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June 01, 2004

Bush or Saddam, Choose one!
Yaser Kerachian  [info|posts]

Saddam Bush.jpgIn the last few weeks, my email-box was flooded with emails regarding the war on Iraq. I received many emails denouncing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers. The common message of all those emails was that US failed in its promises about Iraq. But is it really true?

In order to analyze the war, one should first set her perspective, whether it is based on the situation in Iraq and the countries in the region such as Iran, or the whole world. I would like to argue that at least in many aspects the war has been positive.

We can first look at the war as an Iranian whose main issue is the national interest of his home. People may be skeptical about the future of Iraq saying that everything has got worse since the invasion. However, in my opinion, the trouble that the coalition forces are now facing with is temporary. Iraq, because of its oil resources and strategic position, has a significant importance for US and therefore US will not leave Iraq unless some kind of stability returns to the country. So far, US has successfully removed Saddam, the lifetime enemy of Iran. Though Iraqi insurgents may explode a bomb once in a while, their infrastructure has been fully dismantled without any hope of a return to power. Sooner or later, a more or less democratic government will bring stability to the country which will also be of the interest of Iran and its people. Most political parties which are now in the Iraq governing council do not have a bad history with Iran and therefore it is likely that the two countries will build a strong friendship with each other. Becoming neighbor with a democratic country has also the advantage that it forces Iran to move in a similar direction. On the other hand, the return of Najaf to the attention of Shi'a clerics would weaken the religious fundamentalism in Iran. Not to mention how much economy of Iran has benefited from the increase in the price of crude oil which was mostly due to the war.

Those who are against the war usually bring up the arguments that US invasion can not be justified. They say that no weapon of mass destruction has been found and there is still no strong evidence of any link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, rejecting the two primary reasons claimed by US government for the war. They also say that US cannot justify the war by claiming that they are bringing peace and democracy to Iraq since it is none of their business.

In my opinion, the flaw of the above argument lies on its emphasize on what caused the war. In reality, the factors that caused the war are far less important than its consequences. In the international perspective, every country acts based on its national interest and not in accordance to morality, though they may overlap many times. US indeed started the war on Iraq not in order to help Iraqis, but to get access to Iraq's oil resources or conquering a country in the Middle East. Similarly France, Germany and Russia did not join the coalition forces not because they were worried about the human loss of the war, but because of the financial issues. Russia and France needed Saddam to be in power in order for him to pay off his debt to them. Saying that the war is not justified is totally different from whether the war was good or bad.

We can also look at the war from an Iraqi's perspective. People usually argue that no country can bring democracy to the other by invading it since democracy has to be implemented by the people and take root in the country. Basically, it is claimed that democracy can not be imported. In my opinion, this statement is only partially true. There are some prerequisites for the people of a country to implement democracy. It is idealistic to say that all the time people can get to democracy themselves. In the case of Iraq, Saddam was a key obstacle to democracy and there was no hope that anything gets better under his ruling. If he would have died naturally, one of his sons would have taken over and nothing would have changed. US, by removing Saddam, provided the opportunity for the Iraqis to implement democracy themselves, the opportunity which would have never been achieved under the ruling of Saddam. Whether US really intended to do this or not is not that important.

The situation in Iraq may be a bit sketchy now and we should wait a bit longer in order to get a better idea of the future. Despite all the current chaos in Iraq, polls indicate that Iraqis are happier now compared to before the war. More importantly they are hopeful about the future. For this purpose, the situation in Afghanistan which is somehow similar to Iraq can also be studied. There are clear signs that the life conditions in Afghanistan have improved significantly. It is true that the central government may not have full control over the country but no one should wish the superficial security which was at the time of Taliban. Those who say that things are not going well in Afghanistan have not had the chance to see it before the war. Those who care about the war casualties never had a chance to see the mass graves of Shiites and Kurds killed by Saddam. It is sad to say that the choices are limited, dictatorship of Saddam or so called US imperialism. I am sure that the latter is the better. Those who seek the third way probably live in their dreams.

Note : This article has been also published in Ghasedak, online magazine of Iranian students in Toronto universities.

Madreseye Moosha at June 2, 2004 07:04 AM [permalink]:

Such a surprisingly naive argument!! Too much TV eh? You have so many flaws that I don't know where to start from.

First of all, the US government "lied" and invaded Iraq, they lied to their own people and to the world. As you said, their concern was to gain control over Iraq's energy resources, not WMD or removal of Iraq's dictatorship. If Saddam's rule was in accordance with their interests, he would have stayed in power forever (as they did co-operate for more than 2 decades). So while your oil argument is correct, your first flaw is to claim the US invaded Iraq to liberate the people, make them happier, and also get hands on oil. No. The only reason they attacked Iraq was energy, and in other words, interests of the US 'government' (Bush and Co.).

Your second flaw is the way you generalised and explained the behaviour of other countries. Everyone witnessed the mass demonstrations in France, Spain, Germany, Britain etc against the war. Every single poll showed that public opinion is against the war. FYI, there is a phenomenon called democracy that some countries in the world have been trying to practice in the past century. France and Germany did not go to war not because of the "Freedom Fries" issue, but because people's opinions do count. Spanish government didn't listen to people, they lost the elections and the next government pulled out of Iraq immediately. The only reason Britain went to war was to save their own traditional interests in the region; they even didn't try to hide this fact, and as you can see they have settled down quietly around Arvandrood and the southern oil reserves. Still we have to wait and see what will happen to the Labours in Britain. I can only accept your arguement about Russia where government and people are still very much separated. Moreover, change of government does not affect the repay of international banking debts. It did neither after the Iranian revolution, nor the chinese red revolution, nor the WWII, and nor the WWI. That's an American hoax.

Your third flaw: Your mis-interpreted the BBC report. where did you find the poll results measuring happiness of Iraqi people during Saddam?? How can you claim that Iraqi people are happier than 3 years ago? The report only claims that people are happier comparing to the first year of invasion. Moreover, the same report says that Saddam is still one of the most popular leaders in Iraq!!!

Your forth flaw: How in the world can you claim that the cause of the war is less important than the consequence? based on your arguement, any country can 'invade' any other country for the sake of its own national interests, or with the excuse to export democracy, or if the invader's polls show that the people in some other country do not live happy lives (good consequence = to make people happy). Your arguement means that the US government can attack Iran, because the majority of people are clearly not happy with the regime. They can also attack Russia, Indonasia, Peru, China, Argentina and so many other places.

The only part of your entry that I found acceptable is that the war removed our number one enemy, and "might" be good for Iran IF we are lucky. You and I know that our government does not always behave intelligently in these situations. Just look at the new parliament and its stupid MPs and speaker.

Bismark at June 2, 2004 10:43 AM [permalink]:

I actually think it is the cause of wars that teaches us how to prevent them next time. What we learn in history is the causes of wars as well as the consequences. For example if the King of Iran had not been arrogant and stupid, Mongolians lead by Changiz Khan would probably have never attacked Iran and the rest of the world, and millions of people would not have been murdered. We all hate Saddam and his regime, but don't many of us agree that the Iraq-Iran war should have ended after liberation of Khorramshahr? Which one was better? As an Iranian I'm happy that Saddam is gone, no question about it. But let's accept that the US and British governments do not have any proper excuse for attacking Iraq except the oil. Removal of Saddam may be a relief for us (sense of revenge?) but thousands of innocent Iraqis and hundreds of Americans died in this conflict. Can you being those people back to life? And who benefits the most? Iraqi people? iranians? or Donald Rumsfeld?



















An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 2, 2004 12:33 PM [permalink]:

Your article was a very good one,IMHO.
The only flaw in it in my perspective was the part about oil and energy resources being the main cause of war.
That is simply not true. There is no evidence that anything will changesignificantly in that area. Actually financially the whole thing is a burden on the US and whatever oil income has to be used in rebuilding the country. The main reason never WMDs either and it was a big mistake of American diplomacy to make it pin everything down on that. The main reason was that Iraq was the best choice in the arab world to start the democratization of the region, mostly because Saddam was such an obvious dictator and Iraq such a rouge state, and to root out the main cause of terrorism. The POSSIBLE cooperation of Saddam and the terrorists whether in future or at present was also a secondary concern and a very real one.

And don't pay any attention to the superficial nonesense of the first two comments, and possibly more to come! I just say this, as far as your beloved 'inetrnational legitimacy' was concerned Iraq wa sin breach of UN resolutions, including this last one, for many years already. It was "super moral" countries like France and Germany that undermined any little credibility the UN had in this affair. And talking about UN and credibility and 'international legitimacy' I think those who still insist on this pathetic dream view to take a good look at the revelation sof thecorruptness of the UN in the oil for food program. That alone is enough to convince any body of minimal capcity of reason as to what UN has become. (And then there is Sudan or Lybia in the human rights commisions and other golden examples to point to.)

SG at June 3, 2004 08:10 AM [permalink]:

I liked Yaser's presentation although I don't agree with him on all points he argues for. In fact, I had never bothered to think about this war in order to take a position for or against it. I guess I accepted it as a fact of life, much like a flood or an earthquake (or spring and rainbow) you know. I mean my opinion simply wouldn't change anything. Right? However, everybody else seemed to have made up their mind and taken a position one way or another and were ready to defend their viewpoints passionately.

Anyway, as an Iranian, I too am glad that Saddam, his sons, and his regime are no more. (Okay, technically, Saddam is still alive, but...) Even if Saddam hadn't have many people (Iranians, Kurds, Kuwaities, Iraqi slodiers and civilians) killed during his reign, but we somehow knew that he would do so given the chance, then his removal from power would become a moral obligation, a right thing to do.

As an Iranian, I am also happy that my home country may have a more democratic neighbor. I certainly agree that Iraq will not become democratic overnight (and we Iranians can and should learn lessons from what is happening in Iraq now) but it is undeniable that Iraqis have a much better chance to proceed toward democracy than they had under Saddam.

Now, *if* I were an American, sure, I would worry about being lied to by the government about WMD, etc, but as it happens, I'm not an American. So why should I care about American government's motives for attacking and invading Iraq at this point? Maybe they wanted oil, maybe Rumsfeld is really a bad guy and George Bush is gullible or whatnot, but as long as what they do benefit us...

Eswin at June 3, 2004 04:23 PM [permalink]:

I think Yaser has done a very good job of elaborating a strong realist approach. He in fact has hit the core of the pacifist-liberal movement that was very hopeful the end of the cold war would bring internationalist forces together and lead to democratic reform, as was foreseen to occur in Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific.

Many of the ethnic conflicts that took place in the 1990s were considered as the after shocks of the Cold War (Somalia, Bosnia, even Kosovo).

In the West, the advent of the new world order and end of the cold war led to two major trends:
First, many international relations scholars tended to become more liberal, and by that token post-idealist, hoping the UN would become more relevant. Others envisioned the possibility of the outbreak of "the clash amongst civilization".

While both proved to be inadequate, the latter proved to correspond more to the reality of the clash of different conceptions of different civilizations. Indeed, a realist approach happened to be closer to the reality of our times as it was rapidly unfolding.
It seems the novel approach of Yaser reminds us that "Realism" will remain a very important framework of analysis for the time being.

I tend to think if Iran was ruled by a democratic republic system, it would have reacted the way Turkey has reacted to the conflict in Iraq. However, if the monarchy were around, Iran would have joined forces, and perhaps would have even plotted to ensure the collapse of the Iraqi state, favouring the creation of a loosely connected "Iraqi Confederation".

Although, the best question to ask can be "if the Shah or some version of the Pahlavi Iran was around, would Saddam become such a Monster?"

I think the ouster of Saddam proved how self-interest could be tested by examining the reaction of different actors. France and Russia were upset that the new regime would be more American friendly and hence their previous investments would be compromised.

The same goes for the self-interest of UK and US, as they wanted to ensure their interests are protected by a pre-emptively removing one of the most selfish, unpredictable, and opportunist actors in the region.

Historically, Najaf used to have very good relations with the White Hall, and it seems any administration in the Westminster will remain loyal to this longstanding policy towards the Shiite clerics (you can look at the documents published by the British Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1850-1950).

I wish all those Iranians who opposed the war for humanistic reasons would also acknowledge that in the Iraqi Conflit of 2002-2005 (?), we are witnessing another interesting phenomenon.

All those who lent major support to Iraq to contain the Islamic Republic, and in so doing incurred irrepairable damages to the hearts and minds of the Iranian people and in many ways the Iranian state, are now somehow in conflict with one another!

A more responsible and "reaolistic" Iranian government could have used this opportune moment to promote its regional power and international presitge.

Alas! the wrong people are in power!

Yaser, allow me to extend to you my best wishes, and you are indeed "a realist" in proper terms.

Perhaps, as Iranians, it is incumbent upon us to be reminded of the great service of men such as Ghavamosaltaneh and Foroughi (and to a degree one of the most intelligent and educated Iranian Generals Gholam-Ali Razmara) during the hard times of 1940-1948 too, and hence,
"Be Realists".

Ron at June 4, 2004 12:37 AM [permalink]:

I believe that to understand the reasons for the war, one must look at the big picture, in other words the whole region and a longer timeframe. At some point, a group of people in Washington sat down and asked themselves, "What will the Middle East look like in 5-10-20 years if we do invade, and if we don't?" "Will we see an Islamic Revolution in Saudi Arabia in the near future? If so, what are the consequences?" "What are the consequences of having dictators sitting on top of a limitless bank account (oil fields) etc. I think oil is part of the reason, but only to the extent that the war would be too expensive if there was no oil revenue to help rebuild a proper country. The idea that George Bush wanted to plunder Iraq's oil purely for his own profit is ridiculous. I challenge anyone who claims this to show me a feasibility analysis of this kind of project. Often people who are good at chanting slogans are not so talented as economists and financial analysts. Lastly, I know it's become a cliche, but Saddam really was the Weapon of Mass Destruction. Isn't 500,000 people in mass graves enough proof of this? If only 10,000 Iraqis died in this war, then, objectively speaking, Iraq has had its best year in a long long time. To oppose the war on "humanitarian" grounds is plain hypocrisy.

Mirror at June 4, 2004 08:30 AM [permalink]:

The big picture?!! The small picture is prettier Ron. At least you see Saddam removed!! "What will the Middle East look like in 5-10-20 years if we do invade, and if we don't?" What does it look like now, because of your itervention in the last 5-10-20-50 years?

1) 1953 coup in Iran 1.5) blind support for Shah through most of his kingdom 2)
support of Saddam and making him a fat man, full of chemical weapons, during
Iran-Iraq war. (Do you know he used his weapons against Iranians?) 3)Pollitical
support for Egypt and Saudi Arabia 4)blind support for Israel ...

"Often people who are good at chanting slogans are not so talented as economists and financial analysts." I wish you did also a historical analysis to see your share in the "500,000" dead Iraqis and in the creation of Osama Bin Laden and ... Just open your eyes to your 5-10-20-50 years of DARK history.

Ron at June 4, 2004 12:40 PM [permalink]:

Mirror, I don't argue with anything you've said. America has created Bin Laden, and gave terrible weapons to Saddam to use, this is true.

What I don't understand is how people who know these facts are also against America's attempt to remedy the problems that it created. In my mind, it is not logical that people who are against the American policy of helping Saddam in the past, are also against American policy to remove him in the present.

Maybe there are people who are very suspicious about Bush's intentions, because of past American policy. I can understand this. But personally, I think Bush is too dumb to be evil. I think he truly believes, especially after 9/11, that it is not in America's interests to support dictators anymore.

Eswin at June 4, 2004 01:04 PM [permalink]:
I think the above debate between Ron and Mirror shows the contrast between the right and the left idealism. In pure realist terms, states, primarily, set their foreign policies based on immediate concerns about the perceived threats and the wished gains in the international arena. Despite ideological differences, different administrations in democratic countries are often the prisoners of the past mistakes committed by the previous “democratically” elected administrations. In addition, since we operate in a liberal democratic milieu, it is impossible that any decision at any point is not influenced by some type of special interest from within or without the government and would not have an impact on the electoral concerns and re-election interests. Again in realist view of international relations, miscalculations always happen. It is imperative, though, not to insist on them, as the costs may be high. Realists suggest that administrations have to re-examine their interests as per the changing circumstances, as well as their line of reasoning for certain actions. Historically, the UK stands out as a state whose FP has been based on long term considerations. The US is the one that always followed a more impulsive approach. I concede that the UK and the US comparison may not be a good one, because they were major powers in relatively different international contexts, but still the British retained more of long term approach vis-à-vis choices and consequences. The British most often realized that they have to change their course of action as soon as the miscalculations began to emerge. By far and large, the UK foreign policy was more concerned with having as many friends as possible in the enemies' camp at all social and political levels, not just at the top, or only in the middle or at the bottom. The US always failed to follow this policy properly or did not follow it at all. For much of the Cold War, the US foreign policy was so focused on containing/deterring the USSR that most payoffs and losses in the respective Cold War matrices were decided on the immediate impact they would have on deterrence. Ron, any nation-state would be stupid if it commits itself to long-term "massive state-building plans" unless there are cultural and historical commonalities. The post-WWII nation-state building in Europe were successful both because the above-mentioned reasons as well as the immediate occupation on the other side of the Iron Curtain. As per Japan, Japan's industrialization and westernization prior to occupation helped the occupation forces a great deal to be successful in state building. The other reason why I do not think your argument holds water is that the Middle Eastern situation is far more unpredictable. Even if there were no profound differences, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, Arab-Islamic culture (perhaps with the exception of Indonesia and Malaysia), are extremely conservative. Given the chance to democratically elect their leaders, I do not believe any Arab Islamic state would elect a liberal democratic government similar to the ones in the West. [Although they could be a bit similar to that of GWBush ;)] Such democratically "Islamic" government certainly would not allow a high degree of participation to women in critical political positions, even in a way the Iranians have allowed under the IR. It would persecute gays/lesbians; it would ban abortion; it would not ban capital punishment at all; it would con ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Siamak at June 4, 2004 01:10 PM [permalink]:

Your argument seems to be very naive although you have tried to put emphasis on the apparently "positive" side of the war!

We can argue for much longer about the issue of the war. One thing that strikes me is that you have ignored the long term consequences of American persence in the middle east. Will it not make them richer and the people of Iraq poorer while they are sucking all their resources.

As for Afghanistan, again you forget that Taliban was an American product! So my argument is that we are not choosing between Bush and Saddam. if we did, we would be fooling ourseleves.

My question to Yaser is: if you were not Iranian would you recommend the Americans to invade Iran to start the process of democracy? Would you?
Because I can certainly show you some mass graves, tortures and exactions there too!

Ron at June 4, 2004 02:07 PM [permalink]:

I agree with you, Eswin, that Democratization is an unrealistic goal for Iraq and the Middle East in general, because of cultural factors that can't be changed overnight (i.e. Arab tribal hierarchy, which America is just beginning to understand). I think America's (and the world's) best hope for Iraq is not democracy, but at least decency, a government that can at least be held accountable for humanitarian treatment of its people, and the meeting of their basic necessities.

That being said, I remain a little bit more optimistic about Iraq than you, simply because I don't believe a "massive state-building plan" is necessary. Saddam was kind enough to leave behind a 20th century infrastructure (as opposed to Afghanistan, where a highway between the two largest cities is not yet complete) and a well educated middle-class, which in itself is an important commonality.

Arash Jalali at June 4, 2004 02:30 PM [permalink]:

Having read the comments posted by SG, Mirror, Ron, and Eswin, it would seem quite difficult to make up one's mind about whose argument to accept. So I would like to offer what I have been able to understand from these views. Hopefully, I would be corrected by them and others should I happen to have misunderstood them.

I think Mirror's position, though based on quite valid observations, stems mainly from a categorical disdain for American policy making. I personally cannot blame him/her, but this frame of mind somehow reminds me of Noam Chomsky in which America is damned if it does, damned if it doesn't. That seems to be exactly what Ron is amazed with, because he seems to believe that if America's support for Saddam was a mistake then his removal by America cannot be a mistake too. His argument, I believe, is based on the tacit assumption that America should always do something; that if America has done something wrong, then it is again its undeniable right to undo it.

SG's pragmatic view suggests that the American invasion of Iraq should not be criticized by an Iranian simply because the removal of Saddam and its regime can in no way be disadvantageous to Iranian interests; and there seems to be little if no room for feelings of pitty and compassion towards the people of Iraq in the heart and mind of a typical Iranian. Thereby whether the US did what it did out of genuine intents of democratization and/or liberation, or out of the "imperialistic" and/or sadistic urges of its current policy makers, is totally irrelevant " long as what they do benefit us...", as SG put it in his comment.

Eswin looks at the world from a "realist" perspective, as he prefers to call it. Although realism and pragmatism are often taken to be synonymous terms, in this particular instance, SG's pragmatism and Eswin's realism have lead them to two rather different conclusions. Eswin believes that although the removal of Saddam is a favourable outcome in general, its "alleged" final goal, i.e. democratization of the Middle East, regardless of whether it is genuine or not, is as unrealistic a goal as it is to try to make the Pope convert to Islam.

So basically, we are dealing with two differnt questions here:
Does the U.S. (or any other country) have the right to make unilateral decisions for the whole World, irrespective of whether the decision is a right one or not?
If a generally right and well-intended policy such as democratization does not suit a particular context, should one change (or rather adapt) the solution, or the context ?

As regards the first question, my understanding is that Mirror would always answer "No", Ron would say "Yes" if the oppsite action has proven to be wrong, and SG would say: "it depends on whom you are asking! If it benefits me, or at least does not harm me, yes of course, why not?"

As regards the second question, Eswin prefers the adaptation of a solution according to the context to which it is to be applied.

Señor Græd at June 4, 2004 03:10 PM [permalink]:


Thanks you, Arash, for your as always detailed and clear analysis of the situation. I'm afraid I haven't yet read the other comments, but first a few words regarding Arash's comment:

I don't think the US invasion/liberation of Iraq has, *on average*, added to the suffering of the people of Iraq. Quite the contrary, I find it hard to imagine that Iraqis could be worse off than the way they were treated under Saddam; don't you?

I agree that democratizing Iraq (or our own Iran) is a long long process, but I believe today's Iraq is much, MUCH closer to democracy than it was two years ago. Saddam's regime, as Yaser noted, was a practically insurmoutable obstacle in the way of Iraq's progress towards democracy. (Call me a cringe, but I don't find our beloved Islamic Republic that much of an obstacle. In fact, I think it's been affording us a period of transition from the monarchical era to modern times. That's why it has in itself elements of both authoritarian regimes and democratic ones, each dragging the proverbial ship towards their favorite destination...)

Eswin at June 4, 2004 04:40 PM [permalink]:
Thank you Arash, For the purposes of clarification, I think I have to add what I call "realism" is a prominent school of thought in international relations scholarship. It is not really mine. Many debates have been waged between the idealists and liberals against the realist school of IR that you can find online/googline/or in the library. From the realist perspective, any actions of governments can be judged as necessary if justified based upon national interests. The problem is, then, to figure out what national interests are. Ideological differences cause idealists to take different stances, as a result. Realists, too, are victims of ideological differences and often happen to believe the rhetoric that is just supposed to provide the facade to make sure the masses are not thinking the action taken is really out of "self-interest". Humans always would like to say what they are doing is not just for their own good, so everybody has been trying to say that there is "an international common good". Well, I think there is one and that is minimizing conflicts and preventing the proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction. As per human rights, democracy, and other stuff, well, I think I am hesitant to go that far, unless a regime is really massacring its own people en masse and to the point that intervention is necessary. Still, for self-interest reasons, even if "you are an Iranian" one may find justification to have one's own country invaded. I will get to that later. Your categorization of the idealists to pessimist and optimist was interesting. I think Siyamak’s contribution shows how profound such differences are and I have a realist response to that. Some idealists who are more concerned with the overthrow of the Islamic regime favour what I call “surgical democratization”. Those who are afraid of human loss, again due to idealist or liberalist reasons, may find any intervention inhuman, and think that the human loss and suffering imposed thereupon is more unjustifiable than the one to which people of Iran have already been subjected. A realist response would simply be the one that attempts to see if the present foreign/security policies of the IR are warranted vis-à-vis its capacities. For example, Mr. Rafsanjani is quoted to have said that if the Nuclear weapons are used by Iran against Israel and meanwhile Israel manages to strike at the same time, Iran may lose 15,000,000 (I think he was thinking of Tehran!), but we may manage to destroy all of the 5,000,000 Israeli, and Israel will be no more. Well, can any one realist judge this type of calculation “rational”? I do not think so. Realists attempt to minimize human cost and risks. For them Nuclear armament should serve the purposes of deterrence and force the two sides to realize that madness must be stopped. Now, my question is if Mr. Rafsanjani has not really bluffed, and even if he has, it is possible that Iran would one day use nuclear weapons against Israel, I would believe that a foreign intervention against a regime that is ready to sacrifice the lives of 15,000,000 Iranians is “realistic”, I would unequivocally say: Yes! What is the difference? The realist argues that regardless of the rhetoric no regime can pursue a war or conflict based upon a suicidal ideology. Yaser in another interesting contribution on the Iran-Iraq war last year deliberately showed how “silly” and “irrational” the war was pursued. Again, from realist perspective, I would ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Señor Græd at June 4, 2004 07:12 PM [permalink]:

It's Friday night again, so allow me to say a few more words before I head out. It must be obvious by now that (unlike Eswin) I'm no expert in the field of Political Science. :-( But just from the point of view of a lay person:

"[S]o everybody has been trying to say that there is "an international common good". Well, I think there is one and that is minimizing conflicts and preventing the proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction. As per human rights, democracy, and other stuff, well, I think I am hesitant to go that far, unless a regime is really massacring its own people en masse and to the point that intervention is necessary."

I think further down his comment, Eswin himself kind of implicitly hinted at that, but let me try to say it more clearly. I guess we cannot think in such clear-cut either/or terms. Let's agree, for the sake of argument, that saving human life is to be put above all else. But does that really translate to: It's better to have a whole nation have a mere subsistential existence, or attack the dictator so that the cost of having some innocent soldiers and civilians killed save the 99% of the rest of the nation, give means of living better, some freedom, and give them back their human dignity?

So I guess my point is, one should be mindful of the give-and-take, of the grey area...

Eswin at June 4, 2004 07:28 PM [permalink]:

I think I have no problem with your clarification. You put what I was trying to say in a nutshell. In fact, I am glad that you clarified that point for the purpose of the whole debate so far.

Ron at June 5, 2004 04:28 AM [permalink]:

Thank you Arash, for clarifying all our posts so far. I would like to respond to your very well articulated interpretation of my position

“His argument, I believe, is based on the tacit assumption that America should always do something; that if America has done something wrong, then it is again its undeniable right to undo it.”

I would only like say that it is less important that a particular country did something wrong and needs to undo it, than the fact that a problem exists and needs to be fixed, regardless of who does the fixing.

The premises and conclusion of this argument then are as follows

Premise 1- Something needs to be done (about Saddam)
Premise 2- America is the only power that is able to do something Conclusion- America needs to do something.

Now, one can understandably challenge the 1st premise and say that intervention was unnecessary given the current and future context. One can argue that Saddam was not a problem, and therefore did not need fixing.

The 2nd premise I believe is stronger, because we can objectively say that no other country or the UN is capable of this kind of intervention.

I am basically trying to separate the two issues of the justness of unilateralism as a philosophy and the justness of America's specific policy on Iraq.

kidding. right? at June 6, 2004 08:57 PM [permalink]:

The war may have been very positive for a lot of people, perhaps the majority, but the guy who ordered the attack on Iraq basically ordered 700 Americans and thousands of Iraqis to be killed for the well-being of some others. Was it good for Iranians, and most Iraqis: yes (except for those who got killed or worse). For Americans: I don't think so, especially for those who got killed for something none of their business.

Reza at June 7, 2004 12:04 AM [permalink]:

To : kidding, right?
I was not supporting the war. However, I do believe this world is so inner connected that the well being of Iraqis or Iranians will definitely affect well being of Americans.

mehrdad at June 7, 2004 08:48 AM [permalink]:

I dont understand why some Iranians are unhappy Saddam is gone. They probably are too young to remember the hardship Iranians went through the war,or they are a branch of Leftist groups who do not believe in nationalism.Why Bush invaded Saddam and removed him,is no concern to me.Whats important is the end result that one of our sworn enemies has been deposed.Same can be said about Taleban. I dont know why some Iranians are more interested about whats happening in Abu Gharib prison ,rather than whats happening in Evin prison. These all come from the mentality of a person who is either leftist or Islamist.In either case,the nationalism takes a back seat.Unfortunately I dont know why ,there are many Iranians who think that way.I like to congratulate Isreal (our only friend in the Middle east) for standing against Arabs and destroying Iraq's nuclear facilities.Also thank you President Bush for reming two enemies of Iranian people.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 8, 2004 12:50 AM [permalink]:


I'm with you on this 100%!

Alan K. Henderson at June 8, 2004 01:02 AM [permalink]:

From time to time I run across this "the war is all about stealing Iraqi oil" claim, and none of its proponents offer any evidence to support it. Nor do they attempt to explain how such a theft could be implemented without anyone noticing.

Eswin at June 9, 2004 01:30 PM [permalink]:


Don't you think that the overarching concerns about an oil-rich region's stability short of "an opportunist maniac" and its critical value for the US can warrant such an intervention?

Also, look at the other side benefits/unintended positive outcomes of it, such as how the good old Moammar Gaddafi is said to have been behaving ever since the intervention in Iraq, mainly because he has realized that the US moves to remove when its demands are not met.

James at June 9, 2004 04:04 PM [permalink]:
I would agree that there's still a question of whether this endeavor is a success or not, but on the whole in the manner in which it was executed it's been a failure. In essence I'd say that on some level this may turn out to be a success for the Iraqis in the very near term (I'd give this 2 to 5 years, during which time the Americans should largely be gone and the Iraqis on their own), but this is more and more an American failure regardless of however it may fall out for the Iraqi people. In spite of the civilians killed to date and the destruction brought by this intervention, a muderous tyrant is gone. Sadaam should have been taken to the out of power years ago, and all tyrants like him should be similarly treated (I'm not suggesting via American intervention, but Robert Mugabe, Kim Il Jong, and the list goes on, are destructive to their countries and people, and there should be an international mechanism that helps to push them out of power --- how that would work I'm not sure). In toto when this effort is done the Iraqis will have their country to make of it as they will, to create something new and hopefully infinitely better, and have the opportunity to make themselves great again. This is worthwhile, good, and on balance at this point worth the current pain of getting there. On the whole, though, the U.S. has fallen on its face regarding how this effort has been handled. Let me count the ways: 1. The reasons given for going into the war have been found to be totally lacking and without the weight one would expect for risking lives and livelihoods. Were there lies, or did truth become victim to what someone believed someone else wanted to hear, and becoming mauled in the process though without malicious intent? 2. How we could have gotten the intelligence on this so wrong, so badly, other than because we were more focused on a political agenda over reality, I don't know. 3. We went into Iraq without a plan for how to deal with the country after the war was won (no reasonable person ever thought the outcome would be different so what came after the war should have been the focus on the American side the whole time, nearly any fool could "win" the war), let Iraq fall into anarchy, and sat there confused and beleagured, somehow coming across as if this mess should have been totally unexpected (duh!) 4. We have been consistently insensitive to the power structures within the country and how we related to them. 5. We've sent out messages to people in not-so subtle ways that defy common sense, such as appropriating Sadaam's palaces for use by the CPA instead of destroying them, had troops occuppy homes (not long term, but used them to relax in after coming through on an operation) which is in specific defiance of the U.S. Constitution about billeting troops (you respect the other guy's home and families, ALWAYS, lesson #1.), and re-used Abu Ghraib, a prison with a horrible history and somethine else that deserved to be destroyed. 6. Inadequately trained troops to deal with prisoners, undermanned those units responsible for prisoners, and caused the problem with troops by not making clear the rules on how they should be treated and what was NOT allowed. The question remains how much this lack of training may have worked to serve someone's purposes is another story yet to be told. 7. I've come to find that certain weapons have been used in Iraq, specifically cluster munitions sent via multiple launch rocket systems used by the Arm ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Dan Schmelzer at June 9, 2004 09:20 PM [permalink]:

This discussion has been good, but why hasn't religion been discussed? I don't know much about it, but that's where all the action seems to be.

At the topmost level, the US is fighting al Qaeda. In Iraq, we flipped the government to majority, Shi'ite rule. In Afghanistan, we flipped the government from Taliban rule. Knowing the overriding beliefs and goals of al Qaeda, these ocurrences must seem like terrible losses to them. The infidel American/Shi'ite/Israeli alliance is having some successes, right on our doorstep!

The consequences of rolling the dice in Iraq are advantageous to the US: (1) Having the majority rule a country fits more closely with our notions of democracy; (2) having the natural enemies of the Wahabbists in control of a potential swing oil producer gives us some insurance should Saudi Arabia embargo the rest of the world; (3) promoting Najaf at the expense of Qom seems like a good chit for the eventual reform of Iran into a full democracy.

For Iran, this seems like a splendid deal, unless you're hung up on the exceptionalism of the Islamic Republic. Abuse of some Iraqis doesn't impact these interests, so I would have expected the bulk of Iranians to hate the sin, but love the sinner, so to speak. On the other hand, we shouldn't discount the visceral emotional impact of those damned photos!

James at June 9, 2004 09:53 PM [permalink]:


Actually I’m pretty sure that the government in Iraq is not under Shia rule --- it’s a shared situation with no religious faction holding sway exactly. Let us keep in mind that from a strictly “religious” position Shias are not the majority in Iraq, Sunnis are given that Kurds are Sunnis, not Shias. Of course the Kurds see themselves as Kurds, not Sunnis, and likely rightfully so. The problem is trying to make all three factions, i.e. the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, happy, which leads us to the government which seems to be forming up. This is a complicated problem and if there’s any likely reason to see civil war after the Americans leave it’s here, but it won’t be due to religion so much as it will be resources. The Kurds are settled and pretty much happy with what they have, so they want the status quo. Shias are sitting on top of a good chunk of what’s left in Iraq regarding resources, and Sunnis are pretty much left without on the whole. How this is resolved is the key to the future.

In Afghanistan the Taliban are not completely out of the picture. Afghanistan can become another American failure if more money and interest isn’t focused there as the Taliban are still very active in the countryside. Also the government is still inclined to Islam, though I’m not sure if they’ve embraced Sharia law or not (I haven’t followed this aspect that closely).

To be honest I don’t see the dynamic of the advantages as you’re laying them out. It’s not that clear cut in my eyes nor anywhere close to being settled.

This is still a volatile situation for Iran as I see it. I don’t think the government there is sure what’s going to come of this mess, they have a large Kurdish population to deal with themselves and those that are leaving into Kurd held regions now in Iraq aren’t leaving with a lot of love for their old host. If a legitimately secular, or largely so, government establishes itself in Iraq that would likely pose a threat to the current Iranian government and not make it happy, especially if the Iraqi Shias are willingly going along with the new government. I think it bears stating that Shias in Iraq may be co-religionists with those in Iran, but that doesn’t make them brothers and sisters so there’s no reason to assume that religion will carry the day with regard to Shia concerns and Iranian desires.

Yes, religion is an important issue here, especially with regard to where things eventually go with regard to how the new government in Iraq is formed. But right now it’s more part of the muddy mess than it is a light into the future.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 9, 2004 10:21 PM [permalink]:


take a look at this . Says it all.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 9, 2004 10:36 PM [permalink]:

And this as well.

James at June 9, 2004 10:50 PM [permalink]:

AIS --- a few chuckles in the first, and total dissonance in the second. Kurdistan? What a joke, we're running it with 300 troops? First, to my knowledge there is no "officially recognized "Kurdistan" and what troops are there are well taken care of by the Kurds this time, not vice versa.

Mr. Hanson clearly is vying for a position within the administration. His sense of reality about what's going on in Iraq seems totally out of keeping with what I'm seeing, but then maybe I'm just ill-informed, it wouldn't be the first time.

What I personally found informative and rather germane was:

The New York Review of Books

And the author knows what he's talking about based on personal experience, i.e. he's not sucking up to the neo-cons. And Hanson's thing with neo-cons being a code word for Jews - God, I hate this reverse racism bs, it has nothing to do with the issue and it skirts the fact that people are getting killed because we went in undermanned and under planned, and were warned about it before hand, thank you neo-cons, first and foremost being Rumsfeld, who ain't Jewish.

Nazi Scientist at June 10, 2004 01:47 AM [permalink]:

Rumsfeld is german enough to be one of us anyway.

Alan K. Henderson at June 10, 2004 02:46 AM [permalink]:

I thought the way I worded my previous comment made it clear that I believe that a) the claim that the war is about stealing oil is a baseless accusation, and b) stealing oil from thousands of miles away without notice is physically impossible.

I would hate to think of what kinds of national security threats we'd be dealing with if we were to pull out of Iraq prematurely and it were to fall under the control of the likes of insurgent forces that are fighting against our troops.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 10, 2004 03:07 AM [permalink]:

James, your 'kind' of responses are more revealing than any article by VDH! (and proof that he is right in what he's saying)
I can picture you in the 1940s perfectly now. aaah...funny!

"Mr. Hanson clearly is vying for a position within the administration."

What does it tell about you when this is the only response you can think of in face of sound arguments? There is always a hidden motive when people don't agree with you, isn't there? Just the fact that they have a different point of view and they can write well and argue in favor of it is not something that can ever be true, eh?
That sentence alone tells all that needs be known.
Sooo typical, believe me!

"thank you neo-cons, first and foremost being Rumsfeld, who ain't Jewish."

Oh, you are not anti-semitic. Halleluia!
Just one thing, Rumsfeld is not a 'neo-con'. He always belonged to the conservatives. So why NEO-con? what does this tell us again about your opinions?
For you neo-con is just a code word for THE 'Cabal' running the US, and with absolute treachery for that matter...right? You don't seem to pay much attention to the meaning of the term, do you?
OK, they are not all Jewish... but well, maybe doing things for Israeli interests? (After all many of the most active Zionists are Christian Conservatives, aren't they?) How about that, buddy? you know, ISRAEL hoooo, THE racist state?
Isn't that in accord with "...God, I hate this reverse racism bs...."

Tells a lot, indeed.

James at June 10, 2004 07:25 AM [permalink]:

Actually AIS my “responses” to Hanson were very clearly laid out regarding why Iraq is a mess for the U.S. in my first post here. I’m sorry you weren’t able to read that and see why I think Hanson is seems to be a shill for the administration. Surely I agree with you, if my only response was “He’s vying for a position with the administration” that would be rather lame indeed. But I provided 7 reasons for why we’re fouling up Iraq and how the whole adventure is turning into an American failure. There are more to add, but I’ll forgo that for here.

Actually I wasn’t looking for a “hidden motive”; I was looking for the obvious one. I assume that Mr. Hanson is an intelligent man and there had to be a good reason for why he’s so disconnected from the reality I seem to appreciate and clearly see. Is he delusional, I ask myself, or may there by a good reason for his dancing around the obvious failures that are reported everywhere but in his column?

Actually neo-con is a code for men who have deluded themselves into believing that because we have the biggest military and economy in the world we somehow have a divine right to use both, but especially the military, wherever we think a wrong is to be righted, unilaterally. An oversimplification in general, but it fits. Gosh, maybe you’re right, Rumsfeld isn’t a neo-con. So which of them in “Power” are? Well if we exclude Bush and Cheney, all the neo-cons work for Rumsfeld and Bush/Cheney. So what does that tell us? If you’re not a neo-con, but you like to do what the neo-cons say, I guess that makes you a neo-con wannabe or better, a neo-con suck up. I stand corrected. Oh, and my main point was that the neo-cons aren’t a Jewish cabal --- too many people get caught up in cabal garbage.

I’m not sure where Israel came from in the discussion AIS, but I’d hazard to guess you have some issues there. I understand, it’s ok, and I hope a blog line comes along where you get to air those out. Otherwise I’d prefer to stay on the subject line; for someone like me who has a hard time understanding the word cabal I need to keep these things simple.

Eswin at June 10, 2004 08:51 AM [permalink]:

Was the US intention in intervening in the Middle East a hidden one?

It would be unreasonable for the US to launch any intervention if it did not pursue some valid concrete interest!

Historical forgetfulness amongst all brands of idealist republicans is yet another amazing phenomenon these days!

Have you folks forgotten that George W. Bush campaigned on a pretty much isolationist platform as per "intervention in humanitarian emergencies?" While I quote James Baker who said, on the UN Security Council in 1992, that the US has no "interest" in the Balkans, republicans were not very much in favour of, if not explicitly against, Clinton's humanitarian intervention policies.

I have not forgotten how G.W. Bush used to criticize Clinton and democrats for their futile interventions in the Balkans! In fact, I remember that he was planning to heavily reduce the number of US forces in Bosnia!

No one needs to cite any hidden motives when the necessity of moving to remove Saddam was already overdue by more than a decade, whether your reasoning for intervention is a humanist or a self-interest oriented realist one.

On another note, concerning Israel and G.W. Bush Republicans, I would like to remind us all that during the same presidential campaign, Bush won big time amongst American and Arab Muslims when he took "a pro-faith", "faith-based", approach on domestic issues, and then mentioned that he would not force Palestinians, i.e. Arafat, to compromise the way Clinton did! Do you know what the result was? G.W.Bush was the first American President that Arabs/Muslims voted for him en bloc!

I am sorry, a realist argument for intervention to protect national interests or against genocide/ethnic cleansing that can plunge a region into a massive war is understandable, but wishy-washy faith based 'all of a sudden' messianic justifications are kind of out of touch with "reality".

Dan Schmelzer at June 10, 2004 10:52 AM [permalink]:

James: The percentages of the various religious and ethnic groups in Iraq seems to be a political football. But from what I have seen, the Shi'ites comprise some 55-60% of the population. If they stick together politically, or form a coalition with the Kurds, for instance, the Shi'ites will rule.

I have a limited view of the U.S. role in these matters. We can kick over these governments, and that is enough. That is success for us. Stable and sustainable politics must ultimately come from the people in these societies.

James at June 10, 2004 12:14 PM [permalink]:

Dan, I stand corrected, a bit bemused for not having checked this out given how easy it is to do. The precentages are roughly 63% Shia, 34% Sunni:
Religious Tolerance And the breakdown as I gave roughly as follows, Sunni: 20% Shia: 60% Kurd: 17%, with Kurds mostly Sunni from:
Iraq's religious makeup
Yes, there's a 3% difference here, but it's close enough.

Aside from mangling my numbers, I'd otherwise stand by what I wrote.

I agree with your last statement. Kicking out a government is way easy. How hard it is to do right afterwards is very clearly demonstrated in how poorly we've done this so far.

FToI Editorial Board at June 10, 2004 12:27 PM [permalink]:

Please make sure that your comments stay within the comment policy. Systematic use of offensive language is not really a useful strategy in learned and constructive discussions.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 10, 2004 04:49 PM [permalink]:
Eswin, I agree with your realist point of view, but there is another side to this as well. States are not people, their existence is in many cases interwined with a culture and a set of ideals that can be subject to moral evaluation and so is their 'interests'. It is not hard to see compared with other powers in the world today or in history like USSR, China, Russia, Islamist or tyrannical states...the US represented a more humane and moral stance. There is no doubt that all the wars US was engaged lead to liberation of others, be in the Civil war, WWs, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. They didn't engage on either of them as blurry eyed idealists who decided to go and liberate out of a selfless love for mankind, c'mon!, but being an active and efficient democracy that was in many casesthe outcome. Besides precisely because of the 'realism' in politics it is necessary to defend a move when it also is so obviously a morally justifiable one and also to defend it on independent moral grounds. James, what exactly your position on this war? Is it that the Us should not have cared about what was going in Iraq at all? Or is it that it shouldn't have engaged in the war 'unilaterally' but only with internationa 'legitimacy' ? Based on your own comments,like YOUR definition of a neo-con: "Actually neo-con is a code for men who have deluded themselves into believing that because we have the biggest military and economy in the world we somehow have a divine right to use both, but especially the military, wherever we think a wrong is to be righted,UNILATERALLY." and "Sadaam should have been taken to the out of power years ago, and all tyrants like him should be similarly treated (I'm not suggesting via American intervention, but Robert Mugabe, Kim Il Jong, and the list goes on, are destructive to their countries and people, and there should be an international mechanism that helps to push them out of power --- how that would work I'm not sure)" You are not sure?! Do you have any idea at all?! This is such a cheap shot. What international mechanism? What? what is international? Russia, China, FRANCE? What about Saudi Arabia? Why do you think an effort being 'international' makes it legitimate, and one being unilateral would not? Look at th UN. Now it is nothing but an old buerocratic antheap, corrupt to the top. It is based on an idea that was only the first step at a hard time and is already old and out of date. That of legitimacy of any state, irrespective of it being a democracy or not. There were also states wityh Veto power. That was laso based on POWER of those states. In what sense does that make the UN for example, more legitimate in action than the US? And it doesn't work any more, even as a pragmatic reason for making things workd and independant of any question of legitimacy. Just look at what France anf Germany and others did in the face of the Iraq problem. It was the US who brought it to the UN, who asked for a vote, who got one and who acted on it. I mean look at the Oil for Food program, look at the human rights commision. Are you joking? The world today as before is based on power. Invasions of teh like in Iraq and Afghanistan or in the WWII or teh threat of them in the Cold war, are the only real ways to get rid of such tyrannies. If you have another way say it. If you are "not sure" stop this hypocracy! "my “responses” to Hanson were very clearly laid out regarding why Iraq is a mess for the U.S. in my first post here" Yes i ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
Dan Schmelzer at June 10, 2004 04:54 PM [permalink]:

James: Maybe I wasn't clear enough in what I wrote. By my definition, we have already succeeded in doing most of what we can do in these situations. The facts on the ground are that al Qaeda lost two countries in its quest to reform the caliphate under Wahabbist auspices. By my measurements, we are doing very well, not poorly. It's not nearly messy enough to change the basic parameters in this "game".

As for Iran's stake in this, I don't doubt that Iran in government circles is facing a lot of complexity of feeling, but the Iranians who are e-mailing Yasir and criticizing America because of Abu Ghraib can now go on pilgrimage to Karbala without hinderance because of American actions, for instance.

Yours at June 10, 2004 05:47 PM [permalink]:

There is no doubt that all the wars US was engaged lead to liberation of others, be in the Civil war, WWs, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq ..."
What about Vietnam?

James at June 10, 2004 06:24 PM [permalink]:

Dan, First, Al Qaeda only had one country, Afghanistan. If you've evidence to show otherwise please point me to it as I'm very interested in knowing what the other country was.

I'm sorry but I have little belief in what you seem to about what we've "done". We haven't done much of anything at this point beyond kick out the old power structure in two countries. The fact is that Afghanistan is not stable, the Taliban is still a looming threat in part due to the fact that we took our attention from where the terrorists were to where they most decidedly weren't. At this point Iraq is far from stable and it's anyone's guess as to where it will go when we leave. The "failure" of Iraq at this point is in execution, i.e. how it was planned and carried off, rather quite yet in result, which, Inshallah, will result in something good in spite of how we've mucked up how we've gone about it --- bit it may just as well result in civil war or a trifurcated region in a state of constant tension, especially with countries on the borders, especially Iran, who'd have a strong interest in where things went.

Actually Iranians are taking a risk going to Karbala right now when they, along with their diplomats, are getting shot at. If they were killed at Mecca just think of the Sunni opportunites in Karbala or Najaf. I think you're also mixing Shias together as if they're easily interchangeable and I don't think they are. Iraq Shias are Iraqi Shias, and Iranian Shias are Iranian Shias, and right now the biggest thing mainline religionists have in common is a problem with the U.S. presence in Iraq; it remains to be seen how much they'll love each other after the Americans are gone.

James at June 10, 2004 06:31 PM [permalink]:

Not all wars led to liberation, I'm sorry but that's a misread of history. WW I didn't liberate anyone but was a terrific precursor to WW II. WW II led to the Iron curtain and the enslavement of millions under Stalinism, and the moral void of massive fire bombing of civilians and nuclear annihilation of two cities. The Vietnam War surely didn't liberate anyone but defoliated and decimated a people and a nation whose only wrong was to have a civil war that we wanted to influence directly.

I am more inclined to think of the U.S. in the context of tending to be on the right and moral side of history, but I don't kid myself that everything we do has led to wonderful ends or that the means to good ends have been quite as good as we'd care for them to be.

James at June 10, 2004 10:26 PM [permalink]:

As I indicated there is no international mechanism to act on tyrants. Sadaam is but one example of the need for one, many others can be pointed to. My point is that there should be one.

In the case of Iraq there was one through the UN given how hard the U.S. was pushing to go in, but Bush and company didn’t want to give time to the process that was occurring, so they went in. Odd, we didn’t want them going in, but now we went them, AND NATO (with the same Germans in it that you seem to have a problem with), there to help clean it up and pay for it. I guess part of the neo-con credo is also: It’s better to ask forgiveness rather than permission.

Should Sadaam have been taken out? Yes, he should have been. Should American and Iraqi lives been lost to this? I’m not sure where the U.S. comes off as the world’s anti-tyrant squad, especially when we’re so darn selective about exercising our warrant as per the neo-cons. Why didn’t we do something in Rwanda? Why is Mugabe still allowed in power? Why have so many lives been lost in Sudan? And the list goes on. Why does the U.S. get to adjudicate who gets removed? Lots of questions here, but the neo-cons aren’t bothered by those. Nice world they live in, I think it’s a bit more complicated; actually at this point I’m sure many of them think so, too.

AIS, I’m with you, tyrannies suck, they should be done away with, as you so strongly advocate. Bottom line, the U.S. is not in a position to go around changing the world, no one made us God, and frankly I’m getting sick of paying for it in addition to watching good men and women die for it when I’m still not clear why we’re there. That said, let’s be very clear, the idea behind the war was not to remove Sadaam, that was a bennie; we went in get the WMD that haven’t been turned up. So if the role of the U.S. is to do what the U.N. won’t, great, let’s sell that role to the American people and not hoodwink them into places on the basis of nonexistent threats. Let’s ask the American people if we should be the world’s tyrant cop and if they say that’s what they want to do and pay for, then so sayeth the people.
That’s not what you have now in Iraq.

Let us be clear, I haven’t attacked Hanson personally. I merely question his motives, and in the context I used he might well be flattered. I’m sure he’s a lovely man, treats children well, doesn’t kick his dog and he tips the paperboy when it’s appropriate. It’s his ideas I have a problem with. I don’t get personal, that’s for fools of which I’m not. If I disagree with someone’s thinking I’ll be sure to tell them in the appropriate forum, in the appropriate way, and hopefully an interesting dialog will ensue.

AIS, what’s this with you and Semitism, anti or otherwise? I never brought up Israel AIS, you did (please show me where I’m wrong if you believe otherwise). No where in any of my posts have I discussed Israel, and if the author of any of the articles I may have provided did (I’m reasonably certain they didn’t, by the way) please take it up with them. I bring up what I do here, for you and all to see, not indirectly.

James at June 10, 2004 10:39 PM [permalink]:

My post before last was a bit hasty as I was on the way out with my wife to see
“The Battle of Algiers” which turned out to be very apropos events in Iraq these days. That said, I was given to pondering about American wars and the consequential liberation of whomever, and a few things came to mind:

1. The Spanish American War, which was largely fought on trumped up charges and resulting in the U.S. acquiring the Philippines and Cuba.

2. The War Against the American Indians --- I'd don't think anyone was liberated from that, though an awful lot of land and resources were; my guess is the Indians would like it all back, too.

3. The Civil War was not a war of liberation, much as I'd like to think it was. The fact is that blacks in this country were liberated on “paper” because it served the northern purpose by providing additional manpower for the north and inciting the south with visions of fighting “darkies” on the front. After the war Jim Crow laws in the south, the KKK, southern requirements for cheap labor in the service of a largely agrarian economy, and northern lack of involvement and concern with events as they were transpiring, collectively kept blacks de facto slaves in everything but name; they faired somewhat better in the north, but not always by a lot.

Most people fighting the war on the side of the south would have told you that it was a war about state's rights. Those fighting for the north would by and large not own up to fighting to liberate blacks, rather they were getting those upstart southerners back in the Union where they belonged. It wasn't until the mid-1960's that blacks (and other minorities in this country) began to achieve the civil rights that any reasonable person would have assumed was theirs after a devastating civil war ostensibly fought to “liberate” them; clearly that was not the point of that particular war.

4. The Korean War didn't really liberate anyone it merely re-established a geopolitical status quo. My definition of liberation doesn't hold to just kicking a foreign army out of a country where it's been fighting. Occupation in my definition has the foreign force entrenched, running the place, essentially now the acting new nation given who's in charge. The North Koreans never achieved that during the way. That said we did kick out the commies, thank
God, but seeing as we helped to invite them in (historians point to a speech by then Secretary of State Dean Acheson immediately prior to the war as a perceived green light to the North Koreans, which is partly why Stalin supported green lighted the effort) it only seemed right that we endeavor to kick them out.

Having been in the military for 22 years I have a great deal of respect for the fundamental goodness and good intentions of the average American fighting man and woman. I've made four deployments with Marines, worked closely with them and I know them to be good men. But how those good men are used isn't always in keeping with their fundamental goodness, and even when it is the realities of the world sometimes call for solutions that are far less than ideal and don't always speak well for our leaders.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 11, 2004 03:07 AM [permalink]:
OK lets go through this one by one. It is simply not correct that the UN process would have finally led to a solution had the US just waited long enough. Germany and France (the Veto power) had made it very clear that they simply won't approve of any military attack and regime change in Iraq. This was a dead end and no spinning is gonna change that. Why doesn't America do anything in Rwanda or elsewhere? Because we are living in the real world and because America naturally acts where there is a substantial reason to act. Terrorism in the middle east makes it one. The point is that when all those practical 'realist' reasons are there for America to act, it is in the benefit of the people in those countries because tyrannies are ended and people are liberated. It doesn't happen all around the world all the time and it ain't perfect, but that is just part of the world we live in. (BTW doesn't precisely this show you that the administration does not look at itself as divine caped-crusaders (holey cheese!) but act indeed based on realism, but still as morally as could be expected in the jungle of world politics?) Just look for yourself. Saddam was a murderer and EVERYONE agreed on that. Iraq was already in breach of a dozen of UN resolutions and still many American 'allies' went hand in hand with enemies and large number of idealist 'good consciencious people' and opposed it as vehemently as they could and still do with what ever means they have (You seriously believe France or Russia did it for their peace loving humanisms?!) You think even IF the US wanted to act solely as world liberator out of the goodness of its self-sacrificing heart (which is of course a joke),that the rest of the world would sit and watch?! After this show they put IN FAVOR of saddam?(and that is what it was no matter how apologetics want to make it sound different!) "we went in get the WMD that haven’t been turned up." Putting so much emphasis on WMD was a big mistake in American deplomacy, partly because of the overall failure of the state department and the CIA in this new era. But to be fair no one claimed the war was solely because of WMDs already existing. The fact is that Iraq was already in breach of 'inernational resolutions' for years. That Saddam was a murdering lunatic and that the POSSIBILITY of Iraq aquiring WMD in the new state of the world after 9/11 made it impossible for the US (and the rest of the world if they had the sense to understand it) to tolerate the regime in Iraq anymore. Besides I want you or anybody else to come up with a good reason why Saddam ousted the weapons inspectors back in 1998(?) and bore sanctions and many UN resolutions while his intentions remained sooo benign all this time. I really am waiting for an answer to this question. As for antisemitism, again YOU are the one who brought up this whole issue of neo-cons and Jews here. It was not the topic of discussion here and it was not a relevant part of the article I linked to in our discussions. YOU brought it up and I think for a purpose. Now I ask you, WHY in your opinion do these evil neo-cons do all this things to innocent Americans? What interest are they preserving according to you, now that they are only abusing the immense US military and economic power? Are they so dumb not to see American interests when they are so clear? Why don't you just tell us what is the whole picture inside your head? What you say about American wars, and in particular the Civil war, is ["Toooo long!" editors say, "Here: click to read the whole thing!"]
James at June 11, 2004 07:03 AM [permalink]:

Sir, I bow to your logic and concede to you the mantle of better interpreter of American wars, neo-con logic and intentions, and America’s pre-eminent place as the world’s tyrant cop who spills milk that it gets to ask others to clean up.

Have a great weekend!

P.S. I had in fact considered putting a contract out on Hanson, but after your last post thought better of it. I'm internally in your debt for your intervention.

Eswin at June 11, 2004 11:53 AM [permalink]:


I am glad that you are already a disciple of Realist school of politics. I think I am becoming a neo-realist because I still believe that the US could have intervened in Rwanda or could have done a better job in Somalia. Somalia remains a good case for intervention; its Muslim population has been a good audience to Usama and the company.

The US saw no benefit in intervening in the Afghan civil war, while there was much intelligence information that suggested the Usama threat was growing even before the Taliban entered Kabul.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 12, 2004 04:27 PM [permalink]:


I agree with you on Afghanistan. American treatment of Afghanistan after the Soviet troops left and especially after the Soviet block collapsed totally was unbelievably stupid to say the least. The same goes for Iraq and their pathetic policy after thw 1st Persian Gulf war.
So was also thecase ofr Iran in 1979 and the entire 90s. (and it still is in many ways a meaningless extremely weak non-policy!)
As I said before they are fra from perfect.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 12, 2004 05:57 PM [permalink]:

O James,

we are still waiting for your explanation of the real intentions of neo-cons on deliberately abusing that power. Why are they doing this?
Enlighten us, please! PLEASE!

James at June 12, 2004 06:43 PM [permalink]:

AIS, I understand that I write a lot and it's frequently difficult to follow the threads I put together; I confess that at times I find myself stymied in the same way. So I'll simplify, as much for my benefit as yours:

They do it because they believe it.

That said, they're fools in my book.

God, that really was much easier than I thought it would be. Hope that helps.

An Iranian Student (AIS) at June 12, 2004 07:55 PM [permalink]:

OK. At least you are not an ardent conspiracy theory advocate (or at least not that much :)
My apologies on that part.

I disagree with your other positions of course but thanks for this clarification.

ghasem at June 15, 2004 05:46 AM [permalink]:

I guess that looking at the second chapter of the following lecturenote "Morality of states" would be usefull.

ghasem at November 24, 2004 12:22 PM [permalink]:
It is the link.