Regime Change Doesn’t Work

by Henry on September 29, 2011

Alex Downes, who has just become a colleague of mine at GWU, has a “great piece”:http://www.bostonreview.net/BR36.5/ndf_alexander_b_downes_regime_change_doesnt_work.php on this topic, with this title, in the new _Boston Review._ Key paragraph:

bq. Is the bloody aftermath of regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq the exception or the rule? Does regime change work? The short answer is: rarely. The reasons for consistent failure are straightforward. Regime change often produces violence because it inevitably privileges some individuals or groups and alienates others. Intervening forces seek to install their preferred leadership but usually have little knowledge of the politics of the target country or of the backlash their preference is likely to engender. Moreover, interveners often lack the will or commitment to remain indefinitely in the face of violent resistance, which encourages opponents to keep fighting. Regime change generally fails to promote democracy because installing pliable dictators is in the intervener’s interest and because many target states lack the necessary preconditions for democracy.

The rest of the piece is a summary of political science’s findings on the (usually dismal) record of efforts by outside actors to change regimes. These findings:

bq. Despite what interveners hope, regime change implemented by outsiders is not a force for stability. More than 40 percent of states that experience foreign-imposed regime change have a civil war within the next ten years. Regime change generates civil wars in three ways. First, civil war can be part of the process of removing the old regime from power and suppressing its remnants. In Hungary in 1919, a Romanian invasion unseated the Communist regime of Béla Kun. His successor Miklós Horthy carried out a “White Terror” that killed roughly 5,000 supposed Communists, communist supporters, or sympathizers. Similar conflicts and purges followed the ousters of Arbenz in Guatemala and Allende in Chile.

bq. Second, regime change fosters civil war because it abruptly reverses the status of formerly advantaged groups. Remnants of the old regime’s leadership or army may wage an insurgency against the new rulers rather than accept a subordinate position. This happened in Cambodia following the Vietnamese invasion in December 1978. The Vietnamese army quickly defeated the Khmer Rouge in conventional battles, but Pol Pot, other top leaders, and many fighters escaped to remote jungle hideouts along the Thai and Laotian borders. Determined to regain power, the Khmer Rouge waged a decade-long insurgency against Vietnam’s puppet, Heng Samrin, and occupying forces. Similarly, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Sunni Ba’athist ex-soldiers took up arms to eject U.S. occupiers and restore Sunni rule.

are similar to Chris’s argument of a “few months ago”:https://crookedtimber.org/2011/03/18/the-people-disarmed/ that the Libyan intervention was unlikely to produce a stable government because

bq. Some Libyans may rally to the Gaddafi regime out of a sense of wounded national pride at outside interference. And even if Gaddafi falls (which I hope he will) the successor regime will lack the legitimacy it might have had, and will no doubt be resented and undermined by nationalist Gaddafi loyalists biding their time and representing it as the creature of the West.

Chris got some ill-considered flak for purportedly making a normative claim that any new regime would be ‘illegitimate,’ when he was in fact making an empirical argument which accords well with the state of the art among political scientists who study these issues.

{ 212 comments }

1

Ralph Hitchens 09.29.11 at 1:30 pm

Chris may be right new Libyan regime for other reasons, but I don’t think the legitimacy of the Libyan resistance movement can be questioned. They put enough of their own boots on the ground to earn it.

2

Ralph Hitchens 09.29.11 at 1:31 pm

“about the” left out. Thinking faster than typing, as usual.

3

Henry 09.29.11 at 1:47 pm

Ralph – the question is an empirical one, I think. It’s about whether or not the Libyan resistance has enough legitimacy (in the minimalist sense that people will be prepared to accept it as the new government) in the eyes of its own people to impose order and do the other things that states are supposed to do. And there is some literature out there to suggest that internal actors which receive strong support from external powers have a tougher time of securing this legitimacy than do others. I have no expert knowledge on Libyan politics, so can’t say whether this is, or is not, likely in this specific instance, but it is surely one of the questions that the broader empirical literature on regime change would push you to focus on.

4

TGGP 09.29.11 at 2:09 pm

Sounds similar to what Christopher Coyne said in “After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy”.

5

ajay 09.29.11 at 2:13 pm

More than 40 percent of states that experience foreign-imposed regime change have a civil war within the next ten years.

After its own foreign-imposed regime change, the US was able to manage seventy years before collapsing into civil war.

6

mds 09.29.11 at 2:32 pm

After its own foreign-imposed regime change, the US was able to manage seventy years before collapsing into civil war.

So the track record is better when the rebels are supported by … French absolute monarchs? Sarkozy’s ego notwithstanding, I fail to see how this helps us.

7

ajay 09.29.11 at 2:33 pm

Another missing point: yes, regime change can generate civil war, but also vice versa.

Take Libya: the externally-imposed regime change would surely not have happened in the absence of existing internal violence. And in Cambodia, the regime change in 1979 came shortly after another violently-imposed and foreign-supported regime change in 1975, which itself followed a long period of, pretty much, civil war between the government and the communists. Iraq had been in a state of civil war since 1991: the Kurdish area, about a quarter of the country, was outside the control of the Baghdad government. Afghanistan too, obviously.
For purely practical reasons, it’s less common for one nation to break into another and overthrow a regime that is widely supported and generally acknowledged as legitimate. (Exception, I suppose, Nazi Germany and Japan). It’s much easier to overthrow a regime if you can rely on the support and assistance of a significant section of the population which is already unhappy with the regime and, ideally, already in armed revolt. So the 40% statistic is a bit meaningless unless you accompany it with “what percentage of states that experience foreign-imposed regime change have had a civil war within the previous ten years, or are having one at the time of regime change?”

Since the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the United States has been the world’s foremost practitioner. Of the roughly one hundred cases of externally imposed regime change in that period, the United States has been responsible for more than twenty.

Russia, in the same period, can claim: Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Manchuria, Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand, Afghanistan, Khokand, Germany, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Tashkent, Merv and all the various khanates of the Caucasus. 22 at least and I’m sure I’ve missed some.
And Britain in that period must have racked up at least as many.

I suspect they are using some different definition of “regime change” here.

8

Q 09.29.11 at 2:33 pm

Of course, to say something ‘doesn’t work’, you have to specify what the goal is, and for whom. For instance the Allende>Pinochet regime change didn’t work for many, many Chileans, but it worked pretty well for large corporations and their owners.

The invasion of Iraq ‘didn’t work’ in the maximum possible way for hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and over four thousand U.S. servicemen and women, but it worked pretty well for Halliburton (what a surprise!) and other contractors, and whomever ended up with the missing pallets of cash.

9

soru 09.29.11 at 2:51 pm

More than 40 percent of states that experience foreign-imposed regime change have a civil war within the next ten years.

A 60% success rate does seem to indicate that if you make a list of 5 things to not do, and didn’t do them, you’d quite likely drop below the baseline expectation of civil war. I’d probably start with the phrases from the article ‘when states install new rulers in other states’ and ‘foreign-installed leaders’.

It also seems problematic to count the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge as a ‘failure’, simply because there were some CIA-backed holdouts in the southern jungle for a while. Hard to see an alternate outcome that was better for the people of that country.

I suppose it is a matter of perspective. The article comes down to ‘there are cheaper ways to win oil contracts’, which is hard to disagree with. A different article would compare foreign support with peaceful protest, international law petitions, Leninist revolution, urban terrorism, Maoist guerilla struggle, and so on. Not sure I see anything in that list with a demonstrably higher success rate, assuming a non-democracy with no law against shooting civilians.

10

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.29.11 at 3:07 pm

Hard to see an alternate outcome that was better for the people of that country.

Who cares about the people of that country. All he’s saying is that invasion+puppet regime is not likely produce stability.

11

Andrew F. 09.29.11 at 3:37 pm

Downes’s working paper on the same subject sheds additional light: Catastrophic Success.

12

P O'Neill 09.29.11 at 3:37 pm

From the article

And anointing average thugs such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Bashar al-Assad the next Hitler makes it harder not to take action.

Those are strange examples because the US currently seems highly unlikely to intervene in either state — even with Syria having crossed the apparent Libya threshold (use of the military against civilians). And the Iranian government seems sufficiently stupid and/or schizophrenic that it could yet provide the USA with a reason for a military escalation even when it doesn’t want one (e.g. clowning over sending their navy to patrol the north Atlantic). Some the regime being changed precipitates the events.

And don’t forget China also backed the Khmer Rouge rump.

13

Bruce Wilder 09.29.11 at 3:40 pm

Alex Downes: “. . . interveners often lack the will or commitment to remain indefinitely in the face of violent resistance, which encourages opponents to keep fighting . . .”

Didn’t we just have a post on the poverty of rationality as an explanatory strategy? Once a political scientist has had a frontal lobotomy and starts talking “will or committment”, it won’t be long, before he reasons that an intervention will have to be perpetual to be successful, and sure enough, right there, in the same sentence . . . idiocy.

Regime change in what we called World War II — when rather a lot of regimes were changed by force — worked out rather well for the victors, by and large. Pretty well for some of the countries involved, as well. Not all, of course. Greece had a very hard time, and Korea. Most of Eastern Europe ended up with communist regimes.

Of course, World War II itself didn’t take as long as the U.S. intervention in Iraq or Afganistan.

Given the quality of the Iraqi reconstruction effort and the virtual non-existence of the Afganistan reconstruction effort, maybe, just maybe, we ought to allow for the causative possibility of sheer incompetence. Might not be a great career move, especially at GWU, to point out that official Washington, at the highest levels, is populated by raving incompetents, who can neither win wars or carry out effective reconstruction. But, telling the truth might justify an appellation of “great piece”.

14

Josh G. 09.29.11 at 3:47 pm

Where do you draw the line between a legitimate native insurgency that receives some support from foreigners, and a pure “regime change” in the sense meant by Downes? Most successful revolutions receive some foreign support, even those that are almost universally acknowledged after the fact as legitimate. As hinted by ajay in #5 above, the American revolutionaries received a great deal of assistance from the French. And what about Britain’s Glorious Revolution, where a bipartisan group of British statesmen invited a Dutchman to overthrow their monarch and become King in his place? That met with surprisingly little resistance in England (though Ireland and Scotland were obviously a different story).

Pol Pot’s regime was so vile that even when you factor in the deaths during wartime and the subsequent insurgency, the Vietnamese intervention probably represented a net gain in human welfare over the status quo. The same clearly cannot be said of Iraq; as awful a ruler as Saddam was, and as brutal a regime as he ran, the subsequent disunion and anarchy appears to be even worse.

15

Henry 09.29.11 at 3:56 pm

bq. Might not be a great career move, especially at GWU, to point out that official Washington, at the highest levels, is populated by raving incompetents, who can neither win wars or carry out effective reconstruction.

It’s worked out fine for me ;)

16

Henry 09.29.11 at 4:03 pm

And more seriously Bruce, I am not seeing anything that approximates at all to a claim that occupiers should “stay the course,” which is what you seem to think it is angling towards. It’s a pretty straightforward claim that ongoing occupations tend to be expensive and lead to the deaths of lots of soldiers, and hence are usually unpopular at home. The sentence:

bq. Regime change generally fails to promote democracy because installing pliable dictators is in the intervener’s interest and because many target states lack the necessary preconditions for democracy.

also seems to point in the opposite direction to what you are suggesting (and to cover the WWII cases). With specific respect to US foreign policy, I was told once, by someone who is connected to the foreign policy establishment in ways that I am not, that the term of art for potential-dictators-who-can-be-kept-on-tap (ambitious colonels and such) in the Department of Defense and such places is “moustaches.”

17

Bill Murray 09.29.11 at 4:43 pm

I pretty much agree with Q. Without defining for whom the success was really intended, it is tough to make any claims. Success for the people of the country being regime changed is rarely in the top-10 priorities once the action has been sold

18

William Timberman 09.29.11 at 4:44 pm

A friend of mine who used to tend bar in NYC, across the street from the UN, remembers the days following the collapse of the Soviet Union as follows: an American of dubious provenance — in a suit, but with a suspiciously short haircut — was having a tête-à-tête with a West Texas colleague. So they’re telling us the Cold War is over. Kinda puts a hitch in our gitalong, don’t it? The reply: Well, the East-West thing may be done and dusted, but we’ve still got the North-South thing on tap.

19

Rob in CT 09.29.11 at 5:14 pm

Is the upshot supposed to be the Cambodia would’ve been better off had the Vietnamese not interevened and taken down the Khmer Rouge?

I ask in genuine ignorance: I know little about that conflict (all I know is Khmer Rouge bad. Very bad.). Is there a plausible argument that things would’ve been better, for Cambodians, had the Vietnamese just let it alone?

The specific argument appears to be that intervention resulted in Civil War. My question is: an the alternative? Non-intervention means no Civil War? Or maybe just a few more decades of slaughter by a psychotic regime?

I’m usually anti-intervention. I’m very suspicious of both neocons and liberal interventionists (R2P!! Send in the Air Force!). And yet, don’t you have to consider all possible outcomes?

20

JJ 09.29.11 at 5:28 pm

“…the term of art for potential-dictators-who-can-be-kept-on-tap (ambitious colonels and such) in the Department of Defense and such places is ‘moustaches.’ ”

So the “mustaches” could be successfully installed by the US in practically every country throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, but the Cuban “mustaches” in Miami could not? Presumably because the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis involved the public withdrawal of Soviet military forces and the private installation of one or two missile silos to deter the possibility of some future installation of Cuban “mustaches”? Such a secret resolution would be rank speculation, since I have no evidence to support it, but it would provide an ideal motive for the assassination of the President who approved it.

21

Billikin 09.29.11 at 5:56 pm

Perhaps it is worth mentioning that the regime change in the American South following the Civil War spawned violence and did not last. In fact, one of the terrorist organizations of the time, the Ku Klux Klan, went on to become a powerful political force outside of the South.

22

mpowell 09.29.11 at 6:53 pm

The Khmer Rouge is always the best counter-example to the argument that war is negative sum, in my opinion. The negative sum argument assumes too much about the interests of the parties making the decisions. I don’t know what the Vietnamese concerns really were, but let’s be generous and assume they were humanitarian. Then, even assuming some chance of failure, fighting the war was probably worth it. For Pol Pot, dude basically wanted the power to kill people. And I don’t see how Vietnam could have realistically committed to an honorable and generous retirement elsewhere (especially given that we’re actually talking about a multi-part regime). North Korea isn’t much different today. Realistically, the best thing for North Koreans would be for the regime to fall, in whatever way it possibly could. More North Koreans would die in the 2 or 3 years surrounding that event, but the generations that survived and followed would benefit enormously. And yet the regime itself has no purpose but it’s own continued existence. There is no way to negotiate around that.

23

Peter K. 09.29.11 at 6:54 pm

Rob in CT:

And yet, don’t you have to consider all possible outcomes?

No you just have to oppose US foreign policy everywhere and anywhere. Because we’re the “bad guys.”

To me at least the Middle East has brighter prospects than it once had. Egypt. Tunisia. Libya. All of these new democracies in the neighborhood will back the Palestinians at the UN. Like democratic Turkey. Saudi Arabia just gave women the right to vote. Just the other day, Iraq’s elected leader al-Maliki said that the Syrian dictatorship should stop killing its protesters. Google it.

24

geo 09.29.11 at 6:58 pm

From the Downes essay: As long as the United States is committed to providing stability in most of the world, rooting out terrorism, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, curbing human rights abuses, spreading democracy, and pursuing global primacy, frequent intervention is unavoidable.

This is respectable, responsible, centrist academic boilerplate. The United States is emphatically *not* committed to rooting out terrorism, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, curbing human rights abuses, or spreading democracy. On the contrary, it has sponsored both state and non-state terrorism on a large scale in Southeast Asia, Central and South America, Africa, and the Middle East. It has supported Israel’s refusal to allow the Middle East to become a nuclear-weapons-free zone, sold chemical weapons technology to Saddam Hussein when he was an ally, supported Iran’s (under the Shah) and India’s nuclear programs, and failed to take the steps required under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to reduce its own nuclear weapons stockpile to zero. Its human rights record through 1980 is reviewed in Chomsky and Herman’s The Political Economy of Human Rights and since 1980 in those two authors’ many other books. As for “spreading democracy”: the ability to attribute this motive to US policy with a straight face is pretty much the defining note of moral and intellectual non-seriousness.

Prof. Downes, a pity you couldn’t rest content with the plain truth: “As long as the United States is committed to providing its self-defined brand of ‘stability’ in most of the world, and pursuing the global primacy which that ‘stability’ is designed to facilitate, frequent intervention is unavoidable.”

25

Henry 09.29.11 at 7:09 pm

George – you clearly missed out what looked to me like an implicit shout-out (Downes talks about “manufacturing consent”).

26

Peter K. 09.29.11 at 7:36 pm

Iraq Calls for Change of Syrian Regime

You would think if it didn’t “work” that Iraq wouldn’t be calling for it to be used on a neighboring country, unless of course they wish the Syrians harm and want the resulting instability in the region.

27

Minor nonsense 09.29.11 at 7:41 pm

I don’t think Cuba fits into this hypothesis very well.

Also, at the Bay of Pigs, the regular Cuban army did not stop the invasion. The local militia did. Embarrassing for both Castro and the United States, so they wrote it out of history.

28

geo 09.29.11 at 7:42 pm

I wouldn’t call it a shout, Henry. I’d call it a whisper. I’m afraid that because of his unfortunate decision to “steer clear of issues of legality and moral justification,” Downes, whatever his intentions, has produced a piece that could have been published by the Council on Foreign Relations. I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but there it is.

29

P O'Neill 09.29.11 at 8:01 pm

Maliki only called for change of regime in Syria when his buddies in Tehran realized that forcing him to hitch his wagon to their pro-Assad position was hurting him in other Arab countries. Same for Assad’s pals in Hezbollah. So his own perceptions of the success of regime change are only part of the picture, but it does highlight the unpredictability of outcomes when regime change is attempted.

30

flyingrodent 09.29.11 at 8:17 pm

To drag this into current affairs, I can’t help but notice that Libya’s new super-legitimate government is currently being heavily pressurised to admit the influence of most of those who fought for their victory, including Libya’s main Islamist group. They seem to be resisting quite effectively for now, but nothing’s going to be resolved before the last Gaddafi holdouts fall.

On that topic, I can’t help but see all those flak guns and that heavy artillery that the NTC forces are using to rip up apartment blocks in some horrifying urban combat with loyalists in Sirte right now. Meanwhile, the Times is reporting disappearances and executions of civilians and ex-Gaddafi fighters in Tawarga, where black Libyans are hiding in the Mosques to avoid reprisals from their neighbours. This, by the way, is the successful intervention, not one of the disastrous ones.

So, in summary – a massive combined arms assault on a heavily-populated Libyan city with heavy weaponry and extensive reports of atrocities. Should we begin calling for No-Fly Zones and international intervention to stop the carnage?

Which is a really shitty and snarky way of saying – “unintended consequences”, my arse. Nato accepts and acknowledges the very high likelihood of vicious, unpredictable violence and instability, yet ploughs ahead regardless while yer Camerons and Sarkozies make puffed-up speeches about their own virtue and castigate their detractors.

Hopefully – and I’ve been saying this since this all kicked off, which is months and months of hopefully – this is a final aftershock of violence, rather than a build-up to the big one. Whichever it turns out to be, I doubt it’ll shake the humanitarians out of their little bubbles.

Intervention – The cute euphemism that’s kept putting hundreds of thousands of grilled humans on the humanitarian menu, these last few decades.

31

Watson Ladd 09.29.11 at 8:48 pm

So what’s the next option for dealing with states like North Korea and the Taliban if “kill the bastards” doesn’t actually work?

32

Donald Johnson 09.29.11 at 9:10 pm

“So what’s the next option for dealing with states like North Korea and the Taliban if “kill the bastards” doesn’t actually work?”

What’s the option for dealing with superpowers that launch unnecessary wars on false pretexts and then refuse to prosecute their own high-ranking war criminals? That’s a serious question. Someone needs to keep the responsible Western democracies in line or they will just keep killing people for no good reason.

33

Watson Ladd 09.29.11 at 9:15 pm

Donald, even if there is socialist revolution in the core capitalist countries we will still need to deal with North Korea and the Taliban.

34

Farah 09.29.11 at 9:29 pm

It would have helped if governments at the time had been more honest about how hard regime change was after the Second World War. Because I worked on relief work in the 1940s, right up to 1949, I found myself reading all sorts of interesting stuff. Germany was almost uncontrollable for a long time. France had to clamp down on people trying to organise guerrilla activity in Spain (shades of Pakistan and Afghanistan). Many of the victors found their own legitimacy challenged in places the Nazis occupied (why welcome back old imperialists after all?) But the history books most of us read make it sound as if all was hunky dory after the Nazis were defeated and regime change was a doddle.

35

Donald Johnson 09.29.11 at 9:36 pm

Watson, would it really take a socialist revolution in order to have Western leaders accountable for their actions? If that’s true then maybe it should be a higher priority than what happens in Afghanistan and North Korea.

36

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.29.11 at 9:38 pm

we will still need to deal with North Korea and the Taliban.

Freedom-loving fellows like you should go there and join a band of freedom fighters of your choice. Like those who went to Spain in the 1930s. What is so complicated about this?

37

soru 09.29.11 at 10:01 pm

What is so complicated about this?

Well, see the title of this post? The bit where it says _doesn’t work_ ?

Do you think that is morally relevant? Especially when in fairness you would probably have to exchange ‘often’ or ‘usually’ with ‘definitely’?

38

Lemuel Pitkin 09.29.11 at 10:05 pm

pssst, Soru …. I think Henri is being sarcastic.

Watson, meanwhile, is inviting us to consider the merits of intervention if we just abstract from the details of who is actually going to carry it out. Because that’s worked so well before.

39

ScentOfViolets 09.29.11 at 11:23 pm

Donald, even if there is socialist revolution in the core capitalist countries we will still need to deal with North Korea and the Taliban.

Even if North Korea and the Taliban are “successfully” dealt with (for various values of successful), we still have to deal with superpowers that launch unnecessary wars on false pretexts and then refuse to prosecute their own high-ranking war criminals. Surely you don’t disagree?

Or is it that application of the argument seen so often in marriage counseling “we’re not talking about their problems right now; we’re talking about yours”? With you conveniently delegating to yourself the authority to decide which problems we’re talking about?

40

ScentOfViolets 09.29.11 at 11:32 pm

Which is a really shitty and snarky way of saying – “unintended consequences”, my arse. Nato accepts and acknowledges the very high likelihood of vicious, unpredictable violence and instability, yet ploughs ahead regardless while yer Camerons and Sarkozies make puffed-up speeches about their own virtue and castigate their detractors.

Once again, I don’t think of myself as particularly liberal. But it seems to be the case that anyone who regards war as a thoroughly repulsive affair to be avoided whenever humanly possible instead of yet another exercise in costs and benefits to the national polity is considered to be a “liberal”.

41

Watson Ladd 09.29.11 at 11:59 pm

ScentofViolets, you are viewing war as repulsive because of its costs. I think the costs of permitting certain regimes to stay in power outweigh those of war. We aren’t disagreeing about anything but facts: I’m asking for a better policy.

42

Lemuel Pitkin 09.30.11 at 12:08 am

I think the costs of permitting certain regimes to stay in power outweigh those of war.

The notion that war is just another policy to be weighed on cost-benefit grounds is vile and stupid. To steal a line from Orwell, it’s “a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.”

43

ScentOfViolets 09.30.11 at 12:10 am

No, you’re asking that everyone agree with your valuation of the costs and benefits. I’m just waiting for you or someone like you to invoke some metaphor along the lines of omelettes and breaking eggs.

44

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 12:15 am

Yes, and my valuation of the costs and benefits is somewhat objective: the costs to of letting the Taliban stay in power will be so many lives destroyed, vs. those of a war to expel them. I’ve just changed my estimates of the costs because of this article. But I still want a policy that leads to a net improvement in human welfare.

45

CharleyCarp 09.30.11 at 12:47 am

The government of Iraq is not calling for an invasion of Syria to forcibly depose Assad.

46

William Timberman 09.30.11 at 2:25 am

Despite our splendid mental accomplishments — real or imagined — we really should remind ourselves from time to time of Caesar’s memento mori. We don’t actually own all these countries we propose to set on the straight and narrow merely because they lack the power to oppose us. Thinking we do doesn’t even rise to the level of presumption. As my sainted grandma used to say, it’s just pitiful…..

47

Bruce Baugh 09.30.11 at 3:12 am

Watson, your evaluation is the opposite of objective. It’s solipsistic – you are denying the human agency and experience of everyone who isn’t you. If you were actually objective, you’d take up the question of rogue Western super-powers and the costs of allowing them to continue on their way. It’s not that you’d need to agree with anyone, it’s that you’d need to show you even acknowledge there’s an issue or any cost involved. But you’ve made it abundantly clear that you only care about costs to you that you choose recognize. This would be sociopathic if it were something forced on you by biology; as it is, it’s just perverse, wicked, and foolish.

48

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 3:16 am

William, the Taliban does not own the Afghani people. What I want is simple: everyone in the world to have political freedoms and access to the means of being effectively free in society. You want them to live in whatever social form exists at the time today. I prefer what I want: freedom for everyone. No one will be hungry, no one will be shot for what they believe if I rule. If you rule, you will do nothing to assist those in need because you refuse to admit that you have the power to change those conditions. Which one of us is the more moral individual?

49

Lemuel Pitkin 09.30.11 at 3:17 am

47-

Right, exactly. Anyone who says the only criteria you need to use in deciding whether or not to kill another human being is whether you think the world would be better off without them, is either a moral imbecile or a monster.

50

Lemuel Pitkin 09.30.11 at 3:24 am

What I want is simple: everyone in the world to have political freedoms and access to the means of being effectively free in society.

And you think that empowering the US state to bomb whoever it wants is the way to get there.

51

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 3:31 am

Bruce, I care about costs to everyone. The question isn’t rouge Western superpowers having their way. Its what are the policy options that lead to the greatest welfare for everyone, what are the rules that I would be happy having everyone live under. Western superpowers that don’t follow this are immoral, as immoral as others who don’t do this. If you think my accounting of the costs is wrong, feel free to provide a better one. And I’ve admitted upthread that military intervention needs some work as a policy option. I don’t think abandoning anyone to tyranny is a good idea however.

Here’s my accounting: the Taliban were responsible during their time in power for the virtual enslavement one half of the population. Anything that is short of that, up to killing ten percent of the population of Afghanistan (not that I want to), excluding the deaths of Taliban who are not innocent, is probably moral assuming it is effective in creating equality. I’ve assumed slavery is over one fifth as bad as death: Patrick Henry would rather we killed all the women of Afghanistan to save them from their fate if we couldn’t rescue them from their captors. But we have data based on escape attempts of Southern slaves: the consequences of capture were death, and the risk of capture were high. I’ve not analyzed it yet, but I think I’m about right: A one fifth chance of death is worth taking to escape slavery. What’s yours?

52

CharleyCarp 09.30.11 at 3:39 am

Patrick Henry? The I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! Patrick Henry? Are you having trouble distinguishing between this and we have to destroy the village to save it?

53

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 3:45 am

Lemuel, its empowering me to bomb what I want. I didn’t say the US got to bomb whatever it wanted, just the things that would do more good then harm. If you accept utilitarianism, this follows. Now, I probably shouldn’t be trusted to pick the targets, as I might make a mistake.

Charley, Patrick Henry is volunteering himself to be part of that destroyed village so that another group can be saved. In the destroy the village quote the village can’t be saved because its destroyed. There’s a difference. Patrick Henry is saying death is preferable to his current condition: he shouldn’t complain if someone offers it to him. If you value life without liberty that way, then complaining about dying when liberty is in the offering is a bit odd.

54

CharleyCarp 09.30.11 at 4:03 am

Patrick Henry was choosing his own fate. You would choose the fate of millions. I don’t think you should be trusted to make any choices at all.

55

Lemuel Pitkin 09.30.11 at 4:05 am

. I didn’t say the US got to bomb whatever it wanted, just the things that would do more good then harm. If you accept utilitarianism, this follows.

Whatever you say, Raskolnikov.

56

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 4:17 am

Lets say its 1933, and you have a gun. Would you kill Hitler? If yes, you accept that in principle people can be killed to save others. Now its just a matter of figuring out when that applies. If not, then I don’t think we have much to discuss.

Raskolnikov killed the pawnbroker, but this didn’t make anyone happier. People generally want to live. I don’t see how Crime and Punishment is a problem for a utilitarian.

57

JanieM 09.30.11 at 4:19 am

Let’s say it’s 1933, and you have a gun, but you didn’t get there by time machine….

58

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 4:25 am

By 1933, Hitler declared his intentions to eliminate the Jews. He had murdered political opponents, and had created an absolute dictatorship. He had also set up the concentration camps to exterminate dissidents after the Reichstag fire. I’m making some historiographical arguments here about the course of Naziism, but I’m sure the loss of an effective orator and ruthless leader would have provoked open battle between the SA and SS, and the fall of the Nazi party.

59

geo 09.30.11 at 4:28 am

Watson, as a fellow utilitarian, I suggest to you that the most urgent good to work for at the moment is an law-abiding international society, in which the use of force is legitimate only if approved by a body genuinely representative of world opinion, and in which unilateral military action — except in self-defense against actual, ongoing attack — is illegitimate. This was the idea behind the UN Charter, which the great powers — above all, the United States, the overwhelmingly dominant military and economic power for most of the period since the Charter came into effect — have thoroughly undermined.

At this point, it’s no good trying to justify unilateral intervention on a case-by-case basis: no one trusts anyone else’s motives, and quite justifiably. If the US intervenes wherever and whenever it pleases, so will Russia, China, India, probably with no more concern for democracy or human rights than the US has typically demonstrated. This is international anarchy — exactly what led to the two wars that scared the shit out of all the powers that signed the UN Charter and convinced them that another global war would be intolerable and unthinkable, but also inevitable unless nations gave up the right to use force unilaterally.

60

b9n10nt 09.30.11 at 5:08 am

Watson’s world: the State with decisive military power motivated by a love for freedom and a singular obedience to an ethereal “you” perched on Mount Pony freeing all the world’s slaves.

Now, if such beatific visions consistently motivated righteous acts of State, then this foolishness would be welcome and inspiring. But the sinister nature of these fairy tails that lead peoples domestic and foreign to untold suffering is evident and councils not a drop of patience for such delusion.

61

flyingrodent 09.30.11 at 5:17 am

Watson: “the Taliban were responsible during their time in power for the virtual enslavement one half of the population. Anything that is short of that, up to killing ten percent of the population of Afghanistan (not that I want to), excluding the deaths of Taliban who are not innocent, is probably moral assuming it is effective in creating equality”.

You know, I’ve been accused of being an arrogant sod over the years, but I’ll say this in my defence – I’ve never pronounced a right to murder ten percent of any civilian population, anywhere, and have never proclaimed a right to exterminate any large group of people based upon my estimation of their innocence, in pursuit of an outcome that I think is probably moral, if it achieves some plainly unachievable goals.

Do you have to go to sociopath school to learn this stuff, or what?

62

CharleyCarp 09.30.11 at 5:35 am

I wasn’t alive in 1933, but my grandfather was. Graduated from West Point that year. He had a gun, and a saber (his first assignment was to the 7th Cavalry). Do I think any the less of him for not resigning his commission, working his way to Europe on a tramp steamer, and killing Hitler? I do not.

Do I think any the less of FDR for not having declared war in Germany in 1933? I do not. No sane person does.

63

zamfir 09.30.11 at 7:03 am

Ten percent of Afghanistan is half a holocaust. But the holocaust was going to liberate the entire Aryan race from slavery, not just the women of Afghanistan. So that probably falls within the Ladd-norm.

But we should be honest, and also count other collateral damage in the war. That easily adds another few million people. Let’s say that Hitler had to save somewhere between 50 and 100 million people from slavery to be ethical on the Lard-norm, had he won.

I guess a lot depend on how powerful you think the Jews really were, and if communism counts as slavery too. But given the general consensus on that in the 1930s, I’d say that ‘Utilitarians for Hitler’ would have been a winning slogan.

64

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.30.11 at 7:05 am

From wikipedia:

Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the collapse of Najibullah’s Soviet-backed regime in 1992, the country fell into chaos as various mujahideen factions fought for control. Omar returned to Singesar and founded a madrassah.[20] According to one legend, in 1994 he had a dream in which a woman told him: “We need your help; you must rise. You must end the chaos. God will help you.”[20] Mullah Omar started his movement with less than 50 armed madrassah students, known simply as the Taliban (Students). His recruits came from madrassahs in Afghanistan and from the Afghan refugee camps across the border in Pakistan. They fought against the rampant corruption that had emerged in the civil war period and were initially welcomed by Afghans weary of warlord rule. Reportedly, in early 1994, Omar led 30 men armed with 16 rifles to free youths who had been kidnapped and raped by a warlord, hanging the local commander from a tank gun barrel. The youths have been inconsistently identified as two young girls,[21][22] a single boy,[23] or two boys.[24] His movement gained momentum through the year, and he quickly gathered recruits from Islamic schools. By November 1994, Omar’s movement managed to capture the whole of Kandahar Province and then captured Herat in September 1995.

I reckon Watson Ladd probably also had a dream in which a woman told him: “we need your help”, and yet he’s still typing from an armchair, instead of marching on Kandahar with a band of followers, wielding a rifle, and hanging bad guys from tank gun barrels. How disappointing.

65

zamfir 09.30.11 at 7:05 am

Apologies, I didn’t mean to write lard there, my phone did that.

66

William Timberman 09.30.11 at 7:19 am

There always seems to be a sorcerer’s apprentice at hand who thinks he’s found the secret formula for mixing freedom and death in just the right proportions. One spoonful each, and we’ll all wake up in the New Jerusalem. It says so right here.

When a six year-old reasons this way, we remark at his precocity. When an adult does, we wonder about his motives, or his sanity — and for good reason.

67

Barry 09.30.11 at 11:26 am

Farah: “Germany was almost uncontrollable for a long time. ”

The USA lost 0 (that is zero, zip, nada) troops to any post-surrender guerrilla action.
That’s far from ‘almost uncontrollable’. It was pretty hairy, but please read some history and note that this was in the few years immediately after a 50 megadeath war.

68

Barry 09.30.11 at 11:28 am

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 4:17 am

” Lets say its 1933, and you have a gun. Would you kill Hitler? If yes, you accept that in principle people can be killed to save others. Now its just a matter of figuring out when that applies. If not, then I don’t think we have much to discuss.”

This is the sort of argument which is good for freshman, but not anytime after.

You don’t know who Hitler is; at the time he’s a nasty dictator who just seized power (and far from total power), and is talking sh*t.

69

ajay 09.30.11 at 11:56 am

It’s a very freshman argument, but you could turn it around: no, because then the NSDAP would still be around but led by (say) Rudolf Hess, who was a lot smarter and more competent and might actually have led Germany to victory. Note that this is exactly the argument used to justify the cancellation of FOXLEY.

70

Peter T 09.30.11 at 12:05 pm

Apart from a few odd cases, all the sides who commit to a war think they will gain more than they will lose. Yet over half turn out to be mistaken. And this has been documentedly so for at least three thousand years. The point is simple – the outcomes of war are very, very hard to calculate, and look likely to remain so. Utilitarian accounting is a bit difficult when the numbers are so uncertain.

71

BenSix 09.30.11 at 12:32 pm

Here’s my accounting: the Taliban were responsible during their time in power for the virtual enslavement one half of the population. Anything that is short of that, up to killing ten percent of the population of Afghanistan (not that I want to), excluding the deaths of Taliban who are not innocent, is probably moral assuming it is effective in creating equality. I’ve assumed slavery is over one fifth as bad as death…

Don’t become an accountant. You’d be liable to end up assuming it’s probably wise to burn a million pounds or something.

72

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 12:49 pm

Isn’t being a tyrant enough to justify his death? Have we forgotten the charges against the French king so quickly?

73

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 12:58 pm

Zamfir, Hitler was going to murder all the slavs. Furthermore, he wasn’t planning to free the Jews, and was completely delusional about the Jews. I wouldn’t agree to kill 10% of Afghanistan to save other people, and all I was doing was offering a ridiculously high maximum for the amount of collateral damage that could be tolerated. You aren’t supposed to try to kill them! Its rather “should we try to save these people, knowing some of them will die in the attempt”.

geo, the UN is lead by member governments who have zero desire to have real norms of accountability. Its a fundamentally broken model. When has the UN been capable of effectively disciplining a member state for human rights violations, when that member wasn’t Israel? Even when there are human rights treaties signed, adherence requires letter writing campaigns to enforce.

74

ajay 09.30.11 at 1:03 pm

When has the UN been capable of effectively disciplining a member state for human rights violations, when that member wasn’t Israel?

Ooh, I know this one. Is it “Libya was and is a UN member state, and when its leader started committing human rights violations, the UN passed UNSCR 1973, which authorised the use of force against him; as a result of which he is now out of power and on the run”?

I mean, seriously, Watson. That happened last month. Don’t you pay attention to any news sources at all?

75

spyder 09.30.11 at 1:37 pm

I might have missed something in the comment thread, but can the referent of Hitler be tied to that of Anwar al-Awlaki? Apparently the US seems to have no problem with committing assassination as a foreign policy tool.

76

Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 1:46 pm

Wait a minute, ajay. Circling around for a mass beatdown of some hapless commenter is all well and good, but let’s not forget CT’s participation in propagandizing this whole affair, which as you say happened … well, actually, it happened back in March, but close enough.

Do you — and geo, who wrote a stirring paragraph about the U.N. above — agree with Conor Foloy’s contention that the intervention in Libya was legally authorized by the U.N. to protect civilians, not to overthrow Gaddafi? That it was a humanitarian intervention, not a liberal intervention? I remember the people who actually controlled the intervention, like Obama, saying quite a bit as it went on about how we weren’t going to stop until Gaddafi was out of power. Can this be regarded as a historically settled question that in fact Conor Foley got completely wrong?

77

ajay 09.30.11 at 2:34 pm

Rich: fair points (the “happened last month” bit was Gaddafi being out of power and on the run after the fall of Tripoli btw).

Conor Foley’s contention was simply a matter of fact: the text of UNSCR 1973 says nothing at all about “let’s overthrow Gaddafi”, it’s pretty much all about protecting civilians, sanctions, arms embargos etc. As you say, people then used that resolution to justify overthrowing Gaddafi.

But despite that, I think that, whatever the authorisation was intended to authorise, it counts as effective action against Libya in response to human rights abuses, of the kind that Watson said didn’t happen except to Israel.

78

Dragon-King Wangchuck 09.30.11 at 2:41 pm

@ Watson Ladd,

Here let me clarify things for you. Yesterday, just before you asked who the more moral individual was, you said “I prefer what I want: freedom for everyone. No one will be hungry, no one will be shot for what they believe if I rule.”

Fine, but understand that what you are really saying is that if you rule, people aren’t being shot for what they believe – they are being shot for what you believe.

79

Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 2:46 pm

” I think that, whatever the authorisation was intended to authorise, it counts as effective action against Libya in response to human rights abuses, of the kind that Watson said didn’t happen except to Israel.”

But if you say that, you’re really arguing Watson’s more general case, aren’t you? The U.N. made a legal authorization for action to protect civilians, and this was taken by everyone as an authorization for regime change, presented as such by the political leaders involved. And they went ahead and forced regime change, the very thing that the post heading this thread claims doesn’t work.

I also generally like your comments, but I have to say I’m puzzled by the “when its leader began committing human rights violations” phrasing that you’ve been drawn into. Did Gaddafi not commit human rights violations before? Are his replacements not committing them now? Are people in other Middle Eastern countries not committing them now? We’ve already had a reference to Manufacturing Consent in this thread. Do we have to go over this use of a natural connection between “he started committing human right violations” so “we had to stop him” or not?

I’m not really interested in Watson, here. Freshmen conversations about whether we should go back in time and kill Hitler always have existed and always will exist. But the discussion here about Libya, by foreign policy experts, was Very,Very Serious. Let’s not forget about it quite yet.

80

ajay 09.30.11 at 3:01 pm

79: OK, when he started committing massively larger quantities of human rights violations. Mass slaughter using artillery rather than the occasional bit of prisoner abuse.

And I take your point about the more general point being “only unilateral regime change is good because the UN is broken – true or false?” – but I think that Libya is not an example of unilateral regime change because, to put it bluntly, it was mostly covered by the blanket of UNSCR 1973, and I think that’s a valuable step towards a world where military actions will only take place when entirely covered by that blanket.

81

William Timberman 09.30.11 at 3:04 pm

RP @ 79

I seem to remember Juan Cole saying something like: Don’t reproach me for supporting the Libyan intervention by saying that the UN and NATO’s worthies didn’t respond in the same way to to Bashir al-Assad, or Binyamin Netanyahu’s abominations, or in days gone by, to Stalin’s or Mao’s. We do what we can where we can and when we can, and hope someday that we’ll have the means — and the gumption — to do what needs doing everywhere. The blindness of justice will one day rule us all.

Fond hope, or utter nonsense? Human history being what it is, and the fondness of human hopes having been overturned as consistently as even a casual reading of history will demonstrate, I’m inclined toward the latter interpretation. Geo @ 24 and 59 has the better grasp of what’s going on, and how genuinely responsible people would go about their interventions. We aren’t gods, no matter how much of their fire we’ve already stolen, and how much more we hope to steal in the future. The rest is either ignorance, or, as often as not, self-serving puffery.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 3:12 pm

So, getting back to this:

“Conor Foley’s contention was simply a matter of fact: the text of UNSCR 1973 says nothing at all about “let’s overthrow Gaddafi”, it’s pretty much all about protecting civilians, sanctions, arms embargos etc. ”

Actually, no. If you look back at posts at the time, he characterized the entire intervention according to the legal justification for how it started. He wasn’t just telling people what was in the text of the U.N. resolution. Rather similar to how, when someone talks about how the U.S. prison system is set up to routinely permit torture of prisoners, someone else will answer that the U.S. Constitution prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, so… but let’s go on.

By saying “whatever the authorisation was intended to authorise, it counts as effective action against Libya in response to human rights abuses”, you’re basically agreeing with the rationale for regime change, unless you’re using “effective” in some sense that I don’t get. Also, it’s a living example of why skepticism about the U.N. seems warranted at this point. “Whatever it was intended to authorize” is not exactly a strong statement that its authorizations count as anything but excuses for great powers to do what they want to do anyways.

83

Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 3:40 pm

“OK, when he started committing massively larger quantities of human rights violations. Mass slaughter using artillery rather than the occasional bit of prisoner abuse.”

All right, this is an unusual theory of human rights violations. One which I approve of, on the whole, but let’s see if I’ve gotten it right. What you’re saying is that civil war is a human rights violation. I invite you to look over the timeline of the Libyan civil war before the intervention or suggest a better source if you think it’s wrong. I see many mentions of protestors taking over military barracks (and executing mercenary soldiers) before the use of artillery by the government. I don’t really know of any government that would refrain from using artillery on civilians in these circumstances, but I agree that they shouldn’t, so I hope that your theory takes off.

It would be nice if it took off for us as well as them, though. Given that we’re routinely launching drone strikes … oh, never mind. Now that I know that when you wrote “he started committing human rights violations” you meant “he responded to an attempt to drive him out of power by engaging in civil war”, we’re right back to regime change again.

84

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 4:00 pm

ajay, good catch. I forgot about Libya.

Dragon-King, the people I propose killing are people who should be killed. They have participated in the enslavement or starvation of entire populations. And I am proposing killing them not out of vengeance but while they are actively committing these crimes to protect their victims. Sic Semper Tyrannis! We should also note that if they escape justice, Kant’s invocation to kill the murderers when the judicial penalty is not applied applies. No retirement for dictators!

Henri, I don’t speak a word of Pashtun. Me sacrificing myself in a heroic gesture would be a waste. Me sacrificing myself in a successful attempt on the life of Mullah Omar or the King of Saudi Arabia might be worth it.

85

piglet 09.30.11 at 4:09 pm

I’m baffled by how geo 24 got drowned out but that disgusting Watson Ladd digression. That was the money quote that should have settled the debate.

As long as the United States is committed to providing stability in most of the world, rooting out terrorism, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, curbing human rights abuses, spreading democracy, and pursuing global primacy, frequent intervention is unavoidable.

Seriously.

86

Henri Vieuxtemps 09.30.11 at 4:10 pm

Lincoln administration bombarded New York city during the draft riots.

87

Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 4:14 pm

Piglet, the US is not now committed to those goals, but the US should be. And because it should be we should support actions that its commitments would require it to do and be against those that aren’t. I don’t have a problem with the use of military force in pursuit of those goals. Now, how do we make that force achieve those goals at minimal cost?

88

Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 4:22 pm

I think the difference between reaction to geo and reaction to Watson Ladd is pretty instructive, actually, piglet. Sure, everyone likes feeling good about themselves by yelling at some freshman and calling him a moral imbecile or a monster. But we already saw what happened when a conscientious, thoughtful utilitarian (I think) considered these “issues of legality and moral justification” in the context of an actual U.N. resolution. As far as I can tell, they came to the same actual conclusion that Ladd did. But respectably!

89

Lemuel Pitkin 09.30.11 at 4:31 pm

everyone likes feeling good about themselves by yelling at some freshman and calling him a moral imbecile or a monster

It’s why I get up in the morning.

90

JJ 09.30.11 at 4:37 pm

The assassination of a radical political leader during an economic crisis will produce a more moderate leader (or regime) only after the crisis is resolved. Killing Hitler in 1933 would have produced an equally (or more) fascist successor simply because the economic crisis (a large population of surplus labor) remained unresolved. The resolution of that crisis occurred during the Second World War, which was why the assassination of Stalin was followed by the succession of Khrushchev.

91

Tim Wilkinson 09.30.11 at 4:42 pm

re: ‘regime change’, definition of (see ajay @7); link with civil war:

‘Regime change’ seems to involve actually fomenting or at least promoting civil war, i.e. recruiting co-opting or commandeering a large domestic force to fight on the invaders’ behalf against the incumbent regime. That’s not to say that stability is not an aim (though it may well not be a priority, and indeed destabilisation may well be a good second best or even first choice outcome, as Stephen Sniegoski has argued it was to the prominent Likudnik wing of the Iraq invasion hawks).

‘Regime change’ is a term of art denoting a fairly specific kind of operation. First, it’s exogenous: not just a matter of opportunistic intervention in an existing conflict. It’s also not entirely clandestine, covert, or deniable – though elements of it obviously may be.

‘Regime change’ is further to be differentiated from a foreign coup and a war of conquest, and is intermediate between the two.

In a foreign coup, violence is (1) carried out largely by domestic (proxy) military forces, and (2) directed only at decapitating and supplanting the government, possibly including loyal elements of the military. Regime change by contrast involves (1) substantial intervention by outside forces and (2) (prolonged, widespread) warfighting against a domestic force.

A war of conquest involves (1) a full invasion by outsiders without extensive reliance on domestic forces, and if successful (2) a period of rule by the invading force (a governer or or other proxy of domestic extraction may of course be installed at leisure). Regime change involves neither of these elements.

I’d say Libya does fit this quite specific ‘regime change’ template, though it was opportunistic and, thanks to circumstances, much more smoothly done than Iraq.

External influences (i.e. from NATO and proxies) on the escalation from protest to armed conflict and foreign control of strategy were (and still are) reasonably well ‘concealed’. The regime change objective was successfully obfuscated by the humanitarian narrative – despite being consistently affirmed from the start, and all moves to secure a cessation of hostilities ignored or flatly dismissed. The foreign forces, while indispensible and decisive, were mostly airborne (albeit only just in the case of assault helicopters), with actual ground personnel probably only numbering in the hundreds and composed of special forces, ‘advisors’, scouts, logistics etc. The PBI was entirely composed of domestic proxies. The client status of the new regime is also apparently not universally recognised, either.

The primary casus belli propaganda was also smoother than Gulf 2, though as in Gulf 1, while there were at least some kind of facts on the ground, they didn’t actually speak for themselves, and collateral propaganda of the incubator smashing genre was enlisted.

This was primarily stuff about massacres actual and imminent, but also included othe gems e.g. Gadaffi’s viagra-fuelled rape squads, as advertised by S. Rice, the idiot ICC chief, and a grim mocked-up rape film featuring – just for added insane wrongness, as well as confirmation of foreign provenance – Libyan voices and screams/moans(!) lifted from the soundtrack of a well-known Libyan porno. (This could be a straw man op aimed at discrediting the NATO/rebel side, but that’s pretty implausible I’d say).

Also the ‘Gadaffi forces = black mercenaries’ (or as we call them, private contractors) narrative that has done so much for race relations and ungenocidishness in Libya.

The narrative of an entirely endogenous (and spontaneous) armed uprising – in Banghazy and neighbouring cities is not quite disproved, but is certainly suspect, and a key point – aside from NATO’s implacable opposition to any attempt to organise a ceasefire – is that the only proposal before the UN was to send in NATO forces under NATO command and to give them carte blanche subject only to a fairly meaningless caveat about ‘occupation’ (is Iraq or Afghanistan ‘occupied’? Is Cuba? Qatar? Kuwait? The UK, for that matter? I can only think of one place that’s commonly discussed as being ‘occupied’, and that occupation is in formal defiance of the UN…)

The idea that a UN-sanctioned humanitarian intervention should be done by blue-helmeted peacekeeping forces was nowhere in sight, even though if the aim were really humanitarian, this would appear to be the obvious course in order to stop a war.

And very early assistance including supply of arms, was made available by NATO powers, who also worked hard to ensure that ceasefire wouldn’t break out.

Here’s a slightly random sample of the assortment of links I’ve been amassing (no implied – nor, as it’s customary though utterly pointless to add, express – warranty is offered):

Organisers of ‘day of rage’ Washington based:
http://www.hermes-press.com/FR_libya1.htm

Obama offically authorised CIA arming of rebels in late Feb:
http://www.npr.org/2011/03/30/134994729/mazzetti-talks-about-cia-operations-in-libya

-super-resourceful organiser mentions getting $75000 worth of automatic weapons from Egypt right at start of uprising, Feb 18:
http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/libya-unrest-gaddafi-strikes-back-as-rebels-close-in-on-tripoli-87712

The tale of the rapid escalation from unarmed protests a la Egypt – which the official narrative gave the impression had taken place and been mown down, even strafed – to efficient use of armed force (army barracks overrun by using tanks from, er, army base):
http://washingtonexaminer.com/news/world/2011/02/battle-army-base-broke-gadhafi-hold-benghazi

Military advisors on ground, Feb. 24:
http://www.crethiplethi.com/libya-us-military-advisers-in-cyrenaica/usa/2011/

Rebel military chief Younes killed by ‘allies’:
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/29/us-libya-idUSTRE76Q76620110729

Younes successor Hifter pretty clearly has CIA background:
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/03/26/111109/new-rebel-leader-spent-much-of.html

Libya as model for elective interventions:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/29/world/africa/29diplo.html?_r=1&src=recg&pagewanted=all

Phase 2 plans floated publicly;
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2029013/Libya-war-British-troops-act-peacekeepers-Gaddafis-downfall.html

‘Free Market Future’
http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.com/2011/05/libyas-free-market-future.html

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BenSix 09.30.11 at 4:45 pm

Yeah, I feel bad for joining the assault. What I found interesting about the comment, though, is that it said what many “interventionist” arguments imply but aren’t so honest about stating: that their case is built on such a tenuous structure of “if”s – both with relation to probabilities and the ethical questions they’d pose – that if you lean on one assumption the whole plan collapses.

93

Lemuel Pitkin 09.30.11 at 4:49 pm

Rich, you’re right to bring up that awful Foley post. Not one of CT’s finer moments. But to be fair, Henry made it pretty clear at the time that he did not agree with it.

Also, I, at least, am reacting differently to geo because I think he’s making a different argument. As I read him, he’s saying that even if you start from utilitarian premises you’ll end up preferring a rules-based framework when it comes to things like war.

94

Lemuel Pitkin 09.30.11 at 4:50 pm

the assassination of Stalin

wait what?

95

geo 09.30.11 at 4:55 pm

Rich @76: Do you—and geo, who wrote a stirring paragraph about the U.N. above—agree with Conor Foloy’s contention that the intervention in Libya was legally authorized by the U.N. to protect civilians, not to overthrow Gaddafi?

This is a good question. I’m embarrassed to say in reply that I didn’t know about the UN resolution and didn’t have any position on what to do in Libya (except that the Obama administration’s claim that it didn’t need Congressional approval to intervene was clearly dishonest). Obviously Security Council decisions can be wrong, even immoral, just as domestic laws or Supreme Court decisions can, and must, like the latter, be criticized on their merits. But the principle that no one is above the law has to apply between as well as within countries. And the assumption that the US is a law-abiding international citizen — which is the very foundation of respectable political discussion in the US, including, it seems to me, Alex Downes’s essay — is so false and dangerous that I feel justified in identifying and criticizing it quasi-obsessively, as I’m afraid I do.

96

Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 5:08 pm

Lemuel, if I remember rightly, geo didn’t agree with it either. But that isn’t stopping him from going back to recommending a rules-based framework now. How well did that work last time?

Here’s what geo actually wrote in this thread:
“the most urgent good to work for at the moment is an law-abiding international society, in which the use of force is legitimate only if approved by a body genuinely representative of world opinion, and in which unilateral military action—except in self-defense against actual, ongoing attack—is illegitimate. This was the idea behind the UN Charter, which the great powers—above all, the United States, the overwhelmingly dominant military and economic power for most of the period since the Charter came into effect—have thoroughly undermined.”

No doubt Obama plainly stating that Libya was a liberal intervention, not a humanitarian one, and that we were going to keep enabling the revolution until it succeeded could be classed as the very “undermining” of the U.N. that geo writes about above. But so what? When you recommend a system, you also recommend the immediate and historically evidenced perversions of that system… making a set of rules by which countries can get approval to go to war naturally leads to more war. It’s not an alternative to “international anarchy”, because the rules are unenforceable whenever the major powers don’t want them to be. It’s a technocratic fig leaf intended to impress the rubes with legality, when that legality can be obtained.

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geo 09.30.11 at 5:35 pm

When you recommend a system, you also recommend the immediate and historically evidenced perversions of that system

I don’t see this. Wouldn’t the same objection apply to representative, or even direct, democracy? I would have said that to recommend a system is to insist, by implication, on the necessary preconditions for that system to function properly — in the domestic case, strong curbs on the unequal political influence of wealth and, even more important, the energetic and continued involvement of the citizenry; in the case of the UN, some modification of the Security Council veto (which is another form of the unequal political influence of wealth) and the flourishing of civil liberties and popular sovereignty within the individual members, which again and as always is a matter of the mobilization and self-organization of their citizens. No form of government can succeed if the governed are manipulated, apathetic, or without resources.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 09.30.11 at 5:39 pm

Dragon-King, the people I propose killing are people who should be killed.

Awesome. Well I guess that’s all right then.

Let me clarify again – you do get around to assassinating Hitler and stuff, obvious bugbears that no one likes – but you along the way you try to define an acceptable amount of “collateral damage”. Maybe it’s not 10%, but apparently there’s some percentage of the population of Aghanistan you think is worth sacrificing for benefits you believe would accrue to teh survivors. Based on teh unassailable argument “but so-and-so is really terrible”.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 09.30.11 at 5:47 pm

Anyways, this is the world where Watson Ladd rules: one where he gets to decide which people “should be killed” and then poof – killed.

Freedom’s just another word for “it’s okay when we do it”.

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JJ 09.30.11 at 6:42 pm

“In 2003, a joint group of Russian and American historians announced their view that Stalin ingested warfarin, a powerful rat poison that inhibits coagulation of the blood and which predisposes the victim to hemorrhagic stroke (cerebral hemorrhage). Since it is flavorless, warfarin is a plausible weapon of murder. The facts surrounding Stalin’s death will probably never be known with certainty.”

Brent, Jonathan; Naumov, Vladimir (2004). Stalin’s Last Crime: The Plot Against the Jewish Doctors, 1948–1953. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060933100.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin#CITEREFBrentNaumov2004

Christ on a crutch, Lemuel. I’m trying to prove a point here, and I resent your reprehensible attempt to stick to the facts.

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 09.30.11 at 7:04 pm

Let’s say it’s 2011 and there exists a government which claims the ability to assassinate people designated as terrorists, but refuses to provide any details on the designation process. That has argued that habeas corpus is a quaint notion. That has used torture to extract confessions from prisoners. That has an incarceration rate closing in on 1%. That regularly engages in military exercises in foreign countries causing significant civilian casualties.

A common problem with “utilitarian” arguments is that it is always teh self-professed “utilitarian” that gets to assign all of the values.

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Tangurena 09.30.11 at 7:09 pm

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Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 7:27 pm

The piece that Tangurena linked to is hilarious.

But back to serious, um… back to… it’s impossible for me to think of this as serious right after reading that. But geo, I come out of the American-liberal political tradition, pretty much, even though I’ve ended up rejecting most of it. And in that tradition as I understand it, you have it backwards. Systems are only possible if there are ways of correcting them when they predictably go wrong. If those ways aren’t there, then insisting on the system with them as implicit preconditions is a bad thing to do.

Of course, you may be writing for some other basic political viewpoint. But now that I’ve rejected the Constitution and all of the other U.S. nonsense that’s supposed to keep us from becoming what we’ve become, I’m even more distrustful of this line of argument. If there really were “the flourishing of civil liberties and popular sovereignty within the individual members” of the U.N., we’d be living in a different world. Who’s to say what would be right for that world? Maybe those flourishing people would decide on something else.

Meanwhile, in our world, we just had U.N. legalism used as an excuse for regime change, and it’s already going down the memory hole.

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JJ 09.30.11 at 8:11 pm

12/21/2104
At 15:23:53, JJ wrote:
Goddammit, SilverFox16! I’m telling you that killing Hitler was a useless gesture to begin with. I killed Baron Gottfried Von Hoffman, who was the original Nazi Chancellor of the German Reich, and he was simply succeeded by Adolph Hitler. The Third Reich, World War II, rocketry programs, electronics, computers and time travel all occurred anyway, in either case. Time travel doesn’t resolve the economic crisis. Killing 50 million unemployed individuals did. Preda pro nobis.

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geo 09.30.11 at 8:13 pm

we’d be living in a different world

Yes, that’s the point, Rich. If we don’t establish the basic conditions for democracy and world order to function, they won’t. And if they don’t, we’re fucked. So let’s establish them.

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Rich Puchalsky 09.30.11 at 8:19 pm

Until we heroically carry out this act of world transformation, is it too much to ask people not to play into obvious excuses for warmongering? I’m fine with you saying that if we really want to kill a lot of people, we can do it as long as we first get permission from the U.N. on Earth Prime.

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William Timberman 09.30.11 at 8:31 pm

RP @ 105

Is it too much to ask? Yes, apparently it is. Geo knows where we want to go, but no one seems to know how to get there in less than a century or so, and then only if conditions are propitious — which they aren’t likely to be, if the likes of Rick Perry, or even of Juan Cole are anything to go by. Maybe we’re fucked will turn out to be the best we can do under the circumstances. Try selling that at the Pearly Gates.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 09.30.11 at 8:48 pm

Well, it certainly did help prevent a big one in 1962. Anyway, a world with one superpower is sure a tricky place, just like a world with two superpowers, only in a whole lot of different ways.

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geo 09.30.11 at 9:05 pm

Rich: if a law or other decision (eg, of the Security Council) is unjust, you try to get it changed; or if it’s sufficiently evil, so evil that obeying it would be worse than undermining, in a small way, the legitimacy of the authority that issued it, then disobey it and take the consequences (or evade them if you can). If a political system or decision-making procedure is unjust, you try to get it changed; or if it’s sufficiently oppressive (ie, there’s no nonviolent way to get it changed), then resist and if possible overthrow it. In neither case should you simply disregard the law or system, without trying to change it, and instead just do what you please.

In the present case: by all means keep protesting the Security Council resolution authorizing intervention in Libya (if that’s what it did; as I’ve admitted, I don’t know). If you want to argue that the US and other countries should disregard the resolution, then you must argue that the consequences of obeying it would be worse than the consequences of further undermining the only restraint, however feeble, that currently exists on national sovereignty and unilateral military action, which seemed by the late 1940s to have brought the world to within sight of extinction. I think it’s essential to strengthen rather than weaken that restraint, which can only, like any permanently useful domestic political change, be accomplished from the bottom up, by an active national or international citizenry in the teeth of opposition from national or international ruling classes. But meanwhile, by all means let’s keep protesting individual laws and resolutions. Just because a law or other measure is legitimate — ie, was issued by a legitimate authority — doesn’t mean it’s right.

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flyingrodent 09.30.11 at 9:47 pm

I’ll say it, if nobody else will – western powers should absolutely not intervene anywhere, ever, short of the threat of genocide of millions upon millions of people.

I’ve made the case against intervention generally so many times that I can’t be arsed to go over the specifics again, but I’ll give youse the top lines. Basically, intervention appears not to work with any degree of reliability, despite many, many attempts; seems to make things worse at least as often as it makes things better and is thoroughly tainted by political considerations that are utterly unconnected to the problems at hand.

Thus, Nato jets supporting artillery units bombarding heavily-populated cities while militias commit what look a hell of a lot like war crimes in Libya. Let’s not fuck about – Nato is what it set out to destroy, with a thin veneer of righteousness. Those people are still dead, whoever killed them, for whatever cause.

Seriously. Black Hawk Down, great film. In one of the final scenes, General Whoever wanders into triage and finds a lot of his soldiers grievously wounded or dying. Stuck for anything else to do, he grabs a rag and tries to mop up a pool of blood on the floor… But the rag he’s grabbed isn’t absorbant, so he just smears the blood around to no avail.

That. Is. It. That’s intervention, folks. It’s possible it might work here and there, but our actually lived experience tells us that all it does is smear the blood around while we all throw poses.

I know that’s depressing, but there it is. I wish it was better.

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Watson Ladd 09.30.11 at 11:58 pm

So let’s work on better. The choices outlined so far suck. My idea for better: by randomly assassinating leaders of repressive regimes we can incentivize them to change for the better. Anyone got others?

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Rich Puchalsky 10.01.11 at 12:21 am

“’ll say it, if nobody else will – western powers should absolutely not intervene anywhere, ever, short of the threat of genocide of millions upon millions of people.”

Flyingrodent evidently doesn’t know that “war is bad and we shouldn’t get into one whenever we have a choice” is far too simple for sophisticated thinkers such as ourselves.

geo, I have to say that I think that your position is just as silly, just as based on fantasy, as Watson Ladd’s. Unfortunately, his makes him sound like a seventeen year old, while yours makes you sound like a responsible adult. That’s why yours is worse. His is based on a fantasy of only killing the people who should be killed, with people like him as the Deciders. Yours is a good deal more grandiose, and is based on recreating the whole world so that the people in it can then endorse the same corrupt and failed institutions that we have now, only this time they’ll really work. Can I persuade you to start writing that we should do what is right assuming that we have a UN from Earth Prime, because some day we will? I mean, his has time travel to kill Hitler, so you’re really being kind of unfair.

The UN decision in question is a perfect example of what happens when you value the legitimacy of a “restraint” controlled by those national and international ruling classes that you oppose. It does not restrain them, of course; it only says that when they want to go to war, war is legal. As we discussed ad nauseum during the Foley episode, it did not authorize anything like what actually happened — the resolution authorized humanitarian intervention, and was promptly used to get various countries’ militaries in motion for regime change, and people like you still haven’t figured that out. But no one really cares now what the resolution authorized, because hey, fait accompli.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 1:04 am

Rich, I was accepting collateral damage in my argument! Just war is a teenage fantasy of Hugo Grotius, St. Aquinas, etc.

Now, does anyone have a serious suggestion for what to do with the Taliban? If the answer is “Nothing” we aren’t being creative enough. Every time I read about a dictator dying naturally I wonder why we let that happen.

Dragon-King, the people I am not saving are fucked anyway. I’m not saying we are going to kill 10% of the people of Afghanistan because it doesn’t matter. It does, and we should minimize the casualties of any intervention as much as possible. Maybe military intervention isn’t the best approach: assassinating leaders who don’t achieve certain benchmarks for freedom might be better on the utilitarian calculus. It probably is now that I think about it harder. But at least I’m thinking about how to make people’s lives better.

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Bruce Wilder 10.01.11 at 1:18 am

Regime change doesn’t work (very often) (for liberal values and purposes), because it is so rarely tried (for genuinely* liberal aims) (by competent organization with sufficient resources).

* I suppose it is telling in some way that I cannot quite identify that liberal aims (freedom! democracy!) are ritualistically adopted in the propaganda justifying interventions, while the decision to intervene itself is made in an authoritarian, or even secretive way.

I like geo’s spirited defense of the aims of liberal internationalism, because I am old enough to have formed my view of those possibilities, before George W. Bush appropriated the dramatic language and poses, redressed by Hollywood hacks, to get an enormously expensive war (I presume without really knowing — apparently only Dick Cheney in his dead heart knows) for oil.

The problem with collective action without deliberative process and reconciliation of conflicting interests and ideas — with authoritarianism, in other words — is that it tends to become collectively, really, really stupid. And, reflexivity of social and political processes being what it is, stupidity tends to beget authoritarianism.

American politics has become really, really stupid on a number of fronts, and is becoming increasingly authoritarian, as well. My problem with Alex Downes’ essay is that it looks really, really stupid to me. I tried to highlight @13 a sentence that I thought signalled intense stupid, in the form of obviously debased reasoning, but Henry @15 and @16 did not understand, so maybe it wasn’t as obvious as I thought.

We really ought to be thinking about ordering a Republic of earth. Anarchy really is not a viable option. But, what we have isn’t working well either.

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gordon 10.01.11 at 1:27 am

Everybody should go back and read Ch. 5 of B.Tuchman’s “The Proud Tower” again. That’s the chapter entitled “The Steady Drummer”, and describes the Hague “disarmament” conferences of 1899 and 1907. There we see, more than a hundred years ago, the same aspirations towards disarmament and international arbitration espoused by geo in this thread, and the same disdainful attitudes which at the time were general among the participating Powers and which have been reproduced by some other commenters here. We read there, too, of the pressure of public opinion and what today we would call civil society groups for disarmament and peace. In Tuchman’s story, it was really that pressure, the pressure of public opinion, which prevented those conferences from collapsing ignominiously as soon as convened, and which provided momentum for at least some proposals to get accepted.

It’s easy to be disdainful of the peaceful regulation of Great Power rivalries, but that posture is sterile. Looking back, knowing what we now know, it would have been the better part to support the agitations of those now-forgotten peace groups, no matter how much weight of conventional wisdom opposed them, than to take the easy road of supersophisticated “realism” and denounce peace campaigners as “sentimental”, or “rabble”, or “socialists”, as happened then. Of course, much the same sort of denunciations are heard today, but that just indicates that campaigners for peace and arbitration are still in the right.

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geo 10.01.11 at 1:45 am

a “restraint” controlled by those national and international ruling classes that you oppose

As I’ve been trying to say, what you do when a political system, domestic or international, is controlled by the ruling classes is try to make that system more democratic, while at the same time contesting individual decisions or laws as effectively as one can within (or, when necessary, outside) that imperfect system. If the system is so rigged that it can’t be changed nonviolently — though that’s not a judgment to make lightly, and certainly doesn’t apply to either the United States or the United Nations — then you’re entitled to try to change it violently. I’m not quite sure what your objection is, or what the alternative is supposed to be.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 2:03 am

Geo, the US doesn’t act the way it does because the elites want it to. They are also constrained by capital. No one wants a recession. In foreign policy I think this is a bit less of a direct connection.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.01.11 at 2:28 am

” That’s the chapter entitled “The Steady Drummer”, and describes the Hague “disarmament” conferences of 1899 and 1907. There we see, more than a hundred years ago, the same aspirations towards disarmament and international arbitration espoused by geo in this thread”

Wait, let me get this straight. Their failure proves they were right? Our model should be the success in regulation of Great Power rivalries of the peace conferences of 1907? I think that this idea has a future, along with more troops for future liberal interventions so they work right this time, endless austerity for the economy, and building more and more prisons for the drug war. Surely if something has failed before, then we should ramp it up, not consider what to do differently.

“As I’ve been trying to say, what you do when a political system, domestic or international, is controlled by the ruling classes is try to make that system more democratic, ”

Well, to start with, the UN is perfectly undemocratic. No one elected these representatives, if that is what they are. They are not apportioned according to population in any way, but instead get “votes” of greater or lesser importance based on military power. They are directly appointed by the ruling classes, whoever they may be in each country. You can defend the UN through the familiar rationale of restraining national rivalries, but making the place “more democratic” is a category error.

“I’m not quite sure what your objection is, or what the alternative is supposed to be.”

The first thing to admit, in each of these cases, is that the current system is illegitimate and that no one should support it. That’s the precondition necessary for any kind of real change. Not through violent revolution, of course — that has a greater record of failure than anything else. But hopelessly holding on to the dreams of the mid-20th-century only means that we don’t even have a chance of working towards something else.

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Bruce Wilder 10.01.11 at 2:37 am

WL@112 “does anyone have a serious suggestion for what to do with the Taliban?”

Does anyone want to take responsibility for creating the Taliban? or the conditions that made the Taliban thrive?

I’m not particularly hostile to the idea of interventions for regime change in principle. I’m sympathetic with, say, the position of Juan Cole on Libya, which seems to be to accept a high degree of messiness and risk all around, in order to put aside the certain misery of Gaddafi’s regime.

But, I’m struck by the extent to which the examples of extreme “evil”, where the case for intervention is presumed to be almost prima facie, are products of interventions. I’m not a foreign policy expert (and I wonder whether anyone is, reading or listening to some foreign policy opinion), so I cannot marshal details to make the case, but it is hard for me to believe that it would not be possible to do things in trade and banking, which would have the effect of building institutions and pressuring elites to do things (other than say, buy more military hardware or sign onto self-destructive and corrupt neo-liberal trade and financial deals that harm their countries).

WL@116: “. . . the US doesn’t act the way it does because the elites want it to. They are also constrained by capital. No one wants a recession.”

Presumably, U.S. behavior is the collective outcome of elite conflict, though many would say that one of the troubling things about U.S. conduct, of late, is that it is driven by too strong a consensus among an elite, which elite no longer includes much of anyone, who thinks of themselves as responsible for representing the interests of a mass constituency. But, of course, the U.S. does what elites want; that’s what makes them “elites”.

Foreign policy of the Western powers, at least since the end of religious wars in the 17th century, has been driven largely by commercial and economic considerations. It was only with the world wars of the 20th century that people started to get serious about reforming political institutions; the collapse of Empires at the end of the First World War might have something to do with the new concerns.

At least since WWII, recessions have been conscious policy choices. Recession may be chosen as a means, not an end, or accepted as the best available short-term course, but recession is a choice. Right now, many, many elite policymakers are clearly acting as if they desire not just recession, but a decade of stagnation and, possibly, depression.

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Bruce Wilder 10.01.11 at 2:42 am

RP@117

A nihilist?

That didn’t work, either. Read some Russians novels.

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geo 10.01.11 at 3:10 am

Their failure proves they were right?

No, their failure, and the resulting disastrous consequences, prove that doctrinaire “supersophisticated realists” (I think perhaps he’s cocking a snoot at you, Rich) were wrong to withhold support from those who tried in vain to push their governments into stronger collective security arrangements. Sounds plausible to me.

the UN is perfectly undemocratic … “more democratic” is a category error.

Again, I’m not sure what you mean. Of course someone elected the UN representatives, at least to the extent that someone elected the governments who appointed the representatives. The General Assembly and the Security Council function according to majority rule (the latter subject to great power veto). They’re not apportioned by population, but neither is the US Senate. Like the Senate, they’re imperfectly democratic, not “perfectly undemocratic.”

the current system is illegitimate and … no one should support it

It’s partly legitimate and partly illegitimate. Americans have sharply and increasingly limited but definitely nontrivial amounts of freedom and self-determination. American citizens can, within those limits, give political effect to their opinions, and many, many more of them agree with Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich than with you or me. “Legitimate” doesn’t mean “enlightened” or “moral”; it means “acknowledged by a majority (or plurality) of those it governs as having a right to legislate.”

What do you mean by “no one should support it”? Do you mean that no one should obey any existing laws? Or merely that one should criticize many laws, and the processes of government as well? That one should try to change the laws and the Constitution, or secede, or organize an armed insurrection?

What exactly are we disagreeing about, Rich, beyond our rhetorical styles?

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Dragon-King Wangchuck 10.01.11 at 4:11 am

Dragon-King, the people I am not saving are fucked anyway.

Says you. I suspect that they might have a different take on it.

But for the moment, let’s skip my primary complaint – that yout utilitarian calculus is based on your values. That you get to decide what is positive and by how much.

Instead let’s try and bring it back to the original point. Your utilitarian approach – the cost-benefit maximized good for the greatest number idea – requires that you be able to calculate the sum total value for your alternate scenario, i.e. intervention. Well the main point of the post is that the valuing of intervention is nearly always optimistic. By huge margins. Unless you place greater value on military contracts than military personnel (to say nothing of civilian casualties or property and infrastructure damage in the countries being “saved”).

This is not even addressing delusional nonsense like “Teh Iraq War is going to pay for itself.”

This is dealing with the supposed desired outcome – the toppling of the dictator. Which more often than not creates lasting instability, chaos and a general state of “fucked anyways”.

Back to Afghanistan – here we are, close to a decade after ousting the Taliban to bring about teh FREEDOM you cherish so much for others. But teh Taliban isn’t gone, is it? In fact, Karzai was in “peace talks” with them up until yesterday. And a lot of the country is now under de facto control of local warlords, so that freedom that’s been won for the Afghanis really doesn’t exist much outside of some select areas. And even then – the daily death toll from violence regularly breaks into double digits. As do the numbers imjured or detained or captured.

Ten years in Afghanistan and what is there to show for it? Pretty much what has been historically observed as detailed in the original post at the top of this page – instability, violence, a neutered central government that’s seen as the puppet of foreign powers resulting in the constant threat of civil war.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 4:58 am

Dragon-King, I don’t think I grasp your primary complaint. If its that I am using my values, that’s not an argument. I think I like the things I ought to like: freedom and prosperity, that people can effectively run their lives themselves. This sounds arrogant, but any moral theory is going to have one set of rules. I have nothing against women choosing to stay inside the house. I have something against those who would force them to. If its that these values aren’t universal, we have nothing to say to each other: birth and circumstance do not determine right and never will.

Your second argument is a good deal more convincing. Still, I’m not sure that just handing the Taliban victory on a silver platter is the right approach.

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gordon 10.01.11 at 6:41 am

“Wait, let me get this straight. Their failure proves they were right?”

No, their failure doesn’t prove anything except that the forces of aggressive militarism in those days were stronger than the forces of peace, arbitration and disarmament. This is an old struggle. It’s worth reading Tuchman’s chapter just to learn how numerous and influential the peace campaigners of 1899 were; it’s something often forgotten in the conventional story of the coming of WWI. But as I tried to say in my previous comment, those campaigners, although they failed, were in the right. And being in the right is the right place to be. That is the most important thing, but it is also the necessary place to be if public opinion is to be moved away from aggressive militarism and towards peace. To say that campaigns to limit Great Power aggression have failed in the past isn’t a reason to give up. It’s a reason to keep on campaigning and arguing for peace, because we haven’t won yet. So I cheer on geo and others of his persuasion, and disregard the easy jeers of the militarists and imperialists.

As far as “the dreams of the mid-20th Century” are concerned, they are older dreams than that, and at the moment are the only dreams worth dreaming. I don’t think you have any better ones.

Finally, be careful of saying that violent revolution has a worse record than anything else. We owe the institutions we have to violent revolutions of the past.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 7:07 am

In the beginning the main goal of the UN was to prevent wars between nation-states, especially massive wars, like WWI and WWII: “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”. It’s a pragmatic goal. As Rich said, ‘democratic’ has nothing to do with that. But in 1989 the situation changed, and, I think, the thing is now becoming, more and more, simply a tool of western neo-liberalism.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 8:42 am

Bruce: to accept a high degree of messiness and risk all around, in order to put aside the certain misery of Gaddafi’s regime

Misery of Gaddafi’s regime – as opposed to what, miraculous transformation into Norway, after a short period of messiness? Libya became independent in the 1950s. It took European nations hundreds of years to evolve to their current, still highly imperfect state; how come the former colonies are expected to get through all the necessary phases in just 50-60 years?

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soru 10.01.11 at 9:44 am

Misery of Gaddafi’s regime – as opposed to what, miraculous transformation into Norway, after a short period of messiness?

Actually, Libya has life expectancy of 75, infant mortality 15 per thousand, 72% female literacy. It’s not Afghanistan, you’d tend to naturally expect it to default to the kind of government that peers like Brazil or Turkey have. Gadaffi looks very much like a historic relic, someone who came to power at a time when life expectancy was 20 years less, infant mortality 10 times higher, and so on.

Over the period of his rule, he does deserve some credit for not stopping that progression. Though not all _that_ much, as few leaders have.

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Tim Wilkinson 10.01.11 at 10:29 am

Henry – any chance of releasing my comment (09.30.11 at 4:42 pm)?

I’m assuming it hasn’t been cruelly spurned, not being offensive, libellous, trollish etc. Longish, yes, but not insanely so. Note that it’s those who use libraries, internet cafes or dial up who are likely to try to cram a whole day’s worth of comment in all at once.

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Andrew F. 10.01.11 at 11:46 am

geo @24: The United States is emphatically not committed to rooting out terrorism, stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, curbing human rights abuses, or spreading democracy.

It’s committed to several goals (Downes named two other key goals that you omitted, global primacy and stability). Sometimes those goals conflict with each other. The claim is not that the US perfectly and to the exclusion of all other considerations pursues each of the named goals.

Once one accepts that US foreign policy goals are complex, and frequently require compromises in values to obtain, your list of counterexamples becomes not so much a list of counterexamples but evidence of those compromises.

For example, the US is in fact opposed to the spread of WMD in the form of NBC weapons, and expends very large sums of money and effort each day on counter-proliferation. That Israel acquired those weapons anyway is not a counterexample; nor is the US not applying maximum pressure on Israel to relinquish those weapons (which Israel would certainly never do).

Nor is US support of organizations that did some very awful things during the Cold War a counterexample to US opposition to terrorism. It’s another example of compromise. In that case, regardless of our view of the prudence of the act, the compromise was between opposing human rights abuses at all times, and continuing a struggle that (in the view of the US) was for the preservation of human rights, national security, and global primacy, for the long term.

There’s certainly room for reasonable disagreement about the wisdom of those decisions, but they don’t constitute counterexamples to Downes’s claim if you understand that claim to be about the several complex goals a state has in a complex environment that may frequently require tradeoffs in the pursuit of those goals.

Returning to the more substantive claims of the paper for a moment, I think it’s a useful beginning but only a beginning in evaluating whether a given act of regime-change is justified or likely to be successful. His paper will likely prove fertile ground for additional studies – and in some ways, that is the best and most productive kind of research.

And of course, various other important types of interventions and possible interventions (think the Balkans, Afghanistan, perhaps Somalia, and others) don’t really fit into Downes’s analysis at all (no fault of Downes at all, who carefully defines the target of his analysis).

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Uncle Kvetch 10.01.11 at 1:11 pm

When I think about truly horrific regimes, my thoughts go first and foremost to North Korea. And then when I read Watson Ladd’s contributions to this thread, I can’t see any reason why he isn’t advocating nuking Pyongyang posthaste. Nasty, messy, unpleasant, yes…but hardly an unacceptable price to pay for the liberation of the rest of the country from the most oppressive regime on earth. Sic semper tyrannis and all that.

So what do you say, Watson; are you with me? If we can get PNAC on board this will make the glorious liberation of Iraq look like Grenada. Onwards and upwards!

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Rich Puchalsky 10.01.11 at 1:45 pm

“As far as “the dreams of the mid-20th Century” are concerned, they are older dreams than that, and at the moment are the only dreams worth dreaming. I don’t think you have any better ones.”

You’re willing to cheer geo on because he is a “peace campaigner”. But of course from my viewpoint, he isn’t. For the recent Libyan war — oops, “intervention” — his position, as far as I can make out, was that it was a legitimate decision, and perhaps legitimate but wrong, but that people had to go through extra hoops in order to oppose it, much as they have to if they want to oppose a Supreme Court decision in the U.S.

This is a quite typical form of corruption of discourse of our times. Geo is a “peace campaigner” because he opposes war in the correct way, even though he doesn’t really oppose certain instances of actual war. Other people who merely oppose war no matter what its justification are DFHs, or perhaps nihilists in Bruce Wilder’s rather more upscale formulation. In particular, Geo excuses intervention in the Libyan war because he is wedded to a particularly mid-20th-century conception of the UN as preventing war, and has mixed this with mid-20th-century left dreams of the UN becoming the basis for a more democratic world system. And if I reject these highly time-and-place-contingent institutional commitments, I must be against the eternal dream of peace.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 1:50 pm

Uncle Kvetch, I was thinking a surprise attack on the giant celebrations where all the North Korean leadership is assembled to start off, followed by a massive invasion from the north by China.

133

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 1:56 pm

Maybe you should learn to pilot a plane, and fly it into the Juche Tower. That’ll show ’em!

134

Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 2:05 pm

Henri, that would be ineffective. Symbolic targets are well, symbolic. I want Kim Jong Il to die as punishment for what he has done to his country. Why don’t you go out and help the Taliban by blocking troop transports? That sadly will actually work. Or why don’t you offer your own policy suggestion so I have some other policy to pick from? I’ve offered up the assassination idea, but no one seems to want to argue about it.

As for peace, we should recall Kant’s argument that only republics can be peaceful.

135

ezra abrams 10.01.11 at 2:11 pm

What is a std for successful regime change ?
I think the only fair one is to survey the people of the country involved; anything else is arbitrary and undemocratic.
I didn’t see anything about that in the original article.
my impression, 4th hand via us news, of Iraq is that the avg person is both grateful and angry at the US; grateful for the removal of saddam and angry at the bumbling and repression of the post saddam regime
PS: am i the only one who thinks “normative” is a horrid academic neoligism ? I went and looked at my compact OED; only two citations, both from the 1880s.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 2:21 pm

Survey them? That implies a democracy where the people’s will is king. Democracies are the only legitimate states.

137

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 2:28 pm

Watson, I keep offering the most obvious suggestion: since you’re into it, go there and assassinate whoever you want. And you keep evading, for some reason.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 2:46 pm

Henri, I can’t. The chances of me being successful are very low, and I am not going to cross the line on this blog and actually say I am going to kill someone. Assassinations require the resources of something like Mossad or the CIA, which I don’t have. And clearly you don’t actually believe the suggestion or you would think about doing it as well. Furthermore, if I assassinate one dictator that has zero deterrent power: we need institutions that will continue to kill dictators so one one wants to become one. Anyway, I’m glad I can count you as amongst the supporters of an international club to eliminate dictatorship. Now, how do we get this to happen.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 2:55 pm

Well, for one thing, who cares whether you’re successful or not?

And if you need resources, go raise the funds. Maybe you can find some sympathetic Saudi multi-millionaire, or something.

I don’t know about Mossad, but the CIA, you see, is responsible for providing national security, not assassinating foreign nationals that Watson Ladd doesn’t like.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 3:51 pm

Henri, this isn’t about my personal dislike for dictators any more then laws against robbery are about our personal dislike for robbers. And I care about my success: my life is worth something, so wasting it is not a good idea. Wait, now you are defending the CIA doing bad things to other countries on the basis of national security? I am claiming the following: there needs to be an effective deterrent to dictatorship, either in the form of military intervention or assassination. I don’t ask geo to personally stop wars: he supports political action as a means to an end. So I likewise support political action that leads to dictators being held accountable for their crimes. If the ICJ charges Kim Jong Il and this leads to his imprisonment after he is convicted, I would be fine with that. But we all know that that is very unlikely: we live in a world in which the US and other Western democracies are the only organizations capable of taking action in support of human rights.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 4:09 pm

we live in a world in which the US and other Western democracies are the only organizations capable of taking action in support of human rights.

You’re the only one here who believes that, everybody else doesn’t. Which means that you are, most likely, wrong (or, I suspect, just trolling). So, being so enthusiastic about “effective deterrent to dictatorship” and all that, you’ll have to organize that deterrence yourself. Get to work, time’s a-wastin’.

142

geo 10.01.11 at 4:47 pm

*Help! Comment stuck in moderation since last night!*

143

Bruce Wilder 10.01.11 at 4:50 pm

WL@131: “Why don’t you go out and help the Taliban by blocking troop transports? That sadly will actually work.”

Al Qaeda’s attack of 9/11, as many commenters have pointed out, was intended to strike a blow, of course, but also to provoke a response. Al Qaeda, in other words, had a strategy. It was the provoked response — the expected overreach by the U.S. — which Al Qaeda hoped would do the most damage, as it, in fact, has. The invasion and occupation of Iraq and the long war in Afganistan and Pakistan have been enormously costly, and damaging to the U.S., and haven’t done much for any of those miserable countries.

Way back @13, I quoted Alex Downes:

“. . . interveners often lack the will or commitment to remain indefinitely in the face of violent resistance, which encourages opponents to keep fighting . . .”

to highlight the debased reason, which drives the American intervention strategy. I thought Downes was flattering the idiots, by echoing their false logic, but Henry @15 read it differently. Be that as it may, as a thesis considered in isolation, it is still an example of idiotic reasoning, combining a fairy (“will”) with perpetuity.

The American military intervention in Afganistan is already the longest war in our history, and has risen near the top of the list, in terms of economic cost. “Will”, “commitment”, intention, these are not enough, not sufficient, either practically, or I think, morally. This is as true of war-mongers as it was gordon’s peace campaigners of 1899, so proud of their own idealistic good intentions.

One of the strongest arguments against intervention, though not much ventured in this discussion, is the evident difficulty of ever ending an intervention. Our political elites and institutions make it extremely difficult to either conduct an intervention competently, or to get out after. “Success” of any military intervention short of conquest requires a quick and timely exit. Yet, the U.S., in the twilight of its “empire” does not seem able to either conquer or exit.

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Barry Freed 10.01.11 at 4:50 pm

And when it gets unstuck it will be placed way up there in the thread where it would have been had it not been stuck in the first place and so no one who has been keeping up with this thread all along will ever read it. /grumbles

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flyingrodent 10.01.11 at 4:58 pm

“Will”, “commitment”, intention, these are not enough, not sufficient, either practically, or I think, morally.

A tendency to think entirely in terms of infantile concepts like willpower, force, “Being much nicer than the baddies” and a bovine insistence upon their own good intentions in the face of a mounting bodycount are the defining characteristics of the most ardent interventionists.

The actual results of their schemes are barely even relevant, as far as most of them are concerned. That’s why so many of them have spent the decade insisting that there were lots of good reasons to support the invasion of Iraq, despite the fact that it was a disaster and was always, very obviously going to be a disaster.

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geo 10.01.11 at 5:16 pm

Barry @142 has a point, so I’m going to try again. This is (was) a reply to Rich @117.

Their failure proves they were right?

No, their failure, and the resulting disastrous consequences, prove that doctrinaire “supersophisticated realists” (I think perhaps he means you, Rich) were wrong to withhold support from those who tried in vain to push their governments into stronger collective security arrangements. Sounds plausible to me.

the UN is perfectly undemocratic … “more democratic” is a category error.

Again, I’m not sure what you mean. Of course someone elected the UN representatives, at least to the extent that someone elected the governments who appointed the representatives. The General Assembly and the Security Council function according to majority rule (the latter subject to great power veto). They’re not apportioned by population, but neither is the US Senate. Like the Senate, they’re imperfectly democratic, not “perfectly undemocratic.”

the current system is illegitimate and … no one should support it

It’s partly legitimate and partly illegitimate. Americans have sharply and increasingly limited but definitely nontrivial amounts of freedom and self-determination. American citizens can, within those limits, give political effect to their opinions, and many, many more of them agree with Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich than with you or me. “Legitimate” doesn’t mean “enlightened” or “moral”; it means “acknowledged by a majority (or plurality) of those it governs as having a right to legislate.”

What do you mean by “no one should support it”? Do you mean that no one should obey any existing laws? Or merely that one should criticize many laws, and the processes of government as well? That one should try to change the laws and the Constitution, or secede, or organize an armed insurrection?

What exactly are we disagreeing about, Rich, beyond our rhetorical styles?

147

geo 10.01.11 at 5:21 pm

Free at last! My long-blocked comment is now up, listed as 120. Required reading for Rich; optional for everyone else.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 5:28 pm

Henri, what organizations do you believe are effectively able to improve human rights, and how are they doing so? What is the policy you believe in and who is carrying it out? Is the current state of the world really the best we can do?

geo, no one elected the Chinese leadership, and no one speaks out against the Russian one. Yet these states have veto power over all the rest. Fiji is a member in good standing, despite being ruled by a military dictator. Any claims that the UN derives democratic legitimacy in this way is laughable.

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geo 10.01.11 at 5:29 pm

While Rich is digesting my comment @120 and preparing his thunderbolts in reply, a word in response to his comment @131.

his position, as far as I can make out, was that it was a legitimate decision, and perhaps legitimate but wrong, but that people had to go through extra hoops in order to oppose it, much as they have to if they want to oppose a Supreme Court decision in the U.S.

If a decision is “legitimate but wrong” — for example, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United — what “extra hoops” do I have to go through to oppose it that you don’t?

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Donald Johnson 10.01.11 at 5:43 pm

“But we all know that that is very unlikely: we live in a world in which the US and other Western democracies are the only organizations capable of taking action in support of human rights.”

Well, maybe we could start with holding our governments to account when they violate human rights.

“Is the current state of the world really the best we can do?”

Hopefully not. See previous remark. Or we could pretend it doesn’t matter and cheer for more humanitarian wars. They seem sort of expensive–if we are going to devote trillions of dollars to “helping” people overseas surely there are more cost effective ways of doing it. But Watson must have his fun and any utilitarian calculation must take that into account, I guess.

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geo 10.01.11 at 5:47 pm

Watson: Any claims that the UN derives democratic legitimacy in this way is laughable

Yes, Watson, we all knew about Russia and China (but thanks for the information about Fiji, which I had thought was still in the stage of primitive communism). No, the UN is not a legitimate authority because every government within it is democratic, or even legitimate, any more than the Congress is a legitimate authority because American politics is a model of democracy. The UN is a political body, with a constitution, intended to transfer sovereignty in some external matters from individual states to a collectivity of states, who deliberate and vote. The rationale for forming this organization was and is that anarchic competition among states had led to two global military conflicts in recent memory, and that, given the increasing sophistication of military technology, another global conflict would be unimaginably destructive. Since it’s a maxim of statecraft and common sense that many heads are likely to be cooler than one or two (especially when the many include bystanders who will be fried in the conflict), it was thought that such a body would make large-scale conflicts less likely.

Of course the UN is currently a bad joke, just as the US Congress is currently a bad joke. But that doesn’t mean that either world government or representative democracy is a foolish idea. And if they’re still good ideas — indeed essential to the continuance of civilized life, or even the survival of the species — then the sensible thing is to *make them work*. This is not, pace Rich, equivalent to suspending all opposition to every decision of either body. Why on earth would anyone ever suppose it was?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 5:47 pm

Watson, I believe that people everywhere are perfectly capable of improving their own human rights, as well as the rights of local animals, and, possibly, plants and minerals, without any help from Mossad or the CIA whatsoever.

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Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 6:17 pm

Donald, I look at Somalia right now and see that no food aid is possible without the correct institutions, and the correct institutions would obviate the need for that aid. North Korea is in a similar. How can Afghanistan develop when one half of its population was imprisoned? Politics matters more then material circumstance because politics can change material circumstance.

Henri, explain why dictatorships last if people can assert their human rights so easily and effectively. If we lived in that world I we wouldn’t have the problem of regimes that act the way they do toward their own people.

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Andrew F. 10.01.11 at 6:35 pm

Hmmm… also worth noting how few full-scale interventions with the goal of regime-change the US has undertaken since WW2. Downes includes Iran in 1953 and Chile in 1973, among others, in his data set, but I’m not sure these are particularly good cases. In fact as a statistical analysis of the difficulties of intervention in the post-WW2 period, much less the post Cold War period, I’d say there is a paucity of cases here. Suggestive for case studies, though.

Bruce @143: Al Qaeda’s attack of 9/11, as many commenters have pointed out, was intended to strike a blow, of course, but also to provoke a response. Al Qaeda, in other words, had a strategy. It was the provoked response—the expected overreach by the U.S.—which Al Qaeda hoped would do the most damage, as it, in fact, has.

Well, this is tangential, but AQ’s key planners had counted on the US being a paper-tiger – as being unable to sustain casualties in a military conflict though boasting considerable technological power. They stupidly and naively took Somalia as the object lesson. Quite clearly, they were wrong, and 9/11 was strategically the worst mistake they ever made.

This is not to defend the wisdom of the Iraq invasion of 2003. But it is to say that AQ hasn’t had a significant “as per our plans” moment in over 10 years.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 10:03 pm

Dictatorships last for the same reason the western plutocratic republics or any political arrangements last: because (and for as long as) they correspond well to the underlying economic conditions.

156

Rich Puchalsky 10.01.11 at 10:18 pm

When a comment comes back from auto moderation on CT, succeeding comments get renumbered. This has happened enough times on this thread so that I’m not really sure if I’ve tracked down what people want replies to… anyways.

Here is what happened here on Crooked Timber, from my viewpoint:

1. Conor Foley appears, tells everyone that the upcoming intervention in Libya is a humanitarian one, not a liberal one, because of the rationale of the U.N. legal document that authorized it. This together with plenty of stuff about how liberal interventions were what people called what Bush did, and how this time was different.

2. The actual intervention occurred, and it was made plain by the people who controlled the troops that this was in fact a liberal intervention that would go on until Gaddafi was deposed.

3. The entire sorry episode vanishes down the memory hole to such an extent that the boilerplate about the U.N. doesn’t even change. Once again, when the U.N. is mentioned, it’s as something that if you’re on the left you somehow have to support … instead of what it actually is, which as Henri wrote above is merely a tool of neoliberal interests.

Geo, it’s plain to me that you have a fantasy U.N. in your head that somehow *must* succeed even as the real one becomes, as you say, a bad joke. This makes you an easy target for propaganda of the type that Conor Foley spread, because you’ll help in spreading it.

And I’m rather puzzled by the inability to understand the difference between illegitimate and legitimate-but-wrong. It’s the difference between “Everything the U.N. does is bullshit. If someone tells you that this next war is good because it has U.N. authorization, all that means is that they want propaganda that will appeal to the left. The next U.N. resolution authorizing war is no different from that vial of ‘anthrax’ that Powell held up” and “The U.N. is completely necessary and legitimate, but they were wrong this time. We have to support their decisions. But this time they got it wrong. I’m not sure how, but…”

One of these tends to discredit the U.N. as an institution, which is exactly what needs to be done, because the U.N. now only encourages war, it does not discourage it. The other leaves people just as ready to trust the next bit of propaganda as they were the first.

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geo 10.01.11 at 10:21 pm

Andrew: a paucity of cases

Are you serious? There’s Haiti, Cuba, and the Philippines early in the century, Nicaragua in the 1930s, Guatemala, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the Congo in 1961, Indonesia in 1965, Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 80s. In all these cases, the US armed, trained, financed, and/or advised military forces that attempted to overthrow legitimated governments and establish more investor-friendly ones. Why doesn’t that qualify as “regime change”? I’m sure I’ve left out some examples in my stunned incredulousness at your very strange assertion. And yes, Iran and Chile are perfectly good examples of successful (by the American government’s lights) regime change.

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geo 10.01.11 at 10:25 pm

Sorry, Rich, I’m worn out. I’ve tried hard to explain the distinctions you profess to be unable to understand, but if I’ve failed, so be it. Maybe next time.

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Salient 10.01.11 at 10:47 pm

One of these tends to discredit the U.N. as an institution, which is exactly what needs to be done, because the U.N. now only encourages war, it does not discourage it.

I feel completely comfortable saying “I categorically refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of any war that does not receive the unanimous approval of all U.N. countries” and also saying “I reserve my right to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of any war that has received unanimous U.N. approval, in part because the U.N. makes quite a lot of bullshit decisions, has failed to discourage wars that are patently unethical, has in several instances just provided neoliberal warmongers cover, and might be providing a context in which member states that would otherwise protest are receiving diplomatic pressure and intimidation to keep quiet and consent.”

…but ‘fails to discourage’ is not the same thing as ‘encourage.’ At all. I am not familiar with any cases where the U.N. has actually been the entity pressuring its member countries to go to war. (Plenty of cases where a member country pressured other member countries to let them go to war via solicitation to the U.N., plenty of cases where a member country pressured other member countries via the U.N. to provide material support. But when, in the absence of at least one country wanting to go to war, did the U.N. itself advocate for a war?)

So for the time being, I’m not convinced the U.N. itself encourages war, or even enables wars that wouldn’t have otherwise happened in its absence. (I’ll try to be receptive to arguments in those directions, if you have the time and energy to spell them out.) And so long as the U.N. is a failed institution rather than an antagonistic instutition, I’m willing to entertain and maybe even contribute to attempts to fix it rather than destroy it.

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Salient 10.01.11 at 10:51 pm

(And of course by this distinction, the United States is unambiguously an antagonistic institution, and I’m demonstrably willing to entertain and contribute to attempts to fix the U.S. rather than destroy it. Whether that’s a fair comparison or not remains unclear to me.)

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.01.11 at 11:00 pm

The UN itself is nothing but an aggregate of the member-states; permanent security council states being, of course, more equal than others. If it is less effective in discouraging war, it’s only because the relationships and the balance of power between the five permanent members have changed.

162

Watson Ladd 10.01.11 at 11:35 pm

Henri, I find that sort of vulgar marxist determinism preeminently false. India and Pakistan had very similar economic circumstances, but one was a military dictatorship and the other a democracy (despite the persistance of censorship in both). Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world, and yet holds elections regularly. Furthermore the underlying economic conditions are also shaped by policies governments produce. And lastly this should never deter us from pursuing democratic rights. Free speech costs nothing, and can always exist no matter what economic arrangements exist.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.02.11 at 12:13 am

“I’ll try to be receptive to arguments in those directions, if you have the time and energy to spell them out.”

I thought I had, but I’ll try again. Here’s a simple chart of how the U.N. works with regard to war:

Case A: A country wants to go to war, but can’t get U.N. approval.

In this case the country goes to war anyways. See e.g. Iraq and the Coalition of the Willing.

Case B: A country wants to go to war, and gets U.N. approval.

In the case, the country goes to war, and in addition trumpets in its propaganda that the war comes from a legitimate decision of the U.N., even when its actual war aims go far beyond what the U.N. authorized. *This just happened.*

Case C: No countries want to go to war.

In this case, generally, nothing happens.

Therefore the U.N. only leads to more war. If it had the ability to stop countries from going to war in Case A, then it might lead to less, but it doesn’t. It can on occasion seem to stop a less powerful country from going to war in Case A, but this only happens when powerful countries use the U.N. as a signaling method that they’re going to use their militaries to stop it. They could do the same thing through any kind of diplomacy.

So in short, the U.N. whatever its historical or planned functions now serves as a way for warmongers to get a certain form of approval for their wars. They hire people to call this humanitarian intervention, just like any large organization uses a P.R. firm to put their spin on what they want to do.

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gordon 10.02.11 at 12:21 am

Why do some Americans have such a loathing for the UN?

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Andrew F. 10.02.11 at 12:26 am

geo @157: Well first of all, 12 or 13 cases doesn’t strike me as a large number for the purpose of statistical analysis. Second, only a few of those cases constitute full-scale interventions in the sense of an Iraq 2003 or Afghanistan 2001. Again, this is not a criticism of Downes, who very carefully defines his terms. But the data set and analysis is of limited use – only a beginning – in assessing the type of full-scale interventions that have dominated recent discussion in this thread.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.02.11 at 6:19 am

They could do the same thing through any kind of diplomacy.

Why, it helps to have representatives of almost 200 states in one building, all talking to each other. It’s certainly a much more efficient kind of diplomacy than 200 ministries of external affairs communicating with each other via tens of thousands of embassies.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.02.11 at 8:03 am

@162, Watson, I don’t understand most of your comment, unfortunately. What determinism and why is it false? Are you aware that India had military dictatorship in the 70s? What’s in elections – most dictatorships have election. And what does it have do with being “one of the poorest”?

And lastly this should never deter us from pursuing democratic rights.

Absolutely. You should absolutely pursue your “democratic rights”, whatever the hell it is. That’s what I keep telling you; that’s what this is all about. I don’t think the CIA and Mossad will do it for you.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.02.11 at 8:19 am

…incidentally, all the Pakistanis I know (5 or 6) really preferred the Musharraf regime to the previous, elected governments. Too much corruption, you see. Elected politicians can be (and usually are) extremely corrupt. Generals – not so much. That’s a big advantage.

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flyingrodent 10.02.11 at 11:27 am

12 or 13 cases doesn’t strike me as a large number for the purpose of statistical analysis.

Insanity = Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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Andrew F. 10.02.11 at 11:42 am

flyingrodent, but here both the results and the circumstances of the cases varied.

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Uncle Kvetch 10.02.11 at 12:29 pm

Why do some Americans have such a loathing for the UN?

If you buy into American exceptionalism in its most virulent form — which I would guess some 2/3 to 3/4 of US citizens do — the very existence of a forum in which we can be openly criticized by our inferiors, on our very own soil, no less, is nothing short of maddening.

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Salient 10.02.11 at 2:03 pm

They could do the same thing through any kind of diplomacy.

And that same diplomacy could hash together a ‘broad base of support’ for a ‘humanitarian’ war, serving exactly the purpose you propose the U.N. serves. “The U.N. approves our awesome humanitarian war” is functionally identical to “Look at how many countries approve our awesome humanitarian war” in the absence of a U.N.

If anything, in the absence of a U.N., it would be easier for a member state to intimidate other member states individually, behind closed doors. That happens even with a U.N., but with a U.N. at least some of that pressure will happen publicly or be witnessed publicly, where we can hope to see it sometimes and call it out.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.02.11 at 2:35 pm

Salient, we can get into even more and more hypothetical situations if you want to. But basically the reason why the U.N. is more functional as a propaganda organ in our actual, real world is because of leftist nostalgia. People on the left side of the spectrum, however defined, put a lot of work into the U.N. They failed, and the U.N. is now a tool of what they opposed. Rather than admit to this and go on to something else, they make themselves participants in the propaganda, just like the people who can’t believe that Obama is doing all the same things with regard to war powers and civil liberties that Bush did. (Actually, Bush didn’t declare that he had the right to have people assassinated.)

Some scattered other comments: Henri buys into another form of propaganda, that it matters what 200 different embassies say. Try more like 10, except for regional issues.

Gordon asks a passive-aggressive question and Uncle Kvetch answers it without looking at context. I guess the next question will be why so many DFHs hate our armed forces.

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Watson Ladd 10.02.11 at 2:48 pm

Henri, what makes a dictatorship a dictatorship? I believe democratic rights are universal, those who ensure their absence are tyrants. If ancient Athens could have a democracy, then no state today is too poor to have democracy. Freedom is not a luxury good. I already have my democratic rights, now it is time for everyone to have theirs.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.02.11 at 4:43 pm

I already have my democratic rights

I don’t know what “democratic rights” are, nor am I aware of a single state in the modern world with a democracy a-la ancient Athens.

I’ll note that you having your “democratic rights” is not a very meaningful claim at all. Assuming that you live in Israel or the US, you’re merely pushing your government’s right-wing propaganda line here; advocating assassinations of your regime’s official enemies. That’s not much of a “right”; people living under Taliban enjoy it too. If you were, instead, advocating mass-assassination of your country’s politicians, you would, without a doubt, quickly end up in Gitmo or some Israeli equivalent.

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chris 10.03.11 at 2:34 am

Watson Ladd: If ancient Athens could have a democracy, then no state today is too poor to have democracy.

If ancient Athens could have a democracy, then owning slaves doesn’t disqualify you from being a democracy (to say nothing of women having a legal status functionally equivalent to slavery). That doesn’t seem to leave room for a lot of content in your universal democratic rights.

Rich Puchalsky: People on the left side of the spectrum, however defined, put a lot of work into the U.N. They failed

What do you think the goal of the UN was? If it was to prevent WWIII, then it hasn’t failed at all — wars still occur, but none have since become the kind of world-engulfing cataclysm that had already occurred twice in one century when the UN was formed. Reducing the size and destructiveness of wars is a quite important goal even if you don’t (and perhaps can’t) succeed in preventing them entirely.

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Rich Puchalsky 10.03.11 at 2:57 am

“What do you think the goal of the UN was?”

To oversimplify, I think the U.N. has had three sets of goals. One set revolves around preventing catastrophic wars — a pragmatic goal that might be said to be shared by everyone except the most lunatic parts of the political spectrum. The second set has to do to with the left more specifically, and consists of a number of attempts to promulgate goals of the left through binding treaties that become international law — starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, say. The third set has to do with the attempts of powerful countries to gain approval for wars that they want to have, and to otherwise muscle less powerful countries.

When I referred to the left putting in work, it was with regard to the second set of goals. That no longer operates except as lip service, and has been replaced by the third set in the U.N.’s actual business.

As for the first set, I really have my doubts that the U.N. has been an important factor. Still, if it is, that gives no reason to talk about a “more democratic” U.N. The purpose of diplomacy in cases where catastrophic war is possible is not democratic decision-making among the participants.

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Donald Johnson 10.03.11 at 3:33 am

Watson, we’ve just had a decade of massive spending and bloodshed in wars that were ostensibly about liberation, with results thus far that don’t seem too inspiring. You seem to think this has been a sound investment and you want to see it done more often. I really don’t know what to say to this.

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Harold 10.03.11 at 3:46 am

Ancient Athens was very rich because of its olive oil industry — not to mention the tribute it exacted from other cities. In any case, its democracy did not last long.

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campfiregirls 10.04.11 at 3:51 am

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet as regime change “working.” Regime changes happen all the time. The idea is that you want a different set of people to somehow benefit while others suffer impediments of some kind. If the violence produced is against a group that it hasn’t been against previously, then that’s a pretty big change. The article and post would have been more to the point if the title was, “regime change doesn’t produce democracy” instead of the non-committal political speak “doesn’t work.” I don’t think I would claim that it never could though, only that it hasn’t worked out well in the past. I’ll allow “doesn’t work well in producing well functioning democratic states.” I’ll also accept “American/western/any hegemony doesn’t work” if we’re being blase about descriptive language. Additionally I’ll support “Congress doesn’t work,” because that’s just what people say.

181

Watson Ladd 10.04.11 at 4:08 am

Henri, you remind me of the commissar who when asked “Commissar, in America we can walk up to the White House and say Jimmy Carter is an idiot so we are a free country.” replied “Certainly, one can say Jimmy Carter is an idiot in the Red Square also.” I have the right to vote, the right to express my opinions about political matters. I know that I will not be arrested because of what I say, unless I advocate imminent lawless action. Indeed, expressing the desire to overthrow the US in principle is protected speech! Furthermore, in a thousand lesser matters I can read and think what I want. But who in the world of the tyrant knows what is safe to say and what isn’t? I can criticize the laws freely, while in the Taliban’s Afghanistan doing so would get one killed.

chris, the Second Congo War killed 5.4 million people. The Korean War is still ongoing, and 24 million people are languishing in what must be the city of Dis, North Korea. The UN seems to not care. (Although McArthur gets the blame for triggering the Chinese invasion). Furthermore, we could have gotten polio, and ran out of money.

182

Gene O'Grady 10.04.11 at 4:22 am

Harold,

I’m afraid the silver mines at Laurion were rather more important than the olive oil exports.

I have a hard time getting my mind around the notion that Athenians were poorer than the meth-racked rural communities the globalizers have left in the American West.

Plus, it’s significantly easier to have direct democracy in a tiny territory with a citizen population of 25,000 or so (it fluctuated) than in any modern state larger than the Vatican.

183

Harold 10.04.11 at 6:00 am

Gene, I read about the olive oil in William McNeil’s The Shape of European History years ago and my memory is a little hazy — don’t remember silver, but am sure you are right.

184

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.04.11 at 7:39 am

I know that I will not be arrested because of what I say, unless I advocate imminent lawless action.

No, like I said, you know you will not be arrested, because what you advocate is the official right-wing line of your local regime. Meanwhile 700 people advocated against the regime were arrested this week in NYC.

Everywhere on this planet, if the establishment feels that you’re dangerous, something bad will happen to you. It could be an arrest for public disturbance, or it could be what happened to Fred Hampton.

185

Andrew F. 10.04.11 at 11:32 am

Henri, those that were arrested, were arrested for blocking a road. They’ve been protesting for weeks without, for the most part, being arrested.

In the US you can certainly advocate revolution, even violent revolution, so long as your words do not pose an imminent danger of criminal action. For all its many faults, US protections of free speech are the most robust on the planet.

It’s a shame this discussion has wandered a bit off the original topic… lots of material there for a great conversation.

186

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.04.11 at 11:59 am

those that were arrested, were arrested for blocking a road.

And those stoned by Taliban are killed for insulting the prophet. What’s your point?

US protections of free speech are the most robust on the planet.

According to 2010 press freedom index, it’s number 20 internally, and 99 (down in the bottom half) as ‘extraterritorial’.

187

chris 10.04.11 at 1:34 pm

As for the first set, I really have my doubts that the U.N. has been an important factor.

I realize post hoc isn’t the strongest form of inference, but two world wars in half a century before the UN, none in half a century after it seems to me like at least enough to require a cogent argument about what other cause might be producing that effect rather than simply dismissing the idea. Particularly when the UN was designed to do precisely what it appears to have done.

The second set has to do to with the left more specifically, and consists of a number of attempts to promulgate goals of the left through binding treaties that become international law—starting with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, say.

Well, that was pretty much always only a pipe dream, so I don’t see how that represents a change in the UN. Or is it only in hindsight obvious that powerful countries aren’t going to take the UDHR seriously as a restraint on their power? The US had dictatorial and terrorist clients for decades even before the GWOT, not to mention its own awful race relations (which were even worse at the time the UN was formed) and a justice system that still produces unequal results along racial lines. The contemporary (and also the current) regimes in the USSR and China were even worse.

188

Watson Ladd 10.04.11 at 1:48 pm

Henri, I didn’t advocate just limiting assassination to the nonclients of the US. The head of the coup in Honduras would be equally likely to meet an untimely end under my proposal. Furthermore, any future US dictator would also be a target. Besides, if you can’t see a difference between insulting the prophet and getting killed, and blocking a road and getting a small fine, I don’t think we have anything to discuss.

189

LFC 10.04.11 at 2:21 pm

Haven’t been following the thread but I happened to see Watson Ladd’s assertion that “the Second Congo War killed 5.4 million people”. Although this figure is widely repeated, it is wrong. The actual figure is considerably lower. The 5.4 million figure comes from the Int’l Rescue Committee study, which underestimated the pre-war average mortality rate in E. Congo, thereby overestimating the number of deaths caused by the war. See Joshua S. Goldstein, Winning the War on War (2011), pp. 260-64.

190

Watson Ladd 10.04.11 at 2:32 pm

LFC, nice work. I got my figure from Wikipedia.

191

Harold 10.04.11 at 2:32 pm

Watson Ladd sounds like a latter day John Wilkes Booth.

192

Harold 10.04.11 at 2:35 pm

The 700 people who were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge were led into a trap by the authorities – representing Wall Street – for the purpose.

193

Watson Ladd 10.04.11 at 2:50 pm

John Wilkes Booth killed the president as part of a decapitation strike to preserve slavery. I’m advocating bringing democracy and freedom everywhere through small amounts of violence: more like Robespierre or John Brown. Does anyone have any better suggestions for ensuring we all live in republics and get to control our own lives? I’m open to ideas.

194

Josh G. 10.04.11 at 3:18 pm

chris @ 187: “I realize post hoc isn’t the strongest form of inference, but two world wars in half a century before the UN, none in half a century after it seems to me like at least enough to require a cogent argument about what other cause might be producing that effect rather than simply dismissing the idea.

Off-hand, I’d say that nukes have a lot more to do with the lack of a WWIII than the United Nations does.

195

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.04.11 at 4:10 pm

Well, it did play a role in the 1962 Cuban crisis. Without it, who knows what would’ve happened.

196

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.04.11 at 4:37 pm

Besides, if you can’t see a difference between insulting the prophet and getting killed, and blocking a road and getting a small fine, I don’t think we have anything to discuss.

Yes, insulting the prophet is certainly a much more serious matter, certainly for a true believer, like yourself.

Lol, I like “blocking a road and getting a small fine”. I believe this could also be a fair description of the 1989 Tiananmen square incident.

197

Jack Strocchi 10.04.11 at 6:20 pm

“Regime change” tends not to work mainly because of the kind of regimes targetted, rather than the changes implemented.

Regime change worked with Germany and Japan because their societies were highly functional, indeed over-functional. They only needed a change of mind at the top. They were hard to beat, but once you knocked the bs out of them they toed the line.

Regime change does not work well with the various Arab nations (“tribes without flags) or whole swathe of “Trashcanistans” running through central Eurasia. This is because, well where do you start? You might knock the head off but the body keeps running round like a headless chook.

We should wish the Arab Spring well, but mind our own business.

198

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.04.11 at 9:12 pm

@197, I believe some years ago I read it in Jim Henley’s blog, the idea that perhaps making your society ungovernable under foreign domination is simply an evolutionary developed anti-colonial tactic.

You can occupy Iraq and Afghanistan, but you can’t govern them – end of story. Germany and Japan don’t possess this trait.

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Watson Ladd 10.05.11 at 3:01 am

So I’m sure Tank Man is alive, having just been charged with resisting arrest…. Henri, what part of the Enlightenment don’t you like? The part where people aren’t going to get arrested for what they believe, where the church will no longer control people’s lives? Or the part where freedom is for everyone?

I think this thread should show who the real monster is. Henri isn’t just saying that regimes might be too costly to take out, he’s justifying their crimes. I by contrast am calling for a new era of world freedom and searching for a means.

200

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.05.11 at 7:41 am

What I’m saying is that regimes have no business in deciding whether other regimes are ‘criminal’ or not, let alone taking them out. No more than me deciding, based on my idea of what’s acceptable and what’s not, that you’re a ‘criminal’, because you advocate assassinations, for example.

You, as an individual, on the other hand, are perfectly free to go fight any regimes you want. But for some reason you refuse. It is disappointing, and makes me suspect that you’re not quite sincere.

201

Watson Ladd 10.05.11 at 4:20 pm

Henri, you don’t deny the Taliban the right to organize collectively to achieve their aims. You’re calling on me to do something futile, namely single-handledly go up against the North Korean army, instead of agitate politically for a new world political order that makes states like North Korea change. Unless you think Kim Jong-Il should equally be required to meet me in single combat, I’ll argue you are being partisan, forcing me to adhere to a standard that others do not.

Secondly you are arguing that as individuals don’t decide what actions are criminal, by analogy states should not get to define what actions are criminal. But you’re missing something here: when people combine into society they can define what is criminal and what is not. Likewise states can together define what is criminal. Furthermore, individuals are subject to law. In the US if you think I have done wrong you can call the police and inform them, and they will investigate. There is no equivalent in the international system.

202

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.05.11 at 4:40 pm

It doesn’t have to be you alone. It will only be you alone if your ideas are weird and eccentric; otherwise it will be you and millions of other people. Most of them, I imagine, from the population of the countries in question. And if you can’t even convince them, then there must be, obviously, something wrong with your assumptions.

Secondly, this already has happened: states together defined what is criminal. They agreed that states shouldn’t, as a rule, get involved in other states internal affairs, and decide what economic and political systems are right for them. States are accepted as autonomous entities, similar to individuals: I have no business forcing you, for example, to eat food I believe will make you healthy, or listen to the music that I believe will make you happy. That’s your choice. This seems quite trivial and non-controversial.

203

Harold 10.05.11 at 4:48 pm

Set your own house in order.

204

Watson Ladd 10.05.11 at 4:56 pm

Henri, that’s exactly what I am proposing! Stop with this idiotic “why aren’t you there already?” I’m putting forward the case for this cause of action, so others can agree with it and join me. I don’t think propaganda of the deed works. Blowing up the Juche Tower is one thing. Having the Sixth Fleet blow it up, and follow it up by liberating the slave camps and slaying the overseers is quite another.

Henri, I don’t think states have rights. People have rights regardless of where they live. You don’t seem to want to let the Israeli state deal with its Arab inhabitants in the way it sees fit, so I don’t think you really believe that states ought not interfere in domestic matters. It should have taken less then 6 million examples for you to learn that lesson. Your invocation of laissez-fair is no more then sophistry: those who force others to bend to their will should be punished for such a crime, and you disagree. So apparently this is bad, only not bad enough to stop. Lord Acton was right: evil triumphs when good men stand by.

205

Uncle Kvetch 10.05.11 at 5:15 pm

Henri, that’s exactly what I am proposing! Stop with this idiotic “why aren’t you there already?” I’m putting forward the case for this cause of action, so others can agree with it and join me.

Maybe Crooked Timber isn’t the best place to drum up new recruits. There are plenty of other blogs where the idea of drumming up more wars that you have no intention of actually fighting in is likely to get a better reception.

206

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.05.11 at 5:17 pm

Having the Sixth Fleet blow it up would be a war of aggression, defined by the Nuremberg tribunal as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”. Those who gave the order would be hanged (or deserved to be).

I don’t like a lot of most of the states do; I don’t suggest, however, that they should start attacking each other.

Again, you don’t have to stand by, you should go to N.Korea and fight. Why don’t you?

207

Watson Ladd 10.05.11 at 10:20 pm

I picked NK for a reason: we are already at war with it. Besides, any law that prohibits war while tolerating the starvation and mass imprisonment of entire populations is immoral. North Korea has an ongoing dispute with S. Korea over the maritime boundary, which is adequate causus beli. Your quote does nothing more then assert war is the ultimate evil, which many are sure to disagree with.

I could go to N. Korea, fire a few shots at the border, and get killed. That would do so much, wouldn’t it? You seem to be saying that you can argue for the state to do things that an individual cannot like tax property, and that I cannot.

Uncle Kvetch, its not enough to have recruits. I want to argue for the principle of R2P to a very high degree, that dictatorship should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

208

Harold 10.05.11 at 10:55 pm

The South Korean people do not want war with North Korea. They want to be able to travel see their relatives. Anyone who advocates war is a depraved human being. Watson, I mean you.

209

Rich Puchalsky 10.05.11 at 11:27 pm

“I want to argue for the principle of R2P to a very high degree, that dictatorship should not be tolerated in the 21st century.”

As someone who remembers how R2P was just used to justify killing many people in Libya, I hope that Watson Ladd continues to advocate for it. Actually, I’m kind of sorry that I didn’t make up “Watson Ladd” myself.

210

Uncle Kvetch 10.05.11 at 11:28 pm

Uncle Kvetch, its not enough to have recruits. I want to argue for the principle of R2P to a very high degree, that dictatorship should not be tolerated in the 21st century.

I know exactly what you want to argue for, Watson. As Harold says, it’s nothing short of depraved.

211

LFC 10.06.11 at 12:38 am

As I mentioned before I haven’t followed all the twists and turns in this thread, but I would like to make a couple of points:
– The US and North Korea are only “at war” in the technical sense that the armistice was never replaced by a peace treaty. They are not “at war” in the commonly understood meaning of that phrase. I don’t know if someone here is seriously suggesting that the US navy should open fire unprovoked on NK or is merely trying to be provocative, but the idea is very dangerous. NK is a declared nuclear power. If you want to conduct an experiment on the conditions under which a conventional conflict might escalate to a nuclear one, pls do it on paper at home, in your head. Sit at your desk and read Schelling. Whatever. But don’t do it with real weapons and real people. The people of NK are suffering, but an unprovoked attack by the 6th fleet is not the answer.
– This notion upthread that the UN only encourages war, not discourages it, is false. UN peacekeeping missions have done a great deal to ensure that settled conflicts do not reignite. The evidence of this is quite substantial; see JS Goldstein’s book to which I made reference earlier @189.

212

Lemuel Pitkin 10.06.11 at 12:39 am

Anyone who advocates war is a depraved human being. Watson, I mean you.

Wow, this is one well-fed troll.

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