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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Stuck Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

In a line, that pretty much describes our Syrian national security dilemma.  

While it is a truism, it isn't necessarily trite to note that the choice of solution depends upon framing the problem.  The opening sentence itself contains a frame: what happens in Syria is important to US national security.  Obviously, context matters.  It isn't necessarily true that Syria's civil war should amount to anything but a particularly murderous current event.  Think Rwanda.  

Except that the Assad regime used sarin gas.  To which the enquiring mind might ask, "So?"  There has been plenty of slaughter to go around, and there seems to be no obvious reason to prefer death by shrapnel evisceration over succumbing to sarin.

That the reason isn't obvious should be put down to improperly framing the problem.  Sarin gas is one leg of the triumvirate that comprises Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Aside from pointless wordiness (why not Mass Destruction Weapons?), nerve agents are distinctly different from nuclear and bacteriological weapons.  All three are the antithesis of precise application of force, but nerve agents are unique.  Like bacteriological weapons, and unlike nuclear weapons, they do not cause any infrastructure damage.  Unlike bacteriological and nuclear weapons, nerve agents like sarin have no persistent effects.

Which means we always needed a different term for nerve agents.  Something along the lines of PMW: Profitable Murder Weapon.  It requires no intellectual exertion to demonstrate that some people, given sufficient power, will start from the basest convictions and create hecatombs. What makes PMWs different is that it not only makes hecatombs easy, it makes them profitable.  For the price of a few crop dusters, entire districts can be had intact with only the bother of clearing corpses.  Ethnic cleansing without having to queue up the cattle cars.

That should frame the problem exquisitely.

The Assad regime's undeniable use of sarin presents a meta-problem.  By that I mean a problem that exists above other problems in the same realm.  In national security terms, resorting to a PMW requires a response independent of normal Hobbesian international relations.  And, unfortunately, the only country able to transcend Hobbes is the United States.

Which is one of the reasons why President Obama is stuck between the devil and the deep blue Sea.  Taking the appropriate action against the meta-problem could run directly counter to our Hobbesian interests; since it is impossible to say which victory is worse for us, Assad's, the Sunni's or the Shia's, our national security policy should be aimed at all of them losing for as long as possible.  Indeed, the Obama administrations seeming fecklessness in this regard might well be a cover for a far more cynical foreign policy than his worshipers would ever be willing to acknowledge.

Therefore, if I was the National Security Advisor, my advice would be:  1.  Doing nothing is, counterintuitively, doing something.  2.  This is a meta-problem; doing nothing isn't an option.  3.  The goal of doing something is not to dissuade the Assad regime from using PMWs again, but to make it (or others similarly inclined) sorry they ever thought about it in the first place.

Mr. President, I grant doing so could shift the balance of power to a party that is contrary to our national interests, but since they all are, that is, practically speaking, an imponderable distinction without difference.  

Presuming the President took my advice, the speech I would have written would have made the punitive point clear, and left the suggestion that the Snowden affair might well be a false flag operation:  "Everyone significant in the Assad government and military -- our PGMs have you on speed dial."  The clear goal to make those loyal to Assad, and their families, start to fear us more than him.

Clearly, this isn't what has happened.  Yet just as clearly even President Obama's most fervent critics must admit that what to do about Syria is a dilemma for which either horn could be argued effectively, solely based upon how the problem is framed.

So, no matter the decision, I won't criticize the President for making it.

However, there is criticism aplenty for his administration.  That the Assad regime had significant quantities of a PMW was no secret, nor should the possibility of its use in a regime-threatening civil war have come as any surprise.  That the Obama administration reacted like a headlight-pinned deer when the first small PMW uses occurred is bad enough, but that it should maintain that glassy-eyed posture when Assad stopped fooling around and got busy is almost unfathomable.  

Unfortunately, Obama himself, and the Left in general, are responsible for their own paralysis.  Having excoriated President Bush for having made a far more thorough case for eliminating Saddam, then gotten Congress's approval for doing so, Obama faces charges of gross hypocrisy on one hand, or dereliction in the face of eminently foreseeable provocation on the other.

Just because I framed the problem as I did doesn't make it right.  It would be easy to frame this horrible situation purely in terms of amoral state interests.  I think that would be risking the long term consequences of short term thinking, but there is no denying that the only way to the long term is through all manner of short terms.  

Leaving aside the administration's curious incompetence -- which I think we should, because even competent foreign policy would likely be in the same position -- I have a great deal of sympathy for him.  There is simply no good way out.


Oh, one other thing.  I have learned to absolutely loathe the term "boots on the ground".  If there was ever a dehumanizing term with which to refer to those who swear to risk their lives on our behalf, that must be it.  They are soldiers, people, not boots.  It is bad enough that all manner of people thoughtlessly use that wordy slander, but for the Commander in Chief to include it in a state speech is appalling. 

77 comments:

Bret said...

Great post!

A couple of questions though. What's the confidence that Assad or Assad's regime deployed the chemical weapons? Assad denies it, Russia says no, UN says yes, our leaders say probably. Your argument carries less weight if Assad didn't actually use the weapons.

The rebels also seem to potentially have been using chemical weapons. How does that affect how we should proceed?

Harry Eagar said...

Bush made a case for removing Saddam? I never heard it. Framing, I suppose.

I don't think your fingering of sarin is especially persuasive. People have had sarin for a long, long time. Hitler for one, and he didn't use it.

Aum Shinrikyo used it, not effectively, and found no imitators.

Gas isn't really as simple to use as it looks. That's probably why all the big armies investigated it but didn't use it (the Russians in Afghanistan a possible exception that proves the rule; it didn't work for them.)



Hey Skipper said...

Bret:

My argument carries precisely no weight if the attack was a false flag operation.

And I have no conclusive evidence that it wasn't, except for perhaps one thing. Just like admissions against interest carry credibility for that fact alone, the absolutely last thing the Obama administration wants is for a significant sarin attack to have a) happened, and b) have Assad's regime behind it.

Because the administration is acting as if the last thing they want to have happen happened, that is more compelling evidence to me than anything else cited.

As for the rebels using PMWs? I think it takes more infrastructure than they have, plus it is hard to say where they would have gotten them in any significant quantity.

Harry:

Bush made a speed in front of the UN. Perhaps you have heard of it? If not make google your friend.

Either way, read it then get back to me.

Also, there are 5,000 some odd Kurds who would make the case, if they could.

Gas isn't effective against fielded forces, for a number of reasons.

But against concentrated civilians in an area you don't want to rebuild?

In that event, gas becomes a PMW.

The difference matters.

(BTW, Hitler didn't use sarin, but he did use Zyklon B. I'm not sure why that should make a difference, because it makes my point for me either way. If you want to kill lots of people on the cheap, nothing beats gas.)

Clovis e Adri said...

H. Skipper:

I have a couple of question too, please.

First, I googled for it with no success: what should I understand from the expression "reacted like a headlight-pinned deer"?

Second, I am ready to believe US has good enough intel to really be right they used Sarin and it was Assad's fault. But as is usual in every trial, would not be good procedure to present the proof for the jury (i.e. UN)? Independent of the Russian induced paralysis of the Security Council, it did not help the US case when it proclaimed to take action before all evidence is clear to all.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Bret;

We have to consider the possibility that no such weapons were used in this case as well, that it was all faked.

Skipper;

I have no sympathy for the Obama Administration on this - they failed epically and repeatedly. The biggest failure was to set out the "red line" and then make absolutely no effort to prepare for someone crossing it. Build no alliances, make no plans, gather no support in Congress.

Finally, I judge policies based on the expected outcome, not the intended or desired outcome and the idea that the Obama Administration would have the skill or the will power to follow through enough to make your case is, frankly, laughable. I think a weak attack that accomplishes nothing would be even worse than doing nothing.

Finally, I think the report by the Obama Administration was yet another political miscalculation. I think they expected everyone to just fall in line, because Obama, and he'd get some cheap street credibility and distract from his manifold domestic failures. Now they're in a hole they've dug.

Clovis;

Google "deer in the headlights"

Annoying Old Guy said...

P.S.

I forgot to note that Clovis makes a key point - why hasn't the evidence (if it even exists) been released by the Obama Administration? Even the death estimates are far off anyone else's. Given the blatant lies told about Benghazi by these same people, why should I expect any accuracy in this case?

Hey Skipper said...

[AOG:] I have no sympathy for the Obama Administration on this - they failed epically and repeatedly.

The failure is epic as to be nearly unimaginable. Everyone knew Assad has sarin, and it is no stretch of the intellect to anticipate their use.

My guess is that the Obama administration fell prey to more of Progressivism's vices: love of process, and love of politics. Obama spends a lot of time on various "whistle stop" tours that exist primarily to honk his horn. His administration is fascinated with the minutiae of big government arcana.

So when something happens outside the realm of the political -- international relations aren't political in the sense that stirs Progressives' loins -- they get caught flat footed.

Now they're in a hole they've dug.

I disagree, to the extent that I don't think there is anything the administration could have done in advance to prevent the situation.

But this does show once again how BDS bites.

[clovis:] But as is usual in every trial, would not be good procedure to present the proof for the jury (i.e. UN)?

I think the most powerful proof that this sarin attack happened as depicted is that it goes completely against the administration's interests -- there is absolutely no upside for them politically, or in terms of national security.

As far as the UN goes, this situation reveals once again how utterly useless it is, except for those who are happy to abet PWMs, and the spineless who flutter their hands in horror while looking for a place to hide, which the UN is happy to provide.

Clovis e Adri said...

H. Skipper:

---
As far as the UN goes, this situation reveals once again how utterly useless it is, except for those who are happy to abet PWMs, and the spineless who flutter their hands in horror while looking for a place to hide, which the UN is happy to provide.
---

I believe it is self defeating to be, at the same time, the main keeper of the U.N. and the main loather of it.

Even the Russians conceded that, upon seeing proof, they would side for Syria's punishment. So to discard a priori the U.N., which means to discard the world's opinion in this case, is more of an excuse to not do your job right (e.g. presenting proper proof of your intel) than to abide by inaction.


Talking about Russians, I've found it unexpected to see Putin adressing Americans directly today:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/12/opinion/putin-plea-for-caution-from-russia-on-syria.html?hp

Let me know your take on it.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Skipper;

Come over to the dark side...

While I agree there is little the Obama Administration could have done to prevent the alleged use of chemical weapons, there is plenty (some of which I listed) they could have done to prevent it from being an epic foreign policy disaster. Like Gary Hart and the Monkey Business, a failure of that type removes an option because it's clear the executors of the policy can't actually execute it.

Hey Skipper said...

This pretty much covers the territory about the UN's uselessness, Putin's perfidy, and the extent of proof about what happened in Syria.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "In national security terms, resorting to a PMW requires a response independent of normal Hobbesian international relations."

I was thinking about this some more.

I think the body count makes a difference.

For example, if an entity uses Sarin and kills exactly 1 person, how is that really different than killing that person with a bullet? Or 5,000 with Sarin versus 5,000 with bullets? Or 100,000?

Bullets mostly leave "entire districts ... intact" as well. Especially when deployed against an unarmed, or very lightly armed, population.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret:


They say the targeted district was a rebel area. Which means a not very light armed population, rather the contrary. So to take them down would hardly leave the district intact, and would probably take many lives from the Syrian army in entrenched fights.


Hey Skipper:

Your link does reveal some piece of evidence I did not know - I was not aware they could study parts of the rockets used. I am assuing they've took pieces of it for that, or not? If not, are you aware how they have arrived in their conclusions on this one?


Now, it makes me sad you maintain such skepticism on Putin's good intentions. He surely must have learned a lot about "international laws" since his invasion of Georgia in 2008 - how can you not acknowledge such intelectual progress? It took him only 5 years!

Hey Skipper said...

They say the targeted district was a rebel area. Which means a not very light armed population, rather the contrary.

That the area was under the control of rebels doesn't mean that everyone, or even most, in the area were armed combatants.

But whether they were armed or not isn't what is important. The two distinctions are that everyone in the area was completely defenseless, and that killing them was too cheap and easy.

The use of chemical weapons has been considered a war crime since WWI. Perhaps the most important reason that ban has remained intact (Iraq and Syria notwithstanding) is that they are not effective against prepared forces.

I am not sufficiently versed to explain in detail how they gathered evidence, but the fact that they had large pieces of rockets is a good indication they weren't carrying high explosive payloads.

Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] I think the body count makes a difference.

I'm not sure how. Chemical weapons are intended to inflict mass casualties, so if their use killed only a few, that would be a matter of inept employment, not intent.

Bullets mostly leave "entire districts ... intact" as well. Especially when deployed against an unarmed, or very lightly armed, population.

Stalingrad comes to mind. Urban warfare very much favors the defender, and always results in serious damage to infrastructure.

The distinction is what Obama has failed to communicate. Sarin makes killing way too easy and cheap, particularly against a population which is absolutely defenseless.

One would think adherents of the Religion of Peace™ would be less inclined to use the stuff against their fellow adherents.

Clearly, there is some nuance about that whole peace thing that I am missing.

Clovis e Adri said...

Hey Skipper,


I am totally at loss on your irony above. In what sense Assad would be an adherent of Peace?

Hey Skipper said...

My irony wasn't about Assad, but rather noting that pretty all the instances of chemical warfare since WWI have been in Islamic countries, against other Muslims.

And, come to think of it, virtually all the armed conflict in the world is either taking place in Islamic countries, between Muslims, or involves Islam.

Seems odd, since Islam bills itself as the Religion of Peace™.

Clovis e Adri said...

Hey Skipper,

I tend to associate it not with religion, but with the curse of the black gold. Or do you think those conflicts would disappear, were they not Muslims?

Clovis e Adri said...

BTW, H. Skipper, I do remember claims that the US army used White Phosphorus chemical weapons in Iraq war II.

A case of Might Makes Right?

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

Do you think the conflicts in Sri Lanka and India are driven by desire to control petroleum? Sudan? Ethiopia? The Philipines? Chechnya? Jordan? Lebanon? Bosnia? Thailand? Egypt?

The use of white phosphorus is not considered a chemical weapon attack. "The use of white phosphorus as an obscurant is legal, as well as use as an incendiary weapon against military targets that are not in close proximity to civilians or civilian property".

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG,

From where are you taking the definition of chemical weapon?

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:


If you count not only oil, but the ensuing geopolitical strategic struggles around it, I would say that 6 of your examples fit the curse to varying degrees. If we include Syria, then make it 7.

On White phosphorus:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_phosphorus_use_in_Iraq

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallujah,_The_Hidden_Massacre

The allegations on its improper use (i.e. with little care for civilians around) look, I would say, as good as the ones we have in Syria up to now.

Might makes right.

Hey Skipper said...

BTW, H. Skipper, I do remember claims that the US army used White Phosphorus chemical weapons in Iraq war II.

A case of Might Makes Right?


I'm not sure if the US used WP in Operation Iraqi Freedom, but it doesn't matter.

Tritonal is a chemical, and the US has used it in abundance over the years.

As have a great many other countries.

And mining companies. And civil engineers.

WP and Tritonal are point weapons. In order to be effective they must impact very close (in relative terms) to the target. Their effects are extremely brief and very localized, and their impact is indiscriminate.

Sarin is an area weapon, extremely persistent (compared to Tritonal), and very selective (i.e., it has absolutely no effect on non-living things, or many living things, for that matter. For example, SFAIK, sarin has no effect on plants.)

Put it another way, WP, like all other conventional weapons, depends upon some form of energy conversion for its effect.

That is how you can distinguish all "chemical" weapons from weapons that have chemicals.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

I got my quote from your first cite.

As for my examples, in my opinion all of them don't fit your original thesis. You've moved the goal posts now, so I'll just leave it at that.

Peter said...

what happens in Syria is important to US national security.

Let's revisit that. Assuming it's not a rote rhetorical flourish that could be said about anywhere, what exactly is the US national security interest in the outcome of a Syrian civil war between two murderous factions, neither of which hold out the promise of liberal democracy or pro-Americanism, and neither of which are threatening neighbours, U.S. citizens/military or resource supplies? Leaving aside the WMD controversy in Iraq, it wasn't at all hard to identify an American security interest in getting rid of Hussein, but I haven't yet seen an articulation of one here. All I'm hearing is wispy stuff like "We musn't give green lights to people who cross red lines." That may play well at college demonstrations, but at State and the Pentagon? So what is it?

If the justification is enforcing international law rather than defending a national interest, is this a wise basis for acting unilaterally, and in this way? Iraq confirmed the US would act unilaterally to protect it's national secuity (there were plenty of threats beyond the WMD controversy--presidential assasination attempt, threats to Kuwait & Saudi, paying bounty on murdered Israelis, oil supply interruptions). Is the U.S. now asserting the right to act alone to enforce UN conventions when neither the UN nor anyone else is asking them to? Isn't that militarily and diplomatically reckless? There are going to be consequences to this, and one of them will be other nations will assert the same right.

If not that, is the justification a moral one--our humanity is so offended by the use of chemical weapons on civilians that we cannot stand by and watch? There is some precedent for this (the British Navy and the slave trade), but the focus there was seizing ships and freeing slaves, not bombarding, and Britain paid a price. Plus that was a much starker moral issue than chemical weapons in an age of nuclear warheads, cruise missiles, drones, hollow-tipped bullets and, yes, aerial bombing. Bombing may be much better at targeting these days, but it's not perfect and carries its own moral ambiguities when it is unrelated to security and national defence. What ever happened to blockades, sanctions, special forces operations against identified culprits, etc.?

This reminds me a lot of Serbia, the last war the left got excited about. No identifiable national interest, a lot of gooey talk about human rights, a facile and ignorant public perception of good guys and bad guys, a refusal to risk casualties, etc., and even there it was done in the name of NATO. It seems to me that, since the end of the Soviet Union and the consequent overwhelming hegemony of American power, the use of that power requires less and less prudence and long-term thinking, and even less worrying about outcomes. There's a slaphappy feel to a lot of this. If I were an American, I'd be worrying about the long haul and how U.S. military and diplomatic power is being husbanded. Hey, you know what? I'm not an American, but I'm still worried about it.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:

---
As for my examples, in my opinion all of them don't fit your original thesis. You've moved the goal posts now, so I'll just leave it at that.
---
Not fair. I just defined what I've meant by "curse of the black gold". It is different from what you've understood, but it does not mean I've moved my own goal posts.

Take the presente example of Syria. The arming of its rebels - who existed for long time without anyone bothering to empower them - was greatly advanced after the refusal of Assad to play ball with Saudi Arabia and Western powers. Namely, he killed a pipeline project intended to start in Qatar and go all the way down to Europe. Without Syria's permission for its passing in Syria's soil, the project was no longer possible. Assad did so expressly to please the Russians, who would lose their monopoly on providing gas to Europe.

You may think "Oh, Syria has no Oil, so Clovis moved the goal posts!", but in fact it is Oil all around that made Syria the hellhole it is now. I am not saying it would be a paradise otherwise - Assad would still be in power - but it would hardly be in a 100.000 dead civil war and counting.

Clovis e Adri said...

H. Skipper:


---
That is how you can distinguish all "chemical" weapons from weapons that have chemicals.
---
Thanks for the explanation.

It still allows for controversy over to what extent its use was targeted to innocent civilians in Iraq. But I will rest this case, for I am not really interested in beating that dead horse. My intent was mainly to show how both cases (US army in Iraq, and Syria now) depend still on too much hearsay and too few evidences given to the public.



In fairness, I can tell you that not many people - including pacifists - would be making much noise if, the day after Obama and Kerry's declaration of Assad's use of chemicals, the US had bombed a few places where its intel indicates the chemical stuff is stored. And only that places.

To defend my point: In 2007 Israel bombed a location in Syria where Siryans were trying to set up a nuclear facility, supposedly with North Korean help. No one is made, and is making, noise about it, right?

Bret said...

Peter wrote: "There's a slaphappy feel to a lot of this."

It's probably just bias, but to me, Obama being all over the map wrt Syria has a lot do with that.

Harry Eagar said...

'pretty all the instances of chemical warfare since WWI have been in Islamic countries, against other Muslims.'

Not correct. So far as I know, poison gas has been used by Russians against Afghans, by Americans against Vietnamese, by Iraqis (but not especially Muslimy ones) against Kurds, by Syrians against Syrians and, perhaps, by Russian surrogates against Cambodians.

Hey Skipper said...

Not correct. So far as I know, poison gas has been used ... by Americans against Vietnamese ...

Wrong.

Americans used non-lethal agents like tear gas.

Hey Skipper said...

[clovis:] It still allows for controversy over to what extent its use was targeted to innocent civilians in Iraq.

No part of the controversy has anything to do with whether the targets were combatants or not.

My intent was mainly to show how both cases (US army in Iraq, and Syria now) depend still on too much hearsay and too few evidences given to the public.

There is no doubt that Saddam killed over 5,000 Kurds with sarin, and that he used lethal chemical weapons in the Iran - Iraq war.

Further, the strategic argument for Operation Iraqi Freedom rested upon a lot more than WMD.

The point of the link is that the decision to depose Saddam has to within the context of the options available, and their consequences.

Not against [crickets].

Hey Skipper said...

... not many people - including pacifists - would be making much noise if, the day after Obama and Kerry's declaration of Assad's use of chemicals, the US had bombed a few places where its intel indicates the chemical stuff is stored. And only that places.

That is presuming too much. First, that we know where the stuff is stored, a difficult problem in the first place, and nearly impossible if it has been put in the field for potential employment. Even assuming the first is solved, destroying the physical containers would effectively put us in the position of employing chemical weapons.

IMHO, we needed to determine the locations of as many 1st, 2nd, and 3rd echelon members of the regime and military leadership were located, and target them.

Hey Skipper said...

Peter:

That was an excellent comment, for which I don't have any good answers.

Clearly, I feel that Assad's using sarin was so far beyond the pale that he and his regime should be punished severely, regardless of the strategic consequences.

That is an easier argument to make of all the outcomes are likely to be bad. However, granting that puts the arguer (me) right back in the position of advocating an act of war in a situation where no outcome will be more favorable to us than any other.

Which is why I framed this as meta-problem; unfortunately, that can easily serve to dodge all manner of unpleasant questions.

All of yours, for instance.

One non-strategic argument for intervening in the FYR was the possibility of contagion in Eastern Europe. Was that possibility sufficient to justify our intervention? We will never know, but it is arguable that the outcome was better than if we, and NATO, had done nothing.

Clausewitz referred to war as the pursuit of politics by other means. IMHO, the political goal here is sufficiently valuable that means other than politics would be justified in pursuing it.

But I wouldn't welcome having to justify that against informed disagreement, or vice versa.

Which is why I am sympathetic to Pres Obama, at least in this regard.

Harry Eagar said...

Tear gas is not lethal (usually) when used in open air. It is lethal when used in a tunnel, which is how we used it.

I understand the pettifogging distinction that was made at the time but was bogus.

Harry Eagar said...

'Finally, I judge policies based on the expected outcome, not the intended or desired outcome'

You do? Could have fooled me.

No one who knew anything about either Iraq or the American leadership could have expected anything but a disaster from the 2003 invasion. And the proof that was in the outcome.

Hey Skipper said...

Tear gas is not lethal (usually) when used in open air. It is lethal when used in a tunnel, which is how we used it.

No, it isn't. Other incapacitating agents can be, but not tear gas. In fact, the justification for using tear gas is that it was the least harmful way of clearing tunnels.

Doesn't sound like a pettifogging distinction to me.

(Besides, you will lead yourself quickly down a rabbit hole, because any gas used in sufficient concentration is fatal. If we kept a U-boat underwater until people were dying of CO2, would that be gas warfare?)

'Finally, I judge policies based on the expected outcome, not the intended or desired outcome' ...

There you go, arguing a null again. I never expected the outcome was going to be "good", but I think it very arguable it is better than any alternative on offer.

Including your own self-contradictory ones. You have elsewhere said we didn't have enough soldiers, and insisted we should have had the Kurds do the fighting.

Can't have it both ways.

Annoying Old Guy said...

You do? Could have fooled me.

Yes, but that's hardly a challenge, is it? As far as I can tell, I fool you on almost everything I write.

I don't find the Iraq expedition a disaster even at this stage, and it likely would have had a much superior result if President Obama had not decided to snatch defeat out the jaws of success. Which is, of course, yet another good reason to stay out of Syria.

Clovis e Adri said...

Hey Skipper:

---
[clovis:] It still allows for controversy over to what extent its use was targeted to innocent civilians in Iraq.
No part of the controversy has anything to do with whether the targets were combatants or not.
---
Maybe not for you, but if you follow the allegations in the wikipedia links I've linked above, the most worrisome is exatcly that.

---
The point of the link is that the decision to depose Saddam has to within the context of the options available, and their consequences.
---
I've read it before, and we have discussed your points in another thread. But you misunderstood my comparison. My analogy was between use of chemical weapons against civilians in Fallujah (by US army) and use of them by Syrya's army now.

I now agree that WP is not listed among the banished chemical weapons, but its use against women and children looks to be as bad as any sarin gas. If not worse.

---
Not against [crickets].
---
There it is an expression I've never seen before. What is it supposed to mean?

Hey Skipper said...

Not against [crickets].
---
There it is an expression I've never seen before. What is it supposed to mean?


It is an internetism that stands for the absence of a response, or in the left's case, nothing where an alternative should be.

Harry Eagar said...

Asphyxiating gas is asphyxiating gas.

Why can't I have it both ways? Is there only one conceivable way to conduct a war?

I don't see how anyone can say that starting and losing an aggressive war is a least-bad result. I cannot think of a worse one.

Annoying Old Guy said...

I don't see how anyone can say that starting and losing an aggressive war is a least-bad result.

Yes, that was clearly a losing proposition for Saddam Hussein. But, I think all us already acknowledge that.

Peter said...

AOG, all over the playgrounds of America, the children of leftists can be heard taunting one another: "My Daddy opposed the war in Iraq before your Daddy did".

The actual war was a spectacular success. The goals of deposing Hussein, defeating the Iraqi army and breaking the dangerous anti-Western axis that ruled much of the Middle East were acomplished in days. It's the subsequent occupation that proved tragic and unmanageable. One of the huge burdens the U.S. carries is that popular opinion will only support these kinds of military actions for as long as it sees itself as engaged in the liberation of "the oppressed" and only if they say thank you every evening on the news. In this era, victorious troops are followed swiftly by pollsters reporting on the views of the liberated and giving prime time soundbites to dissenters. Slowly, liberation inevitably morphs into conquest and occupation, and out comes all the anti-imperialist rhetoric after the fact. Bush's belief that an American invasion would unleash the universal yearnings for liberal democracy that lay hidden in the Iraqi heart was naive and arguably anti-historical, and is, in fact, the "lesson" of Iraq. Hearts and Minds, Chapter 10. I remember how people used to point to Germany and Japan as examples of how democracy could be imposed by force, forgetting that it was years before anyone saw their prostrate populations as victims or gave a damn what they thought.

I think this is what is attracting the left to Syria. No-cost, John Wayne-style intervention in the name of righteousness. Lob some bombs and missiles safely from afar, bask in the consequent gratitude and then get back to defending ObamaCare from those evil conservatives. Would that life were so simple. The reality is much more like those signs in gift shops "If you break it, it's yours."

It's a perennial complaint of traditional American friends and allies that Democratic administrations are reckless and undependable in foreign affairs. Either they shop their traditional friends by trying to suck up to dangerous adversaries in full view of the cameras or they lurch into impulsive military ventures in the name of abstract righteousness without thinking them through. Bush certainly played diplomatic hardball over Iraq, but let us not forget he, like his father, put a tremendous concentrated diplomatic effort into building support and a coalition--with considerable success. Obama seems to care not a whit what anyone else thinks, and so far the only support he seems to be getting is from France. There's a reliable friend. If that is not irony, what is?

Peter said...

Here is an American take on the Syrian mess and here is a Canadian one. Neither is pretty reading. Hanson's opening paragraph is a masterpiece. How can any friend or foe in the world take America at its word after this?

Hey Skipper said...

[Harry:] Asphyxiating gas is asphyxiating gas.

Both trivial and irrelevant. The issue is poison gas weapons because they they make killing too indiscriminate, cheap, and profitable.

Tear gas is none of those things, as your tortured example should have made clear.

I don't see how anyone can say that starting and losing an aggressive war is a least-bad result. I cannot think of a worse one.

All the alternatives, none of which you have proposed or remotely justified.

[Peter:] It's the subsequent occupation that proved tragic and unmanageable.

It is hard to know how it could have been any other way, even with the benefit of hindsight.

The West had just experienced the collapse of collectivism. Absent the glaring exception of Yugoslavia, the process was remarkably peaceful.

Given that relatively recent experience, combined with our societal mindset cannot fathom true religious belief, I think it understandable that many Iraqis would be both happy to see the back of Saddam, and willing to build a civil society.

Since no one other than Michael Moore wishes Saddam back in power (although the MAL would have been happy to leave him there) then the first assumption turned out to be sound.

The second turned out to be wishful thinking. While I don't subscribe to Harry's essentially rascist conclusions in this regard, it seems clear that Islam is the world's only remaining religion with believers that would rather engage in sectarian mayhem than build a civil society.

Which is why I completely reject any accusation that the US is somehow responsible for the deaths that came after OIF, which have dwarfed those attributable to the combat itself.

Syria has demonstrated that the sectarian slaughter was already baked in. When Saddam went, which was going to happen sooner or later, the Shia and Sunni were going to start slaughtering each other.

Indeed, it is possible that our presence prevented an even worse slaughter than would have occurred had Saddam's regime eventually ended in our absence. (With a population of 22 million, Syria has had as many casualties as Iraq did out of a population of 32 million.)

So, yes, it turned out badly. But it is easy to think of ways it could have turned out worse.

As for Obama, his profound limitations should becoming obvious for everyone to see, even his acolytes. There is nothing he could have done to prevent this, and it is possible to argue either alternative in good faith, but his inability to have considered and planned for this eventuality is truly epic.

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter,

The point you cite Germany and Japan, and compare them with Iraq, really makes no sense.

Do you really think there is something in common with those situations? That the only reason Iraq's democracy did not take off is that people listened too soon for their complaints?
Just a little bit more of force would do it?

Clovis e Adri said...

Peter:

---
How can any friend or foe in the world take America at its word after this?
---
I call it the "Oh My God, we are lost effect!" - when people tend to promote something small and irrelevant to status of fundamental changes.


No friend or foe will forget any day soon that the US defends its interest when they are at stake. Even the rocks know how little Syria really is for the big picture.

Contrary to what both of your articles state, you can bet the Iranians know well they are not Syria, for the bad of for the good.

Clovis e Adri said...

H. Skipper:

---
Which is why I completely reject any accusation that the US is somehow responsible for the deaths that came after OIF, which have dwarfed those attributable to the combat itself.

Syria has demonstrated that the sectarian slaughter was already baked in. When Saddam went, which was going to happen sooner or later, the Shia and Sunni were going to start slaughtering each other.
---
Let me see if I understand your logic above.

You alter the balance of forces by explicitely invading a country (Iraq) or arming its rebels (Syria), and you still argue that the fault is really on those ignorant Muslims killing each other?

Not to mention the the only reason those Muslims are fighting for power within the same society is that some previous external Empire thought a good idea to draw every kind of non sense borders and countries? I mean non sense in terms of the local populations - the intent of the previous Empire was very much guarantee that said populations would remain weak and convulsed, in order to not challenge the external dominance of their Oil.

I do not want to exempt the present leadership and culture of those countries for their problems. I mean, it is the everyday task of every population to seek their problems and correct them, and they have not been doing much of this homework. But to argue that the US has no stake on this mess is truly... words fail me.


Clovis e Adri said...

Corrections:

Above I wanted to say "Oh My God, we are lost!" effect.

Also, I think the corret sentence would be [...] Iranians know well they are not Syria, for the worse or for the better.

It must be funny for you guys to keep arguing with an analphabet.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

Is your view of history that the Middle East was a peaceful land until the European powers became involved?

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:

Not at all. It was in a relatively stable state induced by a "local" Empire (Ottoman-Turks).

It is my view, though, they would be in a much, much more peaceful state if they had no Oil. And you would hardly hear people implying their religion to blame for their irrationality, at least no more or less than people imply the other religions.

In other words, populations are much more driven for the physical constraints they have, than for the phylosophical settings they adopt. (Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but they are just that, exceptions).

Annoying Old Guy said...

they would be in a much, much more peaceful state if they had no Oil

So, the Roman occupation wouldn't have happened except for the oil, and the Jewish rebellion against was to get local control of petroleum? The Assyrian conquests were for oil? The Persian empire was oil driven? The Islamic conquests, too? How much oil is in Afganistan?

Based on the actual history of the region, I think oil is just an excuse, not a cause. It has been a violent, bloody place since before written history.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:

Oh boy. So you wanna review the history of the whole humanity?

The violence and wars you are going to point out in Middle East will then pale in comparison.

You are not debating my points any more, you are divagating.

Annoying Old Guy said...

No, the history of the Middle East. Your claim is the Middle East "would be in a much, much more peaceful state if they had no Oil". I am pointing out historically, when they de facto had no Oil, it was still violent. What was the reason for that historical violence, and why was it replaced by Oil, in your view?

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:

I answer your question with another one: to what extent, in your opinion, the ME was more violent than most other similarly populated area of those periods?

Annoying Old Guy said...

I think it was significantly more violent, especially in the longer historical view.

In the last 50-100 years I think the difference has become greater more because violence has ebbed elsewhere than the Middle East has gotten worse.

Let me ask - why is there so much violence towards Israel, since it has no oil? Answer that and you'll have a good start on understanding my point of view on this.

Hey Skipper said...

[Peter, your comparing] Germany and Japan ... with Iraq, really makes no sense.

Do you really think there is something in common with those situations?


At the risk of speaking for Peter, his point is that we were succeeded in turning both Germany and Japan from fascist dictatorships into peaceful democracies, but we failed to do so with Iraq.

The difference is that we completely devastated Germany and Japan, but most of Iraq was left undamaged by OIF. The West will no longer tolerate destroying a country to save it, but it may be that the only way to have saved Iraq, at least in a time span meaningful to us, would have been to destroy it.

Hey Skipper said...

[clovis:] Let me see if I understand your logic above.

You alter the balance of forces by explicitly invading a country (Iraq) or arming its rebels (Syria), and you still argue that the fault is really on those ignorant Muslims killing each other?


We haven't yet armed the Syrian rebels to any even remotely significant extent. Which is yet another example of the stunning incompetence of the Obama administration. He at one point said Assad had to go -- "at one point" being another way of saying a long time ago -- and then just sat by and watched.

If I was President, I might well have tried to give just enough support to the rebels to keep the civil war going on forever, because deciding which side is worse is an impossible call.

As for my logic: Saddam was mortal; he was going to leave power one way or another. In many ways he was like Tito (leader of Yugoslavia). He somehow managed to hold the place together, but it was (or should have been) pretty obvious that once he passed from the scene, the whole place was going to become unglued.

No matter how Saddam left power, when he did, Iraq was going to become a very violent place because of long simmering sectarian animosity that Saddam had made even worse by giving free reign for the minority Sunnis to dominate the majority Shia.

The US caused Saddam to leave power, so the US was around to contain the violence.

But that does not mean the US caused the sectarian divisions that ensured that violence, and anyone who asserts the US is responsible for that sectarian violence is either grinding an ideological axe, or is immune to reality.

Which Syria has proven. The Assads dynasty is Alawite, a minority sect in Syria, and they have dominated the Sunni majority.

Precisely the same sort of sectarian animosity, but no one can blame the US for it blowing up.

As for arbitrary boundaries. So what? That is history. Just as the pervasive decadence and incompetence of the Ottoman empire was the history that led to the history of outside powers exploiting the decadence and incompetence of the Ottoman empire.

Even more unfortunately for your point, I can't offhand think of any place where Islam has any power at all, and isn't engaged in religious violence.

Can you?

(BTW, I'm not saying the US is blameless. We did, after all, greatly assist a coup in Iran that has earned us a great deal of enmity since. Unfortunately, national security strategy doesn't allow do overs.)

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:

---
I think it was significantly more violent, especially in the longer historical view.
---
You just have a little problem: history. Try to take a view on these lists and tell me how much more violent ME surely was:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_before_1000
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_1000%E2%80%931499
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_1500%E2%80%931799


---
Let me ask - why is there so much violence towards Israel, since it has no oil? Answer that and you'll have a good start on understanding my point of view on this.
---
I state a general rule, taking care to point out there are exceptions, which are just that, exceptions. Then you point me to the exception, and state it to disprove my general rule. Thanks for your collaboration to this fruitful conversation.



Annoying Old Guy said...

You're comparing the Middle East to the rest of the planet combined? I rest my case.

I would also note your thesis requires the Middle East to be more violent now than in the past. Do you think that's true?

Clovis e Adri said...

H. Skipper:

---
The difference is that we completely devastated Germany and Japan, but most of Iraq was left undamaged by OIF. The West will no longer tolerate destroying a country to save it, but it may be that the only way to have saved Iraq, at least in a time span meaningful to us, would have been to destroy it.
---
I see, from liberation of the poor guys from their dictator, you now regret the US did not play the role of a still more forceful dictator for that population. It was not a little bit more of force that lacked so things could work, it was a great deal more of punishment and death.

I guess it pretty much highlights why the rest of the world has been skeptical of US motives for that war from the begin. Every Great Liberator carries within the new Grand Dictator. Old, old stuff.

BTW, the fact that there are people in US who still think there is a paralel between democratic inception to the Second war axis and Iraq just shows how you were not really prepared to deal with that situation.

---
[On S. Hussein] He somehow managed to hold the place together, but it was (or should have been) pretty obvious that once he passed from the scene, the whole place was going to become unglued.
---
There is a continuous presumption by your part, H. Skipper, that you can read the future. It is the kernel of your argument for Iraq's invasion, in that link above, that the "Hobbesian trap" would necessarily play as you foresee it. The above forecast falls in the same category of befuddled fortune-teller.



---
Even more unfortunately for your point, I can't offhand think of any place where Islam has any power at all, and isn't engaged in religious violence.
---
As far as I tell, in most of the big Islamic countries, there are minorities living in relatively stable conditions.

Even in supposedly fanatic Iran, Jews and Christians live in peace.

I will not deny that Islamic strongholds do present strong resistance to the growing of other religions. In Iran, for example, it is OK if you, being born in a Muslim family, decides to turn Christian when turning 18 years old. But it is the only chance - before or after that, you risk harsh punishment.

Still, I stand by my point that most of ME would not be immersed in so many wars had they not much Oil. What you need to ask yourself is why war has been declining in most of the world, but not there - what do they have that much of the world do not? You say religion, I say Oil. Who is right? Take a look in 80-100 years, after their Oil fade away.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:

---
You're comparing the Middle East to the rest of the planet combined? I rest my case.
---
No, I am not. I've linked a list of all wars known to history. From there you can check if ME was particularly outstanding.

---
I would also note your thesis requires the Middle East to be more violent now than in the past. Do you think that's true?
---
I do not agree my theory implies that. There are many factors playing out. Some of them make countries, in modern days, to opt out of wars. What you need to ask yourself is why those factors did not get dominant in M.E., even though they ensured for example Europe - the main war-killing machine of the last century - to quiet down.

On the other way round, if I adopt your point of view, I would need to look to First and Second WWs and conclude "Oh my God, those Christians were all animals!". Why am I not seeing you arguing so here?





Annoying Old Guy said...

f I adopt your point of view, I would need to look to First and Second WWs and conclude "Oh my God, those Christians were all animals!"

Why? I made no reference to religion in any of my statements. Again, try the quoting technique to get a handle on what I actually write. But I would agree that culturally, the post-Roman Empire culture in Europe was quite bloody minded for several centuries.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Even in supposedly fanatic Iran, Jews and Christians live in peace.

Really? I suppose you tell us that about Egypt next.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:

---
[...] post-Roman Empire culture in Europe was quite bloody minded for several centuries.
---
And would you risk an explanation for that?

On your link above, supposing it is providing solid information, notice it only shows Jews have not the very same rights as Muslims in Iran - but it does not show they are persecuted in systematic ways. The laws of the country allow for people to be Christian or Jews (it is also true it does not allow other religions). They are not being persecuted and massacrated in a daily basis.

It does not mean incidents of discrimination do not happen - they very probably do. But to tell you the truth, I was surprised by the very existence of those different religions inside the country, given the constant media bombardment over the fanatical Iranians ready to kill every infidel around. Which is the image most Americans probably believe to be true, I guess.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

Another view on that subject. I would note that a minority not having the same rights is frequently called "persecution" elsewhere. See, for instance, discussion of "Jim Crow" laws in the USA.

But I can I take it from this that, in your view, unless a minority is daily persecuted and massacred the situation can be considered to be living in peace?

Bret said...

Clovis,

I have great hopes for Iran and the new Iranian President. For example, on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) he tweeted:

"As the sun is about to set here in #Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah."

Whereas Iran is still not perhaps the best place to be a Jew (that would be America, in my opinion, not Israel), that tweet represents a significant step towards normalization of a relationship with Iran for both the United States and even, perhaps eventually, Israel.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Source

Reflecting the sensitivity of such sentiments within a theological regime that denies Israel's right to exist, Fars News – an outlet close to the powerful Revolutionary Guards – cast doubt on the message's veracity by quoting one of the president's aides as distancing him from it while denying that he had a Twitter account.

Meanwhile, in Iran...

I am not going to claim that Iran is the worst in this regard (I would say the Saudi Entity, followed closely by the Palestinian Territories), but the idea that Jews in particular "live in peace" there I think is not supported by the evidence.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret:

Can you tell me why you think America, not Israel, is "the best place to be a Jew"?

I would like to remark that a lot of places are very well free of prejudices against religion too. I do not know, for example, why you think a Jew necessarily lives better in US than in Brazil (a more welcoming place for differences than US, IMHO) or most European countries.


AOG:

I concede that my "living in peace" wording was misguided. The thing is, I grew up with the media teaching me that anyone not Muslim would die if going to Iran. It was a big surprise to learn how mistaken I was when I met Iranian physicists who told me different. I believe our western media, and particularly the American one, grossly misrepresents them - and this is not to defend them, I am aware of the problems they have inside and outside, I am only saying we hardly get clean information on them most of the time.

Also, I believe their problems with Israel are more geopolitical ones (i.e. its association with US power, hence with meddling of their internal affairs) than racial ones (see I used the word "more", I do not deny the racial ones also happen). So Oil is a better expalantion in tihs case than religion.

BTW, Palestines pretty much enter also in my description of M.E. violence (the one you disagree with) - only substitute Oil for Land.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Clovis;

I believe our western media, and particularly the American one, grossly misrepresents ...

... just about everything. That's what we've been trying to tell you all along :-).

I think Iran and the Arab world's real problem with Israel is two things --

1) Israel suceeds materially, which embarasses the other regimes.

2) Directing hate at a foreign enemy to distract from domestic failure is an age old technique for maintaining power.

The Islamic animus toward Jews makes it significantly worse, but I think that's a secondary factor.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "Can you tell me why you think America, not Israel, is "the best place to be a Jew"?"

Since my ancestors are Jewish and here we are, clearly we think that. :-)

I'm not personally religious, so I'll let David Cohen, a somewhat more religious Jew answer for me:

"...It came to me a few years ago that I had subconsciously come to identify the United States with Jerusalem. I don't mean this as an argument that Americans are now G-d's chosen people (although I'm open to that argument) or that the US is shel ma'ala, the ideal city. But I do believe that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and, most importantly, American life as we live it are now the best practical example to mankind of how life should be lived. Tonight, when I say L'shanah haba'ah biyerushalayim, I will be praying that next year, the world will be that much closer to living in freedom and prosperity, as Americans do. [...]"

He wrote that for passover 2003, and a lot has changed since then. I wonder if he still feels the same way. I know I'm starting to have my doubts, but I'm still here, so I still do feel that all things considered, for now, the society of the United States best matches Jewish culture.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:


---
I think Iran and the Arab world's real problem with Israel is two things
1) Israel suceeds materially, which embarasses the other regimes.
---
I don't know. Did you take a closer look at the Saudis, your Number 1 Israel hater? They do not look like very poor. Their economy surely is less diversified than Israel's, but money is not lacking these days for them too.

So no, I do not think your envy theory really nails it.

---
2) Directing hate at a foreign enemy to distract from domestic failure is an age old technique for maintaining power.
---
A too easy theory, too.

The problem of your points, AOG, is that you are treating nations like individuals. It may well be true that many Muslims envy Israel or use it as scapegoat. But the behavior of their nations has a lot more to do with material things, with power games, than with everyday mundane feelings.

It is the chicken and egg problem. Do M.E. Muslims dislike Jews for power games, hence direct their religious fury at them, or the contrary? I believe the order is power -> religion, you look to believe the contrary. I do not think we can really solve the matter to see who is right here, even if we argue for years. So I am just stating clearly our point of divergence, so we know each other's position.

Annoying Old Guy said...

Did you take a closer look at the Saudis, your Number 1 Israel hater? They do not look like very poor.

Actually, they are. The elite live well but the country itself is poor and survives only by paying massive subsidies to the under classes. That's not a wealthy country.

I am not treating nations as individuals, I am treating the leaders of those nations as individuals. My description was for them, not the general populace.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret:

---
I still do feel that all things considered, for now, the society of the United States best matches Jewish culture.
---
I understand you believe that, for you only rephrased your prior affirmation. I would like to know *why* you believe that.

You endorse D. Cohen statement "American life as we live it are now the best practical example to mankind of how life should be lived", but you, nor him, connected it in any way with Jewish values, nor with a causal relationship of Jew influence and present American culture.

You would also need explain why Israel, an exclusively Jew country, full of Jewish culture, did not deliver the same results if, after all, American life reflects Jewish ideals.


IMO, your logic here is "we are Jews, we are Americans, we love American, hence America is the best place for Jews!". OK, in this case you can tell me "America is the best place for anyone, hence for Jews too" and I will understand your point, but this is not what you presented so far.

Clovis e Adri said...

AOG:


---
Actually, they are. The elite live well but the country itself is poor [...]
---
From Wikipedia,

Israel:
GDP (PPP) 2012[5] estimate
- Total $248.719 billion (49th)
- Per capita $32,312 (26th)
Gini (2008) 39.2[1]
medium · 66th
HDI (2013) Increase 0.900
very high · 16th


Saudi Arabia:
GDP (PPP) 2012 estimate
- Total $906.806 billion[9] (19th)
- Per capita $31,275[9] (28th)
HDI (2013) Increase 0.782[10]
high · 57th


It is clear Saudi's have more income inequality - something you have been claiming to be no problem at all - but overall, both countries look reasonably fine and the difference is not that great generator of envy, IMO.

Also, you claim the leaders are the ones sfollowing you tow points above (envy and scapegoatism), but by your own argument those Saudi leaders are very much enjoyng better lifes than their Israel analogues, since the income inequality very much benefits them.

All in all, as usual AOG, your theories lack self-consistence.

Annoying Old Guy said...

more income inequality - something you have been claiming to be no problem at all

Show me the quote.

you claim the leaders are the ones sfollowing you tow points above (envy and scapegoatism), but by your own argument those Saudi leaders are very much enjoyng better lifes than their Israel analogues

I am claiming the leaders are using those two points on their subjects precisely so the leaders can remain in power and be rich. It's a standard agitprop operation. That is why I used the phrasing "Directing hate", not "hating".

All in all, as usual the consistency problem is that you are paraphrasing my statements in to things I didn't write. Again, try quoting me to avoid these problems.

Hey Skipper said...

[Hey Skipper:] The difference is that we completely devastated Germany and Japan, but most of Iraq was left undamaged by OIF. The West will no longer tolerate destroying a country to save it, but it may be that the only way to have saved Iraq, at least in a time span meaningful to us, would have been to destroy it.

[Clovis:] I see, from liberation of the poor guys from their dictator, you now regret the US did not play the role of a still more forceful dictator for that population. It was not a little bit more of force that lacked so things could work, it was a great deal more of punishment and death.


I apologize — sincerely — that what I wrote came across as prescriptive rather than descriptive. (And I also apologize for having to resort to terms that are probably very difficult for you to understand, particularly considering that my ability to express myself in my only language isn't particularly greater than yours in what must be, at best, your second.)

What I meant to say that the only way Germany and Japan were so dramatically changed is because we so completely destroyed them. By extension, the only way that Iraq could be brought to a similar seismic shift was if our invasion had been thoroughly destructive rather than relatively antiseptic.

That is a matter of description.

As to prescription, what we should have done, no way. One of the best books I have read in a very long time is Stephen Pinker's "Angels of our Better Nature". Compressing a great deal into a very few words, there is simply no way we could have done to Iraq what we did to Japan and Germany. So, even granting that a far more humanistic way of life is better, and that, in the long run, the road of ultimately least suffering went through utter devastation, there is simply no way that was going to happen.

In other words, no matter how evil Harry thinks the Bush administration was, they weren't willing to create in the short term the sort of consequences that would have paid off in the long term.

Ultimately, then, through OIF removed an entity that could only be described as evil, to the extent the Left hasn't drained that term of all meaning. After that, it was up to the Iraqis themselves if they preferred a civil society, or atavistic savagery. They chose the latter.

The ultimate "liberation" wasn't from a dictator, but rather from the atavistic savagery that comes from insufficient doubt.

Clovis e Adri said...

H. Skipper:

---
[...] as prescriptive rather than descriptive. (And I also apologize for having to resort to terms that are probably very difficult for you to understand [...]
---
If you refer to the words "prescriptive" and "descriptive", they are not difficult to understand at all - they have Latin origin.

I remember, when I was an undergrad, of an American professor who grew up in Brazil and later spent time back in US, where we was a professor at University of Miami. He told me that, as he grew up hearing both English and Portuguese, he tended to use too much words in English with Latin roots, and it rendered him reclamations from the students that he gave classes speaking too formally.

Take any word in English with Latin roots, and chances are high that an almost identical word exists in Portuguese, like "prescritivo" and "descritivo", with the very same meaning. (In Latin they are "praescriptivus" and "descriptivus")

Weel, sorry if this is boring stuff to you, I stop here.

Clovis e Adri said...

Ops, sorry: Latin stuff entered my head with no good results for my English. Above I wanted to say "[...] it rendered him complainings from the students ..."