January 12, 2003
Steven Weber on Foreign Policy

Andrew Northrup has strong, mixed reactions to an interview with Berkeley Professor Steven Weber on current U.S. foreign policy. I know that I always learn a lot from every conversation with Steve. And when I need an informed view on an International Relations topic, he is one of the first people I go to to borrow one from...


The Poor Man: Somewhat less rubbishy is an interview with UC Berkley's Steven Weber, who is alternately right, wrong, and horribly confused. I'm not saying it's a great piece in and of itself, but it is something I had a lot of reactions to...


Here's the interview with Steve:

A conversation with Steven Weber An expert in international relations looks at the changing role of the United States in the world...

By Russell Schoch

The world of international relations has undergone a dramatic shift since September 11, 2001. The United States has changed the direction of its foreign policy from one of containment (of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, of Iraq since the Gulf War) to talk about "pre-emptive" strikes against other nations, specifically Iraq. Ten years ago, Berkeley associate professor of political science Steven Weber argued in favor of the first Bush administration's war against Iraq. He agreed to share his point of view with us on world affairs then and now.

Weber is research director of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy and director of the MacArthur Program on Multilateral Governance at Berkeley's Institute of International Studies. A student of international relations, multilateralism, the political economy of networks, and "scenario planning," he also consults widely with business (including Shell Oil) and government (including the State Department). He was a consultant to the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, which issued its report prior to the attacks on U.S. soil in 2001. Weber, by chance, was in New York City on September 11 and saw the Twin Towers fall.

Born and raised in Baldwin, Long Island, Weber went to Washington University in St. Louis, where he majored in history and graduated in three years, at the age of 20. Unsure of what he wanted to do, he went to medical school, at Stanford.

Weber loved the first two years, with its emphasis on basic science, but not the applied part of medicine. He took a year off to earn a master's degree in political science (one of his first professors was Condoleezza Rice), and felt he had found an intellectual home. Weber pursued both fields, earning a Ph.D. in political science while stopping a few months short of an M.D. ("I had to prove to the political science field that I was not going to go back to medicine," he says.) His dissertation, "Cooperation and Discord in Security Issues: Towards a Theory of U.S.-Soviet Arms Control," was chosen as the most outstanding in the field of international relations for 1989, and became his first book. After a postdoctoral year at Harvard, he accepted a teaching appointment at Berkeley in 1990. Weber is enthusiastic about his teaching experience at Berkeley. "I love it," he says. "The graduate students in my department are nothing short of extraordinary--just an amazing group of people. Teaching undergraduates here is very challenging because you have large classes--300 is sort of normal--and a very diverse range of interests and backgrounds." He says there's an "entrepreneurial" energy among the students here that he didn't find at Stanford or Harvard. "They know that if they don't work for the attention of faculty members, they'll get lost in the crowd. And the students here really work hard." Weber has the "privilege," as he puts it, of being a senior honors thesis adviser "for some incredible undergraduates. In fact, almost every year there are a couple of undergraduates who just blow you away; you can't believe they are so intuitively brilliant."

Weber's central theme as a scholar has been large-scale collective action in non-hierarchical settings. He has written a monograph about multilateralism in NATO, and edited books about globalization and the European political economy and about European integration and American federalism. His next book, which Harvard will publish in 2003, is "The Success of Open Source," about the new Internet economy and the changes in systems of knowledge production. He is also working on several smaller projects concerning the ramifications of the shift in U.S. military doctrines from deterrence to pre-emptive action.

We talked to Weber in late September about the shape of the world and the United States' changing role in it, especially in relation to Iraq, and about new aspects of foreign policy revealed this fall as President Bush calls for a"regime change" in that country.


Let's start with your work on the U.S. Commission on National Security in the 21st Century. Did you talk about terrorism?

Yes, a great deal.

This was when?

At the end of 1999, beginning of 2000. The final report of the commission said: It is likely that there will be a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. I remember--this sends chills up my spine--looking back at my lecture notes from the year 2000, and finding a section on the U.S. fighting an undeclared war against someone named Osama bin Laden.

But we weren't the only ones to recognize this. Lots of people predicted it in a general sense.

Was there, then, an intelligence failure?

Yes, of course there was. It's easy, with 20/20 hindsight, to say that. However, one could also say they got it 99.8 percent right. There is a tendency in thinking about foreign policy to overemphasize the intelligence failures--when things go wrong--and the policy successes--when things go right. There are also intelligence successes and policy failures. We learned a great deal about the intentions and capabilities of al Qaeda during the second half of the 1990s, but policymakers can rarely expect intelligence to provide precise information about the moment-to-moment activities of any adversary. Good policymaking always requires judgment calls on imperfect information.

You were in New York City on September 11, 2001. What was that like?

I think it's easy for people on the West Coast to underestimate the emotional impact of September 11. It was a very different feeling to be there. You wake up the next morning in Manhattan and realize in a visceral, not just intellectual, way how extraordinarily vulnerable a complex system like New York City is to disruption.

I was in New York City for a week. Aside from walking around in a daze, I spent a lot of time talking to people, watching what they were doing, and listening to what they were saying to each other.

The first thing you noticed was in the bookstores. On September 12, the shelves were emptied of books on Islam, on American foreign policy, on Iraq, on Afghanistan. There was a substantive discussion about what it is about the nature of the American presence in the world that created a situation in which movements like al Qaeda can thrive and prosper. I thought that was a very promising sign.

But that discussion got short-circuited. Some time in late October, early November 2001, the tone of that discussion switched, and it became: What's wrong with the Islamic world that it failed to produce democracy, science, education, its own enlightenment, and created societies that breed terror?

What changed the discussion?

I don't know, but I will say that it's a long-term failure of the political leadership, the intelligentsia, and the media in this country that we didn't take the discussion that was forming in late September and try to move it forward in a constructive way.

Let's face it, the truth is that September 11 was the result of two things: the American presence in the world, and the rest of the world. Both of those matters need to be discussed. But it's always hard to ask: Why do people see us in this way? What have we done that contributed to this result? That discussion got cut off and then was completely lost.

We're in a tough situation. September 11 woke us to something most Americans don't want to realize: The vast majority of people on this planet have nothing to lose from the decline of the West.

That's one message coming from September 11?

Yes. In a way, the message coming out of Seattle in late 1999--the protests at the World Trade Organization meeting--was taken more seriously for a longer period of time than the message at the World Trade Center. At a very abstract level, they are both about the nature of the global economic-political order, in which the United States' presence plays a major, major part.

What should be done in response to those messages?

It has become critical that the political leadership stand up and say what the United States would like the world to look like in 2005--something different and more comprehensive than saying: the same as 2000 without al Qaeda.

Can the war against terrorism be won?

I don't think anyone's defined what winning that war means. If winning it means destroying the ability of al Qaeda to carry out large-scale destructive attacks against American interests, can it be won? Yes. Will it be won? Unclear. At what cost? We don't know because we don't know how al Qaeda works. Terrorism is a means of disrupting established orders. There will always be people who try to disrupt established orders; so in that sense, the war against terrorism will never be won.

Is the war against terrorism unprecedented, as we're told?

Right after September 11, I remember reading that the nature of this new adversary is unprecedented, and has never existed before in human history. It's ideologically driven, it's a shadowy network, a non-state actor, and so forth. But if you look back at what people were saying about Communism in 1947, at the beginning of the Cold War, what do you see? You see people saying: We're fighting something that is not exactly a state, it's an international, ideological movement; it works in shadowy networks that are deeply embedded in societies, even here within the United States. Very similar ways of envisioning an enemy. Also, we were told: The Cold War will go on for a very long time, perhaps forever. Interesting, isn't it?

Let's talk about another war that may be repeated--against Iraq. What changed about Iraq after September 11?

The situation in Iraq didn't change on September 11. What changed was the politics around the issue in the United States. There are a lot of people in Washington who have felt for a long time that Saddam Hussein's regime is a problem that needs to be solved. And they felt, not entirely incorrectly from a political standpoint, that September 11 gave them more or less a blank check to do that.

Weren't you in favor of the U.S. war against Iraq in 1991?

Yes. I thought it was the least bad of the options facing the United States at that time. But my view was: If the interests of either the United States or the United Nations were such that you're willing to risk the lives of 500,000 Americans and however many millions of Iraqis, then you don't stop before you've accomplished the goal. And the goal of fighting a war at that scale is to change the regime, not simply to recapture occupied territory.

The way the Gulf War ended was the worst possible outcome. I don't think anybody really knows how much destruction took place, and in the end we left in power the regime that we opposed. Then, for the next ten years, the civilian population of Iraq paid the price for our foreign policy failure.

As a result of the sanctions imposed on Iraq?

Yes. I think they should have been lifted ten years ago.

Should sanctions ever have been imposed?

Maybe they should have been tried for a while. But once it was clear that they weren't going to work and that they were causing undue pain to the wrong people, and probably strengthening Saddam's hand, they should have been removed.

Why didn't the U.S. finish the job in 1991?

There are two stories about that. One is military. Many of the Gulf War commanders were actually quite troubled by the slaughter the American troops were inflicting on the Iraqis. They were worried, not just from an ethical or moral perspective, but about the psychological impact on their soldiers of such killings.

The political story, as I understand it, was that people around [former President] Bush made the argument that the most promising option was to cage the tiger, to contain Saddam rather than risk the dissolution of the country, with the possibility of an extended period of instability where U.S. or allied troops might need to be there for a long time. In the heat of the moment, that seemed like the least risky thing to do.

Let's talk about oil.

The biggest failure of U.S. policy in the 20th century has been to maintain a very vulnerable position, where we're heavily dependent on a part of the world, the Middle East, over which we have very limited control. We've had to cut lots of deals with people we'd rather not cut deals with, and do lots of things that are dysfunctional and costly for us in order to maintain our dependence on fossil fuels.

What about our dependence on Saudi Arabia and its oil?

The dependence of the United States on Saudi Arabia and Saudi oil is still high, but is declining. It's declining because we want it to decline. Look, it was no surprise to anyone in Washington that lots of the September 11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia.

But what's new is that the focus of the world oil market has shifted to Russia and Central Asia. If you look at the reserves and the production of Russian and Central Asian oil, you'll see that in a matter of years, that oil can replace Saudi oil.

Really?

Yes. And then Saudi Arabia simply doesn't matter in the way that it once did. That fact, seldom publicly discussed, has dramatically changed the politics of the U.S. relation with Saudi Arabia.

And how does this affect the situation in Iraq?

It increases the incentive for the U.S. to control the Iraqi oil spigot. This is going to sound Machiavellian, but it's going to take a few years to bring Russian and Central Asian oil onto the market. There are also transport concerns: The U.S. is reluctant, for obvious reasons, to build or rely on pipelines that go through places like Iran. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia remains the "swing producer" in world oil markets, which gives the Saudi leaders substantial control over the price of oil. You can imagine a situation where an American victory in Iraq makes it possible for Western oil firms to bring a massive amount of Iraqi oil online in a short time, with relatively little capital investment--a very attractive prospect indeed. Meaning that we can rid ourselves of our extreme dependence on Saudi oil, using the Iraqi oil to bridge the gap until we can move to sustainable production in Russia and Central Asia.

But we're not being told that, we're being told that Saddam is evil and a danger to his neighbors and to the United States.

I think the Washington elite underestimates the intelligence and maturity of the American public. I feel very strongly about this. President Bush refers to Osama bin Laden as "the evil one," and talks about something as apocalyptic as an "axis of evil." There is a tendency to put things in black and white, and I think the reason people in Washington do this is because they believe it's an effective political strategy. But I think it's infantilizing the American public.

What is Washington to say instead? "We need oil"?

Yes. Something like: Here's the situation--oil is critical to our economy. And we're facing a leader who has demonstrated both a desire and a willingness to invade and occupy his neighboring countries primarily, in our view, to gain control over the oil supplies. We can't live in a world where a hostile dictator owns 470 billion barrels of oil--44 percent of the proven oil reserves in the world. That's not acceptable to us. Therefore, we need to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

Then people might step back and say: Okay, that might be the case now, but in the long run we need to make sure that our energy situation is more sustainable so we're not in such a position ten or 15 years from now.

In fact, some of the more forward-looking oil companies are now recognizing this. The managing director of Shell Oil said a year and a half ago: If we are still predominantly an oil company 15 years from now, we'll be out of business. Such companies are recognizing that, for a set of increasingly compelling reasons, both from a political and an environmental standpoint, we're just not going to be able to run an economy on fossil fuel for very much longer.

Let me ask you about the latest version of the United States' national security strategy, made public in September.

It's quite a remarkable document. It lays out a strategy of pre-emption which is enormously ambitious. It talks about the fact that we now believe there's a single sustainable model for national success--ours. Freedom, democracy, and free enterprise. That's an extraordinary and incredibly ahistorical proposition.

This is the sort of document that, ten or 15 years from now, people will look at and be amazed at how we could have believed it. For now, it will be read by many abroad as a sort of shameless justification for what they will see as imperialism.

How do you see it?

I think the basis of the criticism of the Bush administration--as "drunk with power"--shows up very strongly in this document. One part reads: "These values of freedom are right and true for every person in every society." Does this mean simply the particular way in which "freedom" is interpreted by Americans in 2002?

There's been a very interesting change of tone of late. When the Clinton Pentagon put out a document raising the idea that the U.S. might try to prevent the emergence of a great power capable of rivaling U.S. military power, there was a huge outcry over it.

What's changed?

We have a new administration. And the political atmosphere has changed dramatically since September 11. We have in this national security document a much broader statement about what dynamics of power the United States will seek in the world--the notion that we ought to use our power to suppress any power that would rise up to rival us.

This is not an obvious corollary to the war on terrorism. But the two for the moment are being conflated in this document. They're using the terrorist threat to advance a much more expansive argument about the role of military force in international politics.

It seems they're deliberately being put together. President Bush went to the U.N. about Iraq one day after the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack.

I think they're being put together because lots of people in the administration see this as an opportunity to do a lot of things they wanted to do.

Some might say: to rule the world.

I think that's overstating it. But certainly to maximize American freedom to act, to pursue what are perceived to be U.S. interests in the world without too many constraints.

Isn't that what imperial power does--rearranges countries to its advantage?

That's what great powers do. Imperial powers occupy countries and try to extract resources for their own benefit. But, no doubt about it, oil has been and continues to be a major part of our strategy in the Middle East and in Iraq. If it were not for the oil issue, it would be an entirely different story. A containment policy would look much more viable, I think, if it were not for oil.

What do you and your colleagues think should be done about Iraq?

I would guess that the mainstream of American international relations scholars, basing this on my e-mail traffic, is almost entirely opposed to an invasion of Iraq. I'd say 95 percent opposed.

Because they're all left-wing ideologues?

Not at all. It's because it's easier for people who are not in decision-making positions to be against high-risk strategies than to be in favor of them. It's very easy to point out the five things that could go wrong.

What are they?

Well, the war might not go all that well. The United States might not win; probably will, but might not. More likely, the U.S. would win the war but at substantial costs in American lives and to the economy. There could be a huge number of civilian causalities in Iraq. There could be a use of weapons of mass destruction, either against Israel or the United States. There could be a terrorist attack in the United States; one of the underlying fears, which is not often voiced, is that Saddam Hussein has prepositioned biological weapons in this country, and that they would be released. And all these problems could come up before the war is over. Afterwards, even after a decisive military victory, there are many other problems that will emerge, both within and around Iraq. "Regime change" is just the beginning.

Some people criticize the administration for laying out an overly optimistic, even naïve, vision, which is that five years from now, we've got a democratic Iraq that stands out as a vision of new possibilities in the Middle East. The truth is, we just don't know.

Where do you stand?

I'm conflicted. I am very sympathetic to those in the administration who argue that the status quo is unacceptable. But that's not to say that going to war is the best way to solve the problem.

What's the main issue, as you see it, about Iraq today?

The main issue for me is nuclear weapons. If Saddam is close to having those, then I see an argument for going ahead with a war. But I don't know that, and I'm probably not going to know that, which is why it's almost impossible for me to have a firm position for or against war with Iraq.

This raises a deeper question, which is the relation of the intelligence community to our democracy over the next five to ten years. A lot of what the United States is going to be doing in its foreign policy, security policy, and external behavior--in this war against terrorism and elsewhere--is going to be based on data that comes from intelligence sources that people are going to be very reluctant to release. The intelligence community needs to figure out a way to maintain the secrecy and viability of their sources while at the same time providing the trusted information that is necessary to have a democratic debate. Otherwise, we're going to be in big trouble.

Because either we're going to be asked to take things on faith--in which case sometimes we will and sometimes we won't. Or people are going to get very disillusioned with the whole process, and the public will lose trust in the government when it comes to the management of foreign affairs. That would be a very dangerous situation. This is a problem that needs to be addressed very soon, regardless of what happens in Iraq.


Posted by DeLong at January 12, 2003 04:05 PM | Trackback

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Comments

"The main issue for me is nuclear weapons. If Saddam is close to having those, then I see an argument for going ahead with a war. But I don't know that, and I'm probably not going to know that ... "

This statement is like the thirteenth chime of an ailing grandfather clock - it so ludicrous it discredits all that came before. It's (just) conceivable that Saddam has a substantial CBW program that he has managed to hide from ten years of intense scrutiny by the intelligence agencies of the western world, and also from UN ground inspections guided by these agencies (though remember we're told the war will be a pushover cos Saddam can no longer afford a decent army ...). But there's simply no way a nuclear weapons program could be so hidden.

Well, I've always thought the term "US imperialism" to be the sort of slogan that prevents discussion of the real issues - now I'm not so sure. It seems a simple and accurate description of what the hawks intend. They are sowing dragon's teeth, which in the long run can only reap a bitter harvest for all concerned.

People, you ought to be really angry at what is being done and planned in your name.

Posted by: derrida derider on January 13, 2003 12:20 AM

Thanks Brad for making this thoughtful and insightful exchange available.

Missing among the reasons for not going to war with Iraq are the quaint - and oft overlooked - maxims about reaping what you sow and living by the sword.

There is not enough might in the material world to suppress the inevitable reprecussions of the coming U.S. imperial war. Are we a nation under God, or what...?!!!!?

There must be a better way to secure an affordable oil supply. Based on this interview as well as other informed sources, it would seem that there will be a fair amount of competition among oil producers in the near future. Saddam is as interested in selling as we are in buying. And obviously (based on history, to date), we don't particularly care who we deal with, as long as the oil is cheap. So, again, it would seem as if the current risk of going to war out weighs the current risk of not going to war.

I think that Weber was too hestitant to speak the whole truth. This war is about Bush using the resources of this nation to enrich himself personally, much in the manner of the very dictators he claims to loath.

Posted by: E. Avedisian on January 13, 2003 05:23 AM

I too thank Brad for bringing this interview to our attention. In particular, this is a great quote:

"September 11 woke us to something most Americans don't want to realize: The vast majority of people on this planet have nothing to lose from the decline of the West."

It is the second sentence that is so jarring, because it says something about how US foreign policy presents the rest of the world with the wrong incentives--from an American perspective.

On the issue of whether Iraq has or is close to a nuclear capability: it is probably safe to say it would be hugely difficult for Iraq to conceal a successful nuclear program. On the other hand, Iraq's stunted electromagnetic isotope separation program came as a revelation when it was uncovered after the Gulf War. So who knows?

Posted by: Jim Harris on January 13, 2003 06:41 AM

I too thank Brad for bringing this interview to our attention. In particular, this is a great quote:

"September 11 woke us to something most Americans don't want to realize: The vast majority of people on this planet have nothing to lose from the decline of the West."

It is the second sentence that is so jarring, because it says something about how US foreign policy presents the rest of the world with the wrong incentives--from an American perspective.

On the issue of whether Iraq has or is close to a nuclear capability: it is probably safe to say it would be hugely difficult for Iraq to conceal a successful nuclear program. On the other hand, Iraq's stunted electromagnetic isotope separation program came as a revelation when it was uncovered after the Gulf War. So who knows?

Posted by: Jim Harris on January 13, 2003 06:42 AM

The vast majority of people on this planet have nothing to lose from the decline of the West.

The West is the planet's sole source of economic growth, political freedom and medical progress.

The statement is so absurd as to make one doubt Weber's sanity.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 13, 2003 10:29 AM

Very interesting interview.

"But there's simply no way a nuclear weapons program could be so hidden."
You do sound sure. I'm with Weber - I don't know and knowing is important for any decision on Iraq.

The statement is so absurd as to make one doubt Weber's sanity.
Would you agree with, "The vast majority of people on this planet don't think they have anything to lose from the decline of the West"? (Not that I've conducted a poll or anything...)

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on January 13, 2003 12:18 PM

“The vast majority of people on this planet have nothing to lose from the decline of the West.

The West is the planet's sole source of economic growth, political freedom and medical progress.

The statement is so absurd as to make one doubt Weber's sanity.”

Weber’s statement is indeed utterly absurd. This has got to be one of the goofiest utterances that I’ve recently seen. Western Civilization is the hope of the world. Any decline would be disastrous for the citizens of the Third World. I am even tempted to e-mail Weber to see if he might like to redeem himself.

I also found it humorous when he blames America for the suffering in Iraq. Saddam Hussein is responsible for these troubles. All we have done is minimize the money available to build up his armaments.

Posted by: David Thomson on January 13, 2003 12:20 PM

The vast majority of people on this planet don't think...

That's the only interpretation that could make sense, wrong-headed as that may be.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 13, 2003 12:23 PM

~" ... we now believe there's a single sustainable model for national success--ours. Freedom, democracy, and free enterprise.

That's an extraordinary and incredibly ahistorical proposition. "~

If the proposition is ahistorical (i.e. "false" ) then alternative models for sustainable success exist.

Stone-age tribalism is, the historical (and archeological) evidence shows, sustainable for
very long timespans. Epochs, maybe even. "Successful" ... I would not agree.

Imperialism succeeded for Rome and Britain. Is that model of conquest, aristocracy, and government planning preferable to models based on democracy and private ownership?

Monarchy worked for a very long time. Those who believe in Divine Powers overseeing Otherworldly post-historical realms and events may, in fact, be content with models asserting the Divine Right of Kings over Earthly nations and states. Is there anyone among us who will speak in favor of such?

What does that leave? Marxism? Aren't we still awaiting the successful demonstration of the historical inevitability of _that_? Theocracy?
I pray God to be spared THAT! David Friedman's Icelandic anarcho-capitalism? Uhm... we were trying to avoid the ahistorical, I thought.

Freedom, democracy, private enterprise -- Even if it is not objectively true the triad would seem to be an agreeable basis upon which to seek a consensus among free citizens and their democratically elected leaders (if both groups might be lured away from pursuit of their private pleasures.) Where exactly is the flaw in modeling U.S. foreign policy around such a proposition; and what better model is readily available for examination?

Posted by: Melcher on January 13, 2003 01:07 PM

"The vast majority of people on this planet have nothing to lose from the decline of the West."

Yes, better if he had stated "The vast majority don't think they have anything to lose....". And I probably misread it this way.

Still it seems equally strange to say, "Western Civilization is the hope of the world. Any decline would be disastrous for the citizens of the Third World."

So many just don't believe it's true, even if most of us reading this blog believe it so firmly.

Posted by: Jim Harris on January 13, 2003 01:11 PM

Western Civilization is the only game in town. We must try to convert the citizens of the Third World to the essential values of the West. It is indeed their only hope. However, my definition has zilch to do with either race or geographical location. Instead, I agree with Dinesh D’ Souza’s that Matthew Arnold is right on target: Western Civilization is nothing more than the honoring of the best that has ever been said or written. The odds are pretty good that India may become the center of Western Civilization by the middle of this century.

Posted by: David Thomson on January 13, 2003 01:51 PM

I found this item on AndrewSullivan.com:

"SURVIVING THE BOOMERS: It's bad enough in this country, where aging nostalgics for 1968 still dominate the universities and the media. But in Germany, their influence is even more profound:
The consequences of their subsequent Long March through the institutions have gone far to define the country ever since ... In varying degrees, the universities were collectivized and stripped of their traditions ... The worst was in the city-state of Bremen, where students demanded full equality with instructors and insisted on collective, rather than individual, examinations. Twenty would produce one joint thesis. It became so bad that local industries would not take interns from that university because they lacked both knowledge and the will to work ... Since the early 1970s, they [the 68ers] have from that perch become vigorous culture-brokers and image-makers, running public radio and television and glossy magazines such as Der Stern and Der Spiegel - all of them with a sharp left-wing bias. Of course, they are to some extent balanced by newspapers such as the venerable Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ... But these cannot fully offset the constant barrage of anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Christian and anti-traditional innuendoes, sniggers and assertions to which the German television viewers have been subjected for decades.And we wonder why Germany is imploding in a miasma of anti-Western resentment and socio-economic stagnation? Geitner Simmons has the details on a new piece in the National Interest."

Europe is no longer the center of Western Civilization. That honor currently belongs to the United States. This is why the Europeans hate us so much. My ancestors came from Germany. Unfortunately, that country is now the land of the losers.

Posted by: David Thomson on January 13, 2003 02:39 PM

That last comment sounds awfully reminiscent of the sort of arrogance I heard from my Japanese friends a few years ago.

Posted by: David on January 13, 2003 03:57 PM

Is there some way to legally mandate everyone in the Iraq debate read Pollack's book? Containment of Iraq has failed.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on January 13, 2003 04:18 PM

Am I alone in thinking that people who take up a scarce seat in a medical school (as Mr. Weber did) and then abort their medical career are, at best, violating an implicit contract with their fellow citizens.

American medicine is a monopoly in which doctors and legislators have agreed to create an artificial shortage of doctors so as to limit competition and assure monopoly rents to those who practice. To take up a seat in medical school and then not practice medicine adds insult to injury by exacerbating an already artificial shortage.

Imagine a nation which is short of drinking water and which has granted well-drilling rights to a very small number of drillers who are expected to do their best to bring up as much water as possible for the citizens of the nation to drink. To vie for such a monopoly and to then not use it is a bit anti-social (to say nothing of those, such as cosmetic surgeons, who bring up the drinking water but sell it to the rich for their swimming pools while many others go thirsty).

Posted by: Lewis on January 13, 2003 05:08 PM

"That last comment sounds awfully reminiscent of the sort of arrogance I heard from my Japanese friends a few years ago."

Oh well, in that case I should just let the French speak for themselves. Is there any real hope for this nation?:

“France, the richest country in Europe during the 18th century, was slow to industrialize, and so it preserved a provincial pace while many of its neighbors, notably Germany and Britain, beavered ahead. In the 19th century, Marxist influences helped define work as a means to achieve leisure rather than an end, as it was to many Americans.

Some French were even taught that ambition could make them ill, said Theodore Zeldin, a British sociologist and keen observer of French society. Karl Marx's French son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, wrote a political tract entitled "The Right to Idleness," which argued for a three-hour workday.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/10/international/europe/10FRAN.html?pagewanted=print&position=top

Posted by: David Thomson on January 13, 2003 08:10 PM

The bottom line here is that no proof of Iraqi posession of weapons of mass destruction has been produced.

We are going to invade and sieze oil fields.

This action will be perceived by the Muslim world as a strictly imperial act on our part.

More importantly, when the shit hits the fan, a lot of people are going to die; not just combatants on both sides, but civilians as well. The Arab street will neither overlook the bloodshed, nor will they soon forget it.

I cannot over-emphasize the quantity of deaths that will occur when the fighting reaches urban centers. It is militarily impossible to avoid. And then there will be starving masses in refugee camps.

This adventure is a first class human tragedy in the making. At some point we need to put aside all the discussions of realpolitics and have a serious assessment of the true human costs (as well as international relations implications for the next century or so).

All this talk of "kicking some ass" and "lets roll", etc is crude and barbaric. Is killing hundreds of thousands in order to secure cheap oil for a few years what the bastion of freedom and democracy and human rights stands for? Is this the image of democracy we want to project to the rest of the world?

Then we ask"why do they hate us?"

Sometimes war is necessary, sometimes it's just, sometimes the aftermath is a better world.

The Bushies have failed to explain how this one is necessary, or just, or how the world will be better in the aftermath. The devil is in the details and the Bushies are pretty vague.

We should be demanding explanations from them, now.

We owe at least this much to those who are about to die. The last words out of many of them (other than cries of "mama") will be "why?"

Posted by: E. Avedisian on January 13, 2003 11:23 PM

The Bushies have failed to explain how this one is necessary...

I had the same reaction to Clinton's air war on Bosnia. Civilians were killed willy-nilly, and a building known to be full of journalists was actually targeted.

Was Milosovic (sp?) THAT bad a guy as to warrant such violence?

And if yes, is he so much worse than Saddam or the NKers that NO such action is warranted today?

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 14, 2003 06:01 AM

``

It again seems to me facinating to wonder what (more historically appropriate?) model, OTHER than free market democracy in neighbor states, should be the sought as the end goal of U.S. policy makers. Do we really
want theocrats, autarchs, and (momentarily) compliant dictators for

At least some observers suggest that is exactly what some U.S. policy-makers desire.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml;$sessionid$3LHH213TZMLZHQFIQMGSFF4AVCBQWIV0?xml=/opinion/2003/01/14/do1401.xml&sSheet=/news/2003/01/14/ixnewstop.html

an article by Nick Cohen


"In Washington, the future of Iraq is ferociously contested. The names of the competitors on either side of the argument prove that you should never believe easy political labels. To the surprise of the simple-minded, Donald Rumsfeld and his supposedly "far-Right" friends in the Pentagon support democracy, while the CIA and the supposedly "moderate" Colin Powell at the State Department hint that they want to replace Saddam with a more compliant dictator.

The INC and the London conference of exiles both want a democratic Iraq that gives a voice to the suppressed Shia; a federal Iraq that allows autonomy for the Kurdish minority; and a secular Iraq that can contain the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam.

When I put this programme to my democratic and secular comrades, they turn nasty. I hear that the peoples of Iraq will slaughter each other if Saddam goes; that any US-sponsored replacement will be worse. They may be right, although the second prediction will be hard to meet. What is repulsive is the sneaking feeling that they want the war to be long and a post-Saddam Iraq to be a bloody disaster. They would rather see millions suffer than be forced to reconsider their prejudices. "


Posted by: Melcher on January 14, 2003 07:14 AM

Completely with you, Bucky, on the former Yugoslavia. Clinton went in there without U.N. authorization (but the Europeans were begging us to get involved, so that was apparently okay...), and with very little if any American interest at stake. We bombed the country to Hell.

But just because Clinton did something bad, doesn't mean Bush should feel authorized to do something bad as well. The Iraqi war has to be justified. I don't like the idea of going to war for oil, and I shudder when I hear that the U.S. is now thinking of expropriating Iraqi oil for a certain period as "spoils of war." American consumers do not have a right to wreck havoc on the world so that they can drive their SUVs or heat (and air condition) their mcMansions. And if they do start down that path, their children will reap the terrible consequences they have sown. If there is to be a war, let it truly be about weapons of mass destruction. It would seem, if there are WMDs, that the U.N. weapons inspectors should be able to come up with some evidence.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on January 14, 2003 09:29 AM

To be sure, two wrongs do NOT make a right.

I suspect, at the end of the proverbial day, a casus belli will be found to justify what looks like an inevitable assault.

From a purely rhetorical and political perspective, though, the US left's bifurcated reaction to the Clinton-Yugo/Bush-Iraq episodes is striking.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 14, 2003 09:43 AM

“Completely with you, Bucky, on the former Yugoslavia. Clinton went in there without U.N. authorization (but the Europeans were begging us to get involved, so that was apparently okay...), and with very little if any American interest at stake. We bombed the country to Hell.

But just because Clinton did something bad, doesn't mean Bush should feel authorized to do something bad as well.”

"To be sure, two wrongs do NOT make a right."

Is somebody smoking an illegal drug? President Bill Clinton’s actions saved countless lives. He has nothing to be ashamed of in this regard. Nothing less would have resolved the crisis in the Balkans.

Posted by: David Thomson on January 14, 2003 11:35 AM

Is somebody smoking an illegal drug?
I'm afraid you tend to have this overbearing reaction quite often. Not everyone who says something with which you disagree is insane/foolish/smoking illegal drugs. You would serve this discussion board better if you eliminate your ad hominem comments.

In any case, for one thing, I do not see how you can be so sure that "Nothing less would have resolved the crisis." Secondly, even if nothing else would have resolved the crisis, war is still not necessarily justified - you have (among other things) to show the suffering caused by the war, often if not usually by innocents, is substantially outweighed by the evil it is resolving. Thirdly, even if it was justified in and of itself, there was no legal basis for the intervention, since the U.N. did not approve it. So, the fact of intervening without international approval has tertiary effects - it provides a precedent which other countries can now use to wreck havoc when they please. I.e. the war may result in evil in the future. And fourthly, no I do not think the U.S. is the world's policeman, especially in Europe's backyard. It was a European problem; the Europeans should have dealt with it.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on January 14, 2003 12:10 PM

I was so weirded out by the US raining depleted uranium bombs on civilians and infrastructure, to the abject silence of our left, that I was disoriented.

Certainly Milosivic was an awful character, and I am glad he no longer is in a position to hurt his own populace, or anyone else for that matter. Let's hope Saddam is similarly neutered soon.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 14, 2003 12:14 PM

And one more thing about Clinton and ex-Yugoslavia. It had NO approval from the U.S. Congress (e.g. in the way that Bush at least got approval from Congress), even though the action had no urgency. This, in my opinion, was an impeachable offense. And I hope the next time it occurs, Congress will wait for the war to finish and then impeach the b*t*rd, like the Founding Fathers wisely intended.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on January 14, 2003 12:21 PM

Interestingly, on the Congressional approval angle, most people are unaware the Hill consipicuously refused to sign off on the action. The CW is that the campaign had Congress' OK, when in fact just the opposite is true.

Posted by: Bucky Dent on January 14, 2003 12:30 PM

"...even though the action had no urgency."

No urgency? Try telling that to the estimated 200,000 people murdered in the Balkans before the United States decided to act.

"...there was no legal basis for the intervention, since the U.N. did not approve it."

Your utopian sentimental notions concerning the UN are utterly senseless. I don't give a damn about the anti-Semitic and pro-dictator organization called the United Nations. It is ludicrous for the United States to defer to these jackals. The UN is presently not worthy to spit upon. At best, there is reasonable hope that it may redeem itself sometime in the future.

Posted by: David Thomson on January 14, 2003 10:21 PM

The urgency comment meant of course that e.g. there had been no surprise attack against the U.S. which would warrant the President sending American forces into war without first consulting Congress.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on January 15, 2003 10:01 AM

Was Milosovic (sp?) THAT bad a guy as to warrant such violence?

Genocide is a casus belli, especially for any countries that claim universal jurisdiction over genocide (pretty much the entire 1st world).

Posted by: Jason McCullough on January 15, 2003 11:15 AM
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