (the Decents, that is) rejected All-Powerful Historical Materialism for a much simpler and more appealing doctrine of Super-Villainy.

And thus Saddam had become a stellar-mass of super-concentrated evil-substance that had to be annihilated in order to bring the cosmos from the state of decay to the fullness of glory. It’s a quasi-religious thingy.

A ‘failed state’ as such has no significance until the next Super-Villain is born; and then it’s back to square one. Al-Zarqawi? Al-Sadr? Ahmadinejad? Who knows… But he’s probably a Muslim.

142

John Quiggin 05.15.08 at 11:06 am

“Which isn’t really what any serious supporter of the war was claiming.”

As others have noted, “serious” is doing an awful lot or work here. Brownie apparently regards (among many others) Christopher Hitchens, David Frum, Bill Kristol, Glenn Reynolds and their many supporters as non-serious, not to mention Bush and Howard (not sure if Blair ever pushed this line).

This raises an obvious problem, which comes up in one form or another for all the supporters of the war (except, I guess, the Halliburton/Blackwater axis who have seen things go marvellously weel for them). Given that most of your allies were supporting the war for the wrong reasons and with the wrong objectives in mind, why did you imagine that the actual conduct of the war would be in line with the objectives you hoped it would achieve.

143

Brownie 05.15.08 at 11:34 am

Guano,

Well that’s at least a reply that attempts to engage with the points rather than a silly retreat into word-games.

I don’t want to get into (another) protracted discussion about the rightness/wrongness of the war, but suffice it to say that the PM certainly did mention the humanitarian dynamic pre-war. In the March 2003 statement opening the Iraq War debate – the first time in this country’s history that the HoC has been offered the opportunity to determine whether the country goes to war – he said:

We must face the consequences of the actions we advocate. For me, that means all the dangers of war. But for others, opposed to this course, it means – let us be clear – that the Iraqi people, whose only true hope of liberation lies in the removal of Saddam, for them, the darkness will close back over them again; and he will be free to take his revenge upon those he must know wish him gone.

Read the rest, as they say, and then tell me that the humanitarian argument was never made pre-war.

What I think you mean is that the legal case for war was not made on this basis. You are of course correct on this and we know why. But I think I’m accurate in saying that there was no confusion that the war was ostensibly about regime change, whether you accept that change could be justified or otherwise. Stoppers certainly were not shy about saying as much at the time. And you can’t on the one hand trumpet the fact that this was a war about regime change, and then deny the inevitability of no regime change absent the war. Yes, Saddam may have been hit by a bus in April 2003 anyway, but the short and mid-term prospect was the continuation of his despotic rule.

Dsquared/Justin,

If Nick, or whoever, wrote an article that alleged opponents of the war were closet Baathists cheerleading for Saddam, then he/they are arseholes. My bet is he didn’t. My bet is that if he used the term “supporter”, he in turn explained his justification for its use using the consequences of no war arguments I allude to above. You might still insist that “supporter” has certain connotations and that its use is imprecise and deliberately provocative. And you might be right in that. But this is a different discussion to one where you and others insist Nick and other users of the term were alleging something they clearly were not.

I think there are several daytime game shows that delight in such wordplay. Is this a serious blog where real issues are discusses and ideas exchanged, or are we auditioning for Henry Kelly’s ‘Going for Gold’?

144

El Cid 05.15.08 at 12:51 pm

If you read Miliband’s essay, he is expressing regret that some degree of Cambodian will and self-organization was thwarted by being rescued by an outside power.

Now, I think Miliband was probably wrong about the population’s ability to do so in any relatively short time frame.

But his words are clear, clear, clear, clear, clear:

He wanted the Cambodians themselves to liberate themselves from the Khmer Rouge lunatics — murderers which were handed power precisely by the massive U.S. bombing & carpet bombing from 1965 – 1973.

A purist, ideological position, yes. But no more so than right wing libertarian ideologues who want U.S. citizens to endure whatever hardships might be necessary to live without government intervention or assistance.

But no, no, no. We must find some way to continue blaming the Khmer Rouge regime takeover not on the actual people who enabled it, the U.S.’ own war hawks, but on various leftish intellectuals who said various things years after the takeover, because that’s how powerful and seditious their words are.

145

ejh 05.15.08 at 1:00 pm

You might still insist that “supporter” has certain connotations and that its use is imprecise and deliberately provocative. And you might be right in that. But this is a different discussion to one where you and others insist Nick and other users of the term were alleging something they clearly were not.

No, it’s precisely the same discussion. Using a term that misrepresents somebody is misrepresentation whether one explains it or not. The term “supporter” has been used severally on this thread: the people who have done it have explained why they have used it and it remains inappropriate. The situation is precisely the same.

146

Guano 05.15.08 at 1:03 pm

Brownie: “What I think you mean is that the legal case for war was not made on this basis. You are of course correct on this and we know why.”

No, I don’t know why. Please explain. My guess is that the UK Government wanted to do something that was illegal and claim that it was legal. The UK Government was trying to have its cake and eat it at the same time. I find that deeply objectionable. Are you saying that it is OK for a Government to play these games with its electorate, and the UN and the weapons’ inspectors?

Blair said all sorts of things in late 2002 and early 2003 to justify invading Iraq. But whenever he was questioned closely he fell back to the justification of WMD. He even once said that Saddam could stay on if he owned up to having the WMD that Blair knew he had! I have a thick file of letters from Blair and Straw and my MP about WMD; they never answered the questions that I had asked about international law and whether the UK had bought into the American doctrine of preventive warfare. If the war was ostensibly about regime change then Blair should never have mentioned WMD, he shouldn’t have pushed for resolution 1441, he shouldn’t have “worked for the second resolution”. When he was asked what he would do if WMD weren’t found, he shouldn’t have answered “But WMD will be found”. When he was asked in early 2002 why he was going to Camp David he shouldn’t have said “I’m keeping Bush on the UN route”: he should have said “Bush and I are planning to overthrow Saddam in breach of international law”.

Regime change is illegal under international law. It also presents a myriad of practical implications. The assumptions that were being made (and are still made) about being able to do it quickly and without collateral damage are highly problematic. These were all hidden behind the smoke-screen of the WMD justification. Blair and Hoon and Straw and all the others weren’t just hiding it from us the public: they were hiding it from themselves. I don’t think that they have themselves thought about the implications. But the risk is that they will do it again, trying to avoid the (undefined) mistakes with all the same risks.

There is still, of course, the question of what to do about megalomaniac rulers. I would suggest that Iraq is a model of what not to do. Saddam was President of Iraq for more than 20 years (and a powerful Vice President before that) but it was only after he had been contained that it was noticed that he was a megalomaniac! A better model would be to be circumspect about some of our “friends” and some of those who are buying our arms and recognise their potential for megalomania.

147

ejh 05.15.08 at 1:04 pm

I think there are several daytime game shows that delight in such wordplay. Is this a serious blog where real issues are discusses and ideas exchanged, or are we auditioning for Henry Kelly’s ‘Going for Gold’?

“It is all right for me and my chums to misrepresent our antiwar and anti-Zionist adversaries: we do it as a matter of course. If they complain about it, though, that is merely wordplay.”

148

Hidari 05.15.08 at 3:02 pm

Brownie: ‘Read the rest, as they say’.

Blair, 18 March 2003.

‘So: why does it matter so much?

Because the outcome of this issue will now determine more than the fate of the Iraqi regime and more than the future of the Iraqi people, for so long brutalised by Saddam. It will determine the way Britain and the world confront the central security threat of the 21st Century; the development of the UN; the relationship between Europe and the US; the relations within the EU and the way the US engages with the rest of the world.’ (Note; unlike the rest of Blair’s speech this is actually true: but note that it is about international geopolitics, not morality per se).

To continue Blair’s speech:

‘But first, Iraq and its WMD.

In April 1991, after the Gulf War Iraq was given 15 days to provide a full and final declaration of all its WMD…..’ (etc. etc. etc.)

And so on for the next SEVENTY SEVEN PARAGRAPHS.

And even when he changes the subject, he comes back to it. For example:

‘Let me tell the House what I know. (sic)

I know that there are some countries or groups within countries that are proliferating and trading in WMD, especially nuclear weapons technology.

I know there are companies, individuals, some former scientists on nuclear weapons programmes, selling their equipment or expertise.

I know there are several countries – mostly dictatorships with highly repressive regimes – desperately trying to acquire chemical weapons, biological weapons or, in particular, nuclear weapons capability. Some of these countries are now a short time away from having a serviceable nuclear weapon. This activity is not diminishing. It is increasing.’

And so on. This must be compared with a grand total of one paragraph where he mentions some form of ‘democracy’ for Iraq. (The exact phraseology is the meaningless phrase: ‘And let the future government of Iraq be given the chance to begin the process of uniting the nation’s disparate groups, on a democratic basis, respecting human rights’…the weasel phrase ‘on a democratic basis’ leaving much wiggle room).

The rest of the speech is purely and simply a defence of George Bush’s foreign policy.

Make no mistake about it: the case for Iraq, overwhelmingly, was made on the basis of WMDs, NOT for moral reasons or to ‘liberate’ the people of Iraq, and all discussion of the invasion should begin with that being well understood.

149

Peter K. 05.15.08 at 9:15 pm

I just read the long quote from Milliband and thought how prescient he was on on that specific point. He says that justifying invasions on humanitarian grounds will lead to a slippery slope. Anyone still arguing against that post-Kosovo and Iraq?

Yes we are and I believe you are very very wrong. The Cold War ended in 1989-91. Twenty or so odd years later in 2008 and those are the only two examples? Where genocidal dictators Milosevic and Saddam were gotten rid of?

I like Chomksy but agree, he’s a hot button for De Long, who I like also. Maybe Miliband wasn’t aware of the extent of Pol Pot’s crimes and a little suspicious of the West’s media? I’d cut him some slack. It was bizarre to learn that his son was the UK’s new foreign minister!

150

Peter K. 05.15.08 at 9:23 pm

Miliband:

The rejection of military intervention on this score is not meant to claim immunity and protection for tyrannical regimes. Nor does it. For there are other forms of intervention than military ones: for instance economic pressure by way of sanctions, boycott and even blockade. Tyrannical regimes make opposition extremely difficult: but they do not make it impossible. And the point is to help internal opposition rather than engage in military ‘substitutism’. As noted earlier, there are rare and extreme circumstances where nothing else may be possible–for instance the war against Nazism. Hitler’s Third Reich was not only a tyranny. Nor was it merely guilty of border incursions against other states. It was quite clearly bent on war and the subjugation of Europe. But neither Uganda nor Kampuchea are in this order of circumstances…

As we saw with Iraq, sanctions don’t work. What are we left with? Coexistence? Complicity? And here is perfect example of what often happens with leftists. They greatly underestimate the brutal nature of dictatorships because, maybe, they distrust the rich West’s portrayal and analysis of the situtation.

151

abb1 05.15.08 at 9:34 pm

As we saw with Iraq, sanctions don’t work.

That’s just bullshit, and on so many levels.

152

Peter K. 05.15.08 at 9:51 pm

Yeah if your goal is to kill children, <a href=”http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1084″?sanctions work great.

153

Peter K. 05.15.08 at 9:52 pm

sanctions work wonderfully.

Iraq was so messed up in 2003, because of decade of Saddam + sanctions.

154

Brownie 05.15.08 at 11:37 pm

No, it’s precisely the same discussion. Using a term that misrepresents somebody is misrepresentation whether one explains it or not. The term “supporter” has been used severally on this thread: the people who have done it have explained why they have used it and it remains inappropriate. The situation is precisely the same.

If you fixate on one specific term to the exclusion everything else in an accompanying article that qualifies the term, then you are guilty of misrepresenting the alleged misrepresentation.

I’d like to see some evidence that Cohen was egregiously bracketing the average stopper with, for example, the likes of Galloway (who as we all know was an admirer of Saddam). To possibly pre-empt you, I don’t believe articles which mention the word “supporter” but simultaneously make it clear that Cohen doesn’t equate opposition to war with advocacy for Baathism will pass muster as ‘evidence’ on this occasion.

“It is all right for me and my chums to misrepresent our antiwar and anti-Zionist adversaries: we do it as a matter of course. If they complain about it, though, that is merely wordplay.”

Curious. I didn’t indulge in the language that you allege characterised Cohen’s writing, so I’m not sure how you justify the “me and my chums” snark. And the use of “anti-Zionist” is intended to promote the myth of a Zionist dynamic to the war, to wit, supporters are necessarily pro-Zionist and opponents anti-Zionist. The invocation of this term is yet more evidence of an obsessional urge on the part of many stoppers to shoehorn into any passing debate oblique and not so oblique references to Israel. In the context of a discussion about Cohen’s alleged misrepresentation of Iraq war opposition, the use of “anti-Zionist” here is most ironic given the arguments of stoppers were liberally sprinkled with accusations that supporters of the war held “Zionist” briefs, not to mention the ubiquitous “imperialist” slander and even balls-out suggestions that support for the war betrayed a dislike for brown people/Arabs/Muslims/delete as applicable.

One difference? That’s right: you don’t hear us bleating like poor little lambs.

Let’s stop pissing around. You don’t believe for one second that Cohen was alleging you and people like you harboured pro-Saddam sympathies. This is not even a perceived slight; it’s your own contrivance. You insist Cohen meant one thing even while he tells you he meant something else. It’s intellectual dishonesty write large and another contribution to the infantilization of Iraq war debate; a debate that needs more infatilization like dsquared needs an injection of smug serum.

155

Brownie 05.16.08 at 12:27 am

No, I don’t know why. Please explain. My guess is that the UK Government wanted to do something that was illegal and claim that it was legal. The UK Government was trying to have its cake and eat it at the same time. I find that deeply objectionable. Are you saying that it is OK for a Government to play these games with its electorate, and the UN and the weapons’ inspectors?

You’re putting words in my mouth and then asking me to justify them. Neat trick.

Just because HMG *wanted* Saddam gone that doesn’t mean there wasn’t either a moral or legal justification for removing him. I’m not asking you to accept the truth of either justification, only acknowledge that it’s possible for Blair’s motivation and legal/moral justification to coexist. The war might be wrong, but it can’t be wrong purely by dint of it being the preferred policy of the government.

Regime change is illegal under international law. It also presents a myriad of practical implications. The assumptions that were being made (and are still made) about being able to do it quickly and without collateral damage are highly problematic. These were all hidden behind the smoke-screen of the WMD justification. Blair and Hoon and Straw and all the others weren’t just hiding it from us the public: they were hiding it from themselves. I don’t think that they have themselves thought about the implications. But the risk is that they will do it again, trying to avoid the (undefined) mistakes with all the same risks.</i.

You’re confusing several things here missing some others, the most crucial of which is that regime change was, by 2003 at least, the sine qua non of UN resolution enforcement. 12 years of obstruction and obfuscation had demonstrated this. The UK government position was that Iraq was in breach of cease-fire terms. Authority to intervene militarily was revived by Saddam’s failure to seize his “final opportunity” as laid out in 1441. What sort of “opportunity” is given after the “final” one has been wasted?

Now, you might believe that this legal argument is unconvincing. That’s your prerogative, but there’s nothing mutually exclusive about regime change per se and the enforcement of the extant UN resolutions. From memory, the wording of 687 et al talk about a restoration of peace and security to the region and reassurance in the matter of Iraq’s WMD capability. If Saddam’s rule meant these things were not achievable, then his reign becomes part of the equation.

This is not exactly the whimsical declaration of war designed to remove unpalatable leaders that you paint it as.

Next, the claim that the non-discovery of WMD erodes the legitimacy of the WMD argument for war suggests you are not at all familiar with the text of the relevant UNSCRs. In the aftermath of the first war, Iraq produced an inventory of its WMD. Inspections had 3 main purposes:

1 – locate WMD and oversee its destruction;
2 – verify Iraqi claims of self-disposal;
3 – assess the existing WMD programs and validate their termination.

Before half the US fleet turned up in the gulf in the autumn of 2002, Iraq was not allowing inspectors into the country and whilst much of 1 had been performed during the 1990s, there was still work to be done on 2 and 3. There had been a 4 year inspections hiatus at this point and there was concern – not just in Washington and London (hence the unanimous passing of 1441) – about what had been happening in Iraq during this period. When inspectors were finally granted access, they were still obstructed in their work. Access was far from unfettered as even Blix conceded: remember (paraphrasing) “progress on process but not on substance”? The bottom line is that whilst the non-discovery of WMD might well do damage to credibility of those who insisted it would be found, it does nothing to erode the legitimacy of the WMD argument for war. It simply does not matter whether we found a silo of ICMBs, a thimble of sarin or, as was the case, nothing but camel shit. Iraq was in violation because by her actions, she prevented the international community from acquiring the level of surety to which it was entitled and which 17 or so resolutions enshrined our right to acquire.

As I say, careful reading of the resolutions will confirm this.

There is still, of course, the question of what to do about megalomaniac rulers. I would suggest that Iraq is a model of what not to do. Saddam was President of Iraq for more than 20 years (and a powerful Vice President before that) but it was only after he had been contained that it was noticed that he was a megalomaniac! A better model would be to be circumspect about some of our “friends” and some of those who are buying our arms and recognise their potential for megalomania.

Yeah, I’d be careful about this line of argument until you’ve researched exactly which states topped the list of arms sales to Iraq. To save you the bother, they are Russia, China and France.

Who’d a thunk it?

156

Michael B 05.16.08 at 2:42 am

“No, it’s precisely the same discussion. Using a term that misrepresents somebody is misrepresentation whether one explains it or not. The term “supporter” has been used severally on this thread: the people who have done it have explained why they have used it and it remains inappropriate. …

No, not in the least. The term in question (“support”) was in fact properly qualified, even narrowly qualified. Of course, on one level, it’s understandable people will refuse to acknowledge the concept and the reality being conveyed, especially so since the subject matter was Pol Pot’s Maoist genocide.

Nonetheless, it’s an entirely viable concept, one which additionally has deep-seated resonance in cases such as Afghanistan, Lebanon, even Israel, since increasing military campaigns together with an array of ideological campaigns (media, propaganda, PR, etc.) are increasingly being waged against the very existence of Israel. Mark Steyn, here, has written thoughtfully on this very subject, in part noting how people tend to internalize the forces working against such situations rather than marshalling the vision, verve, foresight, strength, etc. it takes to counter those perduringly malignant forces. Internalizing that adversarial force results in accepting a certain logic, and that logic, in turn, results in “supporting” those forces at a type of meta-level. I.e. endless propaganda coupled with those militant jihadist strategems positively works.

That’s why the term “supporting,” rightly conceived, is entirely appropriate, because internalizing those forces, internalizing that logic, results in the acceptance – thus the support – of those perduring and seemingly never ending forces. It’s understandable that people might get hung up on the term, but rightly considered it very much is the proper term. The situations in Lebanon and Israel reflect tell-tale indications of that basic truth, the even more dramatic situations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

157

Michael B 05.16.08 at 2:58 am

“In practice, deciding not to go to war against any given regime is supporting that regime. To be safe we should probably go to war against all regimes, to avoid supporting their wrongdoing. At least, whenever a war is proposed, anyone who fails to support it is joining forces with the proposed target.

“This is Schmittianism to the max. The fundamental concept of sovereignty is Enemy. Everything is that is not me is my enemy.” john emerson

No, it is not. It is not a call to action, much less knee-jerk action, it is a call for more probative thinking to support decisions to either engage or refrain from engaging in a conflict and to do so, in part, with an acute awareness that both action and “inaction” are likely to have, in Miliband’s own careful phrasing, “dangerous” results.

158

engels 05.16.08 at 3:43 am

Mark Steyn, here, has written thoughtfully…

Shurely shome mistake?

159

abb1 05.16.08 at 6:05 am

Peter K., how do sanctions ‘work’, what does it mean, exactly?

A policy (sanctions) designed to modify the behavior of the government would have modified the behavior of the government. Policy designed to kill children and devastate the country does just that.

160

ejh 05.16.08 at 7:29 am

The bottom line is that whilst the non-discovery of WMD might well do damage to credibility of those who insisted it would be found, it does nothing to erode the legitimacy of the WMD argument for war.

I think this is my favourite argument of the whole thread.

161

Hidari 05.16.08 at 7:30 am

‘Iraq was in violation (i.e. of 1441) because by her actions, she prevented the international community from acquiring the level of surety to which it was entitled and which 17 or so resolutions enshrined our right to acquire.’

Ah yes this is the argument that whereas it is a matter of great concern whether or not Iraq was in breach of UN resolution 1441, it is of absolutely no interest that in invading Iraq the US and the UK were unquestionably in breach of the UN charter itself.

162

ejh 05.16.08 at 7:32 am

Yeah, I’d be careful about this line of argument until you’ve researched exactly which states topped the list of arms sales to Iraq. To save you the bother, they are Russia, China and France.

Who’s the top scorers in the Saudi market, do you thunk?

163

ejh 05.16.08 at 7:41 am

Curious. I didn’t indulge …..(goes on at some length) …..infantilization of Iraq war debate; a debate that needs more infatilization like dsquared needs an injection of smug serum.

What a strange passage this is, full of invented arguments, in the true raving style of the very, very serious Harry’s Place.

164

Brownie 05.16.08 at 8:51 am

I think this is my favourite argument of the whole thread.

You’re most welcome. I hope for the sake of your own credibility you are serious when you say this, for if you’re intending to demonstrate irony it simply confirms you as yet another member of the stopper fraternity who is manifestly unfamiliar with the text of the relevant UNSCRs codifying Iraq’s obligations to the international community in the matter of WMD disclosure.

This is a longwinded way of saying that on this particular issue, you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

Who’s the top scorers in the Saudi market, do you thunk?

Which would be a great point if my argument ran “the US and UK practise ethical arms trade par excellence”. As it is, the discussion is about Iraq and Guano is evidently misinformed as to the states responsible for suplying arms to this particularly hideous dictatorship. Relevancy, yer honour.

What a strange passage this is, full of invented arguments, in the true raving style of the very, very serious Harry’s Place.

The passage is “strange”, the arguments “invented” and the HP style is both “raving” and “serious”.

Big on adjectives, short on reasoning. Unthinking stopperdom in a nutshell.

165

ejh 05.16.08 at 9:03 am

it simply confirms you as yet another member of the stopper fraternity who is manifestly unfamiliar with the text of the relevant UNSCRs codifying Iraq’s obligations to the international community in the matter of WMD disclosure.

There are some arguments which are only convincing to those who wish to be convinced by them.

166

Brownie 05.16.08 at 10:54 am

Simple question, Justin: are you claiming that to be in violation of the relevant resolutions Iraq had to be in possession of WMD? You appear to be claiming precisely that, but here’s your chance to clarify.

167

Guano 05.16.08 at 11:17 am

Brownie: this is what the Attorney General’s legal advice said (the second one, the one on one side of A4).

168

Brownie 05.16.08 at 11:54 am

Sorry Guano, what is “this” in your #167 comment?

1441, unanimously accepted by the UNSC, reads:

Decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991), in particular through Iraq’s failure to cooperate with United Nations inspectors and the IAEA, and to complete the actions required under paragraphs 8 to 13 of resolution 687 (1991);

Point being, Iraq was found to be in breach before we’d discovered a centilitre of nerve agent. As it happens, it seems there may not have been a centilitre of nerve agent to discover. As before, this has implications for the credibility of those who promised we would find substantially more than a centilitre of nerve agent. But the text of 1441 confirms that it wasn’t and never was necessary for Iraq to be in physical possession of WMD for her to be found in breach of her obligations codified in numerous Chapter VII resolutions.

My point here is that the non-discovery of WMD has no bearing whatsoever on the legal case made for war and the legitimacy of those arguments. Now, you might claim that there are a whole host of other reasons why the war was still illegal/illegitimate and we can have that conversation if you like, but we ought to be able to agree upfront that one of those reasons cannot be that Iraq had no WMD. It’s simply not germane as to the question of legality.

The UNSCRs, including 1441 as I’ve shown, are clear on this. Justin remains confused. What about you?

169

ejh 05.16.08 at 12:37 pm

are you claiming that to be in violation of the relevant resolutions Iraq had to be in possession of WMD?

I’m claiming that what you’re engaged in goes by polite terms such as “sophistry” and “obfuscation”. I’m also claiming that it is remarkable that such a clear case was accepted at the time by so few parties involved. I may also claim, should I feel like I hae nothing better to do of a Friday afternoon, that when it is bleedin’ obvious to everyone with eyes that the case for war was made on a certain basis, and when it is equally bleedin’ obvious that aforesaid basis was specious, then one’s patience with aforesaid obfuscation and aforesaid sophistry is unlikely to last through aforesaid afternoon.

170

Guano 05.16.08 at 12:45 pm

The AG said that the invasion of Iraq would be legal if there was an absolute certainty that Iraq had WMD. He did not say that the US and the UK had a perfect right to invade Iraq ever since the passing of Resolution 1441 (which I’m sure he would have said if he could).

171

ejh 05.16.08 at 1:10 pm

I think you’re probably right but my point is that either way, it’s like a discussing a minor theological issue when the problem is the absence of evidence for God.

172

Brownie 05.16.08 at 2:03 pm

I’m also claiming that it is remarkable that such a clear case was accepted at the time by so few parties involved.

Why should you be surprised? There were huge numbers of people on both sides of the argument who patently had no interest in clarifying matters and were happy to throw as much fud as they could get their hands on.

That said, you’re way off-beam with your suggestion that such a clear case enjoyed so little acceptance. The dominant anti-war narrative was not based on a rejection of the claim that Saddam had WMD (even Ritter refused to give Iraq a clean bill of health pre-war), rather, those opposed to war demanded inspections be given more time to determine whether Iraq was indeed clear of WMD. The counter-claim was that inspections hadn’t succeeded in 12 years because Saddam was intent on ensuring we could never discover the truth as to Iraq’s programs and capabilities. We can keep going back and forth on the rights and wrongs of both positions in another discussion, but none of those arguments alters the fact that the legitimacy of the case for war was not and never was contingent on the discovery of WMD. I appreciate that a great many stoppers have spent the last 5 years telling themselves and anybody else who will listen that the converse is true, but that doesn’t make it so.

It’s not “sophistry” to make this point when there are still huge numbers of people who mistakenly believe the failure to discover WMD deals a fatal blow to the legitimacy of the war.

The AG said that the invasion of Iraq would be legal if there was an absolute certainty that Iraq had WMD.

The AG said a lot of things and even though I’m fairly certain he didn’t say what you claim, this is not the same thing as saying the war would ONLY be legal if there was absolute certainty that Iraq had WMD. To do so would make possession of WMD the sine qua non of a material breach. Of course, possession would be a material breach, but as more than a decade of resolutions makes clear, possession was not the only way Iraq could be in breach.

The accurate summation of the AGs advice is that authority to intervene militarily was revived now that 1441 had confirmed Iraq’s continued non-compliance and Iraq had foregone her “final opportunity” to comply.

173

ejh 05.16.08 at 2:41 pm

It’s not “sophistry” to make this point when there are still huge numbers of people who mistakenly believe the failure to discover WMD deals a fatal blow to the legitimacy of the war.

Well, I wonder if that may be because it was the primary argument that was made by the political actors who were promoting the war. We’re supposed to forget this because it suits you? Do me a favour.

174

Guano 05.16.08 at 3:17 pm

This thread started by being about the accusation that R. Milliband supported Pol Pot and drifted (inevitably) into the question of Iraq and the accusations of people like Nick Cohen that people who marched against the invasion were marching in support of a brutal dictator. I find this kind of remark by people like Cohen to be deeply distasteful, because it is based on the assumption that there is nothing problematic about starting a war to overthrow a brutal dictator. There is a great deal that is problematic about starting wars in this way, both practically and legally. I marched against the invasion of Iraq because I think that “wars of choice” are dangerous: those who are in favour of them are forgetting why the Charter of the UN was written the way it was.

Brownie’s narrative of why the invasion was legal only makes sense if you leave out a great deal of what happened in late 2002 and early 2003. His argument would seem to imply that the work of the weapons’ inspectors was irrelevant because resolution 1441 had already said that Iraq was not complying (though that was not what the UK government said at the time of the resolution). Iraq was already not complying before it had had a chance to comply! I get the impression that proponents of the invasion want to have their cake and eat it too: they want to have a legal figleaf to say that the invasion was legal, yet they want to propose future “wars of choice”. That really is a dangerous illusion. Wars of choice are deeply problematic. Iraq illustrates why.

175

abb1 05.16.08 at 3:21 pm

I suppose his argument is, at this point, that it was indeed a blow, maybe even a strong blow, but not a fatal blow. We are into the degrees now. Did it knock 90% out of whatever legitimacy the invasion had in the first place (IMHO – none whatsoever)? 80%? 60%?

176

Brownie 05.16.08 at 4:35 pm

Well, I wonder if that may be because it was the primary argument that was made by the political actors who were promoting the war. We’re supposed to forget this because it suits you? Do me a favour.

Nope. I wouldn’t dsiagree with your main point here. I think this government and the US government made something of a balls-up in how they presented the case for war. They share at least some of the blame for creating the false impression that the discovery of WMD would legitimize the war and therefore the non-discovery of the same would render it unjust.

The two camps pre-war were not comprised of those on the one hand who were adamant Iraq retained a WMD capability and those on the other who were euqally sure she did not; more accurately, those agitating for war believed it was the only route to discovering the truth of that capability and those opposing believed inspections would reveal the same truth.

I’ve already conceded that the non-discovery of WMD has clear implications for the credibility of those who guranteed they would be found and I’ll even concede that it makes it more difficult to argue the case for war generally. But this is not the same thing as a concession that the decision taken at the time was, in retrospect, wrong. I’m firmly of the belief that we’d never have discovered the truth of Iraq’s capability whilst Saddam remained in power. I think Saddam’s continued obstruction even whilst half the US fleet sat a few dozen nautical miles off Iraq’s coast confirms that. If inspections had progressed, eventually those troops would be stood down and as soon as they were, the levels of obstruction and obfuscation would have increased as they always had. Like most of us who reluctantly supported the war, I was and remain convinced that a major confrontation with Saddam’s Iraq was inevitable. If wasn’t March 2003, it might be September 2004 when Blix came back to the UNSC to yet again report that inspectors were unable to complete their tasks.

His argument would seem to imply that the work of the weapons’ inspectors was irrelevant because resolution 1441 had already said that Iraq was not complying

1441 *had* already said Iraq was not complying. It’s there in the text. However, 1441 also afforded Iraq a “final opportunity” to comply. Even Blix confirmed that, whatever concessions to inspections Iraq was making in spring 2003, it still was not giving the full cooperation and providing the unfettered access demanded of it. As before, what kind of additional opportunity should you expect after spurning your “final” one?

Iraq was already not complying before it had had a chance to comply!

Huh? Iraq had 12 years to comply. Have you read 1441?

Decides that Iraq has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 (1991), in particular through Iraq’s failure to cooperate with United Nations inspectors and the IAEA, and to complete the actions required under paragraphs 8 to 13 of resolution 687 (1991);

Despite this manifest non-compliance, Iraq was given a “final opportunity”. What’s difficult to understand?

Wars of choice are deeply problematic

Every war is a war of choice. For every scenario you can present which hints at a war of necessity, it will always be possible to argue why something other than war might work if we just give it try. War is never the last resort as you’ll never exhaust every alternative option available to you. The trick is identifying the point at which your understandable desire to avoid bloodshed invites the potential of greater disaster and/or is simply a temporary delay of the inevitable.

177

geo 05.16.08 at 6:32 pm

Brownie at #155:Authority to intervene militarily was revived by Saddam’s failure to seize his “final opportunity” as laid out in 1441.

Where does the resolution grant a member state the right to intervene militarily without the approval of the Security Council?

Brownie at 172: There were huge numbers of people on both sides of the argument who patently had no interest in clarifying matters and were happy to throw as much fud as they could get their hands on.
Whether or not this is true of the war’s opponents (I doubt it), it is certainly true of the Bush administration, who were “fixing the facts around the policy,” as a British official in a position to know observed at the time.

Brownie at 172: authority to intervene militarily was revived now that 1441 had confirmed Iraq’s continued non-compliance and Iraq had foregone her “final opportunity” to comply

Again, where is there support for this finding in the text of the resolution?

Brownie at 176: Blix confirmed that, whatever concessions to inspections Iraq was making in spring 2003, it still was not giving the full cooperation and providing the unfettered access demanded of it. As before, what kind of additional opportunity should you expect after spurning your “final” one?

“Spurning” is misleading. According to the dictionary, the word means “to reject with disdain or contempt.” Blix acknowledged incomplete cooperation but pleaded for more time and promised success within months.

Brownie at 176: Every war is a war of choice.

Only for governments (quite a few of them, alas, most definitely including the US government) that feel free to disregard their very solemn — in fact, supreme — obligation under the UN Charter to use external military force only with Security Council authorization, unless plausibly threatened with “instant and overwhelming” force by an aggressor.

178

Brownie 05.16.08 at 11:14 pm

Where does the resolution grant a member state the right to intervene militarily without the approval of the Security Council?

It doesn’t, but then who’s claiming it does? Certainly not the US or UK governments. Read here.

Again, where is there support for this finding in the text of the resolution?

Again, it’s not there. 1441 is silent on the matter of what should happen in the event Iraq fails to seize its final opportunity, other than to threaten “serious consequences”. It makes no metnion of second resolutions (as France and Russia tried to ensure it did) nor does it say that the UNSC will determine next steps. It says only that the UNSC will “consider” matters and consider it did.

Iraq was in clear breach of ceasefire terms and no member of the UNSC claimed the opposite. The US/UK position is authority for militiary action underwritten in earlier resolutions was therefore revived.

“Spurning” is misleading. According to the dictionary, the word means “to reject with disdain or contempt.” Blix acknowledged incomplete cooperation but pleaded for more time and promised success within months.

Anything other than “spurning” is misleading. How difficult was it, exactly, for Saddam to do what was asked of him? Not very. Saddam chose not to comply. You can’t be a bit pregnant and you can’t comply a bit. As to Blix, his job was to come back to the UNSC to report either compliance or non-compliance and he had no doubt that, whatever last-minute concessions Iraq was making as war loomed, even then she was failing to comply. Blix was, of course, entitled to voice whatever opinion he liked about what might happen in the future. But he could no more “promise success” than he could “promise” to deliver the moon on a stick. Guaranteeing Iraqi compliance was not within his gift. As far as prolonging inspections was concerned, Blair made it clear that inspections could run for another year so long as Iraq was complying. But what was the point of running inspections another day if, after 12 years, Iraq was still refusing to comply?

179

Righteous Bubba 05.16.08 at 11:41 pm

It makes no metnion of second resolutions (as France and Russia tried to ensure it did)

Fools!

180

geo 05.17.08 at 3:01 am

It seems to me, Brownie, that you’re making the very best of a very bad case. The Attorney General’s opinion boils down to this: for the US to proceed without Security Council authorization would be of doubtful legality but not plainly illegal. And even here, he stipulates 1) that any such action would have to be proportional: ie, that it would have to be a response to a grave and imminent threat; and 2) that the evidence purporting to establish this threat must be ocnclusive. In the end, he recommends that a second resolution be sought — as anyone with a grain of honesty would do in the circumstances. All this is a very weak reed on which to base an argument that the invasion was not illegal.

As for the meaning of “spurning” and “compliance”: To pretend to comply, as Saddam did, is not to “reject with disdain and contempt.” And of course one can comply “a bit”; or, for that matter, a quarter or a half or two-thirds or three-quarters. What can you mean by denying this? I fear you’re playing the “word games” you deplored earlier.

181

Hidari 05.17.08 at 10:30 am

The idea that 1441 licensed war is farcical and Brownie knows it. To begin with, no one agrees with him.

‘ The ambassador for the United States, John Negroponte, said :[T]his resolution contains no “hidden triggers” and no “automaticity” with respect to the use of force.’

The Ambassador for Britain:

‘There is no “automaticity” in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in paragraph 12.’

emphasis added.

Second, the idea that, even assuming you are breach of a resolution, there is ‘no point’ in giving you any more time to comply with it is ridiculous. As you would understand if you ran up huge credit card bills, and your bank tried to get the money back. If you were to ask for a few more weeks (or months) to pay back the money, and your bank replied: ‘But we’ve given you (period of time)…why should we give you any more time?’…you would understand pretty quickly, I think, that the time period was not a trivial matter. You would also realise that it simply does not follow that if you have been unable to comply with something in the last (time period) then you will necessarily not be able to comply in the future.

This is particularly important as we now know why Iraq didn’t comply with 1441: it was because the regime was such a shambles by that time, so ridden with distrust and fear, its bureaucracy broken down, its infrastructure grossly degraded, that Iraq simply found it very difficult to comply. It was certainly in breach of 1441, but the reasons as to why it was in breach are important. This point was well understood at the time. Brownie attempts to brush the fact under the carpet, but the fact is that the breach of 1441 was NOT caused by and COULD NOT have been caused by what Bush/Blair said: Iraq’s possession of WMDs. This is absolutely not a trivial point. Breaking a law is important, but why you broke it and in what context is also important. As any lawyer will tell you.

Finally, the idea that you are in breach of a resolution, and that, therefore, you deserve to have your country invaded and occupied for decades at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, is beyond science fiction. If you are seriously arguing that then America’s far more serious breach of the UN charter by unilaterally invading Iraq should also merit invasion, but of course no one is arguing that. And let’s not even mention Israel.

The fact is that if Blair had got his ‘second resolution’ everyone would be agreeing that 1441 did NOT license war. Because, before Britain failed to get a new resolution, everyone DID agree that war required a new resolution. It was only when ‘we’ failed to get it that ‘we’ suddenly realised that we didn’t need it after all.

182

Michael B 05.17.08 at 2:01 pm

Mark Steyn, here, has written thoughtfully …

“Shurely shome mistake?” engels

Not in the least, to the contrary and decidedly so. Though it’s unsurprising – to understate the case immensely – that you’ve employed yet another dismissive sneer in lieu of any cogency or any engagement whatsoever.

The article in question is here. Take an excerpt:

Assuming Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic fancies don’t come to pass, Israel will surely make it to its 70th birthday. But a lot of folks don’t fancy its prospects for its 80th and beyond. See the Atlantic Monthly cover story: ‘Is Israel Finished?’ Also the cover story in Canada’s leading news magazine, Maclean’s, which dispenses with the question mark: “Why Israel Can’t Survive.”

A succinct summary of today’s erosions, wastreling intellections posing as sound commentary, defeatist and meta-defeatist vernaculars, etc. As to succinct and telling, another excerpt:

Would I rather there were more countries like Israel, or more like Syria? Israel is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East (Iraq may yet prove a second), and its Arab citizens enjoy more rights than they would living under any of the kleptocrat kings and psychotic dictators who otherwise infest the region.

Continuing in the same fashion, now in the penultimate and closing graphs, worthy of some emphasis:

Contemporary Europeans are not exactly known for their moral courage: The reports one hears of schools quietly dropping the Holocaust from their classrooms because it offends their growing numbers of Muslim students suggest that even the pretense of “evenhandedness” in the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” will be long gone a decade hence.

The joke, of course, is that Israel, despite its demographic challenge, still enjoys a birth rate twice that of the European average. All the reasons for Israel’s doom apply to Europe with bells on. And, unlike much of the rest of the West, Israel has the advantage of living on the front line of the existential challenge. “I have a premonition that will not leave me,” wrote Eric Hoffer, America’s great longshoreman philosopher, after the 1967 war. “As it goes with Israel so will it go with all of us.”

So, indeed, thoughtful, succinct and supremely fitting. All too fitting, which likely gets to the heart of your problem with Steyn: far easier to employ a tout court dismissiveness via a sneer than risk engagement and cogency and the logic that would ensue.

183

Righteous Bubba 05.17.08 at 3:02 pm

the heart of your problem with Steyn: far easier to employ a tout court dismissiveness

Well, that’s what you do with UFO nuts and that’s what you do with Steyn. You may be correct that he’s written something thoughtful, but he’s been wrong or stupid enough that nobody with sense takes him seriously.

184

abb1 05.17.08 at 4:02 pm

Calling an armed to the teeth racist settler state “liberal democracy” doesn’t strike me as thoughtful.

185

Michael B 05.17.08 at 4:27 pm

No form, no substance, not even a feather-weight of sense. Genuinely vapid, oft-repeated smears and sneers are a dime, or ten-pence a hundred in these narrow, ideological confines.

186

geo 05.17.08 at 5:00 pm

Michael, please moderate your eloquence or we shall be overwhelmed, nay paralyzed.

187

abb1 05.17.08 at 5:36 pm

Michael, would you care to elaborate? I’m genuinely curious. What are these smears and sneers you speak of?

Steyn’s oeuvre is readily available in the public domain and people are free to draw their own conclusions. What is your beef, exactly?

188

Michael B 05.17.08 at 6:06 pm

You’d be more prudent if you were heed the advice demanded above, to ignore me; indeed, for the mobius-strip commentators here I positively encourage it. If you “genuninely” wanted engagement, via Steyn or otherwise plenty has been offered. Instead, it’s sneers and meta-sneers, cute and meta-cute, b.s. and meta-b.s., summary dismissiveness, repeated ad infinitum, etc.; mobius strip “thinking”.

Again, that advice. Heed it.

189

geo 05.17.08 at 6:45 pm

What do you say, comrades? Shall we, however reluctantly, take Michael’s advice?

190

Michael B 05.17.08 at 7:49 pm

Mr. Reluctance,

You already have, you simply haven’t admitted as much to yourselves, which fact, in addition to furnishing a few eye-raising lols, speaks volumes. It’s known as saving the appearances.

Here’s a thought: very simply, do it.

191

geo 05.17.08 at 8:14 pm

Well, all right, if you insist, we’ll try. You could help us greatly, you know, by simply …

192

Michael B 05.17.08 at 8:46 pm

I have and I am, I was never commenting for the sake of that portion of the commentariat here as previously described. Too, that you require such “help” only adds to the eye-raising self-parody occurring herein. It’s as if, in some type of unconsciously masochistic mode, you’ve spotted a laughing-stock in the middle of the town square and, imagining it to be quite the strategem, have decided to place yourself in it, unassisted.

But for now, since the subject of Iraq has been overtly taken up and the subject of self-blindered ideologues has more tacitly been evidenced, Iraq, in City Journal, by way of a couple of gentlemen with handsome names and, more importantly, are reporting from within the theater in question, providing empirical and timely support to their arguments.

193

geo 05.17.08 at 10:15 pm

Dear Michael, I meant that you could greatly help us to ignore you by simply holding your tongue. Of course, we’d miss you …

194

Michael B 05.17.08 at 10:43 pm

This is the third or fourth time in this thread someone has felt the need to unravel and plumb the deeps of the patently obvious. Here’s a clue: this veneer and pretence you folks trade in here – from the common commentariat to Bérubé-esque highbrows – is gossamer thin. Keep believing otherwise though as that’s where the bemusement and occasionally some raw, eye-raising mirth comes in. Some simpletons are born that way, some come to it via adaptation and habituation and the self-blinkered egoism that grounds it all so solidly.

195

engels 05.18.08 at 2:25 am

Thank you, and good night.

196

Michael B 05.18.08 at 11:03 am

You turned out the lights a long time ago.

197

engels 05.18.08 at 2:47 pm

Cheerio then.

198

Brownie 05.18.08 at 8:57 pm

The idea that 1441 licensed war is farcical and Brownie knows it. To begin with, no one agrees with him.

Including Brownie. You’ll be unable to find a single line of commentary from me in this thread or anywhere else on the world wide web that supports your assertion that I believe 1441 “licensed” war. I know you’re not the sharpest tool in the box, Hidari, but this just smacks of your not being arsed to actually read what I’ve written. You’ve skimmed my comments and seen the words “Iraq”, “1441” and “war” and just made up the rest. This is why most people ignore you.

Iraq simply found it very difficult to comply.

I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, please stop.

And let’s not even mention Israel.

Except you always do. You and abb1 see dem Jooos everywheres.

As for the meaning of “spurning” and “compliance”: To pretend to comply, as Saddam did, is not to “reject with disdain and contempt.” And of course one can comply “a bit”; or, for that matter, a quarter or a half or two-thirds or three-quarters. What can you mean by denying this? I fear you’re playing the “word games” you deplored earlier.[geo]

You write something like “to pretend to comply, as Saddam did, is not to “reject with disdain and contempt”” and then suggest I’m playing word games?

It’s simple. The inspectors ask to visit place X and you take them to place X. They ask to see document Y and you show them document Y. They demand to speak with person Z and you ensure they are given access to Z. Even Hidari could get this right after 12 years. If Saddam was “pretending to comply” then he was failing even at this. Who did he fool with his pretending, exactly? Other than you, of course?

This thread should be preserved in aspic so future historians can have a good giggle. After 12 years of deliberate obstruction, Iraq’s refusal to allow inspectors to see what they wanted to see and interview whomever they wanted to interview can’t possibly be described as “spurning” the “final opportunity” she was offered, no doubt because, as Hidari has noted, it was “very difficult” for Iraq to comply…..

You can’t write this stuff, yet every time I pop over here I see that someone has.

199

geo 05.18.08 at 11:42 pm

Yes, it is simple: to pretend to comply, or to comply less than fully, is not the same as to refuse contemptuously to comply at all, which is what “spurn” means. As for your indignant repudiation that you thought SCR 1441 provided a legal basis for invading Iraq without further Security Council authorization: well, you certainly had all of us fooled.

Sorry we don’t come up to your argumentative standards, but if you’ve really given up all hope of either enlightening us or learning anything from us — and I hope you haven’t — then perhaps, for your own peace of mind, you should simply shake us off like the dust from your shoes.

200

abb1 05.19.08 at 6:59 am

Tsk, tsk, tsk…

201

Hidari 05.19.08 at 7:21 am

‘You’ll be unable to find a single line of commentary from me in this thread or anywhere else on the world wide web that supports your assertion that I believe 1441 “licensed” war.’

So….why are you making such a big deal about 1441 then?

Comments on this entry are closed.