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October 16, 2005

Comments

Edward, ignore anything they say and look at what they actually did. They have been spectacularly successful at looting Iraq; just assume that the only thing they've been good at is the main reason for doint it in the first place.

In such situations, as Bush did with Hussein, the responsible thing to do is give the threatening nation an ultimatum. This gives the people a chance to overthrow the leader should he not back down.

After Gulf War I, this is exactly what Bush 41 did, and 100s of thousands of Shiites were slaughtered. I don't think that course of action was morally superior to what we are doing now. So, yes the blood is on our hands this time, but I think there is hope among Iraqis that things will actually change for the better, while there was no such hope before.

I can't do that Tim.

That would mean far too many good people are in on it with them. I see the attraction of that line of thinking, but it doesn't add up for me.

Well, I must admit that justifying a war by copping to a war crime does have a certain novelty to it.

As Tim said, Occam's Razor looks pretty good here.

What it comes down to is that each and every public rationale for the war in Iraq has been disproven.

There are the factually false rationales, like WMD and Saddam involvement in 9/11.

And there are the functionally false rationales, of which Rice's latest foray into "transformative" reasons is just the latest. To wit: If your aim is to transform a region by removing a keystone state and replacing it with something better you don't do it the way the Bush Admin did.

You don't pick Iraq as your keystone, for onesies. Saudi Arabia, Syria, even Pakistan for god's sake, are more significant keystones in the "radical Islam/terrorist" axis than Iraq was before we invaded the place.

Further, you don't turn the target country into a chaotic, murderous, sectarian, civil-war ridden bloody mess.

The point and purpose of transformative war is to show people throughout the target region that they should support the endeavor, because transformation will improve their lot in life. Iraq has shown them just the opposite; the mess we've made in Iraq makes all the other despots in the region look better to their citizenry. They might not have very much (if any) freedom, but at least they can go about their daily lives without worrying they'll be blown up the minute they leave the house.

What accounts for the Bush Admin's absolute failure in every single one of their rationales for the war?

Can they, each and every one of them, possibly be that incompetent, that deluded, that boneheaded?

What are the odds that an Administration that includes so many veterans of other Administrations can be that incompetent, that deluded, that boneheaded?

Sorry. There's a distinct possibility that Iraq has played out exactly as they intended it to.

DaveC, it is morally superior, imo, because you're letting that nation attempt to forge democracy on its own. You're letting them determine their own destiny, instead of bombing them into submitting to your own attempts.

Our mistake was not in encouraging the revolt, but in not supporting it once it started. One need not follow the other.

I'm reminded of a part of Shaking Hands With The Devil by Romeo Dallaire's, the military head of the UN mission to Rwanda during the genocide, where he discusses US involvement with an American military analysist. He explains to the stunned Dallaire that the measure of worth that was used was one US life lost for each 80,000 non-American lives saved, if I'm remembering the figures correctly. If the ratio was lower, say one US life lost for every 50,000 lives saved, then they would not consider deployment of troops.

This value system explains a lot of foreign policy that we're seeing recently, I think. And apologies if I'm remembering the figures incorrectly, my copy of the book is at work and it's the weekend.

After Gulf War I, this is exactly what Bush 41 did, and 100s of thousands of Shiites were slaughtered.

You're omitting the part where Bush 41 promised the incipient rebels American aid should they attempt to rebel, then hung them out to dry when they did. So no, it isn't "exact" at all.

So, yes the blood is on our hands this time, but I think there is hope among Iraqis that things will actually change for the better, while there was no such hope before.

There's always hope. There's also always fear that this time things will change for the worse -- much, much worse. The relevant question is what gives you (or us) the right to kill innocent Iraqis in order to play God like that.

This analysis seems flawed. Specifically, if,

kill innocent Iraqis as part of a long-shot attempt to make ourselves safer,

was instead,

kill innocent Iraqis as part of a guaranteed attempt to make ourselves safer,

is it OK?

Tim: If there were some way of proving what the future outcome will be without actually doing it, that would radically change the moral issue. At least it would for me. What gets to me about arguments in which good outcomes will justify nasty things along the way is that the present and future are different kinds of things. If I shoot you dead now, you are in fact dead. But I won't know until next week what will happen next week. As with every action we take out of expectation of future events, it's a gamble...and it may not pay off.

Now if I gamble with my own stuff, even my own life, then that's fine. It's my stuff, I can lose it. And it's one thing to gamble with things that can be replaced. It's a third to gamble with other people's stuff that can't be replaced. I can't bring you back from the dead if it turns out that I was mistaken about what'll happen next week. You're dead in every possible outcome at that point. And I don't see how I can guarantee to you or anyone else that shooting you now will make things better next week.

I also have to agree a lot with Edward about the problem of priorities. There's a whole lot we could be doing in the Middle East without having made this war, and it seems to me that we'd be in a better situation to decide when and where a war might be necessary if we were doing them first. We should have focused a lot more on the prominent backers of Islamic terror...except of course that the biggest bunch are close personal friends of the president. Which suggests that maybe next time around we should look for a president who isn't buddies with the guys who provide the people who actually attack us.

DaveC:

Some guy was shot in SE DC last night. It may not matter to you whether it was me or someone else who did it, but it matters a lot to me that I didn't do it. Come to think of it, I can imagine it matters plenty to people I'd like to talk into following my example.

All:

It's been said plenty, but she who can't imagine transformation in the ME without SH being deposed has no imagination. The idea that SH was anything but a local tyrant is, and has always been (or has been since 1991) completely without foundation. He's not a force one way or the other on any of the principal issues of the real war on terror. Nothing about SH made any difference one way or the other on the attack on the Cole, 9/11, bin Laden's escape of Tora Bora, attacks on Bali, or virtually anything else -- outside Palestine -- before March 2003. And within Palestine, I think it's a pretty tough case to make that SH's modest involvement meant any difference at all on the ground there -- all he was really doing was grandstanding for Iraqi opinion, and, frankly, I'd like to see comparative figures for Saudi support (official and unofficial) for terrorism in Palestine, which I'd bet makes SH look like the piker he was.

No transformation without removing SH? That just shows me these people know as little about the ME as they did about the Soviet Union.

All that said, I'll give them this: if the Iraqi people had welcomed our soldiers as liberators, refrained from looting, suppressed themselves the incipient insurgency at its very outset, then our conquest of Iraq would have scared neighboring countries into making policy choices that we'd like. That is, if the plan had worked, it would have worked. As it is, though, no one is scared into doing anything -- except Iran seems to rationally believe that getting a nuke is the best strategy for preserving its revolution. (My guess is that even threats, much less military action, causes Iranian moderates to rally 'round the flag).

Anarch:

I'm not sure you're being fair to GHWB. I know he said or implied that the US would welcome an uprising, but I don't think military support was promised. The Shia thought we believed in all that Saddam = Hitler propaganda that we'd had before GWI, and that we'd surely prevent the sequel. Too bad, not to be confused with missionary work, and all that, but I don't think there's really a broken promise in there.

Thank you CharleyCarp. I was composing a post along those lines as I read this thread--there never was the slightest reason for believing that the overthrow of Saddam would have a kind of ripple effect or liberating effect or any effect at all on the Middle East. He was not influential. He was not respected. He wasn't even particularly feared (the Isrealis gave him their lowest threat rating). Condi's perspective is a misapplication of history with Saddam as the Soviet Union and the Middle East as Eastern Europe.
Besides the Great Game approach to foreign affairs never works out as the gamers plan, even when the gamers are competent.

People always have multiple motives. Nations do too. I believe, (but can't prove, of course) that way down underneath Bush wanted to invade simply because he thought it would be easy and he could play the hero at no risk to himself and not much cost to the people he represents.

I, too, was writing CharleyCarp's post in my head as I read. I agree with Edward, though I think that if you knew that you were right both about the threat and about the outcome of intervention, then there would be some numbers such that: "preventing the death of x people in the (not hugely distant) future by making life much better for a whole region, by overthrowing a regime known to have engaged in serious violations of international law, at the cost of y people's lives" would be justifiable. (x = 100 million; y = 1, for instance.)

But this was never that case. We didn't know that any such thing would happen. It wasn't even reasonable to think it. Saddam was a piker, outside his own country. He probably had fewer connections to bin Laden than the CIA did. He wasn't working on WMD, and while I think it was reasonable to think he might have been about 6 months before we invaded, as I've said before, the existence of intrusive invasions gave us a perfect opportunity to check our intelligence before invading and see whether it was accurate, by the simple expedient of telling Blix likely places to look and then seeing what he found. I cannot imagine that we did not avail ourselves of this opportunity; if we didn't, that was itself irresponsible. For my part, I assumed that we were doing this, which is why, though I thought Iraq was probably working on WMD as of, say, October 2002, by January I had concluded that he probably was not.

"Changing the region" was the only rationale that made sense, as of the time we actually invaded. But the very idea that you can control the consequences of a major invasion and war, especially the invasion of a proud and broken people and the destruction of its existing government, to anything like the degree you'd have to in order to feel any confidence at all about this sort of transformation is ludicrous. And the idea that you can do this without planning carefully, or even at all, for the occupation, is so far off in fantasy-land that letting people die for the sake of it is, in my non-lawyer's mind, criminal negligence.

Lily, I think that's very likely it. Jonah Goldberg wrote some years ago about the idea that every decade or so the US should pick up some minor nation and throw it against the wall just to show that we can, and I feel pretty comfortable in guessing that that attitude is quite common in this administration. It's a typical manager's outlook - have the grunts do something to make you look cool.

This analysis seems flawed. Specifically, if,

kill innocent Iraqis as part of a long-shot attempt to make ourselves safer,

was instead,

kill innocent Iraqis as part of a guaranteed attempt to make ourselves safer,

is it OK?

It's still problematic, but less so. You can measure the greater good. Arguably, although it's gray, I'll admit, all the innocents the insurgents have killed would be living if rather than invade Iraq and disband its army, we instead overthrew Hussein through other means.

"I've been looking for arguments that help me understand why the fact that our bombs killed innocent people is not a war crime in this situation."

Did you consider starting by familiarizing yourself with the definition of the term "war crime"? Hint: It doesn't mean "anything bad that happens as a result of a war that Edward thinks should not have been initiated".

Not that that will prevent you from "harping on this now". Knock yourself out.

This is thread I had best avoid for now, tho it has deeply troubled me. I suppose, in this theoretical world where I am bombing cities and deposing tyrants, I am not the best of persons. Pretty bad, actually.

Whatever we did after 9/11, it was going to be done with the President, Congess, & Army we had in the political environment that existed. Unless we are in the realm of the moral necessity to depose tyrants, in which case there would have been a lot of Americans killed. Whatever mind games I may have played were played mostly with myself. Bush didn't care what I thought, and doesn't care what you or I think. The war was on, to be fought as Bush wished it to be. I will not wrack myself with guilt for irrelevant moral speculation.

If you, as I am seeing Yglesias and many others do, feel a need to expand every concrete situation into general moral principles and strategic doctrine, then relax. In my experience, tough calls come up once a generation.

If, on the other hand, all individual life has an infinite value, and people may never used as means, you are going to be tormented.
Unless there are no sins of omission.

I plan on watching Rome tonight, and not in a constant state of moral indignation.

Hey, I'm with all of you: if we knew (or even had reason to hope) that it would be a massive success, I'm for it. But we didn't, and that's why it was wrong. The mutton-headedness of this is the base of any criticism of the war. I worry that we too often fall into discussing it as evil (which it may be), instead of massively stupid. Given that most people feel comfortable trading innocent lives for our safety, arguments based on the evilocity (evilaciousness?) of it all seem unlikely to be useful.

"Hint: It doesn't mean 'anything bad that happens as a result of a war that Edward thinks should not have been initiated'."

That's a relief. Innocent blood spilled is, however, a reason for mirth, cackling, and general comedy. I thinks it's funny. I hope more innocents die, especially children.

C'mon, knock me out.

Edward, I haven't listened to the program so I'm going by your writing.

Let's remember that this is the woman who, on 9/11/2001, planned to give a crucial speech on national security. The topic? Missile defense.

Even granting the administration the benefit of the doubt regarding which circumstances justify our taking innocent lives in our national security interest, I have to question its judgment when it comes to word affairs. I do not trust this administration to weigh the certainty of lives lost versus the uncertain gains.

Dr. Rice doesn't seem to have learned her lesson about what "no one could imagine."

I agree with General Odom, this may be the worst strategic blunder in the history of the United States. Or, to use Talleyrand's delightful quip, it "... was worse than a crime; it was a mistake."

hilzoy, now I understand what you meant by "the horror!" It's a little unsettling to find myself mostly in agreement with Paul Craig Roberts.

the existence of intrusive invasions gave us a perfect opportunity to check our intelligence before invading and see whether it was accurate, by the simple expedient of telling Blix likely places to look and then seeing what he found.

They told Blix where to look, and nothing was found.

dutchm: that's why I changed my mind about WMD. -- For the record, I didn't think that his having WMD would have been an adequate justification for invasion.

(I sometimes wonder whether this is an argument that works differently for different generations. Having grown to adulthood in a world in which there were a lot more WMDs than Saddam would ever hope to amass, all in the hands of a revolting government and pointed at us and our allies, the leap from 'he has WMDs' to 'we should invade' seemed like a pretty substantial one to me.)

I grew up in the cold war too ;)

I hesitantly supported the invasion of Afghanistan. After all my fears came true and none of my hopes I didn't trust the American government any more. After the 2004 elections I stopped trusting "the average American"; again a matter of all my fears coming true and none of my hopes.

I am really happy with blogs. They stop me from developing a general anti-American attitude I do not want to have.

Andrew Sullivan says Saddam was trying to get uranium from Niger. Can't be bothered to link.

We didn't have the right to kill innocent Iraqis as part of a long-shot attempt to make ourselves safer. It was an immoral decision. I cannot just look forward here, because that will ensure we do this again and again and again. Those Iraqis had families, dreams, and the inalienable right to life. And it does matter, very much, whether we killed them or possibly Hussein might have. They were not fungible.

Well, yes. Worth saying, no matter how many people don't want to listen to you.

Shortly before the invasion of Iraq, I attended one of the small British anti-war demos on February 15th. That is, it wasn't the big one in London, numbers somewhere between one and two million: it was about a hundred thousand people. One of the speakers asked us to look round at the crowd and contemplate the fact that this crowd represented the number of people Bush and Blair were willing to have killed in Iraq. (And did have killed, within the first eighteen months of invasion.) There is a certain reality to standing in the middle of crowd and looking round at people, not numbers, people like the people who were killed in Iraq.

First, if we are attacked by another state, I agree that all bets are off. If the people of that nation don't want to be bombed, it's their responsibility to overthrow the regime that bombed us first.

The problem with that argument is: No doubt the people of the US - not even the Republicans - would prefer not to be bombed by Iraqis. But what are the people of the US doing to overthrow Bush? About 25% actually voted for him last November, assuming you can trust the voting machine record, and 50% didn't even bother to vote. If we go by this reckoning, the US wants to be attacked by Iraq: it has done nothing to overthrow the Bush administration.

Of course, this argument is nonsense: Iraq lacks the ability to attack the US, and never has had the ability. Fear of being attacked by Iraq would never have caused anyone in the US to vote against Bush (they may well have had other reasons to vote against him, but not that one) let alone actively working to overthrow Bush's administration before he could bomb Iraq.

This argument - if they don't want us to attack them, they should have overthrown their leader before he ordered the attack on us - is not reciprocal. It works as a means for preventing war only when both countries have equal reason to fear the other's attack.

In the real world, faced with an attack by the US, no country can realistically tell the people of the US "Either overthrow your current administration, or expect to die".

But, in the real world, any country can expect to be told by the US "if you didn't want to be attacked by us, you should have overthrown your current government".

This is American exceptionalism at its finest: the US gets to do what it likes, and the rest of the world must just put up with it.

"This is American exceptionalism at its finest: the US gets to do what it likes, and the rest of the world must just put up with it."

No, you really don't just have to put up with it, and I really wish you wouldn't. Perhaps the ICC could indict Bush in absentia; nations could start various sanction regimes; their citizens could do their best to influence their governments to take such actions.
...
I am on nobody's side today I guess;a monstrosity unto myelf. Caliban watching Ariel talking of the Brave New World.

How shall we stop these evil wars? What price is sufficient? If your post is in any way important, how many innocent lives would you have sacrificed to stop the war? 5? 50? 500? Would you have cut their throats yourself?

Zero?

The keyboard I type these words on was built with the blood and suffering of innocent people,past, present, and future. Oil wars and child labor and Far Eastern tyranny and global warming. The world I live in is a monstrous place, where the decision about who shall use or be used, who shall live and who shall die, is made by myself and others in ways large and small, deliberate and disguised every day.

I have really gotten to the point where I am not sure which disgusts me more: the righteousness of the right or the innocence of the left.

Like I said, I will watch Rome tonight. Moral conflicts in every episode; tough decisions to make; sins and sacrifices.
I recognize that world, looks familiar. I don't see hilzoys or Edward's anywhere around.

I know he said or implied that the US would welcome an uprising, but I don't think military support was promised.

I was fairly sure, though I could be wrong, that explicit, covert promises were made to the Kurdish and Shia leaders that any significant uprising would be met with tangible American support, either in terms of troops or materiel, I don't remember which. If I'm incorrect, you're right and I retract the allegation.

bob: where, exactly, did I imply that there were no tough choices to be made?

Anonymous...you sound faintly familiar. New IP address?

Did you consider starting by familiarizing yourself with the definition of the term "war crime"? Hint: It doesn't mean "anything bad that happens as a result of a war that Edward thinks should not have been initiated".

Oddly enough, looking up definitions is generaly how I begin every argument.

In this case, here's what I'm basing this on:

Critics have questioned the legal basis of some of the charges at the post–World War II trials. Individuals were found guilty of acts considered legal, or even required, by their nation at the time; such findings represent a violation of the concept of sovereignty. The plotting or carrying out of aggressive war had not been previously and explicitly called criminal, and the judges tended to define it very narrowly. A defendant was generally found guilty only if he had been involved in developing the policy, but not if he had simply carried it out.

The "policy" here is the neo-con theory that the 9/11 attacks merely made possible to sell. Terrorism existed before 9/11 and there were reports citing reasons to believe it was heading for our shores (not that Bush read those reports, but...), but it was only after Americans were shaken awake that the neo-con theories wouldn't horrify enough Americans to ensure our Congresscritters could never endorse them. With WHIG spooking everyone with round-the-clock tales of mushroom clouds, though, the saw and took their opening.

This is deliberate involvement in developing the policy of pre-emptive war without a fair and reasonable debate among the citizens. A pre-emptive war BushCo knew better than to attempt before everyone was scared to death. So the involvement issue is a "slam dunk," imo. The only question left if whether pre-emptive war under these circumstances is indeed a war crime.

I'll let Bush's own actions speak here. The argument Bush made (the "Bush Doctrine") was that the war was legal because we were doing it in "self-defense."

[T]he Bush administration has prepared the ground for an attack by developing a different justification: that an attack against Iraq would be an act of self-defence. Because of the new threats that the United States faces, it is claimed, a proper understanding of the right of self-defence should now extend to authorizing pre-emptive attacks against potential aggressors, cutting them off before they are able to launch strikes against the US that might be devastating in their scale and scope.

The UN charter is purposely vauge about the details here, but I'd like to submit two pieces of evidence to support the assertion that this did not meet our own, national, definition of "self-defense." First is a defining precedent and resulting standard:

[C]ustomary law traditionally recognized a limited right of pre-emptive self-defence according to what are known as the "Caroline criteria". These date back to an incident in 1837, during a rebellion against British rule in Canada, when British troops attacked a ship (the Caroline) that was being used by private citizens in the United States to ferry supplies to the rebels. After a long diplomatic correspondence between the US Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, and the British Foreign Office minister Lord Ashburton, a form of words was agreed to govern acts of anticipatory self-defence: there must be "a necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means and no moment for deliberation" and the action taken must not be "unreasonable or excessive".

Secondly, bringing it up to date, the UN Article that covers self-definese for us now is Article 51, but again, most scholars seem to agree it's purposely left to interpretation on case-by-case bases.

The Crimes of War Project asked various scholars to interpret the it with regard to Bush Doctrine as used to justify invading Iraq. The most narrow interpretation they received was by Michael Byers, Associate Professor at Duke University School of Law,

Byers took the narrowest view of this point: he said even if there was a right of striking first, it could only exist when the country affected had no time to take the issue to the United Nations.

The broadest intepretation was by Martti Koskenniemi, Director of the Erik Castren Institute of International Law and Human Rights at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Koskenniemi disagreed with the argument that the right of self-defence only existed until the Security Council had a chance to address the crisis. He said that if the Security Council failed to take action that was sufficient to meet the threat (which, he suggested, was what the history of the Security Council would lead one to expect) and the security of the threatened state continued to be at risk, then the right of self-defence still existed. "I cannot conceive of an actual situation where the Council’s action would extinguish the attacked nation’s right of self-defence," he said.

HOWEVER, "In the specific case of the United States and Iraq, however, Koskenniemi said that he did not see that Iraqi actions posed a severe enough threat to the United States to justify a pre-emptive attack."

Others fell in between, but none of their interpretations would uphold the application of the "self-defense" justification for the Iraq invasion.

So, to make a long story short, Bush was deliberatly involved in the planning of a pre-emptive war that he had no legal option but to argue was "self-defense." If you believe it was "self-defense" then you might (only might, mind you) reasonably argue that he was not in violation of international war laws. If, however, you don't buy the "self-defense" justification, then it's clear Bush broke international war laws.

I, of course, am not a lawyer, but this is how I justify my assertion that Bush has commited a "war crime" by invading Iraq.


Edward, what about the Clinton actions in Yugoslavia?

I've been reading, and violently disagreeing with, The Superpower Myth, rilkefan. I am, unforutnately, not yet ready to wiegh in on Yugoslavia. I'll do more reading and get back to you.

I haven't looked into it, but I wonder what the legalities are concerning intervening in a war that is already on. Suppose there had been no 9/11 attack, but because we thought that getting rid of the Taliban/AQ condominium in Afghanistan would be a good thing. Could we not have allied with the Northern Alliance -- say by providing them air support -- in their ongoing war?

Was Reagan a war criminal for supplying arms and tactical knowhow to the Afghan mujahadeen? I would think not, although, as I say, I haven't really looked hard at it.

I can imagine fitting our involvement in Kosovo into this mold. If I had to argue that the bombing of Belgrade was not a crime.

I cannot imagine arming Chalabi and bringing him into Iraq as we did fits this mold.

Bob McManus:

It is all a little overwhelming. Didn't Joseph Campbell point out that we eat each other just to stay alive and then we light a mythological candle to thank the eaten. Roughly.

"the righteousness of the Right or the innocence of the left"

I try to make my innocence from the Left sound as righteous as the righteousness of the Right so that the latter recognize righteousness just before it hits them right between the eyes.

"bob: where, exactly, did I imply that there were no tough choices to be made?"

hilzoy, when I read posts like the recent one about veterans, my immediate question is what steps are necessary and sufficient to reverse that policy without sacrificing other policy or spending I hold valuable. The general fiscal crisis and political environment does not favor moderate and incremental solutions.

I cannot responsibly call for Katrina reconstruction and no slashes in Medicaid without calling for massive tax increases. I cannot call for massive tax increases without contemplating the political restructuring which would make them possible.
....
Okay, Edward I completely agree:War Crimes.

What is more, on Clemon's blog I made a case that the war crimes, outlaw status, and doctrine of pre-emptive war posed a clear and present danger to the US. Iran has been put into a strategic position where I believe its most rational policy is a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the US. Only if we can give Iran and the world concrete assurance that we as a country disavow Bushism can we be safe. That concrete assurance must take the form of trials. War Crime trials are not optional, but will likely require a second American Civil War.

Are you with me?

Not for civil war, bob no. Not even for trials. What I'd like to see is a pre-emptive pardon by the next Democratic president (with trials looming so it's clear this was wrong) and Bush put out to pasture. That may not be possible, but it's what I'd prefer.

As rilkefan points out, there are precedents that blur the lines here (and I really doubt "war crime" charges will ever actually happen). I suspect that's for the best.

Personally, though, whereas Clinton did all(? still reading) his thinking wrt to Yugoslavia in plain site, the clandestine nature of Bush's efforts warrants closer examination, imo. With any luck at all, that examination will begin soon...

No, you really don't just have to put up with it, and I really wish you wouldn't.

Bob, if you can suggest anything more that the rest of the world can realistically do to overthrow Bush, please do. Sure, Bush could be indicted for war crimes*: odds are this would garner him more support among his base, not less, and more support outside his base, what with all those patriotic Americans going "how dare they indict Our President for war crimes?" which I am prepared to bet that many would, even if they weren't Bush supporters.

The UN can't act against the US: the US is on the security council and possesses right of veto against any action.

The EU could, I suppose, eventually - if the EU became a military as well as an economic superpower.

He's your President. Whether or not you elected him (you plural, not just Bob all by himself) which you unquestionably didn't in 2000 and dubiously did in 2004: this is your government, your country, and according to the principle Edward outlined in his post, if you don't want to be attacked, you need to overthrow your government.

You did get that I was actually disagreeing with this principle in my comment, didn't you?

*Could be. Probably won't be, though I believe Rumsfeld and Powell and possibly Cheney are at risk. The process of indicting a head of state for crimes committed by his regime is complex enough as is, without adding in that the state in question is the world's only superpower and considers none of its citizens subject to any international court, no matter what crimes they commit.

Sigh. Let's play spot-the-fallacy:

" ... this is what I suspected all along was our motivation ..."

Guess what? There were multiple motivations. Your quest to find a single one cannot succeed.

Edward said:
It's still problematic, but less so. You can measure the greater good. Arguably, although it's gray, I'll admit, all the innocents the insurgents have killed would be living if rather than invade Iraq and disband its army, we instead overthrew Hussein through other means.

Overthrew him by what other means? I fail to see what could overthrow Hussein without a bloodbath. And not many things which would have overthrown him without replacing the regime with something worse.

John: Given the situation as we know it to have been in 2003, what required overthrowing Hussein? Even assuming the truth of much of what the Bush administration claimed, why shouldn't our priority have been overthrowing the House of Saud?

Here is the Condi Rice quote:

"Or we could take a bolder approach, which was to say that we had to go after the root causes of the kind of terrorism that was produced there, and that meant a different kind of Middle East. And there is no one who could have imagined a different kind of Middle East with Saddam Hussein still in power."

Stare at this last sentence for a while. You'll find yourself recognizing that it's simply false. It is the kind of nebulous generalization that you'd reprimand someone for. It is not a justification for war.

Either this is a silly argument that conceives of the roots of terrorism as being something as simple as terrorist-affilitaed states or it is a perhaps sound but impractical argument that we have to transform the entire Middle East culturally. Well, yes, we could try to transform the entire Middle East, much like Canada might decide that treaties were ineffective and the only way to solve the problem of the acid rain we send up there would be to attack the root causes of acid rain, and that means a different America, and there is no one who can imagine a different kind of America with George Bush still in power. Do you hear what I hear? Not a policy, much less an argument, but a string of vagueness, maybe even a bait and swich of 'roots of terrorism' with 'different kind of Middle East'. I do not know whether to laugh or cry at the idea that we were going to transform the entire Middle East. Fathom that. That was our response. We were going to transform the entire Middle East. And that's what justified such an impertinent response. Maybe this would be more honest if it was put something like: "But you only doubt the justification because you don't see the grand, master plan! We were going to democratize the entire Middle East by imposing civil institutions on one country, which would lead to a domino effect of similar spontaneous eruptions of civil institutions amid other repressive regimes with no cultural history of them that would forever disincentivize terrorism by the emergence of a broad centrist pan-Arab middle class." More honest, but here the madness is plain.

There is also this: I hate, I simply hate the way these people talk about war as if it were just another kind of social policy. That's the contemporary American hubris. It makes me want to vomit.

There is this too: isn't this an overreaction to 9/11? I feel like our politicans act like terrorists have already taken out a few American cities with dirty bombs. I feel like that is the level of hysteria at which we're supposed to remain pitched.

Count me as one American who opposed the war from the start, who opposes Bush, who has never voted for a Republican Presidential candidate, but who also opposes seeing any American on trial in a court not subject to the US Constitution. Even George Bush. (I would prefer to see him impeached for starting a war not declared by Congress.) And I would fight against an invasion designed to bring him before an international court. (Within the constraints of the whole middle-aged overweight thing.)

If the culture war gets to the shooting stage, I would be on the opposite side from him, but we're not there yet. It's more fun to watch his whole Presidency implode.

ITM's Mohammed had these thoughts prior to Saturday's vote on the Iraq constitution:

I am so excited but a flashback from Saddam’s referendum three years ago still hurts; he wanted a 100% as the 99.96% of the previous one shocked the dictator. I was depressed that way and I decided not to go to the voting office and so did the rest of the family but my father was afraid that not going could be dangerous. He said that maybe one member of the family could go alone and cast votes for the rest of us. We looked at each other thinking who’s going to volunteer to do this ugly job to protect the family. At that moment my father said “it was my generation that caused the misery we’re living in so I’m the one who should do this”. I couldn’t stop him and I couldn’t utter a word but I felt sad for him; his sacrifice was big and I had teary eyes when I watched him taking our papers and heading out.

It is different this time father, no more 100% and a ‘no’ would make me happy just like a ’yes’ would do and no one ever will force us to do something against our will anymore.
Tomorrow will be another day for Iraqi bravery. May God protect you my people... you have suffered so much and you will still be suffering for some time but I am sure the future will be bright.
God bless you my people and all the freedom lovers who keep sacrificing to make this world a better place.

sigh right back at you, a

Guess what? There were multiple motivations. Your quest to find a single one cannot succeed.

Condi didn't cite any of your "mutiple" motivations. She mentioned the one I ntoed. You might want to readjust your fallacy radar.

Amos, what's so special about Americans? I agree about the need for all us patriotic Americans to unite to fight off the humanitarian interventionist hordes massing at our borders, grimly determined to stop the madness that emanates from our shores. The arrogance of those human rights imperialists. It's a little awkward arresting a sitting head of state or other high-ranking government officials--imagine the chaos if we did this to everyone who had it coming, whether Bush or Putin or whoever. Constant wars in the name of justice. Best wait until they're either overthrown or out of office.

But once that happens, what's wrong with nabbing, say, Henry Kissinger if he is ever foolish enough to visit Chile or some other place that might want to accomodate him in one of their prisons? They could get him for conspiracy to kidnap General Schneider, just for starters. It's my understanding that if an ordinary American commits a crime overseas he can't go blathering about the American constitution, so I'm a little unclear why it's different for Kissinger or any other American once they are out of office.

DaveC,
On the anecdote front, Zeyad at Healing writes only, http://healingiraq.blogspot.com/>"I voted no".

http://justzipit.blogspot.com/>Salam Pax hasn't updated, but as of three weeks ago it was this, "If the vote were tomorrow I would vote YES and hope that the next elected National Assembly won’t have as much of a religious majority as the current one. I have opted for the ‘optimistic idiot’ option again; I know I will be disappointed." His previous post is in my tag line.

http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/>Riverbend href> voted against.
"American media is trying to make it sound like Sunnis have suddenly been mollified with the changes made in a flurry of covert meetings these last few days, but the reality is that the only Sunni party openly supporting the constitution is the Iraqi Islamic Party which represents a very, very small percentage of Sunnis.

Most educated Iraqis want to vote against the constitution. This makes the fact that Iraqis abroad aren’t being allowed to vote this time around worrisome. Why was it vital for them to vote for a temporary government back in January but it’s not necessary for them to contribute to this referendum which will presumably decide a permanent constitution for generations and generations of Iraqis? Could it be that the current Iranian inclined government knew that many Iraqis abroad didn’t like the constitution because of federalism, women’s rights, and the mention of no laws to be placed which contradict Islam?"

Ok, she's been about as reliably displeased as Mohammed has been reliably pleased, but the other two cover more ground.

Anonymous http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2005/10/killing_innocen.html#comment-10376829>a href> notes, correctly,

Guess what? There were multiple motivations. Your quest to find a single one cannot succeed.
If he's pointing out that giving sweeping powers to the president based on a list of 30 possible motivations, with minimal effort to pin down how he prioritizes them, was irresponsible of the Congress - I'd agree. The small effort that was made, however, resulted in "mushroom cloud" rhetoric so it isn't (and wasn't a year ago, pre-election) crazy to insist that the administration answer to their mistakes on that score. Not just in selling the war either. Remember, for example, the scientists we said needed to be available for interviews outside Iraq to discuss Saddam's weapons programs? Exactly one of them is now in the U.S. and he came to us willingly (circuitously, after we rebuffed him and threatened to arrest him). http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2005/09/armageddon.html>Story here. Another couple were arrested and are still in custody. The rest, who knows? They would, of course, have been members of the Baath party, so simply settling down to live a quiet life might be difficult even if they wanted to...

But once that happens, what's wrong with nabbing, say, Henry Kissinger if he is ever foolish enough to visit Chile

My understanding is that Chile is about the best place to live in South America. Tell me where things are better. My sister went on her annual missionary trip to Brazil, and according to her there are real bad problems in the poorer neighborhoods. Tell me, are Venezeuela, or Columbia, or Bolivia, or Peru better?

I've got the (uninformed) sense that Chile is serious about confronting its problems, perhaps the most important thing. Wish we could say as much.

DaveC,
On the anecdote front, Zeyad at Healing writes only, "I voted no".

...

Riverbend voted against.

Fine, let's see how it turns out.

DaveC,
On the anecdote front, Zeyad at Healing writes only, "I voted no".
...
Riverbend voted against.

And only because a Nazi, racist, Zionist, chickenhawk, imperialist regime has been imposed against international law, can these people speak out. When the UN and the EU and China and Iran control the internet, none of this will happen.

I take your point, agree that their ease of writing now is a result of the U.S. invasion, and am ignoring most of the sentiment.

I would note that Salam actually became a bit famous for his blogging from Iraq prior to the invasion.

Millions of Iraqis voted on a constitution this weekend. What do we get from the intellectual elite at Obsidian Wings? A discussion of the compromise with the Sunnis? Comments about how two of the Sunni provinces might actually vote for the constitution. An analysis of the bravery of the Iraqi ciitizens and the American troops that have made this vote possible?

Nah. That wouldn't fit our world view.

Instead we get:

Killing Innocent Iraqis to Try to Protect Ourselves
Comments (51)

Judy Tells All
Comments (16)


Give Me A Break
Comments (50)


The Better World
Comments (24)

Unbelievable
Comments (13)

The Incredibly Edible Open Thread
Comments (80)

The Horror! The Horror!
Comments (20)


No surpises. The Bush cabal is guilty of eating babies.


Charles,

I can understand your desire to engage your political opponents in discussion and I commend you for that. When Moe left someone stuck a fork in this kitty. Since then it has been dieing a slow painful death. Most of the posters and commentors here are the minority of the minority. (They don't know this. Hence, their confusion over always losing elections.)

You have shown that you are willing to be critical of the administration and acknowledge the validity of some opposing views. Sadly the reverse is not true.

Sebastion and others have posted how people on this site treat conservatives who post here. The liberal operators of this site know that their commentors have set up a website dedicated to bashing you. They find this behavior acceptable and let their commentors link to the site and exhibit outright rude behavior.

I admire the fight in you, but it's also admirable when one recognizes it's time to move on.

I would also remind you of:

'Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you."

It's time to take this kitty off life support and let her go.

"The liberal operators of this site know that their commentors have set up a website dedicated to bashing you."

Dont, you might want to recalibrate.

DontTreadOnMe: I assuming you've mostly been lurkinghttp://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=DontTreadOnMe+site%3Aobsidianwings.blogs.com>. href> Did you consider perhaps posting something on one of Charles, Sebastian or Von's threads and seeing whether your points were fairly addressed? Or an open threads - a couple on that list I think. You might, for example, say hi and give some hints as to how you'd like to be disagreed with (it's the disagreeing that is the problem, yes?).

I understand Zeyad's point of view. His cousin was killed by US Troops - from what I can tell, because of stupidity as much as or more than malice. I also understand that Iraqis are weary of bloodshed. But I think that both the Baathists and Al Qaeda are bad for Iraq. I just can't see why people in the US would support the Baath party, or Al Qaeda, or Hamas, or Hezbollah, or the Muslim Brotherhood, or Jemaah Islamayyah, or Islamic Jihad.

I think that the US should fight against these groups. I would think that most Americans in general want what we naively call "freedom" to exist in the rest of the world.

DontTreadonMe,

Just go ahead and say what you think. I dont know how you happened upon this web page, but I got here thru Tacitus, as did BirdDog, and it is important to say what you gave to say, even if the audience mostly disagrees.

Think of yourself as a subversive.

Sorry to say, I must agree with DontTreadOnMe.

I no longer see why any reasonably smart conservative would even give this site the time of day.

Tacitus manages to maintain a real balance that keeps both sides interested.

Why can't you?

I'd agree that AQ and Baathist rule are bad for Iraq. AQ can FOAD, but unlike our President I put the risk of AQ actually controlling Iraq at under 1% even if we pulled out completely tomorrow. With us maintaining any force level there it drops even further. I'd suggest that debaathification is a good thing, but not carried down to the lowest level former members. The Pope was Hitler Youth back when. Is it a completely insane goal that maybe the lowest level former Baath party members be able to do some construction work and not be targeted for torture/death by Shiite militias? The morality of that is at least as compelling as that of working with some of the militias as we currently do. The morality (not to mention pragmatic reasons) being willing to deal with some medium-level but clean-hands former Baathists might also be acceptable to some.

This, "I would think that most Americans in general want what we naively call "freedom" to exist in the rest of the world." is accurate. Just as we'd generally like American citizens (and perhaps others) to be prosperous etc. We normally run into trouble agreeing on "How?" and "What's it worth to me?" (some effort or sacrifice on our parts might be necessary) and setting priorities.

Steve,

Tactitus' left-leaning diarists and commenters are made of sterner stuff than the non-front-page right-leaning commenters here?

Sorry, I ran out of conciliatory :)

Tacitus manages to maintain a real balance that keeps both sides interested.

Bwah!

DTOM: I definitely feel that my open thread about being annoyed that Jonah Goldberg made a third amendment joke counts as Bush-bashing. Likewise, my post making fun of William Kristol. I'm surprised you didn't count the one about noodles, though.

lj, you around to say something about Koizumi visiting a shrine dedicated to the idea the imperial army killed cities of innocent Chinese to protect them from the West?

lj, you around...

Yeah, but...

I've been trying to write a comment to this post, which I've put below the Yasukuni stuff, but it's still doesn't really say what I want to say. I guess most of you are asleep now, so I look forward to any brickbats.

Yasukuni is a really difficult topic, because it conflates a legitimate idea (honoring the dead of various japanese conflicts) with an illegitimate idea (validating Japanese imperialism). Unless one wants to claim that because the Japanese were on the losing side, their deaths are not worthy of honor. One could make a that case, but given that Americans often go into contortions about the Confederacy, it's a pretty hard row to hoe.

And one could also take issue with the notion that Yasukuni is dedicated "to the idea the imperial army killed cities of innocent Chinese to protect them from the West". Yasukuni was built 1869, "to convey to posterity the noble sacrifice of those who worked for the Imperial Restoration", according to the webpage In fact, there are large number of "foreigners" (Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean) enshrined there (enshrining just means that their name is on the roll) Just last June, there was an attempt by Taiwanese to enter Yasukuni to de-enshrine(?) their relatives. (I also believe that there are a handful of Western foreigners enshrined, from when the Great Powers were assisting the Meiji government put down the rebelling clans. I'll try to find where I read that, but will just link to the fact that three of the earlier Victoria Crosses were awarded for actions against the Choshu clan at Shimonoseki

As for my personal feelings about the shrine, I like this John Breen article, which points out some of the problems of Yasukuni as well as the ambiguity of the Chinreisha and its propition of the enemy dead (including people like Saigo Takamori(!). This is where Tom Cruise would be if he had died at the end of Last Samurai)

Just for balance, here is a Japanese nationalist view


--The earlier comment---
Interesting discussion. A rambling sort of comment that tries to get at what I'm thinking, but I'm not sure if I can really clearly state it. Anyway, here goes.

I think that I understand where Ed is coming from, as I imagine he (like myself) is a left internationalist sort. It's important to realize that both the left and the right have the internationalist vs. the isolationist strains. Obviously, the right version is more well known currently, but it has always been a strand in the history of the left, (cf IWW versus AFL)

What 9-11 did was peel off enough of those on the left internationalist side to support the war (first in Afghanistan, then in Iraq, yes, I was one of them). Not meaning to speak for Ed, the notion I held was that if we are going in with good intentions and all, then the proof would be in the pudding.

Unfortunately, I think that Ed and others (and I put myself in the category) seek to continue to try and justify what has happened in order to maintain the notion that some actions that are trans-national and are aimed at alleviating questions of human rights are acceptable. However, those of us who do think that there are plausible circumstances to guarantee the human rights in another country have to either wave our hands when pointed out that this case is the exact opposite of what we would envision, or we have to completely and totally blame the architects of the war and remove ourselves from the blame. Rather harsh, but I am including myself in this, and I think this is what Bob is getting at when he talks about the "innocence of the left". Now, it is arguable about what Jes, or Ed, or I could have done to stop the war, and certainly the criticism rendered the administration provides some immunity. But separating Jes out (as she is not an American, so the question of what she could have done in regards to this administration is a bit tricky), we have to ask ourselves why we aren't/didn't support an anti-war candidate, and if our complaints and/or disdain about the anti-war left and their shrillness constitute partial responsibility.

The ironic thing about the comments about how the liberal echo chamber here smothers out the conservatives is that Edward, in trying to wrestle with whether the US invasion has any validity or basis, is presenting a funhouse mirror of the conservative view. To be sure, he says that it was wrong, but he still (as I do) wants to retain that notion of intervention as still having some meaning and purpose. While there are attacks from the left about this here, they are generally discarded as being ignorant and wrong-headed from the get-go, so one could make the argument that despite the Bush-Bashing we have here (and I admit there is, but I'm sure there would have been a lot of jokes about Clinton and Lewinsky if ObWi had existed back then), the left (defined as antiwar) is just as much unwelcome here as the right.

Unfortunately, if one says 'you were right, but you were only right because this is a special case', one isn't really admitting anything much.

This is the way I've taken Bob's points about, well, tossing out the rule book seems as good a way to summarize it as any. That we even sit and listen to (conservative argument X) is, if I'm reading Bob right, a travesty. As I've said, I'm warming to the idea, but I'm not completely sold. However, I do think that a lot of behavior has been tolerated that should not have been.

This is all a trip into my psyche with a rather tenuous relation to what Edward wrote, but even if I think that there is a place for international action in the world, I'm beginning to think that if anyone asks me, I should just pretend that I haven't a clue what they are talking about. Maybe in 20 years.

The liberal operators of this site know that their commentors have set up a website dedicated to bashing you. They find this behavior acceptable and let their commentors link to the site and exhibit outright rude behavior.

The liberal folks on this site have gone to great lengths, even threatening to quit, if folks drove Charles off this site, DTOM. It pays to read a site long enough to know its history if you're gonna diagnosis what ails it.

we have to ask ourselves why we aren't/didn't support an anti-war candidate,

Timing mostly. If the election had happened before the invasion started, I most likely would have voted for an anti-war candidate. After we toppled Hussein though (essentially after we broke it), I felt we owned and had to fix it. At that point, a candidate who's only call was for withdrawal was unacceptable to me.

and if our complaints and/or disdain about the anti-war left and their shrillness constitute partial responsibility.

They do to the "bring the troops home now" anti-war left, most definitely. What slays me about Don't Tread on Me's rant is that if he/she? could stand in my shoes and see just how far center I am compared with my leftist friends, he'd understand why comments like "Most of the posters and commentors here are the minority of the minority." strikes me as uninformed and laughable.

But speaking of minorities...what are the lastest poll results on Iraq? My position on it hasn't changed, so someone else's must be...lots of someone else's...perhaps that minority of the minority had it right all along, eh?

I'm deeply hurt, DaveC. ;) I came over here from Tacitus, too. Then Bird Dog followed me, didn't he? THEN you followed me. That's the way I remember it.

Then Moe quit, because of me. He went to Redstate, where reasonable, bipartisan comment is enshrined.

To be fair, I think Katherine quit posting because of me, too. And Von won't talk to me. Sebastian ignores me. Slart understands but doesn't want to encourage me.

Hilzoy occasionally throws me a cookie or a plate of petrified noodles. Edward is merely nonplussed, or maybe just partially plussed.

Let me welcome the new commenters, Steve Burton, who seems reasonably smart, and Don'ttreadonme and Anonymous.

Carry on. I'm still distracted by that last cookie. Where'd it go?

"That we even sit and listen to (conservative argument X) is, if I'm reading Bob right, a travesty"

An example is the referenda in California, union opt-in and redistricting. See Ezra Klein, Brad Plumer, Kevin Drum. The actual purposes of the initiatives are the opposite of what is publicly claimed. Looking like a pattern, duh?

Just as the Sunni should not have legitamized a rigged and dishonest process to
validate a corrupt and destructive Constitution, so Democrats should not pretend that the at least organized and public face of the opposition is ever, ever acting in good faith.

It is not. Good lord, Katrina and reconstruction. How many times do we let Lucy pull the football away? Again, leaving aside anyone in the immediate vicinity, it appears deception and stealth have become the number one tactic and strategy of the Republican Party. We call them liars, and we stop not when they temporarily stop lying, but when they no longer have the opportunity.

And the deception that is going to destroy most of what liberals care about is the deficit spending and supply-side economics. Look at the numbers, imagine the inevitable recession, and prepare for the fight of your lives.

Millions of Iraqis voted on a constitution this weekend. What do we get from the intellectual elite at Obsidian Wings?

no kidding. for all you pay to read this, they should be more responsive to your desires!

Don't Tread On Me,
May I suggest that you look a little more carefully at Hating on Charles Bird? Charles himself has come by and commented from time to time, and even though it was set up as sort of a flood-control for whining and bashing, it's remained pretty cordial.

We love you John. Even when we don't say it.

Now that I've had some time to think (and a spot of tea, as they say), I wish I had been less snarky in my response to Don't Tread on Me. I wish I had written, instead, this:

There seems to me, at this point, the exact right number of posts on ObWi about the Iraqi vote. It is a good post, striking the right tone, and I was happy to add my 2cents to it. Contrast that with RedState, where even before the counting was final, or the Sunni response is understood, or the need to amend the Constitution is known (or how it might need be amended), or whether the Sunnis claiming "a Yes vote means civil war" are to be taken seriously, or whatever, there are a handful of posts declaring, more or less, yet again prematurely, "Mission Accomplished." If your overall question is why aren't we declaring "Mission Accomplished" as well, it's probably because we've been paying attention to how each milestone has actually resulted in increased violence, not less, so far.

However, if you had taken the time to read my post carefully, you would have seen it's a concession that, in my eyes, there's now reason to be optimistic that Iraq might turn out well. What I feel is appropriate now, before that's confirmed, is to take the time to reflect on how we got here, though. After it's confirmed, the joy (i.e., arrogance) of those who supported the war won't allow them to see that the means toward that place might best be carefully examined before it's assumed it was a good precedent.

I'll be happy to conceed the war turned out well if it does (I certainly hope it does), but I won't change my mind about how we got there. In my opinion we had more moral options.

I disagree with DTOM that the ObWi kitty needs to be put down, but I do think there are some people on this thread who need to have a drink or take some Prozac. Various posters have said that the current chaos in Iraq is exactly what Bush and company wanted to happen, that the American people have an obligation to overthrow their government, that Iran's best policy would be a pre-emptive nuclear strike on America, and, of course, that Bush is a war criminal.

A proposition I would ask the reality-based crowd to consider: A unipolar world with a more-or-less benevolent hegemon is safer than a multipolar world. Compare the British-dominated mid-19th century with the first half of the 20th century. Or how about the Roman-dominated Mediterranean world versus the time when the early Republic competed with Carthage, Mithridates, etc.

We screwed the pooch in Iraq. Badly. The Bush administration has been abysmally incompetent. But would you rather live in a world with the occasional Bush Jr., or a world in which there is no restraint on aggressive powers? Iraq in 2003 was no threat, I admit. What about Iraq in 1991? What about North Korea and Iran?

Europe, Japan, China and (increasingly) India all depend on Persian Gulf oil to as great or a greater degree than the United States. Would you like to see Iran (or an Iraq that had no one to stop it in 1991) dominate that region? American hegemony protects you, too, Jes and dutchmarbel. Sometimes we mess up, and our mistakes cause more death and destruction than other nations'. But ask yourselves if you'd rather live in the 21st-century equivalent of 1914.

In a few years, Bush will be gone. Fidel Castro will likely still be running Cuba, because they don't have elections or term limits. Whatver our sins, we are a functioning democracy, and have been more a force for good than for ill in the world. Criticize us for our mistakes, by all means. But try to keep a little perspective, that's all I'm saying.

Bob McManus:

"And the deception that is going to destroy most of what liberals care about is the deficit spending and supply-side economics. Look at the numbers, imagine the inevitable recession, and prepare for the fight of your lives."

Short response: Bingo! When does Jackmormon
ramp up the "Loving On McManus" site?

Longer response: In addition to recession and the resulting catastrophic plunge in revenues because of the refusal to raise tax revenue during decent economic times, throw in a little avian flu, maybe the canceling of the Posse Comitatas rules, a Supreme Court and a Federal Reserve loyal to only one ex-President living on a faux-ranch in Texas, Medicaid and Medicare patients turned away at the newly privatized and lean and mean clinics and hospitals just as they come down with the sniffles and some bleeding from the eyes .. ... Liberalism will be like the beautiful Mozart at the end of "Amadeus" --- a corpse thrown into an open mass grave followed by a shovelful of lime. Arthur Laffer, Larry Kudlow and the rest will stand at graveside stifling their laughter like Solieri. A napkin with a funny squiggly line denoting tax rates and no numbers will flutter into the grave from Laffer's hand, because he won't need it any longer.

BTW, Bob, what did you think of Rome last night? Titus Pullo may wind up being the Forrest Gump of the 1st-century BC, but I can't help enjoying him. He and Octavian are my favorite characters.

ThirdGorchBro:

"...have a drink.."

See, that's the sort of concrete action that I can throw my heart into. Who says nothing gets settled in the blogosphere?

Edward,

What slays me about Don't Tread on Me's rant is that if he/she? could stand in my shoes and see just how far center I am compared with my leftist friends, he'd understand why comments like "Most of the posters and commentors here are the minority of the minority." strikes me as uninformed and laughable.

Edward, I can't say I know what your friends are like, but if my experience is any guide, I suspect it's not unlike mine - living in NYC and from Connecticut. If there is anything I've learned over the years about politics, its that the views of my leftist friends, even the ones that seem universally accepted (gay rights comes immediately to mind) are in no way representative of the country at large. It really is a tiny minority of people, and the fact that it makes up most of our social circle means nothing. It's the old Pauline Kael quote about Nixon, "How could he have won - no one I know voted for him!" The fact that our friends make you look centrist - and me look like a hard-right fascist - is of no larger relevance.

In terms of conservative bashing, I regret that I feel it's being overplayed lately. For me, as a mere Democrat who supported the war, its simply exhaustion - I'm not about to restart the argument about the cease-fire, which isn't entering into your moral appraisal of the war, which I find unserious.

John, it's the one thing both left and right can agree on!

Donald: This international law that the invading humanist hordes would be enforcing -- it has been passed by an international legislature, perhaps? With a representative on it that I could have voted for? (Or more likely against, knowing me.) I must have missed that election. Oops. I guess if I didn't vote, I can't complain. Oh, wait.

The laws that govern me (while I am in my home country (the US)) are passed by a legislature where I have some representation. The courts with jurisdiction over me (again assuming I am at home) are subject to the US Constitution including the bill of rights. (But nuance coming in next paragraph.) And that is true for every American, including George Bush and Henry Kissinger, just as it is for me.

If Kissinger goes to Chile and commits a crime under Chilean law, he should be prosecuted. If he stays in the United States and commits by proxy acts against Chileans that are criminal under US law, such as kidnapping, then he should be prosecuted in the US. If the US refuses to prosecute, then I would accept the jurisdiction of an international court, as long as it recognized his (US) constitutional rights such as right to counsel, non-self-incrimination and presumption of innocence.

It's a little awkward arresting a sitting head of state or other high-ranking government officials--imagine the chaos if we did this to everyone who had it coming, whether Bush or Putin or whoever. Constant wars in the name of justice.

Are you intending sarcasm here? It seems like the simple truth to me. I don't have to imagine the chaos. All I have to do is watch the news. Invading Iraq was simply wrong, for exactly the same reason that invading the US to remove Bush would be wrong. And I am surprised and disappointed that so many people who I usually agree with didn't see it that way, and still don't.

3GB: my preference ordering, as far as global order goes, is: (1) some set of well-run international institutions and/or implicit rules governing conduct; (2) a benevolent hegemon; (3) a balance of power; (4) anything goes; (5) a malevolent hegemon. In practice I think that we're shifting among these, in various different areas.

For instance: we do have a fairly robust norm that says: no conquering other countries and annexing their territories, so in that particular case, option 1 seems to prevail. (And before anyone says anything, that's not what we're doing in Iraq.) It was because that's just about the only clear norm governing conduct in international relations, and I wanted to keep it that way, that I supported Gulf War 1.

For the same reason, I saw the Bush doctrine of preventive war (meaning not true preemptive war, which is war in response to a clear and imminent danger that cannot be responded to in any other way -- e.g., another country is massing troops on our border and is about to attack; accepting preemption means not thinking that you have to wait until they have already attacked before striking -- but a war in response to a perceived threat that is not imminent) as incredibly destabilizing, since it threatened a generally accepted understanding of the conditions under which we can wage war, codified in the UN, which I thought was a good one; and since this would be a horrible doctrine to see adopted by countries generally. It only even pretends to be tolerable if we are the only party who adopts it, and that's only because we tend to agree with ourselves, not because we're right.

I think that if we're going to try to be a benevolent hegemon, we need to recognize that this involves some fairly serious responsibilities, which at the moment we do not seem (to me) to want to accept. Benevolent hegemons are, basically, responsible for keeping order globally. We have not done that in Iraq; we are also failing to do that economically. We seem to me to be wanting to have the power but not the responsibility of being a benevolent hegemon, and trusting to our basic goodness to make things come out right. I think we are a basically decent country, but I also think that one of the quickest ways for a country to stop being a force for good is to trust that whatever it does must be benevolent, instead of trying to do the right thing. (One way to put one of the worst aspects of our recent willingness to set aside international law, particularly as it relates to torture.)

On proofreading: "It was because that's just about the only clear norm governing conduct in international relations, and I wanted to keep it that way..." means: I wanted the prohibition on conquering countries to remain in force, not that I wanted it to remain the only such norm around. ;)

A proposition I would ask the reality-based crowd to consider: A unipolar world with a more-or-less benevolent hegemon is safer than a multipolar world. Compare the British-dominated mid-19th century with the first half of the 20th century. Or how about the Roman-dominated Mediterranean world versus the time when the early Republic competed with Carthage, Mithridates, etc.

I'm not trying to be snarky, but these are the Romans from whom we get the concept of salting the earth. And the Brits, well, first of all, if unipolar means alternating alliances to keep a balance of power, we've pretty much failed that test. And, nothing against Brits (my mom's one), but when they had the technology, (cf. machine guns at Amaritsar), they didn't balk from using it. In fact, Iraq saw the air war waged against civilians and coincidentally, was where 'Bomber' Harris got his start.

Again, I don't want to be overly snarky, but the notion that there were more-or-less benevolent hegemons is not borne out by facts.

Jonas: If there is anything I've learned over the years about politics, its that the views of my leftist friends, even the ones that seem universally accepted (gay rights comes immediately to mind) are in no way representative of the country at large. It really is a tiny minority of people, and the fact that it makes up most of our social circle means nothing.

The thing I've learned about politics is a variation on that theme: the mere fact that we're here discussing it automatically makes all of us, irrespective of political persuasion, in a tiny minority. Heck, the mere fact that we (vaguely) know what's going on puts us into a tiny minority. In terms of representation, everything after that is gravy.

[To your larger demographic point, incidentally, I think you're incorrect given both the size of NYC and its environs, the reliability with which it votes Democrat or liberal, and the national results of the various elections. A minority, yes; a tiny minority, no.]

Amos: If the US refuses to prosecute, then I would accept the jurisdiction of an international court, as long as it recognized his (US) constitutional rights such as right to counsel, non-self-incrimination and presumption of innocence.

"If"? I wasn't aware that this was in any doubt.

And, nothing against Brits (my mom's one), but when they had the technology, (cf. machine guns at Amaritsar), they didn't balk from using it.

'Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim Gun, and they have not.'

ThirdGorchBro: But would you rather live in a world with the occasional Bush Jr., or a world in which there is no restraint on aggressive powers?

The problem with that dichotomy is that I do live in a world where there is no restraint on the aggressive power of the US: and where the US exercises its power to give weaker powers the ability to act aggressively: to commit terrorism, assassination, torture, and aggressive war. It's rather like asking me "But would you rather live in a world where the sea is wet, or a world where water drowns people?"

I had rather live in a world where a failed election in one country did not install an illegitimate President with the power to destabilize whole sectors of the world. Slartibartfast and others are sick of me constantly referencing the failed election of 2000: but it is terrifying to me to see the fact that the man who lost the Presidential election was nevertheless appointed President - and there appears neither wish nor will among most American voters to change the system that made that failure possible.

American hegemony protects you, too, Jes and dutchmarbel.

What the US does so entirely for its own benefit is not something I see any call to be particularly appreciative of.

Whatver our sins, we are a functioning democracy

If you were a functioning democracy, Gore would have become President in January 2001. He won the election: Bush lost. If you had a hope of becoming a functioning democracy, even if Bush ended up in office, reforming the system that had allowed Bush to be appointed President after losing the election would be one of the biggest issues for all American voters, Democratic, Republican, and Independent. That instead Bush's losing the election is a radical-fringe idea in the US that just isn't talked about, and electoral reform is something that isn't even being widely discussed, is evidence that, no: you're a broken democracy, and you don't seem to have any intention of fixing what's broken.

"If"? I wasn't aware that this was in any doubt.

Has there been an international call for the US to prosecute Kissinger for some specific act? I don't doubt that we my government would refuse to prosecute, but I hadn't heard that it had refused. (Which isn't saying much. I try to keep up, but ...)

Thanks for your thoughtful responses. This is why ObWi has not (and hopefully never will) jump the shark.

Hilzoy, I agree that we need to take our responsibilities more seriously, and we should never just assume that we are always doing the right thing. And I too was troubled by the concept of preventative war - for one thing, it's not very conservative. In fact, I find nothing in your response to disagree with.

LJ, the British also invented concentration camps, IIRC. But would Hobbesian anarchy or another century of great power conflicts really have been better than the international system dominated by Britain during that period? There will always be innocent victims, though that doesn't mean we should just dismiss them or not try to improve our performance and behavior.

Again, I don't want to be overly snarky, but the notion that there were more-or-less benevolent hegemons is not borne out by facts.

Again, I point out that in terms of body counts, periods when one power is dominant tend to be less bloody.

Jes, even if we only act in our own (perceived) interests, if our actions benefit Europe does that not count as "benevolent?"

Without getting into a debate over whether the 2000 election was stolen, I will simply say that such events are not unprecedented in US history (see the 1876 presidential election and "His Fraudulency" President Hayes). I am sure you can think of similar controversial outcomes in your own country's history. No democracy is perfect. But, "broken?" To me, that conjures up the Weimar Republic circa 1932, or Athens toward the end of the Peloponnesian Wars. Again, I ask for a little perspective. Do you really believe the US is on the brink of that kind of collapse?

"BTW, Bob, what did you think of Rome last night?"

Jumped the shark. Not only the Forrest Gump/Zelig characters, but the rushing of the plotline has lost me. 1st season should have ended with Caesar's arrival in Rome, now I would not be shocked if Season One ended with the death of Cleopatra. Season Two then will be the "I Claudius" goodies.

I guess there is enough Roman History (Hadrian's boyfriends? Aurelius? Attila?) to fill about four seasons, but I did not want an outline.

now I would not be shocked if Season One ended with the death of Cleopatra. Season Two then will be the "I Claudius" goodies.

Well, I certainly hope it doesn't go that fast. My guess would be the first season will end with the death of Caesar. I'm still enjoying it, though. I do agree that Pullo and Vorenus being involved in everything stretches the bounds of believability. But they crack me up. They're like the ancient Roman equivalent of Herc and Carver from The Wire.

3GB: Why are you being so reasonable, responsive, and polite (as, to my recollection, you have always been)? Is this some sort of new Red trick?

ThirdGorchBro: Jes, even if we only act in our own (perceived) interests, if our actions benefit Europe does that not count as "benevolent?"

Not according to any definition of "benevolence" that I understand, no.

LJ, the British also invented concentration camps, IIRC.

We did, yes. During the Boer War. (The Boy Scouts were also invented then: I don't know whether this is a plus or a minus...)

I am sure you can think of similar controversial outcomes in your own country's history.

Indeed. Which were followed by calls for reform, and which did, indeed, lead to electoral reform.

"But, "broken?"

At least bruised very badly. The structural elements have always existed, and I claim no massive illegalities. But the combination of the Constitutional small-state advantages with an unprecedented party discipline has generated disfunction. For most of America's history, you had competing urban and rural blocs in each party, creating coalitions and restraints.
...
Iran is not North Korea. NK always had Seoul as a hostage, we could do a lot of damage to Iran without destroying its neighbours. If Iran were to demonstrate an underground test, and declare it had two more warheads, I would think it likely to get massively attacked. There are no longer any int'l, legal, or moral assurances it can be given, thanks to Bush. Deterrence, since Iraq "had" WMD, and was attacked anyway, diesn't work, and with missile defense, is being subverted.

So I think its best way to ensure not being attacked is to explode a warhead in NY, and then say it had two more in American cities.
Even Bush would hesitate to sacrifice two more Metropolises simply for revenge.

If a CEO breaks contracts willfully, a change in management where the offender gets a golden parachute while the board and most of management remains intact will not reassure. President Hilary will have no credibility unless she demonstrates the will to pay a terrible price for her predecessors arrogance. That price is subservience, shown concretely, to int'l law and norms. War Crimes Trials.

I think it is unlikely that we can afford to be a benevolent hegemon, given our current fiscal position and the likelihood of it getting worse as time goes on. As the economies of China and India grow they will compete with us for the life blood of technological civilization, oil. We are way outnumbered.

3GB, in my optimistic mood (most of the time) I agree that this too shall pass. We went to see Good Night, and Good Luck last night. Things have been bad before and we've somehow survived.

But then there are the darker moments. I read bob m's comments and think about the actions of Edward R. Murrow and CBS then versus, say, Judith Miller and the New York Times today.

Getting back to Edward's original point, and thinking about what I wrote before, I see that I didn't express myself very clearly. Let me try again.

"In wars, people die." (A paraphrase of Donald Rumsfeld). This is a given. President Bush to this day repeats that attacking Iraq was a "last resort." The evidence is against him. Dr. Rice's recent statement (where we started) is yet another nail in the coffin of that lie.

The United States has the most powerful armed forces in the world. Not just a side effect, but the direct result of using military force is that people are killed, maimed, impoverished, their lives damaged or destroyed. This means that we have a responsibility to use force only when it is absolutely necessary.

Edward, I can't say I know what your friends are like, but if my experience is any guide, I suspect it's not unlike mine - living in NYC and from Connecticut. If there is anything I've learned over the years about politics, its that the views of my leftist friends, even the ones that seem universally accepted (gay rights comes immediately to mind) are in no way representative of the country at large.

Not the country at large wholesale, perhaps, but certainly of pockets of liberals throughout and bleeding into conservatives who represent a range of opinions on individual issues, even though they may overall represent a majority on certain details. My point being that as widely diverse as the left is, so is the right.

Bob wrote: Deterrence, since Iraq "had" WMD, and was attacked anyway, diesn't work, and with missile defense, is being subverted.

This point seems off to me. While the Administration was willing to evoke mushrooms clouds over America, it seemed pretty damned clear that Hussein didn't have nuclear weapons in 2002. The wilder-eyed warmongers were talking about Hussein's nuclear ambitions rather than his actual nuclear might. The WMD most plausibly invoked as stockpiled and battle-ready were chemical and maybe biological, which, while nasty, weren't sufficient deterrent as to be a justifiable reason to invade, either.

Or at least that's how I remember it.

Back from lunch. SomeCallMeTim, it's no trick, it's part of our latest five-year plan. This time we will achieve agricultural independence from the capitalist oppre- oh, wait, did you mean Red State? ;)

Jes, we do occasionally reform the process in this country, too. It's almost like we adopted our system from yours! All snark aside, there is always room for improvement, but imperfection and corruption do not a failed democracy make.

So I think [Iran's] best way to ensure not being attacked is to explode a warhead in NY, and then say it had two more in American cities.
Even Bush would hesitate to sacrifice two more Metropolises simply for revenge.

Bob, I'm not sure if you're serious or not, but if we and the Soviets never did this to each other during our most antagonistic periods in the Cold War, there's no reason why Iran should feel it has to do so now.

I don't know how Bush would react to such an attack, but I believe that giving in to such nuclear blackmail would be the "best way to ensure" that it happens again. I'm glad I'm not the one who would have to make the decision, but I think the American people would demand retaliation, no matter what the cost. Surely we can all hope that sanity prevails, and we are never placed in such a situation.

TGB: Yeah, but the Soviets didn't believe in an afterlife . . .

Amos, I think you missed my sarcasm where I intended it and read some in where none was intended. So I'll be literal.

I wouldn't support an invasion of international humanitarians bent on making America behave itself. Really. I'd be even less likely to support a war conducted for the simple purpose of arresting Bush or Kissinger or anyone else. Killing thousands (or more) people to put one person under arrest seems like a war crime to me. Seriously.

I was also serious when I said that I thought it would make for chaos if Bush or Putin or Sharon or Mubarak or Castro or whoever was arrested while still in office. The world is sensibly opportunistic in who it prosecutes for war crimes--so far, at least, it seems to be overturned dictators and their minions without any powerful friends. My humble suggestion is that we could go a little bit further and prosecute nasty people like Kissinger once they leave office. And if Kissinger ever steps foot in Chile, maybe that'll happen. But I wouldn't support, for instance, a Chilean commando unit coming to the US and spiriting Kissinger back to Chile for trial. It should all go through the courts.

DaveC, are you pointing to Chile today as a justification for Kissinger's actions in the early 70's?

ThirdGorbro, I'm not so sure the mid 19th century under British rule was so wonderful. The Irish might have a thing or two to say and the Indians lost tens of millions to famine (because of British attitudes towards famine relief) in that period. The Tasmanians didn't do too well either. On the whole 19th century European imperialism (British and otherwise, including American) has roughly the same happy record as 20th century communism. There weren't major wars between European powers, not like in the 20th Century, but add up the famines and the little genocides here and there and the 19th Century looks as bad as what followed. Hannah Arendt spent some part of "The Origins of Totalitarianism" linking it to imperialism, as I vaguely recall.

As for perspective, I suspect most of us have it. We're aware, for instance, that we can speak out without fear and probably most of us prefer US hegemony to some other kind, though I might be happier with Canadian overlords, for instance, unless the power went to their heads and they turned into us. France as a hyperpower would probably be as infuriating and insufferable as the US, just in different ways. And either France or the US is far preferable to communist China. But none of this is going to stop me from wishing Bush were in prison.

"there's no reason why Iran should feel it has to do so now."

SCMT, the difference was MAD and the Soviets ability to retaliate. We can essentially sneak-attack and completely destroy Iran without fearing major and direct losses from the retaliation. Although indirect consequences might be horrific.

I, and Iran, not only have no reason Bush does not a sneak attack in mind;in fact, thru published policy, know he considers it an acceptable option. "Axis of Evil" shows motive and intent.

"weren't sufficient deterrent as to be a justifiable reason to invade, either."

We could have just lost our army. I was scared out of my mind, many of us were, at the old and inadequate protection worn during the invasion. If Saddam had had bio-chem and adequate delivery mechanisms, he could have disappeared a couple divisions. At least.

If you look at our present manpower circumstances, you can see that as a catastrophe.

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