My Photo

« Things Fall Apart | Main | Hugo Chavez: Democratically elected communist dictator and his continuing power grab »

February 27, 2007


is fairly typical. It leans more heavily on pragmatic arguments because for most Americans anti-imperialism or anti-interventionism, the idea that neither the United States nor any other government has the right to meddle in the affairs of other countries, is a tough sell.
Wasn't that what I just said? That if this view on the dangers on using war as a means to and end was there, it was buried so cautiously it wasn't there any more. Pick your excuse, but the the genuine argument you suggest you really stand for was not made in the US public sphere.

It does not sell, as you say.

As for your last point on the godhood of man, this argument flatly denies any intervention. It does not, as I wished for, explain the actual dangers of using war as a means to an end.

Sorry none of us could live up to your high standards, fleinn. We had a disastrous illegal war to stop and decided to go with what seemed most likely to build the broadest possible coalition of opposition.

That's not an excuse, as I have nothing to make excuses for.

That's for the people who supported this war until it failed to go as they expected.

"Sorry none of us could live up to your high standards, fleinn."

It's got nothing to do with standards, and hopefully not mine anyway. It's got something to do with the idea that political power, regardless of argument, issue or actual conviction, is necessary in order to oppose government intervention. As if government exists as a tool to be legitimately used for what you can possibly make it do, and not as an instrument to blunt the whims of a population, it's do- gooder citizenry and their leaders' good intentions towards their reelection prospects (for instance). And my worry in that regard is how the place for questioning the reasoning given for these convictions does not exist.

And so I wonder, whose fault is that? Or even, whether you really want such a thing at all? Would it "sell"?

You mean, it showed up as the reason it was important to stay the course? That's true - but it also showed up as the reason why the invasion would be a cakewalk - that the Iraqis would want freedom and rise to the occasion. So when the wicked witch was killed, all the smiling people would run around and sing happily. [fleinn]

One could argue that "pretend to come as liberator because it will buy you time before they realize that you intend to screw them and rise against you!" is one of the older plots in the book. Hitler was greeted as a liberator in the Ukraine (without him actually claiming to be one until much later (if at all)), Stalin (quite unsuccessfully) tried the same.
My personal opinion of Chain-Eye/Bush is that they, at best, saw "liberation" as a tool to better achieve their primary goals but "democracy/freedom/etc." would under no circumstances be allowed to interfere with them.
To put it very nasty, if you want to rape somebody, sweet words might make it easier but you will not take NO for an answer anyway

But I still don't see a statement or an argument made officially that attempts to argue for instance that war in itself brutalizes the population so much that it invalidates the human rights aspect of the violent struggle, which is what I was asking for.

Ah, I see I should link to the Human Right Watch's declaration again.

In principle, one can only welcome this renewed concern with the fate of faraway victims. What could be more virtuous than to risk life and limb to save distant people from slaughter? But the common use of the humanitarian label masks significant differences among these interventions. The French intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo, later backed by a reinforced U.N. peacekeeping presence, was most clearly motivated by a desire to stop ongoing slaughter. In Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, West African and French forces intervened to enforce a peace plan but also played important humanitarian roles. (The United States briefly participated in the Liberian intervention, but the handful of troops it deployed had little effect.) All of these African interventions were initially or ultimately approved by the U.N. Security Council. Indeed, in each case the recognized local government consented to the intervention, though under varying degrees of pressure.

By contrast, the United States-led coalition forces justified the invasion of Iraq on a variety of grounds, only one of which—a comparatively minor one—was humanitarian. The Security Council did not approve the invasion, and the Iraqi government, its existence on the line, violently opposed it. Moreover, while the African interventions were modest affairs, the Iraq war was massive, involving an extensive bombing campaign and some 150,000 ground troops.

The sheer size of the invasion of Iraq, the central involvement of the world’s superpower, and the enormous controversy surrounding the war meant that the Iraqi conflict overshadowed the other military actions. For better or for worse, that prominence gave it greater power to shape public perceptions of armed interventions said by their proponents to be justified on humanitarian grounds. The result is that at a time of renewed interest in humanitarian intervention, the Iraq war and the effort to justify it even in part in humanitarian terms risk giving humanitarian intervention a bad name. If that breeds cynicism about the use of military force for humanitarian purposes, it could be devastating for people in need of future rescue.

To put it very nasty, if you want to rape somebody, sweet words might make it easier but you will not take NO for an answer anyway

..Make it easier for the rapist, yes.

Ah, I see I should link to the Human Right Watch's declaration again.

But that's from 2004. And it seems like a response to the second wave of rhetoric from Bush- House, not a thorough questioning of what the implications may be for using force. Indeed, as I see now, Roth argues that the Iraq- incident undermines the concept of a humanitarian intervention, and holds that this will doom people in need in the future.

Again, the argument is a political construction, it is not an analysis of what it means if you use force to push through a solution, in particular with regards to war. It does not look at the serious practical difficulties, or perhaps the clear and obvious historical and current parallels to similar disasters, in any depth.

And why is doing that so important? It's because simply declaring that you're against a war, now that's an easy thing to do. Why you're against the war, that seems to be a more difficult one. Just as an example - I am not a pacifist by any means. How could I be, I do not believe an army of writers can defeat a republican guard. But (oh, even though I'm burdened by such an enormous, almost presidential insight) I still recognise the dangers of submitting to a quick and easy theory on "nation- building", or whatever it's called now. I'm not doing so because I think it is fundamentally and philosophically wrong for any country to intervene in any circumstances. I'm doing so because I know what kind of consequences it has, and what lousy prospects of success there is when bigger groups of the involved population truly comes to expect that an outside force will bring about great and glorious progress.

I mean, what idiot is not for a "humanitarian intervention", if it invariably leads to the results you imagine, and peace and prosperity for all, instant rights, and free ice- cream and so on? If you truly have come to believe that bootstrapping a healthy political culture in a country is done in a couple of months? That an economy can be run for the benefit of the population by magic? If you know in your heart that any good intention has, through the sheer supremacy of your might, the potential to become real, in spite of all "theoretical" difficulties?

"Re Washington vs the Iroquois, you're looking at possibly the last time in U.S. history where a conflict with Native Americans was in any way "existential" for the whites involved: the Iroquois, allied with American Loyalists, were putting up a very good fight in Upper New York. There weren't a lot of rules observed on either side: the area combined the worst of Europeanized civil wars and Indian frontier raids. There was nothing particularly wanton or depraved about Washington's orders to Sullivan, et al given the context."

I just saw this reply. I gave the context--there'd been Iroquois atrocities against white settlers. And atrocities are always used to justify other atrocities. Both sides were wanton and depraved, as is often the case in wars--I just think people ought to remember this rather than romanticizing the Revolutionary War or any other war. As for my charitable feelings towards those who have to fight wars--you've reached some grand conclusions about my feelings on that subject based on what I said about George Washington? I have no illusions about my moral superiority to those who actually have to fight wars. If anything, I'd be quite afraid of what sort of moral failure I might turn out to be. I also have no illusions about my moral superiority or that of my country over some of those we have fought.

Thanks for the correction on the liberation of Kabul--it has been my impression that our Northern Alliance allies have been thugs and had a history of being thugs and committed further atrocities in the 2001 war. I have heard differently about Massoud, but didn't know that his men were the main ones liberating Kabul. I brought this up only to point out a case where I had been incorrectly antiwar, to account for why I had felt more than a little uncertainty about whether the invasion of Iraq would make things better or worse for Iraqis. I don't remember exactly when the Bush Administration started talking about democratization as a justification for the war--others say it was after the WMD's had been proven nonexistent. Probably so--I had no regard for what the Bushies said and only felt my challenged by what I remember of the arguments from the humanitarian prowar liberals who said Iraqis would benefit, an argument I would have laughed at, except that I'd been wrong about Afghanistan.

"I have heard differently about Massoud,"

Just want to correct myself. I had heard differently about Massoud, but after a bit of browsing through Ahmed Rashid's book "Taliban" and more importantly, browsing through HRW documents online, it turns out Massoud was another Afghan warlord whose men raped and murdered civilians. Arguably he was less brutal than his enemies. This is setting the bar pretty near the ground.

Nell- I too wish to add my agreement with what you have said here particularly your March 02, 2007 at 03:14 PM post which I wish I could memorize.

Has anyone else noticed that Rilkefan often seems to end up in this role as defender of the Bush administration's intentions?

Has anyone else noticed that Rilkefan often seems to end up in this role as defender of the Bush administration's intentions?

Yes. But then, he's a pro-lifer, with all that this implies: it doesn't actually surprise me.

But beware of the dark side.

We've reached a pretty sad state of affairs when George Lucas is the wisest political philosopher we've got.

Stumbling back at random:

Nell, your quote says "x was more important than y" - you're trying to claim there was no y, so the quote hurts your argument. And once again, you're trying to prove a negative in the face of contrary evidence. In any case, any argument against the Bush admin works just as well without resolving this point.

Jes: "But then, he's a pro-lifer"

Your usual lie.

Frank, if you want to go with the hermit-crab approach, fine. I believe in understanding the truth of issues like this, even if it brings in the occasional tinge of gray.


The comments to this entry are closed.