The September Concert Series at Theresienstadt

I’ll have to confess that I’m gobsmacked by the reaction to my piece below on the LA Times story on North Korea. People seem to think that it’s just no big deal.

I commented:

Why? Because to have walked through Belsen in 1944 and noted the concerts, the “children happily singing” or the “carefully tended gardens” with giving a side note to the unmitigated evil of the place may in fact be technically accurate reporting – possibly the weren’t burning people that day – but is, as I put it, vile.

And the willingness to cover one’s nose to hide the stench of the dead while commenting on the charm of a Starbucks-free existence seems, sadly all to common in the world of the modern tourist.

I find my sense of smell a little to sensitive to make that work for me.

And before you suggest that Guantanamo or Abu Ghreib are as bad as North Korea – no they’re not. We put people in jail when they are caught doing things like that. In North Korea, they get extra rations.

A.L.

Look, let me put it another way that might make things clearer.

E8503-small.JPG

This is a music program for September 1943 at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

It’s an impressive collection of music.

Can you, for a moment, imagine the LA Times music critic attending a concert there, coming back,and talking about the music as though he was watching a concert at Lincoln Center?

Sadly, I can imagine it, because I see people doing it.

171 thoughts on “The September Concert Series at Theresienstadt”

  1. I have to admit, some of the responses were posted from Uranus. Cannibalism is prevalent in NK.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/06/08/wkor08.xml

    Are there any apologists for this failure of the Nork totalitarian state? Refer to the LA Times butt-smooch of NK? I suppose it could just be “A Modest Proposal” and all quite witty. It is not. It is sick. I typically don’t throw Nazi comparisons around, because it is difficult to find something truly as evil. NK is.

  2. Congratulations…you’ve provided another example of the idiocy that infuses modern news and journalism. I would think that you’d be rather pleased about this. After all, we wouldn’t have had your President Bush or your Iraq war without the help of the MSM.

  3. A.L., it’s really quite simple. The evidence, available to all–READ the article–doesn’t justify the accusations. You misrepresent the article.

  4. Really, mark, I do? Please help me out by citing the relevant parts in comments here.

    I’ve reread it several times, and other than the following throat clearings (“I really do oppose the KKK, but those Northern agitators have to go…”) didn’t see much.

    And yes, Capitol, on your planet nothing and no one is worse than GWB. I get it. Now make a new point or go home.

    From the article:

    At a time when Pyongyang is flirting with some modest reform, the almost complete lack of tolerance for deviation from the party line suggests the huge psychological challenge this isolated society will face if and when it decides to join the outside world.

    and

    In reality, it’s a slightly more subtle form of bravado, hyping that North Korea has an auto industry of its own. So what if the factory appears dormant from the outside — as close as they let you get — or that we only saw one Ppeokkugi on the road during our trip?

    and

    In a world of look-alike malls and identical Starbucks from Rome to Redondo Beach, there’s a refreshing lack of sameness about it, if you don’t stop to think about the suffering, hunger and deprivation underpinning the system.

    and

    “They don’t want an imperialist wandering around,” says Chris Taber, a real estate developer from Long Beach. “It’s not like being in a gulag, and you expect some of this going in. But you definitely know your chances of complaining about your constitutional rights are pretty limited.”

    …so what, exactly, did I miss, mark?

    A.L.

  5. mark…I don’t think it’s a “misrepresentation”, I think it is a “mis-interpretation” resulting from the very apparent bias and prejudice that One-Armed holds against the “Liberal LA Times”….or Democrats….or anyone against the Global War on Terror…etc.

    And all for what? What kind of piffle is this?

    OAL reads something in the LA Times that upsets him.

    He comes here to put up a post expressing this, because that’s why he blogs.

    When, as it happens in places like this, some people challenge his reactionary comments and actually read or think about the issue for more than 10 seconds, OAL writes further comments and posts in an effort to explain in greater detail how he arrived at a snap judgment (but these come across not so much as explanations but as excuses; chaff). I see little evidence that he will acknowledge a mistake in his original thinking even if it is clearly pointed out to him, as you are trying to do, even as he makes the claim that blogging is a way for him to “sort out his ideas”.

    Finally, as is often the case when actual thought filters in, the argument (such as it is) is revealed as weak and shallow and lacking in substance, merit or value. I am also thinking here about the recent post on the “Problem with Democrats” that Chris ably dismantled.

    That pretty much sums up most of what I read from OAL here. He’s a fuzzy thinker seeking public help for his confusion but only succeeding, in this forum, in crystallizing his bleakest thoughts.

  6. Wow, look at the big brain on Big C. You know, it’s an interesting phenomenon. I get one like you about every six months, and I guess it’s your turn. You obviously mistook “argument” for “insult” on the door coming in.

    After a week or two of pretty predictable insults (I’ve never been called One-Armed Liberal before, AFAIK),the person gets bored and moves on or – gasp, horror, starts actually trying to articulate and defend their positions.

    We’ll see what you do. Meanwhile, go over and read the comments policy, and recall that without some nub of argument, pure namecalling will get you shown the door.

    A.L.

  7. What you missed, A.L. was the entire article. The whole tone. You mistake obvious irony for shoulder-shrugging indifference. You miss the whole premise. The point of view. You miss the very obvious fact the article is based on the knowledge that the tour the writer is taken on by the gov’t is a sham and pretty shabby sham at that. You miss the writer’s central point that the only way to buy what the minders are selling is to ignore the central fact of NK, i.e. the suffering, hunger and deprivation underpinning the system. Your desire to find fault with LA Times inorder to reinforce your belief about the american press seems to have blinded you to anything but the most literal interpretation of an obviously ironic article. C’mon, man….for god’s sake…I ask you again: do you think the reader is meant to believe that the writer enjoyed the karaoke? that it was a fun experience? that the tour was anything other than an failed attempt to decieve?

  8. Mark:

    I think the bigger issue is that any article about the DPRK shouldn’t be done in such a half-assed, casual tone. Maybe its the only way the LATimes readership can be brought about to read an article about an absolute police state where the vast majority of the populace is half starved, and where secret police can whisk you away to a state run gulag on a moments notice if you don’t cheer the “Dear Leader” with enough enthusiasm as you can muster.

    Color me a tad jaded, but such light treatment about the most vile government on earth doesn’t strike me as particularly helpful nor informative. In fact, it does much to desensitizes the reader to the abject poverty, horror, and destitution that the average North Korean citizen is subjected to.

  9. Gabriel,

    Maybe. Maybe you’re overreacting. I think the description you just offered of North Korea was pretty obvious from the article itself. I don’t see any discrepancy. Let’s put it this way: my first thought after reading the article was not to pick up the phone and book myself on the next tour. Do you think anyone had that reaction?

  10. That’s not the point, mark – and I suspect you know that, or are working hard not to do so.

    Gabriel nails the issue. Whether it is a simple Duranty whitewash or an “ironic” tone, the LAT’s treatment of NK does everything except express the outrage that the situation in that country demands.

  11. Jeez: finally, a sort-of answer to my question, via Gabriel’s #9: although I was kinda hoping AL would address it himself.

    I can understand taking issue with the LAT North Korea piece as a matter of tone vs. substance – and in fact, can somewhat agree with #9 – but that’s not how AL’s posts and counter-comments came across. Mostly, as I read them, they were simply assertions (unwarranted, IMO, but there you are) that Mark Magnier’s article, and the Times’ running of it were somehow “fellatory” of the NK regime. And, by extension, (again, IMO) that criticism of his posts was somehow an apology for it.

    So let’s make it simple:

    ARMED LIBERAL:
    Please explain why the following two concepts are mutually exclusive:

    a) North Korea’s regime is an odious evil stain on the history of humanity.

    b) your criticism of Mark Magnier’s article and the L.A. Times for running it is all wet.

  12. Oh, and AL: I hadn’t the slightest intention to bring up “Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo” in connection with either of the present threads: I don’t see where they are relevant to the discussion.

    You want to get on your commenters’ cases for irrelevant or diversionary references? More power to you. But you might want to maybe wait until, y’know, they actually make them. Just a suggestion.

  13. If you only read the first 5 paragraphs of the article, I could see where you would think that A.L. overstepped, but you have to keep reading.

    For me, I’m just trying to figure out why the article ran to begin with. Is the Karaoke scene in DPRK really that newsworthy? Did the author lose a bet that mandated his insertion of “minie me” into an article?

    The lack of seriousness in the majority of the piece is what galls me the most. Honestly, I would expect this faux-Gen-X stylistic view from a High School paper, I shouldn’t expect it from the LATimes. Its an non-serious piece by an non-serious paper.

  14. It is sad that so many Theresienstädte still exist and how media contribute to underpin them. It is also so immoral that journalist are (usually) invited to such places in exchange of writting something nice to manipulate the public opinion of the Western world.

  15. Jay C: (#12)

    It’s simple. because b) failed to in any meaningful way mention a). Had they done that – written an article about the banality of the tourist experience in the largest concentration camp on the planet (as opposed to the nice cite: “It’s not like being in a gulag, and you expect some of this going in.” No, it’s not like being a gulag. It’s like being a tourist in one.

    And to fail to mention that in any significant way is to me – as I’ve said – vile.

    At the airport, but will try and respond to some other comments given time.

    A.L.

  16. Theresienstädte was a Nazi Potemkin village intended to impress Red Cross delegations. In order to relieve overcrowding, thousands of Jews were shipped to Birkenau and Auschwitz before the Red Cross visit.

    The music program AL posted shows a performance by the “Ghetto Swingers”. Jazz music was banned in Germany, and could only be performed for foreign dupes. (See “The Nazis are Hep-Cats!”, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 1943)

    About 40,000 Jews died at Theresienstädte itself, but most of Jews originally sent there died after being sent to Auschwitz or other eastern camps.

  17. BTW, Los Angeles has one of the largest Korean communities in the US. 50% of the property destroyed in the Rodney King riots belonged to Koreans.

    Those LAT subscription rates just keep declining, and no one can figure out why. It must be that big Right Wing Noise Machine.

  18. Mark,
    As Jay C said, more eloquently than I could, gabriel’s point that the article shouldn’t run because you shouldn’t ever write about NK in any context other than to condemn it, IS NOT THE POINT THAT A.L. ‘s intitial post made. He was accusing the Times of blowing NK, i.e. (as I understand the sexual metaphor) of writing a complimentary description of the place that would make it’s leader feel good. There is nothing complimentary about the article towards N.K., despite the selected quotes that A.L. took out of context to make it appear so.

    As to the other issues, I don’t know. It’s a large country with millions of peopel. Is it permissible to write about any aspect of it other than it is a brutal dictatorship that results in mass starvation? I don’t know. I would guess so. Is it okay to write about New York City restaurants and nightlife without commenting on the extent of homelessness in the same city? Can you write about a new school being built in Iraq without writing about the thousands of people who have been burnt with acid and have had their eyes gouged out with power drills during the same period? But that’s kind of a mute point in this instance because the article did quite clearly take into account the brutal nature of the dictatorship of N.k. and suffering of the people.

  19. mark:

    by that logic, you could write an article about the Ovens at Auschwitz, based solely on their efficiency without condemning their use.

    Yes that example is extreme, but its not too much of a stretch.

    I think you might have misinterpreted my point, which is basically that the LATimes does itself and its readers a disservice by providing light hearted fare about a brutal regime. The Times has continued to have a nearly worthless International reporting team, and its articles like this one that solidify that analysis.

  20. Gabriel, I do not live in California and have never read the LA Times and they may well have a worthless international reporting team (I’m not sure any western news agency or service has an office in N.K.). But this was a travel article in the travel section (from my understanding) and was not passing itself off as anything other than that. It wasn’t pretending to be a news piece or an analysis piece or a substitute for either. Having read it, my conclusion is that is was not–as you claim–a lighted hearted fare about a brutal regime. It was about a tour….a gov’t sponsored tour and what a transparent sham that tour was…it was about how manipulative the tour attempted to be…and what a failure it was as a act of manipulation. It was a glimpse of N.K. from the only point of view that a western CAN glimpe N.K. And the writer and reader are both fully aware of how inauthentic and manipulated that view is.

  21. Just out of curiosity, has anyone who’s condemning the LA Times article read Guy Delisle’s graphic novelPyongyang, or Scott Fisher’s web page on his trip to North Korea?

    Are these likewise not harsh enough on the regime, from your perspective?

    As for AL’s characterization of the Times article’s critiques of North Korea being “throat clearings,” I’ll point out that nobody has even come close to making a case that the article matches AL’s example of “I really do oppose the KKK, but those Northern agitators have to go…”

    Rather, at worst the Times article could be accused of saying “North Korea’s auto industry is a joke, but they do have crappy karaoke!” Or perhaps, “North Korea’s system is underpinned by suffering, hunger and deprivation, but at least they don’t have Starbucks!”

    In my opinion, nobody who didn’t come into this debate with pre-existing hatred could see such statements as even vaguely complementary, let alone fellatory. Of course, YMMV.

  22. AL has interpreted the article well, and placed it in the proper context.

    Unlike another mark, I will not apologize for the unprofessional drivel that tries to pass for journalism at LAT.

  23. Jesus christ, it’s a travel story….like what to expect of a trip to NoKo….and it doesn’t sound, from the article, like a very fun place to spend ones vacation time/$.

    Can we just call a spade a spade? A.L doesn’t like the LA Times because they sometimes diss his personal dear leader, Bush. The LA Times is on the conservative hit list. Therefore A.L. siezes any weak opportunity to raise questions as to thje LA Time’s journalistic and moral intergrity.

    I don’t expect A.L. to admit all of this, but he won’t convince me, for one, otherwise because he is extremely transparent.

    A.L., you diminsh yourself when you stoop to such lows. Find better examples to support your flimsy cause; which seems to be all about proving that conservatives are more morally virtuous than liberals.

    Yes, yes, yes we all know that NoKo is a bad – call it evil if you wish – regime. WE all also know that 2 + 2 =4. We don’t need A.L or the Glen Wishards of the world to explain these things to us.

    Funny thing is that circa 1976 they said the same (“evil”) of Vietnam. Now VN is a major tourist destination and now VN is opening to wetsern business and trade (as is China). And political party has led the push to open dialogue and to trade with these countries? The Republicans. And they are correct.

    Smart people know that some battles are better won without armed conflict and maybe, just maybe, some qualified human interest type interaction – like tourism – is one small place to start.

    Axis of evil finger pointing hardons like AL and Wishard don’t have a better plan. Per usual they just want to appear to cloke themselves in the costume of righteousness while others shed blood for their causes.

  24. “Yes, yes, yes we all know that NoKo is a bad – call it evil if you wish – regime.”

    Thank you for your permission. This country we are speaking of is the one where for the slightest dissent they take a sharpened metal cable and ram it under your collar bone or through your hand and so lace you to your fellow dissents and march you with liberal application of a bamboo scourge to a prison camp where you will either slowly starve to death or else be crucified for your testicles, and thankfully, I have your permission to call that evil.

    And the funny thing is, they use to say that of Vietnam too. I wonder why? I know, why don’t you ask a Vietnamese what he thinks of 1976. He’ll have an answer.

    “Smart people know that some battles are better won without armed conflict and maybe, just maybe, some qualified human interest type interaction – like tourism – is one small place to start.”

    And in the same token, smart people know that some battles aren’t won with tourism. Smart people recognize that lessons learned in one situation don’t always apply in another (would have been nice if some smart people had figured out that the lessons of Afghanistan wouldn’t necessarily translate to Iraq, for example). Smart people recognize that you have to tailor your reponce to the situation. We pushed for openness with Vietnam in responce to changes in the internal situation which made openness the right call. If we see similar changes in the internal situation of NK, you can expect changes in Republican foreign policy strategizing with regards NK. Just as for example, Reagan was able to spin on a dime and change from tough talk to embarassing the Russians as their internal situation changed. But smart people know that carrots and big sticks are often part of a comprehensive strategy, and are not mutually exclusive.

    And in any event, smart people recognize that molly coddling meally mouthed language with regards the evil of NK is not helpful. They can call a spade a spade. Whereas, I get the impression from your language that you would call a spade a fig, and a fig a spade, but condescend to allow figs to be referred to as turnips and spades to be called writing utensils.

  25. Abu Graib was panties on the head, or naked pyramids. I’m sure the family of the late Pvt. Joe Anzack would have preferred AQ treat him that way instead of the atrocities AQ did before they murdered him.

    In all violations of human decency. But Libs never complain about that. They expect it from the enemy.

    Abu Graib is simply not worth worrying about one bit, nor being ashamed of. It’s piddling self-loathing of a privileged elite.

    Gitmo? Not a thing to worry about. Certainly not to be ashamed. No one has been better treated in the history of war. Anything else is self-loathing twaddle from Leftists who hate themselves and their country.

    It USED to be that people could recognize evil when they saw it. Certainly the hereditary absolute kingdom of North Korea would rank right up there with repressive kingdoms of the past. But Liberals love their hereditary kings, as long as they are anti-American.

    The LAT can’t even recognize evil where it exists, and so deserves condemnation.

  26. Again, It’s a lowly travel piece in the travel section; not an op-ed discussing whether or not NoKo is good or evil, nor politics, nor foreign policy nor any of the other morality plays that the foam at the mouth rightwingnuts here want it to be.

    Again, the article is no more or less banal than anything else one reads in the travel section. It is not intended to be more – or less.

    That some here can read so much more into the article is evidence of clinical pathology.

    sheesh.

    “They can call a spade a spade. Whereas, I get the impression from your language that you would call a spade a fig…..”

    Interesting. I heard similar talk when I was overseas concerning articles about the USA in the foreign press. If the article neglected to mention the urban poor, elderly eating dogfood, high crime – especially murder – and incarceration rates, gangland activity, lack of healthcare, etc then it wasn;t considered, by some, to be a legitimate perspective on the USA.

    I guess binary hardasses can be found everywhere across the globe.

  27. And, while we’re talking about comparing spades to figs, as miserable as NoKo is, it is not a Nazi death camp as AL implies.

    “I commented:

    Why? Because to have walked through Belsen in 1944 and noted the concerts, the “children happily singing”……. ”

    We could consume considerable bandwith enumerating the differences between NoKO and Theresienstadt.

    “Smart people recognize that lessons learned in one situation don’t always apply in another…”

    Interesting from a member of a crowd that constantly likens everything back to WW2. We don’t like NoKo and it’s oppressive…..therefore…it is the equivalent of a Nazi death camp!

  28. North Korea is a hell on earth. First hand info on it is extremely difficult to come by- I do not regard tourist/journalist reports to be indicative of anything except how bad even the “showplace” is. Every damn thing that reporter saw was staged, in one form or another. Read a book or two by people who have escaped or infiltrated- NK makes feudal serf society look good by comparison- it is a slave state. An absolutely evil system.

  29. avedis –

    Here are a few precepts that some of us operate by. I don’t expect you to agree with them, or to prefer them to your own parochial judgments.

    1. Tyrannical regimes do not like to have their tyranny advertised. Evil is rarely proud of itself. Tyrants do not like to have fingers pointed at them.

    Therefore, one should never miss an opportunity to point that finger. (As Christopher Hitchens once said, “Do something every day to annoy Bastard HQ.”)

    2. By the same token, even the worst regimes crave a positive international image. They will go to spectacular lengths to secure favorable opinion abroad. They will buy it by the truckload, as Saddam did, but often they find people who are willing to peddle it for free.

    Therefore, one should never miss an opportunity to heckle this ambition.

    3. Tourism is not an insignificant part of Evil International Relations. The Soviets made a regular science out of it. It is much easier to appeal to casual observers than it is to answer the arguments of knowledgeable foreign policy pros. Westerners in particular, who value peace and international understanding, are often eager to believe that it is intelligent or humane to take a benign view of tyranny.

    Far from being insignificant, this is a major arena of propaganda warfare.

    4. International criticism has definite effect on the behavior of such regimes. If they are harshly scrutinized for oppressive practices, they are likely to ease up. If they are defended or even praised, they will pour it on.

    Therefore, what we say and think about places like North Korea really does matter. It can have a very real effect, for good or ill, on actual human beings.

    So much for where I’m coming from.

    I find it funny that you are so touchy about North Korea being characterized as evil, while you spare no drop of wrath for “rightwingnuts” and such. Maybe you are just a totally unserious person who likes to spew contrarian invective just because it outrages the people you choose to hate.

    Or maybe you’re not a hateful person, just a victim of petty political reflexes. AL criticizes the LAT, so you leap to the defense of same, whether you give a crap or not. He pushes button A and you do B. That’s the textbook definition of a reactionary.

  30. Glen,

    About your precpets…fair enough. However, and this is the point some of us are making: the article DID NOT PORTRAY N.K. OR THE TOUR OF N.K. IN A POSITIVE LIGHT. It did nothing to advance or promote tourism in N.K. It was a description of a tour that does take place and it was a very very thumbs down review of the tour and the place.

    This was shoddy work on A.L.’s part. Some would like to point that out and hold him to account for it. That N.K. is a hell on earth is a) not disputed b) not relevant here. AL’s crticism of the LAT was, in this particular instance, unwarranted. He either misrepresented the travel feature or misunderstood it. It was not a bj–or even a hj–or even a french kiss–to the regime of N.K. It was an indictment of N.K. and it’s unsavory sham attempt at a manipulative tourist industry. Call it an expose, if you want. But it did nothing to promote or encourage tourism in NK. Quite the opposite. It was a denunciation delivered in an obviously ironic tone.

    Sheesh, do you guys look for goblins under the bed at night, too?

  31. mark –

    We can dissect this article until the cows come home without shedding much further light. It’s fair to question the importance of it, as you and others have. AL has stated his reasons for objecting to it, and I’ll add just a couple of things:

    1. There is a perceived pattern of soft-pedaling North Korea at the LAT. They were “heavily criticized”:”http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/337vrict.asp” for a 2005 front-page valentine entitled “North Korea Without the Rancor.” (The article is in their archives, but you have to pay for it.)

    Suffice to say that the LAT is not a noted enemy of the NoKo regime, and questions about their reporting are valid. (Reasonable questions about any reporting are valid, unless journalists are an infallible priesthood.)

    2. There is a pattern of apologism for regimes like NoKo, supposedly in the interests of peace. In the earlier thread I pointed out Kevin Drum’s declaration that he was not interested in criticizing Iran, since that might give aid and comfort to Bush. (In a similar manner, you might have seen Tim Robbins respond to a question about human rights in Iran by spitting, “So what are we supposed to do? BOMB THEM?”)

    In fact, there’s a tendency on the left to discount all discussion of foreign policy that does not politically benefit them directly. For this reason, left bloggers like Markos M. don’t like to talk about Israel and Palestine, because there’s no payoff in it for them.

    That’s worth criticizing, too.

    Characterizing as it phobia doesn’t advance the issue, and the same charge could be made against your side on a host of points. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw around accusations of hysteria.

  32. Glen, all of what you say may be true. I don’t know. As I have said, I have never read the LAT. But none of what you say has any relevence whatsoever to my claim that AL either misunderstood the travel piece or misrepresented it, and that his accusation that the travel piece is an instance of the LAT blowing the NK dictator has no merit, credibility or substance. It is at odds with the facts.

    dissecting the article is the only relevant thing to do in this regard as AL’s post rests entirely on whether the article is an example of what he claims it to be.

    What other bloggers (none of whom I have ever hear of) say or have said or think, or what anyone you consider to be on the left, right or center has said has zero relevance to this matter. There are two pieces of writing here that matter. AL’s initial post and the article in question. My claim….my ONLY claim here is that AL completely mischaracterizes the article in his post. I can speculate on his motive for doing so. I perceive a pattern (as you say) of bad argument and distorted evidence to reinforce previously held beliefs. Given the nature and stated aims of this site, I think it is fair to point out such things. All your other points have no bearing on this. All you are really suggesting is a form of profiling. LAT has done x in the past, therefore it is probable that it is doing X again. Evidence to the contrary should not be taken into consideration. Arrest the bastards. End of story.

  33. I find it incredible that this many people wasted this much time on this article. The only thing that I find more incredible is that AL thought it was worth 2 threads.

  34. toc, if you think i’ve wasted my time on this topic, you ought to see what I do with the rest of my time. You don’t know waste!

  35. It is not a waste of time. Things should be put forward. Otherwise the guardians of all Theresienstädte around the world may think that the people of the Western World swallows anything if it is written by the proper person.

  36. toc,

    This really isn’t about NoKo. It is about domestic propaganda – like AL’s unwarranted slander of the LA Times. It is about the rightwing defecating on anyone or any organization who doesn’t march to the party line 100% of the time.

    The LA Times has been critical of Bush, the war in Iraq, etc….therefore AL attempts (lamely) to equate the outlet with fascist appeasement. These are AL’s marching orders from rightwing HQ.

    Obviuosly, anyone with half a heart and a quarter of a brain knows that NoKo is a terrible place.

    As Mark points out, the article did nothing to counter this truth. Indeed, it paints an appropriately dreary picture.

    As an aside I have looked at some dated travelogue material pertaining to S. Africa. Some of it is quite flattering. No mention of aparthied, though it was in full swing at the time the articles were written. Would anyone care to know the outlets so that the appropriate load of venom can be directed towards them? Be careful now………

  37. My god. What a bunch of piffle. What is truly ironic is to witness all this alleged outrage over a piece of meaningless fluff published in a Travel Section, when the very government YOU helped to elect and continue to prop up is (very) busy creating constutional and human rights crises left and right (double meaning) and in the process doing grave damage to the very essence of what makes (made?) this country great to begin with, and is the true source of our security and stability.

    And you choose to focus on a meaningless few words in an LA Times article or other similar trifing issues. It is clear that you do not recognize that the qualities you decry in others are also your own. But then again, I’ve grown accustomed to thinking that Right Wing politics is just one huge projection of one’s shortcomings onto others, coupled to the displaced response to this which often takes the form of forcing others to act, by law, in a manner that they themselves are not capable of. Closeted gays and pedophiles, chickenhawks and wimps, cowards and bigots, embezzlers and shysters, con men and liars…..

  38. This may not mean much, coming from an anonymous commentor, but I was on a White House Tour when I could have sworn I heard the voice of Karl Rove cackling:

    “First we crush the L.A. Times. Then we seize the Hispanic vote. Then the Republicans will rule for 1,000 years before pushed into the Lake of Fire.”

    P.S. my opinion of the story was it was boring — writen worse than many blogs. I couldn’t read past the first page. Sue me.

  39. Come on Capotal C, don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel!

    _”But then again, I’ve grown accustomed to thinking that Right Wing politics is just one huge projection of one’s shortcomings onto others, coupled to the displaced response to this which often takes the form of forcing others to act, by law, in a manner that they themselves are not capable of. Closeted gays and pedophiles, chickenhawks and wimps, cowards and bigots, embezzlers and shysters, con men and liars…..”_

    What an amazing combination of pseudo-intellectual commentary and ad hominem personal bile. In a twisted way, this is almost a form of art.

  40. Ok, who thought putting internet access in the reeducation/slave labor camps was a good idea? Them commie trolls keep getting online…

    I know, why don’t we get some North Koreans to help us decide which is the worst regime, lil Kim or lil Bush? Cappy, why don’t you volunteer to find us some?

    And, in the what the heck department…

    Closeted gays and pedophiles?

    Just out of curiousity, when did, admittedly over-extreme sexual self control become a perversion equivalent to raping little kids?

  41. #45 from Treefrog: “Closeted gays and pedophiles?

    Just out of curiousity, when did, admittedly over-extreme sexual self control become a perversion equivalent to raping little kids?”

    It’s ambiguous. It could be and , or it could be closeted .

    ‘Cause it’s disgusting to stifle your sexual orientation. All that anti-sexuality stuff is so conservative. Let it hang loose, like old Muhammed (pbuh), and you’ll feel 100% better.

    Back on topic:

    I think the article can reasonably bear a more generous construction than Armed Liberal gives it. For myself, I wouldn’t criticize it, I think it’s reasonable to let it pass.

    But I’m not interested to dispute Armed Liberal taking a different view of it.

    North Korea is one of the worst tyrannies that ever were. Hostile criticism in the form of gentle irony, if that is what was intended, can fall flat in the face of that.

    I’m hoping gentle irony doesn’t fall flat in the face of a silly remark on a blog.

  42. OK, that’s strange. I guess the message is not to use angled brackets.

    #5 from Capotal C: “When, as it happens in places like this, some people challenge his reactionary comments and actually read or think about the issue for more than 10 seconds, OAL writes further comments and posts in an effort to explain in greater detail how he arrived at a snap judgment (but these come across not so much as explanations but as excuses; chaff).”

    “Reactionary” commonly refers to the inherently illegitimate reaction of non-progressive forces against progress, generally with “progress” defined by Marxism or perhaps some other left ideology.

    I thing there are things it’s legitimate to react strongly against, and the character of Kim Jong-il’s North Korean regime is one of them. Armed Liberal has good reason to dislike morally un-serious descriptions of North Korea.

    I’m also not seeing North Korea, or Marxism in general, as progressive.

    What is progressive? That big question is fodder for other threads.

  43. Capitol C is a shining example of why there is a certain segment of the loony left you just cant talk to. Opponents that presuppose you must be an evil, corrupt, lying, pedophile to believe what you believe simply arent worth engaging. The word ‘nonserious’ comes to mind.

    And btw, at least when Republican legislators hide stashes of ill-gotten cash in their fridge they have the good grace to resign or be run out of town. I guess corruption is actually an idealogical state- if you are just plain greedy you can keep your seat and senority in The Peoples House. Anybody that claims both sides arent corrupt is just watching through moron colored glasses.

  44. Mark, with comments like the ones on this thread, I am not surprised that those of you on the fringe Right just can’t seem to get your point across to most people, not just that “certain segment of the Loony Left”. Keep up the good work…the electorate (but unfortunately not most of the MSM) has finally sat up and taken notice of your special dangerous brand of lunacy.

  45. That explains why Congress’s polling numbers are lower than the President’s…. Your sides insistance on believing a majority of Americans buy into your nonsense is your greatest weakness. Although it does bring great amusement to the rest of us. Not liking the president doesnt mean buying what youre selling.

  46. Congressional approval began to drop as soon as it became clear that they weren’t going to be able to force Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq like most Americans want, and rightly so….that’s one of the major (and first tested) reasons why they were sent to Washington.

    And most Americans hold Liberal and Democratic values, not Republican/Neocon/Corporate values, so I’m not sure where you’re going with that argument:

    http://home.ourfuture.org/reports/20070612_theprogressivemajority/

    Your side’s greatest weakness is the sneering dismissal of valid, credible, objectively provable facts because they undermine your political agenda. Where are those pesky Iraq WMD’s? Maybe they’re under my bed…HAHA! Alberto Gonzales a liar? Hey, maybe he just has a really bad memory…HAHAHA! Al Gore says global warming is a major global issue that we need to address soon? Maybe he can fix the problem on the internets he invented!!! HAHAHAHAHA!

  47. _”Congressional approval began to drop as soon as it became clear that they weren’t going to be able to force Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq like most Americans want, and rightly so….that’s one of the major (and first tested) reasons why they were sent to Washington.”_

    Thank you for proving my point. Democrats can end this war any time they please. But they wont, because they are too politically cowardly.

    _”Your side’s greatest weakness is the sneering dismissal of valid, credible, objectively provable facts because they undermine your political agenda.”_

    And your problem is you consider whatever you believe a fact.

  48. Maybe this’ll help folks understand where some of us are coming from on this…

    A couple years back, my church hosted a S. Korean missionary couple for a brief stay/fund raiser. As you may or may not be aware, there’s a reasonably extensive Christian (with the help of a lot of other good people) smuggling network in China that basically smuggles bibles in and North Korean refugees out.

    Anyway, he was S Korean but his wife was one of the refugees that had escaped out the underground railroad to S. Korea. Itty bitty little thing, couldn’t have topped 4′ 10″, would cheerfully bubble away in heavily accented English.

    She had simply asked the wrong question in the wrong place in front of the wrong person. It wasn’t even political in nature, she had simply questioned why something was administrated in a certain way and had angered someone with powerful political connections. So off to the ‘reeducation camp’ with her.

    At that point she pulled down the corner of her blouse to show the scar where they stuck a steel cable through her shoulder for ‘shipping’.

    The camps are death camps pure and simple. They torture, rape, and brutalize the inmates until they die. She had decided she wanted to die on her feet, and made a break for it at the first opportunity. Long story very short, she somehow, by the grace of God, managed to get away, across the Chinese border, dodged the Chinese patrols, and met up with the underground railroad who got her to S. Korea.

    Google around and you’ll find plenty more stories just like this one. Probably in more detail than you really want to read.

    So you’ll perhaps understand that while, maybe it’s just a silly travel fluff piece, some people find it in bad taste hovering on the outrageous to stand around discussing the lack of tourist amenities. And to put in silly bits about ‘rare, touching glimpses of humanity’ whilst not mentioning thousands of people risking death and torture to escape to freedom seems obscene.

    Overreaction to the inane? Possibly, but I’m having trouble coming up with a better situation to overreact to…

  49. “Democrats can end this war any time they please. But they wont, because they are too politically cowardly.”

    I’ll agree with you that they should have tried to do more, but it’s not over yet, Marky, so don’t go running home to mommy declaring yourself a member of the brave victorious camp just yet.

  50. Oh! They just havent gotten around to it yet defense! American soldiers dying every day, but that gets them off the hook. But, as Harry Reid so eloquently said, it can help them pick up some senate seats.

  51. This, of course, is the well-worn “blame your political opponents for all the problems YOU created” strategy that is very, very overused in your parts my man.The Dems are neither on nor off the hook. I presume you voted for The Codpiece, who you wingnuts love to remind us all is “Our Commander-in-Chief”…all of a sudden he has no control over the military in an undeclared war situation? This ain’t the Democrat’s problem, in the final analysis, it’s the Republicans and Neocons that support the war, like those here, and Bush’s.

    It seems that even many Neocons like yourself seem to want to blame the Democrats for not stopping the madman you elected now…whew, I really need to let the audacity of this idiocy sink in a bit…

  52. “And your problem is you consider whatever you believe a fact.”

    And by the way, just for the record, this is completely and utterly untrue. My beliefs and opinions are constantly changeing and adapting to new information. If you knew what I do for a living (very successfully) it would be self-evident.

    Oh wait, I forgot, this is you projecting your problem onto me….sorry…nevermind!

  53. _”My beliefs and opinions are constantly changeing and adapting to new information. If you knew what I do for a living (very successfully) it would be self-evident.”_

    Let me guess- foriegn policy advisor for John Kerry?

  54. “Asshead”, hugh? You’re both just helping to illustrate my point about the common Rightwing strategy of “sneering dismissal”….you guys really have a toolbox full of them, don’t you? But that’s about all, unfortunately.

    Y’know, it’s been quite a lot of fun (“…this is Mic #1″) to push you both toward revealing the limits of your thinking and tolerance for disagreement….but that’ll have to do for this round. Check in next week for an exciting new episode of Wingnuts on Parade.

  55. If you knew what I do for a living (very successfully) it would be self-evident.

    I love internet richguy/toughguy, its my one of my favorites. It’s almost as good as playing the race card or invoking Goodwins Law.

  56. Uh, Capotal, you could teach a class in “sneering dismissal”…that kind of needs to change or you may find that you have a lot more time for your career. I’m happy to have people argue and dispute – even heatedly – but you’re spending a little too much time handwaving and calling names. Consider this an orange card.

    A.L.

  57. AL, shouldn’t Glen get an orange card for the asshead comment. I mean, if you’re handing them out. I sometimes think the refs around here are just a little bit more lenient to one of the teams than the other.

  58. Mark B., “But, as Harry Reid so eloquently said, it can help them pick up some senate seats.” To be fair to Reid, if he really wants to end the war, he will need to pick up those seats to do so.

  59. #64:

    It might be time to note publicly that the person who got the orange card is also the person who has lately listed his/her email address (visible only to Marshals) as “You’re_an_a**hole@domain.xxx” (edited for obvious reasons).

    Now, reasonable people might actually put a real (rather than obnoxious) email address where only moderators can see it: it permits offlist discussion, confirmation of attribution, and so on.

    Capotal has considered it more important to fling poo at, e.g., AL, where it’s out of view of regular readers. I consider that behavior both vulgar and cowardly. I regret that events are such that I find it’s time to mention it here, but I have no way to contact Capotal offlist to discuss the matter, and now I see this:

    bq. [I]t’s been quite a lot of fun (“…this is Mic #1″) to push you both toward revealing the limits of your thinking and tolerance for disagreement….but that’ll have to do for this round.

    So: getting Glen to lose his cool achieved an objective for Capotal. Trolling, anyone?

    When or if Capotal does get bounced, it will doubtless reinforce his/her opinions. Whatever he/she does so successfully will reap the rewards of the regained spare time.

    I agree that Glen shouldn’t have responded as he did. So here’s Glen’s warning: Glen, don’t feed the trolls.

    But that’s just me, speaking as myself — you know, “Mic #3450691″ — not as Marshal.

  60. I never said I was rich or tough, Gabriel…is that your only measure of success? Oh, wait, I forgot….I’m addressing a Neocon Republican Corporate apologist, aren’t I?

    And thanks, mark, but this kind of asymmetry is all too common in places like this. You’ll note that I never directly addressed any commenter here using a pejorative like was used toward me, nor was I the first to go “off topic” to do so….yet I’m the one who receives the “warning”. Of course this is “his place” and I’m only here to open a few windows, it’s so unbelievably stuffy and dark….but if that’s how they want it, then that’s their right. As long as the desparate effort to maintain the integrity of their fraying little world goes on record, my job is done.

  61. mark –

    I’ll be glad to apologize to Asshead, if Asshead will keep his comments about gays and pedophiles off the court. By all means, let us have no one-way name-calling privileges.

    If you consider this individual to be on your side, then I’ll apologize to you right now, and add my condolences as well.

  62. Capotal:

    You’re clever enough at this sort of thing to realize that some objective observer might be able to find fault with your putative good will.

    You’re effective out of proportion to your actual evident competence. This is in no small part because you’re good at making others angry.

    Congratulations. Let’s see if your luck holds.

    Suggestion: knock off the sophomoric renaming of contributors. The most obvious tweaks of your handle are beneath me–lucky you, again!

    Nort, who would have sent this privately if he could

  63. Glen, LOL. As Capotal well knows, while I generally agree with his views on politics, I’m not entirely comfortable with his manner or manners. I wasn’t suggesting you apologize. I was making the point that, in my opinion, fouls are not called around here with an even-handedness. I’ve been called plenty of names around here and no one has ever jumped in with a whistle calling a foul. Not a big deal. Not a complaint, just food for thought. If it bothered me, I wouldn’t keep coming in.

  64. mark, that’s actually fair…Glen, tone it down, please. The difference isn’t that Glen is my ideological compadre (hint: he isn’t) but that he make substantive contributions and occasionally descends into the mud. I’m waiting to see if Capotal can step up.

    A.L.

  65. “This is in no small part because you’re good at making others angry.”

    If you only knew how angry people like AL and others here make me, Nort, then you’d actually appreciate my temperance. As you sow, so shall you reap.

  66. I don’t generally judge thread participants by what they don’t do, Capotal.

    Judging you by what you have done, if this were my blog, you’d be close to your final warning. But then, if this were my blog, you’d have been suspended until I had a valid email address for you, after that oh-so-funnneeee address you picked to try to twit AL (see my #66 on this thread).

    But I’m just one Marshal, and so far you haven’t strayed over my line for too long. And this isn’t my blog–I just try to help out here.

    One of the ways I try to help out is by suggesting an increase in civility when it seems warranted.

    I don’t much care what you are feeling, Capotal, or how deeply you feel it, or how much wonder I should experience as I contemplate the depths of your forbearance. I care about civility, on the street and off.

    Tarbrushes aren’t civil. So I’ve declined to try to paint you with one. You, on the other hand, find it essential to use about as much stereotypical namecalling as you think you can get away with. So far, you have skated well. Bravissimo, as far as that tiny skill goes.

    Rest assured that this “gaming” of the spirit of WoC‘s comments guidelines does not go unnoticed.

    Can’t you do better?

    Nort

    …wishing once again that he had a working email address for Capotal, since this sort of offtopic stuff is the kind of thing that can bring a blog to its knees — reason enough to ban clever trolls, btw.

  67. Capotal, take a break and think about whether you’re interested in participating here.

    I’ll ask Nortius to ban you (I’m boarding a plane) and I’ll unban you in two weeks.

    If you want to come back, come prepared to debate, not sling mud.

    A.L.

  68. Capotal, I look forward to your return. While you’re away: all sorts of pro-war types have repented of their folly, sometimes eloquently (Sullivan, Staerk, Cunning Realist, Belgravia Dispatch, Yglesias, Mark Kleiman, etc.)—pardon my not bothering with the links, but you can find them all with ease. I don’t think your approach is likely to add to this list, which is the goal explaining why I continue to post here.

  69. Yes, C. it would be nice to see less baiting and more reasoned argument from you in the future – though I am definitely talking from a glass house…….

    ….I work hard….I drink……..

    ….I find the thought processes of some here to be as fascinating as they are disgusting…..it sort of like a moth to the flame when I’m bored and too tired to do anything else and have had one too many…….but, on the serious side, I come to places like this to try to understand what has gone wrong with my country.

    As to the “intenet tough guy comment” by someone or another above, that is classic of the hypocrisey – dare we use the term “chicken hawk” – that one finds on a blog such as this.

    I served my country as a United States Marine (combat in both Panama and Gulf War). My father served as a Marine in WW2 (WIA, Okinawa). Both of my children – who both oppose the Iraq war and think Bush is a beligerent moron (worst POTUS ever) – are in the service; my son has his Ranger tab and will no doubt will be in Iraq before long. Because he is a warrior and has his honor in tact he will do his duty with distinction regardless of what snot nosed silver spooned priviledged class serving fuckup of an asshole is issuing the orders……

    Yet, who is it doing all the tough talk about bombing Iran, killing Arabs generally, “surging” troops in Iraq until we “win”..unti the end of time if need be…blah, blah, blah……..why of course, internet tough guys like AL who has never served; him with his children who will never serve…….”tough guys” that won’t step up….dominate places like this.

    Capotal C is a little too juvenile for my taste, but I’ll take that any day over “internet tough guys” that call for war knowing that neither they nor their’s will ever risk shedding a drop of blood or even lose a night’s sleep over the carnage they call for. Indeed, some of those pointing fingers at C. are at least as immature; their response to any foreign policy issue being the flexing of our (supposed) military might…bomb…kill. etc.

    At any rate, the “law” around here is applied unequally. I recall that gypsy…whatever his name is..Totten? telling someone “Fuck You” because they (rather politely) disagreed with his slant on this or that ethnic group in the Middle East (Kurdish pigs, no doubt). Then AL chimed in and offered a subsequent “Fuck you”.

    So, could we drop the charade of respectability before the double standard begins to diminish further your already paltry integrity at this blog?

  70. Avedis: I’m just one guy, and I don’t claim to have perfect police powers a la the robots in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

    Imperfection is not always hypocrisy; people do have blind spots, including AL.

    I’m going to let this matter rest for now. Communication is harder work than many people give it credit for being.

  71. No problem, Nortius.

    You know, I’m mostly tongue in cheek (though I don’t lie) – I have a life. I really don’t give a f**K about what happens anywhere in the blogoshpere. As far as I’m concerned it’s just another media outlet and therefore frought with the same biases, partisan agendas and lack objectivity found in any other information source.

    And I’d still like to know who funds this site (truth in media matters).

    The People always suffer from an asymmetery of information; which bodes badly for democracy.

    I do care deeply about the future of my country…and my great grandchildrens’ country (God willing that they come into being). Reasonable people can disagree as to the best course of action to provide a better future.

    Sometimes war is unavoidable. I totally supported our intervention in Afghanistan, though sad that it was mishandled.

    What I don’t appreciate at all is the war hype from those that won’t get involved – I know, I’ve already said this.

    How many here have seen a human being lying dead, eyes open, staring into nothing, shot full of holes, tongue blueish and hanging out a little bit, blood, guts, brain matter sprayed about, swarms of flies lapping up the bodily juices……….how many here have caused a human being to end up that way?

    Because that’s war.

    If it needs to be done…well, it needs to be done. And if needs to be done, then let’s all do it together and get it over with as quickly as possible…..maybe postpone the motercycle ride, or whatever.

    I just think that a little more serious thought should go into the analysis of situations requiring killing than I see here. I also think that more committment should be seen from those advocating the killing.

    I also think that there are better ways than killing to get through most international disagreements. We must be self – interested, but, at the same time, recognize the we are not the final arbiters of right and wrong.

    We are not going to go to war with NoKo.

    Therefore, we try, in small ways, to open doors. Kim Il Jung will not live forever. Someday, an opening will present. We want to be positioned to be accepted by the populace. I thought the article was a nice balance in this direction.

    On the the other hand…. Maybe the WoC brigade – AL, wishard, David Blue, etc – will take M4s in hand and Kabars in teeth and charge across the DMZ and wipe out the implacable enemies of freedom in the North and show us how real men deal with tiranny, once and for all and immediately. They’ll come home with scalps to pass around the ale table.

  72. #80 from avedis: “What I don’t appreciate at all is the war hype from those that won’t get involved – I know, I’ve already said this.”

    Yes you have.

    #80 from avedis: “How many here have seen a human being lying dead, eyes open, staring into nothing, shot full of holes, tongue blueish and hanging out a little bit, blood, guts, brain matter sprayed about, swarms of flies lapping up the bodily juices……….how many here have caused a human being to end up that way?”

    Not me.

    #80 from avedis: “Because that’s war.”

    I remain of the opinion that there’s more than that to war, but of course by the standard established above I wouldn’t know.

    #80 from avedis: “If it needs to be done…well, it needs to be done. And if needs to be done, then let’s all do it together and get it over with as quickly as possible…..maybe postpone the motercycle ride, or whatever.”

    This would be directed at Armed Liberal? Instead of riding his motorcycle, he should fly over to Afghanistan (with the rest of the population of America, Australia etc. in tow – all of us together) and slay the enemy like Achilles going berserk upon the death of Patroclus, and then (only then) Armed Liberal will have the right to agitate in America for policies aimed at victory?

    Are you sure that our armed forces, that want only tiny numbers of fighting age experts with ideal health and A-OK backgrounds, would actually welcome a vast influx of amateurs out to prove themselves? Or is that irrelevant?

    #80 from avedis: “I just think that a little more serious thought should go into the analysis of situations requiring killing than I see here. I also think that more committment should be seen from those advocating the killing.”

    That would be “blood, guts, brain matter sprayed about, swarms of flies lapping up the bodily juices…” – that kind of commitment.

    They pay off for this mess would be to impress avedis, maybe.

    I’m not taking that as a serious invitation. It would be hard to come up with less serious thought about situations involving killing.

    #80 from avedis: “I also think that there are better ways than killing to get through most international disagreements. We must be self – interested, but, at the same time, recognize the we are not the final arbiters of right and wrong.”

    So who are these final arbiters of right and wrong?

    #80 from avedis: “We are not going to go to war with NoKo.”

    Now if only we can be sure that North Korea will never go to war, or threaten to go to war, with extortionate effect (say on Japan), or sell weapons of mass destruction to jihadists with catastrophic effect, or otherwise spread woe, everything will be sweet. (Except for those trapped in the North Korean hell on earth.)

    #80 from avedis: “Therefore, we try, in small ways, to open doors.”

    This “therefore” does not follow. Closing doors on North Korea (except for those fleeing from North Korea) seems a much better idea.

    #80 from avedis: “Kim Il Jung will not live forever.”

    His father didn’t.

    #80 from avedis: “Someday, an opening will present. We want to be positioned to be accepted by the populace. I thought the article was a nice balance in this direction.”

    You thought the article was “a nice balance” in the direction of positioning America to be accepted (as what?) by the population of North Korea after Kim Jong-il dies?

    #80 from avedis: “On the the other hand…. Maybe the WoC brigade – AL, wishard, David Blue, etc – will take M4s in hand and Kabars in teeth and charge across the DMZ and wipe out the implacable enemies of freedom in the North and show us how real men deal with tiranny, once and for all and immediately. They’ll come home with scalps to pass around the ale table.”

    Along with the requisite “blood, guts, brain matter sprayed about, swarms of flies lapping up the bodily juices…” no doubt.

  73. #80 from avedis: “You know, I’m mostly tongue in cheek (though I don’t lie) – I have a life.”

    Would that “tongue in cheek” be “blueish and hanging out a little bit”?

  74. I’ve never understood the ‘If we be nice to the murderous oppressive regime, when it falls, the people it ground under will like us’ line of thought.

    Like us for what? Standing around and doing nothing (or actively supporting the regime) while they were starved and murdered? At best they won’t hold it against us, and at worst they’ll never forgive us.

    If there were any domestic opposition in view we could empower via engagement, that would obviously be a different story, but there hasn’t ever been a hint of any. All the engagement we’ve done so far has clearly been of the, ‘let’s prop them up just enough that they don’t become something we’d actually have to do something about’ sort.

  75. “I’ve never understood the ‘If we be nice to the murderous oppressive regime, when it falls, the people it ground under will like us’ line of thought.”

    It’s working rather nicely with China, Vietnam – worked with S. Africa………..

    Your recommended tough guy alternative is what…invade and occupy?….hmmm Iraq is working out real well isn’t it?

    David Blue, how old are you? You sound like an irresponsible snot nosed kid…..completely without a clue, lost in the fantasy world of his nintendo games….

  76. Nortius,

    I think Capotal C’s point is now well confirmed.

    A smart ass Know-nothing like David Blue can make baiting jokes out of war and killing – and that passes for completely acceptable around here, whereas C’s style – less offensive IMHO in the big scheme of things – results in a ban.

  77. avedis, you have to pay attention. David Blue – who I disagree with on many, many things – makes substantive arguments. That buys him room to do things that I would disapprove of – strongly – if they were the only things he did here.

    So sure, people who are ‘regulars’ get more slack. Note that I don;t give a rip about their politics, just about what and how they contribute to the discussion.

    When I grounded you, it was in the hopes that you’d harness some of the passion you obviously have into interesting discussions that would provoke debates. Hasn’t happened yet, but I hold out hope that it will.

    A.L.

  78. AL…I don’t have a problem with my grounding (any of them). Quite frankly, I had it coming……….

    The problem with this blog – though by no means limited to this blog – is that no one is going to convince any of the resident die hards of anything. This goes for both the conservatives and the liberals alike. It doesn’t matter how reasoned the argument, how clearly the facts point to a conclusion………rationale can be overlooked… the integrity of the source of the facts can be disputed….there are a number of ways to dodge what should be obvious objective reality and these are employed frequently by participants of all stripes here. Progress can’t even be made on material issues, how can it be made on matters of opinion?

    As for my contributing interesting discussions to spark debates, I find that difficult here because there are so many black/white absolutists commenting and posting. Take #84 on this thread….there, I have tossed out the notion that it is possible for evil/oppressive regimes to be brought around to a better way through a policy of opening doors and reaching out and waiting (e.g. S. Africa, China, Vietnam – Russia too) as opposed to closing doors, shutting off dialogue, threatening war, invading, occupying, etc……

    This is not the first time I have made that point. Never has the topic been picked up for reasonable debate. All I ever get back is something along the lines of, “Avedis is typical of liberal appeasers and apologists for evil…….he is a defeatist surrenderer….his coddling of evil typifies what is wrong with the left…balh, blah, blah”

    Funny, I am less liberal than you are. I eschew the liberal position on many commonly debated issues. But….there go your regulars…labeling and stereotyping and rolling their anti-liberal screed once again…and never once addressing the points on the table.

    Am I passionate about some of the topics discussed here? You bet.

    I believe in supporting those that work to defend our country. That is why the Plame story stirs my emotions. That is why the Bush Admin’s cutting of benefits of veterans upsets me. That is why tossing troops into a war where there is no coherent strategy and no metric for “victory” upsets me. But poeple here think that supporting the troops is merely waving a flag and never questioning our leaders’ decisions (sounds more like Nazi Germany than America, to me).

    I have seen war. I have children that will see war for what it is. I could lose them in it. At the end of day, war is a torn bloated fly covered body. It is mothers crying for their dead children. That is all. There is no glory in it. There is no victory – as you think of victory – just the end of the ugly job of slaughter when the politicians decide to move on to something else.

    So yeah, I’m passionate about the topic of war; especially when conversing with a bunch of people that think war – and threats of war – is the solution to all international problems. I get upset when some of those people “contribute” to the “discussion” by making jokes about killing, about death….

    Now I am becoming repetitive. It’s a beautiful and I’m off to leg up some horses.

    I hope you think about this at least a little bit.

  79. avedis, I appreciate the last quite a bit.

    I do think you raised good issues about the Norks; the problem is that in the context of this thread it got drowned out.

    Did I miss the point where anyone here suggested war with them? Did you miss “my post”:http://www.windsofchange.net/archives/007988.php on why war with Iran is a silly idea at this time?

    As to your two substantive points – this site is funded by me (although the ad revenue almost offsets the hosting and maintenance costs).

    And just as a question – do you seriously think that my points about the war would change or that I’d have more moral stature talking about them if one of my sons was serving? I’d be interested in your answer – feel free to send it offline.

    A.L.

  80. Hot day, cold beer break…….

    “…do you seriously think that my points about the war would change or that I’d have more moral stature talking about them if one of my sons was serving? I’d be interested in your answer…..”

    AL, I don’t want to be insulting so I’m going to try to be careful answering your question.

    In short, yes, I think that your points would change and I think you’d have more moral stature.

    Now here’s the qualifier……your points might not change substantially, but only to a degree – a slight shift in quality. Or, then again, they might change radically. It is the later possibility that makes me uneasy – re; insulting you – because what is implied is that you would only give a rat’s ass if you had something personal on the line and that your personal selfishness means everything in your decision making processes. I am not saying this about you. I don’t know you. I will say that I do know there are those for whom that shoe fits.

    On the other hand it is human nature to at least examine more carefully those opinion and perspectives that impact us deeply – and what could impact us more deeply than our childrens’ lives? So I do believe that having a son in the service and facing a combat tour in Iraq would cause an examination of the war’s costs and benefits in a new light. Again, not just you, but anyone.

    As for moral stature…..anyone who buys into the Rightwing talking points about this being a necessary war, fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them at home, the noble crusade to spread freedom….etc, etc (I think we know what the rest of the arguments are) really should have something on the line. I don’t know how many war supporters I have talked to who are of so proud of their sons in college. I ask when they are going to enlist to fight the monumental and noble fight……..you know the answer….that’s not for me, etc.
    I cannot reconcile the perception that we are in a fight for our survival with, “hey, keep my son out of it”.

    Now, granted, again, I don’t know you or your son(s). Maybe you think he should be serving and maybe he’s a man of his own mind and disagrees with the war, Bush, etc. That I could understand. However, I would expect that you – given the importance you place on the war and your call to have troops rotated over and over again into combat – at least think that your son really should be serving. I would respect you if you could tell me that much.

    But you see, it’s just awfully convenient that so many who want the war to go on and on aren’t in the service and have their children steered away from it. It just smells a little bad to me.

    Now, that being said, I completely recognize that it is not necessary to be a vet or to have serving children to have a valid opinion – or even the right to an opinion – regarding the war.

  81. PS… this is a conversation that I am most interested in having and I will be happy to concede an error in my thinking if you can show it to me.

    Also I recognize that it touches very personal for both of us. So It would be ok with me – if you elect to cont the discussion – to speak more generally and keep our personal families out of it.

    I am most interested in your thoughts. Maybe a new post?

    Back to work for me….later.

  82. Ok, I’m sure it’s right in front of my nose….but what/where is your email address? Anyhow, now you have an address that works for me. So go ahead and email me.

  83. avedis ‘It’s working rather nicely with China, Vietnam – worked with S. Africa………..

    Your recommended tough guy alternative is what…invade and occupy?….hmmm Iraq is working out real well isn’t it?’

    You missed my point here: ‘If there were any domestic opposition in view we could empower via engagement, that would obviously be a different story’

    My problem with people who advocate engagement is that they treat it like a magic wand. To borrow the old gag:

    Step 1) Engagement
    Step 2) ??????????
    Step 3) Utopia

    China is an excellent example of where engagement works. China has a large moderate camp that’s busy getting rich off of the new fangled capitalism. By engaging with them we empower them and simultaneously weaken the old guard.

    But engagement does more than that. By forcing China to compete on the global market, we place powerful incentives on the ruling class to open up freedom for their people (so they can compete), clamp down on corruption, and get along peacefully with their neighbors. At the same time, we place powerful disincentives on them to avoid ugly internal crackdowns and external foreign policy adventures.

    China’s ruling class seems to have figured out that they can seemlessly swap from being party commissars to being fat cat plutocrats. Sure they lose political power, but the wealth and the things that buys: fast cars, cushy living spaces, women, etc. more than make up for it.

    Vietnam I admit I know little about, but didn’t we have no relations with them at all until recently, and wasn’t it they who approached us?

    S. Africa, it was the economic blockade which cracked them, I’m not sure if that should be filed under engagement or not, it’s kinda half diplomacy half military. An exercise of blunt force, just without the shooting.

    And then there’s Iraq. For more than ten years, and how quickly we all forget, we engaged Iraq. Remember? Oil for food? The economic sanctions (remember all the starving children?)? The weapons inspectors?

    After more than ten years, what did that buy us? Oil for food had been so corrupted it was filling Saddam’s pocketbooks whilst simultaneously handing him the starvation club to hold over his own people. He was playing shell games with the weapons inspectors, taking pot shots at UN forces enforcing the treaty provisions, funneling money to Palestinian terrorist groups, and in general making a nuisance of himself.

    Ten years of engagement and he came out of it stronger and more secure in his power base than ever, with all signs of domestic opposition wiped out, and thumbing his nose at all diplomatic efforts.

    The war may be a muddled mess, but the engagement was a spectacular failure.

    As for N. Korea?

    Who are we engaging? There aren’t any moderates in view. No domestic opposition. No elements to play off against each other, just the sadistic thugs in a monolithic mass.

    What would we be engaging in? They have nothing we can buy. Nothing we can use to spark market engagement ala China. No common political interests or enemies.

    The only thing proposed is to give them stuff in return for peace. Trading tangibles for intangibles doesn’t work. There are limits to the amount of tangibles we can come up with, but no limit to the amount of intangibles they can create. Swapping money for peace only encourages them to make bigger waves to extort more money.

    I just don’t see any cracks whereby we can insert influence and try to create forces that push them the direction we want them to go in.

    Nor do I think military force is practical. The chinese could do it, we can’t, not with S. Korea and Japan held hostage. The best we can do is what we are doing, let them know that if they touch S. Korea or Japan, S. Korea will become an island. Then seal them off and wait and hope that when they finally crack and crumble, the resulting mess won’t be too bad.

    Once they acquired nukes, there isn’t much else we can do besides pray we don’t have to finally prove you can win a nuclear war.

    For engagement to work you need several factors.

    1) Someone to engage. You have to be able to empower some group with a vested interest in the engagement process.

    2) A direction to engage in. Simply handing over money doesn’t work, you need to create self-sustaining forces that push the situation in a desired direction, otherwise it’s just extortion or tribute.

    3) A population that supports the direction you want them to go in. (Engaging the Palestinians failed here, we successfully empowered the Fatah moderates (well relatively moderate), but they rejected that choice and voted in Hamas instead).

    4) Either implied or explicit military force to prevent them from deciding either to play the blackmail game or to try to seize things militarily. Bonus points if you have enough military power to make them fear that not engaging would lead to high explosives raining from the sky. (See Libya, after 2nd Gulf War, they leapt to engage us, now they’re going crazy again – they’ve stopped being afraid of us). The carrot without the stick just makes you a target for mugging.

    North Korea fails three of these. No one to engage. No direction to engage in. We only have military containment and can’t really threaten military destruction upon them (at least, not without a cost they are sure we won’t pay).

    I’d love to be wrong and be missing something here…

  84. “My problem with people who advocate engagement is that they treat it like a magic wand.”

    I never said it is a magic wand. In fact, I said that sometimes war is unavoidable. In between there is a whole gradient of more or less confrontational approaches, sanctions, embargos, etc and on the carrot side of approaches there are many different way to incentivize the changes we’d like to see……..one technique does not fit all situations.

    I’ve just about had enough with the opposite of the engage everyone all the time crowd – the bomb everyone all the time crowd – as seen here very often – that perceives every modern day conflict as directly analogous to WW2 and Adolph Hitler. It’s equally moronic.

    that being said, because of the tremendous cost – by any measure – of war I think all other approaches, including engagement should be considered first and tried if possible. I would submit the Cuban missile crisis as an instance where we even had missiles pointed at us in a very aggressive move by our enemies. Diplomacy won the day – we traded our Turkish based missiles pointed at Russia for their Cuban based missiles.

    “China is an excellent example of where engagement works. China has a large moderate camp that’s busy getting rich off of the new fangled capitalism. By engaging with them we empower them and simultaneously weaken the old guard.

    But engagement does more than that. By forcing China to compete on the global market, we place powerful incentives on the ruling class to open up freedom for their people (so they can compete), clamp down on corruption, and get along peacefully with their neighbors. At the same time, we place powerful disincentives on them to avoid ugly internal crackdowns and external foreign policy adventures.”

    Exactly. Agreed.

    “Vietnam I admit I know little about, but didn’t we have no relations with them at all until recently, and wasn’t it they who approached us?” VN reached out, but we – intelligently – made it known that we would be receptive if they reached out. So it was a mutual coming together….a little diplomatic dance if you will.

    “…..Ten years of engagement and he came out of it stronger and more secure in his power base than ever….”

    I disagree completely with all of what you say re; Saddam.

    To paraphrase you, “what do you want, utopia?” No solution is perfect. We look to minimize risk and keep the costs lower than the benefits.

    The last round of inspections was working well. NO WMD had been found. Blix and other ex-inspectors are stating clearly now. Another month of inspections and we all could have rested assured that there was like a 99.9% probability that Saddam had no WMD. The no fly zone would have kept Saddam contained. And it certainly was a hell of a lot cheaper than the hundreds of billion of $s we are currently spending on Iraq.

    As for your mention of starvation in Iraq during oil for food…..I suppose that is some veiled appeal to moral imperative. I don’t buy it. Look at the death and suffering that is currently plaguing Iraq as a result of the upheaval we created? Are Iraqis better off now? I’d say its a wash at best. We are definitely worse off ($s spent, lives lost, wear and tear on the armed forces, international (especially Arab) public and governmental perception of the US, etc, etc).

    I say that a better approach would have maintain the status quo, but with the new enhance inspections. If the people were starving – as you say – then let them overthrow Saddam and earn the government they really want. We would help. We would incentivize the new boss with promises of favorable oil contracts, with intelligence and maybe outright military support, etc.

    A dictator like Saddam cannot last for ever. It was not given that his sons would take over with his departure. In fact, intelligence suggested that the would be new gaurd was waiting for the day that Saddam passed on to begin the coup. Another ten years? Maybe. So what. It’ll be at least that long before Iraq turns into something other than a murderous hell hole and a breeding ground for terrorism because we invaded. And we’re spending how many $billions a month, wearing our military down, etc, etc………..

    “…The best we can do is what we are doing, let them know that if they touch S. Korea or Japan, S. Korea will become an island. Then seal them off and wait and hope that when they finally crack and crumble, the resulting mess won’t be too bad…..”

    Right. There really isn’t a Utopia. NoKo is a conundrum. I agree with you here. Wait and see. Wait and see is the most overlooked option because us Americans always feel we need to be doing something, anything…..we have an inflated conept of our ability to accomplish great things always everywhere.

    I generally agree with your points about what is necessary for engagement. However, I think that it is necessary to make clear that it is possible to engage, “evil” regimes. This is where I see the rightwing failing and over-resorting to violence. They label some government as “evil” and then their cognitive processes cause them to rule out engagement because, afterall, how can you make a deal with evil? Then there is all of this harkening back to WW2, Chamberlain, appeasement of Hitler, etc (ad nauseum).

    We need to get this. Very rarely is a person or government purely evil. Usually they are just self interested power hungry parties. Knowing that it may be possible to align their desire for maintenance of power with our interests. In fact, that is the story of much post-WW2 US foreign policy.

  85. ‘that being said, because of the tremendous cost – by any measure – of war I think all other approaches, including engagement should be considered first and tried if possible. I would submit the Cuban missile crisis as an instance where we even had missiles pointed at us in a very aggressive move by our enemies. Diplomacy won the day – we traded our Turkish based missiles pointed at Russia for their Cuban based missiles.’

    The problem here is that if you take war off the table, or make it clear any form of force will always be the ‘last’ step, you’ve just crippled your diplomacy. After all, what’s the logical move to respond to an opponent who won’t use the stick until the very end? You push them to just short of the very end, when they’re in their final ‘we’re about to bomb’ state, then throw them the barest bone to back them off. Wait for things to cool a bit. Then go back to pushing. And each time that happens your boundary for use of military force retreats just a little further.

    North Koreas been doing this for quite a while, so has Iran, Russia is starting to as well. Push, push, push, push, force as many concessions as possible until the other side finally quits folding, then throw them one token concession and trumpet the triumph of diplomacy. Then they wait and pick a slightly different angle and start over again. And since everything we put on the table before was used in the last treaty, well, we need to come up with new stuff to put on the table, right? And the process repeats.

    Let’s face it, democracies suck at diplomacy. Free media undermines message control. Constant leaks give away strategies. Short population attention spans prevent long range strategies. We can’t lie. We can’t break treaties. We’re gullible as hell.

    But our best weapon is our enormous economic power which gives us two things: the ability to use that economic power to destroy other nations economies, and an unbeatable military.

    It’s not that us right wingers want to bomb everything (well most, we have our fruit loops the same way the left has the space mind control crowd, we’ll ignore yours if you ignore ours), it’s that we object to the attitudes going into the diplomatic process. In the case of Iraq, and North Korea, and Iran…none of these cases did we start anything. They’re the ones pushing, picking the fights, being aggressive. To go to them and then say, how can we achieve peace is attempting to buy peace. Doesn’t work, the incentives are all wrong.

    The correct approach is to go to them and say, well if you want a fight we’re game, here’s how we’re going to destroy you. And here’s what we want if you’d like to prevent that from happening.

    International adventurism should bear a cost, not lead to potential cookies at the diplomatic tables.

    And yes, I prefer war to all out economic sanctions. You say you’ve seen war and it’s terrible? Go somewhere and see famine. See what happens when the basic economy breaks down. See kids wasted away to skin and bone with distended stomachs lying there, in terrible hunger and pain but without the energy to even cry. See large scale disease. See people coughing up their life a little bit at a time.

    We’ve gotten awfully good at fighting relatively clean wars. The vast majority of civilian casualties in Iraq are from the other side deliberately targeting them. And we have a chance of convincing the civilians of Iraq of that fact. The best areas in Iraq are those where we’ve made that case, and the Iraqis have joined us in fighting those targeting them.

    On the other hand, it’s impossible to seal off a nation and apply economic pressure without it affecting first the poor, children, women, and the elderly. Then the middle class gets squeezed. Then, after you’ve destroyed the lower ranks, then you begin to affect the ruling class. The only advantage is that the people doing the slow motion dying do so off camera. Out of sight out of mind.

    ‘A dictator like Saddam cannot last for ever.’

    No, he won’t. He’ll be gone and replaced with another. Who’ll want in on the same deal the last guy got. That areas been ruled by brutal dictators since the dawn of history. Sure Saddam Hussein was worse than most, he beat his people with a sledgehammer, but don’t worry, he’ll be gone soon and the next guy will go back to beating you with a hammer. How reassuring.

    It’s not that I reject engagement out of hand, it’s that I dislike the inherent dishonesty involved. War is terrible we’re told. War should be avoided at all costs we’re told. Why? Because, PEOPLE DIE. Children die! Pets die! It’s terrible!

    People die when we do nothing to. People die when we blockade nations. People die when we withhold food aid. People die when we prop up dictatorships by giving the dictators enough to keep their nation running just to avoid a short little war (that they’d start).

    Maybe it’s cold blooded, but I want to see the numbers toted up. 4000-7000 Kurds died in one day at Halabja. That was a very real cost of engagement. So were the marsh arabs.

    I don’t cede diplomacy the automatic moral high ground is all. Nor do I envision war is always the correct option.

    Remember North Korea is only an unbreakable nut NOW. It wasn’t back when Clinton and Carter decided to buy peace. They gave everything away for vague promises and we’re surprised they were taken complete advantage of? How many hundred thousand North Koreans have died now? Maybe military action back in the early 90s would have been a worse choice, but it sure as heck isn’t an automatic ‘war should be last resort’ thing.

  86. ‘Usually they are just self interested power hungry parties. Knowing that it may be possible to align their desire for maintenance of power with our interests.’

    And because I can’t resist…

    Last decade we were in trouble because we supported dictators because they were OUR dictators.

    This decade we’re in trouble because we aren’t supporting (hell, we aren’t CREATING) dictators who’ll be OUR dictators.

    Can someone tell me what next decades judgement on the subject will be so we can get ahead of the curve?

  87. “Go somewhere and see famine. See what happens when the basic economy breaks down.”

    Seen that too. Dead is dead.

    Let’s be clear, TF. I’m something of a moderate isolationist. I don’t approve of most nation building. I am for the US first. If some Iraqi or some African is starving because their government is awful and/or because the put a sanction on them, I don’t care.

    The cost of war that I refered to is the cost to the US.

    Like you said, TF….there ain’t no utopia……you roll with punches, adjust as needed. The world is a big messy place and it’s constantly changing.

    The problem with your big stick first approach to diplomacy is that no one is afraid of it. There is no shock and awe. It’s a mastabatory fantasy that some in the US have.

    With third generational warfare the little guys can beat the big high tech guys (witness VN, Iraq, Lebanon last year…..). Everyone knows this.

    Unless you’re advocating threatening nuclear genocide, nothing short of that scares anyone anymore.

  88. Avedis, actually no one believes that “little guys” can beat “high tech big guys” in a military confrontation. And certainly “third generational” warfare has nothing to do with the tactics of either North Vietnam nor Iraq nor Hezbollah. Absolutely nothing.

  89. ‘The problem with your big stick first approach to diplomacy is that no one is afraid of it. There is no shock and awe. It’s a mastabatory fantasy that some in the US have.’

    Then explain why, after the end of the Second Gulf War, the Chinese promptly began rapidly downsizing their military, even though they knew it was going to cause them all kinds of social issues. They then used the money saved to being massively upgrading the training and equipment of their forces.

    It’s sad the military doesn’t get any credit for the initial campaign. An outnumbered force attacking an opponent who knows exactly where they are going to invade from and to, had lots of time to prepare defenses, and with our forces attacking out of an impossible narrow front? With no prior air/artillery bombardment? Fifty years ago that would have been suicide, better equipment and training or no.

    You think the Chinese are stupid? We scared them, badly, and they’re trying to close the capability gap.

    They all fear our military, they just don’t believe we’d actually use it. How else do you explain Hussein’s diplomatic idiocy prior to the war?

    ‘With third generational warfare the little guys can beat the big high tech guys (witness VN, Iraq, Lebanon last year…..). Everyone knows this.’

    Um, where exactly has third gen warfare actually generated a victory? Vietnam? They got shattered everytime they actually fought, we lost because we got bored and wandered off before the Chinese and Russians did.

    Iraq? We’re generating the most lopsided casualty counts in the history of warfare in Iraq. And before you state that the enemy can replace their losses, so can we. A couple hundred soldiers a year lost? How many decades does this have to drag on before we match 3 days at Gettysburg?

    Lebanon? The Israelis mulched Hezbollah in all actual engagements. They just left before they finished it and Hezbollah called it their victory in the media. And few in the media challenged that.

    Afghanistan? The Afghanis beat the Soviets in a straight up, traditional mountain warfare game, using heavily fortified, inaccessible bases in the mountains, and quick hit and run strikes. Nothing third generational here, actually an old as dirt siege warfare technique really.

    Third generation warfare sucks. It’s the same strategy my cat uses on dogs, puff yourself up, make threatening noises and hope they don’t call your bluff.

    Everyone fears the US military. Noone fears the US government. Sad but true.

    ‘Let’s be clear, TF. I’m something of a moderate isolationist. I don’t approve of most nation building. I am for the US first. If some Iraqi or some African is starving because their government is awful and/or because the put a sanction on them, I don’t care.

    The cost of war that I refered to is the cost to the US.’

    Umm, if you really believe that, then the most logical course is the bomb the crap out of them approach, isn’t it? We could have ‘solved’ Iraq then by, when Hussein started making a nuisance of himself in the mid-90s with airstrikes. Wait for say, one of those big military parades they so love to throw, and bomb him, all the visiting Ba’ath bigwigs, military generals, troops on parade, and half the crowd. Casualty count, say 10,000, half military half civilian. Be a big nasty civil war afterwards, but as you pointed out, that was inevitable when Saddam fell anyway. We just bumped up the time scale a bit was all. But do you think the successor, whoever it is, was going to annoy us again?

    That would seem to be the best outcome from a utilitarian standpoint by that weighting scheme.

    ‘The problem with your big stick first approach to diplomacy’

    But regardless, you keep missing my point. I LIKE diplomacy. I WANT to be able to talk our way out of problems. Just imagine how effective our diplomatic efforts would be if they had serious teeth behind them. Our current diplomatic solution is a mess precisely because no one believes we’ll actually hurt anyone, and they think they can extort all kinds of concessions out of us. Sadly, history is on their side.

  90. Robin, what are you? The ultimate expert? Besides, the initial confrontation is just one battle – it’s the rest of the war that counts. I submit that niether you nor TF know what is meant by 3rd gen warfare. You guys seem enthralled with our ability to blow up lots of stuff quickly. Yes we can do that better than anyone. However, that is not all there is to war. That will never bring about an acceptable peace in the end.

    TF, I don’t agree at all with the chain of causation your are proposing re; the Chinese. You are crafting history in a way to suit the point you try to make. Actually, the Chinese have never been Imperialisticly agressive. So the connection you try to draw are moot.

    “…Vietnam? They got shattered everytime they actually fought….”

    But they came back and fought and fought and fought…..they were never destroyed, they never ran away in fear of our great might…..and, at the end of the day, they were still standing. You have the same problem comprehending modern warfare that Robin does.

    “…And before you state that the enemy can replace their losses, so can we. A couple hundred soldiers a year lost? How many decades does this have to drag on before we match 3 days at Gettysburg?”

    Again, you are not comprehending modern warfare. It’s very expensive. We simply cannot continue spending the one hundred billion plus dollars a year on this adventure indefinitely. High tech gadgets wear out and are expensive to replaced. I will even disagree that soldiers can be replaced. We now have troops on third, fourth ,even fifth combat deployments and they are beginning to wear out as well. Every serious source recognizes this problem. Are you for I draft (I am)?

    “Umm, if you really believe that, then the most logical course is the bomb the crap out of them approach, isn’t it?”

    No. For several reasons. We live in a global community and our economy and our security depends on our ability to interact productively with at least a majority of the world. Bombing the crap out of everyone that incurs our ire would break necessary bonds and strain important relatioships. Furthermore, all that would happen – you know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction – is that all of the countries that felt threatened by us would ally and eventually form a powerful anti-US block and they would, no doubt, evolve techniques. And, again, bombing alone – despite your fascination with it – doesn’t win wars and bring about a lasting peace. To the point, we did indeed bomb the crap out of Saddam’s military in Gulf War 1. We slaughtered those people and wrecked their hardware, but they were back in a few years, right?

    I think the problem here is that you (TF) and Robin sort of have a need to see the US military as some invulnerable world dominating power that if only our spineless leaders would allow it to be unleashed the world would be brought to its knees and all peoples everywhere would bow before the US and march to our beat…..

    ….the Romans thought this of their legions and the Nazis thought this as well of their military.

    A global utopia brought by force of arms and fire and destruction. Ah,,,,this is straight from the neocon playbook….the mighty hegemon seizing the opportunity as the sole super power to impose its order upon the earth…..also sounds like something from a comic book master villian’s ravings.

    I will also disagree with you re; Lebanon. There is ample evidence that Israel was militarily spanked. Yes, Israel did what they are efficient at; killing civilians and blowing up public infrastracture, but when it came down to soldiers against soldiers, Hezbollah did a good job at countering and, in some cases, beating back the the much vaunted Israelis.

    Yes, I hear that you prefer diplomacy; just that you want to scare the other into cooperating with it with our military teeth. That won’t work as well as you want it to because *1*. unlike you, leaders of countries know that the US can’t afford to become embroiled in drawn out conflicts all over the globe everytime some country or another calls our bluff *2*. that the US airstrikes will not be sufficient to win. and *3* no one likes being threatened. It tends to make them more obstinate. *4* The world will never agree to cowtow to the US and technology is going to make it easier and easier to fight back.

  91. ‘Actually, the Chinese have never been Imperialisticly agressive.’

    Does the name Tibet might ring a bell? Sino-Indian war? Hell, Korea? And those are just in the last 50 years.

    ‘Yes, Israel did what they are efficient at; killing civilians and blowing up public infrastracture’

    Sigh, oh c’mon, that was unworthy of you. Seriously, that one’s so tired it’s not even funny. Go wander over to Totten’s site and go read his posts about what happened in Lebanon. You seem to have the sides that were deliberately targeting civilians backwards.

    ‘Bombing the crap out of everyone’ ‘A global utopia brought by force of arms and fire and destruction.’

    You keep desperately attempting to pigeon hole me into a bomb everything nut. Good excuse to pull out inane cliches and the ever so pretty condescending moralistic speeches, eh? Must be fun to write…

    ‘also sounds like something from a comic book master villian’s ravings.’

    You forgot the sexual enjoyment I’m supposed to be deriving from this.

    But enough with the silly sparring…on to the main point:

    ‘Yes, I hear that you prefer diplomacy; just that you want to scare the other into cooperating with it with our military teeth. That won’t work as well as you want it to because 1. unlike you, leaders of countries know that the US can’t afford to become embroiled in drawn out conflicts all over the globe everytime some country or another calls our bluff 2. that the US airstrikes will not be sufficient to win. and 3 no one likes being threatened. It tends to make them more obstinate. 4 The world will never agree to cowtow to the US and technology is going to make it easier and easier to fight back.’

    Your points are only valid if that were all we tried to do, instead of using it correctly as one more tool in the toolbox, to be applied where needed (and where people know we can apply it where needed).

    But let’s let that slide and assume you are entirely correct.

    So to summarize your entire argument:

    Point 1: Our military is useless. It’s too expensive for us to fight long wars, and therefore we can’t win them. Ergo, we can’t beat any opponent who’s willing to keep coming.

    Point 2: Any attempt to use force to protect our interests, allies, or even selves would cause the world to turn against us, joining in some sort of anti-US world justice league (sorry, you’ve got me stuck on comic book metaphors now…).

    Point 3: Everyone else knows this, so they don’t fear us.

    Point 4: ….

    Ok, I’m stuck, now what? How do you deal with an aggressive entity willing to push, provoke, invade and destabilize things to get what they want. Iran for example, or what Russia seems to be headed towards.

    Military force is out…too expensive, ineffective, and everyone’d hate us.

    Coercive diplomacy is out, sanctions don’t work without military backing, they just smuggle everything in (if they even bother to hide it), and threats are worthless (they’d laugh at us). Worse, if we do anything they don’t like they might attack, or sponsor terrorist attacks, or something else we can’t stop.

    So that leaves what exactly? Stern letters? Name calling? Bribes?

    How do you stop a bully without standing up to them? How do you beat those who aren’t actually interested in peace, but in conquest and glory? Who are willing to throw away the lives of their citizens to conquer, and those same citizens will love them as long as they bring victory?

    Do we have to surrender to the first opponent with the will to keep going?

    You may think I’m stuck in Dr. Strangelove, but I think you’re stuck in Night of the Living Dead. No matter how much smarter, faster, or better armed we are, it’s hopeless because they’ll always just keep coming?

    To categorically reject military solutions is to surrender to those willing to engage in military force. To categorically reject diplomacy is to be the thuggish bullies we hate.

    Balance is required, do you understand? To look at the individual situation, weigh the options and make a choice.

    We ‘evil zionist right-wing neo-con rethuglicans’ have looked at the options, weighed things out, and made a choice. Take Iraq, we didn’t believe engagement was working, saw the embargo was a corrupt shoddy mess being actively end-run by the French and Russians, weighed our options and selected invasion as the best choice.

    We didn’t categorically reject engagement, it was considered and rejected. When the left objected, what did they provide? A nifty plan that showed precisly how they would diplomatically solve the issue? With steps layed out, short and long term costs and benefits enumerated? Players and how they’d react to the various moves examined? Anything?

    What we got back was heaping shovel-fulls of invective, endless ‘you depraved monsters’ speeches, and giant puppets on parade.

    You understand the irony here? Those advocating engagement and diplomacy as the solution resorted to emotional blockades, invective assault, endless petty name calling and moralistic grandstanding.

    Those who selected military force to solve the solution, asked for alternatives and different analysis for comparison, and never got one. All I ever recall seeing was lame ‘it’s not our government, we don’t have to give you alternatives’ excuses. Old saying: lead, follow, or get out of the way.

    You say you want to solve problems with nothing but engagement? Great! Lay it out. Show us. List the players, what tools you’ll use, how they’ll react, what contigency plans are in place. Sell us on it. Shouldn’t be hard if it’ll work and be better than war, right? Give us the costs and benefits. So far all I’ve ever seen are the ‘We’ll give them stuff and tell then how much we love them, and they’ll love us back forever and ever. The end.’ And it worked so well in N. Korea…err…Palestine? no…Iran? Actually, has that ever worked anywhere? Ever?

    Why should I believe that the Left can lead this country to diplomatic solutions abroad, when they couldn’t even diplomatically solve their problems in their own nation?

    At least Bush got to Iraq before getting stuck in a quagmire, the Dems didn’t even make it out of Washington.

  92. Silly sparring….yes really,,,,you know better than to call the Chinese intervention in NoKO “imperialism”. They warned, they acted briefly and they left. That is not Imperialism…..

    Now, on to your reductio ad absurdum………..

    “Point 1: Our military is useless. It’s too expensive for us to fight long wars, and therefore we can’t win them. Ergo, we can’t beat any opponent who’s willing to keep coming.”

    Our military is not useless. It is – as you have noted – very effective in winning traditional uniformed force against uniformed force engagements. In other words, if the Soviet Bloc had tried to come rolling across Europe the US military would have been able to meet and check the agression.

    When it comes to the assessment of “cost” there are many variables that must be considered. There are direct costs, opportunity costs, offsetting benefits and other variables. Checking naked agression by Russia against Europe would be an example of a situation in which the cost of not fighting would be higher than the cost of fighting. Additionally, it is a situation where the metric for victory is obvious = Russia withdraws or is expelled from territories outside its borders. It is a cause that the bulk of the civilized world would see as noble, just and necessary. And, again, it is the type of battle the US armed forces can win. Finally, it is unlikely that such a conflict would be “long” – perhaps by comparison to VN – because it is expensive for both sides to support large techology bound forces outside of their own borders.

    This is very different than fighting non-traditional forces (e.g. geurillas) on their home turf. The metrics are very different (change their way of thinking by killing them????). The logistics are different. The rational is very different. And often, as far as the world’s support goes, these wars often smack of US imperialism.

    Anyhow, please see the so called “Powell Doctrine”. I agree with it and I think it answers your questions. The Gulf War was an excellent example of how and when to apply US military force. Also, see Powell et al’s explanation of why we did not continue into Baghdad at that time. The political answer was that it was beyond the mission. However, the other explanation offered later was that we would become bogged down in a lenghty guerilla war that would be a costly quagmire. Mind you Powell and Rumsfeld were saying this after the war and they were right.

    “Iran for example, or what Russia seems to be headed towards.”

    I don’t understand your point re; Iran. What has it done that merits military intervention? Build nuclear facilities? So what? What gives us the right to stop them from having what so many others have?

    But let’s say that Iran having a nuclear capability is a disaster that we cannot stand. Your approach to international relations would have us telling them stop or we invade. But they can fight back because this was our approach in Iraq. Iran can make much trouble for us there. Plus our forces are tied down there. But let’s say we can handle both situations – and Afghanistan – simulateously. Now our forces are really taxed. NoKo recognizes this and moves against SoKo. Maybe, just maybe we have enough reserves to deal with that too, but I doubt it. Who’s next to sieze advantage of our depleted military resources? Maybe Jihadists cause a coup d’etat in Pakistan…..and so on and so forth.

    That is why there is a distinct limit to US military force projection. And most of the world clearly recognizes our limitations based on our inability to control Iraq. How many Iraqs can we handle at once? Probably, at best, one.

    So what happens now to your big stick approach?

    As for Russia’s ambitions, given that ultimately we are both nuclear nations, do you really think that they fear the US? Barring some truly aggressive lunatics taking control of the governments of either or both countries, we are not going to fight Russia and they are not going to fight us. Rational people recognize that the costs of such a conflict are tremendous, win or lose. So no one is going to start it in the first place. We will just push and shove each other on the the margins and threats of military retaliation ring as hollow political brinkmanship.

  93. ‘That is not Imperialism…..’

    Ok, I’ll give you that one, although helping out NoKo invade SoKo may not be imperialism, it certainly wasn’t friendly behaviour (they didn’t just reclaim NoKo after all, they kept going).

    ‘I don’t understand your point re; Iran. What has it done that merits military intervention?’

    Ummm, besides conduct a guerilla war with the US in Iraq? Be the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world? Deliberately targetting and murdering hundreds of Iraqi citizens? Kidnapping British sailors? Publicly stating they will soon have nukes? Publicly stating (officially, by the government – in major speeches) that they will use them to destroy Israel and the US, even if it means the annihilation of Iran? Where the heck have you been the last year?

    ‘Your approach to international relations would have us telling them stop or we invade.’

    No, we wouldn’t necessarily need to invade. Keeping them from getting nukes could likely be accomplished with air strikes and some limited ground incursions. Or even less aggressive than that, a simple blockade, they are heavily dependant on oil revenue, the shock would be hard on us, but fatal to them.

    ‘Our military is not useless. It is – as you have noted – very effective in winning traditional uniformed force against uniformed force engagements.’

    A military that cannot protect it’s home nation is useless. And you’ve just stated we cannot ever defend ourselves against a terrorist proxy war state. All they have to do is send waves of ‘anonymous’ terrorists against us. What can we do in response then? Can’t invade them, that would be an open-ended guerilla war. Play defense and turn the country into a police state?

    By your standards we shouldn’t have invaded Afghanistan to go after Al Qaida and the Taliban. Open ended guerilla war of the worst kind. Couldn’t possibly win. I’m curious as to which form of engagement you would recommend in response to 9/11?

    ‘change their way of thinking by killing them????’

    Hint, not everyone in Afghanistan and Iraq is involved in the guerilla war. Hint, most of the fighters in Iraq are foreign born. Hint, in areas where we’ve convinced the local tribes they won’t face AQI reprisals because we’ll help protect them, they’ve joined with us and those areas are the safest areas in Iraq.

    See the progression? We kill nasty terrorists, local people see nasty terrorists getting killed, they decide maybe we can shield them from the terrorists, they join us, with their local expertise and knowledge and our firepower terrorists get stopped cold.

    I could not possible care less what people who like to set off bombs in crowded shopping malls think. I care what the people in the shopping mall think.

    ‘As for Russia’s ambitions…We will just push and shove each other on the the margins and threats of military retaliation ring as hollow political brinkmanship.’

    That’s actually what I’m afraid of. Russia pick a fight with us? No, you’re correct, they wouldn’t do that. But test our willingness to defend say, the Ukraine? Or the Baltic states? Test our resolve to protect our allies? That I can see. After all, we didn’t do anything to stop them snatching up Eastern Europe the first time, and we were comparatively much stronger then. Unless we put our foot down firmly and make it clear that won’t be tolerated, I can see that getting ugly in a hurry.

    You still haven’t responded to my main point.

    ‘So what happens now to your big stick approach?’

    I’ll try once more to make it nice and clear.

    I do not support the ‘big stick approach’.

    I merely believe the diplomacy without a stick is simply hot air.

    I believe the stick without diplomacy is tyranny.

    I like balance.

    I do not believe in taking the military option off the table. Particularly before you’ve weighed all your options. At the very least, somewhere there has to be a line your opponents know they must never cross. Certainly NEVER publicly take it off the table. Even if the opposition is 90% certain you’ll never use it, well, a little doubt goes a long way.

    I dislike diplomacy for the sake of diplomacy. I want to see a plan that doesn’t involve wishful thinking. More Nixon-China, less Carter-NoKo.

    What I, and many right wingers hate, is that the military options aren’t treated as the last resort. Nope, they are thrown out FIRST. Then, absolutely worthless diplomatic options are grandly touted as being the best course. And when we point out the diplomat has no clothes, and maybe we might try something a little more effective, out come the bloodthirsty monster speeches and the giant puppets.

    Or at least be honest, if their is nothing effective to be done, why not slice off all ties and give them the silent treatment until they come to us to reopen things (and they’d better have something to offer)?

  94. “Ummm, besides conduct a guerilla war with the US in Iraq? Be the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world? Deliberately targetting and murdering hundreds of Iraqi citizens?”

    I materially dispute this. You have no evidence other than shadowy sources (probably the same sources who brought us Ahmed Chalabi and that knew exactly where the Iraq WMD was) whose rumor is presented on FOX network.

    “Publicly stating (officially, by the government – in major speeches) that they will use them to destroy Israel and the US”

    Russian leaders – who actually possessed the wherewithall to do it – publicly stated they would annihilate the US. They’re gone now and the situation never turned into a hot war. Remember MAD????

    “Hint, most of the fighters in Iraq are foreign born”

    I materially dispute this. Most of the trouble is being caused by Iraqi born sunnis and shiites. There is only a handful of AQ types in Iraq – a couple thousand by any intelligence estimates. If you have a valid and reliable source to the contrary I’d love to see it.

    “Hint, in areas where we’ve convinced the local tribes they won’t face AQI reprisals because we’ll help protect them, they’ve joined with us and those areas are the safest areas in Iraq.”

    I materially dispute this as well. Those areas just are the least populous and happen to have the right (ie shiite) population). Many shiites won’t fight us because we are helping them kill off the sunnis so that the Iranians mullahs can have Iraq for the shiites.

    “We kill nasty terrorists, local people see nasty terrorists getting killed, they decide maybe we can shield them from the terrorists, they join us, with their local expertise and knowledge and our firepower terrorists get stopped cold.”

    That is the fantasy (I wouldn’t stoop to call it theory). It didn’t work in Vietnam, it has only partially worked in Afganistan (as even the minor success there is beginning to recede) and it certainly isn’t working in Iraq (I could go back as far as the Boer war, etc to point out the fallacy). Again, what is your source? A happy anecdote on FOX News?

    “Keeping them from getting nukes could likely be accomplished with air strikes and some limited ground incursions. Or even less aggressive than that, a simple blockade, they are heavily dependant on oil revenue, the shock would be hard on us, but fatal to them.”

    Hmmmmm…….a lot of problems with this, even by your own FOX News based thinking.

    First, one the one hand you are stating the Iran has all this power and ability to cause so much harm in Iraq and then…. you want to blackade them. Would they not use their ability to cause so much harm in Iraq as retaliation? Could they not fight back effectively in this manner? I dispute your assertion as to the level of damage they are causing to us in Iraq, but I don’t dispute that they really could pull the switch. If even a quarter of the shiite population – and that much is probably truely at risk – was called to agression against the US by their mullahs then the US would soon experience a military defeat in Iraq – and I mean military defeat (not a loss of will or any of that other stuff that FOX News like to blame for setbacks).

    Ditto for your bombing scheme. Worse, the bombing scheme may not even accomplish what it supposed to. Do we really trust our intelligence to know exactly where the key nuclear assets are? Would the Iranians really leave these in the open again? I doubt it and, if you don’t, you are making the classic fatal blunder of underestimating your opponent.

    Getting back to the blockade tactic…….you do know that China passes missile technology (which, ironically they buy from the Israelis who obtained it from us – never pass up the opportunity to make a buck) to Iran. China has oil contracts with Iran that would be disrupted by a blockade. Not only can Iran currently destroy a portion of our fleet, but China just might help them do it through enhanced technology transfer.

    You see, you may find this weird, but no one likes to be bossed around by a muscle flexing global hegemon and alliances will form to counter the hegemon’s power.

    Again, modern technology itself – like advance missile systems – serves to diminsh a goliath’s strength. I know this hurts you somehow, but the sooner you accept it the better. Even Hezbollah managed to light up an Israeli boat with their firly cruddy jerry rigged missiles.

    Finally, my response to 9/11? Kill the mutherfuckers that did it. What Iraq has to do with I haven’t a clue.

    I would have gone into Afghanistan as we did. As we rolled back the enemy with our primary reliance on the Northern alliance I would have used the time to bring our ground troops in in massive strength – like 500,000. At Tora Bora and similar places I would have positioned my overwhelming force in such a manner that we would have killed every last armed man, woman, and child. Then I would have brought the troops home.

    Even Iran and Libya backed up our effort there. We had nearly global support and we should have done it right……..but no….someone had to divert our troops to Iraq where inspectors were already proving that WMD did NOT exist.

    P.S I know you’re going to protest the FOX News references…….but hey….if it walks like a duck….

  95. I’m sitting on a slow internet connection at the moment, so I’ll come up with some sources later when I get back home.

    But a few quick points:

    ‘Russian leaders – who actually possessed the wherewithall to do it – publicly stated they would annihilate the US. They’re gone now and the situation never turned into a hot war. Remember MAD????’

    Incorrect. Both the US and the Soviets were always very careful to stress a no first use policy. And both sides deliberately created technologies to ensure that MAD would be successful, that’s what the boomers were for, no matter how good your first strike was, you couldn’t possibly get all (or even most) of their missile boats, hence it was a lost cause.

    The Soviet leadership was composed of atheistic, rationalist, chess playing strategists. This life was all they had to play with.

    By contrast the Iranians have publicly stated a first use policy (guaranteed one actually), and are led by hard line fanatics who believe dying with their enemies is the greatest goal in life. They are looking forward to glory in the afterlife.

    You see the problem with MAD here? Given the size of the pot at stake and the known suicidal proclivities of hard line Islamists, I’d rather not have to try testing to see if MAD works if it could be otherwise avoided.

    ‘Again, modern technology itself – like advance missile systems – serves to diminsh a goliath’s strength.’

    Umm, sorta correct, sorta not. Modern technology lifts all tides so to speak. The weak get stronger. The strong get stronger. We’re using the teeniest fraction of our full capabilities at the moment, whereas their using their all.

    So under the usual rules of engagement you are correct, the capability gap has narrowed. Take off the rules of engagement however, and the gap is greater than it’s ever been at any point in history. We could have killed every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan and Iraq without losing a single American. There has never been a point in history before where any nation could’ve annihilated another nation literally without a casualty.

    After Terminator 3, some of the guys around the lab found some of Skynets drones pretty nifty, so we tried slapping one together. Ended up with an RC aircraft with an IR sensor (crudely adapted from an off the shelf industrial one) and just enough brains to loiter around the area and buzz over human sized IR signatures. The next step would have been to load an explosive onto it and have it immolate the targets.

    Crude as hell, little range, slow, stupid (it was prone to attacking sunny spots, odd rock shapes, etc), but cheap and would have been easy to mass produce. If we wanted to use indiscriminate suicide bombers as the terrorists do (which we absolutely do not), we could deploy them by the millions pretty easily.

    That’s one of the things I want to avoid. At the rate things are going, it’s only a matter of time till someone pushes us to where we do take the rules of engagement off. And I really don’t want to see that.

    ‘I would have gone into Afghanistan as we did. As we rolled back the enemy with our primary reliance on the Northern alliance I would have used the time to bring our ground troops in in massive strength – like 500,000. At Tora Bora and similar places I would have positioned my overwhelming force in such a manner that we would have killed every last armed man, woman, and child. Then I would have brought the troops home.’

    Ah, your one of the biposition (ignore/overkill) isolationists. You do know that prior to the Iraq war, that would have made you a right winger? I remember in the build up to Afghanistan, all the leftists whining about making sure we didn’t do what you suggested in Afghanistan.

    For that matter, how precisely were you planning to get 500,000 troops into Afghanistan and keep them supplied? Look at a map…no water access. Surrounded by mountains with lousy road links, and most of the surrounding countries didn’t allow overflights let alone troop convoys on the ground. And the few that did (Uzbekistan) aren’t exactly easy to get to either. And, out of curiousity, would you have gone into Pakistan after them?

    I find it a bit much of a swing from the do nothing state to the vaporize them state, but I understand the logic. I think it would work nicely, short term (lousy logistical competence aside).

    Problem is, it doesn’t work against the death by a thousand cuts approach unless you’re willing to grant the same overkill response status to attacks on our allies as well. Would you be willing to blow away North Korea if they started lobbing missiles at Japan? Go to war with Russia over an invasion of Ukraine? China over Taiwan?

    If you are, I see it working long term as well. If you aren’t, well it might work as well, but it’d be ugly (I foresee the whole world militarizing very rapidly).

    I’m curious how that ties into your engagement philosophy though. What purpose does diplomacy play here, since it seems you really have nothing to offer or threaten other than to make sure the other side understands where your attack trigger points are, so they don’t cross the line?

    And how do you handle anonymous attacks? A nuke goes off in NY tomorrow. Who do you retaliate against? Everyone, no one, pick at random?

    Finally, what’s your take on actual multi-lateralism? Say the UN actually got off it’s duff and, without our active involvement, voted to intervene in say, Darfur. Do we refuse (open ended engagement not even under US command? Not Powell doctrine kosher for sure)? Accept? Other?

    ‘P.S I know you’re going to protest the FOX News references…….but hey….if it walks like a duck….’

    Serious question. I’ve been enjoying an interesting conversation regarding general foreign policy philosophies. Can I ask why you feel the need to keep inserting petty insults?

  96. “Problem is, it doesn’t work against the death by a thousand cuts approach unless you’re willing to grant the same overkill response status to attacks on our allies as well.”

    Exactly…getting us back to my original statement that 3rd gen (or guerilla forces) can defeat a military goliath like the US.

    “You see the problem with MAD here? Given the size of the pot at stake and the known suicidal proclivities of hard line Islamists, I’d rather not have to try testing to see if MAD works if it could be otherwise avoided.”

    I really don’t think that you can equate the behavior of a few suicidal nuts with the attitudes of a billion muslims who have never killed anyone, let alone exploded themselves in murder suicide. How many Iranians are suicide bombers? One, maybe two? Talk is cheap and cheap talk about destroying Israel goes a long way in that region. That’s all. Iran has been around since the beginning of time. They just might have a better sense of self-preservation than we do. There is nothing to support your allegation that they are wild cazy suicidal murderers willing to risk non-existance.

    “Would you be willing to blow away North Korea if they started lobbing missiles at Japan? Go to war with Russia over an invasion of Ukraine? China over Taiwan?”

    Why are all of these scenarios lumped together? If NoKo lobbed missiles at Japan I think that there would be a lot of support for severe retaliation and I think we’d have to do it.

    Russia/Ukraine?…let them have it.

    China/Taiwan? somewhere in between. But this won’t happan. Talk about a logistics nightmare. China doesn’t even have a Navy to speak of. Ther’s Taiwan with all sorts of very effective missile sytems and China…what? ferrying troops on tug boats to invade?????

    “Ah, your one of the biposition (ignore/overkill) isolationists.”

    No, Again, see the Powell Doctrine.

    “I’m curious how that ties into your engagement philosophy though. What purpose does diplomacy play here, since it seems you really have nothing to offer or threaten other than to make sure the other side understands where your attack trigger points are, so they don’t cross the line?”

    I think we both agree that it is important for the rest of the world to understand that a line does exist. I just draw that line at a different position than you.

    Other than that, my engagement philosophy is fairly complex and fluid/situational. It is built on some principles that are, no doubt, foreign to you.

    First off, I dispense with the notion of American exceptionalism. I further dispense with the notion that we have a right to disproportionate possession of the world’s resources. I eschew the labeling of those that disagree or think differently or find their interests in conflict with ours as “evil” – because then crusades can start and, of course, one does not negotiate with evil, etc, etc, etc. I recognize our own faults and imperial behavior and that these characteristics impact another’s perception of us and our motives when sitting down at the negotiating table. I recognize that, for the most part, we live in an ever shrinking world and that the goal of most countries is simply to ensure that their people have enough of the pie secured to get along (exceptions like NoKo noted). I recognize that a country like Iran has as much pride as we do and that insulting that pride can result in an undesired backlash that counters the goal of peace and prosperity (“axis of evil” anyone). I do not think that Israel is the 51st united state. With all of this in mind the purpose of diplomacy should be to into situations cooly, rationaly align interests in win/win arrangements; not to tell the rest of the world just how it’s going to be.

    “And how do you handle anonymous attacks? A nuke goes off in NY tomorrow. Who do you retaliate against? Everyone, no one, pick at random?”

    Well, I sure don’t go around randomly destroying nations and killing millions…..If a nuke went off in NYC the rest of the world would be there to help us uncover the plotters. No state actor – and I mean none – would abide by that sort of radical action. They could be next. Gverments, even Iran, all recognize that their ability to hold power depends on certain lines not being crossed. Anyone both serious enough and crazy enough to set off a nuke in NYC is a threat to everyone. Todat NYC, tomorrow Tehran. This is recognized. Even 9/11 caused Iran to show support for us. So, wait, discover, then focussed complete destruction.

    I really didn’t understand the question. It was weird.

    “Finally, what’s your take on actual multi-lateralism?”

    A good investment if done right (key concept = done right). I would like to see the UN fully developed into a body that fulfills its original charter effectively.

    “Can I ask why you feel the need to keep inserting petty insults?”

    I can tell by the things you assert what your media sources are. If you watch FOX and formulate your opnions based on what is presented there then why would you consider it an insult when this is pointed out? One shouldn’t do what one is ashamed of; it’s bad for mind and soul.

    “You do know that prior to the Iraq war, that would have made you a right winger?” So? When did I claim to be anything on the political spectrum? I am for freedom and I find that neither the right nor the left wants me – or you – to have it. They both want to exert equal control, but in their own special nuanced ways.

  97. “For that matter, how precisely were you planning to get 500,000 troops into Afghanistan and keep them supplied? Look at a map…no water access. Surrounded by mountains with lousy road links, and most of the surrounding countries didn’t allow overflights let alone troop convoys on the ground. And the few that did (Uzbekistan) aren’t exactly easy to get to either. And, out of curiousity, would you have gone into Pakistan after them?”

    This deserves special attention. On the one hand you talk about us being the most powerful military on the planet and using that to threaten our rivals into compliance. One the other hand you present this petty and whiney list of “obstacles” that, according to you, prevented us from killing Osama Bin Laden and allowed his forces to escape.

    So the most mighty miliatry force ever known cannot kill a few pissant ragheads because of the little issues that you present?

    Doesn’t this undermine your entire argument and make you even more pessestic tham me regarding the US military as a scary deterent?

    For the record, I disagree that the issues you present were deal killers. I am just interested in your internal contradictions at this point.

  98. avedis, sorry to be late to this but I have to say that the notion that we’d put 500,000 Coalition troops into Afghanistan and expect an outcome different than the Russians met using the same plan (and more brutality) is kind of in opposition to the historical record.

    I’ve read a fair amount of history about the area at this point, and one common characteristic seems to be that the Afghan people seem culturally predisposed to fight invaders pretty hard. Our light footprint made it clear that we weren’t invading – just taking sides in internal battles.

    So logistics aside (and if you don’t think that Iran and Iraq couldn’t have wisely spent a few tens or hundreds of milion to make our life especially miderable there – please explain why), that kind of ‘bigfoot’ invasion of Afghanistan would have been a catastrophe.

    I’ll look forward to your counterargument…

    A.L.

  99. Much less Pakistan. For anybody who thinks Iraq is a mess, putting hundreds of thousands of troops into Afghanistan and chasing AQ into Pakistan would make Iraq look like Grenada. Tora Bora was a tactical screw up of the highest order, not a strategic blunder. Dropping tens of thousands more troops into that terrain would have had them tripping all over each other and worrying more about how to secure supplies than seal off goat trails through the mountains. Thats just military fact, more isnt always better.

    Funny how people who swear up and down its impossible to secure our Mexican border (almost entirely desert and river) so often lament how simple it should have been to take down OBL and his henchmen in the most rugged terrain on earth that he had spent years fighting the Russians on.

  100. Well then you guys are making my point for me. The threat of US military might is limited to certain geographies, populations, styles of confrntation, etc.

  101. Aha. So we only fight in places where our Army is clearly set to be easily successful? So fighting conventional armies in the 3rd World is OK, fighting European wars might be, maritime wars are OK.

    Anything else we should shy away from and simply negotiate our way out of, is that right?

    A.L.

  102. Avedis, I think you really don’t have a handle on the military history and terminology you are discussing. Even successful guerilla forces do not “defeat” their opponent conventional military forces, they just avoid defeat themselves until the political will to fight them evaporates. None of them have or could defeat their opponents, that’s the whole reason that such tactics are employed.

    Hezbollah did not defeat the IDF in any sense. What they did do was avoid annihilation themselves and arguably prevent Israel from achieving its political goals in the conflict – arguable because Israel did not seem to have a concrete set of political goals. Meanwhile, you seem to be doing nothing here but echoing Hezbollah’s propaganda line.

    I don’t think you really understand the differences between guerrilla / insurgent campaigns and the Vietnam War which was something else entirely in terms of military operations. And so your knowledge of what tactics worked there, and which did not, is simply wrong.

    As Treefog points out, you do not seem to understand China’s history of several millenia of imperialism of which the 18th and 19th centuries were merely a brief interruption. China’s history of intervening against its neighbors is very long throughout its history, and in the last century includes not merely the Korean conflict but even a large border skirmish with Vietnam. China has long been preparing for its conflict with Taiwan, a conflict that Chinese leaders believe is inevitable.

    The idea that the US was going to put a half million man force into Afghanistan is simply a bizarre fantasy. It could not be done logistically, and was simply bad strategy as A.L. points out.

    What you don’t understand is that guerrilla wars are not the undefeatable strategy you envision, they are at bottom a war that a competent military can always win in a military sense, and a weak nation can always lose in a political sense.

  103. The other thing to point out is that guerilla forces rarely ‘win’ either, even in a pyrriac sense. The VC were so badly mauled by Tet they were a nonfactor the rest of the way, it was NVA regular troops that conquered SC and former VC had no place at the table. Castro is rather the exception than the rule.

    There is no long term victory condition for AQ/Taliban style government. These people are dead enders that make the Communists look like they are in it for the long haul. Even the most backward of cultures rebel at their bloody reign of Orwellian fascism. If anything this Taliban style is similar to the French Revolution or the Golden Horde- it eats its own and has a limited shelf life. Either they start selling something somebody is buying or they wont last long.

    That would be well and good if they werent intent on killing as many of us as possible along the way, particularly with nuclear weapons in the offing.

  104. ‘I really don’t think that you can equate the behavior of a few suicidal nuts with the attitudes of a billion muslims who have never killed anyone, let alone exploded themselves in murder suicide. How many Iranians are suicide bombers? One, maybe two? Talk is cheap and cheap talk about destroying Israel goes a long way in that region.’

    I don’t, but these few suicidal nuts seem to be in charge of Iran. You’re trying to have your cake and eat it too. You say on the one hand that we can trust Iran with nuclear weapons while simultaneously saying that the leadership of Iran is composed of rabble rousing crowd pleasers promising their people the annihilation of Israel and the deaths of millions of Jews, in public speeches, knowing that the (also nuclear armed) Israelis are listening and essentially must take them seriously, but that they don’t really mean it.

    That’s better than nukes in the hands of die-hard fanatics I suppose…

    ‘Why are all of these scenarios lumped together?’
    ‘I really didn’t understand the question. It was weird.’
    ‘For the record, I disagree that the issues you present were deal killers.’

    Sorry, those weren’t intended to be counter arguments of any kind, they were exploratory questions. I’m feeling out your philosophy is all.

    You expressed a philosophy of essentially non-intervention (except under multinational auspices…which in practice works out to be non-intervention) except when directly attacked, at which point we respond in an aggressive (albeit limited, meaning no nation-building) manner.

    When I said death by a thousand cuts, I wasn’t referring to guerilla warfare, I was referring to a strategy where an opponent doesn’t attack us directly, but instead gobbles up their weaker neighbors one at a time and strikes at our allies instead of directly at us, slowly strengthening until they become a serious problem. Similar to how the Soviets took over eastern europe and tried to do it in central asia (Afghanistan) and other places. Hence the questions about responses, under your model, to various scenarios.

    I interpret your answer to the question of whether our allies get the same umbrella we get as: not really. Tell me if i misread.

    NoKo attacks Japan. We intervene if there is strong feeling that we should.
    Russia attacks Ukraine. No intervention.
    China attacks Taiwan. No stated opinion (somewhere in the middle?).

    By the way the Chinese couldn’t straight invade Taiwan no, but if they got air superiority and had time to soften up the defenses, then they could invade all right. Current strategic thinking is that it couldn’t happen because before they would have had time to beat down the Taiwanese air defenses, US reinforcements would arrive.

    I believe however, that you just sent the signal to China that you may not consider defending Taiwan to be a US interest, and thus we might not intervene. Hence a Chinese invasion of Taiwan just got upgraded from futile to possible (not saying they would, but it just got ambiguous).

    ‘Other than that, my engagement philosophy is fairly complex and fluid/situational.’

    A reasonable answer.

    ‘It is built on some principles that are, no doubt, foreign to you.’

    sigh…

    ‘If a nuke went off in NYC the rest of the world would be there to help us uncover the plotters.’
    ‘So, wait, discover, then focussed complete destruction.’

    And if the actor responsible was a terrorist group (who doesn’t claim responsibility, even denies it), everyone denies having lost any weapons? Especially given that the Islamic world is still, for the most part, blaming either Israel or the US for 9/11? And AQ TOOK responsibility for that one even…

    To be fair, I don’t have a good answer for that one either (don’t think anyone does). Just curious for your take on it.

    ‘On the one hand you talk about us being the most powerful military on the planet and using that to threaten our rivals into compliance. One the other hand you present this petty and whiney list of “obstacles” that, according to you, prevented us from killing Osama Bin Laden and allowed his forces to escape.’

    I don’t see why pointing out that we could have killed everyone in Afghanistan and that we couldn’t support an airlift logistical operation to move a half-million personnel into some of the worst terrain in the world are contradictory. Nukes don’t exactly use C-5s… I was just pointing out that we are the most powerful nation in the world, but a good chunk of that power is wasted as sheer overkill (and I’m quite happy with that, thank you very much).

    ‘I can tell by the things you assert what your media sources are. If you watch FOX and formulate your opnions based on what is presented there then why would you consider it an insult when this is pointed out? One shouldn’t do what one is ashamed of; it’s bad for mind and soul.’

    I haven’t pulled my news from mainstream sources for quite a while. My sourcing on my statements for Iraq are my direct readings of the statements and press conference transcripts direct from the military (about killing Iranian agents assisting insurgent forces for example) and from direct reporting. The points I made there were drawn largely from my reading of Mr. Totten’s excellent reporting from Iraq. Particularly the sections about the US being able to turn around sections of Iraq by allying with tribal leaders against AQI forces (and not in isolated, sparsely populated areas either). He just ran a series of reports about just that subject, you should wander over to his site and read them, good stuff. I’ll try and get you some specifics if you still want them when I get back home tomorrow.

    ‘With all of this in mind the purpose of diplomacy should be to into situations cooly, rationaly align interests in win/win arrangements; not to tell the rest of the world just how it’s going to be.’

    Rationally align interests in a win/win arrangement? Nice boiler plate mission statement there (kind of like a corporate one I saw a while back which, in admittedly more flowery wording, stated that they intended to make money by selling stuff to people), but it doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s like every pre-game sports interview I’ve ever seen.

    ‘Coach, how are you going to win against your opponent?’

    ‘We intend to play better than they do.’

    Um, well, yes, but the devil is in the details.

    How are you going to align interests with a party that has different interests from us? Are you realigning our interests or theirs? Diplomacy really only has three options available: give, exchange, threaten. These can be combined of course, they aren’t mutually exclusive. Our recent give based diplomacy doesn’t exactly have a flawless track record. You don’t like threats. And I haven’t seen anyone come up with any plausible exchange scenarios (China being the exception).

    You accuse me of wanting to go around threatening everyone into doing what we want, in spite of my clear statements that I believe no such thing. Yet you then enumerate a policy that relies upon the clear use of overwhelming military force to ensure national safety, and the inherent threat of that force to deter threat.

    So obviously you don’t have a problem with threatening our opponents when it’s in what you consider to be the national best interest. So you’re entire disagreement with me, is simply a matter of degree in what is considered the national best interest and where threat begins, is it not?

    You consider me to be overaggressive and I think you’re ignoring problems better dealt with whilst still small. That seems to be something that could be discussed rationally on a case by case basis.

    Heaven forfend that I simply weighted my costs and benefits, assigned slightly different possibilities, and read motives a bit different and hence drew different conclusions than you did.

    Apparently that’s not possible, I must’ve been brainwashed by watching the evil Fox news and drinking the Fox kool-aid.

    If you want to have rational discourses with other people, may I recommend you don’t accuse them of intellectual dishonesty (or idiocy). Respect given is respect earned after all.

    Wait, someone in this very thread stated it nicely:

    ‘I eschew the labeling of those that disagree or think differently or find their interests in conflict with ours as “evil”‘

    Some guy named avedis said that, you might want to try paying attention to him.

    By the way, I entirely agree with the statement above. I reserve my labeling of evil to those who blow up the civilians they are supposedly fighting for. For those who lock little girls in a burning building because they aren’t ‘appropriately attired’. For those who stick steel cables through humans so they can treat them like livestock.

  105. ‘I was just pointing out that we are the most powerful nation in the world, but a good chunk of that power is wasted as sheer overkill (and I’m quite happy with that, thank you very much).’

    I feel a need to expand on this.

    I was responding to your specific point that technology has allowed the little guys to compete more equally with the big guys.

    I think this is a classic assumption error that often gets people in trouble.

    The limits to AQ’s power is their capabilities. If they want to increase their power they must increase their capabilities. And that’s long, hard, slow work. What they have now is essentially what’s fallen into their laps, they neither understand it nor earned it. As such they can’t really expand on it.

    On the other hand, the limit to our power isn’t our capability, it’s our will. We have power we do not use because we choose not to use it.

    And I’m not just talking nukes either.

    After the third terminator flick, a bunch of guys around the office, well, we thought the skynet drones (the primitive early ones) were kinda neat, and we were curious if we could slap something similar together.

    One of the engineers was a big R/C aircraft fan, so we took an old frame and engine, slapped a computer on it, GPS, and a FLIR system hastily rigged out of an industrial infrared sensor set (designed for something else entirely).

    We put just enough logic on it so that it would fly around a geo-pen zone semi-randomly, looking for human sized infrared bright spots, it would then circle those spots like a buzzard.

    The next step would have been to strap a bomb to the thing and have it crash into the centroid of said infra-red spot, a Western suicide bomber.

    It was slow, clumsy, horribly myopic, didn’t carry much of a payload and had a rather short range. It was also prone to ‘attacking’ not just people, but a deer that wandered by, a funny shaped rock, and some random sun patterns.

    It was also cheap as dirt. The process engineering guys thought that we could probably mass produce them in lot sizes of a million or so for a couple hundred a piece. And a plant the size of an auto assembly plant could turn the things out in those kinds of numbers easily.

    With those kinds of numbers it wouldn’t matter if they fall for decoys and random spots on the ground, they’d blow away everything. Literally everything: men, women, children, large mammals, decoys, rocks, and all. And no American soldier would be in harms way (unless they were standing in the target zone of course).

    Did we immediately get on the horn to the Pentagon and start the sales pitch? Of course not, they’d never be interested in a weapon that indiscriminately targets everything.

    Our limitations are based on will not capability.

    The Japanese made that exact mistake in WW2. They based their strategy on their perceptions of our power based upon what capability we had been willing to use (tiny military, policy of isolationism). But they overplayed their hand and discovered a simple truth: capability is hard to build and takes time and effort, will requires but a blink of an eye to change.

    I’m afraid of who out there is making that same mistake, basing our capabilities on what we’ve shown to be willing to use, not what we’re actually capable of. I’m afraid they’ll overplay and push us into changing our will. Given what our actual capabilities are, that isn’t a pleasant thought.

  106. avedis – I missed the “if the nuke went off” comment above.

    I have to tell you that substantial parts of the world wouldn’t even bother to look sad for TV.

    The fact that we’ve let ourselves become viewed with such hatred and contempt worldwide is a disaster, and something we need to fix.

    Giving our stuff away in a giant Potlach isn’t really going to help all that much…

    A.L.

  107. “Anything else we should shy away from and simply negotiate our way out of, is that right?”

    Even as kids in the neighborhood we learned to not start a fight we couldn’t finish. So yeah. That’s reality. Again, see Powell doctrine. Sorry you don’t like this. Responsible leaders leaders don’t commit their countries to war on points of honor alone. If you want to risk your personal life in a dual, that’s your choice. It’s not the way nations should be run.

    “I think you really don’t have a handle on the military history and terminology…Even successful guerilla forces do not “defeat” their opponent conventional military forces, they just avoid defeat themselves until the political will to fight them evaporates. None of them have or could defeat their opponents, that’s the whole reason that such tactics are employed.”

    Sorry, it is you that lack the handle. Don’t get lost in semantics and narrow definitions. Who ever is left standing on the objective at the end of the fight is the victor. That’s simple and all there is to it. Doesn’t matter how that party managed to be the last standing, just that they were. Again, 3rd gen warfare (as apparently it is called today – just plain warfare to me).

    “The other thing to point out is that guerilla forces rarely ‘win’ either, even in a pyrriac sense.”

    Please see above comment by me.

    “Hezbollah did not defeat the IDF in any sense. What they did do was avoid annihilation”

    Please see above comment by me

    “… I don’t, but these few suicidal nuts seem to be in charge of Iran….”

    There are rumblings that the Iranians are going to dump these guys themselves. What makes you think that even a “democratic” Iran wouldn’t pursue nuclear capablities and/or continue to despise Israel?

    “When I said death by a thousand cuts, I wasn’t referring to guerilla warfare, I was referring to a strategy where an opponent doesn’t attack us directly, but instead gobbles up their weaker neighbors one at a time and strikes at our allies instead of directly at us, slowly strengthening until they become a serious problem. ”

    Yawn…domino theory,,,yawn……….Do you seriously think that a buch of dumb ass lunatics like AQ is going to take over anything other than a backwater nothing country like Afghanistan? Even Iraq will expell/kill them after they outlive their usefullness.

    “And if the actor responsible was a terrorist group (who doesn’t claim responsibility, even denies it), everyone denies having lost any weapons? Especially given that the Islamic world is still, for the most part, blaming either Israel or the US for 9/11? And AQ TOOK responsibility for that one even…”

    But that’s not what happened. Again, even Iran supported and aided us in taking the fight to AQ and the Taliban in Afghanistan. So you are trying to either revise history or erect straw men.

    “NoKo attacks Japan. We intervene if there is strong feeling that we should.”

    Not an *if*. No need to worry. There would be a strong feeling that we should.

    ” you’re entire disagreement with me, is simply a matter of degree in what is considered the national best interest and where threat begins, is it not?”

    Yes. that’s true. But the difference, though seemingly small, is actually very important.

    “That seems to be something that could be discussed rationally on a case by case basis.”

    That’s it. We agree there 100%!

    “By the way, I entirely agree with the statement above. I reserve my labeling of evil to those who blow up the civilians they are supposedly fighting for. For those who lock little girls in a burning building because they aren’t ‘appropriately attired’. For those who stick steel cables through humans so they can treat them like livestock.”

    All nations do or have done this including the United States. Do you think that France or England or Imperial Russia should have termntaed diplomatic ties and invaded us circa 1860 for our treatment of Native Americans and Africam American slaves?!!?!? Was the US, circa 1860, “evil”?

    Should we have been justifiably invaded by Russia because of atrocities in Vietnam or of US atrocities in Iraq??!!?!?

    And no, my point is not to cut down the US. Think about it.

    “We put just enough logic on it so that it would fly around a geo-pen zone semi-randomly, looking for human sized infrared bright spots, it would then circle those spots like a buzzard.

    The next step would have been to strap a bomb to the thing and have it crash…..a Western suicide bomber.”

    Ha ha ha…you weren’t the designer of the Osprey were you?

  108. ‘There are rumblings that the Iranians are going to dump these guys themselves. What makes you think that even a “democratic” Iran wouldn’t pursue nuclear capablities and/or continue to despise Israel?’

    Well, you’ve talked me into letting the Iranians get nukes…

    ‘Yawn…domino theory,,,yawn……….Do you seriously think that a buch of dumb ass lunatics like AQ is going to take over anything other than a backwater nothing country like Afghanistan? Even Iraq will expell/kill them after they outlive their usefullness.’

    ‘But that’s not what happened. Again, even Iran supported and aided us in taking the fight to AQ and the Taliban in Afghanistan. So you are trying to either revise history or erect straw men.’

    Dodges. I’m not revising history or erecting straw men, I’m proposing theoretical case conditions and asking how exactly your proposed system would handle them. If you want people to buy into your system, they should get to know how it works, shouldn’t they?

    Specifically, you don’t like involving yourself in minor affairs around the world because of the ‘lead foot factor’. Fair enough. But I don’t believe my asking what happens when some of those little problems cease being little is irrelevant, because it will almost certainly happen.

    Those ‘dumb ass lunatics’ killed 3,000 americans based out of a backwater nothing country. Iraq has the ability to manufacture chemical weapons. Iran is coming up on nukes.

    I wanted to see how your system handled 1) an aggressive Imperialist state snatching up territory whenever opportunity presented and 2) the threat from non-nationally alligned ideological groups.

    If your foreign policy has no answer to either, I’m afraid I can’t rate it very highly.

    ‘”NoKo attacks Japan. We intervene if there is strong feeling that we should.”

    Not an if. No need to worry. There would be a strong feeling that we should.’

    Sorry, the if is still there. Even if the conditional clause is always met, there is still a conditional clause.

    ‘All nations do or have done this including the United States. Do you think that France or England or Imperial Russia should have termntaed diplomatic ties and invaded us circa 1860 for our treatment of Native Americans and Africam American slaves?!!?!? Was the US, circa 1860, “evil”?’

    Yes, for practicing slavery the US was indeed evil. Seems the Americans (or a good chunk of them) at the time agreed with me as well. You may recall the Civil War, in which hundreds of thousands of Americans died to purge that evil?

    ‘Should we have been justifiably invaded by Russia because of atrocities in Vietnam or of US atrocities in Iraq??!!?!?’

    You are stating that what atrocities occurred were deliberate policy and inherent to the nature of the United States and occurred by deliberate intent? Not as violations of the rules, policies, and ideology of the US and punished as found? How interesting.

    ‘And no, my point is not to cut down the US. Think about it.’

    No your point excuses evil everywhere by lumping the result of accident and actions of isolated malice working against the rules and intentions of their larger groupings together with the deliberate actions of those who specifically intend their evil.

    By those standards, if I lose my balance and fall into someone in a crowd, that’s the same as assault. A group of people where one person loses their temper and hits someone whereupon the rest of the group subdues him becomes identical to a gang of thugs beating up random people on the street.

    Moral equivalence is the ultimate defense of evil. Either justify or condemn those actions on their own grounds.

  109. And that is precisely why us ‘conservatives’ never trust the people who say they want to ‘engage’ evil regimes. After a bit of drilling down, it is never that they want to use diplomatic leverage to push the regimes to a less evil state. They never seem to say, well, yes, those guys are evil bastards, but unfortunately nothing we can do will really help.

    It always seems to become, well, they aren’t evil really. Sure they torture and murder any of their citizens who they disagree with. Sure they threaten to murder millions because they hate a specific racial group. Sure they are busy committing ethnic genocide. But hey, we once enslaved blacks and moved Native Americans onto reservations a hundred years ago. And the conclusion from that isn’t that all of the above are evil and need to stop. No, the conclusion is that everyone is evil, therefore no one is, and we just need to shrug our shoulders, assume the proper cynical air, and ignore it all.

    The September Concert Series at Theresienstadt indeed…the circle of this thread is complete.

  110. #119 from Treefrog: “The September Concert Series at Theresienstadt indeed…the circle of this thread is complete.”

    Yes it is.

  111. TF,

    All I am trying to do is provide a sense of perspective. Yes, all people and all nations are capable of – and commit – evil at periods of their existance. It is not realistic to break of diplomacy and to wage war against them all just because we deem them morally inferior.

    Again, if you want to make your personal life a crusade against what you perceive to be evil, if you want to live by the code of duello, if you want to fight on points of honor and morality – then that should be your personal choice.

    But these things should not be the driving force in foreign policy decision making for a nation. In fact, to your comment about what “conservatives” think, the same people in office today were are very much realists (like me). Their rhetoric about “evil” is just so much convenient manipulation of people like you. Remember the picture of a smiling Don Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam during the Iraq/Iran war (and the period of Anfal)? Remember Iran/Contra? And a whole bunch of involvement with oppressive death squad weilding regimes in Latin America?

    No US government – no government anywhere at any time – has lived by the moral standards you set here. In the real world it just won’t work.

    And another thing, can evil be purged through evil? We elected to invade Iraq and turn the place into bloody turmoil. It’s not working out. Iraqis are dying every day. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?

    “Sorry, the *if* is still there. Even if the conditional clause is always met, there is still a conditional clause.”

    My final comment refers back to something you said. There aint no utopia. Yes, the conditional is always there. The risk is always there. There are no absolutes and there are no gauruntees. That’s life, friend. You figure the odds the best you can, calculate the costs and benefits and then roll the dice and hope they don’t come up snake eyes. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something (a utopian dream).

  112. bq. Sure they are busy committing ethnic genocide. But hey, we once enslaved blacks and moved Native Americans onto reservations a hundred years ago…

    I find that this kind of conversation rarely happens when people are seriously discussing approaches to oppressive regimes. Most often, it comes up when the dialogue has already slipped into meta-arguments about motivations, demonization, hypocrisy, etc. When it gets down to brass tacks, the ‘We Did it Too’ argument is rarely used to argue against _pressure to change_ but often used to argue against _our culture’s habit of demonizing The Bad Guys_.

    Spending our energy working for positive change is awesome, spending our energy demonizing the other guys when similar skeletons lie in our own closet is a recipe for disaster. Those who raise the issue need to articulate the point more carefully, and those on the ‘receiving’ end need to acknowledge that doing the right thing needs to be articulated on its own merits, without the ‘white hat/black hat’ soapboxing.

  113. ‘”Sorry, the if is still there. Even if the conditional clause is always met, there is still a conditional clause.”

    My final comment refers back to something you said. There aint no utopia. Yes, the conditional is always there.’

    Except that response was given in specific reply to a hypothetical attack on an ally (one of our best) with whom we have actual signed comprehensive defense treaties. But you’ll only honor those treaties if we strongly feel like it. (But don’t worry, we’ll always strongly feel like it! How reassuring…)

    You want us to engage our enemies, but will not honor our commitments to our friends? What makes you think our enemies are going to pay attention to us if we aren’t even honest with our friends and allies?

    But I guess honor and morality are just some silly obsolete concepts hung onto by gullible fools?

    ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?’

    That’s traditionally a warning to be humble and to be sure one’s results line up with one’s original purpose. When did it turn into an excuse to be blind?

    It’s not that we should be more careful in being a force for good, it’s not that sometimes we must let others solve their own problems, it’s not that we should pick our causes carefully.

    Instead it’s:

    ‘No US government – no government anywhere at any time – has lived by the moral standards you set here. In the real world it just won’t work.’

    You’ve turned hope into a vice. Morality into a creed for the gullible. Honor into a waste of time.

    Kind of a shame too, I rather liked the gist of your foreign policy. I’ve always liked the more stand offish policies. Our current more meddle friendly approach has always had 2 big weaknesses, a tendency toward lead foot syndrome, and a fostering of dependence upon US power.

    It has weaknesses though that I believe cripple it, and I was curious to see if you had clever ideas.

    But apparently your answer to this question form of this statement,

    ‘But these things should not be the driving force in foreign policy decision making for a nation.’

    is simply indifference. The chief goal of our foreign policy according to you is to make the world go away? If we acknowledge the evil we see out there, well, gullible idiots like me might want to do something about it?

    Ah, hence the insistence on engagement. It allows one to hang a ‘doing something’ sign on a situation.

  114. Jeff,

    Yeah you only see the EXPLICIT statement of this philosophy in meta arguments because that’s the meta argument in defense of the philosophy.

    In practice what you see is what I call the ennui defense.

    Which works out to one or more of:

    Sure they’re doing naughty things, but we’re just as bad.
    (North Koreans murdering thousands in death camps? Look GUANTANAMO!)

    Okay it’s bad, but there’s nothing we can do.
    (A statement not a question. It’s never that they don’t have an option that would be helpful and are accepting ideas, it’s just blind denial that anything could ever be done.)

    It’s their problem to fix.
    (Blame the victim approach. If the North Koreans really didn’t like being starved and murdered they’d do something about their government.)

    or my favorite

    If we’re nicer to them they’ll stop.
    (The universe as kindergarten theory. Iran is threatening to start a nuclear war in the mid-east because someone hurt their feelings apparently…)

    Or variations on the same theme.

    You can boil them all down to: we can’t be bothered and we don’t care.

    Even the moral equivalence is just a mask. You can tell because it’s never EVER applied to domestic issues/opponents. They never get the benefit of the doubt, credit for good intentions, or even a ‘good try, but it didn’t work’. Nope, those get the straight up evil moniker without the scare quotes. And their face photoshopped onto Darth Vader.

    The 90’s were the golden age not because the world was a better place, but because the world didn’t remind people that it’s not all happy people singing ‘It’s a small world’. No need to invent defenses against guilt.

  115. TF – I’ll disagree here a bit. I think Jeff is making the same point I make when I say that the West isn’t at war with Islam…yet.

    And that starting out by suggesting that the other side is irremediably evil means that your answer – total war – is contained in your axioms.

    All (as an example) Islamic societies – including the Palestinian one – have a mixture of deep problems, evil actors and venal ones, and misguided beliefs. Along with a functioning daily life, decent people who want to raise their kids into good adults, and core values that actually could be used to build a constructive society.

    Reality is complex that way.

    Yes, I think we’re better than they are, and I’m happy to be on this side.

    But I’m not ready – and don’t want our society to be ready – to step over the line that targets the Other as irremediable. Part of the remedy may involve targeting and killing the Bad Guys. But I want to push back the decision to “write them off” as far as I humanly can. So should you…

    A.L.

  116. AL nails it; I agree that anyone who plays the total equivalence card is in dangerous (and irresponsible) territory. It’s the stamping of ‘MUST BE DESTROYED’ on any group that I think requires a much higher level of measurable evil than some are willing to use today.

    One other slice of this pie is when we use ‘anyone who does X is a bad guy’ logic, but ignore very recent instances of our own decisions to do the same. It might that kind of argument destroys the moral legitimacy and high ground that our nation has held since the WWII era.

    There are a LOT of angles to this, and every time I try to explain, it gets a bit thornier. I’ll just say that I agree on the essential point: moral equivalency arguments are a lazy way to avoid engaging with dangerous/abusive parties.

  117. ‘And that starting out by suggesting that the other side is irremediably evil means that your answer – total war – is contained in your axioms.’

    I agree wholeheartedly as well. Guess I wasn’t quite clear. I was phrasing the question in terms of political scope (since we’re dealing with foreign policy here) instead of social/cultural scope.

    I draw a definite line between declaring a nation or people evil and declaring the actions and even nature of their government as evil. You’re correct if you declare a people or nation as a whole to be evil, than total war is essentially built in, it’s them or us.

    If you declare the government to be evil, then your long term goal is simply the destruction of the government, and total war is the end of a spectrum of choices, and definitely the last card you play. You can also try reforming the government, collapsing the government internally, replacing the government internally, or lastly knocking the government down yourself. If none of those are plausible/realistic you can try to treat the symptoms instead of the cause by placing heavy external costs on the nasty behaviors.

    The model I was thinking of here was the way Reagan handled the Soviets. He didn’t exactly make shy about labeling them the ‘Evil Empire’, which I remember got him a lot of the same kind of flak we get now. He raised the heat dial on the economic part of the cold war, made it clear any aggressive moves would be aggressively countered, publicly condemned their objectionable behavior, but also made a very clear diplomatic door known to them through which, if they were willing to reform, that they could end the entire conflict if they so desired. Which they eventually took us up on.

    Basically he gave them three choices:

    1) Give up, reform yourselves into something respectable.
    2) A losing total war, you can attack us, but you won’t win.
    3) Increasingly irrelevant status quo, you can sit on things as you are, but we’ll leave you in the dust, continuously point out how ugly you are, and generally make your banality obvious.

    I believe they tried 3 for a bit, then settled for 1.

    I still think that’s the perfect model for a situation that should not be ignored, but cannot be solved via straight diplomatic pressure and the military costs would be too high.

    Basically the contain, squeeze and wait for them to die model.

    Democracies have notoriously short attention spans. If we don’t keep reminding people why we’re containing and squeezing, people tend to take their eye off the ball. That’s why I think truth in advertising is important.

    Why I’m hesitant to accept engagement is that the first thing they always want to negotiate is a breach in the containment, to let the accumulated pressure that’s threatening them out, and we keep giving that away in exchange for some hazy promises. See Korea, North and Carter, Jimmy.

  118. I think the dilemna we are running into is this- at what point are the people of a nation collectively responsible for their government, even in a fascist state? I’m not talking about collective punishment by any means, but it seems to me we have come to a political philosophy in the West where civilian casualties (and even military- Highway of Death?) become an absolute limit to action. There’s no hard and fast rule of where the limit is, of course, but that might actually make it worse because of the drip drip drip.

    Personally i would argue that even the _inconveniencing_ of civilians has become a deal breaker, if you can call infastructure and economic assets convenience items.

    We have the power to set a nation like Iran back to the virtual stone age while minimizing civilian casualties altogether. We could wreck their oil infastructure if we so chose, instead of taking on their military or nuclear research assets. We could _compel_ compliance. But we wont, A. because we want the oil on the market, but B. because for some reason world opinion takes a dimmer view of that than dropping precision guided missiles into the middle of cities trying to guess where a dictator is hiding.

    I dont think it would work instantly (people rally around the flag), but over weeks and months and years if necessary, people want electricity more than nuclear weapons.

  119. TF, you have so distorted what I said that I am impelled to reply again.

    “‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?’

    That’s traditionally a warning to be humble and to be sure one’s results line up with one’s original purpose.”

    Right. So? Seeing (not being “blind”) is not necessarily a lead-in to action.

    To sum, my approach is not one of indifference. Nor is it one of moral equivalence (and yes, AL nails it as far as what I was getting at concerning “evil”). My approach is one that attempts to be as practical and calculating as possible – which, to my mind is a far more responsible and ultimately successful one than your tilting at windmills and reliance on hope. This is somewhat analogous to someone (me) who prepares for his family’s future by working hard, exercising self-control and foregoing risky and costly whims, saving and investing intelligently versus the gambler (you) who goes to Vegas with his monthly earnings believing – hoping – that he’ll hit the jackpot.

    Hope is not a strategy for success. It may be a characteristic that that allows one to continue on a wisely calculated course when the chips are down, but it is not enough in and of itself.

    Also, I never said that we should turn our backs on our allies. First we should carefully chose our friends. Then we should make it known to our friends that our pact is not unconditional – meaning that if they fail to perform to certain standards or transgress in ways that are unjust and/or constantly making unnecessary trouble for us, then our relationship is over. And yes, this includes Israel; since I think that may be what you were getting at.

    Otherwise, decent strategic friends whose friendship is more of a benefit than a cost and who treat us like back like respectful friends should always be defended. That is simply good business, all ethics aside.

    “If the North Koreans really didn’t like being starved and murdered they’d do something about their government….”

    I wouldn’t entirely write this philosophy off. There is some merit to it, with obvious caveats.

  120. ‘I think the dilemna we are running into is this- at what point are the people of a nation collectively responsible for their government, even in a fascist state?’

    Good question. Let me toss out this response, how about ‘If, hypothetically, we destroyed their current government and eliminate the proximate cause of that governments creation, would they replace the government with another equivalent one, or would they create a better one?’

    And the explanation for that ‘proximate cause’ bit would be along the lines of Japan. When we rebuilt the Japanese government we deliberately, by means of land redistribution, broke the power of the ruling clan system that had generated the previous government. If aliens kidnapped the entire Japanese government tomorrow we’d have a new democratic, freedom loving government shortly thereafter. It might be organized a bit differently, but the spirit would be the same.

    If they beamed away the North Korean government we might end up with chaos, but I don’t think we’d get lil Kim Mk 2. I think if they nabbed the Iranian government we’d also end up with a far more moderate replacement, though probably not as moderate as we’d like.

    The Palestinians though are probably beyond retrieval.

    It’s a bit more ambiguous than I’d like, but I think it’s in the ballpark.

  121. ‘To sum, my approach is not one of indifference. Nor is it one of moral equivalence (and yes, AL nails it as far as what I was getting at concerning “evil”).’

    Okay, then what the heck was this about then?

    ‘All I am trying to do is provide a sense of perspective. Yes, all people and all nations are capable of – and commit – evil at periods of their existance. It is not realistic to break of diplomacy and to wage war against them all just because we deem them morally inferior.

    Again, if you want to make your personal life a crusade against what you perceive to be evil, if you want to live by the code of duello, if you want to fight on points of honor and morality – then that should be your personal choice.

    But these things should not be the driving force in foreign policy decision making for a nation.

    And another thing, can evil be purged through evil?’

    Top to bottom there that reads:

    Point A) Everyone’s evil, it shouldn’t be an issue.
    Point B) Wanting to do something about it is some weird lifestyle choice, please don’t inflict it on me.
    Point C) Foreign policy shouldn’t be concerned with making the world a better place.
    Point D) Action is pointless anyway.

    ‘My approach is one that attempts to be as practical and calculating as possible – which, to my mind is a far more responsible and ultimately successful one than your tilting at windmills and reliance on hope.’

    Have you read Don Quixote? I’m not sure that’s the metaphor you wanted to invoke there…

    ‘This is somewhat analogous to someone (me) who prepares for his family’s future by working hard, exercising self-control and foregoing risky and costly whims, saving and investing intelligently versus the gambler (you) who goes to Vegas with his monthly earnings believing – hoping – that he’ll hit the jackpot.’

    What are you investing in? You aren’t doing anything at all. You’re the man who buries his coin out in the field and proudly presents it back boasting about how you kept it safe.

    Investment is the intelligent application of risk, venturing capital in exchange for future benefits.

    Beating down the Nazi’s and engaging in the Marshall plan was an investment.

    Crushing Japan and rebuilding the government there was an investment.

    Collapsing the Soviet Union was an investment.

    Invading Iraq and rebuilding the government there is an investment.

    Some work out, others do not, but I believe that the wise use of US capital and resources to intervene, to make the world a better place, will pay dividends for a very long time. When was the last time Europe went 50 years without a war? Don’t need to use force either, some economic expenditures and clever diplomacy moved China from it’s Cultural revolution tyranny to it’s current half moderate/half tyranny mix. More pressure might move them all the way to moderate. We’ve also managed to move India from being a socialistic Soviet leaning client to an increasingly democratic/free market friend.

    I’m confused, if you simply want a more conservative risk/reward ratio before you’re willing to invest in foreign adventurism, than why bring up the moral equivalence arguments? Why the bogus evil can’t solve evil cliches? Why equate a constructive foreign policy with gambling at Vegas (where the odds are permanently rigged against you)?

    If you build in an assumption that all attempts to be helpful are guaranteed losing propositions, how precisely is your resulting policy NOT going to be one of indifference, strongly tinged with despair.

    ‘Also, I never said that we should turn our backs on our allies.’

    You put a conditional on our observance of a defense treaty, effectively negating the benefit of the treaty. When I pointed that out, you defended the conditional, so I’m assuming it wasn’t simply misphrased. If your ambiguous towards large important allies like Japan, what’s poor little Lithuania supposed to think?

    ‘And yes, this includes Israel; since I think that may be what you were getting at.’

    No, I’m leaving Israel entirely out of this, since it always seems to attract the weirdos.

    ‘Otherwise, decent strategic friends whose friendship is more of a benefit than a cost’

    Unless they have something to offer, you’re not interested in other words. Not something I necessarily disagree with mind, but judgments based on self interested economy are the coldest most indifferent possible.

    So, you’re foreign policy is not based on indifference and inaction except in the event of direct attack. But all actions taken to improve the world are ’tilting at windmills’, moral folly doomed to failure.

    You state that you are not indifferent to the world. You want us to be smarter in our foreign investments. Then immediately claim all foreign investments to be de facto folly. You are correct, that is not indifference, that is cynicism so crippling it has lead to despair. You should try this hope stuff, tilting at windmills may look silly, but it is a lot of fun. And you’d be surprised how often it actually works.

  122. This thread seems to be officially a free ramble now, with even the thread owner Armed Liberal not wanting to get things back on topic when he posted.

    So – away we go.

    bq. #131 from Treefrog: ‘And yes, this includes Israel; since I think that may be what you were getting at.’

    bq. No, I’m leaving Israel entirely out of this, since it always seems to attract the weirdos.

    To quote Instapundit: “Heh.”

    Treefrog, I’d like to step into the threat and disagree with some points and pick some nits with things that you’ve said. I’m asking your permission, because:
    1. These comments wont actually be on topic for the stated purpose of the thread.
    2. They will be kinda nit-picky, not really affecting the overall validity of what you are saying.
    3. I don’t want to look like I’m ganging up against you. Actually yours are the comments I want to pick on now because they are the ones where the claims are _not_ embedded in lots of insults, tangled rhetoric, dubious assumptions (from my point of view) and implications, so it’s easier to pull out a particular claim and deal with it “straight”, in isolation.

  123. “Then immediately claim all foreign investments to be de facto folly.”

    This is typical of why you are a frustrating person to discuss with.

    I did not say *all*. Please do not put words in my mouth. I think you are being below board in your argument style.

    There are several other examples of similar twisting of my words in your last, “Foreign policy shouldn’t be concerned with making the world a better place.”, is a classic Tree Frogism. One more time….foreign policy should be first and foremost concerned with making the USA a better place. If we can make an investment – one based in solid principles strongly suggesting a high probability for success and thereby promising a good ROI – in our future and improve the lives of citizens of other nations, then mores the better.

    Why would you undertake an adventure that is unlikely to succeed? I do not understand this line of thought. Noble cause but high probability of failure means, to me, do not proceed.

    An excellent of the wrong approach (Tree Frog’s) is invading Iraq and believing – simply believing – that a US friendly democracy would quickly ensue. There was such a massive body of evidence to suggest that this would likely not happen, but it was ignored by those who drank the Koolaid and wanted to believe. Other, more conservative thinkers, accurately predicted what the outcome of the Iraq invasion would be. In fact, as I noted way up stream, even members of the Bush 1 admin. accurately predicted what the outcome would be. Then some of the same drank the Koolaid – that our allowed their carreer goals to interfere with their integrity.

    Now we have created a big costly mess; a bloody quagmire. Now our military is tied down and wearing out. Now Iraqis are dying at a rate far exceeding the rate under Saddam (excepting the Iraq/Iran war; a war that we favored and for which we supported – if not encouraged – Iraq. Now AQ is recruiting faster than we can kill them and they are getting hands on training and the knowledge gained through experience is being dissemenated to terrorists throughout the world. The US is beginning to appear to be a paper tiger (an image we really don’t want furthered). We have lost the alomost global empathy and backing that we had gained immediately after 9/11. And there is neither a solution nor end in sight. Now, even if we wanted to make a meaningful large scale intervention somewhere else – and an intervention where the variables favor success and a good ROI – we could not do it because our resources are tapped.

    This is what is known as an opportunity cost. This is what I am talking about. The US has gained nothing from its ill conceived and poorly executed invasion. It has lost much. In this case doing nothing would have been more profitable than what was done. Even assuming the best of intentions, even assuming the moral highground, the war is a disaster that should have never been undertaken. Moral highground, in this case, did not justify the risk.

    If Tree Frog really believes that making the world a better place should be the driving criterion for US foreign policy, why then does he not advocate sending the US forces into Darfur? Why then does he not observe that an effective intervention in Darfur is not even possible at this point due to our Iraq commitment?

    This is the kind of cost I am talking about. And yes, I would have supported a US intervention in Darfur because I actually believe that it could have produced some very positive results.

    Go back and read what I wrote.

  124. Soprry for the double post – don’t know how that happened.

    David Blue….the brave key board warrior who thinks that dead bodies are a joking matter. I’m sure that your input will be as enlightening as it will be factual and rational.

  125. Meta:

    I’ve seen both Mr Blue and Avedis be polite and substantive. I’ve also seen some snideness and excess.

    I will not ask that anyone apologize or make nice. But please know, having respect and appreciation for both of you at your best, it is my sincere hope you both dial things down a notch or two from where they have lately been. Deep feeling is too easily read as florid excess in this medium, and mockery (even of perceived excess) is often excess as well, especially when served in thick slices.

    I intend this as the opposite of a warning. It’s an invitation to revisit civility. Thank you both; and thank you all.

    Nort

  126. Meta:

    Nortius Maximus, there appears to be no way to contact you and discuss a problem privately.

    In this thread, I’ve had avedis calling me out by name, entirely without provocation in post #80, I’ve had further named attacks starting in #84, and an implied appeal to you for a ban in #85 from avedis, though I had just quoted avedis back to himself – all the unpleasant words were in quote marks because they were avedis’ not mine.

    What have been the result of restraint? It seems people are mistaking it for silent agreement and avedis’ characterizations for the truth. I had Armed Liberal seeming in #86 to suggest that what I said here was not punished because I had said better things in other threads, and I just had you in #135 inviting me along with to “revisit” civility.

    I will drop this thread, and take up the things I want to dispute with Treefrog some other time.

    But I’m hoping this problem doesn’t follow me around Winds of change, though judging from avedis’ sudden interest in the “business of abortion” thread, it has already begun to do so.

    There is a bad unspoken rule in online discussions if you do not contest aspersions, you agree to them. When this rule is tacitly in force, fights expand, because they have to when even the moderators treat restraint as though it was an admission of guilt. I think it is better to operate by a tacit rule that unless someone agrees to the way they are being characterized they do not agree with it. In other words, what is not actively contested should not be taken as being “uncontested”.

    This would definitely apply to:

    “David Blue, etc – will take M4s in hand and Kabars in teeth and charge across the DMZ and wipe out the implacable enemies of freedom in the North and show us how real men deal with tiranny, once and for all and immediately. They’ll come home with scalps to pass around the ale table.”

    “A smart ass Know-nothing like David Blue can make baiting jokes out of war and killing – and that passes for completely acceptable around here, whereas C’s style – less offensive IMHO in the big scheme of things – results in a ban.”

    “David Blue….the brave key board warrior who thinks that dead bodies are a joking matter. I’m sure that your input will be as enlightening as it will be factual and rational.”

    Ect.

    I do not accept that I am on equal terms with behavior like that, or equally in need of revisiting the long lost land of civility.

    I would hope you distinguish between what I am doing and what avedis has been doing, and that you also distinguish between what I say and what avedis says I say.

    Thenkew.

  127. Meta:

    I now am in communication with Mr Blue offlist. I have hopes for an amicable outcome that leaves him able to act freely here. If that includes my eating a Homeric quantity of crow, so be it.

  128. David Blue

    Well, I was gonna say have at it, but if you’d rather take it up some other time, I’ll leave that up to you.

    Avedis

    ‘I did not say all. Please do not put words in my mouth. I think you are being below board in your argument style.’

    I apologize for being a bit over the top. This medium doesn’t deal well with all the striations of subtlety sometimes, so if I oversimplify feel free to whack me on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and tell me bad Treefrog.

    However, the definite impression I got was that while you stated you’d support US action in specific cases, no specific case ever measured up. Particularly the cases where there were significant threats to US interests.

    Darfur, which for the record I’d like to see the US arm the locals and maybe provide some air cover and advisers, don’t think ground troops are strictly needed, although I’d keep an eye on it, while a humanitarian disaster, is essentially a low risk very low reward intervention. It does absolutely nothing for the US.

    ‘foreign policy should be first and foremost concerned with making the USA a better place.’

    The only intervention you are on record as supporting is one that does not meet the above criteria.

    So maybe you see where I got that idea from? However, I stand corrected.

    I thought I knew about where you were coming from, and then you confused the heck out of me with a combination of moral equivalence their not so bad lines straight out of the typical ‘all war is evil’ crowds playbook. Followed by lots of condemnation of people who support meddling in world affairs as being hopeless romantics and crusaders.

    So, since you support intervention in Darfur, a low gain humanitarian excursion, may I then sign you up for this weekends windmill jousting tournament? (It’s a joke, relax Nort)

    I take your point about opportunity costs, but I’d like to counter by pointing out that doing nothing also incurs an opportunity cost. Whether the troops are in Iraq or sitting around in bases in the US, they are being utilized either way. Now Iraq definitely has higher costs, it also has potential benefits whereas leaving them sitting around bases in the US has very little in the way of benefit, so that cuts both ways.

    ‘If we can make an investment – one based in solid principles strongly suggesting a high probability for success and thereby promising a good ROI – in our future and improve the lives of citizens of other nations, then mores the better.’

    Ok, so we’re back to where we were before the bizarre comparison of the US and NoKo entered from left field.

    Fair enough, so essentially you’d support the Iraq incursion if it were successful? Possibly with a lecture about pushing our luck, but with the alls well that ends well bit?

    In other words, you don’t object to our motiviations in the least, or even necessarily our motivations, you just think we’re overagressive and need to be more careful?

  129. ‘In other words, you don’t object to our motiviations in the least, or even necessarily our motivations, you just think we’re overagressive and need to be more careful?’

    What the? Bah, that was meant to read…

    In other words, you don’t object to our motivations in the least, or even necessarily our methodology , you just think we’re overaggressive and need to be more careful?

    Me speak English good…

  130. Dis agree re; benefits of Darfur. As you note, the risk is low. I assess the benefits higher than you do. They fall primarily into the good image bucket, building global good will and all of that; which is very important to counter those – who are many – that slander the US excessively and/or tend to only point to its negatives.

    “However, the definite impression I got was that while you stated you’d support US action in specific cases, no specific case ever measured up”

    Not fair. I did say that I supported the Afghanistan campaign fully – I would have executed it differently – but I supported the operation. I said that clearly. I also said that I would support intervention countering a Russian invasion of Europe…..it should be clear that I support or would support any number of scenarios.

    “Particularly the cases where there were significant threats to US interests.”

    I simply disagree with you as to the threat posaed by some cases. Iraq was not a threat. Iran is an over blown threat. NoKo is a threat, but even you do not think it wise to act militarily against it.

    “Ok, so we’re back to where we were before the bizarre comparison of the US and NoKo entered from left field.”

    I never compared the two.

    “Fair enough, so essentially you’d support the Iraq incursion if it were successful? Possibly with a lecture about pushing our luck, but with the alls well that ends well bit?”

    The probability of success is miniscule and it always was. I’d support jumping off a cliff and flapping the arms and soaring with the eagles if I thought it would work. But I know that no matter how much you hope to fly it won’t work so I am against it. There’s no point breaking your neck even if the ambition to fly is a noble one.

    “In other words, you don’t object to our motiviations in the least, or even necessarily our motivations, you just think we’re overagressive and need to be more careful?”

    As for disagreeing with the motives of Iraq….I don’t know what the motives behind that adventure are. They keep changing…remove WMD…oops no WMD….build a democracy….and so on and so forth.

    But, yes, we need to be more careful.

  131. ‘As for disagreeing with the motives of Iraq….I don’t know what the motives behind that adventure are. They keep changing…remove WMD…oops no WMD….build a democracy….and so on and so forth.’

    That would be because there was more than one, and different ones were stressed to different audiences, building a democracy in Iraq wouldn’t have exactly gone well when pitched to the massed dictators of the UN, hence the WMD pitch there.

    ‘I did say that I supported the Afghanistan campaign fully’
    Re: Iraq ‘The probability of success is miniscule and it always was.’

    I’m curious what the difference between the two is?

    Both are Arab countries with no history of anything resembling democracy.
    Both are tribal powers with various factions competing for temporary dominance.
    Both, prior to US involvement, were ruled by nasty fascistic groups (Taliban, Ba’ath).
    Both have neighboring countries that harbor and supply insurgent groups (Pakistan and Iran for Afghanistan, Iran and Syria for Iraq).
    Both are Muslim dominated.

    They are really both quite similar.

    Afghanistan is a harder military challenge: no ports to route supplies and ships in, no friendly neighboring country (Kuwait) to stage the invasion from, far worse terrain, and the locals have extensive experience fighting guerrilla wars (and successful ones at that).

    Afghanistan is poorer and less well educated and has no natural resources. Much harder to jump start an economy.

    Iraq is better educated, had some traces of necessary economic infrastructure (in poor shape, but the skeleton was there), and has oil to jump start the economic system.

    Iraq’s deserts give an advantage to highly mobile/better equipped troops vs. poorly equipped/trained insurgents (especially when compared to Afghan mountains).

    How is Iraq a minuscule chance, but Afghanistan is plausible? What’s the differentiating factor that I’m missing?

  132. “That would be because there was more than one, and different ones were stressed to different audiences, building a democracy in Iraq wouldn’t have exactly gone well when pitched to the massed dictators of the UN, hence the WMD pitch there.”

    I could care less what was pitched to the UN (dictators? Really now. Your slip is showing).

    I do care what was pitched by our governmet to us, the people. And the pitch was WMD. How can our elected leaders – who are supposed to represent us – lie to us and not be behaving like “dictators” themselves? This was a decision for the people to discuss, debate and make an informed vote of confidence.

    “I’m curious what the difference between the two is?”

    See comment above concerning informed decision. Also, Afghanistan was about pursuing the terrorists that attacked us on 9/11 and destroying their bases and – hopefully – killing the remaining ranks as well.

    This is quite different from Iraq, which had nothing to do with the terrorists that attacked and did not harbor terrorist bases (excepting of course the one that was outside the no fly zone and, therefore, outside of Saddam’s control. Please tell me you are not one of those poor delluded fools that still thinks Iraq was involved in 9/11.

    “Afghanistan is poorer and less well educated and has no natural resources. Much harder to jump start an economy.”

    I agree. Nation building there will fail. There will never be a functioning democracy. That wasn’t part of what we were sold by the liars in the White House and Congress. I am only agreeing to the part about killing terrorists.

    “Iraq’s deserts give an advantage to highly mobile/better equipped troops vs. poorly equipped/trained insurgents (especially when compared to Afghan mountains).”

    So what? It doesn’t seem to be preventing an insurgency, does it? Because the insurgents are in the populated areas. Sheesh……

    “How is Iraq a minuscule chance, but Afghanistan is plausible?”

    Please see above regarding what I supported and what we, The People, were told the campaign was all about.

  133. ‘(dictators? Really now. Your slip is showing).’

    The UN has more dictatorships and pseudo-democracies than real democracies. Only the security council goes the other way, 3-2 (US, UK, France vs. China, Russia).

    I’m gonna skip past the Iraq-Bush lied bit. It’s old, been refuted a million times, and implies the people lied to were too incredibly stupid to read past step 1. What, we were going to waltz in, take the WMD, knock over the Hussein regime, and just waltz out?

    ‘Please see above regarding what I supported and what we, The People, were told the campaign was all about.’

    Wait, what, now it’s all about the motivation? What happened to the success bit? What about wise use of resources and investments and making sure it’s usefull in the long term?

    So what you supported in Afghanistan was simply a punitive expedition? We’d go to Afghanistan, kill a whole bunch of people and then go home?

    Even assuming we got all the leaders, which is unrealistic, without destroying the support base that created those leaders in the first place, what makes you think that’s going to actually accomplish anything?

    You stated that victory in third generation warfare was simply to be still standing when your more powerful opponent gets bored and goes home.

    So we’d go into Afghanistan with a massive force. Kill as many terrorists as we can (what, do they have distinctive tattoos? when they hide in with the general population, how were you going to distinguish them?), which effectively means just killing the ones we know about, the leadership. We’ll get some, miss others, and then go home.

    What’s left will come out of hiding, select new leadership, and brag about how they stood off the Americans. Another victory for third generation warfare, eh?

    This sounds exactly like what the Israelis did in Lebanon, which you stated was an unequivocal defeat.

    How is this wise investment in the future? A whole pile of cash and some lives down the drain for a few terrorist leaders (all replaceable) and a couple hundred of their stooges (also replaceable). Afghanistan would look exactly the same, except with a few new craters and memories of yet another arrogant imperial power that came and left. And they’d be back to plotting attacks within a couple of years.

    Sound and fury, signifying nothing. Nation building is risky, but at least it has a chance of actually doing something.

  134. TF, I am not going to discuss Iraq with you because you are, apparently, incapable of being honest about it, e.g. “What, we were going to waltz in, take the WMD, knock over the Hussein regime, and just waltz out?”

    Uh, except for one little problem….there were no WMD to take – and the inspectors had virtually proven that by the time the invasion jumped off – ergo no reason to invade at all.

    “,,,It’s old, been refuted a million times…”

    Negative. It has only been “refuted” in forums that serve as rightwing propaganda echo chambers. I have yet to hear anything that resembles a serious and fact based refutation. The whitehouse gang not only did not say we would be engaged in long-term nation building they specifically stated that it would be a quick win, a warm welcome from Iraqis and a quick exit (“mission accomplished” and Ahmed Chalabi, anyone?) and they further said that it would all be funded by Iraqi oil revenues…..so yes they lied or were incompetently delusional.

    As for Afghanistan, yes, I advocated a strictly punitive mission that killed the maximum number of known terrorists and disrupted training bases. In fact, we did a pretty good job of identifying our enemies there and killing or capturing a number of them as well as gathered key intelligence. Also, in fact, we could have done a much better job – including top AQ leadership – if resources had not been held back for the unwarranted Iraq invasion.

    That being said, you have some fair points concerning the effect of a quick removal of our troops from Afghanistan. These are worth touching on because they seem to be the basis of the differences in our thinking.

    Afghanistan has pretty much been the same place and culture for at least the past 1,000 years. The people are deeply religious, terminally tribal and fiercely independent. Numerous attempts to civilize or otherwise colonize the country have met strong continuous resistance and failed miserably. There is little, other than opium and hashish, on which to base a modern economy. Based on these and other variables, I do not see why American nation building there would suceed. I think, to the contrary, it too will fail miserably in the long run.

    You on the other hand, think that something must be done and that it is worth a try to civilize these people.

    You really don’t have a plan do you. Elections? by themselves no assurance of anything positive – please see Hamas’ democratic victory. People such as Afghanis are notorious for dispensing with the glimmers of democracy once it no longer pleases them or serves their purposes.

    What else? Nothing that I can see, perhaps you can offer some direction other than hope. I am eager to learn.

    Otherwise you’re just playing roulet. The odds are that you will lose whatever you put on the table. So I say it is not worth the investment you put down.

    I am able to live with the idea that Afghanistan as well as other parts of the world are screwed up hellholes. The world will always have these. Some locations just don’t have the resources to be anything else. Whatsmore, I am able to live with the idea that America will always have enemies. You? You wish to crush them out of existance through hardline diplomacy, military might, and carrying the whiteman’s burder to the restless natives.

    Your way was tried by the Brits and other great colonial powers; generally with failure.

    You still haven’t stated why your way will work this time. You are running on faith only. Faith/hope is not enough. There must be sound theory. Again, I haven’t heard any of that from you or from people who think like you.

    The devil is in the details, you know.

  135. ‘You still haven’t stated why your way will work this time. You are running on faith only. Faith/hope is not enough. There must be sound theory. Again, I haven’t heard any of that from you or from people who think like you.’

    Fair enough.

    Here’s the framing.

    The problem is that our technological power as a species continues to grow at an impressive pace.

    Technologies that 50 years ago were the domain of only major projects by the greatest nations are now commercially available. The world is getting increasingly smaller. The amount of damage small motivated groups can do is getting larger and larger.

    100 years ago, could any group of 19 people, no matter how well funded kill more than 3,000 people?

    Now, even piddling nations like Pakistan have nukes. You can whip up lethal compounds in your bathtub with some creativity, materials available for industrial use and some college level chemistry texts. Or as one of the chemical engineers down the hall put it at lunch one day, ‘My job is to make sure the company doesn’t produce chemical weapons by accident.’. He wasn’t joking either, there’s a windsock over that building so, in the event of emergency, you know which way to run.

    And there’s far worse coming down the pipe in terms of biotech and particularly nanotech.

    An immediate threat, no. 10 years though, expect to see far more nations sporting nukes. 20 years, 50 years? I think we have a window of opportunity now to act, to get ahead of events, or we’ll be stuck trying to react 50 years from now.

    The planet is just too small. The threat from rogue nations and terrorist groups is bad now and going to get worse, a lot worse. As you put it, technology brings the goliaths down.

    Defense isn’t really going to be an option. First, we suck at it. Second, even if we did turn ourselves into a police state, some stuff is going to sneak through…and I don’t think either of us wants to live in a police state.

    That leaves 2 options: deterrence and prevention.

    First, I’d like to avoid deterrence because once we start swapping millions of casualties around, we’ve all lost.

    Second, it’s flawed. Right now there are really only 2 pariah states with nukes: NoKo and Pakistan. If Seattle went boom tomorrow, we’d stand a good chance of tracing the material back to one of those two and then retaliate. So deterrence is effective.

    But it get’s less effective the more players are involved. Say Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia all end up with nukes (not that far fetched). And Seattle goes boom. First, their nuke programs are almost certainly going to be so inbred as to be impossible to get a technical trace to any specific one. And they are almost certainly all going to be pointing the finger at each other. Do we nuke them all? Or just write Seattle off as a dreary rainhole anyway?

    Remember, it’s not what you or I think about our ability to tie attacks back to origination sources, it’s what the guy giving the orders to initiate the attack thinks.

    Third, what do you do about international organizations that aren’t tied to any nice specific geographic area to strike back against. Even assuming we can find them, even assuming we even know which group did it, do we invade or destroy every country they base out of? We can ask the countries involved to find and get them, but will they? Many will be unable (Pakistan has nukes but can’t control large parts of it’s own territory). Some will play charades. I expect a whole lotta, ‘Israel did it’ conspiracy theories. Demands to see proof that will likely be far from ironclad. Etc. etc.

    So that leaves prevention. The best defense against anarchy and rogue states are strong nations. Democracies preferrably. Dictatorships are too unstable. China is probably the strongest dictatorship on the planet, and they are just a few bad events from infighting and collapse.

    I think that either by deliberate intent or by process of elimination, we’re going to end up with a world composed entirely of democracies. I’d like to get a head start on some before we start pruning with nuclear shears.

    So, the nation building strategy. First, general points.

    Resources are irrelevant. If there’s a correlation between wealthy free nations and resources, I can’t find it.

    It’s gonna take time and effort. I wouldn’t expect Iraq and Afghanistan to be EASIER than Japan and Germany, but we’ve spent less time and resources and people are already screaming to throw in the towel.

    Specifics:

    Nation Building 101

    First, find the political structure that created the last mess. Identify the economic underpinnings of that structure. Take them out. The key to the Japanese transformation was the land redistribution, by taking the land away from the clans that backed the imperialist regime, we broke the power of those clans permanently, by giving it out to the people at large we created a large middle class with a vested interest in the new government.

    Against tribal based systems, the key is going to be to tie the tribes economic survival directly to the central government. Best way to do that is to create trade channels for locally created goods (likely agricultural initially, manufactured later) that flow out of the country via central government controlled trade cities. Doing whatever subsidizing is required to prime the pump.

    Make it clear that if the country collapses into chaos, it’s going to take the trade channels down with it. Even the dumbest tribal chief knows that no tribe is big enough in this day and age to survive on their own, but this gives them something concrete to go back to their people and say, ‘hey, this is why we want to be a part of ‘. Not to mention it gives the all important young men something to do with their lives other than sign on with the agitators.

    On the political side of the fence, I don’t think there are any magic tricks, only time and patience. First, destroy corruption on sight. No cultural excuses, no tolerance. Second, insist on the basics, free speech, free religion, equal rights, etc. Third, maintain veto powers for the time being. Think of it as political training wheels, they can do what they like, but if they tip over to far in one direction or the other we intervene. Fourth, don’t be afraid to be firm. We missed a number of opportunities early on in Iraq because we were so afraid of being heavy-handed. They lived under Saddam friggin Hussein. Us blowing the guts out of the Mahdi army when they went rogue wouldn’t have even raised eyebrows.

    I think the reason Afghanistan and Iraq are muddled is because, while the political and military aspects of the rebuilding were addressed, the economic was ignored, and I think that’s what crippled progress in both. Unfortunately our dear idiot government doesn’t seem to understand how to grow an economy except by handing out money. We need to learn how to grow free markets, not welfare queens. There’s a growing body of scholarly work on micro-lending and market creation (by subsidizing infrastructure pieces such as exchanges, transportation links, and the like). Time to tap into that.

    If you want my opinion, that’s the missing piece. The economic realm, we’re building governments, creating militaries and police forces, writing judicial code, creating media sources, but we keep forgetting to BUILD THE NATION first. The rest are tools for running a nation, not the nation itself. Economic interest is the day to day stitching that knits disparate groups into a nation.

    It’s probably no surprise why the economic gets the short shrift, all the players involved are either ambivalent or hostile to capatalism. Government functionaries either view business as the enemy, politicians see it as a cash supply (with no real idea how it works), for the military it’s just a supplier, and for most NGOs, business is the devil of choice. How to grow small businesses and how to align those new small businesses interests with the interests of the new born state isn’t exactly in the existing skill set mix. We need to add it.

    Finally, the last bit you were interested in the cultural.

    I’m going to assume that the white man’s burden paragraph there was your doubting the cultural ability of the third world to join prosperous, democratic nations and not their racial ability to do so.

    ‘Your way was tried by the Brits and other great colonial powers; generally with failure.’

    No, this hasn’t been tried before. The colonial powers tried to create…colonies. Dependent ones. We’re trying to create independent nations. Rather different process. Actually, the failure of the colonial powers to create properly subservient slave nations is a good sign if you think about it.

    But, the question is a good one. I don’t think the answer is racial. Or genetic. So what is the magic ingredient.

    Try this theory on for size.

    Write down all the first world democracies. We have the various European nations, the British children (US, Australia, Canada, NZ), Japan, South Korea.

    Now erase all of them that descended from a cultural heritage of feudalism. With feudalism being defined as rule by a military elite (with the usual lord-vassel relationships). What’s left? Nobody. That can’t be coincidence.

    If it were something unique to western culture, how’d Japan and SoKo get on the list? Sure they absorbed aspects of western culture, but why them and no one else? It can’t be experience with civilization in general, or the Chinese and Indians would be light years ahead of everyone else (not to mention the Persians), instead of struggling as they are now.

    So what’s the common ground? I submit the answer can be found in feudalism and the cultural values it instills.

    Idealism. The honor code. The idea that people are responsible for living up to a set of ideals not due to public pressure or cultural coercion, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. In fact, both Japan and Western cultures have a special class of hero set aside for those who went against public perception to do the right thing, at great personal cost, and were later (usually posthumously) lionized for it.

    Your word is your bond. We don’t like liars and cheats.

    Loyalty. An ability to be loyal to an office regardless of the occupant of that office.

    Discipline. Hard work and self control are admirable virtues. Very different from much of the world, where the hallmarks of high status are indolence and petulance.

    Skill. This starts as admiration of (and rewarding of) martial skills. Quickly expands to include martial related skills (blacksmithing and engineering). Then expands to certain culturally approved artistic skills. Then eventually to basically everything. Why else to we watch talent shows with a guy who rides a unicycle while juggling balls and playing the Star Spangled Banner on a trumpet? It’s totally useless, but we admire the skill nonetheless.

    Courage. To spit in the eye of death and meet it on your feet. To face the world on your own terms and carve your own niche out, to live by your own hands.

    Chivalry. That having the strong sacrifice and die to protect the weak is not a loss but a gain.

    The ideals certainly aren’t always followed, probably more honored in the breach. But they are known, and they are powerful. You can’t watch TV or movies without bumping into them repeatedly. Japanese samurai movies (particularly the Ronin ones) and Western cowboy flicks so quickly and totally cross-polinated that film critics have completely lost the ability to tell which elements came from which side of the ocean. Interesting that.

    Why precisely these are key to a functional democracy and capitalist system is a huge discussion in it’s own right, but I think the key is here.

    And I think we can imprint these on cultures that didn’t get the advantage of having our romantic but bloodthirsty ancestors.

    Our popular culture has made a strong start. The rest can be done by example. Iraqi army units that spend time fighting alongside US troops are noticeably better than other Iraqi units. Even later, when there aren’t US troops around. Why? We rubbed off a little of our idealism on them. Forget the differences in equipment, training, experience. They get taught that the key is hard work. Hard work beats genius every time.

    The greatest nation in the world was built on the ideals of hope, justice, honor, courage, and freedom. Naieve, optimistic, and they made more than a few mistakes. But their answer to failure was to try harder.

    That kind of thinking, laugh however you want, has an excellent long term track record. Our civilization is built on it. Far better than cynicism and self-interest, however ‘realistic’ they are touted to be, that has mired the rest of the world down.

  136. This is good. I agree – without qualification – with eveything you wrote up tp this point; “So that leaves prevention.”

    Then I must point out that democracies are not a panacea – nor are dictatorships necessarily a recipe for trouble. Contra democracy I point out Hamas and, even to some extent Iran; at least Iran is a strong coherent nation. Many dictatorships have never exported terrorism or even imperial aggression. Even if you disagree about the specific examples, could you not theoretically agree that a functioning democracy might find itself at odds with the US and decide to declare war and/or covert terror operations against the US? I think this is reasonable and it points to something I will bring up later on.

    “Resources are irrelevant. If there’s a correlation between wealthy free nations and resources, I can’t find it.”

    I absolutely disagree with this point. It is so far out in space that I don’t even know where to begin. I mean what you have said just shows a complete lack of understanding of the very fundementals of economics. A wealthy nation does not get that way by simply printing money, you know. It gains wealth by efficiently tapping and developing natural resources, by developing an economic infrastructure with everything from governmental policy that is conducive to relatively equitable income distribution, to financial institutions to an educated workforce, to export and import agreements with purchasers and sellers of valued and needed commodities.

    Again, I am baffled that you could say such a thing and I have to believe that somehow the meaning of your statement was lost in translation. Could you elaborate? Perhaps you could use the specifics of an Afghanistan economic development program as a framework for your elaboration so as to help me better understand. Also, while I may be a horse breeder and trainer I also work a day job as an economist – it’s in the insurance sector, but I had all of the classes when when earning a masters degree. So if you want to talk economics, your going to have to have some basis in theory and realworld practice. Ok?

    “Unfortunately our dear idiot government doesn’t seem to understand how to grow an economy except by handing out money.”

    You contradict yourself. First you said that Germany and Japan were excellent examples of how we nation build and then you call the government idiots….I am confused. But enough nitpicking.

    Here is the key to this entire discussion;

    The reason nation building worked in Germany and Japan is because there are sufficient economic resources upon which to build a democratic wealthy country. For a democracy to evolve, function and survive there must be sufficient resources such that a sufficient number of the population can at least perceive the ability to gain wealth by playing by the rules of civilized democratic society. Germany and Japan met this threshold.

    Afghanistan and Iraq do not meet the threshold. There is oil in Iraq. Whoever controls it becomes wealthy. There is a little land in Iraq that can yield argiculture. Whoever controls it can get by in life. However, there is not enough of this land for everyone. There is not hardly even enough water for everyone. Therefore, It is pre-ordained that there will winners and losers. The winners win big and the losers lose big. A democracy will not function because the intensity of the conflict over resources is too severe and too serious for simple debate and vote to deal with. Another aspect of a functioning democracy is a network of interlated interests and contracts that bind the people together under a common purpose – usually getting wealthier. In Afghanistan you have a situation similar to Iraq, but even worse because there isn’t even the oil revenue that could potentially be redistributed to the losers. So you have these clans scraping out an existance; growing opium, cannabis, dates, figs, appricots. The really don’t need the clan over the next hill. Those guys have nothing to contribute – I’ve got my figs, you got you opium what can we do for each other? – other than occassional defense against foreign invaders. It isn’t like the US…..the folks in the South grow the cotton….the folks in the North have the industrial machinery to process the cotton into textiles….the folks in the West have the Cattle…they all trade and together become wealthier.

    Now, if told me that in Iraq a socialist republic built on oil revenue – distributed equally to all people – could be devised, I might have a little more faith, though I would remain skeptical.

  137. One quibble:

    bq. 100 years ago, could any group of 19 people, no matter how well funded kill more than 3,000 people?

    Possibly. Depends on where you draw the line regarding “group”–the Conquistadores and the troops under Pershing on the island of Sulu both had long logistical tails. They couldn’t do it _in a matter of moments_, for sure.

    But I take your meaning. “Superempowerment” of individuals/small factions is real, and it’s not going away modulo civilizational collapse or the institution of “blue goo” (nano-Gorts) or the like.

    Nort

  138. Nort,

    I was thinking about that statement as well, but decided it wasn’t germane to the point regarding how/why democracies can develop.

    But, to answer the question, yes, 19 people absolutely could have killed over 3,000 people a hundred years ago. I am thinking about the Maine in Havana Harbor. I am thinking that it would have been possible for a coordinated attack to destroy and sink several ships. I am thinking about the destruction of dams. I am thinking about the possibility of 19 people starting a massive fire like the Chicago or ‘Frisco fires. I am thinking about the ability to poison/pollute city water systems.

    Moving from the realm of the possible to the real and historically factual, there were small numbers – though I don’t know if it was 19 or more or less – white terrorists (interestingly, citizens of the democratic United States) who used WMD in the form of biological warfare (small pox infested blankets deliberately used as WMD to be exact) on the indigenous population; killing tens of thousands – some estimates put the number in the hundreds of thousands. I’ll conceed that it wasn’t “instant”; being more on the order of days or weeks from date of attack to death of victims, though am I am at a loss as to the significance attached to “instant”. I imagine that the bio weapons that TF and others dread would also have the same incubation period.

    I know, I know….that’s old news so it doesn’t count….and it only proves that I am a pot smoking defeatist hippy that hates America. I recognize that terrorism – by definition around here – is only something that muslims can do.

  139. bq. I recognize that terrorism – by definition around here – is only something that muslims can do.

    Florid overstatement that must have felt like it was worth your time. I don’t think it was worth yours, or anyone else’s. IN case you missed it, let me make it plain that bogus catcalling generalizations are included in what I’ve asked be dialed back. :)

  140. Good, Nort.

    So when I get the typical responses – ones that I’ve received a hundred times here – “this hatred of America is why the left and terrorists are in league with each other….” , “Why does the left hate America….” , “Equating the glorious defense of the American frontier with the evil of Saddam and Bin Laden shows why you can’t have a conversation with the pot brained moral equivocating left…..” – you will redirect the authors? Because I’d appreciate that. Even though these are just faceless people on an internet site that I shouldn’t care about one iota, I must admit that I become a little pissed off when my patriotism and my loyalty and honor are questioned in such a way. In some strange way the sheer and total ignorance contained in such statements adds to their effect on me. It’s as if they were designed with the sole purpose of being crude verbose insults.

    You see, when I regularly receive responses like the above it makes me cynical about the value of trying to have a rational discussion here. It further makes me cynical concerning the orientation of the the hosts of this blog and its staff, such as you. Especially since I have never seen the authors of such statements warned by you or your colleagues.

    I look forward to a more civil blog and I will certainly do my part to maintain the highest standards of discourse.

  141. But avedis, here’s the rub. And it’s an issue worth a longer post (in the fantasy world in which I have time anytime soon). But here’s the nub.

    You make arguments of equivalence – like “Moving from the realm of the possible to the real and historically factual, there were small numbers – though I don’t know if it was 19 or more or less – white terrorists (interestingly, citizens of the democratic United States) who used WMD in the form of biological warfare (small pox infested blankets deliberately used as WMD to be exact) on the indigenous population;” – and I recall that this isn’t the 1st such argument, but don’t have time to look – if I’m wrong call me on it – the you ARE making a statement of equivalence – that the US shouldn’t be outraged by terrorism (or should be more nuanced in its outrage about terrorism) because we were terrorists once. Or that we should be outraged by Daniel Pearl because we committed Abu Ghreib.

    And that kind of fits into a vision of patriotism I discussed “a long time ago”:http://www.armedliberal.com/2002/12/patriotism_reconsidered.html

    Because being a patriot – literally – means you have special love for your patria, for what you inherited as a part of your birthright. When I hear the drumbeat of equivalence from the modern left, when Matt Yglesias explains that in his view the world would be far better if the Revolution had never happened, I think it’s far to question what has happened to the idea of patriotism.

    avedis, you and I have talked enough offline that I don’t think that’s where you are. I think you’re making a more serious claim, which is that – as an example – Iraq weakens, it doesn’t strengthen our national position. That’s an argument worth having, and I’d love to see us refocus on it.

    A.L.

  142. “if I’m wrong call me on it – the you ARE making a statement of equivalence – that the US shouldn’t be outraged by terrorism (or should be more nuanced in its outrage about terrorism) because we were terrorists once. Or that we should be outraged by Daniel Pearl because we committed Abu Ghreib.”

    No, No and No. You are wrong. TF asked if 100 years ago a small number of terrorists could kill 3,000 people. I say yes. They could and they did.

    TF also asserted that democracies don’t produce terrorists, imperialism, etc. i think the example I proivided also counters that assertion.

    Finally, I *NEVER* said that we should be unconcerned about terrorism or torture because we have done these things ourselves. I said that we should be cautious about labeling societies with members who do these things as being “evil” and hence irredeamable because all societies at all times have produced members that have done these things and many of these societies have, more or less, redeamed themselves through self correction and diplomacy with outside powers.

    As for Matt Yglesias I have gone over there following a link oncde in a blue blue and I think he is a dithering imbecilic pansy. So please do not equate any of my thinking with his – even if there is occassionally some overlap.

  143. ‘TF also asserted that democracies don’t produce terrorists, imperialism, etc. i think the example I proivided also counters that assertion.’

    Actually, I didn’t specify why democracy was a defense against terrorism. It’s not that they don’t produce terrorists at all, it’s that they produce far fewer, and they control the ones they do produce far better.

    ‘Possibly. Depends on where you draw the line regarding “group”–the Conquistadores and the troops under Pershing on the island of Sulu both had long logistical tails. They couldn’t do it in a matter of moments, for sure.’

    Both had a heck of a lot more than 19 troops with them. And it actually wasn’t the Conquistadores that did much killing (not until they returned in far greater numbers), the initial damage Cortez did for example was mostly done by the enormous slave uprising he led, I’d have to lookup how big his army actually was, but it was well over a hundred thousand if I remember right when you add in the pissed off locals he added to his small core of Spanish troops.

    The biowarfare against the Native Americans was an interesting point, I’d forgotten that one, I’m not sure I buy the argument that it killed thousands since by the point they’d figured out it was useful, smallpox had already swept through North America and decimated the population already. Anyone left would’ve had at least some immunity.

    But the more entertaining point there is that the inadvertent biowarfare performed by the initial European explorers killed millions and decimated the population of the new world.

    But I think my basic point stands mostly intact. We’ve come up with a few, now start listing the ways 20 people can kill thousands here and now. Easier, cheaper, requires less training and special equipment (if any at all), and far more difficult to stop.

  144. ‘I absolutely disagree with this point. It is so far out in space that I don’t even know where to begin.’

    I said no correlation and I meant no correlation.
    NR = Natural Resources

    US – Wealthy – High NR
    Canada – Wealthy – High NR
    Europe – Wealthy – Medium to Low NR
    Japan – Wealthy – Little to No NR
    South Korea – Wealthy – Little to No NR
    Taiwan – Wealthy – No NR
    Israel – Wealthy – No NR

    Russia – Moderate heading to Poor – High NR
    China – Poor heading to Moderate – Low to Moderate NR
    India – Moderate – Moderate NR

    Africa – Dirt Poor – Very High NR
    South America – Dirt Poor – Moderate NR
    Pacific Islands – Poor – No NR
    Middle East – Dirt Poor – Moderate NR
    Southeast Asia – Poor – Moderate NR

    I’m hardly the first one to remark on this either. I’m not saying having NR hurts, it just doesn’t really seem to help either. Whatever the key to prosperity is, NR don’t seem to be a necessity.

    Going by the NR grow an economy theory, Africa should be the wealthiest place on the planet. Yet Africa hasn’t managed to produce even one first world nation.

    Europe has some mineral deposits, some coal, and the Scandinavian countries have oil and more minerals. The US has everything. Canada has everything. Japan has almost no NR, little arable land. South Korea is similar. Taiwan has nothing. Israel has nothing. They are all extremely wealthy as well.

    Russia has everything but never quite made first world status, and is heading into the toilet. China has some resources (though if you go on a resource per capita comparison they might be better rated Low), and is growing rapidly. India isn’t exactly overflowing with goodies either and they are doing well.

    South America is another collection of poor nations some with and some without resources.

    Egypt is one of the better off middle eastern countries, yet has no oil.

    I find it odd that you consider this so odd when so many economists have remarked on the Asian miracle, when a pile of low resourced Asian countries went from squat to First World in 2 generations.

    As for the economic mechanism, what, the only way for people to generate wealth is via farming or mining? You might want to check out the Industrial Revolution, followed by this little thing we call trade, followed by a small principle called comparative advantage. I remember covering how the Japanese bootstrapped themselves in macro-economics. Fascinating stuff. Both in what to do right (encourage cottage industries, education, and trade) and what not do right (for the love of god, never let the banks, business, and the government get into the same bed).

    They got considerably less assistance from the US government then the amount we’ve been pouring without trace into Africa too.

    ‘So you have these clans scraping out an existance; growing opium, cannabis, dates, figs, appricots. The really don’t need the clan over the next hill.’

    Ah, but they do. The trick is to teach them why. You need a shared resource that they have to be careful of and play nicely together or they lose it.

    Trade links are one of the usual nation binders. Clans play nicely together because they need to share the port city to get their goods out to market. The port city becomes wealthy, grows military power, the various clans want a voice in the decisions in the port city, power sharing arrangements are negotiated. Soon it becomes the national capital of a nation. Viola, the last 500 years of history condensed to one paragraph.

    What we need to do is build in a major trade/transportation hub, give authority over it to the central government (with oversight from us), and let that be the spoke of the wheel. Afghanistans very remoteness helps here. It would be difficult to impossible for any clan to create a competing or alternative route, thus they need to play nice or risk getting cut off. The basic agrarian products will do for starters. Encourage cottage industries (Afghan rugs are incredible). How bout some tax incentives for companies who outsource low level manufacturing work to Afghanistan? Heck, if we’re going to speak to customer service reps who barely speak English in India, why not some who barely speak English in Afghanistan?

    From low level manufacturing to moderate manufacturing to high tech manufacturing to specialized manufacturing is just a continuous process of education, process improvement, willpower, and capital (if they are smart enough to reinvest profit).

    The trick is just to get the initial momentum going. And keeping the local government from killing it (due to corruption usually).

  145. Also, another interesting point on the value of democracy.

    Modern democracies have produced a number of terrorists and terrorist events: Oklahoma City, anti-abortion, fringe greens, the Tokyo Subway gassing, some of the German Nazi fringe groups etc.

    Notice the common trend, they’re all domestically aimed. I’m not coming up with even one example of cross-national attacks (although I don’t entirely rule them out), and even if there were some I’m 99% certain it’s intent would still be to embarrass, weaken, destroy their own government.

    Even the IRA never targeted outside of Ireland and the UK (that I’m aware of, anyone know better?)

    That’s because all of these groups are created due to dissatisfaction with their own government and essentially a desire to start a civil war.

    None of them are created to deal with dissatisfaction due to other nations/cultures. Democracies have built in channels to deal with conflicts with other nations/cultures, and the general rule of freedom seems to eliminate a lot of those conflicts before they even start.

    It’s a totally different dynamic that’s much easier to deal with on the international stage. No nasty jurisdictional questions, accusations of government sponsorship, or possibilities of proxy war by terrorist.

  146. TF,
    I’m sorry, but I have to call an to my participation here. You are a niave starry eyed true believer and not too educated……….but to answer you one last time;

    Re; natural resources: when one performs regression analysis in economics one rarely looks at one variable. I say natural resources are key and I stand by that. Then there are other factors that mitigate. Like in Africa (as well as the ME) colonialism.

    But, to back up, you are not even correct concerning natural resource availability. Africa is actually rather sparse in natural resources that are life sustaining. Yes, there are minerals of certain value, but these cannot be eaten. Furthermore, the specific and unique location of deposits and the processes by which these are converted into wealth are not condusive to universal wealth creation that is necessary for democracy. Rather, they are conducive to the development of a small number of wealthy plutocrats who control the site and mining of the minerals – as in the oil rich nations. Worse, in Africa, the plutocrats were outside colonial powers (I will return to this in a moment). Taiwan, on the other hand has fishing and agriculture and a shipping/ maritime industry going back a long time. This was sufficient to evolve further industry and ubiquitous wealth development.

    You still haven’t given me any specifics for the Aghanistan economic development and I suspect you don’t have any.

    As for terrorism, it is a tactic used by the weak against the stronger. Therefore your idolized “democracies”, becuse they are stronger, power against others with full blown merchantilism backed by raw miltary might when necessary. Do I really need to go into the history of the British empire or American expansionism and its Banana republic wars? Or what of the US support of various barbarous dictators up to and including Saddam? Support of death squads a la Iran/Contra? Pinochet? The assassination of Allende? The Shah of Iran and his death camps? Is that not terrorism by another name? Shall I go on?

    Open your eyes man. Democracies kill for what they want as much as any other form of government.

  147. You know, I picked this up originally because I felt your point here:

    ‘This is not the first time I have made that point. Never has the topic been picked up for reasonable debate. All I ever get back is something along the lines of, “Avedis is typical of liberal appeasers and apologists for evil…….he is a defeatist surrenderer….his coddling of evil typifies what is wrong with the left…balh, blah, blah”‘

    all the way back up at #87 had a point. So I figured I’d take you up on your desire.

    For my troubles I’ve been systematically personally insulted, which I’ve refrained from responding in kind to, and when you got tired of it, rather than gracefully bowing out, you needed to prove your own superiority with this little gem:

    ‘I’m sorry, but I have to call an to my participation here. You are a niave starry eyed true believer and not too educated……….but to answer you one last time;’

    Why would anyone want to debate you?

    As for why people confuse you for being ‘typical of liberal appeasers and apologists for evil’ may I suggest lines such as

    ‘Therefore your idolized “democracies”‘ and ‘Democracies kill for what they want as much as any other form of government.’ and other similar statements are at the heart of the problem.

    When you continually place democracy on the same level as tyranny, with sneering quotes around the democracy bit to boot, well, people might think you mean what you say. Shocking as that may be.

    And for those interested in the thread and are interested in African natural resource potential, in this instance agricultural:

    Go here: “IAC Africa Agriculture Report”:http://www.interacademycouncil.net/?id=9989

    It’s a UN sponsored report covering the African agricultural situation and potential. Check out Box 4-1 in particular. Africa is capable of phenomenal agricultural yield.

  148. bq. When you continually place democracy on the same level as tyranny, with sneering quotes around the democracy bit to boot, well, people might think you mean what you say. Shocking as that may be.

    Perhaps. There’s certainly a snarky bitterness that infects some folks’ dialogue about democracy. On the flip side, there are those who imply that any nation we consider a democracy is somehow magically immune to the crassest and ugliest of national/cultural actions.

    Democracy is a decision-making mechanism. It helps eliminates one sort of systemic inequality, but does nothing to prevent the making of evil decisions. While some nihilists and disillusioned idealists may wrongly equate democracy with tyranny, it’s important for us all to understand that democracy *does not ensure good, ethical, or moral action by the state*. Acknowledging that is not necessarily a moral equivalency argument.

  149. And I have a quibble of my own. The USSR never had anything resembling 500,000 troops in Afghanistan. I doubt if they could have supplied them; as it is much of their losses came from poor sanitation and inadequate medical facilities.

    The official maximum is 104K Soviet forces at any one time. As a large conscript army, they were able to rotate troops in a way that the USA can not. The success of the mujahedeen in killing Soviet troops was not really any better than the Iraqi insurgents: 14,453 dead. Worth keeping in mind how Great Powers can bleed from self-inflicted wounds, isn’t it?

  150. ‘Acknowledging that is not necessarily a moral equivalency argument.’

    By itself no, but to use that as an argument undercutting the value of instilling democracy as a worthy endeavor is.

    First it requires one to believe that not only do democracies engage in evil behavior, but do so on a level equivalent to tyrannies of various sorts.

    Secondly, it requires one to believe that the individual rights and freedoms inherent to democracy have no value in and of themselves, specifically that the right to equal representation is worthless.

  151. TF, I don’t mean to be insulting, but your expressed knowledge of economic development and the economic history of the world is seriously lacking in what is generally taken as base knowledge. It is a little bit like trying to discuss higher mathematic theory with someone who wants to argue the validity of basic algebra. I can involve myself in a debate about the higher level theories with someone with the prerequisite background and we can even respectfully disagree, but I cannot with someone who disputes accepted basic algebra.

    I would recommend a thought stimulating primer, “Guns, Germs and Steel”. This is not the source of my knowledgeor opinion, but I read it and agree with it. It examines why societies have evolved as they have from a natural resource/economic perspective. It’s an easy read being non-academic and I think it would at least open new doors for you.

    “As for why people confuse you for being ‘typical of liberal appeasers and apologists for evil’ may I suggest lines such as

    ‘Therefore your idolized “democracies”‘ and ‘Democracies kill for what they want as much as any other form of government.’ and other similar statements are at the heart of the problem.”

    This is fascinating. AL has the same problem you do as do many others of your mind set. You are so black/white in your thinking that critical introspection and honesty about failings translates into evidence of self-hatred and alignment with the enemy.

    I’ll say it again for the umpteenth time. I AM NOT EXCUSING TERRORISM OR ANY OTHER EVIL BEHAVIOR JUST BECAUSE THE US DOES IT TOO. TERRORISM MUST BE STAMPED OUT WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE.

    One of the first maxims of being an effective warrior is, “Know thyself”. This includes shortcomings as well as positive attributes. Your own unexamined shortcomings will lose the day much faster that the enemy’s strengths.

    I am simply pointing out that your isolating Islam and/or non-democratic societies as being terrorist producing and then building your theories of what causes war/terrorism based on this selective filtering leads to miserably wrong theories. Your fundemental definitions and assumptions, are all wrong, then as you must, you follow these to their logical conclusions – which, of course, are also way wrong. Then your interventions are incorrectly designed, wrongly focussed and implemented for naught and the world becomes an even worse mess.

    I am deeply sorry that our country (as well as other democracies) have aggressed against other societies for capital gain. I wish it wasn’t so. But wishing doesn’t make the history go away. I notice that maybe you like to bury your head in the sand and call names at the message courrier that caused you to react with burried head.

    Far better to face the facts. To understand how our agression has impacted others perception of us. To understand how such aggression has shaped and – perhaps- damaged our national character. To understand the root causes. If we don’t like what we see we can move forward to make our actions better meet our ideals.

    Furthermore, understanding why we aggress as well as why they aggress helps us understand the problem as one that is a human problem; not just one that “they” have. And being honest about the problem allows us – hopefully – to work towards ameliorating, if not solving, it.

    How does that translate into appeasement? How does that translate into excuse? I don’t see it. Wrong is wrong regardless of who does it. You guys (e.g. TF, AL. et al are supposed to be hard nosed realists that call things as they are. Well, what do you call the support of Contra death squads- behavior that was so wrong it was outlawed by Congress)?

    How does my bringing up the Contras make me an appeaser for Bin Laden? I said that Bin Laden should die and that I would have killed him. Right? When did I ever anywhere say that Bin Laden should be allowed to attack now and then again because everyone does it?

    Never. I BROUGHT UP THE US’ AND OTHER DEMOCRACIES’ TERRORISM AND IMPERIAL AGGRESSION AS A COUNTER TO THE POSTULATE THAT DEMOCRACIES DON’T KILL/TERRORIZE TO GET WHAT THEY WANT. That democracy is a prophelactic against war and terrorism is a flawed agrument and I countered it; a flawed argument that leads to flawed conclusions as to how to decrease terrorism in the world.

    You, TF, have never taken up the points I made regarding US imperial agression. Never. Not once. Only dodging and name calling.

    Jeff….no snarky bitterness from me concerning democracy….only regarding ham headed theories based on the peaceful perfection of democracies. Otherwise, I like and agree with the points you made.

    Andrew, good points as well. I’d add that many of those Ruskie conscripts were generally piss poor troops.
    It was when the US aided Bin Laden’s boys with anti-aircraft missiles that the tide turned. Maybe we shouldn’t have done that. Maybe the Soviets were on to something with their invasion. Oh that’s right…..they were the “evil” empire so nothing they did was of value………and that’s what I’m talking about.

  152. ‘Worth keeping in mind how Great Powers can bleed from self-inflicted wounds, isn’t it?’

    Actually, wasn’t the point, illustrated by the following collapse, that the Soviet Union wasn’t a great power except on paper (barring nuclear exchanges)?

    The casualty figures are interesting, the mujahedeen sucked worse than I thought. Assuming the 10/90% casualty percentages from the wounded/sick carry over, that means of the 14,500 deaths suffered by the Soviets only 1450 or so were from hostile action, with the rest from disease.

    Over 10 years that’s 140-150 a year. I’m betting the material losses were probably similar, mostly due to maintenance failure not hostile action.

    Basically, if the Soviet army hadn’t been a one shot weapon designed to conquer Europe quickly, and had had the logistical backing to match it’s combat power, they could’ve stayed in Afghanistan forever…

  153. “First it requires one to believe that not only do democracies engage in evil behavior, but do so on a level equivalent to tyrannies of various sorts.”

    US support of terrorist organizations, dictatorships and direct actions, both overt and covert have killed more people and caused more suffering that Bin Laden ever has and probably ever will. This is a fact. Face it deal with it and move forward.

    “Secondly, it requires one to believe that the individual rights and freedoms inherent to democracy have no value in and of themselves, specifically that the right to equal representation is worthless.”

    I do not see how this logically follows. In fact it does not. You still haven’t dealt with the question, “what if the people of a democracy called for the destruction of a neighboring country and demanded that their represtative government carry out their desire”? Like Hamas. Like might happen in a truly democratic Iran.

  154. “Basically, if the Soviet army hadn’t been a one shot weapon designed to conquer Europe quickly, and had had the logistical backing to match it’s combat power, they could’ve stayed in Afghanistan forever…”

    Something I said a hundred comments ago………modern warfare is expensive for modern armies. The war cannot be sustained if for the economic cost alone if not for other costs. Insurgents fighting 3rd gen warfare will win if they can draw it out. Glad you can see this now – at least as far as Rusiia is concerned.

    You people that support US military as the diplomatic hammer must come to recognize this as mucg as insurgent forces have.

  155. ‘I would recommend a thought stimulating primer, “Guns, Germs and Steel”. This is not the source of my knowledgeor opinion, but I read it and agree with it. It examines why societies have evolved as they have from a natural resource/economic perspective. It’s an easy read being non-academic and I think it would at least open new doors for you.’

    I’ve read it. It’s totally irrelevant to the discussion at hand. You’re attempting to argue that the reason we can’t build a prosperous Afghani nation now is the same reason why Afghanistan didn’t become prosperous in the first place? That includes 2 logical errors of staggering proportion. First, it ignores the fact they don’t need to bootstrap, that we can get them over initial energy sumps. Second, it completely ignores the effects modern technology, much of it new to the last hundred years has on traditional constraints. Even assuming agriculture to be the only starter economic mode available, a point I dispute, it totally ignores the advances in crops, irrigation, transportation, etc.

    The discussion was about nation building in the modern day and age. We’re no longer limited to solar power->plants as an input energy source.

    Maybe this one will sink in, the vast majority of the GDP of first world nations comes from A) Natural Resources (agricultural, mining) B) Manufacturing or C) Services.

    You can try making the argument that it’s impossible to get to a first world economic status without lots of A as a start point, but then you’d have to explain all the counter-examples. Try Israel for example.

    Educated labor is the most important factor in the modern economy, and there’s no reason we can’t kickstart that.

    ‘US support of terrorist organizations, dictatorships and direct actions, both overt and covert have killed more people and caused more suffering that Bin Laden ever has and probably ever will. This is a fact. Face it deal with it and move forward.’

    Nice evasion, except that the comparison wasn’t US to Bin Laden, it was democracy to tyranny, or are you going to try to tell me that democracies have killed more people and caused more suffering than tyrannies ever have?

    I made a point, supported by historical evidence, that democracies are preferable to dictatorships on every metric. They are more prosperous, they grant greater freedoms, start fewer wars (in fact, to date, no democracy has ever declared war on another democracy – and the vast majority of wars engaged in by democracies have been initiated by the opposing side), kill fewer of their own citizens (by staggering margins), produce far fewer terrorists, and of those they do produce, the vast majority are internally directed.

    I proposed that this is the best possible mechanism to reduce future war, violence, and terrorism.

    Your counter point is that democracies are not perfect, that they do occasionally indulge in violence, therefore my point is invalid.

    Indeed, you demand that either I offer a perfect cure or give up the entire attempt. Apparently my entire theory is flawed because it won’t result in utopia, it’ll merely vastly reduce the undesirable behaviours.

    In other words, democracy may not be considered as an improvement over dictatorships unless it is an absolute improvement. You do not appear to understand the term moral equivalence.

    ‘You still haven’t dealt with the question, “what if the people of a democracy called for the destruction of a neighboring country and demanded that their represtative government carry out their desire”? Like Hamas. Like might happen in a truly democratic Iran.’

    I don’t rule out the possibility, and it would have to be dealt with the old fashioned way, on the battlefield. It’s never happened, and no current democracy shows any signs of desiring war with any other democracy. Compare this to the track record of other government forms.

    Your assumption that democratically elected means democratic is instructive. Hamas is a democracy?

  156. Original TF

    “Basically, if the Soviet army hadn’t been a one shot weapon designed to conquer Europe quickly, and had had the logistical backing to match it’s combat power, they could’ve stayed in Afghanistan forever…”

    Avedis Reply

    ‘The war cannot be sustained if for the economic cost alone if not for other costs. Insurgents fighting 3rd gen warfare will win if they can draw it out. Glad you can see this now – at least as far as Rusiia is concerned.’

    ????

    Actually, I just said that Russia could have sustained the engagement forever if they’d had a different army makeup. You could try actually reading it.

  157. bq. Your assumption that democratically elected means democratic is instructive. Hamas is a democracy?

    That sounds interesting. Care to elaborate? I would agree that it’s not all purple fingers, as they say. Since much of our recent adventuring has been justified as ‘spreading democracy,’ and many supporters of said adventuring have pointed to elections as the light that blinks on for ‘democracy’, we might want to nail down precisely what we’re talking about.

    Clearly, Cuba doesn’t qualify in any sane universe. What does, though?

    Not trying to be snarky, I’ve just seen the No True Scotsman thing come up in discussions like this from both sides and I’m curious what your take on it is.

  158. ‘Since much of our recent adventuring has been justified as ‘spreading democracy,’ and many supporters of said adventuring have pointed to elections as the light that blinks on for ‘democracy’, we might want to nail down precisely what we’re talking about.’

    Well, Saddam was elected by, what, 99.99% of the Iraqi people? I think we can both agree that holding elections isn’t exactly the definition of democracy.

    Boiled down to basics, I require four basic principles.

    First, you have to hold valid elections (meaning the results should match what actually happened, within the boundaries of reality). If 72% of the population voted for candidate A, the results should state that 72% +- some appropriate error margin voted for A. You’ll always have counting errors, but they shouldn’t materially effect the election.

    For instance, my take on Bush vs. Gore was that if the vote was close enough that counting discrepancies could swing it one way or the other, than really, both candidates are democratically valid.

    Second, the candidate input process must be open. Democratic filtering mechanisms (i.e. you must have X signatures to run, etc) are ok, but the Model T election system (you can vote for any candidate you want, they are all ours anyway) is out.

    Third, it must be repeatable. The one election and that’s it problem.

    Fourth, no shooting the losers after you win. Or the winners after you lose for that matter. Technically this is kinda the same point as three, but I wanted to specify it because it’s important.

    I’d say Hamas loses on 3 and 4 for sure, and I have my doubts on 1 and 2.

    I could add some stuff about respect for rule of law, abiding by legal processes, etc, etc, but as long as the above 4 hold, the populace should keep the winners in line in the long run.

  159. Hamas loses on 3 and 4? Explain please. They were elcted and they just beat the crap out of US/Israeli trained proxies which tells me they maintain popular support.

    “Your counter point is that democracies are not perfect, that they do occasionally indulge in violence, therefore my point is invalid.”

    No. I agreed with you that there is no utopia, remember.

    My counter is that democracies are not less violent than dictatorships. The difference is one of quality and transparency, not of ultimate degree.

    First off, your attempt at unfavorably comparing dictatorships to democracies concerning violence is somewhat handicapped by the fact that the sampling is not scientific. Obviously, in raw volumes of violence, dictatorships are greater than demos because demos are historically new and dict.s have been around a lot longer. Then you can point to outliers like Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Stalin’s Russia.

    I’ll admit there is an argument for not considering these outliers, but, if we did – for a moment – and focused soley on comparison of Islamic dictatorships to US democracy, then I would say that the US has created far more terrorism, imperialistic adventure and violence than the Islamic dictatorships.

    I would point to overt violence by the US beginning with genocide agianst its own people – the native Americans – slavery, the Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, support of numerous dictators in Latin America and Cuba, Samosa, Pinochet, Saddam, the Shah of Iran, Support of Indonesian dictators, colonialism by force of arms in China and elsewhare in the S. Pacific. Then if you add in British and French colonialism by force of arms the death toll becomes truly staggering; far greater than anything perpetrated by Islamic dictators during the same time frame (the last 100 years or so – give or take a decade).

    Islamic terror tends to be instantly shocking and headline grabbing – a suicide bombing, a rocket attack. US violence is usually more covert and done by bought and paid for proxies, occurs over longer periods of time and is masked by various media spins. But it is the US style that really racks up the body count at the end of the day.

    So again, how is democracy going to change the orientation of the people’s thinking in Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan? What stops them from voting to destroy Israel? Or to attack the US? Given that the US has certainly gone ahead with much violence with or without the vote of the people?

  160. Hamas loses on 3 and 4? Explain please. They were elcted and they just beat the crap out of US/Israeli trained proxies which tells me they maintain popular support.

    “Your counter point is that democracies are not perfect, that they do occasionally indulge in violence, therefore my point is invalid.”

    No. I agreed with you that there is no utopia, remember.

    My counter is that democracies are not less violent than dictatorships. The difference is one of quality and transparency, not of ultimate degree.

    First off, your attempt at unfavorably comparing dictatorships to democracies concerning violence is somewhat handicapped by the fact that the sampling is not scientific. Obviously, in raw volumes of violence, dictatorships are greater than demos because demos are historically new and dict.s have been around a lot longer. Then you can point to outliers like Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Stalin’s Russia.

    I’ll admit there is an argument for not considering these outliers, but, if we did – for a moment – and focused soley on comparison of Islamic dictatorships to US democracy, then I would say that the US has created far more terrorism, imperialistic adventure and violence than the Islamic dictatorships.

    I would point to overt violence by the US beginning with genocide agianst its own people – the native Americans – slavery, the Mexican American War, the Spanish American War, support of numerous dictators in Latin America and Cuba, Samosa, Pinochet, Saddam, the Shah of Iran, Support of Indonesian dictators, colonialism by force of arms in China and elsewhare in the S. Pacific. Then if you add in British and French colonialism by force of arms the death toll becomes truly staggering; far greater than anything perpetrated by Islamic dictators during the same time frame (the last 100 years or so – give or take a decade).

    Islamic terror tends to be instantly shocking and headline grabbing – a suicide bombing, a rocket attack. US violence is usually more covert and done by bought and paid for proxies, occurs over longer periods of time and is masked by various media spins. But it is the US style that really racks up the body count at the end of the day.

    So again, how is democracy going to change the orientation of the people’s thinking in Iraq or Iran or Afghanistan? What stops them from voting to destroy Israel? Or to attack the US? Given that the US has certainly gone ahead with much violence with or without the vote of the people?

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