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The Blind Left

| 53 Comments

In light of hypo's claim that 'it's all about the oil' in Iraq, let me offer a quote from Postel's book 'Reading Legitimation Crisis in Tehran' (the book Chris doesn't need to read).

The picture gets further complicated, and the Left gets further flummoxed, over the role of Empire in the Iranian context. The memory of the 1953 coup burns furiously in the minds of many Iranians to this day. Because anti-imperialism is our primary conceptual organizing principle, leftists are of course highly attuned to such sentiments. Particularly in this era of Empire fever and regime-change mania, we reflexively and viscerally oppose US interference in other countries - and understandably so. Anti-imperialist pronouncements coming out of Iran thus have a certain resonance for many leftists. The supreme cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has characterized the students as "American mercenaries." As the Middle East scholar Juan Cole points out, that kind of accusation "has resonance in a country where US conspiracies to change the government - like the 1953 CIA coup - have actually succeeded." (It should be recalled, however, that the Islamists deploy the 1953 coup in bad faith: not only did they oppose Iranian president Mohammad Mossadegh for his secularism and liberalism; they even had their own plans to take him out. And after taking power in 1979, they obliterated the Mossadeghi National Front Party. This little footnote has largely been forgotten but is hugely relevant to the present situation.)
The problem is that denunciations of US Empire in Iran today are the rhetorical dominion of the Right, not the Left. It is the reactionary clergy, not the students, who wield the idiom of anti-imperialism. Regime hard-liners "legitimate their suppression of the students," Brecher points out, "as necessary to guard against 'foreign forces"'; the mullahs denounced the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Shirin Ebadi as "the result of the cultural hegemony of western civilization," a tool "intended to serve the interests of colonialism and the decadent world." This kind of talk can run an interference pattern on the ideological compasses of many leftists.

In contrast, for students, feminists, human rights activists, and dissidents agitating for pluralism and democracy in Iran today, opposition to US imperialism is not the central issue. The student movement's principal demand, as Brecher notes, is "to eliminate the power of the self-perpetuating theocratic elite" over the Iranian state. A simple stance of "hands off Iran," end of discussion, is not what those struggling for change in Iran need from progressives around the world. Of course we should be steadfast in opposing any US military intervention in Iran - that's the easy part. But it's not the end of the discussion. Iran is, as the Iranian anthropologist Ziba Mir-Hossein puts it, "a state at war with itself." Progressives everywhere should take sides in that war and actively support the forces of democracy, feminism, pluralism, human rights, and freedom of expression.

It's not that the students and other reformers in Iran are pro-imperialist. Quite the contrary. Ebadi, for example, has made it perfectly clear that she opposes US military intervention, advocating instead a nonviolent, internal transformation of Iranian society. But US imperialism is simply not the central issue for them - and this, I think, is a stumbling block for many American leftists, because it is the central issue for us. We're better at making sense of situations in which the US Empire is the foe and building our solidarity with other people around that. That was the case in Guatemala - as it was in Indochina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and East Timor.

But that model simply doesn't apply to situations in which the struggles of oppressed groups are not aimed directly against American imperialism. And that's a serious blind spot. It creates myopia on the part of American leftists. Anti-imperialism can turn into a kind of tunnel vision, its own form of fundamentalism. Cases that fall outside its scheme simply get left out, and our solidarity with struggles around the world is determined by George Bush, rather than our principles.

(emphasis added)

Ya think?

53 Comments

What hogwash.

In light of hypo's claim that 'it's all about the oil' in Iraq....

....here's an opinion piece on American Leftists and Iran.

Not sure of your point, actually.

Regarding the internal politics of Iran, I don't really have much of an opinion, other than there see to be successively oppressive regimes, and I'd like the U.S. to adopt policies that encourage openness.

In this regard, if you get a chance, go see Persepolis.

It's worth seeing, eye-opening, funny, and tragic, all at the same time.

Still, regarding the question of why the U.S. invaded Iraq, the ONLY reason that has held, over the course of time, is to maintain military control over a region where the oil flows.

a. If it was really about WMD, we wouldn't have gone it at all.
b. Not about a connection between Al-Queda and Saddam.
c. If it was about "freedom and democracy", there would have been a much, much, much better attention paid to post-occupation.
d. If it was about saving people lives - well, the 500K Iraqis dead, betray that, as well as ignoring the mass atrocities in Africa, over the same period.

The only thing that has consistently made sense, is insuring consistent and stable access to the oil, under nominal U.S. military control.

Oh, since I've been harping on lost opportunities because of Iraq, one more.

Fix interet infrastructure, and insure broadband to every home in the U.S., for less than the cost of one year in Iraq

(Link fixed: David Blue)

Sorry, insure FIBER to every home.

One more (sorry, too good to not comment on):

That noted leftist Alan Greenspan

Whatever their publicized angst over Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction,' American and British authorities were also concerned about violence in the area that harbors a resource indispensable for the functioning of the world economy. I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.

So A.L., I'm in pretty good company.

"The only thing that has consistently made sense, is insuring consistent and stable access to the oil, under nominal U.S. military control."

Is this the same Iraq that just recently got its oil output back to pre-war levels? Cutting a deal with the consumate deal maker Hussein would have been a lot cheaper and easier, no?

"Oh, since I've been harping on lost opportunities because of Iraq, one more."

"Fix interet infrastructure, and insure broadband to every home in the U.S., for less than the cost of one year in Iraq"

Except that we wouldn't have.

I could argue that instead of fighting in the Balkans we could have treated X-million HIV/AIDs patients. But again, we probably wouldnt have. Lack of funds has never stopped Washington from spending money.

... or brought peace and prosperity to many other countries with violent dictatorships but no oil. I'm not saying oil is THE reason we're in Iraq, but it definitely helps explain why we care about the middle east, and not Sudan.

As someone posted a week ago (paraphrased) If this was happening in Africa, we wouldn't do anything, and instead mention how sad the whole affair was. (As per Bush's State of the Union).

And more on point- anti-american leftists have had imperialism on the brain for at least a century. Walter LaFeber claimed the Marshall Plan was American Imperialism.

For the blame-america-firsters, its real easy. Anything America does is done for its own interest, and hence it is imperialism. Anything America doesnt do it does for its own interest, and hence its imperialism.

IE- everything America does is wrong, and hence anything our enemies do must be OK, since at the end of the day it is resisting some form of American imperialism (which as we all know excuses everything up to and including genocide).

This is why I left the left.

Michael,

Yep, Damn those leftists like Alan Greespan!!

And as Alan point out, the logic is clear -

_In light of hypo's claim that 'it's all about the oil' in Iraq....

....here's an opinion piece on American Leftists and Iran_.

Makes perfect sense.

The surge appears to be working in more ways than one. When Team Lefty starts having to trot out the most worn and tired talking points, you know that their power has totally faded. Time to shift to yet another "lets blame America" story. The NYTimes killer vets story doesn't seem to have born the fruit intended. Its time for America Evil Empire!

We all know that since things are improving, and that the Bush admin might get some noteworthy praise because of it, the left will have to move the goalposts around, yet again, in a lame attempt to keep the focus on the "war is lost" meme. Otherwise, they will continue their fall into irrelevance.

Since Iraq hasn't become the hotbutton issue in the Campaign, there will be all kinds of desperate tricks done to push it to the forefront. I'd look for a few more Lancet style "studies", maybe some 60 Minutes "exposes" etc. etc.

For the blame-america-firsters, its real easy.

It's amazing to me that there are still people who think they can slip this conflation into an argument.

That is, that "The Bush Administration" is equivalent to "America", which leads to the formulation that opposition to the current government is "Anti-Americanism". LMAO.

By the same twisted logic, personal or unfair/biased criticism of Dem candidates who might very likely be commander-in-chief in the near future can also be thought of as undermining America and giving Aid and Comfort to the Enemy.

I could go on, but if there's anyone who "hates America", its the Rightwing, as their actions in the past decade have made abundantly clear (and which we will certainly see on display once again in the next few months leading up to the election). So, perhaps you might want to think twice about dragging the conversation down into this quagmire.

You can't have it both ways, you know, as someone famously proclaimed in these parts recently.

Alan, just for fun - which part is hogwash? The part where Postel cites real, actual Iranian dissidents? Or the fact that hypo sees the war exclusively through the eyes of his stand against US Imperialism? (I'll get to his comment in a bit)

What was the term Postel used - oh, yes...

"...that's a serious blind spot. It creates myopia on the part of American leftists. Anti-imperialism can turn into a kind of tunnel vision, its own form of fundamentalism. Cases that fall outside its scheme simply get left out..."

Covers your comments pretty well...

A.L.

Mark,

Stop being defeatist! You're an american, right? Leave all that cynical defeatism to the French!

Yes we can!

Heh.

I love it when A.L. projects his "Monster Leftist in the Closet" onto me, and other liberals.

It's always good for a chuckle. Keep swinging at that strawman.

Everyone's entitled to their position, AL, even the Iranian dissidents.

Yours seems to be that all forms of "Imperialism" are alike, and so opposition to any form is opposition to them all.

In this light, once again I re-interpret a comment here that I first thought was from left-field and see the connection. Mark attempts to conflate "Anti-Bush Administration" with "Anti-Americanism", and you the above conflation between Iraq and Iran.

Alan, that's so far from my position that I question whether you read what I wrote.

You said:

"Yours seems to be that all forms of "Imperialism" are alike, and so opposition to any form is opposition to them all."

What the hell? The specific cite from Postel was:

"But US imperialism is simply not the central issue for them - and this, I think, is a stumbling block for many American leftists, because it is the central issue for us. We're better at making sense of situations in which the US Empire is the foe and building our solidarity with other people around that."

Can you possibly explain how you got from one to the other? I'm dying to hear this...

A.L.

There was no US imperialism in Guatemala, Vietnam, Indonesia, El Salvador, et al, East Timor might be the exception to the rule; but
it had been a Portuguese colony before the Indonesian invasion. As
the examples of Estrada Cabrera, that Asturias satirizes in El Presidente, and Ubico shows, military dictatorship is as Guatemalan as the banana plant. With El Salvador, Max Martinez follows a long line ofpredecessors; too long to consider. In Vietnam, the rivalry was between the French puppet,(Bao Dai) and the Stalinist
puppet (Ho Chi Minh) The latter implemented the kind of regime that
Spain would have suffered if the
left forces had won; beginning with
the Red River purges in '54. A similar dynamic manifests itself with Nicaragua, with the Zelayas and the Chamorros alternating in power before the Somoza interlude; the old line about history as tragedy and comedy applies with Ortega being more a servant of Chavez, rather than strictly the
Soviets and Castro. Venezuela's experience with despots and autocrats doesn't begin or end
with Chavez or Perez as Joseph Conrad's Nostromo, would have
indicated a century ago.

With regards to Iran in particular, Mossadeq was a spent force, a former high official back in the 1920s when he came upon the then novel idea of nationalizing the oil industries; a half century later we know that idea doesn't work. It took some time, for people to come to terms that nationalization only empowers another elite regime of bureaucrats (the Animal Farm problem) often with less technical knowledge and ability than the previous managers. He had a following of sorts; but the Tudeh party was the core of it. As such he angered the bazaaris and the mullahs; a dangerous combination that more than anything led to his
downfall, rather than the efforts of Langley's Operation Ajax. The key to a coup, is popular support, or at least not wide spread resistance. Iran,Guatemala, Brazil, Chile, even Argentina follow these basic rules. The Shah didn't learn this lesson, as he would run afoul of both of these groups in due time. As pointed out earlier, the former Mossadeqists like Bani Sadr, fell like Kerensky to the Soviets without much effort when the Najaf and Paris directed Khomeini forces took over. A better than average
point

Who cares what a bunch of powerless dissidents in Iran want? The vast majority of Iranians are poor, rural, largely illiterate, and deeply Islamic. They support all of Ahmadinejad's policies and died by the hundreds of thousands as basij ... essentially human wave attacks across minefields and into machine guns against Iraq. Most were ten years old.

THAT's Iran.

The thin veneer of Iranian activists are about as important as the White Rose group in Hitler's Germany. Brave yes. Able to do anything, no.

Iran is filled with people who are completely alien to us: four wives at the same time! Many children. Hanging 16 year old girls for "prostitution" to general applause. It's a debased, violent, ignorant, and tribal society with soon, nuclear weapons. If you have nuclear material it is no big thing to make nuclear weapons. Heck Pakistan did it a few years after the CIA said it would take decades for them to produce nukes.

To debunk the idiotic proposition that Iraq was all about oil and not WMD, why then did Clinton bomb Saddam in 98-99? Why did Clinton sign into law official US policy to overthrow Saddam? Why did Clinton indict Osama for cooperating with Saddam to kill Americans with WMDs? Why did Bush 1 leave Saddam in power, and Clinton after him, despite Oil fears? Why did Bush 2 invade despite oil being at a low and invasion causing a rise in oil prices (and affect his popularity)?

Because after 9/11 everyone was scared about what would come next: a nuclear truck bomb. Saddam could not be dealt with, no deal made with him ever stuck over 12 years, he was truculent and provocative, throwing the inspectors out, and postured as if he had WMDs believing that would save him as he believed it did in 1991. Saddam planned to get them ASAP after sanctions were lifted. This is why both Clintons approved of getting rid of Saddam (despite their protestations today).

People are STILL afraid. It's why NATO generals are advocating "nuke first" on Muslim proliferators. Because one obscure artist doing something can set Muslims off and boom! there goes Copenhagen. And with it the nation of Denmark.

Globalization + nuclear proliferation + always aggrieved, angry, pissed off Muslims = nuclear truck bomb and well, war.

THAT is the true blind spot of the Kumbayah, non-violent, hold-hands-and-buy-a-coke, internationalist Left.

The thesis of leftist anti-imperialism is that any nation that is open to US trade is a victim of neo-colonialism and imperalism; free trade is the same as oppression and capitalism is the only real terrorism.

Their ideal is the closed prison state at perpetual war with the US, where people are impoverished, brutalized, and militarized - but whose colorful leaders provide the left with endless vicarious entertainment.

I notice no one on the anti-war side of this discussion has dealt with the proposition Mark Beuhner brought up in #6. If cheap oil was what we wanted, the war was an icredibly stupid way to go about it. Saddam would have been happy to sell us all the oil we wanted to buy (and then used the proceeds to rebuild his WMD programs and eventually develop nukes, but that's another discussion).

The first Gulf war was indeed about oil. And it should have been. "No blood for oil" makes a nice chant when you're trying to pick up neo-hippy chicks at a fashionable protest march, but talk to someone who grew up in the Great Depression and think about whether you would like (or would like your children) to do the same.

Gulf war II was punitive. Yes, Saddam had no direct connection to 911, but Arab culture did. We're dealing with a primitive honor culture in which brutality is respected as strength and negotiation is a ploy to keep the infidel off your back while you rearm to kill him. They had to be shown the consequences of a 911. And it was working. Kaddafi gave up his WMD, Syria got out of Lebanon (at least temporarily) and if the latest intelligence report is correct (about which I have my doubts), the Iranians suspended their nuclear program in 2003.

Unfortunately, we screwed the pooch when we tried to get the Iraqis to establish a democracy in a place that simply doesn't have the cultural wherewithal for it. And that's what we'll be paying for for a long, long time in lots of horrible ways.

Prompting change is as simple as lifting US sanctions, unfreezing assets held in the US, normalizing relations and commercially investing in Iran. The economy would take off like a rocket ship. The social effects would be unstoppable.

I'm amazed by some of the commentary found here. Most of the facts cited regarding Iran are completely inaccurate.

The urge to view the world through a bipolar political prism is perplexing. It suggests generalized attitudes based on interpretations provided largely by the mainstream media.

"Leftists" and "Rightists" in the United States are both adherents of Western liberalism. I suggest a review of this political philosophy would be useful before suggesting generalizations of opinion in foreign policy. Travel abroad, especially to the Middle East, is also encouraged.

As far as American imperialism goes, it is a dead letter. If America had imperialistic goals we would have added another state or three in the last 50 years.

Not that I think a new American Imperialism would be all that bad. Mexico certainly seems to think that America and Mexico are one nation with one culture ruled by one government. That can work both ways. US companies could drill for oil a lot more effectively than it is being done now, and US police could subdue the lawless narco cities better than the Mexican police can manage.

"Prompting change is as simple as lifting US sanctions, unfreezing assets held in the US, normalizing relations and commercially investing in Iran. The economy would take off like a rocket ship. The social effects would be unstoppable."

It worked in Egypt and Saudi Arabia after all...

"Mark attempts to conflate "Anti-Bush Administration" with "Anti-Americanism", and you the above conflation between Iraq and Iran."

When did i do that? Cite please? The history of the left's obsession with American imperialism is long and storied... i believe i cited a charge that the Marshall Plan was accused of imperialism for instance. Talk about Bush on the brain.

Look, there is just no denying that the hard left never met a fascist movement it didnt embrace so long as the US was idealogically opposed to it up to and including apologizing for Stalin's purges in the pages of the NYT. And the Mao and Che t-shirts remain as popular as ever.

Thats probably a major reason the anti-war left has been completely inept at stopping this war. Nobody listens to them because their credibility was shot years ago... and the nail in the coffin went in somewhere around protesting our 'imperialist' war in Afghanistan against the regime harboring OBL.

There's also the mono-mania, which gets back to the cite A.L. keeps bringing up. The idea that invading Iraq might have more than one reason is apparently inconceivable, it has to be "all about oil" [emphasis added]. It's a good heuristic to disregard any theory of human events that takes as a basis a single cause for any large scale event.

Jim R, who cares what a bunch of Hollywood film-makers and New York journalists think? Who cared what a bunch of dissident colonial landowners thought?

Your position is almost as silly as Mark P's - equally blinded, except from the opposite position.

A.L.

The thesis of leftist anti-imperialism is that any nation that is open to US trade is a victim of neo-colonialism and imperalism...

Let me give you a more specific example of how US trade often (but not always) works: Equatorial Guinea. This is a country that's become immensely wealthy in the last 15 years from oil revenue with American companies. But it's run by a dictator who keeps his countrymen in squalid conditions, short of food, medicine and education. Political opponents are attacked, tortured, beaten, bombed and killed on a regular basis.

The state department has recently noted that that EG is the prime breeding ground for islamofacism, and has asked oil companies to make sure that SOME of it's revenues went towards the education & health of the country, and not to a power-hungry dictator.

Of course, they went ballistic. They have a very nice deal going with an uneducated country that doesn't understand the worth of their oil. Why give them knowledge to actually bargain for it's value?

This is the type of oppression I oppose. And it's not merely done by American companies, it's done by 'premier' nations all over the world. But this is OUR country, and we're responsible for the actions of Americans overseas. Shouldn't we hold ourselves to a higher standard?

Until we stop looking the other way for American companies that make human rights violations (or prop up dictators that brutally suppress dissent), I don't know if I can claim that we care about 'democracy for the whole world'. We seem to care about democracy when it suits us. (Which, by the way, is not all that different from the rest of the world).

Annoying Old Guy,

It's our old friend the dialectic, that refuses to die. History is just one big long class struggle between the current system (the US in our current case) and the up and coming revolutionary system.

Before good old Karl, history was viewed as a vast tapestry of individual stories and events woven together. After good old Karl, history suddenly becomes 'us' versus 'them'. With 'us' being the bad guys.

Everything needs to be compressed to fit into this dialectic/opposition model. There can only be two players, there can only be two motives in play. When inconvenient facts pop up, well, that's what conspiracy theories are for.

After all, we know history isn't just a bunch of mere humans blundering around in the dark. It's the titanic chess-match between omniscient Machiavellian masterminds. You don't actually expect masterminds to make mistakes do you? Fall for bluffs? Act logically on misinformation? Of course not. It HAS to be deliberate misdirection. Always a lie, never a mistake.

"Until we stop looking the other way for American companies that make human rights violations (or prop up dictators that brutally suppress dissent), I don't know if I can claim that we care about 'democracy for the whole world'."

But the catch is if we start 'imposing' our education or our preferred form of government we are imperialists too. With this crowd you cant win for losing- verdict first, trial after. They already know the US is a force for evil in the world, hence whatever we decide to do must be evil by definition.

Ah, irony. While I was typing that in, along comes a great example.

Somehow we went from

But it's run by a dictator who keeps his countrymen in squalid conditions, short of food, medicine and education.

to

Of course, they went ballistic. They have a very nice deal going with an uneducated country that doesn't understand the worth of their oil. Why give them knowledge to actually bargain for it's value?

We start with an evil oppressive tyrant lording over the oppressed peasants, but the MINUTE the US shows up suddenly it's the evil white man selling glass beads for gold.

And our dictator who dominates his country with an iron fist (and certainly isn't short on food, medicine, and education himself) is suddenly, when faced with the mighty mojo of the pallor impaired, suddenly just another dump brown person, ripe to be ripped off...

err, read 'dump' as 'dumb'...bad fingers...

So, Tree Frog:

You have no moral qualms with keeping a dictator in power with American dollars?

But the catch is if we start 'imposing' our education or our preferred form of government we are imperialists too.

Yes, I'm sure we'd be IMPOSING on people the ability to talk to a doctor, or the ability to hold rallies without getting shot in the back of the head. Then we'd really be tyrants.

You have no moral qualms with keeping a dictator in power with American dollars?

He was in power prior to our dollars ever reaching him. That's why we were dealing with him in the first place.

If we withdraw our dollars, he'll just become a dictator being kept in power with Euros. Or Rubles. Or whatever.

There are two points here. First there's the ironic illustration of the threads topic.

Second, exactly what do you want? The dictator who's grip on power depends on keeping his population under his thumb isn't going to let us open up schools and support political demonstrations, now is he?

And we aren't exactly the only buyer on the market after all...

Which means we can either use force or the threat of force to compel him to democratize his society, which you obviously don't support. Or we can wash our hands of the whole situation and refuse to deal with him at all.

May I then assume you are an avid supporter of the embargoes of Cuba, North Korea, and (pre-war) Iraq, and desire to extend those embargoes to all countries that don't meet our democratic standards?

May I then assume you are an avid supporter of the embargoes of Cuba, North Korea, and (pre-war) Iraq, and desire to extend those embargoes to all countries that don't meet our democratic standards?

Obviously, this isn't going to happen, but I think that (in a perfect world) this is the RIGHT way to do it. We're supposed to do it with terrorist sanctuaries, why not brutal dictatorships?

But we couldn't do it alone, we would have to ensure that the G8 basically uses the same rules in partnership.

So, yes, at this point, Russia & China would back out, and my plan would fall apart.

But at face value I don't understand the NeoCon obsession with 'Democracy' in Iraq (but who gives a sh*t about that little country in Africa?). It's two-faced, it's hypocritical, and it makes me feel sick.

My original post was longer, and included other examples such as: Companies dumping waste in the locals drinking water (Mexico), locking workers into sweatshops or allowing superiors to physically attacker their workers (Vietnam), attacking/arresting/assassinating labor organizers (China) etc. etc. etc. Sure, local nations COULD fight it, but most governments take bribes to prevent action.

Is this done by the American government or the American people? No, but it's done by American companies in the American name.

But at face value I don't understand the NeoCon obsession with 'Democracy' in Iraq (but who gives a sh*t about that little country in Africa?). It's two-faced, it's hypocritical, and it makes me feel sick.

So to legitimize the war in Iraq we needed to invade the rest of the world and do it all in one fell swoop? All or nothing?

I thought it was perfectly logical to pick a viable test candidate, one with a built in economic starter (oil), a relatively high (as dictator run hell-holes go) education level, and even better, one we were actually already at war with (the 1991 Gulf War never actually ended remember?).

Silly me.

As to why no one cares about Sudan now? Well, to be blunt the left won. The Bush doctrine and neo-con philosophy of aggressive democratization is dead now. Dead and buried. We were going to throw out the dictator and all his cronies and convert them to democracy, capitalism, and women's rights. But our State department doesn't believe in democracy, our NGOs don't believe in capitalism, and our women's groups don't believe in women's rights for non-westerners.

So it's dead now. Complete non-starter.

Which leaves us with what exactly? Embargoes don't work because we can't compel the world to go along with us.

So US companies have the Hobbesian choice of manufacturing products in local run sweatshops with labor and environmental conditions (which are that way because they are run by the cronies of the local bullies...err...government) that make us sick, or not doing business there and getting obliterated on the global market by those with stronger stomachs.

What choices are we left with EXCEPT to hold our noses and play hear no evil/see no evil?

I could have found alot easier countries to put together than Iraq. Say those without tribal struggles who have a history of killing each other.

As to why no one cares about Sudan now? Well, to be blunt the left won.

Yes, Bush's hard stance on Sudan was repressed by the democrats. Please. The left did nothing. The right did nothing. Nobody has a high horse to stand on.

Yes, Bush's hard stance on Sudan was repressed by the democrats. Please. The left did nothing. The right did nothing. Nobody has a high horse to stand on.

Err, keep reading. That wasn't 'the left won to prevent intervention in Sudan' that was 'the left won to prevent intervention, period'. The entire strategy has been taken off the table. And there's nothing left on the table, so of course no one did anything.

I could have found alot easier countries to put together than Iraq. Say those without tribal struggles who have a history of killing each other.

So you think the neo-con strategy is sound, but was misapplied? We just need to find a better test ground and improve our tactics and it can work?

So you think the neo-con strategy is sound, but was misapplied? We just need to find a better test ground and improve our tactics and it can work?

Not exactly. I'm just saying that Iraq isn't the great testbed many make it out to be.

I still think there are other non-military options we haven't explored. This isn't my area of expertise, so I'll have to refer to someone else at this point. I still think America is incredibly strong country that can still bring economic and political pressure to bear if we really wanted too.

Didn't it work with Apartheid?

As Gandhi very famously demonstrated from one side, and the Tien an men Square demonstrations showed from the other, such tactics only work when the government in question is not a brutal dictatorship. (Though China is not generally brutal any more, except in specific cases, such as those that would directly result in the Communists' loss of power.) South Africa under apartheid, for all its racism, was not a brutal dictatorship, and in the end they could not sustain what would have been necessary to maintain the status quo: killing large swaths of their black populace. As a result, the South African government, deservedly, fell. Fortunately, they decided to fall gracefully, rather than in a bloody mess.

But such tactics as economic pressure only work in very specific cases when the target is a brutal dictatorship. In particular, they only work when the pressure comes from essentially the entire rest of the world, such that the dictator cannot maintain himself any longer in the style to which he has become accustomed. So the economic sanctions have to be harsh, at which point we get not only the propaganda (not just from the enemy, but from our own Left as well) about how we're "killing babies" by not allowing in food and medicine, as well as programs to assuage guilt by essentially gutting the sanctions. (See "oil for food" for a particularly on-point example.)

I'll note something interesting, though, that does seem to work consistently: if you were to put in place in the same circumstances two brutal dictatorships, one with respect for private property and one not, history seems to suggest (Taiwan, Korea, Chile, and more) that the one that respects private property will become a liberal democracy in about 50 years, while the populist, nationalist, or communist types that don't respect private property can essentially continue indefinitely. So, ironically, the one type of dictatorship that we have a huge amount of influence with (pro-Western generally military dictatorships that respect property rights if little else) and which is the most likely type of dictatorship to morph into a liberal democracy, is precisely the kind of dictatorship which the Left argues we should not interact with in any way other than sanctioning them and generally doing everything possible to bring about their fall.

Odd, that.

the one that respects private property will become a liberal democracy in about 50 years

That was the recipe for democracy in the first place. Take a large bunch of entrenched land owners. Give them increasing economic power. Add water and friction. Poof, liberal democracy. Call it the cliff notes version of British history.

If you concentrate economic decision making power in the hands of a few, you end up with a tyranny of those few. If you spread out economic decision making you end up with a government of the many.

Why the concept that political power follows actual power surprises anyone is quite beyond me, but how else do you explain the whole communism thing?

Curious theory Jeff, though I don't know if it applies to the soviet block. Aren't East Germany, Ukraine, Russia and several others now capitalist (albeit horribly corrupt)?

"You have no moral qualms with keeping a dictator in power with American dollars?"
...
"But at face value I don't understand the NeoCon obsession with 'Democracy' in Iraq (but who gives a sh*t about that little country in Africa?)."

...
"It's two-faced, it's hypocritical, and it makes me feel sick."

Now there's something we can agree on.

I also have a problem with dismissing Iraq because its hard. Do we only tackle problems that are easy? I mean, traditionally I know we do, but is that really the best our national will can muster anymore? The idea that because we didnt help in one place means we cant help in another is so childish as to really deserve no further mention.

Ukraine, Russia and several others now capitalist Not capitalism, respect for private property. No one following events in Russia recently can possibly accuse the Russian government of respecting private property rights.

Capitalism simply doesn't function properly in the absence of property rights. Like trying to do the Indy 500 without a car.

#45

Very true. Political power is very dependent on economic power.

Therefore a distributed political power (such as democracy) is very dependent on distributed economic power.

It's why I keep saying that a liberal political order (liberal in classical sense), has to regulate the accumulation of too much economic power, in either public, or private hands.

"It's why I keep saying that a liberal political order (liberal in classical sense), has to regulate the accumulation of too much economic power, in either public, or private hands."

Which requires even more power. See the catch? Whoever goes about deciding just how the economic pie gets sliced up and given away has more power than all the rest combined. We have enough of that as things are with our bought and paid for pork barrel Congress.

Bought the point at least is the truth- class warfare isnt nearly so much about raising up the poor as knocking down the rich.

Mark,

The power to REGULATE has always existed with the state - it's a useful power to avoid concentrations of power such as monopolies, and it is used to good effect there.

Similarly, the bad effects of too much wealth in too small a grouping - the top 1% holding 30% of the wealth - ALSO, has incredibly distorting impacts, politically and economically, for our country.

We move towards Banana Republicanism, and every thinking american should realize it's a patriotic duty to have a ceiling on concentrations of wealth, both privately and in business.

Too much concentrations of wealth lead to:

-No attention paid to infrastructure. (ala New Orleans)
-Massive corruption (als 200-2006 Repub Congress)
-Skewing towards the military/industrial complex, resulting in bad ROI from military misadventures (Iraq)
-the rewarding of wealth over work (taxes lower from simple interest on investments, than in ACTUAL productive work)

These are not socialist arguments, this is walking the golden mean. (Just because King George invokes "class warfare!" when ANY equality argument is raised, means nothing.)

This is serving the hard-working ethical people of this country most effectively.

The power to REGULATE has always existed with the state

Oh. Like, say... Prohibition? Or the Penny Act during great plague years in Europe?

Change what you said to "The power to CLAIM TO REGULATE and to sometimes IMPOSE those regulations with RAW FORCE..." and you might be onto something.

Cavalry riding down Coxey's Army, anyone?

Regulations are just edicts, by themselves. Enforcement of same, that's done with the tacit or explicit barrel of a gun.

The notion that enforcement of redistribution of wealth will be fair and equitable, implicit in your post, boggles my mind.

Me, I figure there'll be another Wat Tyler's Rebellion, probably after the next plague.

NM,

I get and sympathize with your point.

SMART regulation is the key, as always. Not the stupid types of examples you cite.

A bit more regulation of the mortgage situation, WOULD have been useful.

Or, regulation of energy companies in 2001. Remember that?

The point being, YES, absolutely, I get it. What is right? what is the tradeoff? 1% of people having 90% of the wealth is a BAD tradeoff.

Again, there are BAD EFFECTS for society as a wholee, with too much accumulation of money, in a small segment of society's hands. The effects I've mentioned above.

The easy way to redistribute, in a way that DOESN'T mess with standing for freedom, is to progressively tax, in an APPROPRIATE manner.

Again, the example I mentioned last week, are the taxes that Clinton instituted in 1993 (that all republicans cried wolf about saying it wouldd "bankrupt the economy").

And tthe numbers show, given the growth rate during Clinton, that the economy was NOT depressed. But performed better than during Bush 1, Bush 2, and Reagan.

I don't know why you guys always ignore the actual data. Why do you live in your heads, and not the real world of facts? the numbers don't lie.

here is the chart again of economic growth in all administrations

All democratic admins beat all republican admins (except for the highest Repub performer, Reagan, who tied Carter, the lowest Dem performer).

And, taxes were higher in all dem administrations.

Of course, when I posted this before, the facts were studiously IGNORED by all commentors.

but have the intellectual honesty to say, "yeah higher taxes don't correspond with lower GDP, in moderation".

HR:

I retain the intellectual honesty, personally, to say that I have no idea how those cute colorful bar graphs were generated. Have you checked this guy's work? If so, how? How long did it take you? Did he let you look at his raw data? What are his credentials? Just wondering, not being sarcastic.

I also don't know what kinds of economic friction and inertia/momentum effects exist that might smear things across administration timescales.

And there's now that "Black Swan" gadfly on my mind; correlation really isn't causation.

Maybe we think we know cause-and-effect in a lot of squishy places where we really don't, so much.

One of my mantras is "You can't ever only do one thing"; another is "Whom do you trust, and on what basis?". I've become a bit better at remembering those than I have been in times past, but I still jump to conclusions and say things like "'the' problem is".

Habits and ev psych tendencies abound that are good enough for primates to muddle through even when mostly clueless. Another caveat that I'm liking lately is "At our current state of ignorance, what we think we know is..."

These sorts of thought frameworks do not make for punchy, dramatic polemical knock-downs. Consequently I spend a lot of time just "sweeping up" around here, trying to keep the spammers in line.

And also, consequently, I'm not a big-C conservative.

As I look at myself now, I have some "liberal-tarian" leanings; I think it's possible to give disadvantaged folks a "fair go" without turning them into welfare zombies; but I think the only thing that can fix the health care mess is the fricking singularity, about which I am very doubtful; and I would rather be UP-wing than "left" or "right", but that seems pretty hard to make happen except by Maxwell's demon and Brownian motion, most days.

I seriously think that the next period of wealth redistribution, if any, is going to be a post-catastrophe one, just like after the Dark Ages -- or, more mildly, as the recovery from the Great Depression compressed the salary range of worker to top dog to only a two-digit factor, roughly in the period 194x-197x.

We might get something different from either 25% unemployment for a decade or the wiping out of 1/3 of the population. Too soon to tell. With luck, there's no Robespierre or man on horseback in our picture.

I desire what I think of as progress, but I would guess that the intersection of my goals with those of big-P Progressives would be rather Monte Carlo.

I think we want to believe the world can be modeled and shaped more accurately and completely than our actual skills, inclinations and knowledge permit. I don't think any taxation likely to be imposed is likely to crush innovation and quality of life as long as people are free to vote with their feet, game the system's loopholes, engage in black or gray markets, etc. :)

Mark Buehner: I hear what you're saying. I don't think Iraq was a bad choice becuase it was hard. I think it was a bad choice because we assumed it would just work. I had a gret unease going into Iraq, feeling like we were jumping into something that we didn't fully understand. Everything I've read says we weren't ready to tackle the humanitarian problems once we got there.

Now, I don't believe that Iraq was purely a testbed for bringing democracy in the ME, there's also the complicated matter of weapons/sanctions/ etc. However, IF IT WAS, there's something to say for trying a smaller test case first, say a smaller country that won't send it's neighbors into a reigonal conflict. Or tackling some smaller humanitarian crisis that would give some soldiers/generals greater experience in counter-insurgency before the big push into Iraq.

In this way, I would have prefered that we stay in Afghanistan and completely stabilized that country (even though it was a bad model for possible democracy) first, and then moved on to tackle the next problem. I believe the current Afghanistan issues with Heroin and the Taliban are related to our rush to secure the country quickly (but not completely) before rushing into Iraq.

Treefrog: I've been thinking about this overnight. Obviously there are some things corporations cannot control. However, there certainly are some things they can. Many companies can control which nations they work in, and choose nations that have decent human rights records, cost a little more, and still compete on the global market. If a company like Nike or Disney (both of which sell more on name rather than lowest cost) removed business from countries with bad human rights records, I think the threat of lost dollars might cause SOME shift in the behavior of these nations. While it wouldn't change things overnight, I think the attempt would be worth it.

I think there are some things more important than the bottom line.I think it is possible to be competitive, and reward nations that support human rights with american contracts. I don't think it will be cheap or easy, but it's a good way of spreading american infleunce.

Nort - just did some fast math on the data available here and the average D change in constant-dollar GDP from Kennedy - Clinton is 3.8, the average R from Nixon - GWB is 2.7%. So there's something to the data.

A.L.

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