« Detainee #909: Mohabet Khan | Main | But We Repainted Some Schools... »

April 04, 2006

Comments

You wore the Marx Brothers t-shirt in Turkey?

My wife wants to know if you will marry me.

We could all get along.

Very nice post. And the give and take between you and Von and the dialogue it provokes is the best stuff on the internet.

Thanks to the both of you, I've put Djerejian on my favorites list.

And, by the way, what I like from a few of my hard righty friends and the righty blogosphere is this sort of statement, in rejoinder to my questioning, less eloquently than Djerejian, the real-politic, practical application of the current insanity:

So, what are you, some kind of racist because you don't believe that the people of the Mideast aren't quite ready for God's gift of self-government and democratic values, you towel-head-loving, Islamo-fascist-traitor-sympathizer, southern-Democrat plantation slaveowner, you?

All in one breath. All under the big tent.

Kind of like, don't pull the plug on Terry Schaivo you murderer and when will you let us defund Medicare and Medicaid because why should we pay for Terry Schiavo's socialist healthcare scheme, you government-lover.

One on one side of the bed, the other on the other. But in the voting booth together, pulling the lever for Mike Pence. Christian first, American apparently not.

Great post.

Since the reason for the Iraq war changed to democratization, I have wondered how anyone thought it could really succeed. I believe that such changes have to come from within not from wihtout and especially not at the point of a gun. The US appears to have a problem with how they are perceived (as eclusive rather than inclusive). Which is probably why the EU example appears to be successful.

There are a quite a lot of people who believe, and an awful lot of essays one can read that assert, that building civil society, and rule of law, and civil institutions, and spreading concepts of liberty and liberal democracy and civil and legal rights, and so on, need to come before instituting elections and democracy.

This is debatable, but certainly seems to be a credible argument, overall.

Debbie: "I believe that such changes have to come from within not from wihtout and especially not at the point of a gun."

This brings us back to Germany, Japan, Austria, and so on. Myself, I certainly wouldn't go from those cases to saying Iraq or some other specific country is similar, since the differences in cases are vast, but the general proposition you assert seems questionable.

The counter argument is that the Allies didn't create democracy in the above cases, but simply restored it; while there's truth to that, and I'd, myself, say that it's not a matter of being wholly one or the other, that saying overall that democracies were created, or recreated, or created in a new and (reasonably, so far) lasting way, in those countries, at gunpoint, is not an unfair statement. It certainly wasn't a matter of Germany, Austria, and Japan spontaneously recreating democracy on their own, with no guns involved; any assertion to that effect would be ludicrous. So your assertion seems, well, perhaps you'd like to defend it?

My own attempt at a helpful suggestion would be that you restate your proposition along these lines: "that such changes have to come with strong support from within, and not wholly from without, and not solely at the point of a gun."

That would be quite defensible, I think.

Modifiers tend to be our friend, in my experience, and sweepingly vast generalizations, not so much. Though there are those that say I'm overly friendly with Mr. Modifier and Mr. Nuance.

I say that's a sweeping generalization that lacks nuance!

In any case, I don't think instituting democracy in Iraq is particularly the problem; instituting a peaceful civil society without communal violence is the problem, and democracy is only tangentially related to that. There doesn't seem to be overwhelming evidence that democracy is disfavored by a majority of Iraqis. That's simply, however, not the problem.

"The US appears to have a problem with how they are perceived (as eclusive rather than inclusive). Which is probably why the EU example appears to be successful."

It's probably just me who has pretty much no idea what the above means, by the way.

wrt our success in Japan and Germany, I think (w/out evidence, as usual) that a substantial portion of our success is attributable to the Russians.

both countries were so terrified of the US ceding control of the occupation of their countries to the Soviets that we were ... not exactly welcomed but seen as an acceptable alternative.

(source: my dad knew JJ McCloy.)

Also, I think that the populations of those countries were so completely exhausted that the 'at gunpoint' tends to fold time on itself. For Germany, the Soviets definitely played bad cop. But for the Japanese, the fact is that after the Emperor's surrender speech, it was completely over, so the democratization process was after the at gunpoint process. This is not to reject the notion of nuance, however ;^)

But then, the genuine bedrock objective of all the European union stuff, for the past six decades, has been to prevent another war.

The genuine bedrock objective of all US overseas policy over the past six decades has been to advance American power, economic and political.

Both bedrock objectives have been successful beyond what anyone could have imagined in 1946.

Cosmetic claims from the US that the US wants to "promote democracy" never look that convincing from the outside, where it's absolutely clear that the US has no interest at all in "promoting democracy" where a democratic government may not support the US. (In the 1980s, Turkey's government would most likely have taken the US bribe to let the US invade Iraq, and to hell with what the Turkish people wanted: in the 1980s, what the people wanted would have been irrelevant.)

"This brings us back to Germany, Japan, Austria, and so on. Myself, I certainly wouldn't go from those cases to saying Iraq or some other specific country is similar, since the differences in cases are vast, but the general proposition you assert seems questionable."

Normally I try not to agree with liberal japonicus, but I suspect a huge part of the reason Germany and Japan went along with the process is that they had been so utterly destroyed and defeated.

Sebastian: I suspect a huge part of the reason Germany and Japan went along with the process is that they had been so utterly destroyed and defeated.

...in a war they started.

I think there is that psychological element, too: that when a country sets out to conquer, as Germany and Japan did, and is then destroyed/defeated, the government that determined their country should conquer overthrown, maybe this is an additional element - I don't know quite how to put this - enabling them to accept the justice of it? Whereas no matter how destroyed/defeated the country, and the government overthrown, if they were invaded by foreign aggressors, there is no element of justice at all.

I probably need more coffee. When a comment makes more sense in my head than when I see it written down, that's caffeine calling.

On invading and the local populace, two, admittedly anecodotal, stories from family members (I have posted this elsewhere before, possibly here).

On a trip through Panama, many many years after the US invasion, the family member found that, in the countryside, people were generally grateful to the US for getting Noriega. However, in Panama City, where the bulk (if not all) of US troops were during the invasion, she was told not to mention her nationality, and, indeed, to actively conceal it by claiming to be from Canada, as the vast majority of the city's residents knew someone killed by US troops and knowledge that she was American would be dangerous for her.

Similarly, on another member's trip through Vietnam, in the South people were generally non-hostile to Americans. However, once they passed into the North, the seething hatred of Americans was palpable, to the point that the children would throw rocks at her when she passed by (she was on a bike trip).

I can only think that everyone in Iraq who has had a family member, friend, or neighbor killed or injured by US troops (or even the insurgency), or who has simply had their house searched, will now, and forever, hate the United States.

God help us if we take the crusade to Iran.

Careful hilzoy.

"Taking over a country generally involves searching a lot of houses, and thus a lot of humiliated and terrorized families."

That is coming very close to calling our troops terrorists and we know what happened when Kerry brought up this same point.

On the whole, an excellent post. Another thing, somewhat related to the reconstruction post, is that in both Germany and Japan, most of the reconstruction work, though assisted by US funds, went to local companies.

When this happens, it is easier for a population, IMO, to be more accepting of the occupying force. And when they are more accepting of the force, they are also more likely to accepting of other ideas.

Also, I am glad that you pointed out that holding an election is the easiest thing to do. Actually setting up the infrastructure of a society to function in a democratic format is much more difficult.

I believe it was Churchill who poointed out that democracy was the only form of government that actually included in its construction the means for abolishing itself.

Without the infrastructure, this becomes much easier. It is questionable if a country like Iraq has that infrastructure and it is almost certain that the current administration in Washington has no clue how to assist in its creation.

Good point about Turkey. In 50 years, a liberal, democratic Turkey will have more impact on its direct neighbors than any of the forgotten invasions.

But then, the genuine bedrock objective of all the European union stuff, for the past six decades, has been to prevent another war.

Spot on, Jes.

I think that the use of nuclear weapons undoubtedly complicated their views about us. Nonetheless, it would have been hard to regard our presence in their country as some sort of unprovoked indignity, or as fundamentally unfair.

The juxtaposition there, given Japanese attitudes towards Hiroshima etc., is... amusing.

But one should always be suspicious when military powers claim to be doing weaker states favours by occupying them.

From
Delusions About Democracy
By ERIC HOBSBAWM

http://tinyurl.com/zdx49

Good post hilzoy, and I agree with most comments, including Farber's last paragraph of 2:18.

The only question I would have concerns urgency, do we have 50-100 years for the ME to get its act together organically and independently. Iraq and SA are not Burma or Paraguay. I also question whether the decision will be made in a rational manner.

But I think that invading a country in order to promote democracy will almost always fail.

Glad you've come around on this.

Nell: come round? I've thought this since, oh, the mid 70s.

How does South Korea fit in to the equation? It certainly wasn't a good democracy right after we invaded, but it is as good as most now. Nearby North Korea and China--not so much. Nearby Japan--discussed above.

Or is the distinction 'invited'?

In South Korea, US troops were (and are) there to protect against a North Korean invasion, not to promote democracy. The principal impetus to democratize South Korea was student-led demonstrations in 1960 and 1980, not collateral pressure from US troops, which were perfectly happy to work with the various strongman presidents to carry out their primary mission. So South Korea seems to fit Hilzoy's framework quite well.

Hilzoy: come round? I've thought this since, oh, the mid 70s.

Then I must have misunderstood you last August. Democratization by force is undoable for more reasons than your post today provides, some of which are in my response to this:

Nell: I'm not sure that the war was never winnable. I mean, I didn't support it, and one (of many) reasons was that I didn't think Bush et al would do a competent job at it, but I'm not sure no one could have. I think it would have taken a lot more troops, and a lot more planning, and would have been a gamble in any case; but not a hopeless one.

Posted by: hilzoy | August 14, 2005 10:10 PM

Nell: Oh. I see. -- I think I was being unclear last August; by 'winnable' I didn't mean that it might have issued in a democracy (at any rate, not one that was more than a formal democracy that might, over the decades, have taken root.) Probably something more like: we could have ended up without a civil war, with a country that was at any rate not as dreadful for the Iraqis as Saddam, and reasonably stable. Or: non-disastrous. I'm not sure that that was out of the question; I do think that if Iraq ends up having more than a pro forma democracy, it won't be primarily due to us.

To be clearer about that last comment: I don't think it's absolutely impossible that everything from here on out could go right, and democracy could, after its halting first steps, take root and flourish. I am not God; I can't see the future. And in this post, I didn't mean to assert that no invasion not justified on other grounds could possibly result in democracy either.

What I do think is that it's sufficiently unlikely, for the reasons I said, that invading a country to promote democracy will work that it's almost never a good idea; and that 'almost' is only there because some case I can't imagine might arise in the future that would strike me as an exception; not because I can think of one now. And in the case of Iraq in particular, I don't think that it was a good idea to invade on these grounds (or any others that I know of), given the odds.

Of course, IF everything does miraculously go right from here on out, then we will have played the essential role of having gotten rid of Saddam. But we will not have played an essential role in making what comes after him be democracy, as opposed to something else, like all-out civil war. Rather the contrary.

"But we will not have played an essential role in making what comes after him be democracy, as opposed to something else, like all-out civil war. Rather the contrary."

That is the problem. We have not been helpful in creating a good post-Saddam although we were instrumental in letting Iraq get to post-Saddam (and his family).

"We have not been helpful in creating a good post-Saddam"

I have to read both GD and hilzoy over and over to get to a something to communicate with. And the comments.

Hypothesize, as I think Krauthammer does, that we don't have century to use soft power.
That we have ten years until an American city gets nuked by Islamic terrorists. That is K's premise, and is not the premise GD and hilzoy are dealing with.

Now the answer might be internationalism and increased support for NGO's, increased homeland security, dedicated efforts against nuclear proliferation, economic carrot-and-sticks approaches to Iran, etc. Peaceful measures. But these peaceful measures are not an option with the President and Congress currently in control. And so are not dealing with the premise.

The Iraq War could have been much more productively executed, or not attempted at all. But not with Republicans in charge.

What are you arguing, and who are you arguing with? If you care to dispute the premise of Krauthammer, if you wish to say there is no medium term danger from a nuclear Iran, then do so. But if you wish to engage the premise of medium term danger, then you must offer real solutions. Not excuses, dodges, not "this is what I would have done."

Bad idea to attack and invade Iran? No one who matters is listening. "Who cares what you think?"

Bush should have been deposed, by force if necessary, in the spring of 2002. War is not a game, and if the man was incapable of waging it well, we should have stopped him. If an attack on Iran is a real possibility, we should make it completely understood, an inarguable fact, that the Republican government will not survive it.

I do tend more closely to Krauthammer's analysis, and consider Democrats wholly unserious on national security. What is required is either a national security policy that can be sold to a Republican controlled America, or a civil war. Elections will not be won by a policy that will not convince Krauthammer. A policy attractive to only Democrats is not serious.

Bob,

There is a gap between "policy that will not convince Krauthammer" and "policy attractive only to Democrats". Therein lie moral and ethical policies that can be effectively implemented and are politically plausible.

"Faster please" may be a median position in parts of right blogistan and some enclaves in this country but it is not the median American position.

As for Krauthammer himself, perhaps you could link to his article that convincingly explains why Ahmadinejad and the Guardian Council should be considered suicial on a national scale. Because that's what his scenario requires.

Perhaps the false dichotomy (his, and by extension yours) is what is unrealistic.

"...perhaps you could link to his article that convincingly"

I don't read Krauthammer or VD Hanson even when someone links to them. Greg and the inhabitants of ObsWi is as much right as I can handle. Anyway Krauthammer's prescription is not mine, however I tend toward his analysis.

I could say "you'll see" but it has been 40+ years. The last successful Democratic Presidents were Kennedy & Johnson. Democrats seem willing to sacrifice women, the poor and middle-class, the Bill of Rights, the future of the nation if they can avoid responsibility for spilt blood. And even so, we get Republican wars. HRC has the right idea, but if the Republicans don't get her, her base will. Another failed Democratic Presidency, followed by a Republican holocaust.

I should give up. It is not exactly making me popular.

There is no peace.
"I wantit wantit wantit just not fair just not right."
There is no peace.

Kevin Drum says Attack on Iran before Midterms

Heck, maybe the response & consequences won't be too bad. I can be wrong.

Republicans gain seats in the House and Senate. You read it here first.

Bob, I'm as worried as anyone that this administration will hit Iran without even bothering to hold a public debate, but the FP piece on which Drum is basing his post should be taken as a strong warning rather than an ironclad proof of the policy trajectory.

I'm a pretty crappy prognosticator, having genuinely thought that Bush would go down in 2004, but my sense is that the American public is tired. Tired of feeling responsible for the world, tired of being resented, tired of spending money overseas rather than at home, tired of trying to prop up some very abstract notion of American global hegemony: tired, basically, of the PNAC strategy.

All that initially surprising stuff in the State of the Union about the dangers of isolationism now strikes me as an attempt to reframe this fatigue as cowardly retreat from the world. This suggests to me that the Republican political strategists have come to a similar conclusion about the country's mood. (The immigration debate seems to be part of this darkening mood: people are worried about their neighborhoods, about their jobs; the world is only flat for capital.)

Under these circumstances, if I'm reading the tea leaves right, even a strike on Iran might not rally the public.

Jackmormon, my worry is that the Bush Admin won't give a good goddamn whether an attack on Iran "rallies the public."

They might only care that it rallies their base enough to give them cover to either steal another election - or to roll out the next generation of "security measures" designed to make any democratic form of government untenable.

They might not care even about that. At this point, I don't know if they care about any externalities at all. They might attack Iran for the same farrago of reasons they invaded Iraq: Just because they want to, and just because they can.

I worry there will be no public debate at all, or that any public debate will be as useless and empty as the "debate" over whether to go to war in Iraq. Bush can and will say that the AUMF gives him authority to attack Iran without debate, without consulting Congress, without answering to anyone.

The Bush Administration is a lawless one. There's no telling what it'll do, and there's no way to stop it from doing whatever it wants.

One thing I do know: an attack on Iran will be a disaster that beggars description; a disaster of apocalyptic proportions.

Because, as with Iraq, the Bush Admin hasn't even thought about consequences; as with Iraq, they have no plan (other than "Bombs away!"); and the same people who brought us the Iraq FUBAR are in charge of planning a strike on Iran.

Coming late to this one, but I would offer one point:

When I ask myself which political unit has done the most to promote democracy since the fall of the Berlin wall, the answer seems clear: it's the European Union.

The point is just that this is also democracy promotion, and that it has been more successful, in more countries, than our invasions.

How did that wall fall? It was “over the barrel of a gun” and it involved invasions. It was America that spilt blood all over the world and spent trillions of dollars to defeat the Soviet Union in that multi-generational conflict known as the Cold War.

Anything the EU has been able to do to promote democracy has only been possible due to that fact. So I don’t think you can make a convincing case that that is a model that works. Without the American lives and treasure spent to defeat the Soviets, their efforts would never have even been possible.

How did that wall fall? It was “over the barrel of a gun” and it involved invasions.

Some of us obviously experienced the 1980s differently than others. Containment was obviously a success, and it did require some bloodshed. Nothing that can really be called bringing democracy at the barrel of a gun. It seems to me that what really brought the Soviet imperium down was its replication of our Viet Nam experience in Afghanistan: nation building against the will of a substantial part of the population, especially when that part has opposite-superpower backing, is a black hole of money, lives, national confidence, honor, and all the rest.

That and the courage of thousands of East Germans who demonstrated in the streets of Leipzig and Dresden, at considerable risk, and ultimately of thousands of East Berliners who faced down the guards at the Wall itself. They did not know that the guards wouldn't shoot them (and the guards might well have, had the person with authority to give the order not been in a meeting he had ordered not be disturbed under any circumstances). They didn't do this because Ronald Reagan or JFK had made speeches -- they did it because they were, themselves, fed up enough that they were willing to take the risk.

Then something truly miraculous happened: grown-ups stepped up on our side. Bush, Kohl, Scowcroft left prancing triumphalism mostly aside, and worked their butts off the ease Russian fears that the break-up of the Western buffer part of its imperium would draw western invasion. It was precisely the opposite of strutting warmongering that brought Eastern Europe out of Soviet domination.

It was America that spilt blood all over the world

The willingness of Americans to kill and maim non-Americans in the name of "promoting democracy" or "fighting Communism" has been much noted by non-Americans: I never understood why non-Americans were supposed to be grateful to the US for its willingness to kill us to its own ends.

How did that wall fall?

Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of perestroika and glasnost: plus the clear economic benefit of being part of Europe rather than the Communist bloc.

And it only took them a few decades to see it as a benefit. Maybe they weren't in a hurry.

I think people do view this quite differently, but I'm not sure how to reconcile those differences.

Some of us obviously experienced the 1980s differently than others.

No doubt. I experienced it in uniform in The Federal Republic of Germany, on the front lines of that “war” – so I do have some perspective on the matter. I can tell you that at the peek of that conflict, when the Pershing II missiles were deployed, it was a very near thing.

I also was living in Germany as a civilian when the wall came down. It was not Gorbachev, or street demonstrations, or fortuitous circumstances. All those factors played in to it, but it was the arms race along with containment in the end. RR knew that pushing the Soviets to keep up in the arms race would break their economy. So “clear economic benefit” played in to it, but it had more to do with the economy of Pershing missiles and SDI than anything else.

My point was that B may be better than A – but if B is dependent on A – then B can’t really stand alone as the best option.

The willingness of Americans to kill and maim non-Americans in the name of "promoting democracy" or "fighting Communism" has been much noted by non-Americans: I never understood why non-Americans were supposed to be grateful to the US for its willingness to kill us to its own ends.

Well promoting democracy is a fairly new thing. Containing communism was the main goal back then – not so much fighting it, just reducing its spread.

If you don’t understand the importance of that – after communism’s wonderful track record during the last century – then nothing I can say on a blog will change your mind.

BTW – poor wording on my part. It did come out as American’s spilling the blood of others – I intended it to mean the spilling of American blood, as in American blood was spilt around the world and American’s treasury emptied in the quest.

OCSteve: All those factors played in to it, but it was the arms race along with containment in the end.

I think when it comes down to it, it's a matter of faith either way. Reagan's supporters want to believe that his administration's pro-arms-race policies had some direct effect on the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, because otherwise Reagan looks stupid, as well as criminal and senile. (He cannot be blamed for senility, and his senility enabled him to claim with plausible honesty that he had no idea his administration was behaving criminally, but the varying degrees of stupidity - such as supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan, or supporting Saddam Hussein in Iraq - are still coming back to bite the US.) But, claim that the money Reagan's administration sank into military resources was done to "win the arms race", and it looks like strategy, rather than a straightforward means of enriching large American corporations who were steady Republican supporters.

But, straightforwardly, though I think Mikhail Gorbachev deserves credit for being a bold and intelligent premier, and certainly the East German citizens who faced off the guards and pulled down the wall deserve praise, the Soviet Union finally collapsed for reasons that no individual can possibly take credit for - least of all, a senile President.

OCSteve: BTW – poor wording on my part. It did come out as American’s spilling the blood of others – I intended it to mean the spilling of American blood, as in American blood was spilt around the world and American’s treasury emptied in the quest.

I suspected that was what you meant, but since so few Americans died or suffered in comparison to the millions killed and millions more maimed and millions more still suffering because of American "anti-communist" policies, what you actually said was the literal truth: Americans have shed other people's blood round the world.

Containing communism was the main goal back then – not so much fighting it, just reducing its spread.

By killing people by the million, yes. That's part of the US track record of the past century: millions were killed, murderous dictators were appointed and supported, because the US claimed that its strategy of advancing its own interests and influence was "containing Communism".

If you don’t understand the importance of that – after communism’s wonderful track record during the last century

I look at the results of the US's strategies - from the millions killed in the Korean War to the thousands of women enslaved in Afghanistan by the US's support of the Taliban - and I don't think that any supporter of the US's strategies has any high ground to stand on and look down on the track record of communism.

I don't think that any supporter of the US's strategies has any high ground to stand on and look down on the track record of communism.

Well which do you prefer? The old strategy was stability – and we would support a dictator or a less than perfect government to keep things stable (from our perspective).

Now the strategy is regime change and/or promoting democracy. I’m guessing you don’t like that one either.

What is left? Isolationism? Do you truly think that if we had kept to our self, minded our own business, and let the Soviet Union run wild after WWII that the world would be a better place today?

Do I really need to detail for you the hundreds of millions dead under communism?

OCS, I don't think the choices are that simple, or the policies that clear cut. Our government is more or less comfortable with the status quo in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, because it's clear enough that change in either place would be for the worse, all around, in the short if not medium term. This makes a mockery of the pro-democracy crusade talk -- but I'd rather stick with the pragmatic policy and ditch the talk, than give up our cow for a handful of magic beans.

I've never heard anyone give a credible rationale why the Iraq War had to come before UBL, Dr. Z, and others capable of managing a trans-national enterprise (a very few people) were actually in captivity. Would it have taken a year more? Two? None of the reasons given then, or now, for the Iraq War made the choice of timing anything but a huge gamble, and this is a gamble that has been utterly lost. (I would guess that there would have been an insurgency no matter when we invaded Iraq, but think the whole thing would have played out very differently if certain religious fanatics weren't currently at large).

The same thing applies to Iran. Invading Iran before the Iraqi factions have exhausted themselves into some kind of armed equilibrium is another huge gamble. That it will work seems to me less remote than my winning powerball, and I don't buy tickets.

And OCS, I don't know what you were seeing in Germany, but it's hard, hard, hard to think you weren't on drugs when you say it was a "very near thing." You thought the Soviets were actaully going to invade if NATO ended up deciding that our deterent force would remain primarily submarine based, rather than land based medium range? Can you point to anything at all from the Soviet side for this? We never never never backed off from MAD, and they always knew it. Or are you saying that we nearly invaded Poland?

I'm with CharleyCarp on the Cold War, which I also remember quite clearly. I also think that on the most pro-our-causing-the USSR-to-crumble reading I can come up with, which I don't espouse, what caused it was not our various invasions, but our willingness to spend a lot of money on arms and to maintain forces in Europe. I can see that argument a lot more clearly than I can an argument that our invasion of Panama or Grenada caused the USSR to crumble.

OCSteve: Do I really need to detail for you the hundreds of millions dead under communism?

Only if you want me to detail for you the hundreds of millions dead under capitalism.

Altogether, a rather gruesome comments-fight....

The same thing applies to Iran. Invading Iran before the Iraqi factions have exhausted themselves into some kind of armed equilibrium is another huge gamble.

Hell, even if the Iraqi factions exhausted themselves its a huge gamble. Even if we just do airstrikes its a huge gamble. The massive wave of suicide and truck bombings that would follow all over Europe and the US wouldn't be pretty either.

"The massive wave of suicide and truck bombings that would follow all over Europe and the US wouldn't be pretty either."

Nor would be Iranian oil embargo. Nor the oil tankers torpedoed in the Strait of Hormuz. Nor the resulting gas lines filled with folks wishing for the return of $2.50 per gallon gas in this country.

And OCS, I don't know what you were seeing in Germany, but it's hard, hard, hard to think you weren't on drugs when you say it was a "very near thing."

82/83 was the closest we ever came after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Reagan gave his Evil Empire speech; Pershing II deployment was underway which the Soviets saw very much in the same light as our Cuban missile crisis (and the West Germans were not much happier about it than the Soviets).

The “almost trigger” was Able Archer.

If you are not familiar with it, it was a European-wide realistic exercise simulating a DEFCON 1 nuclear alert and a tactical nuclear release. Some in the old SU seemed to be convinced it was a smokescreen for a real attack. Soviet nuclear forces as well as WARSAW air forces all went on alert. Refreshing my memory from Wikipedia here

Yes – it was a near thing, no drugs involved.

what caused it was not our various invasions, but our willingness to spend a lot of money on arms and to maintain forces in Europe. I can see that argument a lot more clearly than I can an argument that our invasion of Panama or Grenada caused the USSR to crumble

Agreed. Korea and Vietnam are more what I had in mind, and the point was that a gun barrel was involved. The arms race and containment were the key factors IMO.

But I am still not convinced that the EU could have had any impact at spreading democracy without the Cold War first being fought and won. So it can’t really be a better option as it can not stand on its own.

Iran would focus exclusively on the United States and Britain, in Iraq and else where....Anglos are not the ones who invented "divide and conquer".

If there are any attacks on the non-Anglo European nations, they would not be coming from Iran and the disciplined Hezbollah. But, instead they would be coming from pissed off European Muslims.

Only if you want me to detail for you the hundreds of millions dead under capitalism.

I would be interested in seeing even one example of a democratic capitalist state being responsible for the death of millions of its own citizens.

My comment was in response to:

Posted by: Ugh | April 05, 2006 at 11:24 AM

I would be interested in seeing even one example of a democratic capitalist state being responsible for the death of millions of its own citizens.


Posted by: OCSteve | April 05, 2006 at 11:53 AM

here we go.

I actually started my work in SDI and related systems right after that. My very first job at the company I work for now was (possibly interestingly) reuse of the PII missile as a conventional airfield-denial weapon. Never got off the ground, though, because by the time the design was complete (by which time I was long gone over to various SDI programs) all of the PII motors (and various other bits of hardware) went into the tree shredder. Parts of them lived on in other places.

Here is a good place to start:

http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatz.htm#USA

I realize, OCSteve believes non-US folks matter, but:

Americas Third World War

How 6 million People Were killed in CIA secret wars against third world countries

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article4068.htm

But I am still not convinced that the EU could have had any impact at spreading democracy without the Cold War first being fought and won.

If we are to discuss this sensibly, there are some questions that need to be disposed of first. When was the Cold War won? When did the EU come into existence? You may or may not regard the EU as a continuation of the EEC. The membership has changed, so have the rules.

If there are any attacks on the non-Anglo European nations, they would not be coming from Iran and the disciplined Hezbollah. But, instead they would be coming from pissed off European Muslims.

I don't know, they can do divide and conquer or they can do collective punishment of "the West." Even if it is pissed off European Muslims, as opposed to Iran or Iranian backed groups, would Europe's reaction be different in either case? Let's hope an invasion/airstrike never comes to pass.

OCSteve: I would be interested in seeing even one example of a democratic capitalist state being responsible for the death of millions of its own citizens.

Ah, you move the goalposts: I said "under capitalism" - and you say "a democratic capitalist state". ;-) If you want to keep the goalposts where they were, we can continue this gruesome fight: otherwise, I'm just as happy not to go into the hundreds of millions of people killed under capitalism. (Hint: I'll begin with how many people were killed by the tobacco industry for profit...)

Or how many people were killed by the automobile industry, or by the knife industry, or by the gun industry and alcohol industry and junk-food industry.

I look at the results of the US's strategies - from the millions killed in the Korean War to the thousands of women enslaved in Afghanistan by the US's support of the Taliban - and I don't think that any supporter of the US's strategies has any high ground to stand on and look down on the track record of communism.

De-lurking to pick a fight (for which I am no doubt woefully unprepared, but what the hey). Jes, it's statements like this that make the likes of John Cole and Greg Djerejian (and me, if I may include myself in such august company) hesitant about putting our national security in the hands of the left.

I'm certain that if you ask the generation of South Koreans who lived through the war, they would tell you that they're glad the war was fought, even though it cost many more lives than would have been lost if the South Koreans had just rolled over for the North. And in the larger perspective, the Korean War was a success for containment - South Korea was saved and nuclear war was averted. Yes, there were unnecessary mistakes made - MacArthur certainly shouldn't have driven on the Yalu, or else the Truman administration should have done whatever was necessary to reassure the Chinese we wouldn't cross the river. That these mistakes prolonged the war and cost many more lives is true, but that doesn't mean the war wasn't worth it. Look at the differences between South and North Korea today and tell me who has the moral high ground.

Also, it is incorrect to say that we "supported" the Taliban. The Taliban didn't even exist until the mid-90s. Obviously they were an unintended consequence to our support of the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviets in the 80s, but that doesn't mean we were wrong to do so. It just means were were wrong to leave Afghanistan in the "capable" hands of Pakistan's ISI after the Soviet withdrawal.

I do not deny that the US has made many mistakes in its foreign policy, or that it has at times acted unjustly. If you want to say that our involvement in Vietnam was folly from beginning to end, I won't disagree. If you say that we were wrong to support the overthrow of elected leaders like Allende and Mossadegh, you won't get an argument from me. But for all our blunders, to say that we didn't have the moral high ground in the Cold War just boggles me.

Who tried to starve Berlin into submission in 1948? Who built a wall to keep the people of East Germany from fleeing to the West? Who was responsible for the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution? How many millions did the Communists kill in North Vietnam, well before the war with the Americans started? Why, throughout the Cold War, did countless numbers risk their lives trying to flee from Communist countries to the capitalist oppressors of the West?

I admit I was wrong to support the invasion of Iraq, wrong to believe the Bush administration's WMD lies and very, very wrong to have any faith in its competence. And I despise the administration for creating the atmosphere that led to Abu Ghraib and the other abuses. (I note, for the record, that I did not vote for Bush in 2004. Fool me once, etc.) But does that mean we should go to equal extremes in the opposite direction? Should we avoid opposing Islamist aggression entirely?

It is very likely that the Democrats will soon be in power again - if not in 2006, then almost certainly in 2008. I sincerely hope that they will act out of a clear-eyed understanding of America's interests, and not out of some sense of moral inferiority. And now I'll stop, 'cause this comment is getting way too long.

Capitalism, though, pales in comparison to evil, wicked Mother Nature. How many people has biology and physics done away with, I ask you?

Great post, hilzoy. I've bookmarked Greg D. because I appreciate people who are able to reevaluate the situation and call a spade a spade wrt former comrades who are behaving like deluded idiots -- especially wrt such serious matters as invading countries and then coping with a mess entailing death and misery for our troops and that nation's population. As Greg points out, reading over at The Corner about the pressing need to buy Danish ham and other assorted postings that, to understate, lack gravitas, has been making me crazy. Listening to Hannity or O'Reilly ceased to be conducive to my emotional stability sometime ago; as if child molesting should be elevated to the supreme and only concern for national discussion at this moment. What a bunch of populist, surpassingly unserious cretins.

The MSM was biased to the left for much of my lifetime, but as a corrective, Fox and the legions of populist idiots on rightwing radio were NOT WHAT I MEANT. To my sheer amazement, I now look to CNN and the NYT to cut through the BS.

My, the times how they have changed.

OCS, they went on alert because they thought we were going to attack them. Because of the way we were acting.

They were wrong, fortunately.

If this demonstrates to you the positive value of our strutting about (then or now), I'm afraid we're just looking through very different lenses.

I was in Germany much of 1983 as well. I didn't believe we were in danger of a full-on Soviet attack, and I was right about that then, and have found myself right about a whole lot of things wrt the Cold War and the ME that the so-called experts seem to be completely unable to understand.

TGB, you can rest assured: American foreign policy is not going to be entrusted to Jes.

Or to anyone for whom the term "Left" is even remotely appropriate.

Rather than conjuring up images of what it would mean to have communists, Islamists, traitors, quislings, etc in office, why not think about Cyrus Vance, Zbig B., Tony Lake, Mad. Albright, Richard Holbrooke, etc. Are they God's own saints? Are they utterly perfect? Of course not. But they are so far from the cartoon version of what happens if "The Left" gains power, that talking about those others is really misrepresentation.

ThirdGorchBro: I'm with you on this one, and I suspect a lot of Democrats would be as well. (Your vote is safe with us, she cackled.)

Meaning specifically: I think we did a lot of stupid things, and some things that I think were wrong. Each and every time we chose our commercial interests, or some allegedly 'clear-eyed, hard-nosed' version of realpolitik over other people's legitimate aspirations, we were wrong. I take the claim that we had the high ground over the Soviet Union to be a pretty low bar, sort of like the claim that we had the high ground over the Taliban, but for what little it's worth, we met it.

Ah, you move the goalposts: I said "under capitalism" - and you say "a democratic capitalist state"

OK – then I’m talking nations and you are talking ideologies. I think it would be thread jacking to continue this OT – but if you are going to include secondary effects as well as direct intentional murder, that just opens the field wider for my case I believe.


If this demonstrates to you the positive value of our strutting about (then or now), I'm afraid we're just looking through very different lenses.

Not at all. That was not the point I was trying to make. I agree that we were being aggressively provocative, both with the Pershings and that exercise.

That fact that you did not believe we were in danger of hostilities breaking out, does not mean that it was not a close call (that is what I was responding to). I was on a mountaintop with a life expectancy of about 30 seconds in the events of hostilities – and I was enough in the know to be afraid it well might happen. Historically, I was proven right to be worried, just as you were right that nothing would in fact happen.

"Ah, you move the goalposts: I said 'under capitalism'"

Brilliant. So of course you would get count IRA bombings for instance since they took place in the UK. Oh, and the Shining Path should count under capitalism too! Certainly not under Communism. Sheesh.

OK – then I’m talking nations and you are talking ideologies.

Okay. If you want to talk nations, we can debate how many people put to death by capitalist nations, versus how many people put to death by communist nations...

Jes: this is not a debate you are going to win, what with Stalin and Mao's records, not to mention Pol Pot. It would be easy to say that holding higher ground than this is not a particularly impressive achievement, and not nearly as much as a country which professes high ideals should aspire to, and I'm not sure why this wouldn't be enough for you.

But CharleyCarp, if I don't conflate Democrats with The Far Left, I'll get kicked out of the VRWC. And those secret decoder rings are way too cool to give up.

Both great points and perspectives OCSteve and Charleycarp.

May I conclude then that if macho strutting and chestbeating on our side, in the name of bluff provocation and promoting democracy, might have led paranoid crazy people on the other side to launch very big missles ...

... that no democracy would have been promoted but instead we would just now be cleaning up the limed landscape in Europe?

.. which leads me to Mona's comment and the thought that we are now in the hands of an utterly careless, strutting, smirking bunch in our government and we are in the hands of a champion crew of populists demagogues in the "new" media, for whom a limed Europe might have been fun and the mistake was stopping at the bluff.

This makes me very, very unhappy. As in paranoid and effing insane.

We can all play this game.

The capitalism/communism body count debate is tiresome. It's like the Stalin versus Hitler body count debate. I get the feeling the guys who come in second are mildly disappointed and, like Avis, would like to catch up. By which I mean, the debate itself is pointless because I never see anyone's mind(s) changed.

However, while I'm for the idea of freedom and personal responsibility vis a vis smoking and the other unfortunate body counts emanating somehow from the other industries Slart mentioned, Jes's point of view gains some purchase once the industries in question lie and spend money to halt EVERY regulatory measure that might be taken to mitigate the bodycount.

Me? I didn't care for Soviet Fritos. Not too tasty. In fact, they tasted the same as Soviet shoes. I like Fritos. But what's the problem with Pepsico telling me in advance that Fritos have arsenic in them. They don't, but if they did, why can't a big boy like me be given that info on the package so that I, freedom-loving tough guy, can decide whether I like arsenic or not?

Instead, millions are spent on lobbyists to keep that information from me, and I get called a big-gummint liberal to boot. And a Stalinist.

Nice.

As to Slart's bringing physics and biology into this ;), the other day I dropped a bowling ball on my foot and I cursed Slart, Jes, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, my mother, and last but not least, effing gravity.

It's all of you whom have made my life miserable.

We could turn off the gravity.valid flag for you alone, John, as long as you're ready to be flung out into space.

Jes: this is not a debate you are going to win, what with Stalin and Mao's records, not to mention Pol Pot.

I've always been leery of this "Communism bodycount" activity because a lot of what happened under Communist governments to me looks an awful lot like either i) anti-imperialism gone berserk with a Communist gloss (i.e. the ideology was unimportant) or ii) a single madman, or core of madmen, unleashing devastation for no good reason (i.e. the particulars of Communism were unimportant). IMO, the main problems with Communism -- and to be clear, I'm talking the way it was practiced in the 20th century, not some theoretical construct here -- are that it tends to attract lunatics, and that once installed in power those lunatics are essentially uncontrollable because there's no mechanism for restricting their will (thank you Lenin and the vanguard party). The key point is that there's nothing in the actual ideology that advocates the mass slaughter of people, it just tends to happen in Communist regimes because of the character of those in charge.

[Usual disclaimers apply to the above paragraph, btw; in particular, none of these statements should be construed as saying, or implying, other than what I said.]

It would be easy to say that holding higher ground than this is not a particularly impressive achievement, and not nearly as much as a country which professes high ideals should aspire to, and I'm not sure why this wouldn't be enough for you.

An interesting question would be whether our (for suitable definition of "our") conduct in 1970s-1980s foreign policy was morally superior to, say, the Soviets or the Chinese. [Domestically we've got it made, I don't see that as a problem.] I tend to think it probably was but there are some real issues that need evaluating, and questions that need answering. And as you say, of course, "Better Than Pol Pot" is not exactly a winning slogan.

We could turn off the gravity.valid flag for you alone, John, as long as you're ready to be flung out into space.

Anyone else think of Asimov's The Billiard Ball here?

When my daughter was a baby she would sit in her high chair and drop things onto the floor, smiling, laughing, and saying "gabbity." It was one of her favorite games.

ral,

Mine said things which sounded like "ducka-ducka-ducka", but I was pretty sure she wasn't getting an early start on duck-duck-goose.

On the other hand, "Only a little bit better than Pol Pot" is probably lacking in perspective. YMMV, though.

Anarch, I'm sure I've read The Billiard Ball, but the details lie somewhere in areas of memory currently not accessible to me. We can call it WOM, for short.

I was flung into space a long time ago and I like the view, but it has nothing to do with gravity.

So please don't take special measures for me

;&

Actually, John, you're probably going to be ok so long as you remain indoors, or tether yourself to something heavy, or both. Interesting question, though: if gravity doesn't work for you, and you pare your nails, do the nail-parings fall up?

All this assumes that you're not at either of the poles, of course.

Well, I've adopted the nail-paring habits of Howard Hughes and Nosferatu (Gary Oldman version), so that problem is moot.

But that's also why I dropped the bowling ball.

Also, my shadow moves independently of me, which really freaks out the cat.

Don't think I will be doing this very often (or maybe I will, given that he's on 'our' side now), but here are links to Buckley's excerpts of _The fall of the Berlin Wall_, and the presence of Americans in the mix is notable by its absence.

Buckley writes:
Although Honecker was determined that demonstrations should not mar the anniversary celebration, they happened anyway — in Dresden, Potsdam, Leipzig, Magdeburg, and East Berlin itself. The marches following the candlelight vigils had been growing larger and larger. The climax, viewed retrospectively, came two days after the anniversary guests returned home, on October 9 in Leipzig. This would be the fourth Monday evening in the series, and it promised the biggest turnout yet. Honecker could stand it no longer. He ordered a massive crackdown. Some clue to what he had in mind is suggested by what he said to Yao Yilin during the celebrations: he publicly praised Red China's handling of the Tiananmen "counterrevolutionaries." But his own crackdown never materialized. Fifty thousand people marched safely in Leipzig, and triumphantly.

What exactly happened that evening was disputed. One account holds that Egon Krenz, a Politburo member and Honecker's longtime protégé, flew to Leipzig and personally countermanded Honecker's order. Another holds that Krenz did not actually go to Leipzig until several days later, and that the initiative to stay the hand of the security forces had come from Kurt Masur, director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra.

Whoever made the final decision, it is recorded that, on the weekend before the march, Masur invited two civilian public figures and three local officials of the Socialist Unity Party to meet at his home, where they drafted an appeal both to the demonstrators and to the Stasi and the Volksarmee (the East German army) to avoid violence.

But someone had to give the order not to shoot, and it would not have been an orchestra conductor, however eminent. It may have been Krenz, who had the authority to do so as Politburo Member for Security. Or it may — this was Willy Brandt's speculation — have been the Soviet commander attached to the Volksarmee who intervened to protect the protesters.

Being a musician, I prefer the account where the orchestra conductor stands down the security apparatus...

Capialism has been around a lot longer than communism, so its bound to have a larger body count on time alone.

And Capialism is still around, so the body count keeps going.

But it is a silly debate all the same.

Sheesh. News flash: we never invaded East Germany. Case closed.

lol

SomeOtherDude: But it is a silly debate all the same.

Agreed on all three points, but especially on the last.

"Who Lost Russia?" (from the communist POV) is always a fun game, but I don't think I'm, alas, up to playing much at the moment.

And, of course, any sane version would have to admit that the Soviet Union fell apart for a considerable variety of synergistic reasons; it certainly wasn't because of any One Big Thing.

But I'll ask one question of OCSteve, in regard to this: "All those factors played in to it, but it was the arms race along with containment in the end. RR knew that pushing the Soviets to keep up in the arms race would break their economy. So 'clear economic benefit' played in to it, but it had more to do with the economy of Pershing missiles and SDI than anything else."

So what you're saying is that your take is that the Soviet political and economic system was sufficiently stable and productive and sufficient to meeting the needs of its economy and people that, absent Reagan's arms build-up (which, incidentally, rightly or wrongly started in a major way under some guy, a former nuclear engineer on nuclear ballistic missile submarines, named "Jimmy Carter," after the Soviets went into Afghanistan), the Soviet Union would have lasted for many more decades?

That's an interesting point of view.

Some think that the system was far more of a failure, and that it was falling apart at the seams all around, but I guess you have more faith in the virtues of Soviet Communism then such people (such as myself). Okay.

:-)

Jes on Reagan: "(He cannot be blamed for senility, and his senility enabled him to claim with plausible honesty that he had no idea his administration was behaving criminally, but the varying degrees of stupidity - such as supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan"

This is interesting, given that the Taliban didn't exist during Reagan's terms. They didn't come into existence until 1994. (Even if one wishes to argue that they existed slightly earlier, it certainly wasn't until after the Soviets withdrew in '89, which, needless to say, was after Reagan left office.)

It's not as if one could reasonably claim that "Taliban" means "Mujahidin," after all. Ask Hekmatyar and Rabbani and Dostum, etc. (If you want real detail on the Afghan Mujahidin before the Taliban, try here, and particularly here.)

OCSteve: "The 'almost trigger' was Able Archer."

IJWTS that that's a fair statement, and I can cite any number of Quite Certified European Leftists who will swear by this, if that helps convince anyone.

They, mind, tend to put a great deal of fault on the U.S. for having a policy they regard as reckless in regard to Able Archer, but their entire storyline is that Able Archer nearly triggered war, and there's an extremely documented case to be made on that.

Some guy did a post here (or, if you prefer, here) that touched on it; here an official CIA Studies In Intelligence paper on Able Archer, and here is good leftist Charlie Stross expressing his alarm, in the context of excortiating Reagan.

Fun for the whole family (of political views)!

3GB: "Jes, it's statements like this that make the likes of John Cole and Greg Djerejian (and me, if I may include myself in such august company) hesitant about putting our national security in the hands of the left."

I'd like to point out that the number of people in the U.S. Congress who represent Jes' POV are approximately maybe 3. Perhaps 5, max (0 in the Senate).

Who, precisely, is proposing putting U.S. national security in the hands of Barbara Lee or Cynthia McKinney?

Just to toss a nickel in, I think the U.S. fighting the war in Vietnam was a horrible mistake, but I'll defend fighting the Korean War with no hesitation; I can't see that arguing that leaving the South Koreans to that nice Kim Il Sung is arguing a very defensible position, even though plenty of young South Koreans today will so argue.

That's not to defend any other military action the U.S. took in the name of the Cold War, mind, such as staunching the perilous threat of Grenada. On the other hand, the non-fight we pushed back hard on in West Germany is, I think, generally defensible, although some specific decisions aren't necessarily (but there we start to need an encyclopedia article-length comment to start hitting on all the details).

"But then, the genuine bedrock objective of all the European union stuff, for the past six decades, has been to prevent another war. "

Jesurgislac, that's a bit naive. The argument was that nations closely connected through trade would have more problems going to war with each other, but my guess would be they wanted the trade in itself as much as the peace. I don't think you have to believe the EU's high minded objectives any more than the US ones.

Harold: I don't think you have to believe the EU's high minded objectives any more than the US ones.

I'm talking of the original initiatives to get European countries together, not just the comparitively recent EU.

Take a look at the countries lined up in the 1958 Common Market: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany. It wasn't even 13 years then since Germany and Italy had been at war against the other four countries: you would be hard put to it to find a stretch of thirty years or so any time in the previous thousand years when at least one of those countries was not at war with at least one of the others.

The US has no such experience of war. In the American experience (since 1865) war is something that happens somewhere else, that affects very few Americans directly, and that only soldiers die in. The European experience of war is far different. I agree that in the sixty years since the end of WWII, the economic benefits of belonging to the European community have become far more prominent than the original and still bedrock objective of not going to war with each other, but the roots matter: and the roots of the European community are born in the fervent intention of the founders that European countries should not go to war with each other again.

"The argument was that nations closely connected through trade would have more problems going to war with each other, but my guess would be they wanted the trade in itself as much as the peace."

Political and economic evolution over the course of more than half a century tends to take place for a multitude of shifting reasons, as people come and go, and conditions change and evolve.

This is very much the case for the evolution of the European Coal and Steel Community into the European Economic Community (better known as "the Common Market") into the "European Community" into the European Union.

And such evolution was always the hopes of some founders, but not of others. Anyone familiar with the history of course has followed the ins and outs of, say, how Britain has gone in and out and in and out of various attitudes as regards the Market/Community/Union, and all the other contortions of the politics as regards the entity of France & Germany, and the others, the expansion, the conflicting desires over deepening, etc.

But from the beginning the intent was always two-fold, both an economic absolute necessity at its basis in the need in the post-war ruination period to literally share steel and coal resources to rebuild France and Germany and the rest of Western Europe after the war, as well as the core desire to anchor West Germany in the West and with France, and the other core nations, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, so as to establish such linkage that anything other than integration and peace would be thereafter impossible.

It was obvious to all at the time, including of course Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman that the Coal And Steel Market was both an economic necessity and a political necessity to prevent future war.

To declare either aspect as more crucial or real or important than the other is kind of impossible and silly and besides the point, really.

Ironically, however, you can find all these rationales, and a lot of wording and reasoning later used by West Europe, right through today, in the writings of Josef Goebbels and the Nazis plans for European unification under German leadership.

I don't mention this to draw an sinister implications to the EU, of course; it's just an historical irony, and that's all. But the Nazi plans, in that limited sense of seeing unification both economically and politically as an evitable necessity for Europe due to technology making geography "small" so that one could, by the Thirties and Forties, speak instantly to all of Europe by radio, and travel from one capital to the others in half an hour or so by plane, and thus make the cultures and economies close and integrated, called for a single European entity, and was full of grand talk about what the future unified Europe would be like in fifty years.

See, for instance, Goebbel's speech, "The Coming Europe," which he addressed to the conquered Czechs on 11 September 1940. Mostly it's bombast about the need for them to accept German rule, fix up their culture, and participate wholeheartedly in loving German leadership, of course, as well as stuff about the need to accomplish unification by blood and steel, since talk was for sissies, but there was also a lot of talk about the coming "community."

Of course, the Bavarian remained a Bavarian, the Saxon a Saxon, the Prussian a Prussian. But they saw beyond their provincial origins to a larger community, and in the course of the decades learned that a whole series of economic, financial, foreign and military problems could be resolved through the community.

The greatness of the Reich was the result of this process — a process that seems obvious to us today, but which many back then some could not or would not understand. They were the prisoners of their prejudices, and lacked the strength to overcome them and imagine a better world. Only a few could look beyond their own age.

The railroad is no longer the most modern method of transportation, having been replaced by the airplane. A modern airplane covers a distance in an hour or an hour and a half for which a train needs twelve hours. Technology has brought not only tribes, but also peoples closer together than could even be imagined in the past. In the past one needed 24 hours to speak from Berlin to Prague through a newspaper. Today I only need a second. Standing before this microphone, one can simultaneously be heard in Prague, Slovakia, Warsaw, Brussels and Den Haag. I once needed twelve hours to travel from Berlin to Prague by train. Now I can fly in an hour. Technology has once again brought people closer together. It is certainly no accident that this technology has developed only recently. The population of Europe has grown, presenting Europe with entirely new problems in agriculture, the economy, finance and the military. And the continents too have grown closer as a result of new technology. Europeans are more and more realizing that our differences are only family squabbles measured against the vast problems that the continents must solve.

I am convinced that, just as today we look back with some amusement on the narrow-minded conflicts between German provinces in the 1840's and 1850's, our posterity in fifty years will look back with similar amusement on what is going on today in Europe. They will see the "dramatic battles between nations" of small European states as family squabbles. I am convinced that in fifty years we will no longer think in terms of nations, but of continents, and that entirely different, and perhaps much larger, problems will concern Europe.

And this sort of material was threaded throughout Goebbel's talk until the war started to go the wrong way for the Nazis.

A digression, but I was recently reading again through Goebbels after watching Downfall/der Untergang; his style of propaganda has much educational value for today, unfortunately (see comments there).

1. JP nailed it above. Makes one feel kind of dopey having droned on and on.

2. The people who go on about how the Reagan buildup bankrupted the SU might want to think about including the claims made from 1974 through 1980 that the SU was building up like crazy, way outspending us, in their analysis. Was this a distortion, advanced for domestic political purposes? Or maybe was the SU already on a road to ruin that didn't need a push?

3. I was at an event in the spring of 2001, speakers were Pres. Fox, Joschka Fischer, Shimon Peres, GWB. You can guess who's was the lamest, and the least articulate in the English language. Peres was very eloquest on his vision of economic union with Jordan, Egypt, and eventually Syria and Palestine. (It wasn't as emotionally compelling as Ariel Sharon quoting the climactic portion of Lincoln's Second Inaugural, word for word, in a DC speech a couple of years later, but that's really not possible to equal).

Turkey has been moving in fits and starts towards democracy for nearly a century. Perhaps that is the speed of progress we should anticipate in the ME.

The EU has helped and so has the large number of Turks who went to University in the US. Most significantly the ruling part is now the moderately Islamist AKP and a very secular Turkish friend tells me they've finally controlled the corrupting power of the army and that he feels optimistic about the future. It's still a country where Orhan Pamuk can face trial for insulting the Turkish republic by making a few critical remarks to a Swiss Journalist but the past few years have seen steady improvement.

However there are storm clouds on the horizon. A mounting civil war in Iraq and growing Kurdish separatism that could embroil Turkey in a major war. With the buffer zone state of Iraq collapsing a bloody confrontation with Iran is not unlikely. If this happens the generals will certainly rise again.

Feel good experiments in shake n bake democracy have great risks and a careful bottom up approach, long favored by the French must be adopted. The frantically paced attempts to install a free market economy in Iraq and the hastily constructed constitution that has helped divide Iraqis into waring sectarian groups have been great disasters.

Incidentally life has been hard on enlightened Iraqi dentists of late and Zeyad at http://healingiraq.blogspot.com/ is asking for donations to help him attend the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. We can all help in small ways and a donation would be one of them.

"It's still a country where Orhan Pamuk can face trial for insulting the Turkish republic by making a few critical remarks to a Swiss Journalist ...."

For a while, until they realized how stupid that was.

"Incidentally life has been hard on enlightened Iraqi dentists of late and Zeyad at http://healingiraq.blogspot.com/ is asking for donations to help him attend the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. We can all help in small ways and a donation would be one of them."

I discussed that here and linked in another thread on ObWi, but unfortunately there isn't actually a link anywhere (that I've yet run into) by which one can make a donation; there wasn't one on his blog, last I looked (also, better to actually link.

Whoopsie, no, he's now put up a Paypal button, as of about two hours ago. So do go clickie, sure.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad