Where's my check, Karl?
Posted by aogTuesday, 17 October 2006 at 11:17 TrackBack Ping URL

The folks at Hot Air are whining about the occupation of Iraq not going well.

Yes, it’s not going well. That’s the risk you take when engaging in countering large scale threats. Nothing I have read recently changes my view on the subject, because I considered this kind of outcome from the beginning and decided the effort was worth the risk.

Could the Bush Adminstration done better? Certainly. Not only possibly1 but practically2. Yet, I cannot but think that in the long view of history, the occupation will be lost in the middling ground of not great, but not terrible.

On the other hand, I think that the overall situation has achieved most3 of the original objectives.

  • The Iraqi Ba’ath are no longer capable of developing WMD.
  • The Iraqi sanctions are no more.
  • We are fighting the Caliphascists in their territory, not ours.
  • Liberal democracy in Arabia is no longer a forlorn hope.
  • The Caliphascists are suffering from an even worse public relations disaster than the USA.
  • The anti-Western chatterati are being driven to such extremes that they are discrediting themselves (see the Lancet study blowback for an example).

Overall, then, I see the makings of a significant strategic victory.

I suppose one major difference is that I place the blame for all of the killing in Iraq on the people doing the killing, not those trying to prevent it. The USA has spent, bled, and died to minimize the deaths. I feel no shame on behalf of my nation because others are mass murdering scum and so I do not regret my support for the invasion at all.


1 It’s trivial to think of ways, post facto, in which a complex undertaking could have been done better if the directors had infinite attention to spend on every detail with perfectly obedient underlings. In real life, however, one must account for the finite attention span of humans, the limited knowledge under which they operate, and the fallibility of the other humans in the enterprise. This always leads to situations where it’s not a question of whether to prevent a fiasco, but which fiasco to allow. I certainly have made deliberate decisions to allow a fiasco to occur so that I could focus my time and energy on preventing even bigger fiascos elsewhere. Anyone who doesn’t give a knowing nod at that is someone who’s never managed a complex project. This is the difference between possible fiasco prevention and plausible prevention.

2 The three biggest for me were

  • Not shooting looters on sight during the first few weeks. That would not only have helped immediately but would have set a tone that would have paid benefits for a long time afterwards.
  • Paul Bremer.
  • Abandoning the journalist embedding effort.

3 Anyone who thinks there exist major projects that achieve all of their goals is living in a fantasy world unpolluted with real world facts.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
Steven Wood Friday, 20 October 2006 at 08:49

I’ve some questions

1) Why do you support deomcracy in Iraq and not Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait et al ? If you do, then why does the government sell these countries weapons ?

2) If you were an Iraqi would you trust the US when it invaded your country, when it says it’s mostly for the benefit of the Iraqi people ? The US gave support for Saddam Hussein before, why should they be trusted now supposing asn an Iraqi you wanted rid of Saddam ?

3) Why would ot be OK to shoot looters in Iraq, but presumably not in New Orleans after Katrina for example ?

4) In two wars the US have killed more Iraqis than saddam hussein ever did. How can you call the others “mass” murdering scum ? They might be murderers all right, but the scale is important.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 20 October 2006 at 09:21
  1. How do you know I don’t support liberal democracy in those other countries? If you are going to make broad assertions like that, you should have at least a little bit of evidence.
    • I support the national security interests of the USA. In the long term, that is best served by the emergence of liberal democracies in other nations, but short term tactics may dictate otherwise for limited periods.
    • Better to light a single candle than curse the darkness. Better to work on liberal democracy in one country than guarantee failure by trying to do everything at once.
    • I was unaware that my opinion was the controlling factor for federal government approval of weapons sales.
  2. Yes. There is plenty of historical evidence in that regard, particularly since WWII. When the USA gave support to the Iraqi Ba’ath, it was to prevent the invasion and occupation of Iraq by a foreign oppressive regime (Iran). Moreover, what’s the superior alternative to trusting the USA? Trusting the Caliphascists?
  3. Again, you are assigning opinions to me for which you have no evidence. It makes me doubt your good faith in discussing the issue. As it turns out, I think shooting the looters in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina would have been a good idea.
  4. Your assertion is false. The USA has killed vastly fewer Iraqis than the Iraqi Ba’ath (which killed from 1 - 3 million)4. One notes that the USA has also killed far fewer Iraqis than its post-Ba’ath regime opponents in Iraq. Even if you take the Lancet report as legitimate, the vast majority of those deaths were the direct result of the anti-USA forces in Iraq. If you think that Iraqis should support the forces that kill the fewest Iraqis, then you think they should support the USA / Coalition forces, which puts you in agreement with me. Glad I could clear that up for you.


4 Changed from “2-3”. Further research has lead to me conclude that 1 is a better lower bound.

cjm Friday, 20 October 2006 at 11:59

i have a few questions of my own, for wood:

1. why is your sense of right and wrong inverted ?

2. if the u.s. is so evil in your expressed views, why do you continue to live here ?

3. what form of government do you believe to be the most benevolent towards its citizens ?

4. do you think the msm have any credibility on any issue ?

Steven Wood Monday, 23 October 2006 at 08:07

Firstly, I don’t live in the US, I live in Scotland. Secondly, disagreeing with the imperialist folly that is Iraq does not make me “hate america”. The neo-con architects of this war, who have utterly discredited themselves with their shockingly innacurate predictions of the post war landscape remain quiet, but yet you continue to bang the drum in support, of this war of “liberation”. Never forget that the ‘advisors’ who planned this war told us in 2002 “A year from now I’d be surprised if there’s not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush.” How can you treat these people as if they are foreign policy experts ?

Foreign powers who invade other countries are never welcomed. There are no “good” iraqis to hand power over to - observe the rise of al-Sadr and his kin post elections. We were not invited. We had no mandate. We had nothing to latch on to, no legitimacy. It wasn’t a question of being tactful, respectful, munificent, or handing sweets to children. We were impostors, and that is all.

Where do you get your figure that the Baathist regieme killed 2 - 3 million Iraqis ? For someone who I’m sure was amongst the first to disregard the lancet figures, 1 million people is a pretty high margin of error for a start. It hardly sounds accurate to me. We tolerate brutal dictators all over the world, and the fanatical islamist lunatics who are lining up to replace Saddam are hardly the sort of people you associate with liberal deomcracy. At least saddam was a secularist and had won his decades long war with the fanatics. If we could support him when he dropped chemical weapons on Iranian troops , what’s so bad about ignoring the fact that he butchers islamic fundamentalists at home ? There was no threat from Caliphatists until we stepped in.

When you talk about democracy, you must also know that the US are in no way interested in a Saudi Arabia which is democratic in the sense that its government reflects the opinions of its population. That would be bad for us. How should arabs feel when they see the UK prime minister waffling about spreading freedom to the middle east, hence why the publc should support his war in Iraq whilst at the same time selling Euro fighters to SA. That the UK & US have their interests at heart ? That their policy is in anyway being applied consistently ? No sane person can see any of this as consistent. We attack Iraq because we suspected they may have been developing WMD, that remember, was the whole reason for the war. No WMD ? Oh well - it’s to free the Iraqi people. But wait a minute - North Korea, another axis of evil country publicly announce their intention to develop WMD and nothing is done - why is this ? I can hear your answer - North Korea would threaten it’s neighbours and has a stronger military - pragmatically Iraq was an easier target. Real answer - North Korea doesn’t have lots of oil nor can it threaten to destablise any oil rich neighbours.

Anyway - Imperialism requires a home population willing to run the imperial possesion, observe how during the days of the British Empire, we ran the Indian civil service, our top graduates would go there to work. No harvard or princeton grad. would have any interest in moving to Baghdad to live. All great empires export people, the US doesn’t. This war is the same as any other america has been involved in since WW2, they will eventually cut and run, but they’ll have made sure Iraqi oil will be available to US markets when its needed. They’ll have also made sure that the Saudi or Kuwaiti oilfields are not threatened by an aggresive neighbour, who if he owned them, would have the world by the throat. The most succesful model of nation building by the US is Germany and Japan where troops where stationed en-masse for decades. Show me another country where the US style of “go in, shoot the bad guy and make ‘em vote” has worked ? The difference is that they had a popular mandate to be in Germany and Japan, and they’ve none in Iraq. Deep down you must know this.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 23 October 2006 at 09:52

Mr. Wood;

In general, I note that you evaded addressing any of my points, and continued to attribute to me opinions for which you have no evidence and frequently are inaccurate. That kind of thing is one reason I find people like you so un-persuasive — it’s a clear “if you don’t have the facts, pound the table” response. Nevertheless, I will attempt to address your points, such as I can extract.

How can you treat these people as if they are foreign policy experts?

I don’t. This is an excellent example of what I was thinking of in my lead paragraph.

Foreign powers who invade other countries are never welcomed

Clearly false, as you show by your own later examples of Germany and Japan. If you added “at first” to you statement, it might be true, but that would undercut the rest of your argument, wouldn’t it?

There are no “good” iraqis to hand power over to […] fanatical islamist lunatics who are lining up to replace Saddam are hardly the sort of people you associate with liberal deomcracy

That would seem to validate my original thesis, wouldn’t it? That the carnage was inevitable, it was just a matter of time. I, personally, don’t believe that, but I fail to see how you can and still argue as you do.

We had nothing to latch on to, no legitimacy

“We”? I thought you were aghast at the USA as a citizen of the UK. Are you now talking about the Coalition as a whole? As for legitimacy, my study of history indicates that a crushing military defeat generally suffices for legitimacy. I will cite again Germany, Japan, Korea. Could you cite a counter-example, or is this a subtle attempt to discredit the concept of invasions by completely ignoring history?

Where do you get your figure that the Baathist regieme killed 2 - 3 million Iraqis? […] It hardly sounds accurate to me.

Yes, it’s not very accurate. When did I claim otherwise? It does, however, rely on far more substantive data than the Lancet study, which is continuing to be laughed at by ever greater numbers of people with clue.

As for Iraqi deaths by Ba’ath, we could start with the Iran-Iraq War, an adventure launched by the Iraqi Ba’ath. That cost Iraq roughly 500,000. We could also look at the 1991 uprising in southern Iraq. There was the Anfal Campaign against the Kurds. The mass executions of Iraqi Communists early in the regime. The deaths resulting from the sanctions, a direct result of the Ba’ath regime’s refusal to comply with its treaties and the UN. And note — I haven’t even touched on the day to day retail terror that is part and parcel of such a regime. See Republic of Fear for more detail on that. Even anti-war types support a lower limit of 1 million.

All of that took only 5-10 minutes of research. The fact that you were apparently unaware of that history causes me some doubt as to the depth of your understanding of the situation.

At least saddam was a secularist

That’s a recommendation? Secularists have a far higher tally of dead than the religious this century. Or in the history of the world. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the terms “USSR” and “Maoist China”. Try netsearching those for some interesting results.

There was no threat from Caliphatists until we stepped in

World Trade Center, 1993. USS Cole, 2000. Khobar Towers, 1998. Bali, 2002. Threats of nulear genocide against Israel. That’s what you call no threat? I disagree.

you must also know that the US are in no way interested in a Saudi Arabia which is democratic

False. The current foreign policy appartchiks have no such interest, but the American Street thinks it would be a fine idea. It would not be “bad for us [USA?]”, it would be bad for the careers of the appartchiks. I frequently complain about that situation, search my archives for the phrase “Saudi Entity”, as I refuse to dignify that regime with its claimed title.

How should arabs feel when they see the UK prime minister waffling about spreading freedom to the middle east, hence why the publc should support his war in Iraq whilst at the same time selling Euro fighters to SA

Shouldn’t you be talking to PM Blair about that, not whining to some American war-monger?

That their policy is in anyway being applied consistently?

OK, it’s not. Your point is …? See the “single candle” quote above.

WMD, that remember, was the whole reason for the war

Utterly false. Try reading what President Bush actually said to the UN.

North Korea, another axis of evil country publicly announce their intention to develop WMD and nothing is done - why is this?

Former Presidents Carter and Clinton. You also seem to be evading the implications of a certain event that occurred on 11 Sep, 2001, which caused a strong re-interpretation of facts on the ground.

North Korea would threaten it’s neighbours and has a stronger military - pragmatically Iraq was an easier target. Real answer - North Korea doesn’t have lots of oil nor can it threaten to destablise any oil rich neighbours.

Iraq also has the potential for many follow on advantages in a large region. North Korea is basically sui generis. There is also the fact that the American Hegemony already has an outpost next door, South Korea. Iraq will serve a similar purpose in Arabia.

Imperialism requires a home population willing to run the imperial possesion, observe how during the days of the British Empire, we ran the Indian civil service, our top graduates would go there to work.

That’s so last millenium. The New Model American Empire doesn’t require that. In fact, we bring the administrators here for training, then send them back. It’s the same sort of cultural colonization, but subtler and less costly. The American Hegemony creates states whose interests naturally align with ours, so there is no need of the kind of explicit control the British Empire required.

This war is the same as any other america has been involved in since WW2, they will eventually cut and run

That’s a very funny argument against supporting President Bush and the Republican party, since if (as you seem to) think it’s a bad idea, such support is one’s only choice. However, as far as I can tell, the war in Vietnam is the only example. It didn’t happen in Korea, for instance.

Show me another country where the US style of “go in, shoot the bad guy and make ‘em vote” has worked?

South Korea. Panama. Grenada.

The difference is that they [the USA] had a popular mandate to be in Germany and Japan

You can’t possibly be serious about that. That’s a whitewashed version of history, written because we won. Should Iraq turn out well, people like you will be writing things like that about it 50 years from now.

Steven Wood Monday, 23 October 2006 at 11:10
The difference is that they [the USA] had a popular mandate to be in Germany and Japan
You can’t possibly be serious about that

Of course I’m serious about it. Post war, I don’t recall seeing many demonstrations in West Germany about the presence of US troops there, the west german public wanted them there, realising they were vastly preferable to the soviets. If you wish to dispute this do so, you can then contrast it with the feelings of the Iraqi populace towards the US army. If this is what you call a state “whose interests naturally align with ours” then you are wrong. Tell me, in what way Iraqs interests naturally align with the US ?

When I say “There was no threat from Caliphatists until we stepped in”, clearly I mean that if there were they were making little progress in IRAQ, rather than denying they existed until the war in Iraq began. However I wont throw a hissy fit about false attribution of opinions.

Iraq also has the potential for many follow on advantages in a large region. North Korea is basically sui generis. There is also the fact that the American Hegemony already has an outpost next door, South Korea. Iraq will serve a similar purpose in Arabia.

I’m glad we agree that the war is really an imperial one aimed at securing americas strategic interests, and has little to do with concern for the ordinary Iraqi. However you are way wrong with your last line, they already have Israel and it’s safe to say that each generation of arabs grows up hating america more than the last. I would be very surprised if Iraq became an pro-US outpost in the middle east given the obvious level of disgust the average arab seems to feel towards america. It may become an “outpost” in just the way Saudia Arabia is.

As for your claims that democracy in Saudi Arabia would somehow be good for the US - how do you work this one out given the level of hostilty felt towards the US by arabs ? Democracy in the west bank was hardly good for Israel, unless as a pretext to further isolate the palestenians.

The finger of blame for 9/11 pointed at Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia far more than Iraq.

Could you cite a counter-example, or is this a subtle attempt to discredit the concept of invasions by completely ignoring history?

Now you confuse me, would you say that the occupation by Iraq of Kuwait was legitimate or that the soviet crushing of hungary was legitmate. You contend military might makes it legitimate to occupy a foerign a country yet you accuse me of “last century” thinking ?

Regarding my opinions about the justification for the invasion - I refer you to the support of Iraqi use of chemical weapons against Iranians. This was fine as it prevented Iran from spreading its infulence, now even you must admit that Iran is more influential in Iraq now than it ever was during Saddams tenure. By standards, if this was a policy aim it has been a disaster.

Finally you say that to suggest that WMD was the sole reason given for the invasion is “utterly false” yet we were told “We have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction - that is what this war was about and is about.” I als recall that it was a pre emptive war. Pre empting what if there were no threat from WMD. Anyway you look at the public were given a muddy and concoted story to justify the invasion ans that is why so many americans still believe that there are WMD’s in Iraq.

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 23 October 2006 at 12:59

Mr. Wood;

Of course I’m serious about it. Post war, I don’t recall seeing many demonstrations in West Germany about the presence of US troops there, the west german public wanted them there, realising they were vastly preferable to the soviets.

Perhaps the previous 5 years of total war, the bombing campaigns, etc., the willingness of Allied troops to shoot trouble makers, might have also had something to do with it? Really, if there was a popular mandate, why was there such a fight beforehand? Why did we nuke Japan?

Is your view that the “we didn’t smash them hard enough” camp on the invasion of Iraq is correct? That had we flattened Iraq the way we did Germany and Japan, we could have avoided all this trouble? That we should also have handed over part of Iraq to Turkey, to help create a popular mandate? If not, why do you think there was a popular mandate in Japan and Germany but not Iraq? What made the difference? Should the USA have done the same thing in Iraq? Why or why not?

Oh, and what happened to this claim of yours —

Foreign powers who invade other countries are never welcomed

Except when in Germany and Japan?

When I say “There was no threat from Caliphatists until we stepped in?, clearly I mean that if there were they were making little progress in IRAQ, rather than denying they existed until the war in Iraq began.

So, a foreign policy that moves the Caliphascist threat from being against the American homeland and American citizens and assets, to not, is a failure? I am completely missing your point here.

I’m glad we agree that the war is really an imperial one aimed at securing americas strategic interests

Didn’t I state that back here? It does not follow, however, that it therefore “has little to do with concern for the ordinary Iraqi”. You are presuming that those are opposed or unrelated, whereas I believe that the latter is a key instrumentality for the former.

it’s safe to say that each generation of arabs grows up hating america more than the last

I think not. One need merely look at immigration statistics to see how far off the mark that is. Besides, hasn’t the primary theme there been that Arabs hate America because it supports oppressive Arab dictators? Do Arabs now hate the USA because it deposes oppressive Arab dictators?

Moreover, that’s not very important. The true beauty of the American Hegemony is that it doesn’t depend on foreigners (such as Arabs) liking the USA or Americans. It is that liberal democracies are subject to the pressures of reality in such a way that they cannot help aligning with American interests. The alternative is to become an isolated, poverty-stricken failure. Oppressive regimes can go that route, but liberal democracies cannot.

Oh, and you might want to read up on what the average Japanese thought about Americans pre-WWII, then think about what that means for this thesis of yours in light of post-WWII history.

Democracy in the west bank was hardly good for Israel, unless as a pretext to further isolate the palestenians

Not a pretext, but a good result. It certainly clarified the issue and wiped away many delusions that had been preventing any progress. It is also a perfect illustration of thesis stated above. The Palestinians will be forced, by the hard 2×4 of Reality, to align with American interests. Hamas will as well, or be swept away precisely because of the small amount of democracy that was present. Or, Hamas can abandon any pretense of democracy, which also serves American interests, albeit more indirectly. The USA doesn’t have to do anything, we simply need not help. The Saudi Entity will go the same way, in the long run.

Now you confuse me, would you say that the occupation by Iraq of Kuwait was legitimate or that the soviet crushing of hungary was legitmate. You contend military might makes it legitimate to occupy a foerign a country

Based on the context of the original statement, I presumed you were writing of the legitimacy to install a chosen government because the previous paragraph was about the USA’s inability to do exactly that. Had the USA not intervened, the Iraqi Ba’ath would have been able to install their chosen government, and certainly the USSR succeeded at that in Hungary in 1956. My point is that historically, overwhelming military might has generally sufficed to install governments of choice in foreign nations. In time, that becomes internationally legitimate as well (as, for example, in Hungary and Eastern Europe post-WWII in general). If that’s not what you meant, once again I am at a loss to see your point.

Also, I should have been more clear by writing “the concept of invasion as a mechanism for regime change”.

now even you must admit that Iran is more influential in Iraq now than it ever was during Saddams tenure. By standards, if this was a policy aim it has been a disaster.

Not if Iraq is even more influential in Iran. Given the history of the two nations, I don’t find Iranian hegemony over Iraq at all plausible.

we were told “We have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction - that is what this war was about and is about.? [emphasis added]

Were we? Where? I provide cites, you provide unanchored assertions. Can you show where in the Bush speech to the UN, a key policy address, that was said? What about the legislation authorizing the invasion of Iraq? Or maybe this law from 1998 calling for the overthrow of the Iraqi Ba’ath regime?

The pre-emptiveness was to forestall future attacks from anywhere in Arabia. It’s a long term project. It may not succeed, but I think it’s worth the risk to avoid the necessity of dealing with that threat the way the USA dealt with the Native American threat. See Three Conjectures for more information.

Jeff Guinn Monday, 23 October 2006 at 15:40

Mr. Wood:

With respect to AOG’s 2×4 of Reality, please do me a favor.

Give a reasonably thorough precis of the status quo ante, and make some mention of the various attitudes held by the actors in the region (e.g., what al Queda thought of US/Western willingness to fight), the actions of our “allies” and the UN, the cynical manipulation of the sanctions by Saddam, etc.

Then explain how our containment policy with respect to Saddam had not reached a dead end.

Then, finally, explain what you would have done instead. Please justify the moral cost of your alternative.

Steven Wood Tuesday, 24 October 2006 at 05:33

Listen, try as you might to muddy the issue the point about Germany and Japan is that those countries populations did not regard the US as an imperial entity. During the ‘50’s and ‘60’s etc, the German people were in support of US troops presence there. Of course they weren’t invivted, but it was realised by the germans that they were there to (amongst other things) contain Soviet expansion.

Really, if there was a popular mandate, why was there such a fight beforehand? Why did we nuke Japan?

You are either ignoring the point or deliberately trying to twist what I say. I can only assume that you do not regard the level of violence directed against US troops to be representitive of the feelings of the population regarding their presence. There is a world of difference in this respect between post war Japan and Germany and Iraq. How do you explain that ? I said that invading armies are never welcomed. The weren’t, but they were accepted in the post war landscape. There was no resistance to US occupation of which to speak. This is not happening in Iraq. Nor does there appear to be the political will of the US to run the country and foster democratic institutions. They want to get out as soon as the violence is contained, and that - as Germany and Japan shows is simply not enough. The point that there was a war in the first place clearly supports the earlier claim that foreign armies who invade other countries are not welcomed. That does not mean that the occupation will be so bitterly resisted, and surely the resistance to the occupation gives some indication of the mandate for foreign troops presence ? Germany and Japan were the aggressors in the war, thus there was much popular support for WW2. In a ludicrous attempt to make Iraq look like the aggressors the US and UK administrations have concocted various reasons to try and justify the invasion. This remains a central problem and surely helps fuel the hostility felt against the US troops by Iraqis. Germans and Japanese did not have this sense of indignation at an unprovoked attack, their imperial pretensions were at an end and they were supportive of US efforts to rebuild their country. The benevolance of the US in the post war years is something that Europeans and Japanese should always be thankful for, and it demonstrated what a truly great nation the US is and how noble its values are. No one disputes this. Because of the history of the US it has always been reticent about having an empire, occupation and freedom sit uncomfortably together, especially when the US is the agressor.

Ari Fleischer, april 2003 made the quote about WMD being “what this war is about”.

Not if Iraq is even more influential in Iran. Given the history of the two nations, I don’t find Iranian hegemony over Iraq at all plausible

There is not much “history” to speak of between the two nations, given their youth and the foreign interference to gain control of ther regions resources. Both countries have large Shia majorities and it is entirely plausible that a soverign Iraq would willingly develop closer ties with Iran.

Regariding sanctions, they devastated the society, and compelled the population to rely for survival on Saddams(highly efficient) system for distributing basic goods. The sanctions thus undercut the possibility of the kind of popular revolt that had overthrown an impressive series of other monsters who had been strongly supported by the current incumbents in Washington up to the very end of their bloody rule: Marcos, Duvalier, Ceausescu, Mobutu, Suharto, and a long list of others, some of them easily as tyrannical and barbaric as Saddam. Even Kuwait whom he previously invaded knew he was not a current threat to the region. Questions remain about the timing of the invasion.

Had it not been for the sanctions, Saddam probably would have gone the same way as those mentioned above. This has been pointed out by some western commentators for years. Denis Halliday for example. But overthrow of the regime from within would not be acceptable either, because it would leave Iraqis in charge. What do you think the US would make of a soverign and democratic Iraq that nationalised its oil and allied with Iran ? Democracy has little to do with it, and you are right when you say it is about establishing US hegemony over Iraq. This is not the same as freedom for the Iraqi people.

In order to “nation build” succesfully, the US needs to administer the country for years, but it has no stomach to do this. No one objects to the removal of dictators and the spread of democracy and popular government. The trouble is that there is not much evidence to suggest that this can ever happen. They have already said they will leave as soon as the country is secure. As i’ve already mentioned, taking active resistance against their presence to be a gauge of the strength of their popular mandate, they have none, this was not the case in Germany and Japan. The main interest in control of the middle east and its oil, not freedom for the Iraqi people - that is a secondary concern (See above para). The objection therefore is to the nature of the invasion, an uninvited “kick the door” in affair which has created such hostility towards the US throughout Iraq and the arab world only a fool would say it has been a success (if the goal was to establish american support throughout the region by appearing to remove an unpopular dictator). All the problems stem from this, and the only solution now is to stay in the country for years even once the violence has ended. Who knows when this will be. What we can do is pin the blame for this mess squarely upon the unsolicited invasion.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 24 October 2006 at 10:31

Mr. Wood;

I am not sure how I can be ignoring or distorting your view when I use exact quotes. Perhaps it is the time frame, as West Germany of the 50s and 60s would roughly parallel Iraq of the 10s and 20s. What the Iraqi Street will think of American troops at that time is still speculative.

As to more substantive issues, my reading of history leads me to believe that the populations of Japan and Germany did, in fact, regard the USA as an imperial power. Certainly that was the case pre-WWII, when the USA had many overseas possessions (such as the Phillipines). Japan set up its Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere in direct emulation of America and Western European powers and the lack of such an empire by Germany was a major cause of resentment between WWI and WWII.

After WWII, the Allies sliced off a big chunk of Germany to give to Poland, and gave away East Prussia to the USSR. On top of the devastation of war, the border adjustment dumped literally millions of refugees in to a ruined Germany, with a death toll of 1-2 million. How could Germans not regard the USA as imperialist?

As for the difference in post-WWII Germany and Japan vs. Iraq, I have already mentioned one prominent theory. That is that there was little resistance (not none) because the former two countries had been devastated, their fighting forces crushed, one of them threatened by occupation by an even worse power, the other nuked and brought to the brink of complete economic collapse and mass famine. The USA made clear that we would engage in collective punishment, holding the entire nation responsible for any resistance. I ask again, should we have done / do the same in Iraq, or not? You harp on the difference but seem very unwilling to examine the actual causes. Seriously, should the USA have waged war on Iraq like it did on Germany and Japan in order to get the same post-war scenarios? That’s what I really want to know.

Other minor points —

  • If we take the level of violence as representative of the feelings of the populace regarding the presence of the target of that violence, we would conclude that as much as the presence of American troops is hated, the presence of Iraqis is even more hated, as vastly more violence is aimed at Iraqis than American troops. Is that what you believe as well, or is that metric not a valid one?
  • Iraq was the aggressor, as the invasion in 2003 was a direct result and response to the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. President Bush failed miserably to make this clear, yet it is true nonetheless. The state of war that existed in the Gulf War between the USA and Iraq did not end until after the invasion of Iraq.
  • Shouldn’t Iraqis be even more thankful for the generosity of the USA after the invasion of Iraq? We are spending proportionately far more money there.
  • I strongly recommend that you don’t ever tell an actual Iranian that Iran is a youthful nation. They consider modern Iran to be a direct continuation of Persia and therefore 2500 or more years old, far more ancient than any nation in Europe. Additionally, the fact that the Iran - Iraq war was recent means that there are lots of people in both nations who remember it and the brutality of it. You might also note it was fought because Iran and Iraq were the “foreign interfence to gain control of their region’s resources” with respect to each other.
  • Not the “I question the timing” trope! President Bush made clear he was going to settle the score with the Iraqi Ba’ath before he was elected in 2000, it’s one of the reasons I voted for him. Of course, in doing so he was only following the official, bi-partisan foreign policy of the USA.
  • It wasn’t the sanctions that prevented the native overthrow of the Iraqi Ba’ath, but the shameful failure of the USA to support the 1991 uprisings. The reasons for that are effectively the same as those you are arguing today (not because it would “leave the Iraqis in charge”), which is a major reason I have little respect for such arguments.
  • How can you argue simultaneously the contradictory claims that
    • America “has no stomach for running Iraq” and “will leave as soon as the country is secure”
    • America wants to dominate and control Iraq with no local democracy
  • The goal of the Iraqi invasion wasn’t to establish support for America by “appearing” to remove a dictator. The goal was to destabilize the region so that
    1. It was less of a danger to the USA
    2. Liberal democracy could start to spread (which is, in fact, occuring).
    3. The USA would have the strategic imperative, forcing its opponents to fight on the defensive
Steven Wood Tuesday, 24 October 2006 at 11:48

Annoying Old Guy,

It is inconceivable that the US would be able to conduct the same sort of war it conducted against Japan and Germany against Iraq. The US public would soon turn against the administration if they carpet bombed Iraqi cities. The reason for this is that the moral imperative to collectively punish the Iraqi people was simply is not there. The preceived noble values of the US are already being damaged world wide and internally, needlessly bombing the crap out of Iraq in order to terrify the population would have been a catastrophe. It also would not stop foreign support for insurgents, observe Vietnam where the US famously dropped more explosives in a month than they did in the entire second world war or whatever the statistic is. I do not agree that it was the method of the war that suppressed German resistance to US occupation, there was no resistance and if there had been you can bet that the Soviets would have supported them. The US media supported the war and fell over itself to applaud the altruistic love for democracy of the adminsitration whilst ignoring all the mass of evidence that wolfowitz et al. didn’t care about democracy. For the UK’s part Jack Straw released a dossier of Saddam’s crimes drawn almost entirely from the period of firm U.S.-British support of Saddam. That selective amnesia only can lead one to the concusion that morals and freedom for Iraqis drives these people seems to be lost on you.

The United States would never permit an independent Iraqi government to exist. Especially now that Washington has reserved the right to set up permanent military bases there, in the heart of the world’s greatest oil-producing region, and has imposed an economic regime that no sovereign country would accept, putting the country’s fate in the hands of Western corporations.

  • America “has no stomach for running Iraq? and “will leave as soon as the country is secure?
  • America wants to dominate and control Iraq with no local democracy

There is nothing contradictory about this. They want weak, pliable governments, parliamentary if possible, so long as they effectively rule. There is no need to commit vast numbers of troops to acheive this, it’s straight forward imperialism.

It wasn’t the sanctions that prevented the native overthrow of the Iraqi Ba’ath, but the shameful failure of the USA to support the 1991 uprisings. The reasons for that are effectively the same as those you are arguing today (not because it would “leave the Iraqis in charge?), which is a major reason I have little respect for such arguments.

Funnily enough the reason given for that “shameful failure” are exactly the same as the ones now, regional stability. If regional stablity was a reason not to intervene then, why do you have no respect for an argument that says regional stablity should be the primary concern now ? What on earth do you mean when you say the goal in Iraq was to “destablise” ?

Regarding the level of violence - stop trying to deny this is indicative of resentment to US presence. Polls show that most Iraqis want the US troops to leave and regard their presence as negative. So no - the fact that the violence also targets Iraqis is not a valid metric in this case. I’ll leave it yourself to verify the polls claims as I need to go home for today !

Jeff Guinn Tuesday, 24 October 2006 at 20:22

Mr. Wood:

What would you have done instead?

NB: there is no such thing as a null alternative.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 24 October 2006 at 21:21

Mr. Wood;

So, your view is that after fighting a 5 year global war, the Germans and Japanese accepted American occupation because they “did not regard the US as an imperial entity”, and not for any reason having to do with the conduct of the just concluded war? My disagreement with that is vast, but I will leave it be. One is left wondering, however, how a USA with imperial possessions in the pre-WWII era was not regarded as an imperial entity where the same USA without those possessions in the modern era is. A bit odd, wouldn’t you say?

needlessly bombing the crap out of Iraq in order to terrify the population would have been a catastrophe

It doesn’t seem to have been for the Caliphascists, according to you. Apparently, it’s simply an indication of resenting the presence of Americans that doesn’t affect Iraqi popular opinion, except possibly making Iraqis dislike the non-needlessly bombing Americans even more.

The United States would never permit an independent Iraqi government to exist

Contrary to every other post-WWII American occupation? Surely such a claim, contradicting the historical record as it does, requires at least a little bit of evidence. This is, to me, a classic example of anti-Americanism, where motives are presumed without and in this case against evidence, simply because the USA is involved.

Especially now that Washington has reserved the right to set up permanent military bases there

You mean like the permanent military bases in Japan, South Korea, Germany, and the UK? Is that the reason those nations so slavishly follow the American line? Here I thought PM Blair was simply President Bush’s poodle, now I find out that he was actually scared for the safety of Britons because of these permanent American military bases. Perhaps you all need to fire up a “resistance” like that in Iraq, slaughtering your fellow citizens to demonstrate your resentment of the American presence. That would be ludicrous, you say? Hmmmmm…

If regional stablity was a reason not to intervene then, why do you have no respect for an argument that says regional stablity should be the primary concern now?

Because we have seen the results of such a policy, and they were terrible. I simply don’t have respect for arguments of the form “we did this before, it was a massive failure, we should do it again”. I thought it was stupid then, with hindsight I now know it was stupid.

the fact that the violence also targets Iraqis is not a valid metric in this case

I am the one arguing that it’s not a valid metric. Your argument, as I understand it, is that it is a valid metric, but only when directed at Americans. Otherwise it doesn’t count, for no apparent or stated reason. Seems like a rather dubious post-facto rationalization to me.

As for the polls, every one I have seen indicates that the Iraqis want Americans to leave, just not yet. I would say that they now have an elected government to make such decisions, but you’ve clearly decided that it’s illegitimate a priori, so I won’t bother.

cjm Tuesday, 24 October 2006 at 22:16

what’s fun to do, is read the responses to wood (and his ilk) without reading what prompted them. more fun certainly than reading regurgitated talking points from leftist central.

Brit Wednesday, 25 October 2006 at 03:27

Of all Mr Wood’s self-contradictory statements, of which there are many, this is my favourite:

“No one objects to the removal of dictators and the spread of democracy and popular government.”

Steven Wood Wednesday, 25 October 2006 at 04:59

Contrary to every other post-WWII American occupation? Surely such a claim, contradicting the historical record as it does, requires at least a little bit of evidence. This is, to me, a classic example of anti-Americanism, where motives are presumed without and in this case against evidence, simply because the USA is involved.

It’s pretty hard to imagine that they would allow a real voice to the Shi’ite majority, which is likely to join the rest of the region in trying to establish closer relations with Iran, the last thing the Bushites or infact you for that matter would want. Can you see that being allowed to happen ? It’s not anti-american, all imperial powers are the same. As for your claim about “every post-WWII American occupation” being to create conditions of freedom for the country under attack, first ponder the evident contradictions of such a doctrine, then ask what about Haiti ?

and not for any reason having to do with the conduct of the just concluded war? My disagreement with that is vast, but I will leave it be

You the cheek to call me anti-american yet seem to be advocating Nazi or Stalinist type mass slaughter as a valid military tactic in Iraq. Americans would never tolerate such britality in their name. At least you might, but the majority of sensible ones would not.

This was all tested in Vietnam where practically everything apart from nuking the place was attempted, untold amounts of ordnance was dropped, chemical weapons - the works. No one really knows to this day how many Vietnamese were killed or have since died as a result of all this. Of course this remains a bone of contention to the right who cannot accept the limitations of modern warfare. The Soviet Union who had no problem with mass murder on an unimaginable scale could not occupy Afghanistan succesfully. How do you explain all this ? Or the fact that if there was a German resistance the Soviets would have armed and supported them ? In the cold war climate resistance groups had never had it so good when it came to securing support from super powers. You make no attempt to address these issues, and merely trot out the same line again. Until you answer these points how do you expect me to agree with your assertion that the more brutal the war, the less the people will resist occupation ?

As for the polls, every one I have seen indicates that the Iraqis want Americans to leave,

Clearly you don’t look at many polls then.

You mean like the permanent military bases in Japan, South Korea, Germany, and the UK? Is that the reason those nations so slavishly follow the American line? Here I thought PM Blair was simply President Bush’s poodle

Japan and Germany are not “sovereign” in the sense that they are not allowed to maintain or deploy large armed forces. You ignore I see the main point which is about putting the countries resources at the control of western coroporations. What do you think of this ? Amongst the Iraqi Oil Ministry staff there’s a universal belief that the major U.S. companies will win the lion’s share of contracts. Paul Wolfowitz suggested in 2002 that the US should sieze the Iraqi oil fields. Can you explain why PSA’s became the Future of Iraq Project’s recommendation for the fledgling Iraqi government regarding extraction of Iraqi oil ?

Of all Mr Wood’s self-contradictory statements, of which there are many, this is my favourite:
“No one objects to the removal of dictators and the spread of democracy and popular government.?

Clearly I meant no sensible commentator would contend that such a goal was lamentable.

Steven Wood Wednesday, 25 October 2006 at 05:03

As for the polls, every one I have seen indicates that the Iraqis want Americans to leave, just not yet.

Clearly you don’t look at many polls then. Many polls show clearly that they want them out immediately.

Brit Wednesday, 25 October 2006 at 05:29

Mr Wood:

I’m sure no sensible commentator would.

But now that you’ve got your scattergun of general complaints about the USA off your chest, can you tell us why you opposed the removal of a dictator and the spread of democracy in this particular instance?

Logically, your answer should include your answer to Jeff’s question (but I’ll wager it won’t).

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 25 October 2006 at 10:09

cjm;

I rate Mr. Wood’s arguments well above average. I have found myself having to think carefully about my answers.

Mr. Wood;

Before I launch in to yet another attack, I would like to thank you for taking the time and effort to engage in an actual discussion of the issue.

It’s pretty hard to imagine that they would allow a real voice to the Shi’ite majority

You have moved from “never” to “hard to imagine” — excellent progress. I find it hard to imagine the USA doing anything else, given the domestic political situation, but such differences of opinion make the world an interesting place. We shall see.

As for Haiti, the USA keeps trying to leave, but gets pushed back in by world opinion. It may be that Iraq ends up that way as well, but if so it we would still have changed a dangerous regime in to an irrelevant one. If if the situation is hopeless, best to find out as early as possible.

You the cheek to call me anti-american yet seem to be advocating Nazi or Stalinist type mass slaughter as a valid military tactic in Iraq. Americans would never tolerate such britality in their name.

I have at all times discussed actions actually done by the USA, and now you call those “Nazi or Stalinist type mass slaughter”. Why would that make me think of anti-Americanism? (I will forebear to discuss Bomber Command’s “give it back to Jerry” attitude on the matter)

Your claim that “Americans would never tolerate such brutality in their name” is laughable because Americans did exactly that, in fact they cheered it on. And finally, I am not advocating such tactics — I accept that there is much more post-war violence because they weren’t used. In real life, actions have consequences. One may prefer the less total style of war now enaged in by the Anglosphere, but it comes at a price. That is what you seem unwilling to accept.

This was all tested in Vietnam where practically everything apart from nuking the place was attempted

Hardly. When was the North invaded? Answering that question effectively destroys your point. I would also note what was really tested in Vietnam was the “proportionate response” concept, not war as had been fought over the previous century or two, despite the tonnage of ordnance. That means that if it’s a valid analogy (doubtful), it supports my view, not yours.

The Soviet Union who had no problem with mass murder on an unimaginable scale could not occupy Afghanistan succesfully.

The Afghanistan resistance was supported by an opponent of the USSR that had better military technology and vastly more wealth. There’s a good post waiting to be written about the similarities and differences, the big one being that in the current conflict, the supporters of the “resistance” are the ones whose economies are in danger of collapse.

Or the fact that if there was a German resistance the Soviets would have armed and supported them?

My thesis is that there was very little German resistance because of the devastation of the war and therefore the availability of Soviet funding was irrelevant.

Japan and Germany are not “sovereign? in the sense that they are not allowed to maintain or deploy large armed forces.

Not true. Japan has a large military, as does Germany. It is also the case that Germany is allowed to deploy its armed forces, it has simply found it politically expedient to not do so. As for Japan, they have been able to change their constitution in that regard for decades, but as with Germany, have found it politically expedient to not do so (in Japan’s case, not just because it lets them evade responsibility but because there remains a lot of ill will in South East Asia about Japanese atrocities in WWII).

You ignore I see the main point which is about putting the countries resources at the control of western coroporations. What do you think of this?

I think it’s a silly Left-speak trope used primarily for moral preening at the expense of the continued immiseration of third world economies.

Amongst the Iraqi Oil Ministry staff there’s a universal belief that the major U.S. companies will win the lion’s share of contracts.

And instead one might expect them to be won by …? Is it simply not possible the major American companies are a good choice, therefore their selection can only be due to perfidity?

I suspect PSAs were recommended because in the Middle East, foreign expertise is generally needed to run oil fields (note that Libya was so desperate to get such American investment that it gave up its WMD program to do so). It would also tie America’s interests with Iraq, creating the kind of defense shield that has been of such enormous benefit to other nations such as Japan, South Korea, and Germany. There was likely the desire to do things rapidly, which requires a lot of capital and PSAs were a good way of getting that capital to flow in to Iraq. What’s the alternative, Iranian style autarky that has seen its economy shrink by half over the last few decades?

David Cohen Wednesday, 25 October 2006 at 10:27

You all are doing an admirable job, so I’ll just clean up a few loose odds and ends.

1. The Bush Doctrine is one of preventative war, not pre-emptive war. The difference is that a pre-emptive war is a war waged in order to pre-empt the enemy’s impending attack. A preventative war is waged before the enemy has begun to gather his forces to attack. The Administration agreed that Iraq was not in 2003 able to attack the US. They said that we should go in and take out the Ba’athist government before it gained the ability to attack us.

2. The lack of WMDs makes the case for invasion more pressing. If we can’t even know what’s going on in Iraq, a nation with limited sovereignty where we have a right of inspection, then we can’t know what’s going on in any other nation. Preventative war is better than waiting to be attacked, which is the precise lesson of 9/11.

3. Though Saddam did not have WMDs, that does not make the case for invasion any weaker. The inspectors could not find WMDs that we knew he had from previous inspections. The Iraqis apparently destroyed their WMDs without having kept any records or telling the inspectors, as they were required to do by the UN. That was a violation of the agreements ending the Gulf War just a much as if they had kept up their nuclear program.

4. Although none of Saddam’s WMD programs were active, the Iraqis went out of their way to keep the scientists involved in those programs, and maintain their records. They were intent on reconstituting the WMD programs once the sanctions were lifted. Better to prevent that now.

5. “Saddam was a secularist.” Odd sort of secularist: he added a verse from the Koran to the Iraqi flag, built a huge mosque and was having a copy of the Koran written in his own blood. The best that can be said here is that he was willing to do whatever it took, including making common cause with religious fanatics, to stay in power. Regardless of whether his motivation was religious, he saw himself as a world historic figure destined to unite the Arab “nation.”

6. The insurgency consists of 10,000 to 15,000 Iraqis, along with maybe 10,000 foreigners. They kill many more Iraqis than they do Americans, as they try to create a civil war.

7. The easiest way for us to get Iraqi oil pumping again would have been to remove the sanctions. Of course, the oil argument is the perfect anti-American argument: we’re evil no matter what we do. If we get the oil flowing, we’re in it for cheap oil. If we don’t get the oil flowing, then we’re in it for expensive oil and windfall profits for the oil companies.

8. It is delusional to think that Saddam organized an efficient response to the sanctions. The Kurds, who were able, thanks to the US and UK, to organize themselves independently of Baghdad, operated under exactly the same sanction regime but suffered much less. The Ba’athists, on the other hand, diverted “oil for food” money to grandiose construction projects and trying to buy their way out from under the sanction regime.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 04:22

I have never understood the mindset of those who argue it is a violation of international law and/or immoral to invade a country that boasts of having WMD’s and every intention of using them on the basis that they were lying. I wonder if Mr. Wood holds that the sanctions against North Korea are only legitimate if they are telling the truth about that test.

Also, everybody forgets the ultimatum. If Saddam and his sons had quit, there presumably would have been no invasion.

Steven Wood Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 06:05

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comments too. It is nice not to be castigated. I will admit that the case for the invasion is well crafted and even compelling, but I’m not swayed by it yet.

The case for the war was without doubt “sexed up” and the decision to invade had been made long before. As one commentator said, the only thing that would probably have prevented an invasion was Saddam stepping aside, given the mans obvious megalomania, this was never going to happen. The UN appointed Hans Blix, a distinguished man who was shamefully discredited and smeared as his evidence was not what the US was looking for. Where are all the hawks now who said he was just buying saddam time and his appointment was a mistake ? He was right.

The question of whether Saddam was a threat to regional stablity also carries with it the assumption that he wanted to attack his neighbours. After his experience in Kuwait and in Iran, which had disastrous results, and considering his enthusiastic efforts at mending fences with his neighbors including Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and his calls for Muslim and Arab unity that was an unlikely scenario.

All of this coupled with the exteremley tenous links between al-Qaida and the Saddam regieme meant that a shift in focus was neccasarry. Suddenly the war is about deomcratisation and freedom, surely against these noble goals no one can argue ? Anyone would have to admit that the actual reasons oficially given for the invasion were nebulous and subject to change. To me, they did not represent a convincing case. The only justification that can have any credibility is the one about freedom, and the removal of Saddam Hussein.

But we have no justification to punish the innocent civilians of any country simply because we don’t like, in this case, a man who was once a friend and ally to the United States. Donald Rumsfeld visited Iraq in 1983 spoke with Saddam Hussein, asked for an exchange of ambassadors. They know each other! Why can’t Rumsfeld go back and reopen this dialogue and begin to understand what makes Iraq tick and help to create an atmosphere in the Middle East of peace.

I think it’s a silly Left-speak trope used primarily for moral preening at the expense of the continued immiseration of third world economies.

Amongst the Iraqi Oil Ministry staff there’s a universal belief that the major U.S. companies will win the lion’s share of contracts.

And instead one might expect them to be won by …? Is it simply not possible the major American companies are a good choice, therefore their selection can only be due to perfidity?

It’s well known that Iran once had a democracy, but back then the US and UK decided that oil was more important than democracy. Fair enough, it was while ago, but the record in the ME of the west is pure imperialism, if you looked at all this from an arab perspective it’s dificult to regard this war as anything else.

In February of 2001, just weeks after Bush was sworn in, the same energy executives that had been lobbying for Saddam’s ousting gathered at the White House to participate in Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. Although Cheney would go all the way to the Supreme Court to keep what happened at those meetings a secret, we do know a few things, thanks to documents obtained by the conservative legal group JudicialWatch.

A map of Iraq and an accompanying list of “Iraq oil foreign suitors” were the centre of discussion. . The list of suitors revealed that dozens of companies from 30 countries but not the United States were either in discussions over or in direct negotiations for rights to some of the best remaining oilfields on earth.

It’s not hard to surmise how the participants in these meetings felt about this situation. There is little doubt, I think, that the US do not like a few tin pot regiemes in the middle east holding all the trump cards. I think it is fairly obvious that had Saddam Hussein been the dictator of Chad, there would have been no invasion. Everyone knows this is true, as much as they shout about the moral imperitive for his removal. Historically the US and UK have supported nasty regiemes all over the world when it’s suited, and they still do.

All of this needs to be viewed in the context of the declining availabilty of oil. The importance of oil cannot be overstated to our economy, with China and India and other nations coming to the table, global demand for oil is set to rise by 60% by 2020. At current production rates by that time 83% of world oil reserves will be in the hands of middle eastern countries. Iraq with it’s large proven reserves and suspected unproven reserves, is going to be of huge strategic importance.

Anyway, what is interesting is that 100 years ago the british would have had no problem with fighting a war to gain vital strategic resources. Historically this is what most action in the middle east by the west has really been about, strategic interests. Nowadays, and particularly in the US which has always opposed imperalism, this is not a good enough reason to convince the elecotrate to go to war, so other reasons need to be found.

So to sum up - my opposition is two fold : Firstly the reasons given for the invasion were not convincing, and not in my opinion the real reason for the war. Secondly the war was a bad idea because it will inevitably result in the death of many more Iraqis who have already had a shitty time of it. An unsolicited invasion will always appear to the rest of the world as naked aggression, it was obvious that this would push the other arab countries closer to Iran, and the tin pot ones that the US props up are more ripe then ever for revolution due to the gross mismatch between their governments opinions and those of the populations.

Brit Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 07:06

Sir, I greatly admire your Glenties.

Peter Burnet Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 07:40

Mr. Wood;

I won’t respond to all your points, but you repeat two things that we hear often from the left, and I wonder whether most of you have thought through the implications of what you are saying:

“the only thing that would probably have prevented an invasion was Saddam stepping aside, given the mans obvious megalomania, this was never going to happen”.

“But we have no justification to punish the innocent civilians of any country simply because we don’t like, in this case, a man who was once a friend and ally to the United States”.

In the first place, it is absurd to categorize Hussein as a former friend and ally of the U.S. In 2003, the Swedish Institute for Peace and Security, no fan of the U.S., published extensive data showing that over a twenty year period, Hussein got 1% of his arms from the U.S. and 87% from France, China and Russia. Whatever support he got during the Iran/Iraq war was very minor, begrudged, unenthusiastic and a function of the realism so many pine for today as an antidote to those wicked, moralizing neocons. But even if there was some truth to it, which there isn’t, what are you saying? Good relations for a time gives a lifetime free pass to invade, threaten, try to assassinate U.S. presidents, etc. Surely your very best case is that the U.S. made a mistake long ago, not that it became immoral to oppose Hussein in 2003 because he was sold arms in 1982.

But the real problem is your juxtaposition of the two sentences. As far as I can tell, they add up to a statement that the U.S. or the West or whatever must suffer dangerous and destabilizing meglomaniacs and are responsible for obtaining perfect strategic knowledge behind the threats, secrecy, terror and bravado, because the citizens are “innocent” and might get hurt. Presumably this argument would stay the same even if the Security Council had approved the invasion—I don’t think even the fiercest UN supporter would declare it to be the source of objective morality. So, tell us, under what conditions would you see an invasion as justifiable? Must he nuke someone first? There are lots of “innocent citizens” in North Korea, most of them willing to die for Kim Il-Jong at a moment’s notice, even though he is intentionally starving them all. With you in charge, I think he would feel very safe.

Let me suggest that there is a cultural or even racial patronizing implicit in your argument. Were the Iraqis any more “innocent” than the Serbs or the Germans in WW11? Why are they innocent? Because they weren’t members of Hussein’s security service or Republican Guard? Because they secretly hated him even though they did his bidding? C’mon, all civilian populations in all wars are innocent in the sense you mean and always have been. Yours is the argument of the ideological pacifist. If that is what you are, fine, but it is disingenuous to craft criticisms of a particular war based upon particular circumstances if what you really believe is that all war is hell and can never be justified.

Also, Blix was an ideologue determined to prove that international law could tame Hussein and bring freedom and prosperity to Iraqis. He was not going to countenance any challenge to that belief whatever the evidence. He was heir to a long line of Swedish diplomatic thinking that makes them experts at crafting inspiring speeches and useless in the face of dictators. And they share something with us Canadians—an undying belief that the world would be forever safe if only everybody let them mediate all our differences. There is no need for you to tell Mr. Blix how wonderful and noble he was. Believe me, he knows it well.

Steven Wood Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 09:42

Peter Burnet,

Your arrogance is astounding. You accuse hans blix of being an “idealogue” yet here you are, when his findings have been vindicated, prattling on about how we shoudln’t have waited until saddam nuked someone. Whatever you may think of him, doesn’t matter - he was right, and you were wrong. There were no WMD.

I explained at length why I thought that claims that saddam hussein was plotting to invade any neighbouring country were highly unlikely. You ignore this and instead trumpet on about some ludicrous non existant nuclear threat he supposedly posed to his neighbours. Even kuwait much touted by idiots like you did not regard saddam as a threat any more, yet thanks to the nonsensical scaremongering of the right, suddenly Iraq posed the biggest threat to world security there was. The country had been under sanctions for 12 years, his military was crippled, there were no weapons of mass destruction, he was making peace with his neighbours and speaking of arab unity. You were fundamentally wrong about all of this. As i sad, the only justifcation that could be countentanced, is the removal of a dictator.

But even if there was some truth to it, which there isn’t, what are you saying?

Groan. There is plenty of truth to it. You may believe that noble and just cause of the bush administration, you may choose to ignore that 15 years previously the US were prepared to veto security council resolutions condemning Iraq for using chemical weapons, you may choose to ignore that the only arab democracy that there was ousted by the US and UK for having the temerity to demand more money for their oil, but the rest of the world and particularly the arab world does not. The war has made the world less safe and has increased hatred of the US in the arab world, this is not a good thing and not the aim of the war. That is what I’m saying. The US is so hated in the arab world and around the world in general, that however noble their aims, no one believes them.

Brit Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 09:48

I withdraw my admiration.

Mr Wood: why don’t you go back and read your first two comments, and then contrast them with the ever-so modest ‘conclusion’ in your penultimate one. Getting from the former to the latter required a truly expert application of Glenties.

But now you’ve spoiled it all by returning to scattergun lunacy in the last.

Steven Wood Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 10:01

Brit,

I’ve made clear why I think the war was lunacy. I’ve tried to explain why I don’t believe the reasons for the war. And why the only sensible justifcation is insufficient. You’ll have to explain why

2) If you were an Iraqi would you trust the US when it invaded your country, when it says it’s mostly for the benefit of the Iraqi people ? The US gave support for Saddam Hussein before, why should they be trusted now supposing asn an Iraqi you wanted rid of Saddam ?

followed by

The US is so hated in the arab world and around the world in general, that however noble their aims, no one believes them.

is contradictory.

What you call “scattergun” is an attempt to impress on amnesiacs like you why no one, particularly arabs, believes the altruistic aims of liberation. I couldn’t give a piss whether you respect me or not, if that’s what you call an insult.…

And quit with the scottish slang it’s not smart.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 10:20

Mr. Wood;

I will admit that the case for the invasion is well crafted and even compelling, but I’m not swayed by it yet.

I think that’s an intellectually defensible position. Such decisions are always fraught with unknowns and unknowables, and reasonable people can come to different conclusions. I have never claimed that the contra case is a priori wrong, or cannot be held by people of good faith.

The case for the war was without doubt “sexed up” and the decision to invade had been made long before.

Certainly. But when hasn’t it been? Former President Franklin Roosevelt made the decision to fight in WWII long before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As I noted earlier, I voted for then candidate Bush in 2000 because I expected him to actively pursue regime change in Iraq, even if it meant an invasion. One could argue that the decision was made back in 1998 under former President Clinton.

The question of whether Saddam was a threat to regional stability

Ah, I have failed to be clear. My claim is that it is the USA that is the threat to regional stability and I support that. I considered the status quo pre-invasion to be a long term threat to American national interests, therefore its destabilization was and is a good thing. For what you say you are concerned with, let me ask — what hope of freedom was there in stability?

Ba’athist Iraq was never a friend and ally of the USA, simply a convenience. It was quite analogous to the relationship with the USSR during WWII — do you think that, given that cooperation, opposing Soviet Communism during the Cold War was wrong? Rumsfeld could no more have “reopened a dialogue” with Hussein than Eisenhower could have with Stalin.

same energy executives that had been lobbying for Saddam’s ousting

We have an extremely different memory of that era. I remember the energy executives lobbying for dropping the sanctions, not ousting the Ba’ath. In terms of energy company revenues, regime change was stupid. Dropping the sanctions and sucking up to Hussein was the best option.

But, I am confused — was the invasion about oil, or “simply because we don’t like, in this case, a man who was once a friend and ally”?

I don’t deny that access to oil was a significant factor in the invasion. As I have stated repeatedly, I support the national security interests of the USA and oil is important in that calculation.

However, as has been noted, if oil were the primary concern, the USA would have dropped the sanctions and bought from the Ba’ath. You claim that having been whupped in Iran and Kuwait, Hussein wouldn’t have tried any more foreign adventures. Moreover, wasn’t he a “friend and ally” of the USA, someone Donald Rumsfeld knew personally? Why not keep him on? Clearly, there must have been some other, non-oil related motive. What do you suppose that was?5

With regard to your two final points, I understand them but I don’t agree with them. I think I have laid out the reasons for that, so I won’t belabor the point.


5 This is one of the fundamental flaws of the scatter gun accusation technique. If you don’t think through the implications of your claims, you end up easily hoisted on the petard of the internal contradictions of the various accusations. It is simply not possible to reconcile the claims of Saddam Hussein being buddies with the USA and the war being about access to oil.

Brit Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 10:30

Mr Wood:

It’s not Scottish, it’s Douglas Adams, who was born in Cambridge. I’ve helpfully provided a link above. (Though since it took very little time for you to resort to name-calling and mild swearing, shouldn’t that say “I couldn’t give a pish”?)

But to the matter in hand: it’s scattergun because obscuring your central argument are a whole load of complaints about oil companies and the actions of previous US administrations and irrelevant and highly debatable claims about what various people might or might not believe about the US and liberation.

That stuff really doesn’t interest me since it comes under the heading “anti-American leftist cant”. I’ve heard it all, and worse, many times before from people both far more and far less eloquent than you, and I didn’t believe any of it the first time. By the millionth time it’s just white noise.

Anyways, what I want to know is why you opposed this particular liberation. Your answer should, as Jeff Guinn noted above, include a realistic description of the position of all relevent parties prior to the invasion, with a practical alternative to the removal of Saddam Hussein by force, and reasons why such would be preferable (note: please don’t mention oil in your answer, since you already ruled that out in your own two-part conclusion above.)

Steven Wood Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 10:50

We can agree to disagree. But first I’d like to clear a few things up. If you accept that the war was planned and decided upon long before the invasion, then do you agree that the pre war waffling about WMD and links to al-Qaeda was insulting to the public ?

If you accept the definition of “ally” as someone whom is working with you to acheive a common goal, then Iraq and the USSR were both at one time, allies of the US. The US, UK, and USSR were referred to as part of the allied powers during the war. I didn’t say they were friends or that Rumsfeld was friends with saddam either.

It is simply not possible to reconcile the claims of Saddam Hussein being buddies with the USA and the war being about access to oil.

I didn’t say he was still buddies with the USA, clearly he was not. But the fact he was “buddies” of sorts in the past (the US did want to “upgrade” relations with Iraq and didn’t see chemical weapons use as an obstacle to this) and the fact you openly admit that the US would use whoever it needs to to get what it wants was part of a larger point about the trust that arabs and particularly Iraqis have in the US. The fact they were allies of sorts when it suited the US is compelling evidence that the US is not really on the moral crusade some people claim it is, that’s the point about that.

Why not keep him on? Clearly, there must have been some other, non-oil related motive. What do you suppose that was?

It’s not clear at all, following the 1st gulf war, and with the rising demand for oil from emerging powers that i talked about a few posts back, Saddam would not sell his oil willingly to the US when other countries would be clamouring for it (as they will be), hence as you say the status quo was not an option. He had to go in order for the US to be sure it would get Iraqi oil in the future. I hope this clears up the perceived contradictions.

Brit Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 10:55

(Mr Wood

In addition, I would not expect too prizes for penetration if my private speculation that you believe Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 to be a documentary work of significant stature, turned out in fact to be true.

Therefore, I offer this as a freebie, to keep you amused while you re-load your debating blunderbuss for future shooting-matches.

Enjoy, and please: don’t thank me, even in your own inimitable style. Duty is its own reward.)

Steven Wood Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 11:07

Brit,

To use the Bertrand Russell approach, why don’t you tell me why the war was neccesary instead of me telling you that the situation in Iraq today is neither helping nor in my mind justifiable with regard to the US’s long term strategic goal of securing access to middle east oil. As such it does not consitute a “liberation” and it should be pretty apparent that I’m opposed to it on those grounds.

Clearly I have not been very eloquent if you didn’t understand that. In this respect it would be impossible to give an answer that did not make mention of “oil”. If you wish to assert that claiming the US is hated throughout the arab world is “highly debatable” you can do so, but without sufficient evidence to the contrary I’ll continue to hold that as a result of the war, arab hositility towards the US is higher than ever, and the undemocratic regiemes that the US helps prop up are under more pressure.

to dismiss the historical reasons for arab hostility towards western powers as “white noise” is nothing more than pathetic. The timeline for Arab - US relations did not begin when GWB came to power and what sort of understanding can someone hope to have of the situation if they ignore the historical context ? Please explain why it’s irrelevant.

Steven Wood Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 11:31

I did say “friends” after all, apologies Annoying Old Guy - well we wont argue about the semantics of words here - but the relationship was quite well established, and the US were at the time keen to upgrade relations. I didn’t mean to imply that rumsfeld was personally a friend of saddam hussein. I base all of this info on stuff from the NSA - there’s a lot of info in there about the relationship between saddam and the US.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 11:45

Mr. Wood;

If you accept that the war was planned and decided upon long before the invasion, then do you agree that the pre war waffling about WMD and links to al-Qaeda was insulting to the public?

No. I don’t think there was “waffling” about WMD. I think it was the general concensus at the time that the Iraqi Ba’ath had or were reasonably likely to acquire WMD. I think the evidence is clear that there were links between Ba’athist Iraq and Al-Qaeda (which, I will note, is quite distinct from Ba’athist support for any specific Al Qaeda operation). However, Al Qaeda is an epiphenomenon of WWIV, not a fundamental. The USA is at war with Caliphascist ideology and the Iraqi Ba’ath were heavily involved in that. The precise details of Al Qaeda / Ba’ath interaction aren’t important. And as Mr. Cohen pointed out, the concept of preventative war, war before there is a direct threat, was explicitly discussed before the invasion.

I think a major difference here is that I see the invasion of Iraq as one campaign in a larger war and hold its justification in that context. I don’t concern myself with whether it was justifiable in and of itself, just as one need not debate the isolated justification for invading North Africa during WWII.

I didn’t say they [USA, Saddam Hussein] were friends

Actually, you did

[Saddam Hussein] a man who was once a friend and ally to the United States [emphasis added]

and also

Donald Rumsfeld visited Iraq in 1983 spoke with Saddam Hussein, asked for an exchange of ambassadors. They know each other! [emphasis added]

which precisely is what I claimed you said.

Another drawback of the scatter gun approach.

you openly admit that the US would use whoever it needs to to get what it wants

I have admitted no such thing. In contrast, I have repeatedly stated that concerns about such actions are important to formulating good foreign policy.

As for Iraqi trust, I expect them to trust the USA because it’s the only viable option for them. This is a key point and why some of the other commentors are harping on alternatives. You can’t grasp this point without looking at those.

If instead the Iraqis choose to remain mired in the past, then that’s exactly what they’ll be, mired in their past of brutality and oppression.

It’s not clear at all, following the 1st gulf war, and with the rising demand for oil from emerging powers that i talked about a few posts back, Saddam would not sell his oil willingly to the US when other countries would be clamouring for it

Irrelevant. This is a point many miss, which is that oil is fungible. It doesn’t matter to whom the oil is sold, only that it is, because there is effectively only one world wide price for oil. If Iraq sells oil, the price goes down for everyone. If it doesn’t, the price goes up for everyone. Because of Iraq’s economic situation, the Iraqi Ba’ath would have had to sell oil.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 11:59

what is interesting is that 100 years ago the british would have had no problem with fighting a war to gain vital strategic resources. Historically this is what most action in the middle east by the west has really been about, strategic interests. Nowadays, and particularly in the US which has always opposed imperalism, this is not a good enough reason to convince the elecotrate to go to war, so other reasons need to be found.

It certainly is an interesting point. Perhaps I am too mired in the past myself and so don’t see my views on national interests as atypical. I think that other reasons have emerged, rather than “been found”, as we have come to a deeper understanding of what is truly in the national interest.

However, I had to chuckle at the claim “the USA has always opposed imperialism”. You mean such as when it took over big chunks of the Spanish Empire? Or siezed chunks of Mexico by war and threat of war? And since you’re in the UK, let me just say 54°40' or Fight!

Brit Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 12:06

Mr Wood:

why don’t you tell me why the war was neccesary

Because David Cohen and AOG have already done so, and better than I could, above - and it would be tedious to repeat their points. And to be even more specific, the reason I didn’t oppose the war, or join the Stop the War march in London for example, is that it didn’t appear obvious to me that removing a genocidal dictator from power by force and replacing him with a liberal democracy was worse than maintaining the status quo of ineffective resolutions and mutually-corrupting sanctions.

Clearly I have not been very eloquent if you didn’t understand that.

Forgive me. The problem isn’t a lack of eloquence. You make your points very eloquently. The problem is that one half of your eloquent points directly contradict the other half. So it is a lack of coherence rather than eloquence that is the root of my lack of understanding…

the situation in Iraq today is neither helping nor in my mind justifiable with regard to the US’s long term strategic goal of securing access to middle east oil. As such it does not consitute a “liberation? and it should be pretty apparent that I’m opposed to it on those grounds.

…is a good example. So now you don’t think the invasion was a good idea because it was not sufficiently effective in securing US access to middle east oil, which is actually a laudable goal?

Here’s the rub:

You opposed the invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam, correct? Therefore you believed, before the invasion, that there was a preferable alternative to invading Iraq, which might have been maintaining the status quo, or it might have been something else (as yet unnamed).

I want you to explain your alternative, and further, explain why you believed it was preferable.

Your attack on US policy regarding oil in the middle east explains why you don’t like the US policy regarding oil in the middle east. It does not explain if and why there was a preferable alternative to the invasion.

Your attack on previous US administrations’ foreign policies regarding Iraq and Iran explains why you don’t like those previous administrations’ policies regarding Iraq and Iran. It does not explain if and why there was a preferable alternative to the invasion.

Your criticisms of the presentation of the reasons for war by Blair and Bush explains why you are cynical about the presentation of the reasons for war by Blair and Bush. It does not explain if and why there was a preferable alternative to the invasion.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Your approach is scattergun: there is so much smoke and dust flying out of your blunderbuss that we can’t see the actual missiles.

Jeff Guinn Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 12:46

Mr. Wood:

To Mr. Burnet you said Even kuwait much touted by idiots like you …

Having sparred with Mr. Burnet for quite some time, I can assure you he is idiocy’s direct antithesis — you owe him an apology for a completely out of line ad hominem.

AOG’s point above about the fungibility of oil lept off the screen at me, also. Your inability to grasp this fundamental aspect of the commodities market should raise red flags about the soundness of the rest of your analysis.

I had previously asked that you supply an alternate course of action taking into account the state of play prior to March 2003. You have utterly failed to respond, making a mockery of your position: there is no such thing as a null alternative, yet that is what you are defending.

So please put yourself in the position of defending something, instead of the absence of anything.

Given that Saddam himself believed he had WMD, his cynical use of the sanctions regime to inflame Arab public opinion, the concerted undermining of the sanctions by the French and Russians, further corrupting the UN (a feat hitherto deemed impossible), Saddam’s intentions in the event the sanctions were lifted, the jihadist attitude that the US is too decadent to fight (a key element in the 9/11 attacks), etc

What would you have done instead?

I have yet to hear a cogent argument for an alternative course of action from anyone in the MAL, and you are continuing that tradition.

Also, I suspect that you, and certainly most of what passes for the MAL, need to learn why pacifism is self-defeating.

David Cohen Thursday, 26 October 2006 at 18:23

I’d like to see some backup for the proposition that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia didn’t see post-sanctions Iraq as a threat. I have to admit to skepticism. AQ’s animating animus is that US troops are stationed within the borders of SA. They are there at the request of SA to guard against Iraq. If SA wasn’t worried about Iraq, they could have spared us all a lot of trouble by letting our troops leave.

Kuwait, similarly, was thrilled by the invasion and was eager to be the jumping off point.

The saga of Donald Rumsfeld, Saddam and chemical weapon use is somewhat complex, but not problematic for us. Obviously, three years after the hostage crisis, the US was interested in a war involving Iran. Our worry at the time was Shi’ite fundamentalism, and even with hindsight that doesn’t seem like much of a mistake. A more-or-less secular tyrant was preferable to the Mullahs of Tehran as the steward of Iraq’s oil. That is why, once the Iranians repulsed the Iraqi attack and started to fight on Iraqi soil, we started sharing intelligence with Iraq. It’s not particularly noble, but the long drawn out stalemate draining both countries was perfectly fine with us.

Iraq did not start to use chemical weapons (broadly defined) against the Iranians until August ‘83, and Rumsfeld visited in December ‘83. Saddam had previously used riot control agents (mace and tear gas, more or less) against the Kurds. The US takes the position that RCAs are not chemical weapons within the terms of the anti-CW treaties. The Iraqis took the position that those treaties didn’t apply within a signatories own territory. When the Iraqis started using chemical weapons against the Iranians, they used RCAs. Only later did they move on to nerve gas and mustard gas. The US would not have thought (does not think) that the use of RCAs was prohibited by international law.

In any event, as Peter said, if Saddam had been our creature, it was our job to go in and get him.

Steven Wood Friday, 27 October 2006 at 05:06

Annoying Old Guy,

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein do know each other, this is indisputable.

I think a major difference here is that I see the invasion of Iraq as one campaign in a larger war and hold its justification in that context.

This doesn’t wash. Of all the arab theocracies or dictaorships, there was plenty of evidence linking terrorists to Saudi Arabia, Iran was clearly more of an ideoligical threat, attacking Iraq just doesn’t make sense if it’s islamic fundamentalism you want to target. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari the leader of the Dawa Party for example, he has close ties to the fundamentalists in Iran who provided him with a safe haven during his years of opposition to Saddam Hussein. Yuval Diskin, the head of Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic security agency, warned recently that his country might come to regret its decision to support the Iraq invasion. “I’m not sure we won’t miss Saddam (Hussein)”. Why is this ? For all his odious failings he fought a decades long power struggle with ultra-religious forces. This all comes back to the first point about there being no good iraqis to hand over to. Face facts, if someone came along today and said, lets formualte a plan for dealing with islamic extremism, they wouldn’t choose to invade a secular arab nationalist regieme then say that getting bogged down in a bitter struggle in that country while the real enemies (the saudi wahhabists, the Iranian clerics) cheered on from the sidelines. The questions remains, why Iraq ? The real answer, easy target.

Irrelevant. This is a point many miss, which is that oil is fungible

The point is that oil is running out. As i say by 2020 83% of world oil reserves will be in the middle east. That’s because elsewhere, the wells are drying up. With the growing demand for oil, pressure upon supply will become ever greater, it’s not just the fact that they sell it that’s important, it’s who they sell it to, and how this affects the strategic balance of the region. And “they” would have been large Chinese and Russian controlled oil companies.

As for your chuckling about the idea that the US has historically opposed imperialism, I chuckle myself at people who like to pass themselves off as informed commentators yet seem to display such little knowledge about their own countries history and ideology. The decline of the British Empire was caused by american ant-imperialism. The US fought at great cost in WW2 but it did so, not to gain an empire but to free people from the imperialism of Japan and Germany. If the US was into empire it could have aquired a vast one. “[Do you think], that Americans would be dying in the Pacific tonight, if it hadn’t been for the shortsighted greed of the French and the British and the Dutch. Shall we allow them to do it all, all over again” Said FDR no less. As i say, the idea of imperial dominance doesn;t sit easy with the american psyche, although for whatever reason you don’t seem to mind it.

Jeff Guin

AOG’s point above about the fungibility of oil lept off the screen at me, also. Your inability to grasp this fundamental aspect of the commodities market should raise red flags about the soundness of the rest of your analysis.

The fundamental failure to recognise that the world is heading towards a massive shortage of oil is something that you seem to have failed to grasp. In case you somehow have missed this, it is the greatest challenge the world will face throughout the next generation or two.

I had previously asked that you supply an alternate course of action taking into account the state of play prior to March 2003.

What crisis exactly was there in march 2003 that had to be immediately addressed ? Let me ask you straight out - had saddam been the dictator of Chad - would there still be a war to remove him for his neighbours sake ? I’ve argued that saddam was not a threat to his neighbours anymore, that he wouldn’t dare to attack them, the “jihadist” culture you refer to was far more prevelant in other arab countries that in Iraq - so why Iraq ? The real solution to all of this is for the US to urgently address its growing dependance on middle east oil, this is the reason that the US needs to control large hostile regions of the world.

My answer as to what I would have done, is to lift the economic embargoes to end the suffering of the iraqi people. Iraq already had limited soverignty, it had no armed forces of which to speak etc etc. The US and the UK have staged an impressive number of coups in the past - this is the route they should have taken, except there obviously weren’t any reasonable (from a US perspective) Iraqis to help in this manner. This should have set alarm bells ringing about the state of the country post saddam. Without an organised and coherent alternative in Iraq to Saddams rule, the invasion shoudn’t have gone ahead. When one emerged then it could have been brought to power. Opposition groups should have been funded and helped where they exisited. All we as outside observers can do is help this to happen, we cannot make it happen by military force. Now, I dont suppose for a second you will like that, but as the US and UK are discovering, it’s true. It might not sound as palatable as creating a democracy by shooting the bad guys, but that’s reality for you.

Peter Burnet Friday, 27 October 2006 at 05:54

The fundamental failure to recognise that the world is heading towards a massive shortage of oil is something that you seem to have failed to grasp. In case you somehow have missed this, it is the greatest challenge the world will face throughout the next generation or two.

I thought that was global warming. Or over-population. Or AIDS. Or starvation. Or of late, obesity. Mr. Wood, one of the greatest obstacles to dialogue between the left and right is that you lock yoursleves into these alarmist certainties about the future and just assume your opponents share them (as any thinking person would) but are hiding it behind hypocritical mumbo-jumbo about democracy and freedom, about which only your side cares. That there is an important strategic interest in keeping oil markets working smoothly is incontrovertible. That the world is running out of oil is nonsense, as is just about every other Club of Rome-like doom ‘n gloom prediction ever made, starting with Malthus. Doesn’t it trouble you that none of them ever come true?

But let us agree security of oil supply is one driving factor of US foreign policy. If I am reading you correctly, you think it is really the only one of any signifiance. If that were true, why does the U.S. keep traipsing halfway around the world to hostile parts at great economic, political and military cost? It would be much, much cheaper on all scores for them to just bully Canada, Mexico and Venezuala and thus secure all their needs for a long time. It is one thing to say it was all about oil, quite another to say it was all about $25/barrel oil.

Steven Wood Friday, 27 October 2006 at 06:18

Peter Burnet,

That the world is running out of oil is nonsense

eh !?

It would be much, much cheaper on all scores for them to just bully Canada, Mexico and Venezuala and thus secure all their needs for a long time. It is one thing to say it was all about oil, quite another to say it was all about $25/barrel oil.

Let us dispense with terms of left and right here, when it comes to mumbo jumbo the above paragraph is about as full of it as you will find. You show a staggering ignorance of the subject. Washington’s search for reliable oil suppliers outside the Middle East has brought about an oil boom in many African countries like Angola, Nigeria, Guinea and Chad. But like Russia, Africa is hardly a bonanza. Its total reserves amount to 7% and its largest producer, Nigeria, will peak by the end of the decade. Africa will be out of the running by 2025. Canada’s cheap oil is going the same way, the only cheap and easily extractable oil left will soon be in the middle east.

For someone who objects to scattergun approaches your attempts to discredit my argument by attributing various alarmist theories to me are surely contemptable. Go and take a good look at the oil situation then come back and tell me why its “nonsense” to suggest its running out.

Peter Burnet Friday, 27 October 2006 at 08:19

Well, we can start here. Mr. Wood, I am familiar with Google and am well aware of the endless number of doomsday predictions. Most of them follow this kind of analysis. Some are much more informed, sophisticated and nuanced than others, but at bottom they all rely on assumptions that recall the early medieval Church’s views on wealth—it is finite, zero-sum and exists within a closed system. Do you remember what happened to that theory? Someone invented banks.

It is not running out because resources don’t “run out”. They are affordable or not affordable, but they don’t stay at the same price and level of consumption and then run out all of a sudden. You seem to be analogizing it all to the toddler who keeps eating the cookies his mother baked and then suddenly bursts into shocked and angry tears when he sees the plate is empty. There are unimaginably huge reserves and many more to discover. Whether we can or will extract them will depend largely on price. That in turn will drive investment, consumption patterns, technological innovation and especially investments in alternatives, none of which can be predicted with any confidence beyond a very short time, let alone 46 years. Remember how well all those great five-year plans worked?

The oil industry and the oil economy are very complex undertakings and there are all kinds of differing opinions on the future within them. Political instability, natural disaster, scaremongering, production bottlenecks, supply interruptions, etc. can all cause market fluctuations and worrisome dislocations. They provide good livings for professional Cassandras, but somehow always correct quickly. Few of them are forseeable except in the fevered minds of intellectual leftists who are just itching to be put in charge and direct everything—-a proven disaster scenario if there ever was one. I don’t particularly believe that all will turn out perfectly well in the end—-there is lots to worry about in the world, particularly from deranged political leaders like Hussein, but it is sheer ahistorical madness to take 2006 statistics and project forward some doomsday scenario where our cars suddenly stop on the highway through lack of foresight and poor planning. Can you name me one resource that we “ran out” of without first finding an acceptable or generally superior substitute?

So, Mr. Wood, there are lots of things to worry about, but the fear that today’s greed will leave your grandchildren shivering and travelling on horses is not one, provided you concentrate on securing democracy and freedom, stop your war on prosperity, let individuals make their own choices and give human ingenuity free rein. Good news, eh? Don’t you feel better? Go out and have a celebratory pint and then come back so I can then tell you why you don’t have nearly as much to fear from global warming as you thought.

Steven Wood Friday, 27 October 2006 at 08:43

Once again your arrogance astounds me.

but at bottom they all rely on assumptions that recall the early medieval Church’s views on wealth—it is finite, zero-sum and exists within a closed system

No they do not. They rely upon the evidence of scientists and geophysicists the world over. You are beyond belief.

There are unimaginably huge reserves and many more to discover.

If only the US adminsitration knew this. Where are these reserves ? Of the ones we suspect might exist most of them are entirely uneconomical to well, even if it is technically possible to retrieve oil from them. i don’t deal in speculation as you seem to, and there are plenty of hard facts that prove oil is not a resource that lasts for ever, it is a very finite resource. Whatever you may suspect about the emergence of new oil fields, the facts on the ground are that it costs $1 per barrel to extract oil from the saudi and iraqi oil fields, to get at oil in the alberta tar sands in canada for example is far harder and the cost per barrel of production is far far higher. The middle east will not dissapear from the radar of oil hungry nations until its wells are dry, exactly because of economics. There are no oil fields left on the planet of this type, this is all fact.

As for your claim that resources don’t “run out”. They do, all the time. Tell it to the islanders of Nauru and spare me your mumbo jumbo.

Brit Friday, 27 October 2006 at 08:47

My answer as to what I would have done, is to lift the economic embargoes to end the suffering of the iraqi people.

Just like that!

Iraq already had limited soverignty, it had no armed forces of which to speak etc etc.

So we ought to have known that Saddam was lying, given him a pat on the back for his cheek and bluff - after all, even if he had WMDs, the little scamp would never really use them - and lifted the sanctions.

The US and the UK have staged an impressive number of coups in the past - this is the route they should have taken, except there obviously weren’t any reasonable (from a US perspective) Iraqis to help in this manner. This should have set alarm bells ringing about the state of the country post saddam.

So the UK and the US should have forcibly removed Saddam, but on your terms, not theirs. Except they shouldn’t, because the Iraqis were unsuitable. Incidentally, were those imperialist coups, or just oil-grabbing ones?

Without an organised and coherent alternative in Iraq to Saddams rule, the invasion shoudn’t have gone ahead. When one emerged then it could have been brought to power.

How would it have been ‘brought to power’? How would it emerge on its own, with Saddam’s sanctions having been lifted? Should it have been ‘brought to power’ by an invasion or by some other means? Would that invasion have been justified, given that Iraqis might be killed? Is this still anything to do with oil?

Opposition groups should have been funded and helped where they exisited.

Is this in addition to helping Saddam by lifting sanctions? Where did they exist? Is this still anything to do with oil?

All we as outside observers can do is help this to happen, we cannot make it happen by military force.

We did, in a matter of weeks. Or are you saying that Iraq would have had no internal fighting if we could have just let Saddam’s state wither away on its own, thanks to our ingenious two-pronged attack of removing sanctions and letting him get on with things; and funding unnamed opposition parties?

but that’s reality for you.

No comment.

jefferson park Friday, 27 October 2006 at 09:02

Wow. This comment thread is an excellent example of why there are weight divisions in the sport of boxing. I’ll just keep bantamweight self firmly planted in a ringside seat and enjoy this heavyweight contest. Cheers.

JP

Peter Burnet Friday, 27 October 2006 at 09:41

Yes, Mom always warned me about ignoring the lessons of Nauru. Did you honestly think I was saying a mine or deposit could never be depleted or was that your spleen talking? Time to calm down, Mr. Wood.

They rely upon the evidence of scientists and geophysicists the world over.

Ah yes, the ultimate knock-out blow in modern discourse. The all-knowing, all seeing scientist. You know, everytime I hear that argument delivered with that “end of discussion” flourish, I understand better why all those 19th century hucksters paid vicars and pastors to endorse their pills and elixirs.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 27 October 2006 at 10:30

Mr. Wood;

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein do know each other, this is indisputable.

I haven’t disputed it.

I think a major difference here is that I see the invasion of Iraq as one campaign in a larger war and hold its justification in that context.
attacking Iraq just doesn’t make sense if it’s islamic fundamentalism you want to target.

Because it’s not charging up the middle with no sense of strategy? I didn’t realize you were a Marine.

Iraq was low hanging fruit — a nation the USA was already legally at war with, that was feared and despied by it neighbors, that was clearly not an ally, had a hollow military, was in disfavor at the UN, and is geographically in the middle of the region of interest. The confluence of these factors made Iraq the best initial target for regional overhaul.

As for targeting the Saudi Entity, if you think the situation is bad now, imagine what it would have been like to have Mecca and Medina in the hands of the infidels. Not to mention the much louder chorus of “no blood for oil!”.

The real answer, easy target.

Ah, I see you already figured it out. Why did you ask, then?

The point is that oil is running out.

I don’t believe that, but it doesn’t matter. How does oil running out change my argument, that it doesn’t matter to whom Iraq sells its oil? You simply assert it does for no apparent reason. Given that there is a single, world wide price for oil, why does it matter?

As for your chuckling about the idea that the US has historically opposed imperialism, I chuckle myself at people who like to pass themselves off as informed commentators yet seem to display such little knowledge about their own countries history and ideology.

You’ve done a bait and switch. Your original claim was “the USA has always opposed imperialism” [emphasis added]. American history didn’t start with FDR and WWII. I would also note that for “such little knowledge”, I was the one providing specific cites, none of which you addressed. Was “Manifest Destiny” anti-imperialist? Or the Monroe Doctrine? Additionally, my view of the fall of the British Empire was a changing world and a Britian exhausted by two world wars, not American efforts. After all,wasn’t that the same era where America was overthrowing foreign governments left and right?

It also seems that this undercuts your previous argument that the American effort in Iraq is doomed because it’s imperialist. Are you claiming that, since American has historically opposed imperialism, the Arabs are either ignorant or stupid for thinking otherwise? How could the American invasion of Iraq look imperialist? Since you, personally, find it hard to imagine the USA not being imperialist in Iraq, at what point do you think this historical anti-imperialism changed?

What crisis exactly was there in march 2003 that had to be immediately addressed?

The rise and threat of Caliphascism against the West. It didn’t have to be “immediately” addressed, but we had been not addressing it for decades and you have to start sometime. Your argument is basically that one should never start dealing with a chronic problem, because there is never an immediate need. And of course, one naturally starts with the easiest step as discussed at the top of this comment.

what I would have done, is to lift the economic embargoes to end the suffering of the iraqi people

Lifting the sanctions wouldn’t have ended the suffering of the Iraqi people. They suffered before the sanctions as well. And, as has been noted in this very thread, the Kurds “suffered” under the same sanctions regime, yet managed to have a peaceful and prosperous area, even without oil wealth. On what basis, therefore, do you connect these two things?

You also say the USA / UK should have engineered a coup, yet isn’t their propensity for that precisely what you claim is enraging the Arab world? Sadly, this would have been possible in 1991, but the “no immediate crisis, international law / opinion, stability, anti-imperialism, etc.” — the same set of arguments you are using — prevented it.

Now, I have to pop out for lunch.

Peter Burnet Friday, 27 October 2006 at 11:43

BTW, now that we have your attention, Mr. Wood, here is a profile on your beloved Mr. Blix from a friendly source. Note that you were wrong in that Blix never said Iraq didn’t have WMD’s. Nobody did at that time, including Iraq.

Also note his thoughts on how to handle North Korea. Musn’t ruffle feathers or they will get antsy. You ok with that?

Jeff Guinn Friday, 27 October 2006 at 15:56

Mr. Wood:

So let me get this straight. Your preferred course of action would have been to drop the sanctions entirely and .… well, what?

Does the US continue to maintain the northern and southern no-fly zones? If we do, what about the continued impact in Saudi Arabia? If not, what about the consequences, already horrific enough, for the southern Shia? What about the continued suffering of the Iraqis themselves? Or of the continued subjugation of the Shia by the Sunni? While it might be debatable whether the acronym UN should ever be seen in public unless accompanied by the adjectives “corrupt” and “incompetent,” the complete disregard of some 12 UNSCRs would have made an even more complete mockery out of the institution.

What about Saddam himself? What are his intentions should he be able to relieve himself of the sanctions regime? What about the reactions of other countries in the region. When making their strategic calculations, what will they make of the US’s decision to simply quit the field?

What of the effect on Islamist terrorist organizations? Already convinced of the West’s spineless decadence, will the collapse of the sanctions regime embolden them? Is there any likelihood that they will find a covert source of funding in the newly unleashed Saddam?

By the way, when you say My answer as to what I would have done, is to lift the economic embargoes to end the suffering of the iraqi people, you again display a limited knowledge about what was actually going on. Saddam cynically manipulated the sanctions to create that suffering, then use it as a propaganda tool.

Also, an argument is almost never improved by the proliferation of passive voice. Phrases such as … it could have been brought to power … should have been funded and helped … leave completely unanswered the question of agency. Never mind they completely elide the little problem of how any of these things could happen under a regime as brutal as Nazi Germany.

The existing sanctions regime was at a dead end created by Saddam’s complete disregard of his own people, French and Russian perfidy, and grotesque UN corruption. There were only two options: quit the field, or forcibly remove Hussein.

In other words we, by that I mean the US, because almost every other country in the world is happy to be a free-rider, was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea: both choices were bad, the problem became picking the least awful.

Your “quit the field” option has the attraction of avoiding the uncertainties of an invasion, but brings with it the astonishing amorality of abetting murderous stability, ignores knock-on effects, Saddam’s undeniable track record and intentions, and the strategic calculations of others in the region.

Perhaps the biggest shortcoming, though, is it kicks a powder keg down the road. There is essentially one reason we are still in Iraq: Shia - Sunni sectarian conflict; already long standing, Saddam aggravated it greatly.

Which means that, by kicking that powder keg, we were only deferring, and allowing to fester, a problem that would rear its ugly head with Saddam’s passing. Did the MAL not learn anything from Tito?

Your repeated references to oil are really beside the point. Would it be wonderful if we were completely self sufficient for our energy needs? Obviously. But history has proven it is far cheaper to buy than steal. If oil was in any way a motivation, we would simply have left Saddam in place.

What makes the oil argument even more sterile is that it is, at the moment, the cheapest game in town. But it isn’t the only game. The US has several hundred years worth of coal, and Canada has huge reserves of oil. None of it is economical at today’s prices, but to conclude that we are going to “run out” is simply wrong — it will ultimately get replaced by something cheaper.

Remember Prince Bandar’s (I might have the name wrong) caution to OPEC when it first started flexing its muscles: “The Stone Age did not end because men ran out of stones.”

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 30 October 2006 at 13:22

Awww, guys, you wore him out!

Steven Wood Tuesday, 31 October 2006 at 06:57

Not worn out - just back from London.

Let me keep this brief :

Peter Burnet :

Did you honestly think I was saying a mine or deposit could never be depleted or was that your spleen talking? Time to calm down, Mr. Wood.

You did say that resources do not run out. And your assertion that people who say that oil is running out are wrong is arrogant.

Annoying Old Guy,

I just wrote a long answer to this :

I don’t believe that, but it doesn’t matter. How does oil running out change my argument, that it doesn’t matter to whom Iraq sells its oil? You simply assert it does for no apparent reason. Given that there is a single, world wide price for oil, why does it matter?

but foolishly clicked a link in your post which didn’t open in a new window and lost it all. In summary :

Turkmenistan has lots of gas, yet if there is a “single” price for gas, they don’t get it. Why is this ? Because a bigger, more powerful nation (Russia) refuses to pay them the “market” rate for it. This is a typical example of how reality contradicts the fantasy economics you use to justify your position. If there was a single market price for resources, and it didn’t matter who the holders of the resources were, who they sold it to, or what price they sold it at, world history would be quite different. Oil is an extension of the sort of free trade imperialism that was once evident throughout the british empire. In your fantasy economy, attempting to negotiate higher oil royalties or even nationlalising an oil industry would not worry the nations who need the oil. This is not the case though is it ? Obesrve what happened in Iran. Given that oil is scarce and becoming scarcer, such actions are even less acceptable as there is massively growing demand for oil. The relationship is no longer one of two way dependance. There are less places to go in order to satisfy demand for oil. If you demand oil, you can’t decide - oh I’ll just go and get it elsewhere and leave the arabs to look for other people to hold over the barrel. All roads lead back to the middle east as that is were all the cheap, large, easliy accesible proven reserves are. If you control the oil supply, then you insulate your economy against the whims of governments who might try to a) charge you more than you think is a fair price for the oil. b) Take control of oil production themselves c) Get you caught in a bidding war with other countries desperate for their oil. d) Decide they don’t want to sell you the oil at all, as you will shortly no longer be the only large market for the stuff. etc. This is what is going on in Iraq.

It also seems that this undercuts your previous argument that the American effort in Iraq is doomed because it’s imperialist

It seems pretty likely that it is doomed. It is an imperialist war, and thus the justifications offered for it by the governmemt do not make an intellectualy eloquant case. As for the whole imperialist attitude of the US, the 20th century has seen the US gain an informal empire which is quite different to the undertaking in Iraq. The US saw itself (in many ways correctly) as the defender of freedom in the face of the imperial ambitions of the Soviets. Once the cold war ended we’ve had the worrying rise of the american right and this ridiculous PNAC mentality. The fathers of this philosophy utterly discredited. My point is that this represents a sea change from what the US public and the rest of the world see as “just”. It’s little wonder that this mentalitiy of “pre-emptive war” has increased anti-american sentiment all over the world. Historically this will surely be regarded as a great failure in foreign policy. More to the point Iraq has demonstrated quite clearly that the idea of kicking the door in, removing the despot and making the people vote does not work. You all still seem to ignore what’s happening there, but the whole thing is a bloody mess and Iraq is no where near having a western style liberal democracy in place. What credibility one that has been brought about US invasion of the country will have in the arab world supposing the unlikely event that there ever is one, is another big question.

You also say the USA / UK should have engineered a coup, yet isn’t their propensity for that precisely what you claim is enraging the Arab world

What I mean is, and I think this has been evident from the start, that coups etc. only work if there is popular mandate for the removal of the leader and an organised political alternative. But a coup is not really a desirable thing to be getting involved in if you can avoid it either. The US is less popular than it’s ever been in the arab world. At least most people bother to ask why this is, but it’s not because they’re all a bunch of fanatical towel-heads who regard the US as the “great satan” for no reason other than blind fanatasicsm. Note that the US and the west are the targets of a limited amount of islamic violence. Here in britain the 7/7 bombers even explicitly said that they were doing what they were doing as a response to UK invasions of muslim lands. We ignore this and say “they can’t possibly have a reason”. If they want to take over the world, why start with the biggest and most heavily armed nation on earth ? You can’t fight a war against an idea with a massive convential army, the very notion is pretty silly in the sense that the war will never end. There is less chance now of arabs rejecting the minority of lunatics in their ranks now that we’ve fuelled the hatred even further. Who would call this a success ?

Jeff Guin,

What makes the oil argument even more sterile is that it is, at the moment, the cheapest game in town. But it isn’t the only game. The US has several hundred years worth of coal, and Canada has huge reserves of oil. None of it is economical at today’s prices, but to conclude that we are going to “run out? is simply wrong — it will ultimately get replaced by something cheaper.

Spot the flaw in your argument here. What is the alternative ? If you know - you’d become a rich man. When it comes to waging war in Iraq it was neccesary because we’d “run out of options”. When it comes to the single most important resource in the world running out you say “something else will come along”. What else ? You gonna be flying a coal powered Jet plane in 100 years time ? When it comes to rhetorical techniques, before critisicing mine have a look at your own. All of you are keen to dismiss science as rubbish when it proposes an idea you don’t like the sound of, yet you seem to instill a blind faith that science will come up with a cheap alternative to oil. Where do you get this nonsense from ? If you’re happy with our generations legacy to our kids as “we knew it was fucked, but we were making plenty money from it so did nothng about it.” then that’s fine too.

Brit Tuesday, 31 October 2006 at 07:12

Not worn him out - merely deranged him further.

Mr Wood: Should we or should we not have engineered a coup? You’ve said both.

And you might enjoy this cartoon.

Steven Wood Tuesday, 31 October 2006 at 07:44

Brit,

Since you’re such a smart arse - why not discuss the reasons behind the Iranian coup, why not discuss the refusal of russia to pay the market price for what you consider fungible resources ? Is it because you really haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about to the extent that you post links to dilbert cartoons to try and appear smart. Without any evidence to back up your claim that oil is a “fungible” resource, how do you expect your morninic, witless, comments to be taken seriously ? What will planes fly on in 50 years time ? What current alternative or replacement do we have !? news to me that we just use oil out of choice and not dependancy. Get a grip.

Since you wont address my points, I hardly see the point in addressing yours. So in answer to your questions and in keeping with your own thought processes, “I’m sure they could have thought of something”.

Brit Tuesday, 31 October 2006 at 08:02

What a shame - you were going quite well for a bit.

Jeff Guinn Wednesday, 01 November 2006 at 01:36

Mr. Wood:

Spot the flaw in your argument here. What is the alternative ? If you know - you’d become a rich man. When it comes to waging war in Iraq it was neccesary because we’d “run out of options?. When it comes to the single most important resource in the world running out you say “something else will come along?. What else ? You gonna be flying a coal powered Jet plane in 100 years time?

Spot the flaw in your own argument. There is nothing we use oil for now that coal can’t replace. We also could, if we so chose, supply all our electicity needs with nuclear power. And the moment someone figures out how to make marketable fuel cells using something other than pure hydrogen, then Katy bar the door, because fuel cells are at least twice as thermodynamically efficient as internal combustion engines.

As for Russia pressuring a weak neighbor to supply gas at below market prices, I’d say you have made AOG’s argument perfectly. Although, given your ongoing misapprehension of market economics, you might not spot why.

Here’s a little test: Hugo Chavez would like nothing more than to stick it to the US. Why doesn’t he charge twice as much for any US bound oil as that going to anyone else?

Besides, as AOG also noted above, it would have been far cheaper for the US to buy Iraq’s oil as a fungible commodity than to steal it.

It seems pretty likely that it is doomed. It is an imperialist war, and thus the justifications offered for it by the governmemt do not make an intellectualy eloquant case.

Let’s note, for the record, that you still have completely failed to provide anything like a intellectually defendable alternative.

Also, it is very worth keeping in mind what is going on in Iraq: pure sectarian warfare. This was going to happen sooner or later, constituting nothing other than a re-run of Tito and Yugoslavia.

Until you offer something other than a null hypothesis, then you simply aren’t being serious.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 01 November 2006 at 04:38

What will planes fly on in 50 years time ?

Oil. Unless, of course, the demand for oil to fly planes is so great in relation to supply that a more economical fuel is found, in which case something other than oil. Or, we won’t fly so much, relying instead on more economical ways of communicating and traveling. Like trains. Hey, I know a blogger who is into trains and can help you there.

Mr. Wood, why do I have the feeling that if we slashed our consumption of oil by 50% under a regime of strict planning, or even rationing, that would reduce our standard of living, dislocate the economy severely and probably cause a worldwide recession, we would still have you around trying to instill panic in everyone by yelling: “What will planes fly on in 100 years time?”?

Steven Wood Wednesday, 01 November 2006 at 05:38

Jeff Guin,

> Here’s a little test: Hugo Chavez would like nothing more than to stick it to the US. Why > doesn’t he charge twice as much for any US bound oil as that going to anyone else?

Here’s a little test for you Jeff : Why does the US even bother to buy oil from Chavez when they also claim that he uses Venezuela’s oil wealth to support terrorists in Colombia and to destabilise Bolivia ?

Oil is not homogenous. The reason that Venezuela sells most of its oil to the US is beacuse the US has the refining capacity to deal with Venezuela’s high-sulphur oil. China does not, but it is developing it and the two countries have already agreed plans to increase china’s access to venezuela’s oil. The US has been the main importer of venezuelan oil for the past 100 years, it taks a long time to dismantle this sort of framework. Chavez is taking steps to do this, but according to you, this shouldn’t irk the US as it can simply get its oil elsewhere. Again, not the case. Oil can only be considered a fungible resource if you believe that it is not running out, and that demand will not soon outstrip supply. Believe that if you like, but you wont get my agreement.

As for this : “There is nothing we use oil for now that coal can’t replace”

You can’t possibly be serious about this. You ignore all the historical evidence of foreign interference when countries seek to leverage their resources at the wests expense. You cannot be serious about this either. Nor can you be serious when you claim that the US is in Iraq to sort out the problem of shia-suni conflict. There are always conflicts of this sort going in around the world. Saddams problem was also that in 2002 he dared so suggest another arab oil embargo agains the US. He had to go on those grounds. Doing nothing is, whether you like ir or not, a perfectly acceptable response. According to your logic, the US army should now be in North Korea, Darfur, Cuba etc etc. Surely the same arguments apply ?

Steven Wood Wednesday, 01 November 2006 at 05:42

As a matter of fact Peter Burnet, I would love to see us reduce our dependancy on oil, and would happily applaud any adminsitraions efforts to achieve this. The logical problem with your argument is that you don’t believe science when science tells you that oil is running out, yet you have great faith in the ability of science to come up with an alternative fuel. The alternatives, ethanol etc, are at the moment unworkable.

Peter Burnet Wednesday, 01 November 2006 at 07:41

Mr. Wood:

You miss my point completely. I don’t have “faith” in your or “science’s” or anybody else’s ability tell us where we are going to be in fifty years. Science is a discipline consisting of millions of minds, Mr. Wood, not an all-knowing, all-seeing mystical collective authority that has replaced the deity. What some scientists are telling us is that based upon known reserves, today’s extraction economies, present refining technologies and current consumption levels, we’re going to run out of oil at current real prices. Although they don’t say it, the underlying implication is that geo-politics and population levels are constant or at least predictable as well. Other scientists demur, but let us go with yours, not in the sense that they are right but in the sense that they represent majority thinking. (I really don’t know if they do or not).

You seem to be calling for a lot more than just sensible conservation measures like more efficient car emissions and better insulation for houses, which everybody supports and which you probably think won’t be enough to solve the scale of problem you pose. I don’t know whether in fifty years we’ll be in an amazingly prosperous world or another Holocaust, but I’m pretty sure there is little going on in life today that can help me answer that. You must know that there has never been an accurate prediction of resource needs and resource use beyond a decade or so, but you have obviously worked yourself into a state of near certainty. Why? Do you bow down to everything “science? tells you. Fifty years ago it told you we would all be working fifteen hours a week by now and zipping around in little personal rocket ships if it weren’t for that damn coming ice age. Twenty years ago it told you we would have mass starvation and complete resource depletion by…now, come to think of it.

And this is where it starts to get nasty. Not only are you and many on the left certain in the face of history, you are certain your adversaries are too, because it is all obvious to you and, as with global warming, you have stopped listening to skeptics and concluded anyone who disagrees with you is either very, very, very stupid or very, very, very clever and evil. Therefore you have no choice to conclude that there is massive fraud and hypocrisy behind U.S. foreign policy marked by cabals who talk freedom but really just want to suck out everybody else’s oil for their SUV’s. Given the millions who would have to be party to such hypocrisy, they keep their intentions well-hidden from the unwashed masses that make up the majority of the American electorate, don’t they?

I have no idea what the oil situation will be in fifty years. Will it be like, well oil, in that we keep finding more and confounding the doomsday folks, or will it be like spices and whale oil in that technological progress causes demand to plummet to insignificant levels? I don’t believe in predicting the far future and ordering life around those predictions, but I do believe in the lessons of history. Two of those are: a) leaders who predict far into the future and try to plan and control around their predictions always cause political and economic havoc and misery; and b) the only route to general prosperity, freedom and greater general concern for social justice is democracy, free markets and trade, and the technological innovation spawned by liberal capitalism.

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 01 November 2006 at 10:26

Mr. Wood;

Mr. Guinn already went over this somewhat, but I would like to put a somewhat different take on it because it ties in to another point you made —

Turkmenistan has lots of gas, yet if there is a “single��? price for gas, they don’t get it. Why is this?

Because Russia is using its access monopoly to rip off Turkmenistan. Note that this has no effect on the price the final consumer pays for the natural gas, it affects only the distribution of the profit from the sale. This is precisely the same issue with nationalization that your brought up earlier. The “problem” there was purely about who would get the profits, not at all about the final consumer price. It was short sighted and stupid, and so we don’t do that anymore. It’s a typical result of too close a relationship between corporations and the government, one of the major reasons I support free markets.

As for long term oil, what all of us see here is the sweep of history in which crisis just like petroleum running out occurred without actual collapse. We don’t see it as fundamentally different to the wood fuel crisis in Britian, yet the UK economy didn’t collapse. This is basically Mr. Burnet’s point in another guise.

As for this,

Why does the US even bother to buy oil

you start with a false premise, that the USA buys oil. It doesn’t. Companies based in the USA buy oil and the USA federal government has very limited control over that.

Oil can only be considered a fungible resource if you believe that it is not running out, and that demand will not soon outstrip supply.

Scarcity has nothing whatsoever to do with fungibility, and that you relate them indicates to me that you still fail to understand what “fungible” means.

On the other thread,

It [invasion of Iraq] is an imperialist war

Why? You yourself have argued that the USA has always been anti-imperialist, so you arguing that this is and isn’t an imperialist war.

the 20th century has seen the US gain an informal empire

Yet at the turn of the 20th century, the USA had an actual, formal empire, without being imperialist (according to you).

My point is that this represents a sea change

What “this”? You keep coming back to this claim while leaving its antecedent and evidence missing except for generic catchphrases like “the right”, “neo-conservative”, “PNAC”.

The US is less popular than it’s ever been in the arab world

And I should care because …? In fact, given the type of people who have been popular in Arabia (e.g., Yassir Arafat), perhaps we should take this as a mark of pride.

We ignore this and say “they can’t possibly have a reason��?. If they want to take over the world, why start with the biggest and most heavily armed nation on earth?

Sounds to me like you’re the one ignoring. The Caliphascists clearly state, over and over, that their goal is a world wide Caliphate. The opposition to the invasion of Dar-al-Islam is because of the attitude “what’s our is ours, what’s yours will become ours”. The Caliphascists have “explicitly stated” that they’re still upset about the Moors being driven from Spain. How, exactly, would you address the festering resentment of that? My view is that the resentment that concerns you is inevitable, short of total global surrender. Therefore, as long as we’re being “punished” regardless, we might as well get the advantages of the “crime”.

Jeff Guinn Wednesday, 01 November 2006 at 14:02

Mr. Wood:

As for this : “There is nothing we use oil for now that coal can’t replace?

You can’t possibly be serious about this.

Absolutely serious. Name one thing that we get from oil that we can not also get from coal (or Canadian tar sands, an absolutely gigantic energy source.)

Here’s a little test for you Jeff : Why does the US even bother to buy oil from Chavez when they also claim that he uses Venezuela’s oil wealth to support terrorists in Colombia and to destabilise Bolivia ?

Oil wealth, as is the case for any kind of wealth, occasionally goes to some very unsavory things. That is unfortunate. But it has absolutely nothing to do with the point at hand, which your moving the goalposts won’t change: oil is a fungible commodity, with a market determined price. It simply makes no sense to assert someone would “refuse” to sell us oil, as we would simply get it somewhere else, and at the same price. Unless, that is, the threat came as part of a self inflicted wound: declining to sell oil to anybody.

[You cannot] be serious when you claim that the US is in Iraq to sort out the problem of shia-suni conflict.

Never said we were. The sectarian warfare is a brute fact that would have occurred eventually, US policy notwithstanding. And just like with Yugoslavia, the inevitable sectarian slaughter, made worse by kicking the can down the road, would no doubt lead to calls for the US to go in and fix it.

These same arguments do not apply to North Korea, Darfur, or Cuba. There is a very strong case to be made that our decision not to forcibly change the Nork and Cuban regimes is astonishingly amoral. Socialism’s track record is irrefutable: every day those regimes exist is another day of avoidable human misery on a massive scale.

The difference is that none of them are in a position to threaten US national security, nor do any of them represent a policy dead end like the sanctions regime against Iraq.

Which reminds me. You still have completely failed to provide any defendable alternative.

In the real world, there is no such thing as a null policy.

cjm Wednesday, 01 November 2006 at 22:30

i would like to point out that while you all (y’all) have indulged your egos — and there is nothing wrong in that — you have also indulged west’s ego and done him a great disservice. has he said one thing here that is factual (i don’t know because i don’t read leftist tripe). this in a nutshell is the great existential threat to the west, to civilization. delenda est gauche.

Brit Thursday, 02 November 2006 at 03:04

cjm:

But this is what comment sections are for, presumably.

Anyway, I’m sure Mr Wood will have gained from it - I doubt he spends much time with people who openly disagree with him.

Steven Wood Thursday, 02 November 2006 at 06:16

Jeff Guin, AOG,

But it has absolutely nothing to do with the point at hand

Oh but it has. The US depends on oil from VZ. It cannot get the oil it needs from elsewhere. VZ can’t sell it elsewhere yet, but they’re working on it.

oil is a fungible commodity, with a market determined price. It simply makes no sense to assert someone would “refuse? to sell us oil, as we would simply get it somewhere else, and at the same price.

Do me a favour Jeff. According to this logic, the oil embargo shouldn’t have been a problem then ? Erm… The lesson from that is if you control the oil, then you can’t be held over a barrel by Arab governments manipulating the price. What exactly are you trying to say ? It seems to me you are saying that because oil is fungible, then it’s price is determined onlyby the market and it cannot be used as a political tool by which to inflict pain on the enemies of the producers, as it would inflict equal pain on the producer. This is utterly false. The arab countries benefited hugely from the embargo, as did the Soviets who benefited from increasing demand on their exported oil. Note importantly here that countries in the Soviet bloc still got preferential treatment when buying russian oil, so they were not adversley affected as we in the west were. Domestically, the price of fuel there was signficantly lower than in the west. How come ?

Let us not forget that the oil embargo was targeted at specific countries, clearly if the arabs had realised as you do that “oil” was fungible and that the US would just buy it from elsewhere then they wouldn’t have attempted such a policy. As i say, this is pure fantasy and you must know it. You can try and use terms like fungible in an attempt to appear clever all you like, but the fact is that oil producing countries and their allies can organise and align in such a way as to target specific countries with their sanctions this distorting the market price.

With saddam hussein talking about oil sanctions against the west and unifiying the arabs then he was a threat to the US’s interests. You admit this yourself which contradicts your claims about a single global price for oil, who could he hurt but himself ?

As for the waffling about a “null” alternative, this rather arrogantly assumes that there was no doubt that something had to be done about saddam hussein now. I have already refuted this. Iraq is not the place to be fighting the war on terror, the people being killed in the war are not the real enemies. Saddam contained extremism and sectariansim much better than the US are doing.

Name one thing that we get from oil that we can not also get from coal

petrol. Are you being serious ? How would you fly an F16 with coal ?

Brit

I doubt he spends much time with people who openly disagree with him

On the contrary, there is far more to be gained by debating with people who you disagree with. Apart from the last week how much time do you spend doing this ?

Brit Thursday, 02 November 2006 at 08:27

You can try and use terms like fungible in an attempt to appear clever all you like

It’s more the case that if you don’t use terms like fungible when discussing oil prices and global economics, you appear ignorant.

Are you being serious ? How would you fly an F16 with coal ?

Google is your friend in these matters. Always Google before you leap.

On the contrary, there is far more to be gained by debating with people who you disagree with. Apart from the last week how much time do you spend doing this ?

Far too much, though admittedly, less than I did a short while ago, as the other commenters here will know.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 02 November 2006 at 08:28

Mr. Wood;

The US depends on oil from VZ

Not true. Even you wrote that it’s VZ that depends on selling to the USA.

The oil embargo of the 1970s occurred in a far less market oriented time, when a much smaller group of nations controlled more of the exported oil and were not yet dependent on oil revenues. Even then it wouldn’t have been that big a deal if the USA federal government hadn’t reacted stupidly with price controls and other counter-productive measures. One also notes that despite your claim that Arabia benefited enormously from it, ever afterwards it has been the policy of the Saudi Entity to avoid exactly that sort of thing in the future. The situation for oil producers today is much worse. Oil consumers are much more able to accomodate oil price shocks (just look at the continued strong economic growth in the USA despite the recent oil price spike) while oil producers have become far more dependent on the massive revenue streams from selling oil. Any current embargo would see the producers collapse long before the consumers (and the Saudi Entity knows this, which explains their policy on the matter). Chavez, for instance, stays in power only because he can dispense largesse from oil revenues. If he stopped selling oil, he wouldn’t last three months.

David Cohen Thursday, 02 November 2006 at 16:39

So just to be clear, we’re all ok with invading Iraq, so long as it’s a imperial war to seize control of their oil?

Steven Wood Friday, 03 November 2006 at 04:50

David Cohen,

Nope that’s my point. Forget all the tosh about freedom and benevolance, it’s about oil. Thus, I cannot support the war based on the spurious justifications offered by our collective governments. And by you. You all admit that saddam could threaten “US Interests” - I’d like if you could expand on this. What interests are so precious as to justify what’s happened ? My earlier comment about if Saddam was the president of Chad remain, no one would care. It’s only because he is in a region where he can disrupt the flow of oil that anyone cares. I’m not OK with an imperial war to grab resources either, although this would be a more honest description of the campaign to secure the region. It’s no coincidence that the only oil rich middle east country not part of “club america”, Iran, is subject to the next right wing demonisation campaign.

If you believe the war was about liberation, or about removing the threat of further terrorist atrocities by muslims, then it’s been a disaster. The region is far less stable now than it was in 2000.

> Never said we were. The sectarian warfare is a brute fact that would have occurred > eventually, US policy notwithstanding.

This is mere conjeture. I could as easily say a democratic opposition to Saddam would have “occurred eventually”.

Re Chaves, VZ and the US. The dependacy is currently two way, US depends on the oil, VZ depends on the revenue. Chavez is taking steps to break the dependancy by dealing with Chinese oli companies. The same was once true of the middle east, but now that an alternative amrket is emerging, the two dependancy is being broken. The US cannot simply buy its oil from elsewhere because there’s not enough of it to meet growing world demand.

Peter Burnet Friday, 03 November 2006 at 05:41

Mr. Wood:

All about oil? How yesterday of you. We serious doomsdayers have moved way beyond that. Don’t you see Iraq is just a feint to buy the U.S. navy time to seize control of the seas?

But seriously, why do I detect more than a little glee in your prediction that Chavez will deny the U.S. oil in favour of China? Rooting for the freedom-loving Chinese, are we?

Steven Wood Friday, 03 November 2006 at 06:18

Peter Burnet,

I am supposing that the above represents a rather feeble attempt at abuse since it would imply support of China and the incumbent regieme there. How boringly predicitable it all is that a “rightie” should try and use the self-loathing anti-western card against anyone who disagrees with them. How one goes about reading “Chavez is taking steps to break the dependancy by dealing with Chinese oil companies.” as a gleeful statement is frankly beyond me, but then how you can also find mirth in a report from leading scientists warning us about the effects of our disastarous fishing and environmental policies, is beyond me also. What would they know anyway ? Fools eh ? As for you (I imagine a single middle class white guy who sepnds too much time on right wing blogs slapping the backs of like minded people), why indeed should you care what these academics say ? Got to admire your arrogance. I take it fish don’t run out either ?

Brit Friday, 03 November 2006 at 06:55

Talking of seafood, I believe Mr Wood has jumped the shark.

Steven Wood Friday, 03 November 2006 at 08:17

Thought I did that last Tuesday Brit. Your own contribution has been consistently snide, uninspiring and generally crap, therefore you’re not even as good as your own insult. Baws to you.

Brit Friday, 03 November 2006 at 08:25

Ah but I have at least been consistent.

Peter Burnet Friday, 03 November 2006 at 08:28

Not rooting for China? Well, that’s a relief because we’ll be counting on your support when the U.S. Marines pay Hugo-Baby a visit.

OK, I’ll fess up. The reason I’m not too worried about oil or fish in fifty years is I rely on the expertise of a group of really cool scientists who assure me that global warming is going to reduce oil demand dramatically and cause an explosion in marine life. It’s the Gaia hypothesis for conservatives. Of course, they are all single middle class white guys who spend too much time on right wing blogs, which causes a little suspicion on my part. I don’t mind their political views, but it drives me nuts that they get more than I do.

Brit Friday, 03 November 2006 at 08:41

Don’t be silly, Peter. The reason we don’t need to worry about oil or fish running out is that bird flu is going to completely decimate the human population within the next two or three years.

That and the Millennium Bug.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 03 November 2006 at 09:43

Mr. Wood;

You all admit that saddam could threaten “US Interests? - I’d like if you could expand on this

I have, but you’re not paying attention. As I have noted repeatedly, I (and I think the others) view the overthrow of the Iraqi Ba’ath as one campaign in a larger war. That war is against what I call Caliphascism, a melding of European fascism with Islamic theocracy. While the various factions may have very divergent end goals, they all agree on destroying the West and the USA in particular first and then creating a caliphate to rule Arabia and as much of the rest of the world as they can. That is the threat to American interests. Of course, control of a significant fraction of world oil production is part of that struggle, but it’s not the entirety of it. Iraq by itself wasn’t a threat to the USA’s oil supply, as the Saudi Entity, Kuwait, and the Gulf States would certainly not have sided with Ba’athist Iraq against the USA. I am also not clear why the USA can’t buy its oil elsewhere than Venezuela, especially as it already does.

Mr. Cohen;

I’m not OK with an imperial war for oil, but I am OK with a Shadow style war to shake things up.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 03 November 2006 at 10:53

Mr. Wood;

I cannot support the war based on the spurious justifications offered by our collective governments

Ah, now there’s a key point which I missed on my first reading.

Are you saying that, even if an objective, omniscient observer concluded that the invasion was overall a good thing by your standards, you still would not support it if the justifications offered by our collective governments were spurious?

David Cohen Friday, 03 November 2006 at 18:53

But Mr. Wood, you make a compelling case for an imperial war to seize Iraq’s oil. It is based on predicates that I reject but that you seem to accept: oil is running out; oil is not economically replaceable; oil producing nations can channel their oil to favored trading partners; the Arab world is anti-western and, specifically, anti-American; and petroleum is necessary to maintaining the western (that is, American) life style. If you accept all that, how could we not invade Iraq? If our enemies are our enemies — after all, they have so many reasons to hate us — and they are using oil as a weapon, how can we not use our own weapons in response?

Do you really believe that the United States government is going to let its citizens standard of living plummet just because it’s too squeamish to go to war?

AOG: I don’t require that my allies be right, so long as they come out in the right place. Showing your work only counts in math class.

David Cohen Friday, 03 November 2006 at 18:54

In any event, arguing with me over why I support the war is a sucker’s game.

Annoying Old Guy Friday, 03 November 2006 at 19:52

Not a math class? I will have you know that I loved math class. Why, Mr. Guinn even saw my glorious rack of astonishing math trophies. It was all I could do to pry his eyes off them (of course, I counted them very carefully after he left and inspected them for “Jeff rulez!” scratchings).

Still, the whole “Oh, yeah, Iraq was close to having nuclear weapons from the New York Times” puts a bit of new amusement in some of Mr. Wood’s statements.

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