May 24, 2004

Winds of Change

Tossing Saddam in the slammer keeps yielding intended benefits.

TUNIS (Reuters) - Arab governments, responding to a U.S. campaign for Arab democracy, have promised to carry out political and social reforms in an oil-rich region which includes some of the world's most repressive rulers.

In documents read out at the end of a two-day Arab summit in Tunis on Sunday, the 22 Arab League members promised to promote democracy, expand popular participation in politics and public affairs, reinforce women's rights and expand civil society.

Now, you can count me among those who are awfully skeptical that this crowd is serious.

What’s important here is they feel they need to at least give freedom and democracy some lip service. They absolutely are on the wrong side of history. And they know it. The days of maintaining their rank political slums are numbered one way or another.

Yeah, it’s probably all talk at this point. And talk is cheap, especially if you live in a police state and the best you get from your thug-in-chief is some posturing.

But think about it this way. Imagine how you would feel about the prospects for life as we know it if we felt so much pressure from the jihad that North American and European governments got together and promised to implement Islamic law “reforms,” even if the promise was only an empty one. You’d be right to say we were losing. And you’d be right to say it’s a direct result of the violence against us and has little to do with diplomacy.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2004 05:30 PM
Comments

Good point, Michael. Another analogy: When a bigot starts refraining from saying racial slurs in public because he senses that its supposed to be shameful. Standards get a foot in the door.

Michael, I miss the old comments section. It was really excellent and it made my life better, because I learned so much every day from you and your commenters. At this point I feel that pretty soon I'll stop clicking on the comments. I don't mean to be a gloomy Gus, but if you have to turn the whole section off, then so be it. Don't burden yourself. Solicit email comments from people whose criticisms you can use. Moreover, it isn't fitting for your site to cling to something that isn't excellent.

Posted by: Jim at May 24, 2004 06:11 PM

Jim,

Did this comment get put in the wrong thread? Even so, I'll answer it by saying I'm thinking about ramping up the Troll Patrol even stronger, for the very reasons you cited.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2004 06:45 PM

Wait, your comment was related to this post. I didn't catch your meaning until just now...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2004 06:48 PM

Good points Michael. In some ways, time is on our side. And in some ways its isn't. Speeding up the rate of reform is crucial, and should receive our complete support and committment.

Posted by: FH at May 24, 2004 06:55 PM

I still don't catch his meaning.

Posted by: David at May 24, 2004 07:25 PM

In some ways, time is on our side. And in some ways its isn't.

I think my boy will fight in the WoT; he's three years old. On the other hand, human nature has a malleability, and maybe reform will go more quickly. Anyway, Bush is right that the intrinsic appeal of liberty is so fundamental as to make victory almost inevitable.

Arab governments are acknowledging this intrinsic appeal to their people. Even though it's all talk, they're now on record with their people. Can you imagine the teeth grinding in those governments and in Iran when Iraq has its election next year? It's inch-by-inch, but there's no way out. Either they liberalize and we survive or they don't and our society is destroyed. There is no other option, because their unfree societies will ultimately produce a man lucky enough to succeed at eliminating an American city. Victory is not inevitable.

MJT, Heh! I can see how you might have thought that whole comment of mine was about recent trollage. Hoo boy, can I!

Posted by: Jim at May 24, 2004 07:27 PM

David, consider that at one time bigoted remarks might be acceptable in public. Then ten years pass, and some crucial social events. Bigoted remarks become frowned upon. Bigots sense this and buckle to the pressure, even though they don't really give a damn. Similarly, the Arab fatcats don't give a damn, but they cannot now say, "We intend to maintain non-representative, illiberal governments in perpetuity." They just can't say that now.

Posted by: Jim at May 24, 2004 07:31 PM

Its good to see that they at least pay lip service to it, but I'm very skeptical of any meaningful change taking place.

The Arab world has a huge language barrier too.

Palestinian negotiators can make peaceful commitments and statements in English, whilst returning to their people and state controlled media to make hateful anti-semitic and anti-Western remarks in Arabic.

As long as the hate-filled sermons continue in every Arab capital every Friday, the next generation will distrust and hate the free world.

Posted by: Jono at May 24, 2004 08:19 PM

Michael Totten's comments regarding intended (and unintended)consequences are dead on. Can there be any doubt that Libya would not have come clean without the U.S. invasion? Sure, they were talking beforehand, but the invasion surely pushed it from talk into action.

In the middle east, it's more important to be respected than to be liked. And there is no doubt that inserting an American force into the heart of the Arab middle east gained people's respect, and will have long term positive effects, as well as short term negative ones. Americans are confused now whether this war is World War II or Vietnam, and that's what causing anguish and Bush's low ratings. Naysayers like Zinni and Richard Clarke argue that Iraq was the wrong venue, chosen for improper reasons, and instead we should have chased Bin Laden around Afghanistan. But Afghanistan was just a place Bin Laden hung out. He and those like him came from the Arab middle east, and that's the rub. It's the old cliche about draining the swamp, instead of swatting mosquitos. Somebody needed to change the equation in the Middle East, or a major tragedy was going to happen. Iraq was as good a place as any to start.

Posted by: MarkC at May 24, 2004 10:29 PM

Beg pardon? What Zinni has been saying (along with legions of other military men, and -- to the extent that he's said anything -- John Kerry) is that we invaded and tried to reform Iraq with grossly inadequate numbers of troops and grossly inaequate funding. The predictble result was an ungodly mess -- which will probably be impossible to correct now, both because there's no possible way we can acquire enough additional properly trained troops in time, and because a huge number of people in Iraq who were previously either friendly toward us or willing to at least give us a chance are now bitterly angry toward us. (Including -- according to the NY Times, in one of its useful series of Iraqi-man-on-the-street articles -- the old man filmed beating Saddam's statue with his shoe on liberation day.)

Of course, if the Administration HAD had a realistic awareness that we would need several times as many troops (probably requiring the draft) and several times as much money, they themselves would have been far more reluctant to invade the place -- let alone to deliberately exaggerate the evidence of Saddam's Bomb program, at exactly the time when we desperately need those troops elsewhere to cope (in various ways) with the very real nuclear threats of Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw at May 24, 2004 10:57 PM

Bruce,

What if North Korea sold a nuke to Iraq? Your nuke analysis leaves out that possibility.

I agree there should probably be more troops in Iraq, but I'm not willing to call the whole thing a loss at this point. Al-Sadr and Fallujah are both problems that were recently very scary. Note the past tense.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2004 11:06 PM

Tossing Saddam in the slammer keeps yielding intended benefits.

Michael, demonstrating a causal relationship involves a little more than observing a chronological succession.

Do you really think that American influence in the Middle East is higher than it was before the invasion?

Posted by: Mork at May 24, 2004 11:19 PM

Mork,

Yes I do. The US pushed for them to do what they did in Tunis. This was not their idea. Whether they follow through is obviously another matter, but they didn't do this because they suddenly started feeling all liberal and democratic. They did this because we told them they need to do it. None of them want to be "next." I wouldn't minimize the significance of not wanting to be "next."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 24, 2004 11:53 PM

Bruce M.--

Your comments about troop strength are full of heat but not much light.

As it relates to Iraq, the commanders have gotten all the troops have requested. If they needed more, they would have them. Remember, more troops create more targets. More troops also require more support, particularly the U.S. Army. The Marine Corps., I would also point out, has a very high tooth-to-tail ratio of three combat marines for one support. This is possible because (a) all marines are trained for combat; and (b) they draw a lot of support from the U.S. Navy. What this means, among other things, is that the marine deployment has a much higher level of firepower per man than a numerically equivalent army force.

However, since many soldiers are already involved in things like building bridges, it would seem that combat firepower is not what we need right now. (For what it's worth, my opinion is we need to seal off the border with Syria--something we are apparently doing, and continue to aggressively pursue foreign fighters coming in to make mischief.)

As to the nuclear threats: How is having 140,000 troops on Iran's border inconsistent with keeping the mullahs in check? Ditto Assad in Syria. Afghanistan has had a relatively constant level of about 10,000-15,000 troops for over two years. If they needed more, I'm sure they would have gotten them. There is nothing we can do about Pakistan's nukes right now except try to make sure Musharraf stays in power. If he is assasinated and the mullahs get the launch codes, we are next door. I suppose India might have something to say too.

North Korea has an army of approximately 800,000 troops near the DMZ. South Korea has some 560,000 troops and roughly 37,000 U.S. troops to defend against an invasion. So tell me, exactly what good would it do to deploy another, say, 20,000 troops in North Korea? Or even 50,000 troops? Would it have one iota of difference?

I'm sorry, but Zinni is auditioning to be John Kerry's running mate. He is an old-school "overwhelming force" guy, along with Powell. Rumsfeld's "lighter and more lethal" approach is anathema to him. Fine. But just because Zinni voices his objections publicly doesn't make him some kind of canary-in-a-coal-mine about troop strength. More probably, he suffers from not being listened to anymore. It's a common problem among retired generals.

Posted by: Fresh Air at May 24, 2004 11:58 PM

None of them want to be "next." I wouldn't minimize the significance of not wanting to be "next."

Come off it, Michael. It's obvious to everyone that the U.S. isn't going to be invading anyone else anytime soon.

I wonder why would it be unfair of me to characterize your position as the following:

  • anything positive that has happened in the Middle East is a direct result of the invasion;
  • none of the bad things are (see for example, the futility of the Palestinian peace process, Iran's development of nuclear weapons, etc.)
  • there were absolutely no opportunity costs incurred in undertaking the invasion.
Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 12:09 AM

Mork, characterizing me: anything positive that has happened in the Middle East is a direct result of the invasion

No, it depends. But when the US says "jump" and they jump, I'd say that has something to do with us.

none of the bad things are (see for example, the futility of the Palestinian peace process, Iran's development of nuclear weapons, etc.)

I blame Arafat more than anyone else for the futility of the "peace" process. That conflict has been raging for more than a half century, but even Arafat is only one actor in it. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the other genocidal maniacs are the real problem. Peace is impossible while they exist with any violent capabilities.

Iran's nukes are an ongoing problem that was in no way created by invading Iraq.

there were absolutely no opportunity costs incurred in undertaking the invasion.

There were costs. At this time, I think it was worth that cost.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2004 12:17 AM

There were costs. At this time, I think it was worth that cost

What do you think the opportunity costs were?

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 12:21 AM

Mork: What do you think the opportunity costs were?

Here are three.

We could have sent more troops to Afghanistan. We could have invaded Iran. We could have bluffed North Korea with massive troop movements. (I think starting a war with North Korea would be insane at this point.)

You'll notice that what all three of my costs have in common is the use of the military. That's because there are other things we can still do that aren't affected by the use of our troops in Iraq, and therefore don't really count as opportunity costs. One of those things is ramping up alternative energy research in the US. I think we need to do that and it's too bad we aren't, but invading Iraq isn't what's stopping us from doing so.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2004 12:32 AM

What about the effect of the diplomatic efforts that we did not undertake (and may be unable to now) and soft power (of which we obviously have a lot less than we did before)? Could those have had a greater impact than what you claim as the benefits of the invasion?

What about the multiplier effects of co-ordinating diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement efforts with allies who are now less inclined to trust us or co-operate with us?

Could we have done anything else positive (for us) in the middle-east with some of the money that we spent on war and reconstruction in Iraq - things that achieved progress in ways we might have liked and/or improved our image?

Have we lost anything by going from a state of high military readiness with a population ready to support its use to having 135,000 troops bogged down in Iraq, the lowest level of military preparedness in decades and a population with no appetite for further military adventures?

Is the loss of goodwill and support of the majority of the population of every other western nation (this is no exaggeration if you use belief that the war was justified as a proxy) an opportunity cost, or an irrelevance?

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 12:46 AM

In the movie "The Untouchables" there is a scene where Al Capone is in a meeting with his top lieutenants. He announces that someone has betrayed him by snitching to the cops. He then proceeds to beat one of the attendees to death with a baseball bat, in front of the rest of people in the room; the guy's blood horrifically pooling up on the table top. It is unclear (in my foggy memory anyway) if Capone even knows for certain that the guy he just killed was the offending snitch.

This is straight out of the "The Prince" and similar to the democracy domino reason for the invasion of Iraq. Choose a weak opponent and make an example of him as a warning to other, stronger, opponents.

With the Arab League news and the news out of Libya, it would appear our action in Iraq is having its intended effect.

Posted by: steve at May 25, 2004 05:31 AM

Mork:

What about the effect of the diplomatic efforts that we did not undertake...

Name a US diplomatic success in the Middle East post-Israeli/Egyptian Peace Accord. (For that matter, how much are we getting in return for the billions USD we send to Egypt?)

What about the multiplier effects of co-ordinating diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement efforts with allies who are now less inclined to trust us or co-operate with us?

Have you been following UNSCAM at all? Many of our good friends had vested interests in seeing our interests fail. Knowing that is a benefit of the War in Iraq, not a cost.

Could we have done anything else positive (for us) in the middle-east with some of the money that we spent on war and reconstruction in Iraq - things that achieved progress in ways we might have liked and/or improved our image?

Again, how many billions would you have poured in dictatorships in the interest of buying Arab love? (The 9/11 bombers were mostly affluent Saudis. Bin Laden was a very wealthy man. The problem in the ME is not lack of resources.)

Have we lost anything by going from a state of high military readiness with a population ready to support its use to having 135,000 troops bogged down in Iraq, the lowest level of military preparedness in decades and a population with no appetite for further military adventures?

Having a ready military we aren't willing to use is foolish. The military exists to forcefully implement our strategic goals when required. Iraq isn't an adventure, it's a job. As to our preparedness for other engagements, maybe that's why we haven't poured more troops into road building.

Is the loss of goodwill and support of the majority of the population of every other western nation (this is no exaggeration if you use belief that the war was justified as a proxy) an opportunity cost, or an irrelevance?

We probably could and should have made a stronger argument before the court of world public opinion. How effective that would have been is debatable, considering the corruption in some European governments, the uniform hostility of the world press, and the natural mistrust of overwhelming power by anyone with any sense.

Your points boild down to "they don't like us anymore." They didn't like us before. What's different now?

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 05:32 AM

Steve:

This is straight out of the "The Prince" and similar to the democracy domino reason for the invasion of Iraq. Choose a weak opponent and make an example of him as a warning to other, stronger, opponents.

The only quibble I have with that is that Iraq was the strongest opponent we could have chosen, with the exception of Pakistan.

Rhetorical question for the anti-preemption contingent: What makes Pakistan the most dangerous player in the battle against Islamofascism?

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 05:41 AM

Mark, I would agree if we were talking exclusively about military might. I would argue that Iraq was weakest politically - they were under a UN sanctions regime fully supported by most of the UN nations, were a hated enemy of Iran, and had no friends of any significance willing to help defend them (Syria makes my point).

Now, having invaded Afghanistan and deposed the Taliban we might have been able to skip invading Iraq by threatening war instead as a means to put teeth behind a much stronger diplomatic push through the UN. The now emerging scandal involving the Oil for Food program appears to support the idea that this alternative approach wouldn't work. Perhaps we had suspicions about the corruption that informed our choice to go into Iraq?

Posted by: steve at May 25, 2004 06:02 AM

Interestingly enough, the Ottoman empire had a loose consitutional structure in the late 19th century.

Posted by: asdf at May 25, 2004 06:13 AM

The Ottoman Empire was also as crooked as a dog's back leg. But maybe it will work in Iraq.

As for Mork's assertion that the US 'squaundered' the good will of 'the majority' of other Western nations, yes, I'll assert it is irrelevant.

Posted by: Eric Blair at May 25, 2004 06:30 AM

This interesting bit about this lip service to democracy bit, is that it echoes Carter's pro-human rights talk in some respects.

One of the factors that allegedly contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union was that we had been beating on the drum of human rights and democracy which gave these movements legitimacy in the eastern bloc. Thus emboldened, these movements started gaining additional credibility and momentum, which contributed to Gorbachev's policies of glastnost and perestroika, which in turn led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites.

Strangely enough, Bush's push may have similar results. More perversely, they may have stemmed from reoughly similar impulses.

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at May 25, 2004 06:32 AM

BRD, what do you mean "perversely"?

Posted by: Jim at May 25, 2004 07:17 AM

Steve, I see what you mean about the political weakness of Iraq. I guess what we've shown is that brutal repression of a population and a strong military do not necessarily make a despot safe.

Odd thought here: has anyone noticed that the Iraqi resistance became much more effective after Saddam was taken into custody? Tactically speaking, maybe arresting one of the more inept military minds in modern history was a mistake. Politically necessary, though...

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 07:27 AM

Michael,

There are two approaches to peace, one is peace through strength, and the other is peace through talk. For years I was a liberal, but have been forced to look at reality and let go of fantasy in many areas. Foreign policy is certainly one of those areas.

The reaction of the Middle East to our peace-through-strength era of the Bush administration, compared to the reaction of the Middle East during the peace-through-talk era of the Clinton administration, is proof to me that peace through strength works, and peace through talk doesn’t, at least when dealing with the fascist mindset of the terrorists and tyrants in the Middle East.

Posted by: thedragonflies at May 25, 2004 08:28 AM

I assert that NOT invading Iraq in 2003 means a 50% chance of Islamofascists getting nukes before 2008.

All reasonable folk should agree there is "some" chance; it's also reasonable to disagree on what that chance is.

Unfortunately, even after invasion it looks to me like some 10-20% chance that terrorists, from Iran and/or Pakistan and/or N. Korea will get nukes by 2008.

While I think that more troops would have been better, I don't really know. I also think Dumbledore should do more to help Harry Potter. But in fact, both Harry (metaphorically) and Iraq need to grow up, to take responsibility for what is done, and not done.

Terrorism is still in Iraq because the Iraqis are failing to stop it. Democracy will only work there if THEY want it, enough to fight, and die, and kill for it. What is needed is an example, like Kosovo (? no), Bosnia (? no), or some other country that DID go through military induced regime change, then got democracy. Using much more occupation troops. Or the same, or much less. But there aren't really comparable liberations; Germany, Japan; & Korea seem the best. They indicate to me--more troops better. Definitely don't prove it, though.

And getting the Arabs to call for democracy.
eFFing Fantastic. Change the debate. What's the democratic progress? How many elected mayors in Iraq? How many elsewhere?
Yay, Bush vision -- why doesn't he keep selling it?

Posted by: Tom Grey at May 25, 2004 08:45 AM

Does anyone know the level of personal computer adoption in the ME and the availability of internet connections?

I'm asking because as many of the commenters have said, the establishment of democratic principles in autocratic ME countries will depend to a great degree on the local folks demanding it. Exposure to the internet - as opposed to exclusively Al Jezeera - could provide the means for these people to become aware of the possibilities and benefits.

Couple this with democratic successes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the re-estalishment of normal relations with Libya, there could development a great movement for change.

Posted by: steve at May 25, 2004 09:44 AM

Jim

I mean perversely in that the last two Presidents I would think to find moral similarities between would be Carter and Bush(43).

Posted by: Bravo Romeo Delta at May 25, 2004 10:18 AM

BRD:

I mean perversely in that the last two Presidents I would think to find moral similarities between would be Carter and Bush(43).

Why? Those two both seem devout in their religions, unlike the other Presidents of recent memory.

(Oh, Clinton went to church on occassion, but I'm still of the opinion he's holding out for one of those death-bed deals....)

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 10:37 AM

Gotcha, BRD. But in the big picture, both Carter and Bush are liberals in important respects.

Posted by: Jim at May 25, 2004 11:05 AM

Mark Poling: Oh, Clinton went to church on occassion

I thought Bill and Hill were exceptionally churchy. Much more so than Reagan or either of the Bushes.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2004 11:22 AM

There's a difference between going to church and being religious. Carter and Bush both wear their religiousity on their sleves. (Bush catches a fair amount of grief for it; the religious right is one of his many puppetmasters, according to one strain of paranoia.) I think other Presidents have used their appearances at church as photo ops. The Clintons included. But that's just a gut feeling; no one really knows what goes on in other people's hearts.

Snarkiness aside, I'm growing fonder of Bill Clinton as time passes. My perfect President would have Clinton's domestic policy sense melded to Bush's foreign policy instincts.

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 12:05 PM

Mark,

Maybe your perfect president would be Hillary Clinton, then.

I'm surprised this is the case, but I must say my opinion of her has only gone up at the same time I've grown more and more frustrated with the Democratic Party as a whole.

I used to think the party was better than she is, and now I think she is better than the party. And yet she is popular in the party. Perhaps they need her at the top.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2004 12:33 PM

Hillary has said the right things of late, granted. But I can't get the whole health care initiative out of my mind. Since I'm doing combinations, her politcal management skills seem to be equal parts Richard Nixon and Zapp Brannigan.

But yes, maybe she will be the one to lead her party out of the darkness. Strange.

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 01:31 PM

MarkC wrote: "Michael Totten's comments regarding intended (and unintended)consequences are dead on...(stuff deleted)...Iraq was as good a place as any to start.

I can see a certain sense in these comments. The idea that a reformed section of the middle east would create a balance to some of the religious fundamentalist movements and possibly show an alternative to the people of some of the repressive regimes in power. There's merit to some of these kinds of ideas, that's true.

What I can't stomach is that this was NOT the reason we went to war in Iraq. No one can tell me that our president stood up and said we're going to war in Iraq in order to change the makeup of that country. We were told about WMDs, grave threats, etc. Now that we're there, a lot of people don't seem to care that our guys are dying in order to "free" the Iraqi people when most of us wouldn't have gone to war for only that reason. Doesn't anyone care if our government has any integrity?

I was in a meeting today at work when the subject of Iraq came up in casual conversation. Sadly I was unsurprised to hear a co-worker, a smart one at that, say that we're in Iraq because of 911 and Al-Qaeda. I'm still waiting to hear our president clear these details up. All I see is finger-pointing. What's with the people of this country? Express your opinions but at least be honest about the facts.

Posted by: Marc at May 25, 2004 03:37 PM

Marc: Sadly I was unsurprised to hear a co-worker, a smart one at that, say that we're in Iraq because of 911 and Al-Qaeda.

We are, albeit indirectly. I think of it this way, too, even though I don't think there was any direct connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam. This problem is larger than either of them, and larger than both of them put together.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2004 03:43 PM

It is most unfortunate that our enemy is not a state, but a state of mind. Immediately following 9/11, my most present thought was the deployment of "neutron" bombs. To depopulate Islamic countries (especially Pakistan). How could I think that?

I fear that the Arab states, and their statesmen are simply giving lip-service to democratization, while religious totalitarianism burns.

Unless we do a lot - and quickly - to improve the lot of Iraqis (and I do mean A LOT), I fear that we have poured gasoline on the fire.

I don't care WHOSE God it is. If there is one, he needs to help out right now.

Posted by: volareus at May 25, 2004 04:05 PM

Michael: So does it not bother you that there seems to be no urgency to "clear the air" about this misconception? I don't think the president would be having anywhere near as many problems now if he had been more honest and forthcoming. The administration's behavior, while typical of most administrations, doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling.

Part of my frustration stems from the idea that I won't be able to visit these places in the world without fear for my life. Of course, there may be places like Israel with checkpoints, curfews and armed soldiers everywhere.

Conflict in the world seems to be pervasive and armed conflict seems to be the solution of choice these days. Hmmm.

Posted by: Marc at May 25, 2004 04:21 PM

Your points boild down to "they don't like us anymore." They didn't like us before. What's different now?

Mark - if that's how you read my post, then you kind of missed the point ... I'm not surprised that those are questions of a sort that a fellow like you or Michael are not particularly interested in exploring.

As for your conclusion, though, if you think the level of dislike and distrust of the United States is "business as usual", you have your head in the sand. It's a few years ago, now, so you might have forgotten, but in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and right through the action in Afghanistan, America enjoyed strong and meaningful support around the world. America was the white-hatted cowboy, defending itself, but representing all of the civilized world.

Now, you can't win an election in any western nation unless you're prepared to display your disdain for American foreign policy.

And hatred towards America in the middle east are at all-time high levels. Why does that matter? Try this:

From AP: Far from being crippled by the U.S.-led war on terror, al-Qaida has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks, a report said Tuesday.

Al-Qaida is probably working on plans for major attacks on the United States and Europe, and it may be seeking weapons of mass destruction in its desire to inflict as many casualties as possible, the International Institute of Strategic Studies said in its annual survey of world affairs.

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 04:35 PM

Mork, you're right; one of the five points from your comment did not specifically mention image, international trust, cooperation, or popularity. That one talked about having our troops "bogged down" and a (domestic) population unwilling to support "adventures". Sorry I read your concern as being with how well-liked our government is.

I saw the same AP headline. Bummer. What that says to me is we need to make sure those 18,000 people have no safe place in the world to hide. (I'll have to dig later on how they conclude Iraq is "swelling" those ranks.)

Just as an aside, I spent time on six continents last year, and the only place I felt hated for being an American has been here in New York. For what it's worth.

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 04:48 PM

I saw the same AP headline. Bummer. What that says to me is we need to make sure those 18,000 people have no safe place in the world to hide.

And how do you do that? Two ways:

1. invade every country in which they might seek refuge; or

2. persuade the governments of those countries to arrest or kill them.

We can't do 1. Our ability to do 2. has been directly and materially diminished by the adventure in Iraq.

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 05:04 PM

Your number (2) wasn't happening before, and I see no reason to believe it would have started if we'd just been more profligate with flattery and bribes. If you've got example where it worked in the past, by all means post them.

Referring back to the AP article, I'm wonder what 18,000 "potential" terrorists look like. Do they look like menatlly handicapped 13 year-old Palestinians? Do they look like heirs to Saudi oil fortunes? Do they look like ex-Iraqi Republican Guards?

That word "potential" just snuck right past me the first time.

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 05:19 PM

Mark: I spent time on six continents last year, and the only place I felt hated for being an American has been here in New York. For what it's worth.

I'm visiting two Arab countries this summer, and on the same trip I will visit Italy. Believe me, I'm going to compare and contrast the way I'm treated in each. I expect to be treated with more warmth and kindness in the Middle East (well, North Africa, same cultural region) than in Europe. That said, Italians might be sweethearts. I really don't know. I have never been there. I'm not knocking Italians, I'm complimenting Arabs.

I don't know how much any of this really matters, though, when we're talking about politics.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at May 25, 2004 05:19 PM

So, Mark, in your view there is nothing that we can do to combat Al Qaeda other than defend our own soil or invade other countries?

I think your desire to win an argument is starting to push you into saying some things that, upon reflection, you might find you don't actually believe. I'll think I'll leave this exchange there, before we descend into absurdity, and trust you to work it out for yourself.

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 05:22 PM

I don't know how much any of this really matters, though, when we're talking about politics.

Michael - I think you're exactly right there. When people have the opportunity to face one another as humans, they are almost always decent to each other, regardless of their beliefs.

But when they think in abstract or political terms, they may come to quite different conclusions.

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 05:24 PM

Mork,

Try to remember the sympathy US had in arab world after 9/11 - the spontaneous celebrations in Egypt, Jordan, Syria. Lebanon, Iraq, etc.

Try to recall how long did the sympathy of France, Germany, Belgium, etc. last. When did the first conspiracy theories and books appear?

I think your claim about the squandered sympathy of the world is a wishful thinking at best and most likely a big bunkum.

Posted by: marek at May 25, 2004 06:43 PM

Marek, there are idiots in every country. What counts are two things:

1. the conduct of governments, which, in turn, is to a greater (western democracies) or lesser extent influenced by majority opinion; and

2. whether individual people hate America enough to become terrorists.

And on both those counts, America has been weakened by the adventure in Iraq.

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 06:53 PM

Mork, if they decided to hate us for liberating 24 million people, then they must have had a grudge all along. Even if you thought liberating Iraq a bad idea, to hate the U.S. for doing so is unbelievable and likely premised on a set of beliefs about some imagined nefariousness of the U.S. in the first place. To go from "Don't liberate Iraq now! It's a bad idea!" to "You're evil for liberating Iraq! I hate you!" is just weird unless there is an antecedent hatred.

As for creating terrorists, of course. Killing Osama would create terrorists. There is no way from here to victory without their side arming up some new enlistments. To propose discrete police action as a less inflammatory alternative begs the question as to whether it would get us to victory. It wouldn't. It also begs the question as to whether the Bush Doctrine is correct in holding that in the long run liberating the Middle East will cause a decrease in terrorist enlistments because people with a life in a free society don't become terrorists.

Posted by: Jim at May 25, 2004 07:06 PM

Mork,

Never mind idiots - unless they represent a big bulk of the population.

However, did France dealt in good faith with USA in the UN?

The elections in Germany were held before Iraq invasion. Didn't Shroder base his winning on an anti-american platform?

And I wont start with the mainstream press in France, Germany, Belgium, etc.

Your argument is not based on facts and consequently is not convincing.

Posted by: marek at May 25, 2004 07:23 PM

Jim - you are living in a fantasy land. It's cute that you believe our propaganda, but you end up sounding foolish and delusional if you start working from the assumption that the rest of the world recognizes the truth of our claims but resists because they are evil or because they hate us no matter what we do.

marek - the "anti-American" Schroeder sent thousands of German troops to Afghanistan, but campaigned specifically against an invasion of Iraq. I think he supports my contention rather than yours.

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 07:31 PM

Mork, I don't know what you mean. I said that the rest of the world denies the truth of our claims. What do you mean?

If you mean that the rest of the world doesn't believe that we are liberating Iraq but flat out assumes that we are instead colonizing it, stealing its oil, etc., then the only explanation for that level of distrust is that they antecedently hated us. The evidence that we are actually doing those things is non-existent.

Posted by: Jim at May 25, 2004 07:45 PM

Mork,

Shroder campaign was anti-american and not just anti-invasion. Big difference.

Posted by: marek at May 25, 2004 08:00 PM

I got the impression that Mork wanted to do this:

1. Stipulate that Bush has no intention to liberate Iraq but rather to do otherwise to Iraq and that this is so obvious that anyone who believes Iraq is to be liberated is "living in a fantasy land";

and then

2. Say, "Okay, now I say that the invasion of Iraq gave Europeans their reason to be outraged at America. Alright? Who wants to debate me on this point? Any takers?"

Of course, if we stipulate that the invasion of Iraq is obviously evil, then it follows that the invasion of Iraq gives Europeans their reason to hate us. So, it's a pseudo-debate. And who on earth would accept the premise that anyone who believes Iraq is being liberated is "living in a fantasy land"?

Posted by: Jim at May 25, 2004 09:57 PM

Mork, did I say we needed to invade every country that might threaten us? No. But I do want every country who might threaten us to worry about consequences.

Be that as it may, by all means tell me what, upon reflection, I might not wish to say. I'm truly interested in hearing where you believe my mind would go, were it unbound by logic.

In other words, tell me where my analysis is wrong.

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 10:09 PM

Michael. No help on Northern Africa from me. I was in Joburg SA, which is in a sense a world removed from Libya.

On the other hand, if you get to Milan, visit Il Duomo. Words really can't describe.

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 25, 2004 10:24 PM

What about the multiplier effects of co-ordinating diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement efforts with allies who are now less inclined to trust us or co-operate with us?

I want to touch on this from one of Mork's earlier posts, even though he is being disappointingly thin with his arguements here and it probably won't get an honest response.

This is how we got Lubya's nukes. A co-ordinated diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement effort with partners such as GERMANY. We nailed a Libyan shipment of WMD material as part of an international effort (if I remember correctly, it was a German boat that actually intercepted the shipment). Meanwhile, Saddam is getting smashed up for being stubborn nearby. Qaddaffi has already been trying to get back into the good grace of the international community, so he folds and disarms. In the process, we get leads on Pakistan and Kahn's nuke market. A big anti-proliferation coup scored with international co-operation from our apparently alienated allies. This is not an opportunity we have lost because of the Bush Doctrine, it's already been happening and it is still going on.

There are many of Bush's critics who think that Libya's disarmament had nothing to do with the Iraq war, indeed, we may have pulled this off without the added show of US power being applied to tricky dictators. Either way, it gives the lie to Bush's foreign policy limiting our ability to work with Europe against terrorism and the spread of WMD.

And then there are little matters like getting Iraqi debt forgiven by countries that opposed the intervention. That actually surprised me. And France was with us when we went into Haiti.

Posted by: Sortelli at May 25, 2004 10:50 PM

Sortelli - it's good to see you, despite the cheap shot. Of course it's thin - it's a g-d blog comment, not an essay. And I don't think you can say that you've ever failed to get an honest response out of me.

As for your argument - I agree with everything you say except your conclusion. Showing that there is some level of co-operation does not prove your point or disprove mine ... we are necessarily talking in hypotheticals - what nature and intensity of co-operation (diplomatic, intelligence, law-enforcement, military) would have been available were it not for Iraq, and what could the civilized world have done with it.

And I think there's plenty of evidence that European governments distrust this Administration on a strategic level, no matter how willing they are to co-operate on a tactical level when goals and methods coincide.

Posted by: Mork at May 25, 2004 11:48 PM

Mork:

And I think there's plenty of evidence that European governments distrust this Administration on a strategic level, no matter how willing they are to co-operate on a tactical level when goals and methods coincide.

Tactics should always be subordinate to strategy. That's the difference betwaan Dogma and Philosophy. If the philosophy is unsound, the dogma is unsound.

France's bamning religious headwear illustrates a strategic difference between the US straegy and the dominant European strategy. The US strategy is to confront intolerance. The European strategy is to ban intolerance. One is probably wrong.

You can guess which side I think is more wrong.

Posted by: Mark Poling at May 26, 2004 12:07 AM

It's thin, Mork, because you didn't do much more than say to Mark "I'm right, and you're wrong, so I'm not even going to discuss it with you because you're silly". Honestly, I expect better of you, But thanks for being patient about my own past snarkery.

Your response to me about hypotheticals is just ad hoc reasoning. Yeah, maybe if Bush didn't invade Iraq, France would have dropped purple poodles of love into the Middle East, who would soothe the angry terrorists with their puppy eyes. But we'll never know.

I agree there's plenty of friction between us and Europe, but that hasn't stopped us from working together in very real and significant ways, which refutes your claim that the Bush Doctrine has prevented us from working with other nations to curb terror. Disarming Lybia and knuckling down on Pakistan was a big deal.

I can deal with the Bush Doctrine making people angry, but it is not logically necessary that those angry people will suddenly start actively aiding terrorists who are as much a threat to themselves as they are to us. Positive changes are happening, and they're not just popping out of thin air.

If there's any reason we're not getting more co-operation out of Arab leaders or even from Europe, I think it's because they're holding out in the hopes that all the pressure they're feeling from Bush could evaporate next year under Kerry. I want them to keep feeling pressured. Kerry's not going to inspire the world to do more against terrorism by beng friendlier, he's going to end up spending four years apologizing for our cowboy adventures.

Posted by: Sortelli at May 26, 2004 06:40 AM

Maybe I'm jumping in on this conversation a little late but, yeah, I've been really impressed with Hillary Clinton as of late too!!!

She's slowly and consistently turning into a real liberal hawk. Maybe it's the ghost of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. God, wouldn't that be great?! Moynihan was a hell of a Senator.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at May 27, 2004 09:16 PM

Michael, I don't think you will have problems in Italy from Italians. Think WWII. The Italians didn't want to be there. They went along with Il Duce. After all, he got the trains to run on-time. They have a saying that there was never a better dictator with a worse people. I've been there a few times and I've found that Italians in general aren't all that political. I haven't been there since 9/11 so I don't know if it's changed, but I doubt it.
A political conversation would go like this:
Italian 1 "How about them elections?"
Italian 2, "Eh Lura. Have some vino. You try the cheese?"

If you get harassed in Italy, find out the nationality of the people doing it. I bet it's not Italian.

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