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View Diary: 'Does [Gaddafi] not say that authority is with the people? WE are the people!' (149 comments)

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  •  Fair enough (1+ / 0-)
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    I use a language that is often used by right-wingers as an excuse for American unilateralism, which IMO, it is a poor excuse.  It is not that I disagree with the model, for at heart I largely accept the realist framing.  It just that the right gets it wrong.  Which they almost always do because they put the cart before the horse: the right never seems to see a war they don't like.  Realism is used by the right as a convenient justification for violence, any violence, done in our name.

    But that does not mean the model is faulty.  Indeed, when applied it provides a lot.  

    Take Vietnam.  In Vietnam, the US allowed itself to get involved in a war we could never have won.  At it's most basic level, we were fighting against Vietnamese (anti-colonial) nationalism.  Short of invading North Vietnam and terrorizing the people into submission, there was no way to win that war.  First and foremost, we could not invade.  That would have brought in China, and we learned that we could not defeat China during the Korean War (China will at all cost prevent an unfriendly govt on its borders [take note re: North Korea...]).  As for terrorizing the people into submission, well, it seems to me that (thankfully) Americans at that time did not "have the stomach for it."  That is, we are basically a decent people.  Still, we are flawed in our decency and tolerate our and our allies' killing and repressing people, as long as we don't see it happening.  But all that is rather moot, as quite simply, the US did not have the power to take on China and win.  That is, if our leaders had really been operating along the dictates realpolitik, we would never have gotten into Vietnam in the first place.

    Take Iraq: again, applying the theory of realism, the US simply, as we have seen, does not have the power to remake Iraq.  A fool's errand to begin with, we are now stuck there, bleeding money and lives.  As the whole idea is that a nation's prestige is ultimately rooted in it's ability to successfully push around other countries, our failure in Iraq has cost us a lot.   [Note: While I do not like that fact, that certainly seems to be the way international politics works]  

    As for pushing around and exploiting Latin America, we do it because we can.   I do not support such behavior because I do not think it necessary and, while good for a subset of commercial interests, I think it counter to other commercial and strategic US interest.  

    US interests are, or rather should be, about strengthening viable, secular democracies, about promoting sustainable economic growth and about providing the heavy lifting in the maintenance international institutions within which other nations and particularly the 'developing' ones from reaching their potential.   It seems to me that nations that move along that path develop into status quo powers that want to play ball with the West.  

    And I like the West.   I prefer Western values and want to see them flourish.  I see US power as relatively decreasing over the rest of my lifetime and strongly believe that we should do our level best to inculcate and enshrine our values as much as possible in the international community.

    •  Much of the problem now that U.S. power... (6+ / 0-) diminishing is that our nation HAD a chance to enshrine its values (the idealistic ones) into the international community but when it had the power, among the values "enshrined" were the supposed right to intervene at will, regardless of the U.N. Charter and other international agreements. Some administrations were worse than others, of course, but ultimately, from the first interventions in Central America through the Iraq war, the U.S. offered up a model of meddling and imperialist adventurism that gives us not such a great record to stand on when criticizing other nations for any future meddling abroad.

      And one thing about terrorizing the Vietnamese. The U.S. dropped more bomb tonnage on that country than it dropped in Europe, by far. The U.S. defoliated large swaths of the country with long-lasting mutagenic and carcinogenic toxins. The U.S. strafed, napalmed and bombed for years. It supervised torture by the South Vietnamese army. The U.S. ran its own vast assassination program with at least 40,000 victims. I'd say it did a helluva a good job of terrorizing.

      Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 11:58:47 AM PST

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      •  I ask you, then, what country do you know (1+ / 0-)
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        of other than the US that the 'international community' would trust with the same level of power that the US has as it trusts the US?

        For that matter, what country would you?  I know Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the whole of Europe trust us and not China and Russia, respectively.

        The question is not whether the US skrews up.  It does.  The question is, considering that we do have the power, do our skrew ups entirely overshadow the stabilizing and democritising effect in the world.

        You seem to believe that the US's bad behavior is the only part of the story.  I wonder how you reach that conclusion, as I wonder what alternative you offer.

        I am unaware of any great power that that does not meddle in and push around other nations.  The question is, ultimately, to what end.  

        •  I don't think the U.S.'s bad behavior is the... (1+ / 0-)
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          ...only part of the story. Obviously not. But I can count the number of justifiable wars/interventions the U.S. has been engaged in since 1790 on one hand.

          Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

          by Meteor Blades on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 12:49:02 PM PST

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          •  And again (1+ / 0-)
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            What country do you know of,other than the US, that the 'international community' would trust with the same level of power that the US has as it trusts the US?

            For that matter, what country would you?

            •  I wouldn't trust any country with the same... (3+ / 0-)
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              liz, lotlizard, aoeu

              ...level of power the U.S. has. I don't trust the U.S. to use it wisely in many instances. No other country in history has ever had the level of power the U.S. has.

              Don't tell me what you believe. Tell me what you do and I'll tell you what you believe.

              by Meteor Blades on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 02:27:32 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry for the delay (0+ / 0-)

                Your answer says it all:

                You see the world as you wish it to be, not as it is.  And this attitude of yours is a luxury that the rulers of Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Europe cannot afford to adopt.

        •  uh huh (2+ / 0-)
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          liz, lotlizard

          in fact, we do not "entrust" the US with the power it has (had). The US has gotten itself this power (fought a world war to get it).

          this is a very peculiar American self-image, this idea that others would have in some way freely opted for this state of affairs..

          Poland likes your power because it is far away over the oceans. Russian power is behind the next forest and its easy and historically with precedent for Russia to regard Poland as a province. When people prefer American hegemony over their neighbours hegemony, then in the most cases it is precisely because America isnt the neighbour. You understimate how much benefit you draw politically from the oceanic separation between you and many other parts of the world. The blunder America committed in Iraq was that it forgot that exactly its relative far-away character (the "over the horizon balancing") made it palatable to people.

          Ici s´arrète la loi.

          by marsanges on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 04:29:49 PM PST

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          •  This is not a question mere self-image (1+ / 0-)
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            It's an appreciation of the historical record.  The facts for Europe and Japan are straightforward:  the US provided security and public goods at a very low cost, which Europe and Japan ran with to become wealthy social-welfare states.  Europe and Japan had the option and still have the option to create greater geo-political independence from the US, and have chosen not to do so.  And still choose not to.

            To the extent that the our self-image goes beyond that essential bargain, you are correct.  Here, regarding wether Japan and Europe (and Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand for that matter) trust the US, you are fundamentally mistaken.  

            When you talk with people from those countries who are involved with strategic issues, they view the relative decline of American power great trepidation.  Frankly, they consider the relative rise of China and Russia with cold terror.  As much as they may resent American impositions, obviously they prefer the devil they know.

            Insofar as the populace of those nations, you need to confront the question that if they are democratic societies, why they continue to abide the bargain their leaders have made with American power.

    •  it is easier (1+ / 0-)
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      to argue "realpolitik" in hindsight than towards the future. But it´s the future that we have to decide what to do about. You could not have known with certainty beforehand that the US "didnt have the power" to remake Iraq. That was a decision by the Iraqi people themselves. They chose how they reacted. There is no automatism and the "realpolitik" approach is always flawed because the weightings it wants to measure, do not exist yet in the present, they only come into being in response to actions.

      So to guide your actions you need a conception of what you yourself want, whether it is realistic or not. Only from there can you then go to realpolitik and see what can be achieved in the direction you have chosen. That means, this "national interest" that you want to uphold, also does not exist all by itself. It´s nothing but a distillation of your choices projected on the nation as carrier.

      You seem to be aware of that yourself when you say "  US interests are, or rather should be, .. "

      Should be. Who says? Your choice of what they should be, are not at all coincident with what, say Kissinger, or Cheney would choose. McArthur was fired because he followed a different definition of US Interest than that of his boss. If you choose your values as the guidestar of your "national interests" then you will quickly find that many non-Americans are your natural allies, and many Americans are your sworn enemies. If you´re willing to say that American national interests have to be defended against Americans, then I´m with you.  

      Ici s´arrète la loi.

      by marsanges on Sat Feb 26, 2011 at 04:19:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Forgive me for joining late (1+ / 0-)
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        But I'm not sure I follow you.  You seem to be arguing that because different people have different ideas about American interests that they cannot be defined, but that American values, which people definitely have differing ideas about as well, can be.

        I do not follow this logic.

        You also argue that it could not be foreseen that American power could not transform Iraq into a Democratic nation until the experiment was tried.  With due respect, that is simply untrue.  Not only was it possible, but a great many people did see exactly that and argued strenuously against the invasion on the basis of American interests.  As a matter of fact I know that Plubius did argue against it on exactly that basis.

        Here is something that I wrote on another forum on February 6, 2003.  It includes many of the issues that Plubius and I discussed at the time.

        I spent a good deal of the time that I lived in Japan trying to convince Japanese people that my nation was not merely a collection violent, vulgar, trigger-happy bullies who spent most of their time looking for enemies.  What a disillusionment I faced upon my return to discover that there was a good deal of truth behind the prejudices I had encountered in the wonderful land of Wa.

        I posted these questions on another thread and have yet to receive any satisfactory answers, so I'll post it here again for all the self-righteous blood-thirsty war mongers who have thoroughly embarrassed my country during the entire time that this "debate" about Iraq has been raging.

        First and foremost, I would like to know exactly why we must go to war to topple a gelded little Caesar especially when our distraction has encouraged Kim Jong Il to fire up the ol' nuke plant again. Is it because Kim already has nukes?  Being as a North Korean official recently warned South Koreans that the North had "the capability to devastate Seoul and surrounding areas with conventional forces ALONE [emphasis added]," it would seem a good bet. In fact, American intelligence analysts believe Kim has two bombs already and we know that he is now in the process of making even more.  Why don't we deal with this far more pressing, and very far from contained problem?  Could it be because even though Kim is by far the greater danger a war in Korea won't be a high ratings cakewalk like the one the Pretenders think they're going to have in Iraq?

        That leads to question number two: If the reason that we're not going after a proven menace is that the proven menace DOES have WMDs, then what does that say about what we think of Saddam's WMD capability?  Hint: Not much.

        Boy, those are real stumpers, huh? Okay how about we move on to the really hard questions.  After all the fireworks are over, How exactly ARE we going to establish democracy in Iraq?  Recall that Baghdad is one of the oldest, if not the oldest cities in the world and that it has NEVER known democracy.  Recall also that no democracy has ever been established by force in a nation that did not previously have an indigenous democratic tradition of some sort.  Now, just for the sake of argument, let's say that the corrupt, incompetent blusterers who are driving our own democracy into the ground at about mach 6 do manage to somehow create a democracy there in the cradle of civilization.  How are we going to deal with the fact that the majority of the people in the country have been oppressed by the minority that has been in power for the last several decades? Hint: Remember when that nasty totalitarian communist regime finally fell in Yugoslavia? Wasn't that great?

        Okay, how about this one: If we attempt to wage this in the classic manner of an imperial power, that is by using a minimum number of your own troops and relying instead on local auxiliaries like we did in Kosovo and Afghanistan, then how do buy off our mercenaries? See that's how Don Rumsfeld likes to fight wars. Schwarzkopf thinks its stupid -- and he's right. That's why the men that died at Tora Bora were Afghans rather than American.  It's also why Osama bin Laden (you DO remember Osama, right?) is still at large. So if we employ the Kurds (and it seems our spec warriors are already buddying it up) what do we promise them in return? Autonomy? Well, what about the Kurds in Syria and Turkey then?  Do they agitate for an independent homeland?  If they do are they going to use the base we just established for them across the border in Iraq to conduct a campaign of terrorism against our oldest ally in the Middle East, and one of the few regimes in the region committed to secularism That's a tough one too, huh?

        Okay, how about this one: Where in the budget that Mr. Bush just submitted to Congress, is the money for this war?  You know the budget I'm talking about, the one with the 1.5 TRILLION dollars in tax cuts.  What's that, you say?  I thought it was only $674 Billion?  Well, it seems that while everyone in America was talking about the war, the Pretenders pulled a fast one on us, sending in a budget with more than DOUBLE the tax cuts proposed publicly.  You'd think that kind of duplicity would get more attention in the media, wouldn't you?  But, I guess with the war coming up and all, we can't really be bothered with such trivia.  Lucky break for Bush that there is a war looming, huh?  But I digress, where in that budget  with its increased spending on useless defense technologies produced by companies in which Bush's daddy holds stock, where in that budget with the record projected 307 billion dollar deficit for next year, where in that budget is the money for this war?  Hmmm. Okay, then where is the money for the occupation to follow? You do realize that Pentagon optimists have forecast a minimum of an eighteen month occupation, of course. You also realize that if we fight without UN approval, then we shoulder all costs. Yes, that's right boys and girls, play alone, pay alone. How are we gonna pay for this party? Lean on Japan again? Nope. This time they're too smart. They're at the front of the line to lend moral support. Ain't gonna squeeze any funds outta Japan this time. Where's the dough come from then?  Hint: Don't actually waste your time looking in the budget.  The question is rhetorical.

        And finally, I leave you with the question which we should all have been asking ourselves these past several months: What did happen to all those business scandals that were threatening to undermine Bush's approval ratings about the time that he remembered there was a place called Iraq that wasn't very good at fighting wars?

        Now remember, boys and girls.  This is a timed test.  The clock is running down.  I know, because the president said so on TV.

        As you can see, there were some of us who knew from the get-go that American power could not transform Iraq nearly so easily as the Bush Administration suggested.  It is completely possible to come to sound conclusions about wise foreign policies from within a framework of realpolitik.

        "I always found it interesting that people would cast aspersions on failure, as if it were a bad thing." -- Michael Steele, RNC Chairman

        by journeyman on Sun Feb 27, 2011 at 11:33:17 AM PST

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      •  Journeyman has done us the favor (0+ / 0-)

        of demonstrating that it is completely possible to come to sound conclusions about wise foreign policies from within a framework of realpolitik.  

        International relations, that is international politics, is predicated on power.  And woe to a nation that fails to deeply mediate on that.   People may either glibly ignore that the decisive means for politics is violence, or though hubris fail to appreciate that to understand power one must understand it's limitations.  

        Either way, when such voices carry the day, the nation is in peril.  For it has divorced itself from reality.

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