March 02, 2003

Going Into Iraq

I'm rereading Robert Woodward (2002), Bush at War (New York: Simon and Schuster). There are extraordinary problems in using anything by Woodward as evidence for anything. (If you don't believe me, compare the account of the Clinton administration's adoption of deficit-reduction as its key goal given in Agenda with the account given in Maestro.)

Nevertheless, it's interesting to learn that--according to Woodward's sources at least, who include Powell or at least people who are close to and work for Powell--Wolfowitz, Perle, and company wanted to use American outrage at 9/11 as a justification for attacking Iraq before or instead of dealing with Al-Qaeda in its Afghan bases, even though they thought the chance that Saddam Hussein had been involved in 9/11 was less than 50 percent, and perhaps as low as 10 percent:


Another risk they faced was getting bogged down in Afghanistan.... Rice['s] fears were shared by others.... Should they think about launching military action elsewhere as an insurance policy in case things in Afghanistan went bad. They would need successes early in any war to maintain domestic and international support.... Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz perked up.... Wolfowitz... believed that the abrupt end to... Desert Storm... which left Saddam in power had been a mistake.... Wolfowitz seized the opportunity. Attacking Afghanistan would be uncertain. He worried about 100,000 American troops bogged down in mountain fighting.... In contrast, Iraq was a brittle, oppressive regime.... It was doable. He estimated that there was a 10 to 50 percent chance Saddam was involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks. The U.S. would have to go after Saddam at some time if the war on terrorism was to be taken seriously....

During a break, Bush joined a side discussion that included... Wolfowitz. He told them that he had found some of [Joint Chief Chair] Shelto's military options unimaginative. Wolfowitz expanded on his arguments about how war against Iraq might be easier than against Afghanistan. The president asked why he didn't present more of this at the meeting. "It is not my place to contradict the chairman of the Joint Chiefs [Shelton] unless the secretary of defense says to," said Wolfowitz, knowing Shelton was opposed to an attack on Iraq. When the group reconvened, Rumsfeld asked, Is this the time to attack Iraq? He noted that there would be a big buildup of forces in the region and he was still deeply worried about the availability of good targets in Afghanistan.

Powell objected. You're going to hear from your coalition partners, he told the president. They're all with you, every one, but they will go away if you hit Iraq. If you get something pinning September 11 on Iraq, great--let's put it out and kick them at the right time. But let's get Afghanistan now. If we do that, we will have increased our ability to go after Iraq--if we can prove Iraq had a role... [pp. 83-4]


This picture, as painted by Powell or whichever of Powell's people is Woodward's source, is not at all pretty. It has a wavering president, a wavering secretary of defense, and a madman of a deputy defense secretary (Wolfowitz) who has not only forgotten that we in the United States are supposed to be the good guys but who has next to no conception of who the good guys are, accompanied by a national security advisor who wants a war that can be characterized as "short and victorious" and doesn't seem to much care whether the rapid victories are won against people who were in some way linked to 9/11. They are in the end routed by the forceful declaration by the secretary of state (Powell) that our allies are important and that we lose our allies if we attack Iraq without credible evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11. But it is a close-run thing...

Posted by DeLong at March 2, 2003 09:53 PM | TrackBack

Comments

This isn't surprising. Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Cheney have been after Iraq since the last Gulf War. In a letter from this gang to Clinton in 98 (From the New American Century club), they said, ". . . it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy." 9/11 is just an excuse to do this at the cost of bribing and undermining the most democratic government in the region, Turkey, and selling out the Kurds - not to mention having our our allies who were on our side after 9/11 line up and tell us whether they're "with us or against us". It's like a rabid fifth grader running foreign policy.

Posted by: teddy on March 2, 2003 10:30 PM

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Look in the mirror, Sir. The lack of honor and decency is entirely your own.

Posted by: Barry Freed on March 3, 2003 12:38 AM

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I don't hate this country. People who reasonably suggest that this war is misdirected, vengeful, and idiotic perhaps have a point, and perhaps it's coming from more not less patriotic Americans. Please don't confuse 'apprehensive', 'cautious', 'intelligent' with 'unpatriotic' - that's plain stupid. I certainty don't mind confronting Saddam Hussein. I would be happy to do it and I'd be happy to serve the country for those ends. But I'm not as confident as you are that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and company are the best people to lead us into this war against Iraq. They came to the table with radical preconceptions; they have their own ideological goals to achieve that are apart from protecting us from terrorism.

They've established a policy based on unilateralism and posturing, and neither characteristic is a benefit when dealing with terrorists. You absolutely need cooperation from other states.

From former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski:
"I think Henry [Kissinger] is right in saying that [U.S. relationship with NATO allies] is very serious, but I think we have to ask ourselves, how have we conducted ourselves? We have in effect said to them, "Line up." We have treated them as if they were the Warsaw Pact. The United States issued orders, and they have to follow.

Now, let me give you one striking example. The president since 9/11 has uttered the phrase "He who is not with us is against us" -- mind you, "He who is not with us is against us," anyone who disagrees with us is against us -- no less than 99 times. We have a concept of the alliance, inherent in this kind of conduct, which involves giving orders and others falling in line.

The issue of Iraq is a complicated issue. It's related to the whole question of proliferation and global stability. Ultimately, it points even to the issue of North Korea, that we haven't talked about at all.

And how we conduct this problem, how we deal with it is essential to the effective exercise of America's global leadership.

We are literally undercutting it right now. We have never been as isolated globally, literally never, since 1945."

From Joshua Marshall:
"But in the democracy-building context, we should bear in mind that we accomplished [getting Khalid] by continuing our long-standing policy of using autocratic governments in the Muslim and Arab worlds to do our bidding notwithstanding public opposition.

All of which is to say that exporting democracy and getting everyone to agree with you at the same time is a rather difficult proposition."

I just like to read what's going on and ask questions and share with you my view, but if you have any facts to back up how baseless I am, please provide some. I keep an open, patriotic mind.

Posted by: teddy on March 3, 2003 12:40 AM

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I don't think that was a genuine post from Joe Willingham.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on March 3, 2003 01:04 AM

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NY Times, Feb 21, 2003 http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/21/opinion/21POLL.html

A Last Chance to Stop Iraq
By KENNETH M. POLLACK

WASHINGTON — With the Bush administration set to put a resolution on Iraq before the United Nations Security Council next week, those opposed to war will rally around the notion that Saddam Hussein can be deterred from aggression. They will continue to say that the mere presence of United Nations inspectors will prevent him from building nuclear weapons, and that even if he were to acquire them he could still be contained.

Unfortunately, these claims fly in the face of 12 years — and in truth more like 30 years — of history.

Observers have a very poor track record in predicting the progress of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. In the late 1980’s, the nuclear experts of the American intelligence services were convinced that the Iraqis were at least 5 and probably 10 years away from having a nuclear weapon. For its part, the International Atomic Energy Agency did not even believe that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. After the 1991 Persian Gulf war, United Nations inspectors found that not only did Iraq have a program far more extensive than anyone had realized, but it was also less than two years away from producing a weapon.

Four years later, the international agency was so certain that it had eradicated the Iraqi nuclear program that it wanted to end aggressive inspections in favor of passive “monitoring.” Then a slew of defectors came out of Iraq — including Hussein Kamel al-Majid, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein who led the Iraqi program to build weapons of mass destruction; Wafiq al-Samarrai, one of Saddam Hussein’s intelligence chiefs; and Khidhir Hamza, a leading scientist with the nuclear weapons program. These defectors reported that outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the nuclear program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread out and concealed than anyone had imagined it to be.

In the late 1990’s, American and international nuclear experts again concluded that the Iraqi nuclear program was dormant: yes, the scientists were still working in teams; yes, they still had all of the plans; and yes, they probably were hiding some machinery — but they were not making any progress. Then another batch of important defectors escaped to Europe and told Western intelligence services that after the inspectors left Iraq in 1998, Saddam Hussein had started a crash program to build a nuclear weapon and that the Iraqis had devised methods to hide the effort.

The reports of these defectors prompted the German intelligence service in 2001 to conclude that Iraq was only three to six years away from having one or more nuclear weapons. Today, the American, British and Israeli intelligence services believe that unless he is stopped, Saddam Hussein is likely to acquire a nuclear weapon in the second half of this decade.

Even this estimate may be overly optimistic. While it’s true that the presence of weapons inspectors does hamper the Iraqis, there are some critical caveats. We simply do not know how close Iraq is to acquiring a nuclear weapon, nor do we know to what extent the inspectors’ presence is slowing the Iraqi program. What we do know is that for more than a decade we have consistently overestimated the ability of inspectors to impede the Iraqi efforts and we have consistently underestimated how far along Iraq has been toward acquiring a nuclear weapon.

For all of these reasons the assurances from Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, that he has Iraq’s nuclear program well in hand should be less than comforting.

Nor is there reason to be confident about how Saddam Hussein will behave once he has acquired a nuclear weapon.

He has been anything but circumspect about his aspirations: He has stated that he wants to turn Iraq into a “superpower” that will dominate the Middle East, to liberate Jerusalem and to drive the United States out of the region. He has said he believes the only way he can achieve his goals is through the use of force. Indeed, his half-brother and former chief of intelligence, Barzan al-Tikriti, was reported to say that Iraq needs nuclear weapons because it wants “a strong hand in order to redraw the map of the Middle East.”

It is probably true that fear of retaliation kept Iraq from using chemical weapons against coalition forces during the gulf war. However, this should give us little comfort that he will be similarly deterred in the future. Before the 1991 war, Secretary of State James Baker warned his Iraqi counterpart, Tariq Aziz, that Iraq faced “terrible consequences” if it used weapons of mass destruction, mounted terrorist attacks or destroyed Kuwaiti oil fields.

Yet despite this warning, Saddam Hussein tried to send terrorist teams to America and did blow up the Kuwaiti oil fields — he simply gambled on which two of the three things Mr. Baker mentioned were unlikely to result in America ending the regime. (Many officials from that Bush administration have suggested, in fact, that Saddam Hussein didn’t even make the right calculation.)

Proponents of deterrence also argue that since nobody has ever actually tried to deter Saddam Hussein from attacking another country, how can we claim that doing so will be difficult in the future? The example most often cited is the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, where the common wisdom holds that because of the botched messages he received from the American ambassador, April Glaspie, Iraq had no reason to believe we would fight.

In fact, all the evidence indicates the opposite: Saddam Hussein believed it was highly likely that the United States would try to liberate Kuwait, but convinced himself that we would send only lightly armed, rapidly deployable forces that would be quickly destroyed by his 120,000-man Republican Guard. After this, he assumed, Washington would acquiesce to his conquest.

Much of the evidence for this remains classified, but at least two points can be made using public material: Tariq Aziz has told reporters that this was what Saddam Hussein thought at the time; and we know that when the Republican Guards invaded Kuwait they moved quickly — even before they had consolidated control over the country — to set up defenses along Kuwait’s borders and against amphibious and airborne landings.

In other words, Saddam Hussein thinks we tried to deter him, and that we failed. He was ready and willing to fight the United States for Kuwait.

Even that crushing defeat, however, didn’t dim his adventurism. Just two years later he attempted to assassinate the emir of Kuwait and former President Bush. This was not a rational act but a meaningless bid for revenge. And he is lucky that the attempts failed. If they had succeeded, there is no question that the United States would have obliterated his regime.

Then, in October 2000, he dispatched five divisions to western Iraq. All of the evidence available to the American government indicated that, with the acquiescence of Damascus, he intended to move them through through Syria and into the Golan Heights. In response, Washington began preparing a military strike far greater than Desert Fox of 1999 (which itself prompted revolts throughout Iraq for six months), and the Israeli military planned its own crushing response. Only American and Saudi diplomatic intervention with Syria, combined with the Iraqi military’s logistical problems, quashed the adventure.

Most ominous today, we have heard from many intelligence sources — including some of the highest-level defectors now in America and abroad — that Saddam Hussein believes that once he has acquired nuclear weapons it is the United States that will be deterred. He apparently believes that America will be so terrified of getting into a nuclear confrontation that it would not dare to stop him should he decide to invade, threaten or blackmail his neighbors.

America has never encountered a country that saw nuclear weapons as a tool for aggression. During the cold war we feared that the Russians thought this way, but we eventually learned that they were far more conservative. Our experts may be split on how to handle North Korea, but they agree that the Pyongyang regime wants nuclear weapons for defensive purposes — to stave off the perceived threat of an American attack. The worst that anyone can suggest is that North Korea might blackmail us for economic aid or sell such weapons to someone else (with Iraq being near the top of that list). Only Saddam Hussein sees these weapons as offensive — as enabling aggression.

Finally, we cannot forget that all evidence has shown Saddam Hussein to be an incorrigible optimist who willfully ignores signs of danger. Consider that on at least five occasions over the last three decades, he has embarked on foreign policy adventures that nearly destroyed him: his attack on Iraq’s Kurds in 1974 (which might have ended in an Iranian assault on Baghdad if the shah of Iran had not unexpectedly decided to double-cross the Kurds instead); his invasion of Iran in 1980; his invasion of Kuwait in 1990; his assassination attempt against former President Bush in 1993; and his threatened attack on Kuwait in 1994. In each case, he took a course of action that we know even his closest advisers considered extremely dangerous.

This is the problem with Saddam Hussein. The assertion that he is not intentionally suicidal may be true, but it is irrelevant. In the end, he has frequently proven inadvertently suicidal.

And he seems to be doing it again. With more than 150,000 American soldiers taking positions on his borders he continues to run the international inspectors in circles, foolishly confident that his minor concessions will stave off an invasion. Is there any other person on earth who wouldn’t turn his country inside out to prove that he did not have more weapons of mass destruction? Once again, he seems to be betting his life that the game is not as dangerous as everyone else thinks it is.

Given Saddam Hussein’s current behavior, his track record, his aspirations and his terrifying beliefs about the utility of nuclear weapons, it would be reckless for us to assume that he can be deterred. Yes, we must weigh the costs of a war with Iraq today, but on the other side of the balance we must place the cost of a war with a nuclear-armed Iraq tomorrow.

Kenneth M. Pollack, a former analyst of the Iraqi military at the C.I.A., is a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and author of “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq.”


Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 01:21 AM

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I agree we need to take care of Iraq. I'm just saying I wish I could trust the Bush administration to do the right thing, to do the most good while causing the least amount of damage. I don't think they've been very good at showing that type of leadership so far. You can disagree with me but shooting ourselves in the foot (losing global support) before running a marathon (global war against terrorism where you need a lot of allies) seems stupid to me. Here's another example and I'll use a quote from your article:

"America has never encountered a country that saw nuclear weapons as a tool for aggression." - Pollack

I agree that such a country would be dangerous and we would have to deal with them if they intended to use these nuclear weapons for aggression. Of course, that's not counting our use of low-level nuclear weapons that the U.S. is considering developing and deploying, right? Because if we use nuclear weapons as an offensive weapon that would be stupid, hypocritical, and counterproductive, right? Other countries with the exact same righteous view as ours would have to stop us dead in our tracks if I follow the logic.

I hope you can see how I look at this administration's tactics because I believe they have no strategy, just blind baby-step, oily, tactics. They'll think of reasons after the fact to fit their cowboy diplomacy. Iraq was brought up because of terrorism, WMD and regime change, then it was Al Qaida, Freedom in the middle east, and peace between Israel and Palestinians.

How do you tell propaganda from reason when it morphs so often? Ok, the WMD I can consider to be true but vigorous inspections will keep them at bay as the former National Security Advisor has stated. Plus, it wasn't all that comforting to have Blix point out the evidence Powell used to prove Iraq's possible possession of WMD was misleading. Al Qaida is a more tenuous link, wouldn't you agree? Bin Laden puts us and Hussein in the same infidel category and Powell turns and tells the American people that such statements prove a link? Huh? What's that all about? And freedom and democracy in the Middle East and peace in Israel was last week's pitch and they're only hopes and dreams - so no comment needed. Afghanistan is still a mess and we're not really doing a lot to reconstruct it. I'd be happy to get taxed (how about $500 per person, as a debt-laden recent grad that's a big commitment from me) as a patriotic american if they promise to spend the money rebuilding bombed out Afghanistan (why couldn't that set an example in the region that democratic Iraq could set?). Actually better yet, why don't we repeal the tax cut to support democracy and freedom building. Isn't that money well spent? Where's the Churchillian leadership to propose far-reaching investment in the region and telling us how much this war is going to cost. When's Bush going to talk about how much blood, sweat, and money the war is going to take?

We have a credibility problem with accomplishing all that we've promised following a war in Iraq, and that's one of the reasons the rest of the world is so hesitant, and it's also a part of the reason Turkey wants their bribe in advance, no IOUs accepted.

I mean there are lots of great reasons to attack Iraq, but why do I feel like the Bush administration is trying to justify it to themselves and sell it to me? Why are they sweet talking me into this? I just want some evidence of the overwhelming threat they pose to me before Americans start dying and Iraqis become charred remains. Oh, and a consistent, reasonable, and pragmatic way of accomplishing the task would be nice too.

Posted by: teddy on March 3, 2003 02:26 AM

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Jim Henley has a detailed critique of that Pollack article here, for those with an interest:

http://www.highclearing.com/archivesuo/week_2003_03_02.html#003872

Posted by: Charles Dodgson on March 3, 2003 05:27 AM

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"Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." -- Johnson

"We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty." -- Murrow

"Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right." -- Schurz

The wisdom of our fathers ought to be tacked up on everybody's bookshelf, and branded on the foreheads of our national leaders. Treason may be the most heinous of crimes (says who?), but msearing those who dissent against war cannot be a evidence of virtue.


Posted by: K Harris on March 3, 2003 06:19 AM

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Tell me, how would a republican president win in this game?

If he is as cock-sure of himself as if he had God whispering directions into his ear, he loses for
being unable to manage good advice.

If he considers only options put forward by the military, he loses for being a hawk.

If he considers only the options put forward by the diplomats, he loses for being a wimp.

If he considers only the domestic political implications, he loses by being pollster-driven.

If he considers all the options, he suffers "analysis-paralysis".

If he considers only those options put forward by two or three of the most senior aides, he's dependent on his puppet-masters.

Now, he gets input from the senior aides AND at least some of the more vocal junior staffers, and he's uncertain, wavering, and susceptible to madmen.

"Tell me, Mr Lincoln, why this 'Emanicpation Proclamation' is so indecisive. Why this group but not that, why now but not a year ago, or a year hence? You have been quoted to say you would
attempt, as you put it, 'to preserve the Union', if it required freeing ALL slaves, NO slaves, or SOME slaves -- have you NO principles whatever regarding slavery?

WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU WAVERING, and WHAT IN HELL IS TAKING SO LONG FOR YOU TO MAKE UP YOUR DAMN MIND??? "

History is filled with very close-run things...
and historians who claim to know why the scales tipped this way or that are likely to be deluding themselves.

Posted by: melcher on March 3, 2003 07:14 AM

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I would like to change Melcher's first line, "Tell me, how would a republican president win in this game?" Into:

Tell me, how would Clinton win in this game.

Apparently being president of a diverse democracy is a difficult job.

Posted by: Dan on March 3, 2003 08:10 AM

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Just to make sure where we stand, the positions for and against invading Iraq have nothing to do with who is currently sitting in the White House. If the current administration had the pure commitment to democracy of a Wilson or an FDR, I might support this war. But all recent U.S. presidents, including Clinton and especially Bush II, take a realpolitik approach to foreign policy that leaves my blood cold. I do not trust any of Bush's people, nor the foreign policy people of a hypothetical Gore adm., to set up a decent, functioning democracy in Iraq after it has invaded. The Bush II adm. is just a concentrated version of too much recent U.S. foreign policy.

Posted by: andres on March 3, 2003 08:25 AM

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As unpopular as it will be, I'm here to defend Wolfowitz, not to bury him.

What's the most authoritative and fair report on the first Gulf War? Most senior participants and commentators seem to recognize "The Generals' War" by Trainor and Gordon.

As it happens, I've been rereading "The Generals' War" for insight into the present problems with Iraq. In the Trainor/Gordon account, the most consistently insightful and rational senior executive is . . . . . Paul Wolfowitz. You can call him a hawk and a lot of other things, but in the lead-up to Gulf War I, Wolfowitz and his analysts both understood Hussein's ambitions in the region as well as understood the importance of securing regime change as part of the ceasefire agreement.

In the Trainor/Gordon account, which seems authoritative, the character of Wolfowitz is a very different person than the one in the Woodward book (which I have not read).

Posted by: Anarchus on March 3, 2003 09:44 AM

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Wavering...

I believe that I caught this from the radio (and am therefore apologizing for not having a reliable source) but I recall that after WWII Winston Churchill suggested that the Nazi leadership be rounded up and shot. Truman disagreed, saying that it would violate the Americans' sense of justice.

Neither of these men wavered from their respective value sets, but ultimately the Nuremberg Trials were born of the conversation.

Regards Pollack...

As a point of fact, didn't the IAEA declare before the Gulf War that Hussein was close to acquiring nuclear weapons? This is the report that Bush was citing in his State of the Union address.

Cheers!
Saam Barrager

Posted by: Saam Barrager on March 3, 2003 10:14 AM

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Wavering...

I believe that I caught this from the radio (and am therefore apologizing for not having a reliable source) but I recall that after WWII Winston Churchill suggested that the Nazi leadership be rounded up and shot. Truman disagreed, saying that it would violate the Americans' sense of justice.

Neither of these men wavered from their respective value sets, but ultimately the Nuremberg Trials were born of the conversation.

Regards Pollack...

As a point of fact, didn't the IAEA declare before the Gulf War that Hussein was close to acquiring nuclear weapons? This is the report that Bush was citing in his State of the Union address.

Cheers!
Saam Barrager

Posted by: Saam Barrager on March 3, 2003 10:15 AM

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There are several reasons why some of us Brits are reluctant to endorse a commitment to war against Iraq while fully acknowledging the repugnance of Saddam's regime in Iraq:

(1) A war could easily end up killing many thousands of people - an entirely credible possibility given this report by a mainstream American TV network of the war plan: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/01/24/eveningnews/main537928.shtml

(2) Absent broad international support, the US and UK don't otherwise have a mission from providence to intervene in the affairs of a country with a regime they disapprove of. Many of us bought into Tony Blair's doctrine when he said in a speech to the Chicago Economic Club on 22 April 1999:
"If we want a world ruled by law and by international co-operation then we have to support the UN as its central pillar." at page 10 on: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/international/jan-june99/blair_doctrine4-23.html

(3) As we learned from experience of more than 30 years in Northern Ireland, state sponsorship is not essential for terrorist networks to survive. Private donations and the proceeds of crime can sustain a network for decades. A regretable fact of nature is that very nasty weapons can be made outside government facilities from accessible materials - like the bomb in Oklahoma City in 1995 made from agricultural fertiliser or the sarin nerve gas attack in the Tokyo subway that same year: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/461406.stm

(4) To all appearances, Tony Blair appears very reluctant to put a substantive motion to our Parliament approving military action. So far, he has depended on the Royal prerogative for his authority.

(5) Do you really buy into: The Project For the New American Century with its stated aim: "to shape a new century favourable to American principles and interests" ? - see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/voices/story/0,12820,905991,00.html

Posted by: Bob Briant on March 3, 2003 11:04 AM

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The best reason for invading Iraq is to provide a catalyst for positive change in the Middle East. A moderate, prosperous, and maybe even democratic Iraq would be an inspiration and an example to progressive forces throughout the Islamic world. It would exert pressure for reform in states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

Without fundamental change in the region, the young men will have limited hope and limited career possibilities, and will take out their frustrations by seeing who can kill the most Americans.

The biggest source of friction between the US and the Islamic world is the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Most of the Arab regimes and also the Iranian regime have an interest in keeping that dispute from being resolved. The road to a settlement runs through Baghdad.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 12:01 PM

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Joe: I can't wait to see what kind of Gruyere, if any cheese at all, will emerge out of giving Sharon even more crushing power over the Palestinians... And why that will be a great source of peace and friendliness from the Arabs... And then you tell me what does this have to do with making life safer for Americans...

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 3, 2003 12:29 PM

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Joe,

At one time I shared your hopeful vision of the broader effects of regime change in Iraq, at least in part as a way to justify to myself the Administration's fixation on Saddam Hussein. Over time, however, I have become much less sanguine. The obvious points here are the example of Afghanistan and the lack of public preparation in the US for a long and costly rebuilding effort.

But the bigger point is that, while this argument may seem logical to us, people in the Middle East may view the situation quite differently, and those views will be shaped by the local and regional media. However noble the intent, an attack on Hussein may be viewed as an invasion of infidels, with the goals of corrupting Islamic societies and/or controlling their resources. Has Israel's democracy and prosperity served as a beacon of hope to most people in the region? Will the situation be different in Iraq, or will its government be portrayed and perceived as a puppet? If the new government is granted wide autonomy, what if fundamentalist leaders are elected, or Kurds or Shiis make demands for independence?

Obviously I'm no expert on these issues, and I'm not throwing out these scenarios to try to change anyone's mind about war. I just wanted to make the point that good intentions are not always enough, and people's perceptions of events can differ radically (no pun intended).

Posted by: crumudgeon on March 3, 2003 01:03 PM

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Joe,
if violent intervention in Iraq would bolster the reformers in Iran, promote democracy in Saudi Arabia, settle the people of Yemen and bring peace and trust between the Israelis and Palestinians it would be great. But what successful precedent does this kind of intervention have?With the best of intentions how can American soldiers know how to govern Iraq? How will the vested interests of the Turks and Saudis and fiercely competitive oil companies be prevented from mucking things up?
What spinmeisters in the middle east will be explaining how nice it is of the Americans to liberate the Iraqis?
To what extent has the handling of the dispute been competent? Hasn't the President's approach left him with little room to manouver?
It all seems a bit like investing in a dot.com. If everything goes right, the exorbitant price will be almost justified but if not, not.

Posted by: Jack on March 3, 2003 02:22 PM

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The Iraq war will be relatively easy. The peace will be extremely difficult. Iraq is made up of factions thrown together by the British/French map making in the colonial days. Iraq is only held together by threat of force. A democratic Iraq would be a Shiite dominated Iraq, aligned with Shiite Iran and probably hostile to Israel.

Search for Kurdistan on the web ( http://www.xs4all.nl/~tank/kurdish/htdocs/facts/map.html ) and you will see that the Kurds have a plan for a new country that is currently controlled by Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Without threat of force, the Kurds will break away. Will the Sunnis in Baghdad go along with that? Will the Turks step in to protect the Turkmen in control of oil in Northern Iraq?

Does the US have a civilian that understands Iraq and its ethnic groups well enough and is clever enough to get them to work together?

For what it is worth, Clinton has said that he thought that containment of Iraq would eventually have to give way to a more permanent strategy. However, I doubt that Clinton would every have tried to take on Iraq unilaterally the way Bush has. Once Bush takes Iraq, he will need all the help he can muster to prevent chaos. Will Bush accept help from allies in governing Iraq or will he unilaterally brush aside helpful allies the way he has done in Afghanistan (now in chaos). Exit strategy anyone?

Posted by: bakho on March 3, 2003 02:33 PM

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Exit strategy from this madness? November, 2004 in the U.S.

Iraq will go well or poorly. If well, the sorry state of our economy will be the issue. Bush loses. If poorly, the sorry state of our economy and the long list of foreign policy boondoggles. Bush loses.

It's just a matter of how many Iraqi citizens and U.S. soldiers Bush wants to kill between now and then.

Posted by: LOL on March 3, 2003 02:54 PM

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Brad DeLong writes, "...and a madman of a deputy defense secretary (Wolfowitz) who has not only forgotten that we in the United States are supposed to be the good guys but who has next to no conception of who the good guys are,..."

My guess is that Paul Wolfowitz considers the U.S. to be good guys, and Saddam Hussein to be a bad guy. I assume Dr. DeLong agrees? And how is attacking Iraq, post 9/11, any more of the actions of a "madman" than Bill Clinton's attack of Yugoslavia, post impeachment?

The idea that Saddam Hussein is LESS of a "bad guy" or LESS of a threat to people in the U.S., than Slobodan Milosevic, is positively...well, "mad."

Saddam Hussein unquestionably has developed weapons of mass destruction, and unquestionably has sheltered/supported Islamic terrorists. No rational person could conclude that Slobodan Milosevic represented an equivalent threat to people in the United States.

My suggestion to would be to eliminate the use of terms like "madman" and "no conception of who the good guys are," completely. But if one *does* use the terms, perhaps one ought to use them in a situation where one could logically defend the phrases. Instead of appearing...m...illogical. ;-)

P.S. I don't personally support an attack on Iraq, absent a Congressional declaration of war. But there's simply no doubt, in my mind, that a U.S. attack on Iraq is more defensible than the U.S. attack on Yugoslavia in 1999. At least, regarding Iraq, there's a possibility that people in the U.S. could be harmed by Saddam Hussein. There was simply no way in #@$% that Slobodan Milosevic represented any threat to the "common defence" of the U.S.! (And don't get me started on the Rambouillet "Agreement"...of which Hitler himself would have been proud.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on March 3, 2003 03:05 PM

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Mark Bahner, as so often, speaks Greek to me, so I still can't figure out Mr. Wolfowitz. None of this argument so far has been couched in terms of whether or not Saddam Hussein is a bad guy (of course he is) or whether he is worse than other local bully boys like Milosevic (again, yes) but whether or not the Iraqui people will really be made better off by his violent overthrow and replacement by a regime that is unlikely to be much better. For the nth time, I don't believe that this administration in particular is committed to democracy, nor does it really care about WMD's--we gave Saddam a few of these in the 1980's. I am still waiting to be convinced.

Posted by: andres on March 3, 2003 03:20 PM

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Crumudgeon and Jack above give eloquent expression to legitimate concerns about the consequences of US military action.

I think that if the US and Great Britain overthrow Saddam Hussein that will prove popular with the majority of Iraqis, especially the four million Iraqi exiles who will be able to return to their country. In the rest of the Arab world public opinion will continue in its negative view of the US. There is nothing that can be done about that. Anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are their fixed and constant stars.

US policy is for Iraq to remain one country. But if Iraq can be held together only by a terror regime like that of Saddam Hussein, then it shouldn't be held together.

Even if Iraq doesn't become a democracy, regime change there would exert a positive influence on the political dynamics of the region. There *is* a strong movement for democracy in Iran, and that movement would be emboldened. The US would be able to put some distance between itself and the Saudi regime, and demand that the Saudis cease allowing the clergy there to promote terrorism.

Syria is already talking about removing troops from Lebanon. So they're feeling the heat.

The US is in effect making a demand that the governments in the regime stop backing terrorism, including terrorism against Israel. President Bush and his advisors have the plausible belief that demands backed by the threat of military force have an efficacy that purely verbal demands lack.

I agree that invading Iraq is dangerous. But not invading Iraq is more dangerous.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 03:54 PM

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andres asks:

"whether or not the Iraqi people will really be made better off by his violent overthrow and replacement by a regime that is unlikely to be much better."

Almost any regime would be better than that psychopath. Plus there are a lot of educated, secular minded Iraqis eager to cooperate in rebuilding their country.

Look how well the Kurds are doing in their de facto independent area. They have a free press and a multiparty political system.

I think that the doubters are underrating the Iraqi people by assuming that they are incapable of anything better than what they have now.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 04:09 PM

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Short of a Khmer Rouge-style campaign of mass executions of the entire populace's educated class, or a mass slaughter (probably of starvation) along the lines of what Stalin accomplished with the Kulaks, it would be extraordinarily difficult for any regime succeeding Saddam Hussein's to be worse. That many who oppose forcibly deposing Hussein are the ideological heirs of those who were exceedingly slow to recognize the nature of Pol Pot or Stalin is not coincidental.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 3, 2003 04:25 PM

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The appearance of the "even if we do install a dictator, he won't be as bad" argument isn't particularly encouraging.....

Posted by: Jason McCullough on March 3, 2003 04:37 PM

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As Mark Bahner pointed out, it is strange that so many who supported attacking Serbia to protect the human rights of its Muslim citizens are opposed to military action in Iraq.

The theory seems to be that if a Republican president does it then it must be wrong. I'm not a Republican, but I don't see the logic in that.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 04:41 PM

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"The appearance of the "even if we do install a dictator, he won't be as bad" argument isn't particularly encouraging....."

I don't think that we'll install a dictator. The worry is that one might take over once we leave.

There seems to be a struggle within the administration between two factions. One wants to overthrow Saddam Hussein and get out as soon as possible. They have a cogent argument: infidel armies are extremely unpopular in that part of the world.

The other faction wants to stay and build democracy, along the lines of the occupations of Germany and Japan after World War II. This group argues that once we intervene we are responsible for how things turn out. The problem with this model is that it doesn't have any fans among the Iraqis.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 05:16 PM

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No, the idea is that a "war to save life" can be defended as a "good war", but war as a geopolitical gamble that could kill many civilians is not as exciting a prospect. But then again, this assumes that we do care about "colateral damage" and weight in a civilized and decent way in our strategic thinking.

But thanks to Fox and CNN, Iraqis all only have one face: the face of the "mad" Saddam Hussein, who is deceiving us by destroying the weapons of mass destruction we have helped him acquire. Time to put a stop to all this, before he is done with disarming. Or better, just right after?

So what's the model of democracy in question? Even Iraqi exhiles seem less than thrilled? Is it Kuwait or Afghanistan? Or some sort of military protectorate? You must be right: knowing how nationalist Iraqis seem to be -go figure this out, they're only the craddle of civilization after all- I am sure Iraqis can't wait to be ruled by an American general.

And that, surely, is not going to play in the hands of fundamentalists. Like in Turkey, Pakistan, and now Iran. Just a little more effort, and the whole Muslim world will be radicalized. What an achievement!

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 3, 2003 05:37 PM

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Jason, I will denounce the Bush Administration as vehmently as any if it fails to make a vigorous, good faith effort to see that the populace has regular opportunity (no "one man, one vote, one time" scenario is acceptable, either) to lend consent to the manner in which it is governed, with protections afforded to minorities. What many who oppose Hussein's removal by arms fail to acknowledge, or underplay, however, is the depth of the daily horror of being governed by such a tyrant, and how difficult it would be for their situation to be appreciably worse. Whether this is genuine or willfull ignorance cannot be generalized, but there is no doubt that it is ignorance.

Far more respectable is that part of the anti-war movement which frankly acknowledges how horrible Hussein's reign of terror is, but simply say that it is unlikely that the Iraqi population's situation can be made appreciably better, and the risks to the U.S. are inordinately high, in relation to possible benefits. I think such people may be wrong regarding the Iraqi population's potential for self-government, but then again, I might be wrong in my estimation of the population's potential; this sort of thing doesn't lend itself to empirical measurement.

More importantly, even the best arguments against removing Hussein by force of arms tend to hugely underestimate the cost of maintaining the status quo in the middle east. Without revolutionary change in the region, entities with access to the resources needed to acquire the means to slaughter westerners in massive numbers will continue to attempt to do so with great enthusiasm. Since it is impossible to construct a 100% effective defense against such entities with means at their disposal, and anything less than a 100% effective defense means slaughter of innocents on a titanic scale, revolutionary change by offensive means must be utilized. My fear regarding the Bush Administration is that it will be too cautious, too conservative, which is nearly as bad as the reactionary approach of many who oppose the Bush Administration. Iraq is merely one piece to the puzzle, albeit the first. Audacity is everything now, as risky as such an approach can be, for this is one of those pivotal points in history where the attempt to maintain the status quo, or even to change it slowly, will likely result in even more misery. Do I think this Administration is up to it? Who knows? I certainly admit that there are times when I have great doubts. I would with nearly any group of people charged with such a momentous task, but when I consider the likely alternative, I really see no palatable alternative.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 3, 2003 05:54 PM

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>>The other faction wants to stay and build democracy, along the lines of the occupations of Germany and Japan after World War II.<<

During WWII, you could only expect Germany's and Japan's neighbours to cheer a US invasion... And during WWII, the threat was actually coming from Germany and Japan... Remind me, how can Iraq threaten the US at this point (contrary to what the CIA believes)?

Oh, that's right, it might *think* about it, in some distant and unlikely future. So, we must strike first even it is likely to generate a host of real ennemies elsewhere. Makes sense. I am starting to think that ex-liberal neo-cons must have somehow harmed their brains in the 70s before their conversion to the Truth.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 3, 2003 05:57 PM

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Jean-Philippe, the childish ad hominem ridicule of those with whom one disagrees is a common attribute of the reactionary mind. That it is displayed by those on the left these days as often as it is displayed by those on the right would be amusingly ironic, given the left's supposed rejection of reactionary attitudes, if not for the hideous seriousness that the contemplation of war requires.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 3, 2003 06:14 PM

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The left has become reactionary in many ways: its distrust of science, its exaltation of emotion over reason, its racial and ethnic particularism, its disbelief in the possibility of progress. Add to that its condescending belief that Islamic peoples are destined to live forever under tyrannical regimes.

The closest thing to an old fashioned liberal these days is a neoconservative. Liberals aren't liberal any more.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 06:30 PM

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I am trembling with fear, Will... From now on, I will only write things that I can assume will not have you smear me. Conservative tactic #101: attack somebody at hominem for supposedly attacking someone at hominem. The language-challenged will not follow and you win.

>>My fear regarding the Bush Administration is that it will be too cautious, too conservative [...]<<

LOL!

>>The closest thing to an old fashioned liberal these days is a neoconservative. Liberals aren't liberal any more.<<

Keep it coming please, this is genuinely hillarious.

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 3, 2003 06:34 PM

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Jean Phillipe, if you stop asserting that those with who you disagree have somehow harmed their brains, I will stop accurately characterizing your remarks as ad hominem in nature. Why do you believe that such tactics lend credence to your position? Furthermore, it IS common for the reactionary mind to indulge in such tactics, so my remarks regarding the reactionary mind are not ad hominem in nature, nor can the accurate description of such rhetoric be honestly called a "smear". As far as the descriptions of "conservative tactics" go, since I forthrightly call for revolutionary change, such tactics are of little concern to me.

Posted by: Will Allen on March 3, 2003 06:47 PM

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How about going back to substance, Will?

How do you answer this:

*So, we must strike first even it is likely to generate a host of real ennemies elsewhere.*

... other than by "they hate us anyway"?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 3, 2003 06:51 PM

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Regarding Bahner:
"And how is attacking Iraq, post 9/11, any more of the actions of a "madman" than Bill Clinton's attack of Yugoslavia, post impeachment?"

Amazing! Milosevic was in the middle of committing atrocities like ethnic cleansing on the doorstep of the USA's closest allies while Saddam has been safely contained for a decade thanks in part to Bill Clinton who was pilloried by the likes of you for sending Baghdad a warning shot over a bigger provocation than anything they've done in the last 2 years. And taking military action against Milosevic certainly had more support from the rest of the world except back-sliding Russian generals and the pathetic "anybody but Clinton" crowd. Turning our backs on our closest allies would have been just as damaging to our security then as Bush is proving it is now.

Iraq has harbored no more terrorists than our own country-- Ariel Sharon-- let alone Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Alleged connections to Al Qaeda is just Wolfowitz bullshit and no one believes it.

To Willingham: There are very few people opposed to this war because it's a project of the Republican Party, however there are many who oppose it because it's being waged by a bunch of incompetents. We'll all be less secure after their constant screw-ups with or without the bombs. It makes no sense killing thousands of innocent Iraqis and hundreds or thousands of American soldiers just to prove Rice & Co. can do it as Woodward, flawed as he is, reported.

Posted by: Dennis Slough on March 3, 2003 06:57 PM

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". . . it's being waged by a bunch of incompetents"

Whether you agree with them or not, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of Bush's foreign policy team are highly competent. To call them otherwise is just silly.

"Iraq has harbored no more terrorists than our own country-- Ariel Sharon-- let alone Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Alleged connections to Al Qaeda is just Wolfowitz bullshit and no one believes it."

Where do you get your analysis of world affairs? The Pyongyang Gazette? The smear against Sharon is just standard issue leftist Jew baiting. Those Israelis are so awful - when you attack them they defend themselves!

The evidence for the connection of Iraq to Al Qaeda is circumstantial. But the support of Iraq for other terrorist gangs is not in doubt.


Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 07:37 PM

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I did not support the attack on Yugoslavia. And I do not support an attack on Iraq.

For the term of the Cold War, Josep Broz, aka Marshall Tito, was an ally of the US. But when it came to be in our advantage to dissect his nation in our own interests, we did so. There wasn't a thing that he did that wasn't done by his successors, but it wasn't convenient to say anything about it then.

Now the US has thousands of troops in the former Yugoslavia, trying to keep the peace.

Iraq was an ally of the US, when it suited our purposes. When we wanted Iran attacked for taking our hostages, we asked Iraq to do it. And they did. When Iran appeared to be getting the upper hand, we supplied Iraq with intelligence information, tactical advice, and chemical weapons to counter the Iranian advances.

None of this is pretty. But it is realpolitic.

Odd thing about realpolitic. Nobody ever forgets. There is always that lingering resentment about being used.

A nation can only go to the well so many times, and the US has gone to the well one time too many.

The entire world sees this, and is repulsed by the image.

If the US said that it wanted to see "democracy" (whatever that is) to sprout in it's former dependencies, there are many other venues other that war to spread it.

This war is about the control of the oil in the entire world, not just in Iraq. The rest of the world will soon see what this means, if the Iraq invasion goes according to plan.

This war is about establishing an American Empire through military means. The rest of the world will soon see what this means, too. After Iraq, then it will be Iran, Saudi Arabia,Syria, Lebanon, Libya, etc.

It is not an overstatement to say that this is a pivotal moment in world history.

There have been times in history when inappropriate leaders have been in charge at critical times in history. The closest that I can think of is Charles Cromwell, and the Roundheads.

Now the United States was a nation founded upon the basic principle of religious freedom, yet we find ourselves captives of a krewe of religious crusaders.

How did this happen, and how can we quickly correct it?

Posted by: James Hogan on March 3, 2003 08:19 PM

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>>Whether you agree with them or not, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of Bush's foreign policy team are highly competent. To call them otherwise is just silly.

Silly? To call them competent is just naive. Hey, Joe: take a look at Josh Marshall's piece from September on 'the myth of Republican competence', throw in the farcical way in which Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice, and (most regrettably) Powell have handled things since he wrote that piece, and come back to us. It takes a particular kind of talent to ruin diplomatic relationships so thoroughly, as well as ensuring that allied leaders' positions are more precarious among their own electorates than at any point in their careers.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0209.marshall.html

Posted by: nick sweeney on March 3, 2003 08:23 PM

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Joe Willingham wrote :

"Look how well the Kurds are doing in their de facto independent area. They have a free press and a multiparty political system."

Joe, you do realise that if the US diplomatic
offensive against Turkey succeeds (and maybe
even if it fails), the Kurds are going to lose
all this ?

Preventing a free and independant Kurdistan (FrIK) is the #1 priority for Turkish and Iranian diplomacy (check out the Iranian foriegn minister's interview with the WaPost). It is not Syria's #1 foriegn policy objective, but it's in their top 10.

The reason a FrIK within post-Saddam Iraq must be prevented in Iraq is that the Kurds will then start backing their compatriots in Turkey, Iran and Syria with guns and money.

This means that Turkey's price includes no local administration in Kurdistan (it's pretty trivial to skim $10-$15 mill a year off local and state government type spending, and use it to buy guns that go across the border), and lots of Turkish occupation - sorry, peacekeeping - troops.

Bluntly, if the Turks occupy Kurdistan - and I can assure you, whether or not US troops are in Turkey, Turkish troops are going across the border into Kurdistan - things get worse for the Kurds than what they have now (effective local government, security from the no-fly zone, secure oil revenue from their cut of the smuggled oil etc).

Rest of the country ? Sure, Saddam is a brutal Stalinist, and I'd use the piano wire myself.

But if you believe that the war will make things better in Kurdistan, you are going to watch the Kurds noses get rubbed in the brutal world of power politics.

Ian Whitchurch

"No War in Iraq ! Finish Afghanistan First !"

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on March 3, 2003 08:35 PM

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James Hogan is right. Slobodan Milosevic was an enlightened leader trying to build a democratic pluralistic Yugoslavia. But Bill Clinton sent agents into Yugoslavia to turn its various peoples against each other. Bill's lifelong dream has been to establish American imperial rule in the Balkans in order to divert the vast riches of the region into American coffers.

What was particularly clever was the way Mr. Clinton persuaded the governments of western Europe, including the "red-green" coalition governing Germany and the "pink-red-green" coalition governing France, to go along with his nefarious scheme.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 08:42 PM

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Joe Willingham wrote

"Whether you agree with them or not, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of Bush's foreign policy team are highly competent. To call them otherwise is just silly."

Horseshit. Judging from the results of their actions, Bush could have done better recruiting from homeless shelters. A grab-bag of psychos, winos and the inevitable half-bright factional hack could hardly have done worse.

North Korea is going full tilt on it's nuclear program. They now have 3-5 bombs, according to recent estimates, and they probably cant shoe-horn any of them into their delivery systems. Probably. At the moment. If we're lucky.

Guddemayer Hekmatyar has just signed up with al-Qaeda (and if you dont know who he is, go do some research on exactly who was kicking the Soviet's butts from 1979 on. Him and Massoud ... and Massoud's dead).

The US couldnt even get a left-win populist successfully replaced by the Venezualan Army fer chrissake.

China is looking at a 15-20% rise in defense spending.

The US is assuming other people will come up with a hundred thousand or so occupation troops for Iraq. Who ? Name the names. I'm sure Bulgaria and Estonia can come up with a battallion or so each. I do know that the Australian government isnt planning a significant commitment (and remember, the same soldier cant be in Afghanistan and in Iraq).

Turkey - after requiring the Kurds get sold down the river as a precondition - rejected allowing US troops to base there to attack Iraq.

US foriegn policy since 9/11 has been a litany of disaster.

If the War on Terror wasnt so important, I'd laughing cynically about it.

As it is, I'm crying cynically into my beer.

Why oh why did George W Bush hire foriegn policy guys with the ethics of the Nixon administration's guys, and the competance of the Carter's people ?

Ian Whitchurch

Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on March 3, 2003 08:49 PM

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It is a matter of competence and track record. I am a Clinton supporter, though I opposed the Kosovo War and now I admit I was wrong. The reason I was wrong is because Clinton handled it so well that it became a rousing success and the potential negatives never materialized.

I also oppose attacking Iraq because I believe it will make the War on Terror more difficult. After we rightly attacked Afghanistan it was in our best interests to build the country up. This administration is failing in that department. So why should I believe this administration has any interest in post war Iraq other than oil?

I suppose I am an old-fashioned conservative when it comes to foreign policy. I'm not for nation building unless we conquer a country. I'm not for conquering countries that don't pose an imminent danger. I'm not inclined to believe foreign policy wonks that claim imminent danger with the attitude - Throw every charge against the wall and see which ones stick and then bully our allies for pointing out our errors. It's about incompetence!

Posted by: Dan on March 3, 2003 08:54 PM

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Ian Whitchurch:

"Guddemayer Hekmatyar has just signed up with al-Qaeda"

Just what you would expect from a psychopath like Hekmatyar. To borrow the language of some of the rougher neighborhood in the USA, it's time for the Special Forces to put a cap upside his head.

"Bulgaria and Estonia"

There is a trend on the left to make fun of eastern European countries. I think they are fine folks who appreciate American's role in liberating them from the Russian yoke.

North Korea's behavior is Bush's fault, I agree. They were such nice people until he included them in the Axis of Evil.

"The US couldnt even get a left-win populist successfully replaced by the Venezualan Army fer chrissake."

Some cowboy in the adminstration made a bad call, but wiser heads prevailed. Has there ever been an administration in history whose conduct of foreign affairs was error free?

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 09:11 PM

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If the US invades Iraq that will help to win the war on terrorism by showing that those who fail to cooperate with us in that war are subject to capital punishment.

As Voltaire said, the English hang an admiral from time to time "to encourage the others".

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 09:25 PM

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If we fail to convince people that we are attacking Iraq because they are not cooperating in the War on Terror (and we have already failed in that regard), then we are only showing people that we are too hotheaded to act rationally.

Perhaps that is the real goal. To borrow a maxim from some of the rougher neighborhoods, "The craziest guy will always win the fight".

Posted by: Dan on March 3, 2003 09:47 PM

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Well, Bill Clinton tried the nice guy approach, and I supported him in that. (Until the pardons, I was a fan of the man from Hope.) But it didn't work. Time to call in the hard cop.

Mr. Bush is not crazy. Going against the advice of hotheads like Mr. Cheney, he has given the very able Gen. Powell every opportunity to solve the crisis diplomatically. Unfortunately the French and the Germans have pulled the rug from under the Secretary of State. In terms of their own interests, that was a very foolish thing for France and Germany to do.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 3, 2003 10:02 PM

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Joe

"Just what you would expect from a psychopath like Hekmatyar. To borrow the language of some of the rougher neighborhood in the USA, it's time for the Special Forces to put a cap upside his head."

*collapses in laughter* Joe, please do me a favour, and have a look at the success of the Soviets (and indeed the Taliban) in doing this.

Politics is the art of the possible, right ?

The salient fact is that rather than him being kept in retirement, or as part of the network of warlords that run Afghanistan outside Kabul, he is now an enemy.

"There is a trend on the left to make fun of eastern European countries. I think they are fine folks who appreciate American's role in liberating them from the Russian yoke."

Look, I think they are fine folks too. But they are fine folks who do not have large, modern armies.

To misquote Joe Stalin "How many divisions have they got ?". The US has to either

(a) commit most of it's 10-12 active service divisions to occupying Iraq after their short and successful wars, or

(b) get someone else to do it.

The support from the US has come from the UK, Spain, Italy and a bunch of small and weak countries that do not have the capability to substantially help.

So where are the troops for the occupation coming from ?

"North Korea's behavior is Bush's fault, I agree. They were such nice people until he included them in the Axis of Evil."

North Korea had dropped it's nuclear program into first. After George W Bush made clear his doctrine of replacing governments he didnt like, they immediately needed a nuclear deterrent to intimidate the US out of intervening against them.

They were Stalinists, and therefore scum ... but the parties were dancing around the deal of a South Korean leveraged buyout (with the rider on the deal being the US troops get out of a unified Korea).

But George W Bush had to back them into a corner, thus precipitating them throwing their nuclear program into fourth. Rather than 2-4 nukes, we will be dealing with 15-20, and if we are really unlucky they will start playing with fallout-enhanced suicide weapons.

Oh yeah, and from everything I can tell, their adoption of the Bush Doctrine bhas successfully intimidated the White House.

The theme that I am working around is ...

I want to win the War on Terror.

George W Bush keeps losing focus, distracted by adventures that are not relevant to winning the War on Terror.

In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln "One War at a time, gentlemen, one war at a time".

Ian Whitchurch


Posted by: Ian Whitchurch on March 4, 2003 12:24 AM

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And wouln't Powell's failure have something to do with the mad cowboy style of Rumsfeld? It almost seems like he is voluntarily and systematically trying to undo Powell's diplomatic efforts... Doesn't it?

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 4, 2003 12:29 AM

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"Amazing! Milosevic was in the middle of committing atrocities like ethnic cleansing on the doorstep of the USA's closest allies..."
Then it would seem to have been the job of those closest allies to do something, rather than calling in the U.S. The U.S. cannot and should not be the policeman of the world. At some point others have to handle the fires in their own region - and if they don't want to or can't, then they should suffer the consequences. Otherwise no nation will act responsibly, and always fob off the burden of intervention on others (read the U.S.).
Was there U.N. support for the actions in Yogoslavia? No. Was there Congressional approval? No. Congress missed a wonderful chance to re-assert its authority concerning the Declaration of War by not impeaching Clinton.
In brief Clinton's actions were illegal (contrary to the Constitution) and inexcusable.

Just to show how bi-partisan I can be, let's now assess Bush... Whether Iraq is worth "going after" depends on probabilities which I am not able to assess. Do they now have W.M.D.s? I don't know. Could they develop W.M.D.s quickly in the future? I don't know. Would war help or hinder the spread of W.M.D.s? I don't know. Basically it comes down to whether you trust this Administration or not on these questions, which pretty much explains the divide we're seeing on the war. Those who don't trust Bush, are against the war; those who do, or are willing to give the President of the United States the benefit of a doubt (yes, we have reached that stage), are for it.
Is this problem of lack of trust Bush's fault? Well, he won the Presidency under difficult circumstances but did not try to be more inclusive. Mark against Bush. There also are occasional or frequent lies, to advance its political agenda, coming from the White House. This - I'm afraid - is a trend which was already begun under Clinton (and before him, Reagan). So we need to whack a few former Presidents on this as well. But that doesn't excuse Bush, who could have reversed the trend. He did not; so again, mark against Bush.
So in finale (sorry for the length of this post), I don't know on this either - I don't know whether to trust the President of the U.S. Those who apparently Know, congratulations.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on March 4, 2003 01:17 AM

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"Whether you agree with them or not, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of Bush's foreign policy team are highly competent. To call them otherwise is just silly."

You have to be kidding me. How did this "highly competent" team do in Afghanistan? They control Kabul - with the help of the Europe and Canada - and the rest of the country basicaly not at all. And how has this community of great minds done on Iraq? They have actually managed to convince by the world that it would be better for Saddam Hussein to remain in power than for the US to simply take control of the country. They haven't even got unambiguous support from a majority of Americans or from the governments of Canada or Mexico, the two countries that have the most to loose from angering Washington. They have so squandered American influence in the world that they are reduced to bribing the governments of underdeveloped countries to back them in the UN.

Even if you're in favour of this war, you have to recognise that the Bush administration is - at least as far as international affairs is concerned - staffed by complete nitwits. I can't think of a previous instance in the whole history of American diplomacy when things were this screwed up. With a government like this you should be grateful that the Cold War is over. The USSR would have eaten this administration for lunch.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 4, 2003 02:01 AM

____

Scott, you say that if the administration had been more skilled at diplomacy it could have gotten widespread support for its goals in Iraq.

What should the administration have done differently in order to accomplish that?

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 03:27 AM

____

Joe, I tend to agree with Scott so I'll chip in.
I don't think that the support would ever have been as strong as last time round but some things could have been better. Most importantly the President could have avoided backing himself into a corner where a backdown will look disastrous. All that would have taken is the temperate use of language in public. All the kind of bar talk about European leaders and the relevance of NATO are totally unnecessary and serve only to entrench opposition.
More practically starting a "hearts and minds" offensive of somekind allowing some sense of self determination in the Arab world would have been good. Even if it is urgent that something be done an extra year before going public would not have hurt.
Instead the current offensive seems to have been rushed into to take advatage of what may have been perceived as a domestic political opportunity. Unfortunately that puts US public opinition some where ahead of the opinion of the people it will most affect.
It is by no means clear for instance that the current action is helping the reformers in Iran who just lost heavily in local elections.
Two fine American principles (or at least direct extensions thereof) are getting trampled -- "All men are created equal" and "no taxation without representation". I think those are both practical as well as moral rules and there will be unfortunate consequences if they are ignored.

Posted by: Jack on March 4, 2003 04:10 AM

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Joe, I agree with Jack but I'm going to be more specific. Bush could have acquired a lot more support by NOT first saying he was going to invade Iraq no matter what and just expecting everyone else to sign on. Even America's supporters in Europe look at the Bush administration's rhetoric and feel that they are being ordered around. I have connections in the European diplomatic community who are currently bad-mouthing the US - even the ones from countries that have a policy of supporting the US on Iraq - to a degree that I have never heard before. Words like "rude", "pushy", "demanding", "irrational" and "insane" are the politer ones they use. And these are career diplomats.

The other measure that would have gone a long way towards making the rest of the world reconsider would have been to make good faith efforts to take a more mainstream position on other international issues. By this I mean the ICC, the landmine treaty, Kyoto, the chemical and biological weapons treaties, ABM, the Vienna Convention, the Geneva Convention and probably the most importantly, policy towards Israel. Heck, even signing the largely meaningless International Convention on the Rights of the Child would have helped give the impression that the Bush administration isn't simply a reckless autocracy that considers itself above others. Less lying about Iraq, more openness, more willingness to at least listen to others, acting in good faith, at least holding some kind of debate before using torture and extra-judicial confinement against prisoners from Afghanistan and execution against foreign targets... any of those would have made a huge difference.

Anything really, anthing that gives people the impression that the US really has democratic values that apply outside its own borders. Supporting European consensus-building on some meaningful issue, somewhere in the world; or actually standing beside your allies on some question instead of opposing them at every step (like the recent mess with the ICC) and then demanding belligerently that they stand beside you when you demand it; or honestly, even listening politely to other countries even if you have every intention of ignoring them later - any of these actions would likely have kept a sceptical world from turing into such an openly hostile one.

People who are against this war are not pro-Saddam Hussein, but there is a case that between George Bush and Saddam Hussein, Bush is the more dangerous one. He has far more weapons of mass destruction at his command than Iraq could ever possess and has far more power and influence. The Bush administration could not have made the case that Saddam is the lesser of the two evils better had they planned to do so.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 4, 2003 04:48 AM

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Thomas Freidman reached the same conclusion in his most recent column.

War in Iraq: GOOD.
War in Iraq as planned, presented, and performed by the nitwit Bush Administration: BAD.

Sadly, he's right. There are so many good abstract reasons to get rid of Saddam. And so much concrete evidence that the Bushies have screwed it up beyond all recognition and will continue to do so that it may simply not be worth it.

Posted by: Ethan on March 4, 2003 08:11 AM

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"The left has become reactionary in many ways: its distrust of science, its exaltation of emotion over reason..."

I suppose you refer to failure of the Left to accept the "scientific" theory of creationism.

Posted by: fberthol on March 4, 2003 09:07 AM

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Some of those treaties are not in the US interest and were rightly rejected. But I agree with Scott that administration should have been more tactful and conciliatory in tone.

I disagree fundamentally on the question of US support for Israel. The US is the sole guarantor of the survival of the state of Israel, while most of the world is so filled with anti-Semitism and in some cases hatred of the west that it would view a second holocaust with indifference if not applause.

The idea that Bush is more dangerous than Saddam Hussein strikes me as partisanship pushed to the point of pathology.


Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 09:55 AM

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Nice that you brought it up. Uncle Joe's words again:

"The left has become reactionary in many ways: its distrust of science, its exaltation of emotion over reason, its racial and ethnic particularism, its disbelief in the possibility of progress. Add to that its condescending belief that Islamic peoples are destined to live forever under tyrannical regimes.

The closest thing to an old fashioned liberal these days is a neoconservative. Liberals aren't liberal any more."

(1) Distrust of science. Which side asks for scientific proof that Saddam has connections with Al Qaeda as opposed to accepting the say-so of established authority?

(2) Exaltation of emotion over reason. Was it a liberal president who said that we have to embark on this war because Saddam took a potshot at his daddy?

(3) Racial and ethnic particularism. Is it a liberal attorney general who is arresting incomunicado thousands of immigrants whose only fault is that they are Muslim/brown skinned?

(4) Disbelief in the possibility of progress. Hmm. So liberals are asserting that the inspections process is absolutely incapable of progress? Or do you mean it in a broader sense? Were liberals the ones who encouraged reactionary bastards such as the Shah of Iran or Saddam Hussein in the 1980's?

(5) The condescending belief that Islamic peoples are destined forever to live under tyrannical regimes. There's at least one Islamic country (Turkey) that doesn't live under a tyrannical regime. Judging by its recent conduct, I think Bush and co. were wishing that it was ruled by an old-fashioned Islamic dictator. Again, was it liberals who voiced support for the Shah, Mubarak, the Saudis, or Saddam in the 1980's?

Here's another comic point:

"There is a trend on the left to make fun of eastern European countries. I think they are fine folks who appreciate American's role in liberating them from the Russian yoke."

The U.S. did practically diddly-squat to rid Eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet republics of communism. It is incredebly insulting that the neocons in Washington take the credit for this WHEN IT WAS THE PEOPLE OF EASTERN EUROPE WHO LIBERATED THEMSELVES THROUGH THEIR OWN EFFORTS.

Joe's comments exhibit a level of Orwellian doublespeak which is absolutely frightening. I shudder for the future of democracy in this country if the neocons in Washington think in the same way he does.

Posted by: andres on March 4, 2003 09:56 AM

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The "madman"......mad, quite mad indeed.

If one observes the pre- 9/11 ravings of the American Enterprise cabal (including Wolfowitz) it is clear that only through mental gymnastics of ollympic proportions could anyone convince themselves that a war on Iraq is for any other reason than securing oil suplies.

NOT about establishing democracy, NOT about improving the image of democracy, NOT about benefitting the Iraqi people in any way. It IS about benefitting the American people and - certain individuals positioned well with the right corporations - via the dubious single minded focus on cheap oil. Any benefits to the people of the region are incidental and not necessary to go forward with the plan.

What truly is "mad" is that the Bushies are doggedly promoting a mad pre-9/11 plan in the post 9/11 world.

It is as if the pre-9/11 plan was Bush's raison d'etre.

None of the arguements that the administration has fed us in trying to gain support for war in Iraq stands up to informed scrutiny. In addition to the weaknesses already pointed out on by others this thread I would add the following: 1) Iraq cannot pose a serious threat to its neighbors because as soon as Saddam's troops move into the no fly zones they are destroyed. We have destroying military assets in the no fly zones for years. Troops and ordnance exposed in the desert without cover stand no chance against high tech. air power. How can he attack his nieghbors?

2) Missiles? Missiles could be constructed in secret, but they cannot really be deployed in secret. When they are set up for deployment they can be destroyed. Remember, we have technology whereby we can read the front page of the news paper in your hand from outer space.

3) WMDs. Saddam doesn't have nukes. Bio and Chemical? Probably a limited amount. Again, such must be deployed and the deployment can be detected. These weapons are only effective when deployed in massive concentrations. Literally tons of gas shells or bombs must be exploded in concentration to kill enmass. Bio weapons are far less proven. Nobody really knows what damage they can do. Studies conducted by the US military over the last forty years indicates that the bio weapons are highly unpredictable. All external conditions must be just right and the bio material perfectly manufactured and weaponized if significant results are to be achieved.

It is the threat of an attack on American soil with WMDs that the Bush admin. used to first create enhanced fear - and then support for the war.

The threat of a chemical weapon attack here at home should be removed from the discussion. It is a non-arguement because there is no way that any terrorist group could smuggle into the country - and then deploy - tons of deadly gas. In small concentrations these weapons are no more - and probably less- dangerous than satchel charges or assualt rifles.

Germs are over hyped. The military attempted to simulate a bio attack on San Fran. by placing a ship off the coast and fanning tons of weapons grade, but largely harmless, Q virus into the city. The results were dissapointing. Causalties would have been limited. They also walked the streets of San Fran depositting spores. Again, causalties would have been limited if the spores were a lethal strain because the spores did not perform as needed. And that was with large quantities of material, not the small amounts that would be available to a terrorist sleeper cell.

After all the arguements for war have been examined and dismissed as spurious we are left with the "indisputable" fact that Iraqis would be better off without Saddam.

Would they necessarily be better off? A prolonged civil war between various factions competing to fill the power vacuum might be worse than life under Saddam.

An attack by America on major Iraqi cities involving a thousand cruise missiles, assundry other bombs, shells and bullets that destroys all infrastructure and kills thousands, might just be seen as worse than life under Saddam by many Iraqis. Nerve gas use by Americans could add to the carnage and fear.

Would Iraqis necessarily agree that being ruled by a conquering foreign military regime is better than being ruled by a home grown military regime? Do we totally dismiss an Iraqi sense of nationalism?

So maybe the arguement that Iraqis would be better off without Saddam is not "indusputable", but requires qulification.

What is indisputable is that Iraq is not maximizing its oil production potential and has entered into contracts favorable to countries other than the US. The American Enterprise gang is clear on this aspect of the issue.

All that oil lying fallow has just got to drive an oilman's administration MAD!

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 4, 2003 10:15 AM

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E., answer me this. Why did the UN Security Council pass unanimously Resolution 1441 demanding that Saddam account for his proscribed weapons or else? Is Syria, which voted in the affirmative, in Wolfowitz's pocket? Why does Mr. Blix, who is not what I would call a neoconservative, say that Iraq is not in compliance?

Why hasn't Saddam complied with UN demands during the last 12 years and gotten the sanctions lifted? If he had cooperated the nefarious plot of the neoconservative gang would not have gotten anywhere.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 10:40 AM

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An interesting point, Joe. If Pollack is right, then Saddam's best course would have been to turn over all (or most) of his nuclear program years ago. That's really the only part of his WMD program that's a long term threat, and giving it up would have satisfied the Security Council. He could have spent the last ten years making nukes without sanctions or inspectors, or any conceivable US pretext for war.

Heck, he'd probably even be out of the US doghouse and back on our list of preferred dictators. We'd be asking him to help us effect regime change in Saudi Arabia because of 9-11.

Posted by: Ethan on March 4, 2003 11:14 AM

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JW said:
[...]
Some of those treaties are not in the US interest and were rightly rejected. But I agree with Scott that administration should have been more tactful and conciliatory in tone.
[...]

So I take that you means that unilateral decisions by the US government are in the interest of the whole of the world?

Most of these treaties had input from the USA, sometime to the point of making them almost irrelevant to their avowed purpose, because it was felt that a little advancement was better than none. That fact tells more about the bad faith of the USA that anything I could say. And I remember the Maine.


DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on March 4, 2003 11:51 AM

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Maybe a lot of his behavior has to do with the internal politics of Iraq. He doesn't want the sanctions lifted. For one thing, the sanctions have the perverse effect of giving Saddam and his gang greater control over the economy. For another, if Iraq were more open his many enemies might be emboldened to try to overthrow him.

Saddam has a library of books on Stalin. No doubt he has read them closely.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 11:55 AM

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Joe,
I am not a psychic, but I will hazard aguess in answer to your question.

The reason that containment can work is that the US maintains a quick strike capability in the region with our air bases in Arab countries.

A disarmed Saddam means that the US no longer has an excuse to maintain a strong presence in the region.

Perhaps Syria seaks to remove that excuse. Note that none of the Arab countries (and Muslim Turkey) are in favor of a war; especially one that would leave Iraq in the hands of a US military government.

If Saddam's neighbors really feared his supposed proclivity for agrression then support for a war to remove him would be strongest amongst his neighbors, no?

Now clearly a nuclear Iraq would pose a high level threat to the stability of the region and to that extent Syria has a strong motivation to see Saddam disarmed. So, I guess that would be reason number two for voting in favor of 1441.

Reason three might have something to do with Syria's (and other countries') belief that the UN is essential to the establishment of law and order in the world. Sanctions must be enforced out of principle alone. Furthermore, from Syria's perspective, if Iraq is made to comply today then why not Isreal tomorrow? Isreal is in violation of several UN resolutions.

Reason four could have to do with closed door bargaining with the US and I will not attempt to get into what that may involve.

Joe, enforcement of sanctions is not the same thing as going to war. 1441 does not state that Saddam complies now or will be attacked. I think that 1441 must be enforced.

However, there are alternatives to war. Enhanced inspection regimes are one such alternative. Sitting down at the table with Saddam - like we used to - and working out a deal is another.

The point here is that Wolfowitz and company aren't interested in alternatives because they have long ago developed (in a shoddy ethnocentric damn the costs and risks sort of way) a plan to invade Iraq, grab petroleum assets, and then use Iraq as a militarpolitical base from which to alter the entire geo-political landscape of the region.

And, all of the other reasons to go to war that are sold to the public are mere propeganda containing questionable amounts of truth.

As for Blix, he hasn't advocated war. The inspections are gaining momentum. Witness the developments of the last two or three days.

If it isn't about oil then answer me this. Why are we not interested in removing atrocious dictators in places like Africa? In fact, we stand back and watch as genocides take place.

If stopping the spread of WMDs is so important to us then why are we not seriously addressing N. Korea; a country whose primary export is military ordnance and who is producing nuclear arms?

As far as I am concerned a thousand cruise missiles, thousands of tons of other ordnance, B-52s etc, and a few hundred thousand troops would much better be utilized in pressuring N. Korea.

Why isn't this occurring? Re-read Brad's post. This administration isn't interested in promotion of democratic values or stopping proliferation of WMDs or any of the other things it says it is.

It's all about a mad mad scheme to colonize oil producing Arabic nations.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 4, 2003 12:07 PM

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Ethan: "If Pollack is right, then Saddam's best course would have been to turn over all (or most) of his nuclear program years ago."

It's been puzzling me, too, that Saddam hasn't done so. The popular hypothesis explaning this behavior -- that Saddam is not rational in a conventional Western sense -- may be true. An alternative explanation -- made by Jim Henley but I'm sure by others, too -- is that the US has been so clear about its desire to go to war that deterrence, which depends on a carrot as well as a stick, is no longer a relevant concept. He is in a bunker certain that an invasion is imminent.

Posted by: JT on March 4, 2003 12:11 PM

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Jaume: "That fact tells more about the bad faith of the USA that anything I could say."

If you're referring to the Kyoto accords, bad faith has nothing to do with it. The US electorate when faced with the effects of that agreement would have reacted in near-revolt. The agreement was politically dead on arrival.

Posted by: JT on March 4, 2003 12:14 PM

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to JT

Not Kyoto alone, even if it was a bad fact. What you say is that US citizens do not care about preserving the whole world if that means not wasting ressources.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on March 4, 2003 12:39 PM

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JT: Saddam's failure to voluntarily give up his nukes does not require a failure of deterrence. It just requires an inflated sense of his abilities. If Saddam is continually in a position to think that he will beat the UN and the inspectors in a few months or even a year, then he has no reason to give up his program, because he will be able to resume an open nuclear program Real Soon Now. Of course, he's had over ten years of Real Soon Now...

Alternatively, if he thinks that he can get nukes within in 3-5 years despite the inspections, then he also has no reason to give up the program, which would take at least that long to rebuild.

Given his megolomania and love of high-stakes gambling, both of these are likely. They represent failures of deterrence, but not the carrot end. This is a failure to convey the size and determination of the stick.

Posted by: Ethan on March 4, 2003 12:48 PM

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**Why did the UN Security Council pass unanimously Resolution 1441 demanding that Saddam account for his proscribed weapons or else? Is Syria, which voted in the affirmative, in Wolfowitz's pocket? Why does Mr. Blix, who is not what I would call a neoconservative, say that Iraq is not in compliance?**

Because at that point, the world had not completely realized the nature of the shift in American foreign policy put forward by the neo-cons. Faced with a deadline and an explicit threat by the US to make the UN irrelevant, the rest of the world choose to adopt a common stance vague enough that everyone could go home claiming victory.

This time around many countries seem to me ready to let the US make the UN irrelevant because at this point, given the attitude and strategy of the US, it is ALREADY irrelevant except as a rubber stamp for American "diplomacy". It has always been a bit that way, but now it has reached ridicule proportions to the point that politicians in actual democracies cannot hide behind the UN smokescreen anymore in their efforts to accomodate the US.

**Why hasn't Saddam complied with UN demands during the last 12 years and gotten the sanctions lifted? If he had cooperated the nefarious plot of the neoconservative gang would not have gotten anywhere.**

I will second JT on this one. To the extent the US, and particularly this administration, has never offered a credible exit from war to Saddam Hussein, he has had little to negative incentives to disarm of the very weapons he hopes will help his regime resist an American invasion.

In contrast, the Frenco-Germano-Chino-Russian (to name a few not-so irrelevant countries) request that inspectors be given a little more time, has offered Saddam the opportunity to try to convince the world to block a US invasion in exchange for destroying those of his toys that could allegedly hit Israel for example.

Saddam now feels that there maybe an exit from (total) war, and he is using even this hypothetical window of opportunity. The professionalism of Hans Blix must also have something to do with this, as Blix reports WHAT IS and not what the admnistration probably pressures him to report. Saddam disarms, Blix says he sees progress.

P.S. I have switched to quoting with double-stars as "smaller and bigger than" characters tend to eat up some of my writing when I preview.

P.P.S. And yes, Professor DeLong, please try to find a way to warn posters, one way or another, that it may take a while before your server sends back the page with the posters' comments (even though these comments have already been recorded by MT.)

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 4, 2003 12:57 PM

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JT,
How do we know that, for the most part, Saddam has not indeed disarmed? I've been waiting for evidence of his possession of WMDs and have not yet seen anything credible. Has anyone?

To the extent that he may not have disarmed I think you're correct in your proposition that he is in a bunker mentality. The US has made it clear that only Saddam's removal is acceptable; even making glib comments about a bullet in the head and that sort of thing. Why disarm if war is inevitible? Another example of US complicity in colonial designs.

Also, any military dictator invests a certain amount of pride in his martial capacities. It's unlikely that he would surrender them without extreme pressure.

It must be very difficult for a dictator of a sovereign nation to accept commands to disarm from outside; nothing non-western about it.

Unfortunately, the US has painted Saddam into a corner. Disarm and we will have an easier time invading your country. Don't disarm and we will have an overt excuse to invade your country.

Perhaps if Saddam had faith in the UN he would have disarmed and appealed to the Security Council any US attempts to attack Iraq. But then isn't this what seems to be happening now with the destruction of the missiles and the revealing of the buried munitions?

Correction: I have referred to the cabal instigating the colonization of oil producing regions as the American Enterprise Institute. That group no doubt favors the plan, but the real source of the plan is a more covert group referenced by Bob Woodward and others and that has produced the Enterprise for the New American Century and other neocon manifestos.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 4, 2003 01:10 PM

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"If you're referring to the Kyoto accords, bad faith has nothing to do with it. The US electorate when faced with the effects of that agreement would have reacted in near-revolt. The agreement was politically dead on arrival."

Oh, so you're trying to tell us that millions of people were ready to turn out in the middle of winter to demonstrate on Main Street USA against the Kyoto accords? And on top of that, that a US administration, of course, never, never ignores public sentiment, or tries to persusade the electorate to a course of action? Hah.

The rejection of Kyoto had nothing to do with the electorate, except insofar as they were lied to and told that it would ruin them personally. The agreement was politically dead in Washington because it was to the short-term financial disadvantage of certain large political campaign contributors, who lobbied hard against the treaty.

Posted by: Canadian Reader on March 4, 2003 01:17 PM

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http://home.earthlink.net/~platter/neo-conservatism/pnac.html

Just a taste of what the New American Century cabal is all about.

I especially like their idea of invading Iraq *whether or not* Saddam is in power.

Better yet, they advocate the use of biological warfare to conquer the world.

The list of signatories is a virtual who's who of the neocon world; including Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rummy......

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 4, 2003 01:23 PM

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I agree that the Administration's unilateralist impulses have made its position more tenuous than need be but:

1. The justification for military action against Iraq is Iraq's non-compliance with UN imposed requirements to disarm. The UN imposed these requirements because Iraq had PROVEN to be a direct threat to its neighbors requiring UN action to constrain. It has been 12 years. Iraq has not disarmed.

2. The principal reason given for not invading Iraq to force its compliance with UN mandates prior to 9/11 was that it could safely be contained.

3. A regime has been under mandate to disarm for 12 years yet permanent members of the Security Council threaten to veto military action because they argue more time is needed to allow compliance. Their rationale? Recent threats of military action have brought about a meaningful change in behavior.

4. Several of the members of the security council who are most vocal on behalf of continued containment are also the ones currently maintaining the strongest economic ties with the regime.

5. Most of the world's petroleum-based energy reserves are located within striking distance of Iraq's missile systems. The world economy would be crippled by a serious disruption of production from those reserves.

6. Action in Iraq in no way proscribes or prevents action in places such as Afghanistan. The forces needed to help the Afghans are not the same ones needed to fight Iraq.

7. The US does not control Kuwaiti oil fields.

Posted by: Stan on March 4, 2003 01:31 PM

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//
5. Most of the world's petroleum-based energy reserves are located within striking distance of Iraq's missile systems. The world economy would be crippled by a serious disruption of production from those reserves.
//

No. While the al Hussein missil might be dangerous to some extent, it is difficult Iraq has them in sufficient quantity.

//
7. The US does not control Kuwaiti oil fields.
//

No need for direct control. Indirect control is more discreet.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on March 4, 2003 01:58 PM

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If Saddam were to fully comply, to actively cooperate with the UN inspectors, all the neoconservatives end to end couldn't bring off an invasion. US public opinion wouldn't allow it.

On the other hand, if Saddam does not fully comply, and the UN does not authorize the use of force, then the UN will have proved itself irrelevant, and the US should cease taking the UN seriously.

The Arab states and Turkey are by no means of one mind on the question of using force in Iraq. Several Arab countries are openly siding with the US. Others are hoping that US pressure will cause Saddam to fall without a war. Public opinion is anti-US, but protest is rather muted. Saddam seems to be losing his popularity.

The vote in Turkey was very close.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 02:06 PM

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From pg. ii of the report showing U.S. plans to conquer the world: "Our report [the authors] borrows heavily from those deliberations. But we did not ask seminar participants to 'sign off' on the final report." For belonging to the organization, the members deserve some derision for its publications but the report seems to be the work of its authors.

http://home.earthlink.net/~platter/common/misc/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

Posted by: Stan on March 4, 2003 02:16 PM

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Joe, I'm not even saying the US would have had to leave Israel high and dry. (I do sometimes say the US should leave Israel high and dry, but that's far more than is necessary to maintain a better image in the world.) Instead, any sort of pressure - economic pressure, not selling Israel so many arms, threatening at least verbally to reduce aid if they don't freeze the settlements or suspend the worst Geneva Convention violations in the West Bank would have been enough. Anything to tell the world that US doesn't fully, 100%, approve of what's going on in Israel and holds the Sharon government at least in part responsible for the mess.

Even if the US doesn't want to sign Kyoto, show some sign of at least recognising the problem exists. Even if the US doesn't want to join the ICC, at least don't go and publicly announce that you intend to sabotage it. I can't see how the International Convention on the Rights of the Child is against US interests, except that it probably means the Marines have to stop recruiting 17 year olds. I'm hard pressed to see how that hurts America much, yet the US still refuses to sign it. Even the landmine treaty - they were willing to grant an exception for Korea for a fixed term that would have eliminated virtually all the objections raised by the American negociators. The US still rejected it.

The thing that makes this situation so bad - the real sign not merely of policies that I personally disagree with but of genuine incompetence - is that even measures without any real substance would have made a huge difference. Even lip service would have diffused the worst of it.

Posted by: Scott Martens on March 4, 2003 02:20 PM

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5. The accuracy of Iraq's missiles is not an issue so much as the location of Iraq.

7. Indirect control amounts to no control at all.

Posted by: Stan on March 4, 2003 02:25 PM

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I do not means accuracy, but range. Al Hussein missiles had a range under 700 km, so from Irak it could attacks most of the Persian Gulf, but those missiles were destroyed, and even if some had been hidden, it would be a smallish quantity, of no military interest. I would be more worried about Pakistan Saheen 2, in the probable case that the actual government falls to an integrist coup, since its theoretical range is 2500km.

And indirect control means a lot. The British excelled at it.

DSW

Posted by: Antoni Jaume on March 4, 2003 02:52 PM

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News flash - quote:

Senior aides to President George W. Bush say he faces a humiliating defeat before the United Nations Security Council next week.

And signs emerged today that the U.S. may withdraw the resolution from security council consideration.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, fresh from his latest round of meetings with representatives of countries on the Security Council, delivered the bad news to Bush on Monday.

"You will lose, Mr. President," Powell told Bush. "You will lose badly and the United States will be humiliated on the world stage."

http://www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_1870.shtml

Posted by: Jean-Philippe Stijns on March 4, 2003 02:54 PM

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Stan,
While most members of the Bush cabinet did not sign the report you referenced - and you're correct in that they participated in its formulation - they have put their signatures to other documents that came out of that group.

Cabinet members denying adherence to the principles of document you and I referenced would be like someone asserting that, while my friends are KKK members, while I attend KKK meetings, and though I sign off on some KKK publications, I am not a racist.

It just doesn't fly.

So now we know the answer. The administration is NOT rife with incompetence in its dealing with the Iraq issue.

Rather, the administration is covertly, yet actively, persuing an extremist imperialistic unilateral (except for Britain) agenda.

If the true goals of the administration were sufficiently revealed to the American people, then the administration would be tossed out on its ear (read impeachment).

So they appear incompetent because they are desperately trying to lie their way through this. Like most liars do, the administration is trying to keep those subjecting it to scrutiny off balance by shifting goals, inventing evidence, doubling back on themselves, calling their antagonists names...and basically changing their story when they're about to get cornered by the truth. Anyhow, there is no way to pull off a conquest of the world without cracking a few eggs in the staging process alone. We don't care about allies because we know that we will offend them sooner or later as the plan moves forward. Better to know who our friends will be up front. Better to cause those friends to make enemies now so that they will have to stick with us down the road.

Rice and Powell are a puppets. They sold out for personal power (did they try to justify it all by telling themselves they were setting an example for people of color?).

Bush is also a puppet...personal power, family power, big money payoffs behind the scenes, and the advancement of his narrow born again beliefs.

If anyone doubts any of this, remember these are the people the President appointed, these are the people who have his ear. Remember that the President now has authority to start military action any time/ any where he desires.

You don't construct documents like the refernced one as a joke. You don't present it to the Commander in Chief of the United States of America as some sort of twisted parlor game.

These guys are serious and they're calling the shots in Washington.

Incompetent? remains to be seen...they may yet achieve their objectives. Evil barbarians...no doubt about it.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 4, 2003 03:21 PM

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"Imperialism" is one of those meaningless cant words that substitutes for thought on the totalitarian left.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 08:09 PM

____

Scott writes:

"Even if the US doesn't want to sign Kyoto, show some sign of at least recognising the problem exists. Even if the US doesn't want to join the ICC, at least don't go and publicly announce that you intend to sabotage it. I can't see how the International Convention on the Rights of the Child is against US interests, except that it probably means the Marines have to stop recruiting 17 year olds. I'm hard pressed to see how that hurts America much, yet the US still refuses to sign it. Even the landmine treaty - they were willing to grant an exception for Korea for a fixed term that would have eliminated virtually all the objections raised by the American negociators. The US still rejected it.

"The thing that makes this situation so bad - the real sign not merely of policies that I personally disagree with but of genuine incompetence - is that even measures without any real substance would have made a huge difference. Even lip service would have diffused the worst of it."

You may be surprised to learn that I agree with the above. But that does not change the fundamental equation in the confrontation with Saddam Hussein and with Islamofascist terrorism. We are right, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are wrong. Call me simple minded, but that's what I believe, and I am happy to see that belief backed up by the military might of the United States.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 08:25 PM

____

"Senior aides to President George W. Bush say he faces a humiliating defeat before the United Nations Security Council next week."

The defeat would not be Bush's, but the UN's. It would have shown the lack of principle, cowardice and incompetence for which it is so well known.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 08:47 PM

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http://home.earthlink.net/~platter/neo-conservatism/perle.html

Read it and check out the links. That's imperialism.

Is this what you call "priciple", Joe?

There are mad mad men at the helm.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 4, 2003 09:16 PM

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"If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war... our children will sing great songs about us years from now." -- Richard Perle, qtd. in John Pilger, Two years ago a project set up by the men who now surround George W Bush said what America needed was "a new Pearl Harbor". Its published aims have, alarmingly, come true.

A little something from the site to induce a visit.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 4, 2003 09:21 PM

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Let's don't get carried away with worrying about Richard Pearle. He represents one school of thought within the administration, but only one. Ronald Reagan ignored Richard Pearle's advice and negotiated with Mikhail Gorbachev. The other day President Bush called for a Palestinian state and an end to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, as soon as the Palestinian Authority gets moderate leadership dedicated to a peaceful solution, which may not be long in the future. As you can imagine, the far right wing in Israel was not pleased.

Bush may be a cowboy, but he is smart enough to not to let any one group of city slickers have all the input. Conservative though he be, he's a lot more pragmatic than he is ideological.

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 4, 2003 09:55 PM

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Stan,
1. Urgency and UN resolutions go hand in hand. Israel definitely has weapons of mass destruction, has invaded neighbours and has been in breach of UN Resolutions for roughly twice as long. That is not to say that Israel should now be facing invasion but as far as justice being seen to be done the force of this argument is not overwhelming.

2. What changed in Iraq after September 11?

3. I think this point is true but ask whether these benefits could have been extracted at a lower cost to the US, whether even more could have been done if there was a carrot as well as a stick (think of North Korea) and whether these benefits could have been obtained earlier if the inspectorate had not been turned into spotters for the desert fox airstrikes.

4. Trade is supposed to benefit all concerned. More seriously most people concerned have memories long enough to recall when the US was happy to trade with Iraq so will not feel that it is in a positin to throw stones.

5. I have no doubt that Saddam in charge of so many oil reserves would be extremely unpleasant prospect, at least in the short term. The Saudis however are in charge of more oil and seem to provide much of Al Qaedas funding. The weakness of Iraq's neighbours is almost as important as its threat.

6. Right but the lack of aftercare in Afghanistan raises doubts about plans for post invasion Iraq.

7. Really?

Posted by: Jack on March 5, 2003 12:31 AM

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Joe,
If Richard Perle was just some fringe element loose cannon writing op. eds I would agree with you.

However, Perle has the highest security clearance possible; virtually unbarred access to the pentagon and CIA.

In addition to his own considerable power, Perle has a cadre of friends that include Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Jeb Bush, and many other neocons in positions of power and/or influence.

You can't ignore the obvious. You must ask why a man like this has unfettered access to the most critical military secrets; why he is involved at the highest levels of planning.

Perle is obviously taken extremely seriously. If the powers that be considered him a madman then they would barr him from the pentagon. They would be very reluctant to associate with him in any capacity.

I find the presence of his ilk in the Pentagon to be utterly disturbing.

I had summarily dismissed as lunacy, assertions that the 9/11 attacks were part of a US govt conspiracy to set world domination plans in motion.

The more I learn about the amount of power held by people like Perle, the more I see the conspiracy angle as a real possibility.

Strange, isn't it, that Bush got his "trifecta" and Perle got his "Pearl Harbor".

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 5, 2003 10:23 AM

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As the world's only superpower the US is already dominant, or close enough. What's the need for a conspiracy?

Posted by: Joe Willingham on March 5, 2003 11:06 AM

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Well, if you read the manifesto, you will see that 1) the neocons advocate the establishment of an increased number of troops around the world. They need more and bigger bases. This means more DOD spending; which means those pesky people of the republic must be convinced that increased defense spending is necessary.

2) The neocons see a US military presence in the Gulf to be critical regardless of Saddam (protect oil interests. Be ready to deal with Iran and other Arab countries). Iraq makes for an excellent central base of ops + there's all that oil to help pay for it all. As they state, a large land base will free up the fleet for enhanced East Asian assignments, like confronting China.

3) The neocons state that Saddam must go; end of story. 9/11 got the public's blood up enough that many are in favor of removing Saddam through a pre-emptive attack. Admit it, after 9/11 we were scared and angry. Then they told us that Saddam might supply weapons to terrorists that could result in a worse attack in the future.

4) The neocons clearly state that we are not dominant enough. They seek to increase our military presence around the world AND our ability to attack when ever we wish. 9/11 provided the impetus for a doctrine of pre-emption.

5) 9/11 provided the impetus for fundemental changes in our laws that allow the kind of monitoring activity of cyberspace and of personal activity that the neocons advocate as part of their grand strategy.

6) the neocons have this idea that we have become soft and immoral and that only a war and a depression can bring back wholesome American ethics. This has been submitted by several of the neocons in as many words. This is a core part of the irrational, but driving, neocon ideology.

Hey, the need for a 9/11 to implement the plan wasn't my idea....it was Perl's (see the above quote). Why don't you ask him?

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 5, 2003 11:38 AM

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http://pilger.carlton.com/print/124759

This from an interview with Perle. Says it better than I.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on March 5, 2003 11:51 AM

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I'm having problems displaying your style sheet - maybe because I'm running safari on OSX?

Posted by: life insurance on November 23, 2003 02:33 PM

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