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July 09, 2004

Comments

Martin Harvey

"Were it not for President Bush, and had there been a President Gore, Saddam would still be in power."

Hmmm...I don't know about that. I've always thought that the only difference between Gore and Bush, is Gore would not have f*cked up the diplomacy by suddenly announcing his intentions for "regime change" without consulting the allies; would not have made a catastrophic 'axis of evil' speech which massively intensified the world's view that Bush was a crazy warmonger, and would not have released a security strategy announcing America's stated aim to use 'pre-emptive strikes' to maintain their position of world domination. And already being respected and trusted in Europe, Gore would not have been faced with the anti-Bush hysteria (which as I say, Bush did nothing to stem) that swept Europe, making it impossible for European politicians to do anything other than oppose the war. And then we probably would have all gone in together - French and all, with troops going through Turkey - without even going back to the UN.

Tim Newman

And already being respected and trusted in Europe, Gore would not have been faced with the anti-Bush hysteria (which as I say, Bush did nothing to stem) that swept Europe, making it impossible for European politicians to do anything other than oppose the war.

And there was me thinking that several Eurpoean politicians actually supported the war, and some even committed troops to Iraq. However, I stand corrected and am now convinced that, being impossible, it never happened.

dan

Important (and timely) defense of your continuing support for GWB, Oliver. I have two reservations about this piece, however:

1. (and this may just be an old misapprehension on my part) I thought it was former Secretary of State Albright, not Clinton, who controversially called America “the indispensable nation.”

2. I’m uncomfortable with unqualified denunciations of the U.S.’s “tactical alliances” with authoritarian regimes during the Cold War.

Declaring all such entanglements (in their entirety) as both moral and strategic failures seems especially unwarranted in the absence of any elaboration. (Summarizing the U.S.’s strategic goals during the Cold War as merely “maintaining the balance of power among states” struck me as particularly misleading.)

It’s increasingly common to encounter offhand indictments of the U.S.’s past “tactical alliances” with authoritarian regimes which are unburdened by any mention of the possible consequences of the alternatives to such alliances: i.e., either chaste noninterference, or explicit support for Soviet revolutionary movements against authoritarian regimes. Condemning the U.S.’s often reluctant support for “the lesser of two evils” without speculating about the consequences of foregoing such alliances has become far too fashionable. (Even the still intellectually ripening Christopher Hitchens regularly succumbs to such reflexive denunciations without offering much in the way of effective, or even "moral," alternatives.)

Saddam Hussein’s regime, though not directly related to Soviet expansionism, offers an interesting case in point. Declassified Reagan administration diplomatic memoranda re: Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (memos which can be Googled at the National Security Archive) describe a thorny situation in which the alternative to maintaining at least some slight “tactical alliance” with Saddam Hussein could only have increased the likelihood of an Iranian victory over Iraq and the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism throughout the Persian Gulf. The following excerpted cable, from then Secretary of State George Shultz to then ambassador Donald Rumsfeld, underlines the serious diplomatic dilemma the U.S. faced during the Iran-Iraq War:

MARCH 1984

From: SECSTATE WASHDC

To: USINT Baghdad

TAGS: PREL, US, IZ

SUBJECT: BRIEFING NOTES FOR RUMSFELD VISIT TO BAGHDAD

2. SETTING: TWO EVENTS HAVE WORSENED THE ATMOSPHERE IN BAGHDAD SINCE YOUR LAST STOP THERE IN DECEMBER: (1) IRAQ HAS ONLY PARTY REPULSED THE INITIAL THRUST OF A MASSIVE IRANIAN INVASION, LOSING THE STRATEGICALLY SIGNIFICANT MANJUN ISLAND OIL FIELDS AND ACCEPTING HEAVY CASUALTIES (2) BILATERAL RELATIONS WERE SHARPLY SET BACK BY OUR MARCH 5 CONDEMNATION OF IRAQI CW USE, DESPITE OUR REPEATED WARNING THAT THIS ISSUE WOULD EMERGE SOONER OR LATER. GIVEN ITS WARTIME PREOCCUPATIONS AND ITS DISTRESS AT OUR CW STATEMENT, THE IRAQI LEADERSHIP PROBABLY WILL HAVE LITTLE INTEREST IN DISCUSSING LEBANON, THE ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT, OR OTHER MATTERS EXCEPT AS THEY MAY IMPINGE ON IRAQ'S INCREASINGLY DESPERATE STRUGGLE FOR SURVIVAL.

7. U.S. REGIONAL POLICIES; IRAQ IS CONFUSED BY OUR MEANS OF PURSUING OUR STATED OBJECTIVES IN THE REGION, WHETHER IN COMBATING KHOMEINI, IN LEBANON, WITH SYRIA, OR WITH FRIENDS SUCH AS JORDAN, EGYPT, AND ISRAEL. IN EACH CASE, IRAQI OFFICIALS HAVE PROFESSED TO BE AT A LOSS TO EXPLAIN OUR ACTIONS AS MEASURED AGAINST OUR STATED OBJECTIVES. AS WITH OUR CW STATEMENT, THEIR TEMPTATION IS TO GIVE UP RATIONAL ANALYSIS AND RETREAT TO THE LINE THAT U.S. POLICIES ARE BASICALLY ANTI-ARAB AND HOSTAGE TO THE DESIRES OF ISRAEL. SHULTZ.

Had the Reagan administration (out of moral fastidiousness, or liberal consistency, or whatever), refused a “tactical alliance” of any kind or of any degree with authoritarian Iraq versus expansionist fundamentalist Iran, what might have been the consequence? That same weighted question rears its head when many of the U.S.’s “tactical alliances” with authoritarian regimes are scrutinized.

And how, I wonder, do those who condemn ugly U.S. "tactical alliances" fashioned during the Cold War in the fight against Soviet expansionism respond to the U.S.’s alliances with authoritarian regimes (like Pakistan's) in the present fight against Islamic terrorists? And what are the practical and moral alternatives to such unpleasant alliances? Then or now? What bothers me isn’t that such difficult questions aren’t answered, but that they're rarely even asked.

One U.S. “tactical alliance” or another may deserve either condemnation, or qualified approval, or unqualified support. But condemning all such alliances with a broad brush, based on little, apparently, except the authoritarian nature of any possible ally in any possible situation, seems unfair and even strategically naive.

I do realize that this issue was peripheral to the point of your Times piece, Oliver. I find the issue so grave, however, that I would've preferred you'd either supported your verdict on the U.S.’s “consistently compromised” tactical alliances with a paragraph or two of context (rather than merely with a short list of two countries and one region that was apparently intended to be self-explanatory), or at least that you'd deployed less sweeping language.

Otherwise, this was an admirable and timely piece. As usual. Thanks for posting it here.

Ken Drewry

Kerry would keep troops in Iraq, and maybe more of them, longer than Bush. There's no substantive difference about their devotion to warfare/welfare, whatever the "nuances" of their public pronouncements:

http://www.antiwar.com/lobe/?articleid=2909

And you needn't worry about Priority #1 either: Kerry has done a Madeleine Albright and "discovered" he has Jewish roots. His younger brother Cameron's a convert who's visiting Israel next week, calling on the Foreign Minister.

Relax, US policy and purpose is still safely in place behind the facade of noisy partisanship.

dan

Ken, your comment carries the whiff of anti-Semitism.

Whether American political figures (or their relations) are Jewish or not, and whether they (or their relations) visit Israel or don't, indicates nothing whatsoever about their views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Or their views about anything else, for that matter.

The insinuation that bipartisan U.S. policies toward Israel have more to do more with some sort of nefarious Jewish cabal than with the fact that Israel, for all her flaws, remains the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, is both baseless and revolting.

That one insinuation manages to commit a fourfold injustice: against the U.S., against Israel, against Jews of all political persuasions, and against the value of liberal democracy itself.

I hope that in future you strive to provide room in your ideology for at least the possibility that U.S. policies toward Israel may be explicable without reference to simplistic and odious Jewish conspiracy theories.

lee

Why is it wrong to criticise American "exceptionalism"? It's a facile, kindegarten notion that has no proper place in the prosecution and maintenance of international relations.

Inquisitor

An impressive article, but did not ultimately convince me. It begs many questions.

It dismisses John Kerry's foreign policy as 'conservative pessimism' and the man himself as an 'obscurantist reactionary'. But it provides only two pieces of evidence for this. First, a quote from seven years ago. Seven years ago, Tony Blair was saying mightily different things on a whole range of subjects, from top-up fees to the future of the EU. I'm uneasy about basing judgements on people from such superannuated quotes.

Then Kerry is criticised for suggesting that the attack on Iraq 'diverted the focus of the War on Terror'. Merely claiming that this remark is facile does not make it so. Those who support the aims of the war on terror must be ready to face the possibility at least that the attack in Iraq has done more harm than good. It has used up an inordinate amount of political capital - so much so that it now seems hard to imagine that Bush or Blair could ever mount such an attack again, even with greater justification. The political failure here is immense, one of the greatest ever in US foreign policy. I think one could make a case that those who supported the war in Iraq should now support Kerry, as Bush's (and Blair's) political failures mean that George W will in future almost certainly be incapable of persuading the US and the world to repeat the Iraqi adventure.

dan

For the sake of debate, I’ll take a swing at a few of the comments posted above.

Martin Harvey clearly hasn't yet heard about the deranged, conspiracy-fueled rhetoric (“digital brownshirts,” etc.) that Albert Gore’s been shouting from the podiums of fringe organizations in the United States. That’s the only reason I can conjure to explain how Martin could possibly remain persuaded that Al Gore might make a plausible president. Any residual respect Gore once had among the vast majority of the American electorate, including many of those who voted for him, has been flushed away. The man’s opportunistic gibbering and paranoiac pandering are national embarrassments.

Lee wondered why it's wrong to criticize “American exceptionalism.” To which I can only reply that so long as “the prosecution and maintenance of international relations” remain little but finger-waging legal fictions, secured by nothing but schoolmarmish scolds except for America, so long as the international order remains enforced by the toil and treasure of no nation (to any practical degree) except for America, so long as most of the economies of the developed and developing world remain disproportionately dependent on no one country except for America, and so long as tyrants and terrorists the world over continue to respect no one and nothing except for America, the phrase “American exceptionalism” will remain a statement of the gobsmackingly obvious.

Few Americans, by the way, take any pride in “American exceptionalism.” The phrase signifies an onerous and increasingly thankless duty which most Americans would be happy to be rid of. Americans would be delighted to witness those who criticize “American exceptionalism” expending the blood and treasure necessary to take up America’s myriad burdens. But Americans see little interest among their nation’s legions of critics in doing that. They hear only endless, self-righteous rebukes shouted from the cheap seats, and notice only negligible-to-nonexistent military contributions--even in those hotspots where the “international community” professes to be wholeheartedly engaged.

Anyone insisting that America isn't exceptional even as they depend upon it in so many exceptional ways (both obvious and subtle) is either suffering from profound denial, or simply engaging in cynical posturing.

And finally, Inquisitor prophesied that the Bush administration's “political failures” would prevent it from persuading “the U.S. and the world to repeat the Iraq adventure.” I found the insertion of “and the world” here strange. The insertion implies, tellingly, presumptuously, that a repeat of the Iraq “adventure” is somehow dependent upon international opinion--which of course it wouldn't be.

Inquisitor’s view that the Bush administration was and is deaf to international opinion seems to contradict his view that the Bush administration won't be deaf to international opinion in future. (If the Bush administration's military decisions were dependent upon international consensus, Gulf War II wouldn't have begun, after all. The “international community” was only invited into the debate reluctantly, and even then marginally, and for purely diplomatic, rather than substantive reasons.)

If the Bush administration doesn't repeat the Iraq “adventure,” it will surely be due to a combination of the actual difficulties encountered in postwar Iraq, and U.S. opinion.

If the latest Iraq war demonstrated anything, it should have revealed to any doubters that the “international community” is utterly incapable of preventing belligerent countries from waging war via teeth-gnashing street protests, serious sign-waving, righteous finger-wagging, or petty UN/NATO obstructionism.

Whether GWB is or isn't made to pay for his “political failures” is entirely dependent upon national opinion in the U.S. It's absurd, especially at this late date, to continue to insist that the shrill opinions of the “international community” amount to much of anything in the real world.

Save perhaps self-gratification.

Lee

Dan: despite your recourse to a form of rorshach italics, and your further recourse to an ever more contentless rhetoric, the fact remains: the discourse of "exceptionalism" is a self-serving doctrine which allows the United States to exclude itself from commitments under Inernational Law to which it would happily bind others. If you had the honesty to argue for the grotesque politics of the state of exception a little more realistically, you would say: The Geneva Conventions should apply except for Guantanmo; the ICC should have jurisdiction except over Americans; we all have commitments to the environment except American corporations, and so on.

I did like the stuff about "toil and treasure," though. It captures the essentially infantile pitch of the whole, well, pitch.

Inquisitor

Dan - thanks for your comments, but allow me to come back on a couple of things.

I did not say nor do I believe that the Bush adminsitration 'was and is deaf to international opinion'. Indeed, its efforts to ensure that the Iraq war was waged by 'a coalition' demonstrates that it is not.

What Bush realised before the war is that, in order to persuade U.S. opinion, he must have some modicum of international support. His political failure (along with Blair's) is to have made it impossible, at least in the near future, to gain the support he needs either abroad or at home. There is a real danger that no Congress, and certainly no House of Commons, would vote in favour of another similar war, however needed. To me this represents a failure of political leadership of the highest order.

dan

Lee: your interpretation of straightforward italics as some sort of “rorshach” test suggests to me that you see what you want to see. You also betray a penchant for tiresomely patronizing those who happen to disagree with you. I’ll reply to your reply just the same, as it’s a slow morning:

I’d be very interested to learn from you precisely which “commitments under International Law” you believe the U.S. exempts itself from while binding others. You neglected to supply any examples. Surely your mentions of the Geneva Conventions, the ICC, and (obliquely) the Kyoto Protocol weren’t intended as evidence of alleged American hypocrisy, since they’re evidence of nothing of the kind.

The Third Geneva Convention on POWs, for instance, is quite explicit about the requirements combatants must meet before benefiting from its protections. Article 4 notes the following fundamental preconditions to applying the Convention:

“Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

(1) Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict, as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.

(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:

(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.”

Accusing the U.S. of employing a double standard simply because the U.S. refuses to apply the Third Geneva Convention to unlawful combatants that the treaty itself explicitly declares it should not be applied to seems, to put it mildly, unfair.

As for the ICC, your objection is moot since the Bush administration has recently accepted its jurisdiction over U.S. military personnel. But even if your objection did still hold, I don’t recall the U.S. ever demanding that any other nation’s soldiers fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC while it refused to submit its own soldiers to its jurisdiction. Perhaps you have some examples I’ve overlooked?

The same applies to the stillborn Kyoto Protocol: what example can you site where the U.S. demanded any other country sign or ratify that ineffectual, ridiculously onerous and widely discredited treaty while the U.S. refused to do so?

If, as I hope, you didn’t actually intend the above treaties to be taken as evidence of U.S. double standards, perhaps you have some other example of American inconsistency you’d like to share?

Inquisitor: point taken regarding Bush’s tin ear (or not, as it may be). Your elaboration of your view--that Bush sought at least minimal international approval, but for decidedly domestic reasons--seems about right to me. I will disagree with your remark about Bush finding it difficult to win domestic approval for a “similar” war, however. Similar, after all, means, if it means anything, similar in all substantive respects: i.e. a regime the U.S. was recently at war with; a regime in material breach of numerous Security Council Resolutions (and whose compliance with those Resolutions is a precondition for the cessation of hostilities) for over a decade; a regime which has attempted to assassinate a former U.S. president; a regime which has stockpiled and used WMDs against its own citizens and its neighbors; a regime which has gleefully engaged in genocide and mass grave-making; a regime which harbors international terrorists (like Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, etc.), funds suicide bombers who murder American citizens abroad, and retains at least ominous “ties” to Al Qaeda; a regime which routinely fires on the U.S. and allied military aircraft which are all that stand in the way of said regime concluding its genocidal practices. And so on.

A war against a regime that similar to the late Iraq regime wouldn’t be a particularly hard sell in post 9-11 America—much-chattered about intelligence errors notwithstanding.

It’s wars against regimes quite dissimilar to Iraq (Iran, Sudan, Syria, NK, to name but a few) that would be a tough sell. Assuming, of course, that the future actions of those regimes don’t change the current disgruntled, war-weary political equation in the U.S. (And considering the natures and ambitions of those regimes, that benign assumption sometimes seems almost benighted.)

Also, though no one called me on it, my earlier description of the U.S. being mostly—and exceptionally—alone out there defending Western civilization neglected to mention that the UK, an exception herself among the U.S.’s traditional “allies,” does indeed still pull her weight in the world.

How long that will remain true in these increasingly pacifistic and "post-historical" times is another story. Unfortunately.

mahagonny

"Postwar American foreign policy has been consistently compromised by tactical alliances with authoritarian regimes. These were a moral failure but also a strategic blunder — in Vietnam, Latin America, or the notorious tilt to Saddam in the Iran-Iraq War. President Bush, by contrast, maintains that the spread of liberty, not the balance of power among states, is the best assurance for Western security"

This seems a somewhat naive assumption at best. US and UK strategic alliances with authoritarian regimes across Central Asia suggest precisely the opposite. No calls, for example, to change Karimov's vile regime in Uzbekistan. Furthermore, I see no significant shift vis a vis Egypt or Saudi Arabia.

mahagonny

Also Oliver,
Which matters most...the "moral failure" or the "strategic bunder"? I would sincerely hope the former. Should there be any dialogue with the latter?

Tim Newman

No calls, for example, to change Karimov's vile regime in Uzbekistan.

Had you studied the political situation in Uzbekistan, and it's current relationship with Russia, the US, and China, you would understand why no such call has been made. Such a call may seem sensible to those who believe that vile regimes should not be accomodated in any situation whatsoever, but unfortunately the real world is somewhat different and the best course of action against such regimes is often not to abandon them and ineffectually lecture them from afar.

For the people of Uzbekistan, my girlfriend included, I think most would agree that their future would look rather more bleak if the US stopped all aid and allowed them to fall back under the wing of the Russians.

GrimReaper

I think it is over-generous to accuse the Conservatives of ideological consistency. Portillo, in particular, seems to me to be bamboozled by the relentless anti-war and anti-Bush hype in the British media.
In its more rational moments, the Conservative leadership recognises that Saddam's regime was a threat to the West and it therefore supports the war.

Ken Drewry

dan: Chill out, boychick, Edwards is on your team too. That makes four out of four:

"Senator John Edwards believes that this is not the time to send mixed messages about the special relationship between America and Israel. His support for Israel and a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship - and his commitment to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East - is something he believes deeply. He has a proven record of consistent support in the U.S. Senate; and as President, he will work tirelessly to use American leadership to stand by Israel, fight terror and achieve a lasting peace, so that the region will reflect Isaiah's vision, in which "nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.""

(from presidential nomination campaign website, 2004)

Maybe he's one of those Christian Zionist southerners we hear so much about. Roll on Armageddon...

Ron F

Oliver -

How do you explain your self-serving view that the invasion/occupation of Iraq "buttressed Western security". Blair was explicitly warned it would increase the threat of terrorism and many now make precisely that point. A small selection, none from the left -

Dr Jeffrey Record, Visiting Professor, U.S. Army College of War - described invasion as a "strategic error of the first order".

International Institute of Strategic Studies - 2004 Annual Strategic Survey "... While the war in Iraq has focused the energies and resources of Al-Qaida and its followers, it has diluted the efforts of the global alliance against terrorism,.."

Forward (Right-wing U.S. magazine)- "Bush set in motion a catastrophic chain of events that has left the world less stable than it was before. The threat of terrorism has increased, not declined."

Intelligence and Security Committee Report - "The JIC assessed that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq".

Perhaps as a member of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders you are privy to some information that refutes the above?

Gregg

Whatever else, Oliver, you're quite wrong about traditional liberal/conservative ideologies here. The criticsms that Kerry is making of Bush are, as it happens, the same criticisms that Gladstone made of D'Israeli. If only you know as much about political history as you do about... erm...

ed crowley

Ron F

If the people who planned and carried out the attacks of Sep 11 had killed every person on the island of Manhattan, they would have rejoiced at their success. If they could have killed every Australian on the island of Bali, they would also have rejoiced. I could go on.

But given this background, in what possible sense, could the Iraq war have increased the threat of terrorism?

BeefQueen

Ed,

In the sense that Blair was being told before he gave the order to invade Iraq that the invasion would heighten terrorist threats.

An interesting insiders' view of the intelligence build-up to the war can be seen on the BBC's "Panorama" programme website.

David T

I agree - as usual - with most of what you say. However, I will be voting Kerry for the following reasons. First, I am a registered Democrat. Tribally, and for similar reasons, I also vote Labour in the UK. Secondly, I will vote in New York which I expect Kerry to take with or without my vote. Thirdly, I believe that liberal internationalist interventions are unlikely to be repeated by any administration in the near future. Finally, like Andrew Sullivan, I am increasingly horrified by the real prospect of a Christian Fundamentalist takeover of the Republican Party, and the purging of liberals (in the normal sense of that term) from that institution. Accordingly, I see no reason to reward Bush - or Rove - for their bigotry or opportunism.

I think that many others will vote for Kerry for the same reasons.

mahagonny

Tim,

I was merely highlighting inconsistencies in US policy towards states still practicing grotesque human rights violations. I'm all in favour of "constructive engagement" in certain circumstances but don't see any attempt to challenge the trajectory of the Karimov regime from the US or UK - the attempted sacking of UK ambassador Craig Murray being particularly appauling. Seeking a "tactical alliance" has trumped any reasonable response to barbarism.

Tim Newman

I'm all in favour of "constructive engagement" in certain circumstances but don't see any attempt to challenge the trajectory of the Karimov regime from the US or UK...

Forgive the patronising tone, but that's probably because you haven't looked further than the broadsheets for news of any such challenge.

This posting on The Argus website gives some insight into the situation on the ground in Uzbekistan. As the author of the site says in this post:

I don't agree that Bush "embraces dictators in Russia and Central Asia" beyond the diplomatic ass-chapping that normally goes on in public statements. The lower level officials have been pretty blunt in public not only in the US, but in Uzbekistan.

If you want to understand the realities of the situation in Uzbekistan and its relationship with the US and its neighbours, The Argus is a good place to start, not least for its links to many interesting reports.

hello

Oliver, I am quite impressed with your piece and I thought about it a lot. There is one objection to it that has not, I think, been raised.

While our policies to fight terrorism are all well and good as far as they go, they do not (I think) go far enough.

The basic problem is that they, like terrorist acts themselves, are "spectacular" policies. But what we need is less spectacle and more hard work--and more real sacrifice. We need to cut off the terrorists' funds.

By that I do not mean, let's freeze their Swiss bank accounts; I mean let's stop paying them. I mean let's you and me and every other member of this Board not pay the terrorists a dime more. Because how, after all, do these worthy gents get their money?

From us.

We pay them.

Every time we fuel up, we're paying domeone to blow up someone else. 50% of the world's petrol is used in cars. Cut that by 1/2 and you make a real dent in the number of terrorist attacks. If you don't have the money to buy a bomb, you're not going to buy it and it doesn't matter how cheap it is.

And we have the technology to cut that funding. We have it. But, at the moment, it's not "practical" which is to say that it costs less to burn up a dinosaur in Saudi Arabia (and blow up a few Americans and Britons doing it) than to implement the technology we have.

So, how about pushing for a 20% tax on foreign fuel and a 10% tax on domestic. Phase it in over 5 years.

It will be painful; it will be real sacrifice and we won't see "results" on TV.

But we will save lives.

Regards

dan

Hello:

I'm afraid I don't see how exacerbating the poverty and insecurity of the peoples of the Middle East by reducing Western demand for their primary export will diminish the likelihood of terrorism.

The self-gratifying slogan "No blood for oil!" neglects millions of human beings who are not terrorists and who depend upon the revenues from petroleum exports (what little they see of those revenues) for their very subsistence.

The only cure for the cultural pathologies of the Middle East (of which Islamic terrorism is merely a symptom) is a political one: free markets, free presses, free elections, and so on.

Blaming oil (or Bush and Blair for that matter) for terrorism (or its increase) strikes me as symptomatic of another ever-popular pathology: denial.


maor

I don't see how Oliver can be so sure about Kerry's foreign policies. Kerry doesn't seem half as sure as to what they are.

Andrew Ian Dodge

Well its seems both Duncan and Portlillo are what they like to eat. I do hope the Republicans in the US will refuse to help the Tory Party until they stop these idiots coming out in support of (or worse helping) Kerry.

And to think I help direct Portillo away from a riot while at a conf. in Montreal.

David T: Gee, your a Dem and your voting Kerry. What a shock!Nice to see you are reading from the Dems hand-book for bashing the Republicans.

I mean, please, Christian fundamentalist takeover of the Republican Party? (All those Southern Baptists in the Democratic Party aren't trying to take it over either.) Please...I am a bloody Deist/Pagan who votes Republican, I see no Fundamentalist take-over. The Republicans are trying to rid themselves of R.I.N.O.s as well they should. However, there is no effort to run the "real liberals" (ie libertarians) out of the party. In fact the Republicans Abroad branch in London is full of R.I.N.O.s trying to drive libertarians and conservatives out of the party.

David T

Andrew:

I know right wing economic/social liberals (some of them gayers) who take the view that the proposed Defense of Marriage constitutional amendment (a) won't ever get through and (b) is just troop rallying by clever old Rove. I'm less and less convinced that this figleaf holds. It really is what the G.O.P, at its core, stands for nowadays.

Believe me, were it not for the proposed Amendment, I could - in theory - countenance voting for Bush. I would be encouraged to do so by a belief that a vote for Kerry was a vote for isolationism and against the "liberal internationalist" interventions (or at least the 'co-incidentally liberal internationalist inteventions') that Oliver and I would favour. But given the failings of intelligence of post war reconstruction efforts - inevitable and part of the process though they may be - I don't think that Bush or Kerry or anybody else will be engaging in such interventions in the immediate future. Accordingly, I don't need to "reward" Bush for what he has done in the past: I need only be convinced that Kerry will not make a fist of it in the future.

PS - Weirdly, we appear to have posted on Townshend/Moore at precisely the same time!

Will

Im not really sure why the Times printed Kamm's hyperbolic piece and i havent really read any v interesting comments on it. Am. For. pol has always had an element of rhetorical swagger to it,I dont think JK is going to be anything radically different. Regardless, it's not worth talking about Amer. for. policy in theoretical terms, there are many fine American universities where those who prefer to be blinkered in a free world can go and wax lyrical about Woodrow Wilson's adherence to 'liberal internationalism' or Richard perle's desire for every Arab to have a vote and a share in an oil co. Or whatever. Also apart from the easy-peasy removal of the sadistic baathists, in what other area is Bush's for. policy so hearteningly progressive? Back on planet earth American f.p under Bush doesnt appear so radically different, it seems just like the Wilson, JFK, Reagan, Clinton etc efforts where flowery words were followed by pragmatic deeds. As surely any moron can see if you want to encourage the spread of freedom in the ME, link your gigantic amounts of military aid given to the various autocracies to democratic reforms. Bloodless and surely efective. Or are the husseins, Sauds, Musharaffs and Mubarak's serving some other less digestible function? As for your root cause stuff..cheers Ol, whoever you are. . Academic research, in case you were not aware, can indicate alot of things. Terrorism, in my subjective definition, does have a root cause in human stupidity, but i would have thought that a number of different causes may contribute to the aforementioned act of folly. Yes, political repression, also a political grievance (over lost territory say), bitterness caused by personal misfortune and, yes, I would have thought humiliating, grinding poverty would definitely make this middle-class Western opiner contemplate a life of anarchic mayhem.It woulds certainly be a bit silly to suggest that life stunting poverty would not increase the chances of a recourse to political violence.

Timbeaux

"Similarly, the US has a reasonable case on both Kyoto and the International Criminal Court, but has undermined it with a determined exacerbation of diplomatic frictions."

I have never seen it this way, and I'm rather suprised that you do. The cause of deterioration in trans-Atlantic relations was quite definitely a two-way street, and I perceived quite a bit more traffic heading west than east. Bush went to the UN, got a unanimous decision, that quite a few european government decided to renege upon. The bent of the media has skewed the perception of events two years past more than I thought, for you to see it that way.

bargarz

I find Martin Harvey's initial premise that Gore would have found the Europeans more amenable to a war in Iraq simply because he was not-Bush hard to accept. And I was barracking for Gore at the time too so I'm aware of the scaremongering.

My skepticism is primarily due to the fact that the sort of obstructionism championed especially by the French (and especially at the UN) is not a new phenomenon. Clinton - a man seen in hindsight as the ideal US President by Europeans - certainly experienced more than his own troubles with them (again primarily from the French). EU and US goals diverged in several key fields not just Iraq (Bosnia, Somalia, North Korea, Rwanda, Kosovo, Iran, Israel etc...).

Have we already forgotten the overt lack of solidarity that led to the erosion of sanctions and the watering down of the inspections regime? Clinton was President for much of this period. He certainly got no free passes from those who held him in such high esteem.

And that's without even complicating things with how the other members of the UN Security Council behaved during this period.

Presupposing that the French would have given the US more of a free reign in Iraq, let alone signed up as partners for war simply because a Democrat was in power flies against precedence and their own historical behavior. The French driven EU strategy of creating a counterweight to US power precludes any arrangement that would boost US power or influence relative to that of the EU. To assume that this all began and will end at Iraq is naive. Witness the current French overtures to the Chinese against Taiwan.

For those who think that Kerry may face a more compliant or conciliatory attitude from nations such as France, simply because he also is not Bush; I suggest that there won't really be much difference other than small, cosmetic changes.

maor

Gore would not have received more European support, but the opposition would have been more polite.
Much of Europe opposed the bombing of Serbia, but there wasn't as much rhetoric about insane Americans are.

This is not because Gore is a better diplomat. It has to do with the nature of left-wing paranoia, which is always looking out for "right-wing fascism".

Timbeaux

Despite the fact that fascism was never right-wing.....Hitler's great lies live on.

Andrew Ian Dodge

David I think the "Defence" of Marriage act is an idiotic thing to even suggest. But I do think it was a sob to the "Christian base" of the Republican Party. The Republican Party does have its religious nuts, but then again so does the Democratic. Before each election they rear their head only to go away when everyone realises that having that fringe talking for the party is a bad idea.

Timbeaux: yep don't lefties just hate it when you point out Nazism (and to some extent fascism) are in fact Marxist heresies and have bugger all to do with the "right".

PaleoMan

"Timbeaux: yep don't lefties just hate it when you point out Nazism (and to some extent fascism) are in fact Marxist heresies and have bugger all to do with the "right"."

Just like neoconservatism, in fact.

Yehudit

"I'm afraid I don't see how exacerbating the poverty and insecurity of the peoples of the Middle East by reducing Western demand for their primary export will diminish the likelihood of terrorism."

Not only that, most of the world runs on Saudi oil. Several industrialized Western nations tightening their belts isn't going to hurt the Saudis. And if the Saudi oil fields get destroyed by terrorists, the global recession and starvation will make the 1930s look like a picnic.

However, Iraq has the 2nd largest oil fields after SA, and now that Saddam is gone, Iraqi oil can flow again. Once Iraqi oil production gets stabilized, SA will have competition.

Yehudit

"Presupposing that the French would have given the US more of a free reign in Iraq, let alone signed up as partners for war simply because a Democrat was in power flies against precedence and their own historical behavior."

Also France had oil contracts and weapons deals with Saddam. France was the 2nd largest weapons supplier to Saddam after Russia. So France would veto an invasion of Iraq no matter who was President. France just vetoed a UN action in Sudan because it has oil fields there.

Gupta

I'm suprised you have to go back to 1997 to find an appropriate quote. Here's one from 2000

"But we can’t be all things to all people in the world. I am worried about over-committing our military around the world. I want to be judicious in its use. I don’t think nation-building missions are worthwhile."

Whoops, sorry, wrong candidate.

Janus

'yep don't lefties just hate it when you point out Nazism (and to some extent fascism) are in fact Marxist heresies and have bugger all to do with the "right'

Especially the communists that died in the camps, eh?

But I'm forgetting - the Nazis called themselves Socialists so they must have been telling the truth.

Perhaps you're confusing 'hate' with belly laughter.

PaleoMan

Q: What is the role of the U.S. in the world?

A: I’m not sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say this is the way it’s got to be. I want to empower people. I want to help people help themselves, not have government tell people what to do. I just don’t think it’s the role of the United States to walk into a country and say, we do it this way, so should you. We went into Russia, we said here’s some IMF money. It ended up in Chernomyrdin’s pocket. And yet we played like there was reform. The only people who are going to reform Russia are Russians. I’m not sure where the vice president’s coming from, but I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying, we do it this way, so should you. I think the United States must be humble and must be proud and confident of our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course.

Q: Should the people of the world fear us, or see us as a friend?

A: They ought to look at us as a country that understands freedom where it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from that you can succeed. I don’t think they ought to look at us with envy. It really depends upon how [our] nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us. If we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power. And that’s why we’ve got to be humble and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom. We’re a freedom-loving nation. If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll view us that way, but if we’re humble nation, they’ll respect us.

(Source: Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University Oct 11, 2000)

Whoops, sorry, wrong candidate again.

dsquared

I think Oliver's piece might have been improved, just a little bit, if, in the midst of all the praise for the "conception" of Bush's foreign policy and the statements dredged up from seven years ago, he'd managed to cram in a few words to remind us which candidate campaigned in 2000 on a specific platform of "getting the US out of the business of nation building" and which one didn't.

Rich

Oliver has noted on his blog before the change in President Bush's foreign policy vision since the 2000 campaign, and that he mistakenly supported Gore in that contest largely because of such isolationist rhetoric as what's cited above.

Effra

2000: Both candidates promise to keep the USA out of pointless wars which most voters wouldn't support.

2004: Both candidates promise to keep the USA fighting a pointless war which most voters don't support.

Squander Two

"Especially the communists that died in the camps, eh?"

So extremist socialists never kill extremist socialists? Gosh.

janus

So extremist socialists never kill extremist socialists.. and professed their hatred of socialists, communists and MArxists.. and destroyed the indigeneous labour movement.. and were opposed by marxists and socialists everwhere.. and allied themselves with big business.. etc, ad nauseum. Laughable stuff.

Squander Two

Janus,

You seem to be under the impression that ones politics are defined by which political groups one hates. In fact, politics are defined by policies.

Do the frequent denunciations of Trotskyism by the Russian Communist Party imply that Trotskyism is not left-wing?

As was originally pointed out above, Nazism and Fascism are Marxist heresies. No-one said they were the same thing as Communism, just that they don't have their roots in any right-wing movement. As we all know, one thing communists really can't stand is Marxist heresy.

As for allying themselves with big business, this is a Nazi action regularly misunderstood by left-wingers. Under a capitalist system, if I own a munitions factory, I am free to do what I want with it -- and that includes selling off the machinery and turning it into a lingerie factory if I want to. Under Nazism, businessmen were not free to do what they wanted with their own property; they were allowed to make profit from doing whatever the state told them to do. That is not capitalism, it is pragmatic socialism: the government took over control of industry but recognised that the best way to do it was to use existing business owners and their expertise rather than installing a bunch of civil servants in their place.

Anyway, this whole thing is nothing to do with the original post, so I'll stop before we get even more annoying than we already are.

me- that's who!

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/files/story2582.php

Janus

'Nazism and Fascism are Marxist heresies.'

Repeating this like a mantra won't make it true. Your remarks above are embarrassing in their utter political illiteracy and unworthy of debate. I will just point out that your Stalin-Trotsky analogy is silly – the Nazi’s persecuted Marxists and Communists AS Marxists and Communists, whereas Trotskyists were persecuted precisely as (supposedly) deviating therefrom. Companies under capitalism cannot ‘do what they want’, as you know perfectly well. But anyway, the attempt by the Right to disown Fascism and Nazism is cowardly as well as logically indefensible.

Jabotinsky

Marxism is a Jewish heresy, my friends.

George Owers

You call yourself a labour supporter and you say you support Bush? What planet are you on? You are so obsessed with foreign policy that you fail to see the disaster that will be caused by Bush's re-election.
He has completely eroded the American democratic system by being inaugurated as president despite the notable fact that he lost the election. He got his brother Jeb to prevent minorities from voting, to allow defective machines in Democratic neighborhoods, and to allow the counting of illegal absentee ballots. He got his Republican cronies on the U.S. Supreme Court to stop a manual count of 180,000 uncounted ballots. He used the Fox TV station to 'call' the election despite the fact that every other station had predicted Gore to the winner beforehand. He became president by rigging the election.
He has cut taxes on the super rich, meaning they pay nowhere near the proportion they should do. The top 400 taxpayers in the US—only 0.00014 percent of the population—now take in more than 1 percent of the total income of all taxpayers. Meanwhile, their tax payments plummeted, mostly due to substantial reductions in capital gains tax rates. In 2000, the average annual income of the top 400 increased to $174 million, while the average income for the bottom 90 percent was $27,000. Even the Wall Street Journal calls it “so much money in so few hands … a startling accumulation of wealth at the very top of the income pyramid.” The “income gap,” wrote the Journal, is becoming a “vast chasm.”
So, he has made the rich richer and the poor poorer in the US. He is a hard right maniac, waging war on the vulnerable, the poor and democracy.
These are only a few of the many evil things he has done; I don't have time to run through them all. AND STILL you have the nerve to support him as next president? You say you vote LABOUR? You seem to have the opinions of someone on the far right of the Tory party and claim you're Labour. You make me, frankly, sick.

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