Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia

by John Quiggin on March 2, 2006

When I first saw this Fox caption capture from Media Matters linked at Surfdom, I thought it was some sort of aberration. But the idea that civil war in Iraq would be a good thing has already made it into the opinion pages of The Australian , propounded by Daniel Pipes. The same from James Joyner and Vodkapundit, though Glenn Reynolds demurs mildly.

Meanwhile, as Tim D notes, doublethink is SOP at Fox. As far as I can tell, the official pro-war position now emerging is

* there is no civil war in Iraq
* there will be no civil war in Iraq
* if civil war comes, it won’t be our fault
* when civil war comes, it will be a good thing

Unfortunately, at this point there’s not much anyone can do. The US and Uk have long since lost control of the situation, and the dynamic has gone beyond the control of any individual or group in Iraq. We’ll just have to hope that the Iraqi leaders (Sistani and Sadr on the Shia side, and the various groups contending to represent the Sunni Arabs and Kurds, among others) can pull something out of the fire between them.

{ 93 comments }

1

John Lederer 03.02.06 at 7:19 am

But, but…fomenting a revolution (and almost certain civil war) in Iraq was what many opposed to U.S. invasion argued was what we should do when pressed on an alternative policy .

2

Chris b 03.02.06 at 7:51 am

As someone who supported the intervention I can’t believe that others on my ‘side’ are seeing this as anything other than a catastrophe, caused IMHO in large part by not sending ENOUGH troops to actually bring order after the fighting was over.

It’s Mr Rumsfeld again of course, he shouldn’t be in his job, and probably shouldn’t have been in there before this happened. Not that his employment prospects will change anything on the ground. I too hope that civil war doesn’t happen, Iraqis have suffered too much war and oppression since the seventies for them to come this close to acheiving what most of them actually want.

3

almostinfamous 03.02.06 at 8:07 am

we are, as a wise man once said, thoroughly boned.

4

Jeremy 03.02.06 at 8:38 am

Oh, come on, John. In Seattle, spring 2004, I participated in an antiwar meeting (although, I admit, I was for military intervention before I was against it!) and the prevailing sentiment was that if things went badly enough it would ensure Bush’s electoral defeat. One odious speaker specifically mentioned the “inevitable” clash between Sunnis and Shiites. Enthusiastically. His argument went: 1) Iraqis had lived together peacefully until Western meddling. 2) Yes, Iraqis cheered the overthrow of Hussein, but “democracy” in Iraq would be rigged and illusory. 3) Sunnis and Shiites (no mention of the Kurds) would clash at the ballot box and their differences would “inevitably” erupt into civil war. 4) Would this happen soon enough to affect the U.S. elections?

5

Arthur Davidson Ficke 03.02.06 at 8:49 am

This sort of reminds me the the recent New York Times editorial telling us not to worry about Iran getting nuclear weapons.

There seems to be a consensus in some liberal quarters that it would be good for Iran to have nuclear weapons as it would stop U.S. expansionism in the region.

6

Daniel 03.02.06 at 9:17 am

bloody pseudo-left. I suppose you think that the Iraqis aren’t “ready” for civil war? Well let me tell you, the USA had a civil war and they’ve never looked back.

7

Martin James 03.02.06 at 9:18 am

I think the first duty of a free person is to prefer civil war to a dictator.

But then again, 1984 was My Favorite Year.

8

otto 03.02.06 at 9:49 am

“As someone who supported the intervention I can’t believe that others on my ‘side’ are seeing this as anything other than a catastrophe”

Is there not something of a delusion here? The social forces supporting the war are much more accurately represented by Daniel Pipes/Fox News than by Chris B. and so it is not surprising that Daniel Pipes/Fox News like the actual outcome (IMHO likely even with 100,000 extra troops) much better than some of those along for the ride?

9

ed_finnerty 03.02.06 at 10:14 am

that is the first time I have heard the invasion called an ‘intervention’. Is this the new PR spin word for it. As in, Iraq had a drug problem and we intervened. Come on – if you supported it at least call it by a meaningful name.

10

soru 03.02.06 at 10:28 am

the official pro-war position

I think that might well deserve an entry of it’s own in some kind of survey of fallacies. If you divide people up according to wrong categories you will get incoherent results, you might as well say the opinions of tall people are split, consequently tall people are confused.

The mainstream sides, in US discussions of Iraq right now, are more:

1. pro-elected-Iraqi-government
2. pro-occupation
3. pro-defeat-for-Bush.
4. pro-start-and-win-a-different-war

Those categories are based on what people think is the best obtainable outcome. They cross both party lines and the divisions based on the original decision to go to war: admittedly, not too many republicans in group 3, but there are some, and, I suspect, that number will grow.

Obviously, there are fringe figures who are primarily pro-Islamist, pro-Kurdish, pro-defeat-for-america, pro-war-in-principle, etc, but those are the main ones, at least in terms of public debate.

soru

11

zdenek 03.02.06 at 10:42 am

john- actually your 4 different views that you ascribe to pro war supporters is better seen as 2 views:
1) optimistic outlook says that there is not and will not be a civil war.
2) pessimist outlook says that war is aposibility .

The stuff about whose fault it is and whether it may be a strategic advantage if it happens is a gloss on the pesimistic stance. But this is how things have always stood as far as I can tell so I am afraid your take does sound like wishfull thinking caused by strong case of shadenfreude.

12

lemuel pitkin 03.02.06 at 11:03 am

There seems to be a consensus in some liberal quarters that it would be good for Iran to have nuclear weapons as it would stop U.S. expansionism in the region.

Well, I for one, do in fact think it would be good for Iran to have nuclear weapons because it would stop U.S. “interventions” in the Middle East.

My reasoning?

1. A U.S. invasion of Iran (or Syria) is a real possibility.
2. Such an invasion would be a catastrophe.
3. If Iran has nuclear weapons, it won’t happen.

To be honest, I don’t even see the downside. An armed society is a polite society, as the man says.

13

mike d 03.02.06 at 11:52 am

Have to agree with #12. Bush’s nu-cu-lar pact with India proves articlulates the new reality: “The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty says you can’t develop nukes. Unless you do–then we can sell you parts.” Clearly, international law won’t restrain the US–mutual assured destruction is all the world has left.

14

Lurker 03.02.06 at 12:10 pm

Again the U. S. of A. pokes its nose into another nation. Remember Central America? Again she makes a mess of it. A unholy disastourous cesspool. Again Europe is succumbing to emotional blackmail. Plus ca change…

Given that the U.S. is a technological powerhouse, superbly intelligent, wonderfully endowed with natural resources, gems of individuals with the best of intentions, people with an inherent desire and drive to achieve, in short a great civilisation, why in heavens can she not just leave this godforsaken place we unwashed scum call the earth and colonise Jupiter, Mars and the Moon being too close to home?

15

aaron 03.02.06 at 12:13 pm

I would consider civil war in Iraq to be a wash. Not bad or good for us.

It’s still better than what was there before.

16

Brendan 03.02.06 at 12:44 pm

Well I think it would be a very bad thing if Iran got nuclear weapons.

However, can I point out one little problem in the Blair position vis a vis this matter?

Blair tells us (unlike Bush) that global warming is one of the major threats currently facing humanity (and in this he is right). However, his ‘solution’ is to build lots of nuclear reactors. Cos obviously it was such a great success the last time we tried this.

So: the solution to global warming is nuclear power.

Therefore: Iran should be ENCOURAGED to pursue its peaceful nuclear power programme, yes?

17

ECW 03.02.06 at 12:45 pm

“I think the first duty of a free person is to prefer civil war to a dictator.”

I know this was said as a joke, but I must admit the current situation has directly informed my student’s discussions of Hobbes this semester; you couldn’t articulate old Thomas’s message any better, in reverse. The funny thing is that in the past all my Republican students have preferred Hobbes to Rousseau. But now that we have a political situation in Iraq that verifies the argument of Leviathan (any sovereign at all is better than civil war), they have suddenly become fans of the Frenchman. Odd, that.

18

Brendan 03.02.06 at 12:49 pm

I should point out that according to Juan Cole the US is no longer in the ‘pro-elected-Iraqi-government’ position (if it ever was). They used to quite like Jaafari, apparently, until he admitted that he admired Noam Chomsky and would like him to visit Iraq (!). Mysteriously he forgot to mention how much he was impressed by Christopher Hitchens or the bunch of Blairites at Harry’s Place. Perhaps MEMRI is working on a translation of a speech in which he states that he is part of the ‘decent’ left even as we speak.

Anyway, the Chomsky thing was probably the last straw for the Americans, and, again according to Cole, they are now doing everything they can to undermine him. This is of course unconnected to the fact that the first thing a genuinely democratic Iraqi government would do would be to ask the Occupiers to leave, like, now.

Democracy is a funny old thing isn’t it? What would the reaction of the Americans be, do we wonder, if a plot to undermine the President were uncovered being run by Iraq, or Iran even. It would certainly be interesting to behold.

19

jet 03.02.06 at 12:55 pm

Oh right, it would just be dandy for Iran to have nuclear weapons. Frigg’n idiots. For those waxing on about how daisy the Middle-East would become, if only the US could be forced out, maybe you should learn a little about Islam. Just like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a belief in the final apocalypse. And Ahmadinejad believes that he is the 12th Imam (as do a lot of his followers).

I know you probably fear US religous people more than just about any people on the face of the Earth. But in your tiny imaginations, just try to believe that a country that used thousands of unarmed children tied together as a method to wear out Iraqi machine gunners, just might be able of electing the religious nut you all believe Bush to be.

Put that in your crack pipe and smoke it.

20

Hektor Bim 03.02.06 at 1:10 pm

What exactly do people think the US is going to invade Iran with? Since Iraq is chewing up the US military, I think it highly unlikely that any Iran invasion is in the cards. Supporting nuclear weapons for a country whose elected leaders have publicly threatened to wipe their enemies off the map seems like a bad course of action.

21

abb1 03.02.06 at 1:11 pm

Mr. Pipes is absolutely correct: as he is at war with Muslims (especially half-devil-and-half-child Arabs), thus any fighting among them is good, while their unity would be the most terrible outcome. And that’s not only in Iraq but everywhere: in Palestine of course, in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, you name it.

Every time a PLO fella point his AK47 in a general direction of a Hamas fella, Mr. Pipes has an orgazm. Sunnis and Shias killing each other is not that exciting, bit still very nice.

Oh, and I also think that nuclear-armed Iraq would be positive, all things considered. Someone needs to stop this madness. Gotta find some kind of balance somehow.

22

Iron Lungfish 03.02.06 at 1:11 pm

And Ahmadinejad believes that he is the 12th Imam (as do a lot of his followers).

This right here is crap. Ahmadinejad no more believes he is the Mahdi than James Dobson believes he is the second coming of Christ. Both believe in their own respective apocalypses; neither believes they are the messiah.

Again I have to ask, though, why the right insists on focusing so much on Ahmadinejad when the president of Iran has never been the true power in the country. Khameni and the Guardian Council run Iran, and have done so ever since Khomeini’s death.

23

"Q" the Enchanter 03.02.06 at 1:19 pm

“when civil war comes, it will be a good thing”

Right–it’s the “flypaper theory” writ large.

24

Daniel 03.02.06 at 1:29 pm

And Ahmadinejad believes that he is the 12th Imam

Of course he doesn’t and if he did, the clerics would have got rid of him pronto as an apostate.

25

jet 03.02.06 at 1:43 pm

Just to get this straight, posters here think it would be fine for a government with little value for human life and focused on bringing about the return of the 12th Imam (which includes an apocoplypse), to have nuclear weapons?

26

abb1 03.02.06 at 1:55 pm

I have to admit I’ve never heard of this 12th immam shit, but it sounds like a rational response to our own Madman Strategy.

27

Iron Lungfish 03.02.06 at 2:06 pm

Just to get this straight, posters here think it would be fine for a government with little value for human life and focused on bringing about the return of the 12th Imam (which includes an apocoplypse), to have nuclear weapons?

The entire Christian Zionist movement is predicated on the notion of steering U.S. foreign policy towards the return of Jesus (which also includes an apocalypse). The United States, as you may have heard, also has nuclear weapons.

28

alex 03.02.06 at 2:09 pm

“Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia”

Eastasia. Unless you were going for some sort of double irony, which I don’t think is the case.

29

mike d 03.02.06 at 2:11 pm

I’m not suggesting that any expansion of nuclear firepower is a good thing; however, the notion that the US can prevent a country from aquiring nuclear weapons is becoming more and more antiquated (witness N. Korea). Really, what are we going to do? An Iraq-style invasion? Preemptive nuclear strike? We’re eventually going to have to sit across the negotiating table from these people, and the sooner we get past the “Axis of Evil” style posturing, the sooner we can get this thing resolved.

30

jet 03.02.06 at 3:32 pm

Oh that’s right. Bush was elected on the Christian Zionist movement that is actively trying to bring about the apocolypse.

31

abb1 03.02.06 at 4:05 pm

Oh that’s right. Bush was elected on the Christian Zionist movement that is actively trying to bring about the apocolypse.

Yeah, right – that ridiculous, but everything you said about Ahmadinejad believing this or that is undeniable truth.

32

Jeremy 03.02.06 at 5:03 pm

it would be good for Iran to have nuclear weapons because it would stop U.S. “interventions” in the Middle East.

An armed society is a polite society.

?!! (utterly speechless)

33

lemuel pitkin 03.02.06 at 5:41 pm

I spelled out my premises, Jeremy. Which one is wrong?

As an American, I would MUCH rather live in a country that was very reluctant to throw its weight around militarily. And a nuclear-armed Iran would be a big step in that direction. Good for them, good for us.

34

soru 03.02.06 at 6:04 pm

Yeah, right – that ridiculous, but everything you said about Ahmadinejad believing this or that is undeniable truth.

Because, of course, it is a priori impossible for two countries to be different in any way.

A just-so story:

A lot of transnational political discussion resembles 19C linguistics, which largely consisted of highly learned 7 volume essays on why French/English/German/Sanskrit/… was intrinsically superior to all other languages.

Consequently, international conferences in linguistics were dominated by non-productive and bitter arguments, which could never be settled because the ones who knew the most had the strongest, and most conflicting, views.

Eventually, the whole field adopted a working assumption that all ‘full languages’ (i.e. not pidgins or creoles) were functionally equivalent. That certainly made conferences go better, though nobody particularly knows if it is true or not.

Some people, including those with a linguistic background, seem to want to adopt an analogy of that principle in international relations.

Others say, well, if nuclear weapons are being thrown around, maybe we should be careful of exactly what assumptions we make, and why…

soru

35

Jonathan Schwarz 03.02.06 at 6:59 pm

posters here think it would be fine for a government with little value for human life and focused on bringing about the return of the 12th Imam (which includes an apocoplypse), to have nuclear weapons?

Jet, have you seen the movie Hearts and Minds?

36

Jackmormon 03.02.06 at 8:37 pm

C’mon, Christian Zionism shouldn’t be too wierd a concept! Utah remains the reddest of red states, right?

37

Robin Green 03.02.06 at 8:46 pm

Some people, including those with a linguistic background, seem to want to adopt an analogy of that principle in international relations.

You seem to be insinuating that people like Noam Chomsky want to view some other country (which one, may I ask?) as intrinsically superior to the US.

On the contrary, Chomsky regards the US as one of the freest countries in the world, and he has never advocated that any country should behave as the US does in international affairs. Rather, he advocates that the US should be held to the same standard that warmongers demand of other countries, if we are to take those standards seriously.

Also, he visited my university (UCD) a few weeks ago, and stated to a packed hall of hundreds of people, quite sincerely (and incorrectly, sadly) “Of course, no-one wants Iran to have nuclear weapons. But US actions are making that possibility more likely.” You can’t get much clearer than that.

38

derrida derider 03.02.06 at 10:36 pm

Not living in Iran I don’t want them to have nukes, but if I lived in Iran I would want it. Even the Iranian opposition (both domestic and in exile) agree with the mullahs about this.

IOW Chomsky is right – it’s Bush’s actions and rhetoric that make it imperative, from an Iranian POV, for them to get nukes.

Conservatives, above all, should be aware of the law of unintended consequences – which is why this Iraq stuff was such criminal (literally) stupidity on their part.

39

derrida derider 03.02.06 at 10:38 pm

Oh, and as for Pipes, this latest article confirms my opinion that the whole lot of these warmongers should be in the dock in the Hague. They’ve caused more bloodshed than Milosevic with even less excuse.

40

lemuel pitkin 03.02.06 at 11:41 pm

derrida derrider makes the key point: given US policy and statements over the past few years, it would be absolutely insane for Iran not to acquire nukes. I mean look at it — I know this sounds like crazy talk, but bear with me — look at it from their point of view for a moment.

The US has just invaded a neighboring country and made it quite clear that, if means are available, they’d like to pursue “regime change” in Iran too. International treaties and bodies clearly are not a constraint on the US. NOT having nukes is no defense either — look where that got Saddam.
Clearly, the only way the Iranians can be sure their country won’t be smashed into littl epieces by the US military (and don’t ask me “with what troops?”; there are plenty of planes and missiles) is to have a credible deterrent. I mean, if I were Iranian, I’d be marching in the streets demanding “nukes now!”

41

jet 03.03.06 at 12:32 am

How could anyone believe this “Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one.”???

If the US wasn’t forced to stop the bloodshed (which it would be, and at high cost to US troops), then the UN/EU would be forced to stop the fighting. This would make Western presence in Iraq completely impossible as the entire population (except the Kurds) would be overtly hostile to outsiders. Before the lead stopped flying, I’m sure Iran, Syria, and Turkey would all have troops committed (and not to helping the US’s position).

So besides the wholesale purposeful slaughter of innocents this would involve, it would be a disaster for the US strategically.

42

'As you know' Bob 03.03.06 at 12:49 am

38,40. There were three members of “The Axis of Evil”. Bush attacked the only one of the three without any “WMD-related programs activities” at all.
The message could not have been clearer: if you don’t want to be deposed by force of arms, get yourself some nukes, and as soon as possible.
Thus, the current status of NK and Iran.

Back on topic: the message discipline of the GOP and their pet media is remarkable. One estimate says that 1400 Iraqis have been killed in the past week of sectarian violence. And yet they are still (successfully!) denying that Iraq has now descended into Civil War.
What would it take to be called “a civil war”?

Apparently no one will be allowed to describe the situation in Iraq as “a civil war” until somebody starts shelling Ft. Sumner.

43

abb1 03.03.06 at 2:09 am

Because, of course, it is a priori impossible for two countries to be different in any way.

There’s more truth to this statement than you think.

44

rollo 03.03.06 at 2:25 am

“This Iraq stuff was such … stupidity on their part” only if you accept the official reasons given for the undertaking.
Criminal, yes, literally, yes, but stupid only if they weren’t lying about why they did it.
It’s telling how readily even the most polarized liberals accept the word of these heartless proven liars when it comes to motive.
With a little nudge nudge wink wink about the, you know, oil and everything.
With the billions Halliburton has sucked out of the war economy it’s ludicrous to even consider they couldn’t have had the oil revenues as well. if that had been a priority.
A few of us have been saying for some time that this is what they wanted all along. A broken Iraq. A nation atomized and crippled with poverty and turmoil.
In order to debate that though we’d have to agree on who “they” are.
And as long as liberals keep insisting that George Bush, a man who can barely tie his own shoes in public, engineered and prosecuted this debacle essentially on his own, that won’t happen.

45

goatchowder 03.03.06 at 4:49 am

42, isn’t it “Ft. Sumter”?

I think “Ft. Sumner” might be one of Sting’s residences.

46

soru 03.03.06 at 4:50 am

You seem to be insinuating that people like Noam Chomsky want to view some other country (which one, may I ask?) as intrinsically superior to the US.

Err, no.

Look at #43, from abb1, who I don’t think would mind being called a big chomsky fan, to see what I was getting at.

In particular, there is quite a big difference, as societies and countries, between Iran and Iraq.

Humans are remarkably equal, so the principle ‘all humans should be treated equally’ works at a pragmatic level, with only the occasional adjustment.

In my view, and in contrast, countries are as different from each other as animals are, and treating them the same is as stupid as keeping your dog in a fishtank or taking a goldfish for a walk.

47

abb1 03.03.06 at 6:13 am

You lost me, Soru.

The point of my comment was this: why should US president’s mental stability be given every benefit of the doubt while Iran’s persident readily assumed to be a madman?

Is it because countries are as different from each other as animals are – is that your response?

48

abb1 03.03.06 at 6:18 am

And who is the one to decide whether countries should be kept in a fishtank or taken for a walk?

49

zdenek 03.03.06 at 6:44 am

abb1 — re your # 47 comments : George W Bush may be mad but we find some accountability and oversight.( the claim is not that the oversight is perfect or even that it is always functioning but merely that it exusts ) I would have thought that is obvious. What legal oversight do you suppose exists in totalitarian outfits ?

50

abb1 03.03.06 at 7:01 am

There is no oversight whatsoever when it comes to pushing that big red button. The most dangerous incident in world’s history – the Cuban missile crisis – was handled on the US side by JFK personally with fewer than a dozen of his cronies, all (iirc) unelected. That’s fewer people than the Soviet Politburo; they had 15, I think.

51

zdenek 03.03.06 at 7:41 am

abb1– but note that the information you now have available regarding this dangerous handling of the crisis is in the public sphere and a pressure can put on institutions that handled the fiasco. What pressure can public exsert in totalitarian regimes zero.

52

zdenek 03.03.06 at 7:43 am

abb1- for instance the communist party of czechoslovakia was completely outside the law but could control the law ; what parallels exist in the US ?

53

abb1 03.03.06 at 8:13 am

We were talking about nuclear weapons here – there’s no law in the US that regulates nuclear attack – one single person makes the decision. There is no difference in this respect from any totalitarian regime, it’s exactly the same.

I’d say in a totalitarian regime it would be more difficult for a mad guy to get to the top than in a democracy; otoh, in totalitarian regimes once they get to the top they stay there for decades and can get insane eventually.

So, I don’t know which system is safer in this respect. I think the most likely scenario is that a mad fella is elected democratically and then turns it into totalitarian regime.

54

zdenek 03.03.06 at 8:42 am

abb1– you are not responding to the point I made about transparancy . In western democracies the decision procedure that a leader falls back on is known to us the public( look you have described it and made a point about it )and can be assessed whether by historians or scholars studying administration or artists making movies about it or what ever . This public knowledge and limited pressure we can exsert constitutes legitimation.
Again no parallels with Iran or the other outlaw states.

55

abb1 03.03.06 at 8:54 am

I have no idea what you’re talking about. If a US president happens to be crazy, I don’t see how this alleged transparency is going to stop him from annihilating the planet.

56

Barbar 03.03.06 at 9:02 am

zdenek does not appear to be familiar with the history of the Vietnam war… also, for all the transparency of the American government, people are still enter totally good-faith arguments today about why we went to war in Iraq.

57

zdenek 03.03.06 at 9:36 am

abb1– I am making a small and a modest point about how you get sort of feedback mechanism with liberal democracies which permits ( because of transparancy ) modification of the way things are done so that the crazy guy cannt get away with it. We can see it comming ( mad dog president pressing the red button )and so we can take steps to make it hard for him . I am suprised that this is contraversial ?

58

jet 03.03.06 at 9:39 am

I would have thought Vietnam would have made Zdenek’s point. That strong public protests over the war changed the governments stance on the war. In a place like Iran, the public is not even in possession of the tools to have strong public protests about anything (unless you missed those ransacked Iranian dorm rooms with doors kicked down and blood smeared on the walls as the Iranian secret police hauled off those strong public protests).

Also the fact that a Democracy entrusts the power to start and respond to a nuclear war should not only tell you the trust the Democracy voluntarily places in their leaders, but also something about the vetting process. Hard to imagine career politicians, who live and die by public polls, doing something rash (Iraq may have been highly questionable, but the polls showed it was not “something rash”).

Can this be said of Iran? Were the power brokers in Iran vetted to weed out craziness and make sure there was a strong respect for public opinion?

59

zdenek 03.03.06 at 9:46 am

barbar– that people dissagree about things in public is a good thing especially huge things like going to war no ? About Vietnam : it illustrates my point actually very well because it involves demonstration how US administration’s reasons for going to war and the whole effort ( see the role of press in generating public reaction ) can come under public scrutiny. Again was there a debate in Soviet Union when it went into Afghanistan or Iraq when it started a war with Iran ?

60

zdenek 03.03.06 at 10:17 am

lemuel pitkin- two mistakes , first its obviously wrong to believe that you will be immune from attack if you have a nuclear weapon ( especially if its not easily deliverable ) situation is not comparable to cold war position where both parties were moreorless equally matched. The west is some 50 years ahead of Iran in this department and hence Iran is likely to have such a weapon simly destroyed and it will not be able to do anything about it.
But second, so what that there is a reason from Iranian point of view to have such a weapon. This doesnt show anything about whether it is a good reason. Jack the Ripper had a reason to murder a score of women ( from his point of view it was a good thing to do ) but that does not show that his reasons were good. Similarly you should be asking whether it is a good reason from a moral point of view and not just from Iranian poit of view. If your way of viewing the matter was valid than its easy to justify Iraq war : from neocon point of view there was a reason to do it. Is this good enough, no .

61

Barbar 03.03.06 at 10:45 am

First off, I said that people are arguing about why we actually went to Iraq, not just if we should have gone to Iraq. How’s that for transparency?

Secondly, if you think Vietnam represents a triumph of rational public oversight over insane government policy, I don’t know what a screwup would look like. Gulf of Tonkin, illegal bombing in Cambodia, bombing the crap out of Vietnam, over a decade there plus 60,000 American dead not to speak of the wounded. Plus don’t forget that the thoughtful American citizens whose democratic protests changed American policy were actually dirty back-stabbing hippies who sold out our brave soldiers and cost us a war we were winning.

Third, if Iranian leaders didn’t have to care about public opinion, they wouldn’t have to talk so much about blowing Israel off the map, would they?

62

zdenek 03.03.06 at 11:17 am

barbar– the thrust of the left critique ( Moore, Chomsky and these are just the highly visible stars ) is whether US should have gone i.e. it is a critique of the invasion ; it is not just an explanation of it but rather a condemnation of it ( even people who are not on the left such as Fukuyama are critical ). Where do you find analogues in Iran ( or anywhere in Middle East except in Israel )?
Re Vietnam my point was not that transparancy is a magic wand that can prevent all wars . The claim is a modest one that it can lead to improvement through self criticism and institutional change .:-)

63

Barbar 03.03.06 at 2:11 pm

I’m not sure when the “thrust of the left critique” became the topic of discussion. I was making a claim that we don’t really have transparency in America right now, as evidenced by arguments about “why we really went to war,” which can be between pro-war folk, or between anti-war folk, or between pro-war and anti-war folk. Your reply that most people who argue about the war argue about other things is pretty irrelevant to that; for one thing, it doesn’t prove anything about transparency, or that anti-war opinion has the slightest effect on the war effort (or at least any more than it has anywhere else).

Furthermore, if transparency leads to only criticism and gradual reform, then that’s not really that comforting. In Vietnam, it took about 20 years and lots of dead bodies before America decided, “Yeah, maybe this is a mistake.”

Finally, as mentioned above, an argument can be made that Iranian blustering about Israel is actually the very ideal of populist pandering, which is another weakness of the “if the people like you then you can be trusted with big weapons” line of thinking.

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fifi 03.03.06 at 2:38 pm

#62, Iran has intellectuals, critics & etc., as one would expect of a society made up of mostly young people under the age of 30. It is a “democratic” society because that’s what relatively stable societies are. It has a system established by nationhood and protected by the people themselves. In some ways the system is less manipulative than American-style liberalism, in other ways more. It’s all relative: Iran is getting better, the US is getting worse. Or vice-versa. Who knows? Who’s helping?

Certainly if the US didn’t apply tremendous pressure on Iran, and didn’t propagate a discourse perceived by Muslims to be a continuous and permanent attack on them, the Iran government would have a harder time turning Iranians against the West. OTOH if the US did nothing Jet would have to submit to the authority of the 12th Iman. So it’s a delicate balancing act.

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abb1 03.03.06 at 2:38 pm

It doesn’t lead to any gradual reform. It leads to a different kind of rhetoric, different kind of demagoguery. The “domino theory” won’t fly anymore, so the next time bobmings and death squads will be needed for some other reason – “war of terror” or something else.

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jet 03.03.06 at 4:45 pm

It must be such a blissfully ignorant world to be able to say it is all the US’s fault. To be able to view this situation as US aggressiveness against poor innocent Iran. And if I were to point at Iranian sponsoroed terrorism against Western targets, you’d probably just nod your head that the West had it coming. But what about all the Iranian sponsored terrorism in N. Africa, from Algeria to Eqypt? What about the Iranian affiliated groups in Turkey?

Fifi, hah, Iran is less manipulative only to the minority who agree with the hardline theocratic agenda. Otherwise you are saying that secret police, torture, arbitray justice, state controlled media are the same (or in some cases better) as the political spin in the US. Incredible that someone can believe a country that tortures and kills government critics could be seen as less manipulative than the US.

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fifi 03.03.06 at 6:49 pm

That’s true, in developing countries power, repression, individual agency and progress combine in ways that are more brutal and seem to us less subtle, more intentional and non-subjective. I wouldn’t want to be tortured in Iran for saying publicly the clerics embarrass Islam. But in the US where the state has already infiltrated successfully the lives of people, the prison population rate is significantly higher and trending worse. If that doesn’t amount to a severe restriction on freedom of expression, association and political participation, what does it amount to? Look: I’m not saying Iran is better; I’m saying giving it an ultimatum to improve next year or else does not mean it’s intrinsically worse.

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Gary Farber 03.03.06 at 9:22 pm

“The same from James Joyner….”

Having read Joyner’s piece, I don’t see where he’s saying anywhere that an Iraqi civil war “would be a good thing.”

He says that:

We owe it to the Iraqi people to do everything we can to help avert a civil war and give their fledgling democracy a chance. Saving them from themselves, however, is both beyond our power and responsibility. If they decide civil war is the only way to settle their longstanding disputes, we must stand aside and let them fight it and then try to salvage a relationship with the eventual victors. While that would be a bitter pill, indeed, after coming so close to achieving the incredibly ambitious vision of the neo-cons, it would nonetheless be preferable to the other alternatives.

Could you please quote the passage in which he says an Iraqi civil war “would be a good thing,” John, since that’s what you say he said?

Either I’m missing where Joyner said that, or you seem to have clearly (I’m sure not intentionally) misrepresented what he wrote. It’s possible that my eye is skipping over a relevant passage.

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John Quiggin 03.03.06 at 11:17 pm

Gary, the title of his piece is “Give Civil War a Chance” and the opening para includes a citation of Green saying “A civil war is the nastiest way to get a good result”. Rereading, I guess he disagrees with Green, but in a way that tends to prepare the audience for the idea that there are intractable problems in Iraq that can only be sorted out by civil war.

On balance, though, I agree that Joyner is closer to (iii) “if it comes, it won’t be our fault”.

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nick s 03.04.06 at 4:58 am

Incredible that someone can believe a country that tortures and kills government critics could be seen as less manipulative than the US.

Curiously, it appears that jet’s habit of posting while high on crack also robs him of any sense of irony. In the spirit of black humour, I might joke that torturing and killing outspoken critics has a filthy logic that’s lacking from the torturing and killing of random punters who got shopped by the local warlord.

But I shan’t, because that’s almost as silly as jet, who pissed away the last drop of his credibility with this, which I shall quote just because it’s so hilarious:

maybe you should learn a little about Islam. Just like Judaism and Christianity, Islam has a belief in the final apocalypse. And Ahmadinejad believes that he is the 12th Imam

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zdenek 03.04.06 at 5:10 am

fifi- could you please give me reference to work of Iranian artist or journalist working in Iran whose work is as critical of Iranian government and is *publically* available in Iran as say Michael Moore’s work is in US ? ( which bookshop sells Salman Rushdies work ? or Hirsi Ali ok she is not an Iranian but her work is critical of Islam ?).
But secondly if we cannot tell which country is better anymore and totalitarian set up is no different from liberal democracy this must be because as you say everything is relative . Please can you explain what your criticism of oppresion is based on then ? Do you see that if you are right about everything being relative then your own criticism of US foreign policy is at best just a pose ; what is the point ?

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abb1 03.04.06 at 5:31 am

Zdenek, could you clarify, please: which one is totalitarian and which one is liberal democracy?

It’s not clear to me: Iran has an elected parliament and elected president and the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, practices torture, death penalty, indefinite detention of “illegal combatants” identified personally by the supreme leader, etc.

Black&white kind of terminology doesn’t seem appropriate here.

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zdenek 03.04.06 at 6:05 am

abb1– just roughly totalitarian regime imposes single conception of good on public domain and private sphere. The conception of good in qeuestion can be secular ( Soviet Union ) or religious ( Iran )the key is that alternative conceptions are not tolerated and are actively supressed ( tolerance of other peoples views is seen as weakness an not a virtue ) ).Hence no meaningfull freedom of speach asociacion or religion.
Liberal democracies start with recognition that there are mutually incompatible equally well justified conceptions of good ( socialism or christianity )and hence seeks to accommodate all of them ( this is why tolerance is a virtue ). The tension is handled by relegating the differing and often incompatible conceptions of good to the private shere and demanding that public domain is a domain law law that is neutral vis-a-vis the private values. Hence we get meaningfull freedom of speach and asociation and religion.

US is on this scheme is not a totalitarian state wheras Iran is.

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zdenek 03.04.06 at 7:20 am

abb1– Iran a democracy ? forget it : the following bodies that control power are unelected and are made up of priests only : supreme leader , head of judiciary ,expediency council ,guardian council . What about the peolple ? well people’s candidates are vetted for them ( as if they were children ) by unelected body viz. guardian council and same goes for the candidate for the president. So in other words the legislation , the foreign policy or the education policy actually does not reflect peoples will but rather that of unelected clerical elite totally outside the law.
Because power rests with unelected people the set up is not a democracy and because power rests with the priests only it is a totalitarian regime.

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abb1 03.04.06 at 8:24 am

In the US those who control power are also unelected and made up of super-rich plutocrats only. But you don’t mind it, do you? That’s because you’re a True Believer, fully analogous to an Islamist.

Iran is an Islamic republic, naturally the power elite there is made of priests. The US is a capitalist republic – in the US it’s the super-rich. I see very little difference.

I don’t really care that much who the elite is, all I’m saying is that some balance between competing elites would be a healthy thing, otherwise the strongest one tends to get carried away and make troubles for everybody.

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zdenek 03.04.06 at 9:17 am

what would be the analogue of Expediency Council which imposes ideology and that cannot be criticised or challanged in any way ? What ideology is ‘the super rich ‘ : george soros is secular leftie while George Bush is religious right ? Are these guys cooperating behind the scenes to control you and me ? Hang on you mean the illuminati the jewish bankers, but isnt this what the Nazis thought ?

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jet 03.04.06 at 10:08 am

Fifi,
High levels of incarceration do to a legal system approved of by the general will of the people does not equate, in any way, to manipulation of the electorate. Such a leap of logic glosses over so many facts contrary to your conclusion, I have to wonder how much thought you put into that.

Abb1,
You are comparing the US, with many power wielding factions and subfactions, with wildly different desires, to Iran, with only one or two power wielding factions and subfactions, with pretty much the same desires. As Zdenek points out in 75, the two examples aren’t even close to similar (you probably also called the USSR a democracy)…….[It just struck me that you probably believe otherwise. That like Iran, the PLO, and every other luny Middle-East extremist, you probably believe the Freemasons, Luminata, the Zionist, and the Boy Scouts control not only Western society, but the Universe and everything in it. Yes, all the bad things in the world summed up in a neat little conspiracy theorist package.]

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abb1 03.04.06 at 10:50 am

Is this the “Ahmadinejad believes that he is the 12th Imam” guy talking?

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abb1 03.04.06 at 11:40 am

What ideology is ‘the super rich ’ : george soros is secular leftie while George Bush is religious right ?

Capitalist ideology. I thought I mentioned that.

Are these guys cooperating behind the scenes to control you and me ?

Sometimes they are cooperating, sometimes they’re fighting each other – just like Iranian mullahs. But they always have the power. What is it exactly you don’t understand here? What can be more obvious?

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fifi 03.04.06 at 2:31 pm

When I say Iran is not worse than the US with respect to the inherent nature of its Islamic politics (i.e. “intrinsically”) I am referring to its unsuccessful revolutionary break from the modern state project in which identical technologies of organization, surveillance, warfare and propaganda have been integrated without a seam in the lives and thinking of western liberals. It took us longer than 25 years to get to where Jet can say today without blushing that historically unprecedented rates of incarceration are the “general will of the people.” Give it some more time, Jet; eventually Iran too will become evil.

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jet 03.04.06 at 7:28 pm

Fifi,
What are you trying to say there? That Iran tried to become something other than a modern nation-state and failed? I’m not sure what you meant about western liberals, but I’m guessing you mean they are being influenced|controlled by modern technology. And that it took since the first Reagan administration for me to be able to say without blushing that the high number of people in jail is the result of stiff laws enacted by the will of the people? And then you end with some lovely patronizing about how Iran will become westernized (perhaps with democracy, freedom of the press, a list of rights, an end to arbitrary murder and killings, and huge power sapping backlash whenever the government steps out of line)?

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fifi 03.04.06 at 9:03 pm

Jet, 25 years ago Iran had a revolution. It overthrew the government of the Shah but also it was an attempt to go into the future by looking back to faith (Islam) instead of to modern methods of obedience, our own authoritarian program of cultural and economic modernization, which in Iran were being pursued by the Shah’s regime. Yes, Iran tried to become something other than a modern nation-state, and failed (though if I had to be born in a Muslim country in the Middle East today I’d choose Iran for reasons cultural and economic.) There isn’t much to choose between the old SAVAK and the theologically purer Ministry of Intelligence.

Your reading of my comment… we’re not on the same page, frankly.

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fifi 03.04.06 at 10:37 pm

P.S. You give a good example of the success of modern methods of obedience which Islamists revolt against and which to us seem more subjective and less intentional than brutal clerical justice: “stiff laws enacted by the will of the people.” See how obedient we are? Historic rates of incarceration are the ostensible wish of… freedom. I mean it’s magnificent.

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jet 03.04.06 at 11:28 pm

Fifi,
Putting drug dealers in jail is a popular thing in the US. So either the high levels of incarceration in the US are how free people have decided to deal with their criminals (a group having broken the social contract, forfeiting their rights), or you are saying that, the Man, ie the government, has used Fox News to manipulate the people into voting for politicians who are for strict drug laws?

You seem a very interesting fellow, and I would like to better understand your points.

[a side note, the US prison population would be more than halved if drugs were decriminalized, which I’m for in a way.]

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jet 03.04.06 at 11:30 pm

Fifi,
Also I would disagree that the US system is more subjective than the Iranian system. I would say that the US justice system strives for impartiality and objectivity while the Iranian system of clerical justice is about as subjective as it comes.

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fifi 03.05.06 at 1:46 am

It just happens to be the war on drugs. If you could end it tomorrow it’d be replaced with a different strategy of control because modern power pervades every aspect of our social and economic life (e.g. terrorism: the smallest risks are existential threats that justify increased control.)

“or you are saying that, the Man, ie the government, has used Fox News to manipulate the people into voting for politicians who are for strict drug laws?”

It’s not so simple a relationship as between a single causal agent and its effect. Control is many people and institutions dependent on each other for existence, feedback and redundancy.

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zdenek 03.05.06 at 5:14 am

fifi-
you clearly value freedom because the gist of you criticism of US is that it is a paradighm example of where ‘modern power’ pervades our lives and controls us. The background assumptions here are that freedom is a good thing and that emancipation and autonomy is a good thing?
Two observations to the extent that taking freedom seriously as you seem to do you subscribe at least tacitly to liberal conception of good ( which puts high premium on political and intellectual freedom ).
Second your talk of power pervading our lives suggests commitment to another enlightenment value viz . emancipation and autonomy.These are of course important components of a liberal outlook so your anti westernism seems a bit shallow if you ask me ; a bit of a pose ?

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zdenek 03.05.06 at 5:39 am

abb1
no capitalism is not an ideology but refers to an economic system in which means of production are largely privately owned and are operated for profit. This is simply a way of operating an economy of a country and not a set of philosophical ideas that provide a comprehensive outlook on the world.
Capitalists may be liberals , socialists,libertarians or nazis or christian fundamentalists.
So I ask what ideology do ‘super rich’ share ?

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zdenek 03.05.06 at 5:44 am

john Quiggin- I only present arguments and never use abusive language or hate speech so what is up with ‘moderating’ my comments ?

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zdenek 03.05.06 at 7:13 am

fifi– your gloss on Iranian revolution is interesting. You suggest that the project is to replace ‘modern methods of obedience’ with faith i.e. instead of submitting to propaganda , manipulation , and other methods of state control all of which are just methods of control Iran sought to achieve obedience through submision to God.

This seems to involve serious misunderstanding of what secular political legitimacy/obligation involves. Legitimacy in liberal democracies at least since Hobbes involves a contract that creates obligation on both parties when freely entered into. So the ‘obedience ‘ factor is just a self imposed obligation that I freely undertake because I want to and because I see some interest in doing so ( Kant provides aditional fleshing out of this way of looking at obligation). So I create the obligation when I enter into an agreement with you.
OK so the picture is more complicated than the one you present. Clearly some control involves what you call ‘modern methods of obedience’ but not all do and this is why I call you take on the matter a caricature. It cannot be taken seriously as analysis.

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abb1 03.05.06 at 8:43 am

Of course capitalism is an ideology and religion: it idolizes private property; property is the sacred cow. American liberal version of capitalism also idolizes individualism, individual freedoms (except when it contradicts the highest idol – property rights). It certainly is a comprehensive philosophical idea.

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zdenek 03.05.06 at 8:56 am

abb1-you are confusing the ideology which typically underwrites capitalism in US viz. liberalism or libertarianism and capitalism . These are different things and nothing follows from the fact that they go historically together.
You certainly can be a capitalist and be an egalitarian e.g Soros. who is virulently against Bush and against interventionism and against neocons. Or you can be a neocon and anti-capitalist like Blair.
You are misusing the term ‘ideology’!

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zdenek 03.05.06 at 9:05 am

abb1 — lets not quible about words. What is more important is that capitalists are not united by single ideology see African National Gongress which is the ruling party in South Africa and which is essentially socialist but is also capitalist !

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