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June 05, 2008

Comments

Thanks for writing about this.

It strikes me as a breathtakingly stupid set of demands to make.

Also, one facet of this is worth noting (I might post on it sometime, or some legal type could): I would have thought that an agreement like this would normally be considered a treaty, which would, under the Constitution, have to go through Congress.

If Bush tries to conclude this deal without Congressional approval, that would be very worrisome -- not just because of this particular deal, but because of the principle -- it's a very good thing that the President does not have the power to bind the US whenever he feels like it, just on his say-so.

Eric, assuming any of the speculation is accurate -- and I'm willing to assume that it is -- this report strikes me as a standard part of negotiation.

Doubtless, negotiations are beginning regarding the long-term outlook in Iraq. I'll also buy that, in confidence, US negotiators have put some deal on the table that resembles the one you report. That confidence was then predictably breached by Iraqis seeking a different deal, predictably leaked to a friendly source (e.g., The Indepenent -- once (still?) an SDP/Liberal outlet), and is now predictably stirring a backlash among certain predictable quarters. And so the leverage on the deal shifts as counterproposals are made. And so it goes, and will go.

I suspect that we'll see a deal with (1) some double-digit number of "long term" (leased) US basis; (2) limited freedom-to-operate rules that require Iraqi approval for "major" missions (all appropriately vague and face-saving terms); (3) protection for US government workers and contractors from Iraqi prosecution; with (4) the promise of further aid over and above the lease payments.

However, it should be acknowledged, even an Obama administration might be tempted by the ability to maintain a military foothold of such dimensions in the middle of such a strategic oil producing region.

On this, I agree: Should an Obama administration come to pass, certain members of the so-called far left will cry betrayal.

This sounds like positive news for both the Americans and the Iraqis. Oil is more important than anyone wants to acknowledge and the Iraqis alone will not be able to defend their resource in the decades ahead.

Somebody is going to take the oil, and if it’s the Russians or Chinese, they will simply allow the Iraqi population centers to starve.

Let al-Sadr fight it out with his rivals. We stay at the bases, keep the airspace, control the oil, and cut a deal with whoever becomes the leader of the people of Iraq. It is the best outcome for all involved.

Wow, all "gimme, gimme, gimme", and not even a security guarantee in return?

How about reciprocal basing rights? We can give the Iraqis Crawford TX and Kennebunkport ME and call it even.

Oh, there's also a certain "undisclosed location" that should be tossed in, too.

Jeezus christ--we can't even protect our own female soldiers and contractors from rape and murder while in Iraq and we want the Iraqis to relinquish all rights in sovereignity over us qua foreign nationals on their soil? If this wasn't a war for nationalist independence before it soon will be. Perhaps our master plan is to unite all Iraqis behind a strong military government that can throw the US out. I suggest we get out before we are thrown out. I predicted we'd be helicoptering off the roofs of the American embassy in three years time at the start of this war. I was unduly pessimistic since it took us nearly that long to build the new embassy. but the day is coming when we simply won't be able to hold down Iraqi rage at being treated as fifth class citizens in their own country.

aimai

It strikes me as a breathtakingly stupid set of demands to make.

I disagree for the reasons stated above. This is a standard negotiation tactic.

I would have thought that an agreement like this would normally be considered a treaty, which would, under the Constitution, have to go through Congress.

I don't think that there is any problem with the President negotiating at treaty (if this even would count as one in the Constitutional sense). That's his role. The Senate need only approve or disapprove.

Few thoughts:

Von - I think you might be right about that (probably). The problem is, July 31 ain't that far away. Just saying that they better be prepared to get closer to brass tacks. They appear world's apart at the moment, and the chatter is that Crocker et al are holding firm on some of the key sticking points.

I don't think that there is any problem with the President negotiating at treaty (if this even would count as one in the Constitutional sense). That's his role. The Senate need only approve or disapprove.

Agree again. Bush, of course, doesn't want to put this to a Senate vote and so is not calling it a treaty. The question arises, then, is it OK for the POTUS to negotiate and adopt a treaty-like animal on his own as long as he doesn't call it a treaty?

BTW: that might have something to do with the absence of a firm security guarantee. Such a guarantee, I have seen it argued, pushes the agreement into clearer "treaty" territory. Of course, that's an awfully convenient tripwire to identify.

Worth noting in this context is the appearance by two Iraqi legislators before a House subcommittee yesterday, a Sunni and a Shi'a (a co-founder of the Fadhila party).

Committee chair Delahunt released to the press excerpts from a letter they brought, signed by 31 legislators and representing more than half of the members of the Iraqi parliament, which declares that they will not sign any agreement of this kind that does not contain specific timetables for complete withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Via Cernig at the Newshoggers, Spencer Ackerman has detailed coverage of the hearing. [There are four links; go to Newshoggers for them.]

Good work, Rep. Delahunt! Any "agreement" that does not have the approval of the Iraqi parliament or the U.S. Senate can be safely tossed in the dustbin of history by the incoming administration, which should speedily negotiate a complete withdrawal.

A SOFA doesn’t require congressional approval at all. It’s tied to the President’s CiC authority. It’s just an administrative agreement with the host country concerning the troops (civil and criminal jurisdiction, customs, etc) and bases. The Security Framework Agreement would be a treaty requiring Congressional approval.

SOFA: “retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases”, “immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors”, (move) “military hardware and equipement, in and out of Iraq without consultation with the Iraqi government”

All the rest: Not SOFA and Congress would have to approve.

Oops, wrong link to Cernig; the Ackerman links on the testimony of the two Iraqi legislators are in this post.

Jeez Nell, that was next in the queue! You're stepping on my lines ;)

Then I'm glad I credited Cernig.

Sorry Von, but while this may be a standard negotiation tactic, it is an incredibly stupid negotiation tactic to employ in this case.

Just the fact that these demands were our original proposed deal will be a devastating propaganda coup for the insurgency. Long term bases in Iraq are particularly likely to rile up opposition. It doesn't even matter if this isn't part of the ultimate package - if the U.S. original negotiating position (so what it ideally wants) includes them, it pretty plainly signals we were lying about not wanting them. And I imagine the refusal to offer a guarantee of protection looks even more hypocritical.

What the United States really wants out of Iraq is in fact a major PR battleground, and since the opening negotiation position states what you would ideally want, it's foolish to make such extreme demands.

Sorry, that sounded terse and reproving; meant to add a disarming smiley.

I'm very glad you're at ObWi, and not only because of the refreshing counterpoint to electoral discussion.

Doubtless, negotiations are beginning regarding the long-term outlook in Iraq. I'll also buy that, in confidence, US negotiators have put some deal on the table that resembles the one you report. That confidence was then predictably breached by Iraqis seeking a different deal, predictably leaked to a friendly source (e.g., The Indepenent -- once (still?) an SDP/Liberal outlet), and is now predictably stirring a backlash among certain predictable quarters. And so the leverage on the deal shifts as counterproposals are made. And so it goes, and will go.

Von, I don't think it makes sense to analyze this situation as if it was just a normal business negotiation between corporations. It is not. These negotiations are taking place in the middle of a protracted counterinsurgency. One of the first principles of counterinsurgency is the need to deny insurgents legitimacy. Insurgent support will be bolstered by the appearance of foreign occupiers cementing permanent rule with the cooperation of a quisling government.

So, are you saying that the US government deliberately began negotiations on these terms with the expectation that these initial terms would be leaked to the public? Forget out the negotiation for a moment: doesn't this leak materially harm our counterinsurgency efforts? Furthermore, couldn't this harm be reasonable foreseen by anyone who expected that the initial deal would be leaked?

It would be awfully NICE to have some long-term bases in Iraq, IF they don't keep the jihdist kettle boiling over, but I don't see how that can happen. Since there is that large cost, let's talk about how big the benefit really is.


Iraqi bases let us project force much more conveniently in the region. But how helpful is that? Some, sure. How much?

We don't need a base (or free-fly rights) to bomb Al Qaeda bases. Both would be convenient, neither are necessary.

We don't need a base to defend Israel, that's what ICBMs are for.

We don't need a base to defend Iraq itself(in the unlikely scenario that Iran suddenly gets territorially acquisitive), because if they're attacked, they'll invite us back in, and Iran knows that. It would cost a lot more in money, time, and lives to fight that way, but we can do it, the threat is credible, and the chance that our bluff will be called is small enough to make the benefit small.

We don't need to invade Iran. We would like cheaper oil, a stronger dollar, and less backing of terrorists in Lebanon and elsewhere, but we ain't gonna get that unless we occupy the country, which it knows darn well we can't, having been awake the last 5 years. We can bomb it pretty well from an aircraft carrier already.

In short, having seen what a hornet's nest an aroused Moslem citizenry can be, I don't think it's worth it to keep stirring them up.

Trilobite, thanks for a case well put, aimed at those who think there's nothing inherently wrong with imperial foreign policy but are willing to take into account costs and benefits.

Speaking for myself, though: It wouldn't be nice to have bases in Iraq. It would be wrong -- morally, legally, strategically, and pragmatically wrong.

It's not only more humane but more conducive to realistic thinking about U.S. interaction in the world to view other people as people rather than insects (even if only metaphorically).

The possible costs of a given move more readily become apparent if Americans undertake the mental exercise of putting themselves in the other's place. Once we're past the November election, it might even become possible for some political leaders to undertake the exercise and encourage the citizenry to do so as well.

the appearance of foreign occupiers cementing permanent rule with the cooperation of a quisling government

Which appearance is given credibility by the extensive supporting evidence -- somewhat like the appearance that lobbyists permeate the McCain campaign.

No worries Nell. Cernig is a friend, a fine blogger and a gentleman. He deserves all the credit he gets and then some.

If you're immune from prosecution by the locals, and if you have the power to arrest and attack them, then you are the government. This is a proposal to make the US the permanent actual authority in Iraq.

No wonder a lot of Iraqis are unhappy. If there were a foreign government in the US, claiming to wish to help and respect it, whose people we couldn't arrest or charge and who could arrest us and engage in military operations against us without even the fig leaf of approval from their domestic buddies, I'd be unhappy too. It's this monumental failure of imagination that so often boggles me about otherwise intelligent people keen on the American imperial enterprise - they seem to feel that somehow nobody else is entitled to have feelings of pride in place or country if it's inconvenient to us, while even suggestions from other nations about what we ought to do are tizzy-inducing.

Can we call a spade a spade please: this is unabashed colonialism.

Meanwhile the murder and abuse of the "hadjis" goes on as usual - read it and weep.

Bruce,

I think it's related to ingrained sense of American exceptionalism. "Those Iraqis won't mind because we're Americans. Americans are good people and, thus, indirect rule via Americans is a good thing.

Logical extension to domestic critics/skeptics/objective observers:

Why do you hate America?

novakant, that's hajji or haji -- whether used in its proper respectful or its racist GI sense. I think that 'd' snuck in there subliminally because of Chris Hedges.

Maybe those of us who find it impossible to turn away from the civilian death toll in Iraq need a nickname that can be respectful or disparaging depending on who uses it: 'hedgies'.

The problem is, July 31 ain't that far away. Just saying that they better be prepared to get closer to brass tacks. They appear world's apart at the moment, and the chatter is that Crocker et al are holding firm on some of the key sticking points.

As Turbulence suggests (more on him later), it's dangerous to apply rules from one world (legal disputes) to another (international disputes), but: Many high-stakes negotiations have folks taking immovable opposing positions that suddenly move and become reasonable, generally just in the nick of time.

BTW: that might have something to do with the absence of a firm security guarantee. Such a guarantee, I have seen it argued, pushes the agreement into clearer "treaty" territory. Of course, that's an awfully convenient tripwire to identify.

Good insight -- I don't know if you're right or not (of course), but it certainly sounds plausible.

What the United States really wants out of Iraq is in fact a major PR battleground, and since the opening negotiation position states what you would ideally want, it's foolish to make such extreme demands.

I guess I disagree with your premise, Daniel, that PR is (or should be) the primary consideration in Iraq. To the extent that there was a PR war, the US has already lost it. Although we certainly do not want to needlessly insult folks, it's better now to get what we want and/or need (knowing that YMMV on each).

So, are you saying that the US government deliberately began negotiations on these terms with the expectation that these initial terms would be leaked to the public?

No, not deliberate, Turbulance, but it was predictable that it would leak. I also agree that the existence of a counterinsurgency creates different risks and problems. But I don't agree that the risks created by the leak outweigh the benefits generated from negotiating hard. Everyone in the ME also believes that we're staying there forever -- simply adopting a softer initial negotiating position (which still seeks permanent bases, natch) isn't going to change that.

Can we call a spade a spade please: this is unabashed colonialism.

I'd argue that calling a spade a spade would require that we call this neo-colonialism.

Well, I guess you're correct in general, Nell.

But for example this wonderful member of the US armed forces apparently used the spelling "hadji" in his racist diatribe, so in the context it makes some sense.

Post content aside, congrats on the Radiohead-lyric title...

Good point, nova. It'd be nice to have a spelling that would distinguish between ignorant epithet and appropriate use, so 'hadji' it is in the mouths of occupation military.

I'd argue that calling a spade a spade would require that we call this neo-colonialism.

No it is actual colonialism, that's the astonishing fact of the matter. The term neocolonialism is generally used mainly for the continued economic exploitation and political bullying of former colonies, while the terms of this agreement would constitute at least de facto colonialism. Be that it may, I'm glad you don't dispute that it's colonialism and if you want to put a "neo" in front of it that's fine with me.

I also agree that the existence of a counterinsurgency creates different risks and problems. But I don't agree that the risks created by the leak outweigh the benefits generated from negotiating hard.

I'm confused about how you're making this tradeoff: what exactly do you think the risks of the leak are? And what benefits do you think we'll achieve if we get the Iraqi government to sign the leaked agreement as it stands now (i.e., the best case scenario)?

Did you disagree with trilobite's assessment of the benefits of permanent military bases? In other words, do you see extra benefits that Trilobite did not discuss?

When I look at this tradeoff, I see no benefits to staying and but lots of risks: an unending war that will not only kill our soldiers but will eventually lead to attacks on US-soil. Of course, imperialism is morally wrong but also practically stupid: our colonization of Iraq will cause us many problems outside of Iraq. To the extent that the US is engaged in a neo-colonial war occupying an Arab nation, do you think the global perception of that neo-colonialism enterprise will help or hinder our ability to hunt down and manage violent extremists? Will it make it easier for the Pakistani government to work with us in capturing terrorists or will it make doing so harder?

Everyone in the ME also believes that we're staying there forever -- simply adopting a softer initial negotiating position (which still seeks permanent bases, natch) isn't going to change that.

Do you think this belief is irrational based on what we've seen so far? If you don't find this belief to be irrational, then why bring it up? If many people in the ME have made a rational assessment based on our actions that we intend occupy Iraq indefinitely, then presumably when we change our actions, those same people will change their assessment since their original assessment was rational. If you think their assessment was irrational, can you explain why we should believe that people in the ME are more irrational than, say, Americans?

OK. We invaded Iraq based on pretexts that were false, and appear to have been known to be false when the argument to invade was made.

I include "appear to" above in the interest of civility.

Now we want long term use of 50 bases, we want control of the non-flyover airspace, we want immunity for our guys, we want to be able to arrest anyone we like, and to initiate military actions as we see fit on Iraqi soil.

If anyone else invades Iraq, no promises.

It's hard for me to read any of this as the opening gambit in some negotiation. What freaking option do the Iraqis have? I guess they can always say "no thanks", in which case we will either take what we want anyway, or, having decimated (literally, if you count emigres) their population, and crippled their military, internal security, and infrastructure, leave them at the mercy of their not-particularly-friendly neighbors.

you know as well as we do the right, as the world goes, is only in question between equal power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must

The Athenian negotiating position, as quoted in the Melian Dialogue, from Thucydides "History of the Peloponnesian War". If you're not familiar with it, trust me, the Athenians are not the good guys.

Somebody needs to explain to me why we aren't war criminals. I'm not kidding.

Thanks -

Somebody needs to explain to me why we aren't war criminals. I'm not kidding.

I might be mistaken, but I believe the term war criminal refers to those who violate the laws of war but not necessarily those who start an unjust war of conquest. I think the term you're looking for is crimes against peace.

I can't think of any reason to believe the US has not committed a crime against peace with respect to the Iraq War.

I'm with russell here: I literally cannot see how -- given what we know of the Administration, and what we know of the situation in Iraq -- how this is the "unreasonable opening position" of a negotiation that will suddenly become reasonable when the deadline approaches. The closest I can come is that the Administration is once again trying to dictate reality by fiat which, when the inevitable brick wall is run into, will magically change into something it must have been all along. All hail doublethink.

The line between a serious request that would help the negotiating party and a request designed to make the other party realize that it is the weak member seems to be be rather fuzzy in this case.

I'm with Russell. I want to see a presentation in abstracted terms (Country A, Country B, and so on) in which the actions of the US described without the "but we're the US so it's okay" defense are anything but war crimes.

And von, "neo-" nothing. People who are immune from local law and capable of enforcing their own are colonizers.

protection for US government workers and contractors from Iraqi prosecution

I doubt the Iraqis would agree to that, and why should they?

- - - - - - -

SOFA: ““immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors”

I can see immunity for the troops, but why contractors? Unless they are acting under direct supervision and control of US forces (which KBR and Blackwater obviously are not), why should they be exempt?

Even if the contractors can't arrest locals, giving them license to operate with immpunity has already been shown to be a fiasco. Thus, they need to be under the MCOJ or Iraqi law.

(Some Federal District judge decided that fraud and corruption are perfectly acceptable if ruling against them would "irrepearably harm" the company. Yeesh!)

I doubt the Iraqis would agree to that, and why should they?

It depends on what you mean by the word "Iraqis". We're not negotiating with the people of Iraq and I imagine Bush will do anything to avoid a referendum. We're negotiating with a weak regime that we helped muscle into power and that is dependent on us for its long term survival. That regime good incentives for giving us whatever we want, provided they can find a way to spin it to the locals.

On the linguistic point: I think -- meaning no disrespect to von here -- that part of the issue is that "colonialist" is, for most Americans, a Bad Word. Since Americans are (definitionally?) Not Bad, we can't be colonialists; at worst, we're "neo-colonialists", which is sort of like our Colonialism Clear.

[The same is true of the word "racist", btw, as was mentioned in a previous thread.]

My objection would stem from the lack of colony happening, actually.

Slarti, I think I understand where you're going. So, would you say that Germany invading France is a better model for this non-colonial US-Iraq interaction than, say, the British Empire and India or France and Algeria?

I mean, if we're not going to use the word colonialism (since we're literally not shipping millions of American civilians to live in Iraq), what term would you suggest we use to describe a process by which a powerful country invades a weak country, stations extensive military forces there indefinitely, and remains the dominant military power there? Ally? Friendly assistant?

I think the term you're looking for is crimes against peace.

Yes, you are quite right. My mistake.

Crimes against peace, along with war crimes and crimes against humanity, were recognized by the UN General Assembly after the Nuremberg trials as being punishable crimes under international law.

Thanks -

what term would you suggest we use to describe a process by which a powerful country invades a weak country, stations extensive military forces there indefinitely, and remains the dominant military power there?

Empire.

Thanks -

Slarti, I take it you mean the absence of Americans coming to settle and run date farms on land taken from Iraqis.

Fine; twenty-first century U.S. imperialism needn't involve colonization. (Though I wonder how many more contractors it would take to begin fitting the characterization...)

Calling it a destructive, apparently endless military occupation works fine for me.

Well, if imperialism sounds more apt, why not. The problem with this term is that it's been overused by everybody and their dog so that it can mean a lot of things and has become so vacuous that it's almost acceptable. In defense of the use of the term colonialism, I would point to the fact that settlers are not the integral part of the operation. Why did colonial powers engage in colonialism? To control and extract resources and to project power. And I think that's quite clearly what seems to be happening here.

My objection would stem from the lack of colony happening, actually.

Assuming I read your objection right, "colonization" and "settlement" aren't synonymous, viz. the early European colonies in India.

Well, if imperialism sounds more apt, why not. The problem with this term is that it's been overused by everybody and their dog so that it can mean a lot of things and has become so vacuous that it's almost acceptable.

A group of countries under the rule of a single person or sovereign state is pretty crisp.

Empire means political control exercised by one organized political unit over another unit separate from and alien to it. Many factors enter into empire--economics, technology, ideology, religion, above all military strategy and weaponry--but the essential core is political: the possession of final authority by one entity over the vital political decisions of another. Longer, but pretty much on the money.

Oddly, it comes from an essay explaining why the US is not an empire. Go figure.

Not trying to pick nits with you here, just pointing out that empire does, in fact, have a fairly precise meaning, and one that describes the situation at hand fairly well.

Thanks -

russell: Somebody needs to explain to me why we aren't war criminals.

Dude with the biggest gun gets to write the rules, and usually, the history books. What the heck is Brussels going to do after all? OTOH – where the hell is my $2.00 gas?
(stick – poke – kidding)

"On this, I agree: Should an Obama administration come to pass, certain members of the so-called far left will cry betrayal."

Center liberal, sure. Few leftists want to have much to do with the Democratic party, and certainly no "far leftists," who are, you know, communists.

"Oil is more important than anyone wants to acknowledge"

Except for you, Bill! Thank heavens you are here to provide these deep and original insights that no one less aware than you could possibly provide!

"We [...] keep the airspace, control the oil, and cut a deal with whoever becomes the leader of the people of Iraq. It is the best outcome for all involved."

Indeed, any Iraqi would be crazy to not favor such a deal. In fact, it's so good, we should reverse it, and give control of American airspace to the Iraqi government, let them control our coal and natural gass, and cut a deal with our next leader: boy, I wish we could get such a great deal! I can't wait to have foreign troops patrolling my streets, unanswerable to American courts, and rendering justice by bringing criminals to justice, left and right, albeit while unable to speak our language. Who wouldn't want some of that?

"hadji"

I blame Dr. Benton Quest. Though the Lizard Men's hand might be at work.

"I mean, if we're not going to use the word colonialism (since we're literally not shipping millions of American civilians to live in Iraq), what term would you suggest we use to describe a process by which a powerful country invades a weak country, stations extensive military forces there indefinitely, and remains the dominant military power there?"

Call me old-fashioned, or with a default towards the classics, but is there some reason good old "imperialism" won't do?

Not all that many Britons moved to India, or other outposts of Empire, but the Empire was the Empire, nonetheless, no matter that there weren't tons of British "colonists" everywhere.

But, hey, it's the 21st century, so I can live with a "neo" grafted onto the front end, if it would make anyone happier.

But maybe it would sound better if we explained that it was the "neo-Global Monroe Doctrine for the 21st century, with added vitamins and crunch!"

I'd like maple-flavored, please!

Just some odd footnotes:

I would have taken "hadji" to be the Dutch spelling of "hajji," just as (Indonesian) Jakarta used to be (Netherlands East Indies) Djakarta. And one of the first modern Western writers to visit Mekka and explain Islam and the Hajj in great detail (to Westerners), more than a century ago, was the Dutchman Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje. (I don't know if he actually spelled "hadji" with a "d," much less who might have followed his example, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to deploy his wondrous name!)

On the right of Americans not to be tried by local authorities, this is a version of extraterritoriality commonly imposed by imperialist powers in "unequal treaties" upon those nations nominally independent but too poor/weak to resist - e.g., China, Siam [now Thailand], Turkey, etc. - from the 19th century until the 1920s or thereabouts, when it encountered great resistance. But it still applied to American servicemen in many jurisdictions, such as the Philippines (until ca. 1992) and, IIRC, Okinawa (Japan) even today. So although it may be unwise, it's not unprecedented, at least as a bargaining point.

As for what to call the US hegemony in Iraq, I would personally avoid "colonialism," simply because that term tends to refer to cases of overt rule - running the flag up over the palace, etc. - which is rare since a decade or so after World War II, though Portugal hung on to its colonies until 1975, and there are still a few belonging to other powers scattered around the globe.

"Neo-colonialism" was coined (by Kwame Nkrumah, if memory serves) during this postwar period precisely to distinguish this "new" pattern of informal/implicit domination from the formal rule that had preceded it, even though the underlying structure of control was - in the mind of those utilizing the term - the same. In that sense it's a more apt term than "colonialism," except that it now carries the burden of having to be explained.

"Empire" and "imperialism" are perfectly good words for this phenomenon, which I would be happy to use in the classroom, where I could hold my audience down and make them listen to - well, make them hear - exactly how I understood these terms. Unfortunately, they tend to be both provocative and fuzzy (a deadly combination) in ordinary discourse.

I once (co-)taught a whole course on the Historiography of Modern Imperialism, so I'm aware of where many of the pitfalls are, even if I can't always manage to avoid them. Later, in broader courses, I used to pass out a sheet of paper listing some 30+ wildly diverse examples of historical events and relationships (ranging from the Opium War to Donald Duck comics) under the rubric: "Which of these are examples of imperialism?"

It was, of course, a trick question. Under various definitions in use within the political and scholarly community, every single item both was and was not "imperialist."

So much for linguistic precision.

HTH.

"Empire" and "imperialism" are perfectly good words for this phenomenon ... Unfortunately, they tend to be both provocative and fuzzy (a deadly combination) in ordinary discourse.

Yep. That caused colleagues and me for many years to refer to it as "the big I".

These days, I'm a whole lot less concerned about how provoked anyone might be by the term, but also not wedded to it. What's more important is that Americans understand just what's being done in our name and at our expense in Iraq.

More details emerge every day, for those who want to know.

The US is holding hostage some $50bn (£25bn) of Iraq's money in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pressure the Iraqi government into signing an agreement seen by many Iraqis as prolonging the US occupation indefinitely
...
Iraq's foreign reserves are currently protected by a presidential order giving them immunity from judicial attachment but the US side in the talks has suggested that if the UN mandate, under which the money is held, lapses and is not replaced by the new agreement, then Iraq's funds would lose this immunity. The cost to Iraq of this happening would be the immediate loss of $20bn. The US is able to threaten Iraq with the loss of 40 per cent of its foreign exchange reserves because Iraq's independence is still limited by the legacy of UN sanctions and restrictions imposed on Iraq since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the 1990s. This means that Iraq is still considered a threat to international security and stability under Chapter Seven of the UN charter. The US negotiators say the price of Iraq escaping Chapter Seven is to sign up to a new "strategic alliance" with the United States.
...
The fact that Iraq's financial reserves, increasing rapidly because of the high price of oil, continue to be held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is another legacy of international sanctions against Saddam Hussein. Under the UN mandate, oil revenues must be placed in the Development Fund for Iraq which is in the bank.

The funds are under the control of the Iraqi government, though the US Treasury has strong influence on the form in which the reserves are held.

Iraqi officials say that, last year, they wanted to diversify their holdings out of the dollar, as it depreciated, into other assets, such as the euro, more likely to hold their value. This was vetoed by the US Treasury because American officials feared it would show lack of confidence in the dollar.

Iraqi officials say the consequence of the American action was to lose Iraq the equivalent of $5bn.

Oh, and how is it that Ambassador Crocker can so "comfortably" say that we plan no permanent U.S. bases in Iraq? You probably thought all the nudging and winking was focused on that word permanent. No, it's the 'U.S.' part that they're crossing their fingers about:

American negotiators argue that so long as there is an Iraqi perimeter fence, even if it is manned by only one Iraqi soldier, around a US installation, then Iraq and not the US is in charge.

We've got 150,000 troops there. We're holding a big chunk of their national income hostage. We're demanding that agreement be reached in the next two months.

Just a straightforward negotiation. Like the kind where Tony sits down with the "owner" to clarify how much of the restaurant he now owns.

I linked to you, Eric: this is our war.

But it still applied to American servicemen in many jurisdictions, such as the Philippines (until ca. 1992) and, IIRC, Okinawa (Japan) even today.

This is true, but one should note that it only applies when US servicemen are on-duty. If the crime takes place while off-duty, the local police have jurisdiction. There is an interesting wrinkle, in that the US will not turn over suspects until they have been formally indicted, which Japanese officials says impedes their investigations. US officials say that Japanese police use coercive interrogation tactics. I suspect it is the same for all SOFA agreements, so this might be a key difference between the status of servicemen in Iraq and in places like Japan and Korea.

Turbulence, your post at 6 p.m. yesterday has soon many questions (rhetorical and otherwise) based on so many premises that I find unstable that it's very difficult for me to frame a response to you. It's kinda like: First, agree with my view. Second, here are some questions that depend one you agreeing my my view.

In any event: I disagree with Trilobite's views regarding the limited utility of US bases in Iraq as well as his suggestions that the various advantages of US bases are illusory because the same effect can be had through less-costly means.

Indeed, some of his suggestions are just bizarre to me. For instance: "We don't need a base [in Iraq] to defend Israel, that's what ICBMs are for[.]" I really do not know what to do with this statement. True, we don't need a base in Iraq to defend Israel. A base may deter or influence the parties in the region in various ways -- some of which may be helpful to Israel -- but its purpose is not to defend Israel. But what to make of the comment regarding ICBMs? I don't think that the US should be in a position in which its only remaining method of defending its allies, from whatever provocation, is to start World War III.

The primary purpose of a US military base is to serve as a deterrence -- against both internal and external foes. A US military presence in Iraq takes certain options off the table and is more likely to influence opponents of the Maliki government to seek change through peaceful means.

As for neo-colonialism v. colonialism: My point was a little tongue-in-cheek. It didn't translate well. To come clean: I would agree with those who say that a continued US presence in Iraq has colonialist trappings, but disagree with those who would call it colonialism (or neo-colonialism, for that matter). Colonialism and neo-colonialism have particular definitions that fit the present situation only if stretched and "reinterpreted". For better or worse, the US is not acting as, e.g., the British did in India.

The primary purpose of a US military base is to serve as a deterrence -- against both internal and external foes. A US military presence in Iraq takes certain options off the table and is more likely to influence opponents of the Maliki government to seek change through peaceful means.

Which inures to the United States' benefit in excess of the costs, how?

Thanks Gary. I agree with your thesis entirely.

Von,

Some of what you say might be true, but what about the COSTS!

Basically, what Ugh said.

I mean, I could come up with a cogent argument for how and why establishing and maintaining a permanent US military presence in, say, Russia would be to our benefit in a number of ways. The costs, however, would outweigh.

I'm on the roof of my office building. I see the Washington monument, the jefferson memorial, the capitol building, air force memorial, a portion of the white house, WWII and lincoln memorials. I see arlington cemetary. I see tourists on the mall, walking around the tidal basin and ellipse, stopping on pennsylvania ave to take a picture of the white house. I see planes land at national airport.

I see other things. The missle battery on top of the new executive office building. The pentagon. The permanent protest across from the white house, and someone new who seems to have joined them of late. The double layers of security keeping cars off pennsylvania ave, the uniformed secret service agents that dot the street, the heavily armed agents onside the white house fence.

On my first trip to washington since I was a child, for a job interview in the fall of 2002, I had a hotel room with a brilliant view of the capitol at night, which I took a long look at in appreciation and wonder. I made a point of making the long walk over to the white house to see that as well. On subsequent trips before moving here I visited the various memroials to be inspired, and was.

Now, sitting here on this hazy day overlooking the various testaments to the united states of america, I feel only sadness and disgust.

I imagine I'll get over it, someday.

The costs, however, would outweigh.

And one of those costs is being seen as bigfoot mobsters, everywhere and forever. No more chance to bring up the children with the idea that you're a respectable businessman just because the house and car are nice.

Von: Colonialism and neo-colonialism have particular definitions that fit the present situation only if stretched and "reinterpreted". For better or worse, the US is not acting as, e.g., the British did in India.

That would dispose of "colonialism"; on this we agree.

But "neo-colonialism," as noted above, was coined precisely to describe a relationship that was "colonial" in all but name, and this seems to me an excellent fit for the US in Iraq. Can you explain to me why this definition doesn't work for you?

"In any event: I disagree with Trilobite's views regarding the limited utility of US bases in Iraq as well as his suggestions that the various advantages of US bases are illusory because the same effect can be had through less-costly means."

Say, speaking of assumptions, von....

I wouldn't say illusory, just not worth it.

I think the benefits are real. All I said was that we didn't need Iraqi footholds to do things we need to do, not that they wouldn't make them cheaper and easier in $$ and perhaps in lives.

The ICBM comment was somewhat tongue in cheeck, but to break it down a little: Israel has never needed American boots on the ground (or in the sky), it has needed arms, planes, and, perhaps, our help in maintaining MAD with its more fanatic enemies. To whatever very limited extent the terror of American bombs is stronger than the terror of Israeli bombs, we can still provide that without a base in Iraq.

I had forgotten until Gary's comment on a different thread that we have already abandoned Prince Sultan airbase. Do we still have anything in the region from which to deploy?

Aren't there giant bases in Qatar and Kuwait?

Aren't there giant bases in Qatar and Kuwait?

Google says...yes.

Thanks for the pointer.

I'm still not convinced that the only yardstick of colonialism is the British in India (or for that matter the New World). What we're doing in Iraq strikes me as kin to, say, the Portuguese in India (and to some extent East Africa) -- not quite to the level of Goa, maybe, but only because the oil trade isn't localized in the same way that the spice trade was.

Hajji vs. hadji: Over here it's Hadschi. It is (to my knowlege) not used as a pejorative nickname for Muslims but either as the technical term for a Muslim pilgrim to Mekka or mistaken for a common name. There is also the Karl May effect that requires the teens to being able to recite the full character names form his novels (Hadschi xy, son of Hadschi xc, son of...) ;-)
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Colonialism: maybe the German euphmism "Schutzgebiete" could apply (that's not exactly the same as "protectorate" but there are common elements)

'Protectorate' is definitely more imperial-sounding than the Bush-Cheney regime and the McCain people would like. They want to project this as an agreement between two sovereign governments.

The threats to cut off access to $20 billion of Iraq's national income don't fit that picture, but let's see if any of the U.S. big media cover that part of the story.

The other problem with 'protectorate' is that it's firmly lodged with 'UN protectorate' in peoples' minds -- so that a situation arrived at without an actual vote at the UN wouldn't qualify (though the particular bullying here involving the money wouldn't be possible without the previous UN sanctions etc.)

The craven role of the UN wrt the U.S. behavior in Iraq, particularly in light of the threat to cut off access to the money, is just another aspect of our imperial reach.

As I said, protectorate is not the exact equivalent of the German term. Officially the German Reich promised protection (Schutz-Verträge = protection treaties) to tribes in exchange for favorable access turning later into taking over the sovereignty step by step. To my knowledge there was for quite long a time a tortured dance to avoid the loaded term "colony" except for those areas that were indeed colonized by German settlers (Southwest Africa but not East Africa). One reason for this was clearly the political situation in parliament with a majority of parties that were opposed to colonialism (that changed after the "Hottentotten-Wahl" in 1907). Bismarck was also opposed to open colonialism because he feared the conflict with the other powers. Btw, in German the term Protektorat is more often associated with the German occupation of Czechoslovakia under Hitler (Reichsprotektorat Böhmen und Mähren) than with the UN.
What Bush and accomplices do and want in Iraq seems to me quite similar. They want access to resources, prevent the same access for others, want to have "a foot in the door" and do it all under the pretense of "protecting Iraqi sovereignty" from "foreign" intervention, avoiding, if possible, the loaded political terms describing such behaviour.

"The threats to cut off access to $20 billion of Iraq's national income"

Assets, as I understand it, not income.

"The other problem with 'protectorate' is that it's firmly lodged with 'UN protectorate' in peoples' minds"

I think British Empire, French and German imperialism, and "League of Nations," myself. Protectorate.

Has the UN, in its entire history, ever had other protectorates other than Bosnia?

If not, why would it be that people would have this association you suggest? I ask, because I kinda wonder if this is so, and if it's so, why it would be so.

Since no one has said so clearly, let me point out that "Hajj" is the term for someone who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca, as part of their fulfillment of the fifth pillar of Islam.

Has the UN, in its entire history, ever had other protectorates other than Bosnia?

East Timor, at least.

My weak grasp of pre-1950s history is not something I'm proud of. The examples of the use of the word in my lifetime have primarily been UN protectorates Kosovo and East Timor (and proposals that Somalia and Palestine become such).

Proposals have also been made in the not-too-distant past for Haiti and Darfur to become UN protectorates. (Not in the least endorsing the idea, only introducing them in support of the non-oddness of the word 'protectorate' evoking the phrase 'UN protectorate'.)

Chris Hedges defined hajji as one who makes the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj is the pilgrimage itself) in the article novakant linked in his/her original comment -- but as Gary correctly notes, a majority of readers don't click the links.

Thanks for the further clarification, Helmut.

Those of us who want to point up what the Bush regime is trying to do with this proposal are clearly in need of a word or phrase to sum it up, but somehow I doubt that Schutzvertraege or its English translation is going to be a leading contender. 'Protection treaty' is exactly what the Bush proposal is not, according to the administration: no security guarantees, and not a treaty.

'Protection racket' is more like it. The main protection provided being the protection of ISCI and Da'wa politicians and their forces/militias, official and unofficial, from other Iraqi forces.

"Vassal" seems to cover it IMO.

Just to complete the circle, I found a reference to someone proposing that Iraq become a UN protectorate, but that was before the U.S. invasion. (Also Bosnia, in 1993.)

A great many more proposals than actuals, but enough to engrave the term in more peoples' minds than just mine.

For me, 'vassal' is too archaic. And referring to a person, not a country. But you're on the right track...

If we're widening the vocabulary yet further, why not take a look at the old term "suzerain" (and "suzerainty")?

Or the political science relative neologism: "client states"?

Much more polite than "puppet states," I'm sure you'll agree. ;}

That would have the additional advantage that few actually know that word and many will mistake it for sovereignty. On the other hand it sounds too French and too much like food ;-)

too French and too much like food ;-)

You're clearly under the spell of the comments to Eric's leaving-for-Paris post...

Puppet state/client state it is, then. I was looking for a less emotive term, but am less and less willing to toss accuracy aside in favor of inoffensiveness when there's a conflict.

In Wilhelm Hauff's fairy tale Zwerg Nase (Dwarf Long-Nose) there is actually a Pie Souzeraine that becomes the cause for a bloody and totally unnecessary war in the end. The food association is therefore not completely coincidental.

Pie Souzeraine

This is wonderful to know. Now we have a code phrase for 'the Iraqi puppet state'!

And a potential additon to Fafblog's world of pie...

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