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April 06, 2008

Comments

John Quiggin, today:

    I’m more and more convinced that arguments for war, or about the conduct of war, that rely solely on WWII should come under the same embargo as other arguments that invoke Hitler and Nazism.

There is an embargo on arguments that invoke Hitler and Nazism?

I agree with you, publius. As you point out, the examples of anarchy that Stafford brings up lasted a few days. Eisenhower left in July 1945! There wasn't the lengthy, brutal aftermath that there has been in Iraq. Now, no one in Iraq trusts us to be able to provide security, even if they did trust us to care to try.

This next argument might be a bit inflated, so I'll back down if more knowledgeable people call me out. But the German population had been mobilized for war. When they were beaten, they knew they were beaten. The Iraqis were not mobilized for war before the US occupation. They were living under a brutal dictator. The US did not defeat the Iraqi people, or vanquish any pro-Iraq myths in the way that the US did in Germany. Unlike the Stars and Stripes quote in the Stafford article, no one would ever have said that lurking in every Iraqi was a Saddam.

There is an embargo on arguments that invoke Hitler and Nazism?

yes. ex:

carp. i borked my lunk.

ex: Reductio_ad_Hitlerum

I think people are forgetting something here. There was never a plan for nation building in place to begin with, at least not in the same sense that there was with Germany. The plan was for Iraq to be a failed state for a while, so that the uber-capitalists could get in there and rape it of all its resources, a la The Shock Doctrine.

I think an often overlooked element in the success of German and Japanese reconstruction was the existence of the Soviet Union and the clear choice thus presented to German and Japanese elites and masses*: get with the program or wind up like Eastern Europe.

Iraqis as a whole do not enjoy such a clear choice, but within Iraq, Shia, Sunni, and Kurds do. American planners should be trying to change that. God knows how.


--------------------
*The presence of the Soviet Union clarified American thinking, too, and probably allowed for more ... forbearance.

The other big difference between Germany and Iraq is that the German elites and the occupiers had a common enemy: the USSR. Democracy offered German conservatives in government, business and the state bureaucracy after 1945 an anti-communist ideology just as Nazism had done after 1933. They had every reason to stand shoulder to shoulder with the US in the subsequent years. It's difficult to see why Iraqi elites should do the same.

D'oh! Model 62 beat me to it.

It looks like that often overlooked element isn't as often overlooked as I thought.

The differences far outweigh the similarities for a comparison between Iraq and West-Germany to be useful, but I'm willing to conclude the following ;)

Having a plan helps.

Putting money, resources and troops where your mouth is helps.

Having a clear rationale and moral justification for war helps.

The list of things Germany 1945 en Iraq 2003 had in common is rather short. They both had a ruthless dictator as head of state and the Americans were in both cases on the other side. One might argue, with a bit of imagination, that both dicators had friendly ties with the USA before the Americans elected a president that didn't like the dictator. But I think that is more or less the end of the list of similarities.

The list of *differences* is very very long. Language, culture, history, involvement of neighbouring states, threatening superpowers, the availability of precious resources, political climate, available local knowledge, etc. etc.

It's not comparing apples and oranges, it is comparing lemons and sunflowers.

Stafford is an idiot.

"Battlefield victory is the easy bit."

How can anyone who knows anything of WWII write such a line?

Can anyone with any degree of intellectual honesty really say that Iraq in 2008 resembles West Germany in 1950? Because that's the appropriate comparison. As I understand it, there were virtually no US combat deaths in Germany after V-E Day. We still have combat deaths in Iraq.

I also don't recall Konrad Adenauer's government engaging in a brutal campaign of repression against Social Democratic militias in the Ruhr, aided by American troops. Perhaps someone could point me to a monograph on that, though?

How can anyone who knows anything of WWII write such a line?

He must have missed all of Band of Brothers and the first 30 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. God, I love Band of Brothers.

Another hole in this argument.

Nation building is not an accurate description of the what the Allies were doing in post-WW2 Germany, because Germans already conceived of themselves as nation. If anything, nation building was postponed until the Cold War division of Germany was ended.

What the Allies did in late 1940's Germany was to build legitimacy for a new constitutional and legal order, in a nation that already existed. This was possible because the previous constitutional and legal order had been massively discredited as a result of the war and was no longer a viable competitor.

Compare Iraq 2008, where we are simultaneously trying to hold together a nation that barely existed before (and required the use of brutal force to hold it together before we invaded), and to impose a constitutional and legal order (a parlimentary democracy) which is in competition with another viable alternative (an Islamist state) which has not been discredited in Iraq because it was not the form of the Iraqi state which we invaded and destroyed in 2003.

Also of course WWII wasn't widely perceived as an imperial war of conquest by the Allies.

Wow that was poorly drafted. Of course I mean WWII was not widely perceived by the Germans, as an imperial war of conquest fought against them, by the Allies.

This ties into a much larger point. Iraqi war supporters like to claim that we are engaged in an epochal struggle against a hostile ideology which they have coined the term Islamofacism to describe, and they then cite WW2 as a precedent for how to deal with it.

The strange thing about this comparison is that within the last century the parliamentary democracies have faced down and defeated not one but two such threats - fascism and communism. If you accept the premise that we face another such threat, it behooves us to ask, which one of the previous two offers a better historical comparison. I submit that the defeat of communism by a strategy of containment provides a vastly closer analogy to the circumstances in the Middle East today than the defeat of fascism by armed might and physical occupation of the fascist countries.

Why? Because fascism and communism competed with democracy by offering alternative models for state legitimacy.

Communism claimed to offer superior economic and social equality, whereas fascism claimed to offer greater dignity and wealth to a special ethnic or national community expressed through superior force of arms in war, and enslavement or genocide of inferior peoples as a consequence of that struggle.

The democracies were able not only to defeat the communist and fascist countries, but also to discredit their ideologies, but defeating them at the point which was their central claim to legitimacy. Communism fell because it was perceived by a critical mass of people in the communust countries to have fallen hopelessly behind the West in the production of economic and social justice. Fascism as an ideology was defeated because the fascist countries were decisively defeated in the very arena of total war in which they claimed superiority over others.

So what is the alternative model for state legitimacy that Islamo-something proposes, to compete with parliamentary democracy?

Superiority in war doesn't seem close, so fascism is not a good analogy. It seems to me that the appeal of the Islamist political movements today is based on a claim to superior production of social justice and spiritual community.

An attempt to defeat this movement by armed force will never succeed, because that would fail to address the central premise of the movement upon which its claim to legitimacy is based. If we need to defeat this movement because it poses an existential threat to parliamentary democracy, then it seems obvious to me that this will only happen via a strategy of containment such as was successfully used against communism, because claims to production of social justice and spiritual merit can only be discredited from within, not from without.

This process is not hypothetical at all, in fact it is already well underway in Iran as seen in the disillusionment with the 1979 revolution which has set in there. If we can summon the patience to wait this process out, I expect that Islamic theocracy as a state model will decline in popularity in proportion to it actually being tried, and allowed to fail without outside interference.

this is a bad typo which I need to fix in the previous comment:

Iraqi war supporters

That should be Iraq war supporters, i.e. those who support the current US invasion and occupation of Iraq. I did not mean to imply a nationality, except in the opposite sense (i.e. I meant Americans, not Iraqis)

Thoughtful analysis, ThatLeftTurninABQ. I have been enjoying your comments of late.

OT, but is Hilzoy all right? I am missing her posting, and wonder if she is ill?

but is Hilzoy all right?
She's teaching in Pakistan, probabely without internet connection (she said in one of the other threads)

Indeed a nice post TLTinABQ. I wonder wether "state legitimacy" is the right concept, by first impression is that it has more to do with power than ligitimacy. But I'm heading for some shuteye, so have to comment later.

Don't forget that the Germans had resolved their "ethnic" (Jews, gypsies) and "cultural" (gays, commies)issues prior to the surrender. It would have been entirely different had it not been so.

I guess every nation must have their "trail of tears" but we don't need to build a superhighway for the iraqi people. They are quite capable themselves.

To add something else that I think is non-trivial: the people implementing the rebuilding of Germany & Japan had not only recently experienced a very substantial mobilization of their own country, but had been experimenting with the New Deal for nearly a decade before the war. They acted like government could make a positive difference. Not so much like it existed solely to channel money to contributors.

Two things really stood out for me in the beginning of the post-war period. First, Rumsfeld et al. standing by while the museums and everything else was looted. Wild that the same people who pushed broken window theories in NY didn't guess where this was going to go. And then Bremer saying, on the plane on the way to take office, that he was going to introduce a flat tax. A flat tax!

I wonder wether "state legitimacy" is the right concept, by first impression is that it has more to do with power than ligitimacy.

dutchmarbel,
I'm looking forward very much to your contribution.

In the meantime, I'd point out that legitimacy and power tend to converge on one another in the long term, as it is difficult for a regime to retain power for long without legitimacy, while an ideology which is persuasive with regard to its concept of legitimacy will tend to win out in competition for power vs. others which are not so persuasive.

Thus these two terms can be contrasted with each other in the short term, but less so as time goes by, or at least that is my reading of history.

Things get interesting (and a great deal of conflict can arise) when our ideas about legitimacy change as the intellectual landscape evolves, causing the tectonic plates of power to shift. Just ask Charles I and James II of England, or Louis XVI of France.

Two things really stood out for me in the beginning of the post-war period. First, Rumsfeld et al. standing by while the museums and everything else was looted. Wild that the same people who pushed broken window theories in NY didn't guess where this was going to go. And then Bremer saying, on the plane on the way to take office, that he was going to introduce a flat tax. A flat tax!

I sometimes think that our occupation of Iraq shows what a very narrow and contigent British victory in the US Revolutionary War (e.g. absent French intervention in the conflict and supposing a victory for the redcoats at the battle of Saratoga) would have produced - a weak state riven by simmering ethnic and religious conflict, barely under the control of a strained occupying authority, with the latter unable to marshal the physical or ideological resources needed to do more than keep the lid held down on a boiling pot.

Or as Churchill memorably put it "an ungrateful volcano".

TLTinABQ: quickly before I go to sleep, just an example from my own history: We revolved against the Spaniards because they wanted tax money and didn't invest enough in return (hey, that must sound familiar ;) ).

In those days (1581) legitimacy was a god-given right, so we had to be inventive about reasoning why we could fight. In our declaration of independence we said (in translation, even I couldn't follow the old Dutch):


As it is apparent to all that a prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people,
to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep;
and whereas God did not create the people slaves to their prince, to obey his commands, whether right or wrong,
but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects (without which he could be no prince),to govern them according to equity, to love and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock,and even at the hazard of life to defend and preserve them.

And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges, exacting from them slavish compliance, then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view.

And particularly when this is done deliberately, unauthorized by the states,
they may not only disallow his authority,
but legally proceed to the choice of another prince for their defense.

This is the only method left for subjects whose humble petitions and remonstrances could never soften their prince or dissuade him from his tyrannical proceedings;

It took us 80 years of war to become independent. But we had to discredit the legitimacy before we could use the power of the people. Yes there is a connection, but the legitimacy is the... the.... wordings, the form, not the substance.

On the other hand: our christian fundamentalist party SGP felt that Hitler was entitled to be ruler of the Netherlands in 1945 - because he was an instrument of Gods justice for our sins.

So the ligitimacy for both rulers came from god, but in 1581 the majority said that god created the ruler for the sake of the subjects so being a tyrant delegitimized him. But in 1940 our bible-belt felt that punishment for sins legitimized the tyrannic ruler. In the first example the upcoming middleclass felt that they should be entitled to power but they had to take away his legitimacy. In the last example the power appearantly legitimized the tyrant - why else would god allow it?

Don't forget that the Germans had resolved their "ethnic" (Jews, gypsies) and "cultural" (gays, commies)issues prior to the surrender. It would have been entirely different had it not been so.

This is nonsense. There were almost no Gypsies in Germany ever, and the German Jewish community was, before 1933, assimilated pretty well into the German middle class. Saying that the Jews were an ethnic problem in Germany comparable to Shia/Sunni or Kurdish nationalist tensions in Iraq is as ridiculous as saying that the Jews in the United States are such a problem. Killing lots of Jews had no positive impact on Germany's social cohesion after the war.

The stuff about gays is silly, too - there were plenty of gays in post-Nazi Germany, and, again, gays hadn't posed any particular social threat before the Nazis. This is all silly.

As to Communists, that is the most foolish of all - half of Germany was, er, run by Communists for 45 years after 1945. The reason the Communist Party never did well in West Germany was a) most of the party leaders were in the east; and b) people in the west saw what the communists had done to the east, and were not impressed. Killing of party members by the Nazis played no notable part in the failure of the communist party in postwar West Germany.

And West Germany did have significant tensions - notably, the large number of ethnic German refugees from eastern Europe who settled there and made it impossible for Germany to have relations with any of the eastern countries for decades.

The "success" of the Nazis in killing lots of people had very little to do with the basic stability of Germany after World War II.

It should also be noted that the occupying force in Germany was far more culutrally similar than those in Iraq (even Germany was more similar-- especially considering the pre-war years were basically a half-century of Imperially enfroced European cultural appropriation and assimilation), there just wasn't the same faear of the other that drives much of the Iraqi resistance.

At any rate, I'll just say, again, that while I thought comparisons of Iraq to Germany back in 2003 were silly and thoughtless, at least I could believe that such comparisons were being made in good faith. But now we've been there for five years.

For the analogy of Iraq to West Germany to work there would have had to have been a) a massive underground insurgency of Nazis and others on the right, assisted by foreign Fascist fighters from, er, Spain and Portugal; b) a Christian Democratic Party which was a hopeless minority and which essentially operated as a front group for these underground guerrillas, who spent most of their time killing American troops; c) a government dominated by Social Democrats, with close ties to the Soviet Union, but also depending on American aid to help them fight the right wing militias; d) Social Democratic and Communist militias, both armed by the Soviets, fighting it out for dominance in the industrialized areas, with the Social Democrats calling on the US to help them fight their Communist enemies [actually, it might be more accurate to put the Communists in the place of SCIRI/ISCI, and the Social Democrats in the place of the Sadrists, but that makes it all the more ludicrous], even while they themselves are closely linked to the Soviets.

To put it mildly, this is not what happened in Germany after World War II.

Another difference with Germany is that we brought all of Germany's neighbors on board to help with the political reconstruction, and they formed close, formal, and legitimate economic and military ties with each other.

I also disagree with John. In the long run, though perhaps not at the time we are discussing, the ethnic cleansing that the Poles and the Czechs engaged in at the end of the war probably brought stability to Europe. It eliminated a lot of potential political and cultural grievances, albeit by getting them entirely out of the way while Germany wasn't in a position to complain.

I'll conceede the comment about the gypsies in Germany but that didn't stop them from collecting gypsies from all over Europe. You don't think anti-semitecism Was a powerful motivating force in Europe? "Wir haben die Kriege verloren dorgwegen die verdammed Englander und jude!"* Clearly (or perhaps not) the former chancelor thought Jews were a much bigger problem than the Americans, who did win the war but didn't even get an honorable mention in his diatribe.

Getting back to the occupation, suppose the Reich had simply sequestered the Jews like the President did to the American citizens of japanese descent? And that every german community had it's own little ghetto? How soon would the whisper campaign start? Whose fault was it the war was lost? Who made the profits?

How soon would the pogroms start? What would the allied obligation be if that was happening. And remember, if that scenario had occured, then many of those who went to the gallows at nurenburg whould have been milling around in the background.

The point is: the social environment in Germany was pretty much settled: they had no one else but themselves left to blame. The three major groups in Iraq have us for that! Darn, did I forget the Turks, Saudi's and Israelis?

John: "There were almost no Gypsies in Germany ever…"

Maybe they were just out of sight

And out of mind..

Before we digress into an extended discussion of 20th Cen. European history, does anyone care to address the central points of my earlier post:

1) Fascism had to be defeated by armed might, because superiority of armed might was the raison d'etat of the fascist state and the central premise underlying its claim to legitimacy.

2) Communism had to be defeated by slow strangulation and asphyxiation in its own lack of social and economic justice, because superiority of social and economic justice was the raison d'etat of the communist state and the central premise underlying its claim to legitimacy.

3) The raison d'etat of an Islamist theocracy and the central premise underlying its claim to legitimacy is what?

4) Depending on the answer to #3 above, the most appropriate strategy to deal with Islamist theocracies insofar as they threaten parliamentary democracy is what?

Do you agree with #1 and #2?

What is your answer to #3 and #4?

ThatLeftTurninABQ: "Do you agree with #1 and #2?"

Yes.

What is your answer to #3 and #4?

#3 = Allah
#4 = More Danish Cartoons

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we only get to work with HALF of Germany, because the other half was under the control of a brutal and militaristic communist dictator, who was a potent bogeyman for the West Germans to fear instead of Allied control?

In Iraq, the only potential bogeyman would be Iran, and seeing as how most Iraqis don't really mind Iran, and seeing as how the Iraqi government and most Shiite movements have already aligned themselves with Iran, isn't it a little unlikely that we can engender a comparable fear of domination?

In other words, aren't Iraqis a lot more likely to be afraid of US controlling them than they are of Iranian influence, and wasn't the exact opposite true of West Germany?

Armed might to defeat fascism.

1) yes to German fascism, no to Italian. That would be a thesis at the minimum, though.

Defeat of communism

2.) That's a hard one. I do think that had communism existed in a vacuum, it would have destroyed itself sooner. It existed as long as it had only because it had an enemy. Same with cuba.

Islamic Theocracy legitimacy

3. Theocracies have no legitimacy whatsoever: Christianist or islamist or anything else. Heck, you might as well run a country on pure economic darwinism if that were the case.

How to deal with islamic theocracies.

4.) The same way we deal with the Dobsons, Flanerites, the Swagarts and the moonies. WHAT! we don't clean up our own back yard? Until we do, let the islamists deal with their issues while we dither on ours. (wright on, Dude!)


ThatleftturninABQ:

Do you agree with #1 and #2? Yes.

What is your answer to #3 and #4?

#3: That Western style freedom is antithetical to high moral behavior as defined by Islam.

#4: Demonstrate higher moral behavior than they do.

Jay, shirt and Oyster Tea, thanks and good job!

Keep the suggestions coming! Surely the ObWings commentariat has more historical knowledge and common sense stored in its collective little finger than the American Enterprise Institute has in its entire bloated carcass. If Kagan can come up with a plan, surely we can too!

To compare Germany to Iraq is absurd. Germans tend to excel in whatever they put their minds to- be it cars, music, beer, warfare, or democracy.

Since Baghdad imploded in the 800s, nothing has come out of that part of the world except oil, complaints, and refugees. I think we’ve already spent somewhere in the range of four Marshall Plans in Iraq. The equipment just falls into disrepair. Germany is not Iraq.

“… the most appropriate strategy to deal with Islamist theocracies insofar as they threaten parliamentary democracy is what?”

The best thing to do is review world history. Governance in Islamic lands eventually boils down to accepting an Islamic theocracy (Ahmedinejad; Saudi Arabia; Hamas, al Sistani), a dictatorship (Hussein, Ataturk, Tito, Musharraf), or chaos. Democracy is simply not possible over the long term. Al-Sadr would likely win a general election if one were held today. We shouldn’t be trying to impose our ideals of government on Iraq. It won’t work.

The appropriate strategy is to back off, allow a leader to emerge, and then deal with him in one way or another.

J. Michael Neal - I will agree with you that the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union (were the Germans in Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia expelled? Only to a lesser extent, I think) after World War II probably led to increased stability in those countries, especially Poland and Czechoslovakia. I do not think that the Holocaust had any effect on German political stability, which was the point the original poster was making.

Jay Jerome - There were only 30,000 Gypsies in Germany, a country of 60 million. That's approximately .05% of the population. That hardly seems like a substantial portion of the population to me. The murder of Germany's gypsies, like the murder of Germany's Jews, had very little to do with the political stability that Germany achieved after the war.

"the ethnic cleansing that the Poles and the Czechs engaged in at the end of the war probably brought stability to Europe. It eliminated a lot of potential political and cultural grievances, albeit by getting them entirely out of the way while Germany wasn't in a position to complain."

I just glanced at a Wikipedia article on the ethnic cleansing of the Germans and the article I saw was tossing around figures of 500,000, 1 million, maybe 2 or 3 million dead as a result. Are these numbers accurate? No idea. Did it bring stability? Same answer. Is it okay to commit a massive crime against humanity where millions of civilians are forced to leave their homes, many of them probably killed or raped in the process, because it will bring "stability"? I'm not sure if you're endorsing this or just reporting what you think the consequences were.

Governance in Islamic lands eventually boils down to accepting an Islamic theocracy (Ahmedinejad; Saudi Arabia; Hamas, al Sistani), a dictatorship (Hussein, Ataturk, Tito, Musharraf), or chaos. Democracy is simply not possible over the long term. Al-Sadr would likely win a general election if one were held today.

After 9/11 we were all told to consider the root causes for 9/11. Some of us decided that one of the root causes were that people in the ME were subject to dictatorships, theocracy, chaotic life threatened by gangs of thugs, etc.; so that's why we need to stand up for democracy and freedom in that part of the world. In some groups that's an unpopular opinion and is almost unanimously shouted down, but you might be surprised at the number of Americans that support a commitment to free civil societies across the globe.

The difference between Germany and Iraq became even more clear to me recently when I read a little anecdote in Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century.

Modernist composer Richard Strauss spent the latter part of the Reich isolated in a villa in Bavaria. When the Allied soldiers came to his house to requisition living quarters, Strauss opened the door and introduced himself, "I am Richard Strauss, composer of Der Rosencavalier."

The American soldier leading the company immediately recognised the name, was a huge fan of Strauss's opera, and put a sign up for the following troops to the effect that this house wasn't to be messed with.

That's just one example, one interaction to show how much closer Germany and its occupiers were culturally. US troops seem to have continuously baffling interactions with Iraqis; they're talking across an enormous cultural divide and historical experience.

oh damn.

Go team! Sterling stuff. Paul Berman talking with Heather Hurlburt, ‘Power and the Intellectual’ at bloggingheads towards the bottom of the left-hand column; He has a lot of interesting thoughts, but for LeftTurn’s #3 and #4, his emphasis on knowing not only the language but the literature and so some grasp of the culture of thought, as essential to just action and equitable courtesy. That is, effective diplomacy.

Not to be argumentative, DaveC, but there's plenty in there to disagree with. Dictatorship as the cause of 9/11 is actually pretty thin. I'm not sure anyone who's thought deeply about AQ buys this. Implementing the anti-dictatorship agenda by going after dictatorships other than the one(s) from which AQ, its supporters, and the hijackers come, is kind of a non-sequitur. And plenty of us are in favor of supporting free civil societies, but find the notion of doing so at the barrel of a gun, on the cheap, to be seriously counterproductive.

I have never heard a coherent reason -- that fits into your interpretative framework -- from a supporter of the President's policies for staging the invasion of Iraq before the final defeat of AQ. I can think of lots of reasons that have to do with domestic US politics -- for which, in line with my support for free civil society, not one single US soldier's blood should have been shed.

we need to stand up for democracy and freedom in that part of the world

DaveC,

Do you have anything to contribute regarding my observation that the parliamentary democracies have done this very thing twice in the last century (both times with success) using dramatically different methods, and posing the question:

which example do you think offers a better historical parallel to today?

I've made an open invitation to you and others to engage in historical analysis of this problem in a way that concedes a great deal already to the viewpoint you favor (such as presupposing that there is indeed an epochal confrontation in progress, something that I personally regard as by no means proven) without trying to bias the debate.

You could respond with something more interesting than throwing rocks at people you don't like.

I suspect that others who have been on this blog far longer than I have will chime in now to tell me that in your case this is an utterly futile request which I am naive to make in good faith. Here's your chance to prove them wrong.

Dave C.

"you might be surprised at the number of Americans that support a commitment to free civil societies across the globe."

Really? Do you think the readers of OBWI don't support a committment to free civil societies across the globe?

Our only argument is about how to support such a committment. Armed invasion and occupation seems counterproductive to such a committment on the face of it. Were you really referring to Iraq in this comment?

Sorry. My comments already covered and far better. Slow typing to blame.

you might be surprised at the number of Americans that support a commitment to free civil societies across the globe

I'm pretty sure you'd be surprised, DaveC.

Hey, Jackmormon.

How and why goes it? Good, I hope.

felix culpa,

Paul Berman is an interesting case of someone who I think is important to read and understand while nonetheless I personally come to very different conclusions using the same evidence and even some of the same intellectual framework as he does. Very much like David Stafford as quoted by publius in the main post.

If you want to see a very much more critical take on Berman and his writings, read Matt Yglesias' analysis of Berman's attempts to disassociate himself from Bush's war.

See especially some of the comments in the resulting thread; a few I thought most trenchant were posted to matt's blog by Ryan (comment 1682199 at 12:10 pm) and by Roger (comment 1682490 at 12:26 pm).

The latter comment is worth quoting in part:

"Real intellectual history is always a balancing act between context and ideas. Fake intellectual history is following a cherrypicked path through various texts (which, I suspect, Berman could not read in the original Arabic) to a predetermined point. You can't write about the rise of Islamism and ignore the Cold War - basically, the almost fifty years from 1945 to 1990 in which the U.S. used Islam, the more radical the better, as a counter to communism. Who, after all, invented the idea of a global network in which dark money, manpower and arms were shunted about to fight for an Islamic cause? Answer: the U.S. did. That's how the U.S. fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Who encouraged the Saudis to spend money building mosques whereever there was a diasporic Arab or Islamic population (except, of course, in the U.S.) - again, the U.S. did. That was the whole deal - the cleverness of the U.S. strategy was to use the Saudis as the keystone of a policy that would keep the oil flowing, keeping Nasserite nationalism on the backfoot, support Israel, and stop the Soviets."

More detail on this topic of connections between terrorism and the US-USSR Cold War can be found in the book "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim" by the author Mahmood Mamdani. It may be a bit too monolithically critical of the US for the taste of many people, but it provides a viewpoint very much opposite to that of Paul Berman's book "Terror and Liberalism". Compare and contrast the two and decide for yourself.

BTW CharleyCarp, Berman, against Hurlburt’s deep skepticism. insists on an AQ mutual interest on the basis of having read Saddam’s books— in the culture of rulers, it is necessary to write a book.

That can never negate nor can anything else your central point.


LeftTurn, if your enthusiasm has sufficient substance I offer my extrapolation of my link’s thesis: Start a thread devoted to gaining a sense of Iranian thinking by way of inviting Iranians among our circles of friendship to join in; gaining their views on things as an imperfect but still illuminating window on how They see Us would be useful toward your end. Our end.
To that end (couldn’t resist) I’m supposing a preponderance of professionals, scholars, and artists. I know someone who’d be good.
?

Great good stuff, LeftTurn.
Thank you.

(later)
Wonderful stuff LeftTurn.
Thanks.

Later
(Sheepish.)
Wow.

"Of course I mean WWII was not widely perceived by the Germans, as an imperial war of conquest fought against them, by the Allies."

Er, well, yeah, actually, that's very much how it was. As I suggest some extended perusal here will surely confirm for anyone interested. See here, for example.

I’m feeling sick...

"I’m feeling sick..."

Apologies. I've soaked for so many decades in genocide studies, and the details of the Nazi regime and all the other totalitarian regimes I've ever been able to run across, that I totally forget sometimes just how Dr. G and his ilk may strike one while encountered without warning. Sorry about that, felix c.

(For better or worse I long ago read every damn document on that site, and many numerous times. There are all sorts of fascinating aspects, but I digress.)

Olivier Roy has written some very interesting stuff on Islamist political ideology (I'm having problems linking, but Google 'The Failure of Political Islam'). He was arguing some time before 2001 that as a way of running a state, Islamism had already failed, focusing on the failure of Iran to produce an 'Islamic' political system that worked. So one of the additional parallels with Communism to consider (and I do think that's a better parallel than Fascism) is how long ideologies retain their potency after they've been 'shown' to fail in practice and if there is any way to hasten this process.

The role of outside interference is very interesting here. Arguably, Communism has survived so long in Cuba mainly because of the US-imposed isolation. If the US was more prepared to let some states alone, would the internal contradictions of their political systems lead to their demise more quickly? How much does Ahmadinejad *need* Bush to distract Iranians from his own failures (and vice-versa)?


The role of outside interference is very interesting here. Arguably, Communism has survived so long in Cuba mainly because of the US-imposed isolation. If the US was more prepared to let some states alone, would the internal contradictions of their political systems lead to their demise more quickly? How much does Ahmadinejad *need* Bush to distract Iranians from his own failures (and vice-versa)?

magistra,

That is a very good question.

One of the reasons that I'm pushing this particular exercise is to try to break down the equation which says that you either don't take the threat of terrorism seriously or you have to support armed interventions such as the Iraq war and occupation as the only possible response (see note*).

It seems to me that there is a middle path which is neither, based on analogies with the containment strategy used against communism, and which we may be able to find if we look at this as a contest between different systems of ideas for constructing state legitimacy and ask on what basis our sense of legitimacy is constructed (I would say via the rule of law and limited government made accountable to the governed via elections and other legally sanctioned avenues for seeking change and obtaining consent) and on what basis theirs is.

If spiritual welfare is one of the answers to the latter question, then I expect that this will play out over a long period of time, because claims to improvement of the spiritual welfare of a population are much more subjective than the materialistic claims made by communist regimes, which were compartively easy to falsify.

I'm surprised that the regime in Iran has fallen in popularity so far so quickly, although it may have a long way to go yet before that translates into a real loss of legitimacy. It seems obvious that we are currently hindering rather than helping this process when we are too belicose towards Iran, but where the best approach lies I'm not really sure.

The other parallel with communism that I can see is that the division between Shia and Sunni movements mirrors the tension between Maoist China and the USSR during the later 1950's and beyond, and is if anything even more intractable.

This suggests a different way of viewing the current conflict in Iraq, as part of a wider Shia-Sunni struggle (in which Iran and Saudi Arabia are the primary actors) in which we are less central than we believe and have been drawn in because both sides have sought to use us as dupes and proxies.

This could be somewhat like as if the Ottoman Empire had foolishly been drawn into and deeply entangled (on a large scale) in the wars of the Counter-Reformation in Europe as both Protestant and Catholic states sought temporary advantage, using the heathen Turks for their own purposes.

(note*)
The counterfactual history I invoke to refute the idea of using armed intervention against an ideology which is legitimized by other claims, is to imagine what would have happend if we had tried to use containment against Nazi Germany, and had tried to snuff out communism by invading and occupying the USSR.

It seems obvious to me that neither of these alternative strategies would have succeeded nearly as well as the strategies which we actually did employ against these two different forms of totalitarianism, and which were so effective precisely because they each aimed directly at the central premise of the targeted ideology.

Gary, Goebbels's credibility in Germany was not that good, at least after the military tide had turned. During the war his announcments were known as "lil' clubfoot's fairy-tale hour". His public speeches had a handpicked audience, so the frenetic applause may not represent the average German.
From my point of view, conservatives feared the American influence on culture (and still did so long after the war) but not that the US would make Germany a colony. My estimate is that only a minority feared US imperialism and few that did would have preferred the Russians. I think, if there was any fear of (non-Soviet) imperialism it was directed against Britain but that Britain was seen only as the junior partner in the later stages of the war and unable to do much*. The First World War was a completely different thing and for that the fear of imperialist conquest was real (and a good deal more justified**).

*in a strange episode after the war the British dismantled and removed machines from their occupation zone that the US had delivered for reconstruction until the US noticed it and snubbed them.
**I have encountered people that thought that the US entered WW1 with the sole purpose to get possession of German patents. I know nobody that says the same about WW2.

"Of course I mean WWII was not widely perceived by the Germans, as an imperial war of conquest fought against them, by the Allies."

Er, well, yeah, actually, that's very much how it was.

What does Goebbels' propaganda have to do with how Germans perceived the Allies in post-war West-Germany - because this is what we're talking about.

Obviously not all Germans had magically transformed themselves into perfect democrats on May 8th 1945 and revisionist thinking was alive and well in certain circles long into the sixties. But the vast majority of Germans simply knew that their country, whatever their personal role in this, had messed up big-time and brought this disaster upon themselves.

Also, everybody apart from a few nutcases was really, really tired of anything to do with war or the Nazis and very happy to put politics as a whole on the backburner in favour of economic reconstruction - the defining features of the 50s in Germany were the depolitization of society and the Wirtschaftswunder.

"Of course I mean WWII was not widely perceived by the Germans, as an imperial war of conquest fought against them, by the Allies."

Er, well, yeah, actually, that's very much how it was.

What does Goebbels' propaganda have to do with how Germans perceived the Allies in post-war West-Germany

Interestingly or not, I don't notice my writing anything there about post-war anything. Do you notice me saying a word about that topic?
- because this is what we're talking about.
As it happens, it's not what I'm talking about. If I was talking about that, I would have, in fact, tried to write a sentence that indicated that in some way I was talking about that.

But I actually didn't. Feel entirely free to pay no attention to what I did write about, which was the sentence I quoted, since as you say, my comment is what it's about, not what somebody else thinks it should be about, and not about some entirely different statement I didn't quote. I apologize for any confusion.

In case it helps, I try to quote what I'm replying to (or at least enough of the beginning and end to make it clear, with cuts for length if advisable), and if I've not quoted something, I'm not replying to it.

I regret any lack of clarity in this methodology, which dates back to at least the 1950s, when science fiction amateur press associations invented the "mailing comment," which was later adapted by the fans who were among the inventers of ARPAnet, and then by those who found newsgroups on the succeeding "Internet," and eventually by blog commenters, and which I tend to unwisely and unreasonably take for granted everyone's slight familiarity with.

You can talk about whatever you want Gary, but you're simply wrong on the facts: you are confusing Goebbels with the Germans.

Well it isn't as if the Germans at the time proved famously resilient to NAZI propaganda.

TTLinABQ, are you familiar with Faisal Devji? I haven't actually read his book but he seems to have a line of reasoning which is similar to yours, and goes further, in the sense that he doesn't think "slow asphyxiation" is really applicable either.

Specifically, he argues that not only is the jihad movement not susceptible to military engagement, but neither is it susceptible to the sort of "containment/passive aggression" strategies that (putatively) brought an end to communism. AFAICT his argument is basically

a) that the "GWOT" as initiated by the US is already over and the US has, militarily speaking, lost

c) that regardless of how it appears to Western senses, the internal social structure of the jihadi movement is not that of a political ideology but rather of a broad, demographically driven social justice movement, unified by a cultural and moral framework, but lacking any consensus regarding policy particulars

c) that the correct strategic precedent is not the semi-military squeeze on communism but the co-optation and pacification that has (somewhat successfully) crippled international environmentalism and is sometimes used to derail domestic social justice movements

I may be misrepresenting his views somewhat, but I think that's the general outline...

Well it isn't as if the Germans at the time proved famously resilient to NAZI propaganda.

Oh great, so if we want to investigate the Germans' stance towards X, we just have a look at the Nazi propaganda and equate the two, because, hey, we've all seen the clips of the cheering crowds in Nuremberg on TV. I wonder why all these historians and sociologists wasted so much time and ink investigating these matters in great detail, if they could have just as well read a Goebbels speech.

"I wonder why all these historians and sociologists wasted so much time and ink investigating these matters in great detail, if they could have just as well read a Goebbels speech."

Are you speaking generally? Or particularly on the question at hand. Because my impression was that the Germans really did (in general) feel like they were an aggreived party before and during WWII and they were later conquered in effect by the Allies.

Is there some prominent historian or sociologist you'd like to bring up who says otherwise? I'm not super-informed in the historical area so I'm willing to be educated (though I'm happy to let Gary provide counter-examples if it becomes an issue)

My initial thought is that you are trying to argue about general principles while Gary is arguing about specific examples--which is always a great way toward confusion if you don't each see what the other is doing.

"You can talk about whatever you want Gary, but you're simply wrong on the facts: you are confusing Goebbels with the Germans."

I clearly was far too clipped and unclear; I apologize again.

I was in no way intending to imply anything along the lines of "and all Germans believed more or less what Goebbels told them," nor was I trying to imply that of most Germans, or even of the majority of Germans.

All I was trying to note was that this was the line that Nazi government sold all along, as an outgrowth of the Dolchstoßlegende, and thus was an essential part of German political propaganda. That's all.

"Oh great, so if we want to investigate the Germans' stance towards X, we just have a look at the Nazi propaganda and equate the two,"

I speak only for myself, but I'm entirely unaware of saying, suggesting, implying, or thinking, any such thing. To be clear. (I hope.)

I plead before the court that I spent 18 hours on planes, trains, automobiles, buses, and my feet, yesterday, for what little that's worth, and was exhausted brainless last night, and am still doggishly tired today, m'lud. Mercy.

If we need to defeat this movement because it poses an existential threat to parliamentary democracy

Do we? Does it? In the real world, who does 'this movement' refer to?

To my knowledge there is no militant expansionist Islamist state. Certainly not one that comes within an order of magnitude, either in intention or capability, of either the fascist Axis or the communist USSR.

If you're an Israeli, maybe you could make a case for an existential threat. Otherwise, it's a fantasy.

IMO the closest historical analogies to militant political Islamism are probably the anarchist movement of the late 19th/early 20th century.

Are you speaking generally? Or particularly on the question at hand. Because my impression was that the Germans really did (in general) feel like they were an aggreived party before and during WWII and they were later conquered in effect by the Allies.

That wasn't because of the US though. And of the 19th century the French tried to crush the Germans. Unexpectedly the Germans won, and the French had to pay repairations (millions, lots of money) and give them Elzas-Lotharingen. After the first worldwar the French wanted revenge and the Treaty of Versailles really made the Germans pay - was intended to starve them economically.

I have a book with political cartoons from Dutch cartoonist, about our relationship with Germany as from more or less that time. They really worried about that at the time, and the repercussions. this one (scanned in haste) is from 1921. The text is "THE GERMAN EAGLE - Clemenceau: "I regret having to pull out your last feather". Featcher in Dutch is veer, Honour in Dutch is eer, hence the (v) in the text, to point out that it was about taking the posessions *and* the humiliation.

Sorry, from 1919, not from 1921.

Because my impression was that the Germans really did (in general) feel like they were an aggreived party before and during WWII and they were later conquered in effect by the Allies.

There's a vast difference between feeling oneself the aggrieved party, and believing oneself the object of another's colonial aspirations. It may not be clear to residents of the First World -- and I mean no disrespect to Sebastian here, I have no idea what his take is -- but trust me, it's plenty clear to those with a history of being colonized.

[dr ngo might be able to say more, since the history of colonialism is one of his specialties.]

"There's a vast difference between feeling oneself the aggrieved party, and believing oneself the object of another's colonial aspirations."

I'd certainly agree, and also note that being aggrieved because of resentment over one's own colonial possessions being taken away, and one's own territory being taken way at Versailles, is a quite different type of feeling of threat and injustice.

Why, when contemplating Nazi cries of colonialism, does a recent vodka ad come to mind?

radish,

Thanks for the pointer to Faisal Devji, sounds like one more good book to add to my reading list which, like entropy, is always increasing (until eventually the universe ends in book death).


c) that regardless of how it appears to Western senses, the internal social structure of the jihadi movement is not that of a political ideology but rather of a broad, demographically driven social justice movement, unified by a cultural and moral framework, but lacking any consensus regarding policy particulars

I'm not sure what level of coherence or policy orientation is required in order to call something an ideology. I was using the term in the sense of a collection of ideas which when commonly agreed upon by a population provides the basis for the legitimacy of the state. This is a very narrow definition, there are also plenty of ideologies in a broader sense which have little or no connection with states.

a) that the "GWOT" as initiated by the US is already over and the US has, militarily speaking, lost

This sounds like something I would find difficult to judge unless you can pin down what exactly US goals in the GWOT are, which right now is a bit of a blind-men-and-the-elephant problem.

How do we know if we've lost, if we have no consensus on what constitues winning or losing? Eventually this sort of incoherence will lead to us losing by default as our adversaries define the conflict for us, but I can't tell if we've irrevocably passed that point yet.

I'll have to read the book and see I guess.

c) that the correct strategic precedent is not the semi-military squeeze on communism but the co-optation and pacification that has (somewhat successfully) crippled international environmentalism and is sometimes used to derail domestic social justice movements

It will be interesting to compare this with the prescriptions in Phillip Bobbitt's new book "Terror and Consent" which I'm just now starting.

russell,
You make some very good points. Let me do my best to address them and let me know what you think.


"If we need to defeat this movement because it poses an existential threat to parliamentary democracy"

Do we? Does it? In the real world, who does 'this movement' refer to?

To my knowledge there is no militant expansionist Islamist state. Certainly not one that comes within an order of magnitude, either in intention or capability, of either the fascist Axis or the communist USSR.

If you're an Israeli, maybe you could make a case for an existential threat. Otherwise, it's a fantasy.


I agree with your statements here to a point, but I'm somewhat agnostic on this issue. Let me present what I've found to be the most persuasive counter argument, then please poke holes in it:

The threat to us today has evolved in relation to the changing nature of our society. The democracies which faced the Axis and the USSR were more robust than ours is today and were capable of sustaining large scale damage without folding under pressure. The adversaries which imperiled them were correspondingly large and based on the threat of mass destruction or mass repression.

Our more highly urbanized, postmodern and postindustrial society today is more complex, more delicate, and is based on various forms of leverage (physical, financial, informational, and psychological) which render it more vulnerable to disruption, so the threat today does not need to be as large as it did in the past to pose a peril to us (and the perils are as much moral as physical).

In other words, physical destruction isn't really the only or the main threat any more. Disruption is a bigger deal to us now than it used to be. Our grandparents lived in a house of brick, but ours is made of straw

[how's that for a strawman argument? not bad, huh?]

In this sense the Twin Towers are a metaphor for our society - we have built our structures taller and in doing so made ourselves more vulnerable, than our grandparents did, and much of the danger they pose to us is latent in the form of potential energies built into the very fabric of our society. Ditto the meltdown of the mortgage backed securities currently in progress - what we have to fear is the unwinding of highly leveraged structures which we have built ourselves.

If this sounds silly or too abstract, ask yourself this question: what would you or your family do if tomorrow all the ATMs and credit cards stopped working? What if the grocery stores in your area only accepted cash payments for food? What if the long complex supply chains which restock those stores with new food stopped working? What would you do?

These things could happen as a consequence of mostly virtual events with minimal physical impact. It wouldn't even need to be a terrorist attack. A 1930 style bank run could collapse the financial system to a degree that you would be unable to obtain food without cash. How much cash do you have stuffed in your mattress right now, and how many days or weeks of food do you have in storage? This isn't just a matter of being tough and sucking it up; our grandparents lived closer to the farm than we do today, and most urbanites back then depended on supply chains which were simpler and easier to fix if something went wrong.


IMO the closest historical analogies to militant political Islamism are probably the anarchist movement of the late 19th/early 20th century.

That seems like a better analogy to me insofar as the anarchist movements were not part of a strongly cohesive or coordinated program, except that the leading Victorian/Edwardian era economic powers had not very foolishly made themselves critically dependent on a commodity whose production was dominated by anarchist leaning regions of the globe. What is the 19th cen. equivalent to oil?

ThatLeftTurnInABQ,

That's a very interesting analysis. Definitely food for thought. My question to you is: why are jihadist terrorists special?

I understand that changes in technology and social organization have disproportionately benefited small groups of attackers at the expense of the larger society, but those trends apply to all manner of nogoodnik groups, not just AQ and friends. That means that people like the still at large Antrhax killer and the Unabomber have the same tools at their disposal. To me, that suggests that focusing closely on jihadist terrorist networks is a losing proposition: it means fighting the last war, which means missing the next war. You fight both the jihadists of today and the homegrown terrorists of tomorrow by decentralizing so as to eliminate single points of failure in society; that prevents terrorist groups from turning small attacks into massive societal disruptions. On the other hand, that sounds a lot harder than sending a bunch of Predator drones into Pakistan to kill random AQ leaders.

The anarchy analogy is good for another reason. The car (or horse-drawn wagon at the early stages) bomb was invented by them.

Let me do my best to address them and let me know what you think.

Thanks for your reply. A few thoughts:

I disagree with the idea that the democracies of the early to mid 20th C were more robust than in the current day. Some, in fact, failed, and became fascist states. Our own was in some danger of the same, and in fact both fascist and communist movements were quite active here.

I believe the survival of liberal democracy as a form of government was kind of an open question at the time. Not just due to the military threat posed by the fascists, I believe there was a serious question as to whether it was a viable way to govern, at all.

The basic elements of our society -- generally liberal representative democracy, with a regulated market economy -- are, I think, far more well established, widespread, and robust now than they were then.

What I do think is true is that we are far more dependent on industrial and post-industrial infrastructure for the basic operation of our daily lives. Food and other basic goods were, or could be, produced closer to where people lived, and the basic day-to-day market economy was, or could be, based much more on cash or barter.

If you could turn off wire transfers of money, or even just make them unreliable enough, you'd pretty much turn the lights out these days, I think.

So, at that level, I agree that we are far more vulnerable.

Seen in that light, though, I think what we're defending is less liberal democracy and more a highly technological post-industrial economy. Just a thought.

To me, that suggests that focusing closely on jihadist terrorist networks is a losing proposition

IMO this is a really important insight.

The divide between the haves and the have nots is very large, and growing. Access to really, fundamentally essential resources -- arable land, water -- is increasingly at stake.

Jihadis are not the only folks with a very large bone to pick with modern society.

I understand that changes in technology and social organization have disproportionately benefited small groups of attackers at the expense of the larger society, but those trends apply to all manner of nogoodnik groups, not just AQ and friends. That means that people like the still at large Antrhax killer and the Unabomber have the same tools at their disposal. To me, that suggests that focusing closely on jihadist terrorist networks is a losing proposition: it means fighting the last war, which means missing the next war. You fight both the jihadists of today and the homegrown terrorists of tomorrow by decentralizing so as to eliminate single points of failure in society; that prevents terrorist groups from turning small attacks into massive societal disruptions. On the other hand, that sounds a lot harder than sending a bunch of Predator drones into Pakistan to kill random AQ leaders.

Turbulence,

This is a really good point. Essentially we need to address vulnerabilities rather than threats, so the GWOT is leading us down the wrong rabbit hole. Bobbitt makes the same point in his book, although he follows this idea to some dark places (like regulating and controlling information) that I'm not happy with.


I believe the survival of liberal democracy as a form of government was kind of an open question at the time. Not just due to the military threat posed by the fascists, I believe there was a serious question as to whether it was a viable way to govern, at all.

The basic elements of our society -- generally liberal representative democracy, with a regulated market economy -- are, I think, far more well established, widespread, and robust now than they were then.

russell,

This points up one of the big holes in the jihadism = communism or fascism analogy. The latter two ideologies were bidding to replace democracy, not just in the countries where they originated, but throughout the industrialized world. In that sense they were much greater threats because they offered an alternative historical path which would have extinguished democracy.

Today is different; no matter how much damage jihadis inflict on the US, we are never going to turn into an Islamist theocracy here. The danger instead is that we will inflict damage on our own system from within by abandoning our moral and legal principles in a quest for greater physical safety. We have already started down this path under Bush, and time will tell how much we can backtrack and reject this choice.


Seen in that light, though, I think what we're defending is less liberal democracy and more a highly technological post-industrial economy. Just a thought.

I strongly second your point - this is both correct and important.


If you could turn off wire transfers of money, or even just make them unreliable enough, you'd pretty much turn the lights out these days, I think.

Interestingly, the US Air Force is now running a recruiting ad on TV with precisely this theme - they show a simulation of an anti-satellite missile destroying a comm. satellite in space with voice-over explaining that if we aren't guarded by them our credit cards will stop working and daily life will be disrupted.

On one level this seems pureile - we've gone from being "the arsenal of democracy" to "making the world safe for Mastercard and Visa", but on another level this makes a lot of sense. Our world has changed, and we need to adapt instead of thinking that we are refighting the battles of the 1930's.

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