Jay Reding.com

The Death Of Idealism?

Janet Daley has an excellent piece in The Daily Telegraph on how our ideals are becoming another casualty in the war in Iraq:

The epithet may have been novel but the argument – that the shambles in Iraq has been a consequence of the United States and Britain imperiously choosing to inflict democracy on people who were (in the old paternalist phrase) “not ready for it” – has become pretty much the received wisdom. It is intriguing to see how many politicians and commentators seem to accept this patronising colonial analysis.

What, after all, does it amount to? That some countries are better left with their genocidal dictatorships in place. That what the US and Britain did in Iraq was to foist freedom on people who could not be expected to appreciate or make proper use of it. Outcome: chaos, sectarian warfare and a total breakdown of social order. Lesson: keep your political moral standards at home. However right and beneficent you believe your values to be – however much they have brought unprecedented peace and prosperity to the nations where they have been embraced – you must not be so arrogant as to wish to disseminate them in foreign climes where their principles are scarcely understood.

If this is taken to be the message of the Iraq war and its aftermath, then we are well and truly doomed: not simply to impotence in the face of criminal regimes, but to disillusionment with our own best political impulses. What failed in Iraq was not democracy, or the popularity of it. The Iraqis put their amazingly brave heads above the parapet every time they are given an opportunity to vote on anything. What failed was the bizarre and unforgivable Pentagon experiment “Invasion Lite”, which dismantled the apparatus of civil order without taking responsibility for replacing it.

I think Ms. Daley has a very good point. The idea that somehow democracy is only for certain (read white) people never had much currency to me. If we accept a doctrine of universal human rights as an absolute, we can’t argue that keeping people locked into tyrannical regimes is at all morally acceptable. Either human rights are universal, or we’re admitting that certain people don’t have the same moral worth as others. The most noble aspect of the Bush Administration is in its push, even if inconsistent, towards a more universal promotion of democratic values in American foreign policy.

Daley is quite correct in stating that if the lesson of the Iraq War will be that democracy doesn’t work, then everything we profess is a sham. What makes the suffering of the Iraqi people less than the suffering of those in Darfur? Why do we care about democracy in Russia and China when we’ve already stated that democracy in Iraq is untenable? What lesson will we send to pro-democracy groups across the globe — that the world supports you, unless the stakes become too high, in which case we’ll leave you to your deaths?

The civilized world leads from example. What example are we now showing the millions who yearn for freedom? That we are willing to pay on a certain price for our ideals? That we’ll topple a regime but not bother to fix what we broke? If that’s the lesson we wish to send, then we can never speak of democracy and human rights again. The UN should be disbanded, and we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the suffering of others — after all, we wouldn’t want to be “imperialists” by forcing our values upon another — even if our values are things like “genocide is wrong.”

Daley makes a very astute point about the cynicism of our politics:

I, and I assume Lord Saatchi, would define ideological politics as consisting of positions which arise from systematic beliefs and arguments which are internally consistent with one another. To be ideological in the Saatchi sense is not to be quasi-theological, or even rigid and unbending. It is simply to have some overarching sense of what you are in politics for – of your reason for seeking power at all. Nothing is more profoundly disillusioning to the people whom you propose to govern than the absence of that sense of over-riding purpose.

And perversely, it is this absence which has become a point of pride in the climate of post-modern irony that is today’s political weather. Lord Saatchi quotes a party press spokesman as saying, when asked about his party’s philosophy: “If you want philosophy, read Descartes.” So there it is: cynicism as a source of pride. And here we are: left with pragmatism which is sometimes construed as a respectable credo of conciliation and rationality but which, in effect, discards the possibility of intellectual integrity.

She’s right. The discussion in Iraq barely considered the plight of the Iraqi people, who are suffering the anarchy brought about by the foreign states we’re now hoping to fix the problem we created. Like it or not, we created this situation. To merely wipe our hands of it in the name of expediency is unacceptable.

Conservatives are notoriously adverse to utopianism, but the idea that we should forget our core values and cling to power for power’s sake, or worse yet sacrifice our values for mere convenience is not at all consistent with conservative political philosophy.

The core question for liberals and conservatives, anti-war activists and war supporters, Americans and Britons alike is this: do we still believe in democracy? If so, do we have an obligation to defend it in Iraq? And if we do, how far should we take that obligation? Should we betray that obligation, can we truly say we support democracy?

We are on the precipice of compromising our most sacred values in the name of political expedience. Millions of Americans, Britons, and others have died to safeguard democracy and liberty across the ages. Now, we’re not willing to continue the struggle. If we falter now, we won’t just lose the spirit of liberty and democracy in Baghdad, but we’ll lose it in London and Washington as well.

26 responses to “The Death Of Idealism?”

  1. Seth says:

    I think you’re kidding yourself if you think some ‘absolute’ appeal to ‘universal human rights’ had anything to do with the invasion of Iraq. It’s more like the neocons have a commitment to universal human rights if the United States has something to gain from invading the country and if our military can easily defeat the other country’s. The Cheney-Rummy-Wolfowitz crowd is the same one that turned a blind eye to apartheid in South Africa and the current Administration has done absolutely nothing about the human rights of those in Darfur.

    It’s not that our idealism is dead, it’s that the current Administration never had it.

  2. Jay Reding says:

    I think you’re kidding yourself if you think some ‘absolute’ appeal to ‘universal human rights’ had anything to do with the invasion of Iraq.

    Read Bush’s speech at the UN on September 11, 2002 or his 2003 State of the Union. Furthermore, even those notorious “neocons” at the Project for a New American Century made democratization an issue long before the war began. Your argument doesn’t match the facts, and requires an implicit and unfounded assumption of bad faith.

    It’s more like the neocons have a commitment to universal human rights if the United States has something to gain from invading the country and if our military can easily defeat the other country’s.

    Which is another implied assumption of bad faith, and an equally unproven one.

    The Cheney-Rummy-Wolfowitz crowd is the same one that turned a blind eye to apartheid in South Africa

    No, but they (rightly) realized that trade sanctions would only make the situation worse. Furthermore, at the time, Mandela’s ANC had not renounced the use of violence, which is why Cheney voted against the Mandela resolution in the 1980s. There’s absolutely no evidence other than that which suggests any of them in any way supported apartheid.

    and the current Administration has done absolutely nothing about the human rights of those in Darfur.

    Again, completely and utterly untrue. In fact, at least one Sudanese citizen is worried about what the Democrats will do (or not do) in regards to Darfur.

    Bush was first to call Darfur a genocide. He was the first to put political pressure on Sudan. And Ambassador Bolton has been rightfully and scathingly critical of the UN’s inaction on Darfur.

    Once again, your arguments and the facts don’t sit at the same table.

    It’s not that our idealism is dead, it’s that the current Administration never had it.

    Which is something one can only say in complete and total ignorance of the record of this Administration, from the Millennium Challenge Account on down. It’s another argument that assumes bad faith and provides no evidence to back itself. Typical left-wing talking points, but no original thought involved.

  3. Erica says:

    Ok. I don’t think comments are working on your James Bond post.

  4. Seth says:

    The arguments fit the facts–the problem is you’re confusing facts and right-wing talking points.

    Let’s examine Bush’s speech to the U.N. It’s true that Bush makes a case that Iraq has abused human rights. For about three sentences. And after talking about the weapons of mass destruction. And then he goes on to talk about the weapons of mass destruction. To say that a passing reference to human rights abuses in a speech full of talk about WMD makes Bush’s justification for the war that of human rights is to rewrite history. Similarly, Bush talks about human rights violations in Iraq in the 2003 State of the Union. For about one sentence after a dozen paragraphs talking about all the WMD. In fact, Bush makes nearly as much reference to the human rights abuses in Iran, and last I checked, we haven’t done much to end the human rights abuses there.

    I would direct you to Powell’s speech at the UN on Feb 5, 2003. In it, Powell talks about the human rights violations. After about half an hour of WMD talk and as something that he would like to “touch on briefly.”

    The bottom line is that the Administration spent 98% of the time talking about Iraq and justifying it with WMD. They knew that Americans would not support this was unless we felt threatended and used the human rights abuses as a secondary, tangential reason for invasion. To now say that it was the reason we invaded is something you’d like us to believe because your real justification turned out to be utterly and absolutely false.

    On to South Africa–If a governmental agency attempts to restrict the rights of human beings, the fact that the human beings are resisting the government is not a reason to side with the government.

    Darfur–The Washington Post asks a pretty good question today: if Bush can spend all this time talking about it, “How Come We Haven’t Stopped It?” And it correctly points out that John Kerry and the Democrats called on Bush to use the term ‘genocide,’ and Colin Powell was the first member of the Administration to use the term. You must be looking at a dictionary with a different definition of ‘first’ than mine. (Although it is kind of funny that you would say Bush was the first to use the term–which is blatantly false–and then say my arguments are not factual three sentences later. It’s pretty typical of the arguments made by the far right these days.) Also, one person in Darfur not wanting the Democrats to be in power is proof of absolutely nothing except one person in Darfur doesn’t want the Democrats in control. I’ll not show you your tirades against anecdotal stories, though.

    Of course, the question remains why we would provide military resources to Iraq and not Darfur, where the same types of things are happening–if, as you continue to argue, idealism is the trumping factor. That is, if idealism had ever been the trumping factor for this Administration, you are implicitly arguing that since we took the most direct and extreme form of action in Iraq, Iraq was the worst culprit of human rights abuses. Which is a pretty tough argument to make.

  5. Erica says:

    Oof. Jay gets pwnd on his own blog again!

  6. Jay Reding says:

    The arguments fit the facts–the problem is you’re confusing facts and right-wing talking points.

    For some, it would appear that any facts that don’t conform to their worldview are “right-wing talking points”

    Let’s examine Bush’s speech to the U.N. It’s true that Bush makes a case that Iraq has abused human rights. For about three sentences. And after talking about the weapons of mass destruction. And then he goes on to talk about the weapons of mass destruction. To say that a passing reference to human rights abuses in a speech full of talk about WMD makes Bush’s justification for the war that of human rights is to rewrite history. Similarly, Bush talks about human rights violations in Iraq in the 2003 State of the Union. For about one sentence after a dozen paragraphs talking about all the WMD. In fact, Bush makes nearly as much reference to the human rights abuses in Iran, and last I checked, we haven’t done much to end the human rights abuses there.

    Which is completely irrelevant. It was a rationale for war. It war there from the very beginning, and Bush made the tactical (and ultimately, I believe, incorrect) decision to pursue the WMD argument more strongly. However, it is completely irrelevant how much time he spent on one argument — it was still out there, and to say that it was never a justification for the war until after the invasion revealed no WMDs is still completely wrong.

    Furthermore, Bush dedicated an entire policy address to the subject. Your arguments still remain untrue.

    On to South Africa–If a governmental agency attempts to restrict the rights of human beings, the fact that the human beings are resisting the government is not a reason to side with the government.

    The problem being that sanctions don’t always work — in fact, they rarely, if ever work. Had the US put expansive sanctions on South Africa, the results wouldn’t have been an improving the situation, but probably years more of apartheid. The South African government was already beginning to ease up by the mid-1980s – sanctions would have erased what progress would have been made.

    History shows it to have been the right call — apartheid collapsed without the punitive measures of sanctions hurting innocents.

    Darfur–The Washington Post asks a pretty good question today: if Bush can spend all this time talking about it, “How Come We Haven’t Stopped It?” And it correctly points out that John Kerry and the Democrats called on Bush to use the term ‘genocide,’ and Colin Powell was the first member of the Administration to use the term. You must be looking at a dictionary with a different definition of ‘first’ than mine. (Although it is kind of funny that you would say Bush was the first to use the term–which is blatantly false–and then say my arguments are not factual three sentences later. It’s pretty typical of the arguments made by the far right these days.) Also, one person in Darfur not wanting the Democrats to be in power is proof of absolutely nothing except one person in Darfur doesn’t want the Democrats in control. I’ll not show you your tirades against anecdotal stories, though.

    The reason we haven’t stopped it is the only way to do so is to invade the Sudan and forcibly disarm everyone? The fact is that we can’t do anything other than sanctions (which, again, rarely work) or try to get the UN Security Council to move (which is what we’re doing) — but with China and Russia in bed with Khartoum for oil concessions, that isn’t going to happen. Darfur is exactly why the “multilateral” UN-based approach doesn’t work — the UN isn’t a reasonable arbiter in these situations.

    And indeed, the author of that piece is right. By foreclosing on the idea that US foreign policy should promote democratization abroad, and generally decreasing our willingness to use force, it means that our options in regards to Darfur are even more limited. If we can’t stabilize Iraq, which was at least somewhat developed, how the hell does anyone expect us to do much good in Darfur where the situation is even worse.

    The Bush Administration was (to my knowledge, I admit I could be wrong), the first government to use the term “genocide” in regards to Darfur, not Bush himself. (Although he might still have been…) My language was imprecise, but the point still stands.

    Of course, the question remains why we would provide military resources to Iraq and not Darfur, where the same types of things are happening–if, as you continue to argue, idealism is the trumping factor. That is, if idealism had ever been the trumping factor for this Administration, you are implicitly arguing that since we took the most direct and extreme form of action in Iraq, Iraq was the worst culprit of human rights abuses. Which is a pretty tough argument to make.

    Because no one is making the argument that our actions should (or can) be purely idealistic. As I’ve said countless times before, we can’t intervene everywhere. The invasion of Iraq was based on the concept that Iraq posed a threat to the US and the region, that it had violated the 1991 cease-fire (which it had), that it was geographically central to the region where terrorism grows, and it had some vestige of civil society that could be used to rebuild the country.

    I fully support more action in Darfur, including the use of sanctions (although I don’t think they’ll be all that effective). Personally, I’d support freezing all Sudanese government assets in the US, putting on extensive travel restrictions, and setting up no-fly zones throughout Darfur. However, that would require a base of support outside the US that doesn’t exist.

    Again, one of the lessons of Iraq is that trying to get involved in complex humanitarian emergencies is too risky — and that’s a lesson that the anti-war side has hammered at all the time. Don’t complain that policymakers are following that advice when it’s less convenient to you.

    Oof. Jay gets pwnd on his own blog again!

    Oh please, grow up…

  7. Erica says:

    The Bush Administration was (to my knowledge, I admit I could be wrong), the first government to use the term “genocide” in regards to Darfur, not Bush himself. (Although he might still have been…) My language was imprecise, but the point still stands.

    Well, thank goodness he did! God knows, the biggest issue in the Darfur situation was, of course, that nobody knew what to call it until The Great Wordsmith told us it was a genomacide.

    Because no one is making the argument that our actions should (or can) be purely idealistic. As I’ve said countless times before, we can’t intervene everywhere.

    Then what the fuck are you arguing about? If your position is that ideals must be tempered by practical analysis of the reality, and we should only promote those ideals when doing so is sufficiently safe, what exactly are you bemoaning the loss of? You’ve just embraced the loss of idealism. If democracy is only for the people that it’s cost-effective to bring it to, how are you any more idealistic or pro-democracy than anybody else?

    More muddle-headed reasoning from Jay, I guess. He can’t even keep track of what he’s supposed to be against, without a Democrat around to stand for something.

  8. Jay Reding says:

    Well, thank goodness he did! God knows, the biggest issue in the Darfur situation was, of course, that nobody knew what to call it until The Great Wordsmith told us it was a genomacide.

    Again, your mouth gets the better of your brain. Calling an event genocide has a very particular legal meaning which triggers very particular ramifications. That’s why President Clinton avoided calling the events in Rwanda in 1994 a genocide and did nothing to stop the violence.

    Then what the fuck are you arguing about? If your position is that ideals must be tempered by practical analysis of the reality, and we should only promote those ideals when doing so is sufficiently safe, what exactly are you bemoaning the loss of? You’ve just embraced the loss of idealism. If democracy is only for the people that it’s cost-effective to bring it to, how are you any more idealistic or pro-democracy than anybody else?

    Again, try actually understanding the argument before lambasting a straw man of your own devising.

    We can’t intervene everywhere, but we should intervene when we can and in what we can. We were right to intervene in Iraq because we created the situation there by not finishing the job in 1991 when we had the chance. We would be right to intervene in Darfur, including the use of military force to bring the regime in Khartoum to its knees. I’ve been critical of Bush’s backtracking in regards to Egypt.

    Perfect consistency is impossible, and only a fool argues otherwise. What Ms. Daley decries is not that we can’t intervene everywhere, but that we’re not even trying to intervene that we can. It’s not that we must spread democracy everywhere, but that we’re abandoning democracy in the Middle East.

    But apparently picking up on subtle arguments doesn’t quite seem to be your thing…

  9. zzx375 says:

    “the current Administration has done absolutely nothing about the human rights of those in Darfur”

    Yes this Administration has paid lip-service to Darfur, but more specifically, what should the US do? Pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan and move the troops to Darfur? The last I read, the janjaweed aren’t exactly throwing rocks at the women they rape. And now that the ‘fallout’ has reached Chad, the situation isn’t any simpler. Doesn’t the rest of the world have some obligation here, especially the European countries who formerly controlled much of Africa (the French in Chad and the UK in the Sudan)?

  10. Seth says:

    Jay–
    You seem to be a fan of rewriting history. The clear rationale for war was WMD. Terrorism and human rights abuses were heaped on top. We are not on a human rights mission, we are on a mission to rid a country that did not have dangerous weapsons of its dangerous weapons. To say anything else might make you feel a little more warm and snuggly at night, but it flies in the face of the plain reality of the rhetoric of this administration going into the war. Had we discovered terrorist links but no human rights abuses, you would be arguing that we were protecting America from terrorists and that we had never made Iraq a human rights mission. That is wrong and intellectually dishonest.

    And you are more full of crap than the Thanksgiving turkey. Here’s what you said: “Bush was first to call Darfur a genocide.” There’s nothing unclear or imprecise about that, you were just flat out wrong and making a wrong assertion about the president to fit the history you would like to exist. Bush used the word after he the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution calling Bush to call the situation “by its rightful name: ‘genocide’.” Which would make it the first government to call the situation a genocide. Kerry and the Senate Democrats started publicly calling for the use of the term. And then Powell floated it out there. And then finally Bush used it. Now, everyone here can see you were wrong and just didn’t know what you were talking about, but you are trying to say you didn’t say something you plainly and clearly said–this is exactly the type of historical revision the far right is attempting.

    Nearly everyone–including Senators from Brownback and Coburn to Feingold–thinks America should do more. The people that don’t think we should do more are the neocons controlling foreign policy and the Bush apologists like Jay Reding–incidentally, these are the same people that call for the U.S. to spread democracy and rid the world of human rights abuse the most forcefully.

    Bottom line: Iraq is not a human rights mission. Saying that you want to enforce human rights violations, but then only actually enforcing human rights violations where it is strategically beneficial and where the costs of intervention are relatively low is not idealism, it’s opportunism.

  11. Erica says:

    Calling an event genocide has a very particular legal meaning which triggers very particular ramifications.

    What, like doing nothing? I think we’re all still waiting for the “ramifications” you’re talking about to occur.

    What Ms. Daley decries is not that we can’t intervene everywhere, but that we’re not even trying to intervene that we can.

    You and Daley, however, are simply wrong about where we can intervene. That’s the issue here, not any loss of principles. (Conservatives would have to have principles to lose them.) We’re simply coming to the recognition that the Rumsfeld Doctrine has savaged our military’s ability to intervene almost anywhere.

    But apparently picking up on subtle arguments doesn’t quite seem to be your thing…

    In other words – “I was for Darfur before I was against it.”

  12. Jay Reding says:

    You seem to be a fan of rewriting history. The clear rationale for war was WMD. Terrorism and human rights abuses were heaped on top. We are not on a human rights mission, we are on a mission to rid a country that did not have dangerous weapsons of its dangerous weapons. To say anything else might make you feel a little more warm and snuggly at night, but it flies in the face of the plain reality of the rhetoric of this administration going into the war. Had we discovered terrorist links but no human rights abuses, you would be arguing that we were protecting America from terrorists and that we had never made Iraq a human rights mission. That is wrong and intellectually dishonest.

    Which is absolutely ridiculous. Nobody goes to war for just one reason. It’s absurd to argue that you have to pick one and only one rationale to go to war. The primary argument was WMD, because everyone on the planet believed that he had WMD stocks at the time. However, that in no way means that the arguments about Saddam Hussein’s violation of the 1991 cease-fire, his actions towards the Iraqi people, his ties to terrorism, or human rights are in any way illegitimate. To say that we just went to war in Iraq over WMDs is a gross simplification, and intellectually dishonest to boot.

    And you are more full of crap than the Thanksgiving turkey.

    I really don’t want to know what Thanksgiving is like at your house…

    Here’s what you said: “Bush was first to call Darfur a genocide.” There’s nothing unclear or imprecise about that, you were just flat out wrong and making a wrong assertion about the president to fit the history you would like to exist. Bush used the word after he the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution calling Bush to call the situation “by its rightful name: ‘genocide’.” Which would make it the first government to call the situation a genocide. Kerry and the Senate Democrats started publicly calling for the use of the term. And then Powell floated it out there. And then finally Bush used it. Now, everyone here can see you were wrong and just didn’t know what you were talking about, but you are trying to say you didn’t say something you plainly and clearly said–this is exactly the type of historical revision the far right is attempting.

    What I meant was Bush was the first world leader to publicly call Darfur a genocide. And in fact, Rep. Henry Hyde and Sen. Sam Brownback were the first to use to call for an official declaration of genocide back in early 2004. Their Darfur Accountability Bill remains tied up in committee, although I hope that it will be signed into law in the next session.

    Even though my words were imprecise, the point still stands. As a matter of US policy, Darfur is a genocide. It was two Republicans, Rep. Hyde and Sen. Brownback who took the first stand on the issue. Kerry and the Democrats were wise to follow suit, and this isn’t an issue of domestic political pissing matches, but they were not the first to do so.

    Nearly everyone–including Senators from Brownback and Coburn to Feingold–thinks America should do more. The people that don’t think we should do more are the neocons controlling foreign policy and the Bush apologists like Jay Reding–incidentally, these are the same people that call for the U.S. to spread democracy and rid the world of human rights abuse the most forcefully.

    No, I did say we should do more. I said it right here. If you can’t follow along, that’s your problem.

    Bottom line: Iraq is not a human rights mission. Saying that you want to enforce human rights violations, but then only actually enforcing human rights violations where it is strategically beneficial and where the costs of intervention are relatively low is not idealism, it’s opportunism.

    So, you want to argue that there are no violations of human rights in Iraq? That there is no terrorism there? That the only people getting killed are people who shot themselves in the head? No mass graves? None of that ever happened.

    To make that argument is idiotic and obscene. To say that there is no human rights interest in Iraq is an outright lie. To say that there wasn’t in 2003 is another outright lie. It’s tantamount to Holocaust denial. The Hussein regime murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqs in cold blood for decades. To say that does not constitute a human rights violation is patently idiotic.

    What, like doing nothing? I think we’re all still waiting for the “ramifications” you’re talking about to occur.

    Again, this is an example where there’s no informed debate going on here.

    The US has declared Darfur a genocide, but for the Convention to kick in, the UN Security Council has to vote on that declaration. The UN has dragged its feet on calling Darfur a genocide.

    So while you’re complaining about big mean George W. Bush, the one agency that could change the situation won’t do a damned thing. That’s why Ambassador Bolton was so upset with the UN. That’s why the Bush Administration is pushing for full recognition of genocide. That’s why Russian and Chinese oil concessions in the Sudan are such a big deal.

    If you’d read something serious like Foreign Policy rather than getting your information from a bunch of half-cocked left-wing bloggers, you’d understand enough of the background of this situation to be able to say something intelligent about it.

    ou and Daley, however, are simply wrong about where we can intervene. That’s the issue here, not any loss of principles. (Conservatives would have to have principles to lose them.) We’re simply coming to the recognition that the Rumsfeld Doctrine has savaged our military’s ability to intervene almost anywhere.

    If all you want to do is argue from bad faith, then you’re not contributing anything. You sound like a left-wing Ann Coulter, and believe me, I’ve met Ann Coulter, and you are no Ann Coulter.

    The issue isn’t where we can intervene, the issue is that the lesson policymakers are taking is that we can never intervene on behalf of democracy regardless of our troop levels. The lesson that the left wing keeps pushing is that we can’t “enforce our values on others” — which directly implies that the promotion of democracy is right out. That’s Daley’s point, and so far you still haven’t been able to comprehend it.

    In other words – “I was for Darfur before I was against it.”

    My position on Darfur has never changed. What’s going on there is a genocide. The US government and the Bush Administration were right to call it such. We need to do more, and the first step is for the UN to declare the situation a genocide to give the political cover for intervention.

    If the UN can’t then the US and whatever forces wish to help, be they NATO or otherwise, should disarm the janjaweed militias by force.

    And again, if all you want to do is express how much you think all conservatives are big mean poopyheads or whatever, get your own damn blog. I want people who have informed arguments to make, not arguments whose flaws could be uncovered with 30 seconds on Wikipedia.

  13. zzx375 says:

    From a historical perspective it looks like the most ‘acceptable’ commitments of US forces occur when there is a Democrat in the White House. The most recent exception coming to mind is the first Gulf war, when G H Bush was president.

  14. Erica says:

    So while you’re complaining about big mean George W. Bush, the one agency that could change the situation won’t do a damned thing.

    I’m not here to defend the UN. You’re grappling with a strawman, not my argument.

    Again, this is an example where there’s no informed debate going on here./i>

    Actually your entire response is an example of how “conservative with attitute” apparently means that attitute is offered in lieu of supporting your original point. But that’s all you have, isn’t it?

    The issue isn’t where we can intervene, the issue is that the lesson policymakers are taking is that we can never intervene on behalf of democracy regardless of our troop levels.

    Bush refuses to change the troop levels. We haven’t even tried changing the troop levels. That obviously can’t be the lesson because we haven’t tried it. The entire argument is about something that isn’t even happening. Don’t accuse me of arguing “in bad faith” when you can’t even support your original premise with anything but straw men!

    My position on Darfur has never changed.

    Indeed – “somebody else should do something about it.” Some principle.

  15. Seth says:

    If the same situation existed in a part of the world that wasn’t resource-rich and wasn’t strategically important to the U.S., we wouldn’t have troops there now. After the factt we can say we’re there on a human rights campaign, but that’s only because our initial reason for going has been shot out of the water and people in power need to save their heads. You are perfectly willing to help them, so keep up the good work.

    There were plenty of people screaming that Iraq did not have WMD before the war. You’re not very good with accepting reality, but try googling “Blix no WMD Iraq” for a good start.

    It’s pretty convenient for you if you can say things that aren’t true and then tell me you meant something different afterwards. You say you are in favor of more sanctions but have said repeatedly that sanctions don’t work and harm innocents. So you are basically advocating action that you admit won’t work. Splendid strategy.

    I’m not going to dignify your ‘Holocaust denial’ remark. You simply have no shame whatsoever.

  16. zzx375 says:

    I could be wrong, often am, and I am certainly not BH Liddell Hart but I fail to see how Bosnia is resource-rich or strategically important to the US and yet our forces are there.

  17. Jay Reding says:

    I’m not here to defend the UN. You’re grappling with a strawman, not my argument.

    Your argument doesn’t match the reality of the policy. The US can engage in unilateral sanctions against the Sudan, but that won’t do anything. Short of invading Darfur and shooting the janjaweed, the US cannot achieve anything in Darfur alone. The entire UN Security Council must agree that Darfur is a genocide and each member must enforce a strict sanctions regime and no-fly zone.

    Why hasn’t the UN done that? They’re the ones who hold the key in this situation, and they still refuse to even call what’s going on there a genocide. Blaming Bush is pointless.

    Actually your entire response is an example of how “conservative with attitute” apparently means that attitute is offered in lieu of supporting your original point. But that’s all you have, isn’t it?

    A complete non-sequitor. Again, I’ve advanced arguments supported by sources. You’ve yet to reason with any of them.

    Bush refuses to change the troop levels. We haven’t even tried changing the troop levels. That obviously can’t be the lesson because we haven’t tried it. The entire argument is about something that isn’t even happening. Don’t accuse me of arguing “in bad faith” when you can’t even support your original premise with anything but straw men!

    Even if we weren’t in Iraq, it wouldn’t change the policy calculations about Darfur. An armed intervention isn’t the way to fix that situation. Furthermore, you seem to be unfamiliar with what a straw man is…

    Indeed – “somebody else should do something about it.” Some principle.

    Again, your snark betrays your ignorance. I’ve already said that the US should do more, and given some suggestions as to what that more should be. At the same time, the US cannot fix the problem on our own. It requires the UN to recognize Darfur as a genocide and act appropriately.

    For someone who comes from a school of thought that holds the UN as the ultimate arbiter of international justice, for them to do nothing about Darfur is unacceptable. Trying to pin everything on Bush is another example of small leftist thinking. Not everything revolves around the person of George W. Bush. Those who cannot see the policy issues at stake here are merely basking in their own ignorance.

    If the same situation existed in a part of the world that wasn’t resource-rich and wasn’t strategically important to the U.S., we wouldn’t have troops there now.

    You mean nations act in self-interest? Wow, there’s a shocker…

    In seriousness, that’s only half right. We could have just smashed the Hussein regime and put a nice friendly dictator in his place. If all we cared about was securing Iraq’s oil, that would be the rational way of doing it. It is in our best interest for Iraq to be a pluralistic democracy, but it’s also in every democratic state’s interest as well.

    After the factt we can say we’re there on a human rights campaign, but that’s only because our initial reason for going has been shot out of the water and people in power need to save their heads. You are perfectly willing to help them, so keep up the good work.

    Again, it’s patently foolish to argue that one can have one and only one cause to go to war. The President made it very clear that human rights were at stake, and to argue that it was some kind of ex post facto justification is an outright falsehood.

    There were plenty of people screaming that Iraq did not have WMD before the war. You’re not very good with accepting reality, but try googling “Blix no WMD Iraq” for a good start.

    Odd then that Blix said he wouldn’t have been surprised if WMD had been found a few months after the war. If Blix really didn’t think that Iraq had WMDs, why the hell would have been leading a team to search for them?

    And in fact, if you read Blix’s book, Disarming Iraq, Blix says the exact opposite. He states quite clearly that all the major world governments believed that Iraq had WMDs at the time, and that he himself was somewhat surprised that they didn’t exist. Nor does he know what happened to the materials Iraq did have in the 1990s.

    Your point is completely and utterly wrong, and Dr. Blix’s own statements disprove them.

    It’s pretty convenient for you if you can say things that aren’t true and then tell me you meant something different afterwards. You say you are in favor of more sanctions but have said repeatedly that sanctions don’t work and harm innocents. So you are basically advocating action that you admit won’t work. Splendid strategy.

    They’re better than nothing. In general, sanctions don’t work. The reason they don’t work is because so many countries (mainly China and Russia) tend to cheat on them. However, they can put some political pressure on someone like President Bashir, which can make it easier to extract a settlement. I also specifically stated that we should freeze Sudanese government assets, enforce a no-fly zone in Darfur, and prevent Sudanese officials from leaving. Those are effective tactics for getting the Sudanese government to disarm the janjaweed.

    I’m not going to dignify your ‘Holocaust denial’ remark. You simply have no shame whatsoever.

    You’re the one who said that there was no humanitarian crisis in Iraq. That is a shameless and idiotic assertion, and you deserve to be called on it. The Hussein government slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis during their brutal reign, but apparently you’d prefer that the world forgot and those guilty of those crimes against humanity would have remained in power to perpetuate that slaughter.

  18. zzx375 says:

    I could be wrong, but it seems that for a person or body to call the events in Darfur what they really are requires moral outrage which in turn needs moral objectivity. By moral objectivity I mean there are some things patently wrong regardless of the time or place or to whom they occur and that there is general agreement on what those events or situations look like.

    For most of the countries in the UN, especially the Western countries, morality has become a subjective, ‘different strokes for different folks’ proposition. Why? I believe it was Aristotle that said that government rests upon the necessary foundation of morality. If that is true and one’s government, one’s laws are based upon nothing in particular then how can a country express outrage at situations like Darfur? They have no moral basis for expressing anything more than “Well, that’s their culture.” That position is easy for a country where expressing disagreement with an opposing view results in being labeled “Intolerant!” or “Hate-monger!” or “How dare you to force your morality on me!” Then let someone come into that country and blow up trains or buses or buildings and the position of moral subjectivity becomes much easier to assume when the question of military intervention in a corner of the globe is raised.

    If morality is subjective rather than objective, it becomes much easier to wring one’s hands over Darfur, Rwanda, Somalia, Cambodia or other areas where people have been rounded up and whacked out right or starved to death.

    Regarding Iraq, Sadam Hussein clearly demonstrated a willingness to whack his own people and a desire to acquire the capacity to develop NBC weaponry. Accommodation of such types is foolish. If you recall, one of Bin Laden’s major complaints was that we were touching sands of the country where so many Islamic holy places were located. The US has withdrawn from Saudia Arabia to Quatar but that didn’t cause Bin Laden’s tune to change.

    All of that being said, how long should the US be willing to have troops in Darfur and what is an acceptable count for dead and wounded? How long do we stay and assist with the reconstruction? Much of the US presence in Iraq has been devoted to getting electricity or water to neighborhoods and rebuilding the infrastructure. The effort to rebuild Europe after WW II took many years. Those who complain about lack of US intervention in Darfur need to have these things in mind.

    Now I have to ask “What is the basis for our ‘idealism’?”

  19. Erica says:

    Again, your snark betrays your ignorance. I’ve already said that the US should do more

    Do more? In the very same post you’ve asserted there’s nothing we can do.

    I’m sorry, but until you can get your schitzophrenia sorted out, you have no credibility – and certainly no basis to bemoan a loss of “principles” that you never had in the first place. The simple truth is that realism and American national interest (not to mention a fair bit of politics) has always dictated American action; there was never any idealism to lose. A simple point easily grasped, but that Jay will constantly deny so long as it issues from the keyboard of a liberal.

  20. Erica says:

    All of that being said, how long should the US be willing to have troops in Darfur and what is an acceptable count for dead and wounded? How long do we stay and assist with the reconstruction? Much of the US presence in Iraq has been devoted to getting electricity or water to neighborhoods and rebuilding the infrastructure. The effort to rebuild Europe after WW II took many years. Those who complain about lack of US intervention in Darfur need to have these things in mind.

    But nobody is complaining about the lack of intervention in Darfur. You need to follow the arguments, Z. Your recognition of the practical difficulties in dealing with the Darfur situation proves our point; idealism has never been the organizing principle of the Bush administration, so writing an obituary about “the death of idealism” is just another example of conservative magical thinking – “idealism” was never alive in the first place.

    And you’ve just proved it.

  21. Jay Reding says:

    I’m sorry, but until you can get your schitzophrenia sorted out, you have no credibility – and certainly no basis to bemoan a loss of “principles” that you never had in the first place. The simple truth is that realism and American national interest (not to mention a fair bit of politics) has always dictated American action; there was never any idealism to lose. A simple point easily grasped, but that Jay will constantly deny so long as it issues from the keyboard of a liberal.

    Yup, we intervened in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa because of our national interest. You know how much oil they have in Bosnia?

    For one, there’s four separate American foreign policy traditions, some of which act on idealism (the Wilsonian and Jeffersonian schools) and some of which are based more on national interest (Jacksonian and Hamiltonian schools). To argue that idealism has never influenced American policy is completely ridiculous. Sorry, Erica, but you know about as much about foreign policy as I do about entomology.

    If all we cared about in Iraq were oil, we wouldn’t be in Iraq right now. We could have installed Ahmad Chalabi as Dictator of Iraq, let the INC brutalize anyone who tried to dissent from that, and been long out of Iraq. That’s not our goal. The Bush Administration has made many, many mistakes, some of them vital. However, the one thing they get right is that the only way to win the long war is to stop the autocracy in the Middle East that spawns terrorism. The root cause of terrorism isn’t Israel, it isn’t America, and it isn’t poverty – it’s a culture of entrenched autocracy.

    No matter how many times one insists that there’s no idealism in American foreign policy – it’s simply untrue. Our current actions don’t make sense unless one understands the larger goal of democratization. What’s unfortunate is that the Bush Administration appears to be abandoning those principles in favor of the realpolitik that got us in this mess in the first place.

  22. zzx375 says:

    I could be wrong, but as best as I can tell, the ball started rolling with Seth’s complaints about the Bush Administration and human rights specifically that human rights violations did not figure into the invasion of Iraq, that Cheney et al did nothing about apartheid in South Africa, and the US has done nothing about Darfur.

    Stating that the US has done nothing about Darfur reads like a complaint about lack intervention (invasion) or was the complaint about what to call the situation in that region?

    The practical realities of military intervention will always be considered and I cite them because they are appropriate when complaints about this sort of inaction arise. More often than not, I see those making the complaint not acknowledge the difficulties.

    Further, your line of
    “You and Daley, however, are simply wrong about where we can intervene. That’s the issue here, not any loss of principles. (Conservatives would have to have principles to lose them.) We’re simply coming to the recognition that the Rumsfeld Doctrine has savaged our military’s ability to intervene almost anywhere.”
    also read like a lack of action complaint.

    The idea that democracy is a better form of government (it certainly allows us to write these responses back and forth) certainly figured prominently in our being in Iraq, since that was the form of government to be installed based upon the balloting of the Iraqi people. So to write that “idealism has never been the organizing principle of the Bush administration” simply isn’t true given that planting a democracy in Iraq was indeed part of the mix of our being there.

    But while we’re writing about the lack of US action, let us consider that we’re not the only ones on the planet. Hence my prior post about subjective morality explaining the UN’s lack of action in Darfur.

  23. Erica says:

    Yup, we intervened in Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, and the Horn of Africa because of our national interest. You know how much oil they have in Bosnia?

    That’s what you’re bringing to the table? Those countries don’t have oil, so they’re of no national interest to us?

    Sorry, Erica, but you know about as much about foreign policy as I do about entomology.

    Granted, you couldn’t possibly be more ignorant about any issue in science, but you need to understand that just because someone disagrees with you is not proof that they don’t know what they’re talking about. (In fact, I’d say the reverse is true – agreement with Jay is probably enough to conclude utter ignorance on the part of the speaker.)

    If all we cared about in Iraq were oil, we wouldn’t be in Iraq right now. We could have installed Ahmad Chalabi as Dictator of Iraq, let the INC brutalize anyone who tried to dissent from that, and been long out of Iraq.

    Oh, I see. You see a policy that fails to advance any national interest, and so you assume that it was motivated by idealism. Of course, the much more rational explanation is that the policy was motivated by national and political self-interest, but simply executed incompetently.

    The root cause of terrorism isn’t Israel, it isn’t America, and it isn’t poverty – it’s a culture of entrenched autocracy.

    Except now we see that as many terrorists have been born and raised in the democratic West as any place in the brutal Middle East. In science, we call that “disconfirming evidence”. Apparently conservatives call that “inconvinient facts to be ignored.” Put that in the same box with global warming, etc.

    Z:

    I could be wrong, but as best as I can tell, the ball started rolling with Seth’s complaints about the Bush Administration and human rights specifically that human rights violations did not figure into the invasion of Iraq, that Cheney et al did nothing about apartheid in South Africa, and the US has done nothing about Darfur.

    That was brought up as a counterexample to Jay’s point. Posts about who else dropped the ball on that serves to prove our point about the lack of idealism.

    The idea that democracy is a better form of government (it certainly allows us to write these responses back and forth) certainly figured prominently in our being in Iraq, since that was the form of government to be installed based upon the balloting of the Iraqi people.

    There are a hundred countries where the people could use some democracy. That was Seth’s point. Coincidentally, we chose to intervene in the country that had an enormous amount of oil. We’re supposed to believe that’s just a happenstance of idealism? That political self-interest, as well as Bush family connections to oil money, had nothing to do with that? You expect a greater level of credulity than a reasonable person can provide, I think.

  24. Jay Reding says:

    That’s what you’re bringing to the table? Those countries don’t have oil, so they’re of no national interest to us?

    In the case of Bosnia, we had no national interest whatsoever. Bosnia isn’t important in terms of geopolitics, and we only intervened because Europe was too weak to deal with the genocide on their borders.

    Bosnia was as close to a purely humanitarian intervention as we’ve had. The same holds true for Somalia, Haiti, and to a lesser extent our actions in the Horn of Africa, where we’re helping to clear shipping lanes of dangerous pirates.

    Granted, you couldn’t possibly be more ignorant about any issue in science, but you need to understand that just because someone disagrees with you is not proof that they don’t know what they’re talking about. (In fact, I’d say the reverse is true – agreement with Jay is probably enough to conclude utter ignorance on the part of the speaker.)

    The difference being that I’ve shown evidence why you’re wrong. Your argument that American interventions have never had any basis in idealism is not one that someone who has any clue about IR issue would make, and even if they did, they’d have some reasonable grounds to back them up.

    You’re in over your head, and your cheap little accusations only prove how desperate you are. If you can’t even cite to the literature, you’re not cut out for a high-level argument on these issues.

    Oh, I see. You see a policy that fails to advance any national interest, and so you assume that it was motivated by idealism. Of course, the much more rational explanation is that the policy was motivated by national and political self-interest, but simply executed incompetently.

    Except that argument doesn’t even make sense. What we’re doing is not in our narrow national interest. It’s not designed to be, and to argue otherwise makes an argument that’s so completely nonsensical to be totally invalid,

    Our longterm goal is to establish pluralist democracy in Iraq. That is the only frame of reference which fits the facts, and the others just reflect petty partisan arguments that start out with an a priori assumption that Bush is dumb, therefore that’s all one needs to know. People who thank about these things can see the patterns — those who wish to wallow in their own ignorance generally do not.

    Except now we see that as many terrorists have been born and raised in the democratic West as any place in the brutal Middle East. In science, we call that “disconfirming evidence”. Apparently conservatives call that “inconvinient facts to be ignored.” Put that in the same box with global warming, etc.

    No, that indicates that the effect is spreading. The Saudis and others have been exporting their radical madrassahs for the past few decades. The Internet allows terrorists to have a global reach.

    Furthermore, look at who is being recruited into these domestic groups. They’re the same sort of people who are alienated from the political processes in Europe as they are in Arab countries. They’re typically middle-class, alienated, and steeped in hatred. The ultimate source for funding and ideology still remains the Arab Middle East, it’s that technology empowers that hatred to be spread across the globe and find root in other countries.

    I’ll give you credit for that last argument being reasonably probing. It’s too bad that it’s so far the exception rather than the rule.

  25. zzx375 says:

    E,

    Oh what? A complaint is in response to an initial post and therefore the complaint is excused from having to deal with the messy details?

    Bush family oil connections? So the Bush family has oil business experience, so do a lot of people in the Southwest which means what in this case? Will GW be pumping oil out of Irag into his personal storage facility?