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Montana Politics

Poli-Scientific Method, Part II

The importance of voting carefully extends beyond the domestic realm and into an area that would ideally be almost completely non-partisan: foreign politics. Foreign policy oughtn’t be changed every four or eight years, because its objectives are longer-term than that. This has led some to believe that it doesn’t, that regardless of the party in power, there is some group controlling everything. A quick look over the last 11 years suggests otherwise.

Compare how George Bush and Barack Obama handled the use of America’s substantial military force. When the United States invaded Iraq, it pegged American credibility on the ability to improve the country, both in terms of liberty and in material conditions. In doing so, we gambled trillions of dollars and thousands of lives on a country we understood only poorly. Since Iraq in the years before we invaded was relatively stable, we set the bar pretty high – we had to destroy a country and rebuild it, better than it was, within the attention span of the global public. This opened an enormous opportunity to those elements wishing to discredit and reduce the power of the United States. They needed only to make Iraq unstable, to increase violence, to succeed. And since states like matter tend towards entropy unless there is a good reason for them not to, in the end the US was trapped in a hopelessly asymmetric conflict.

The fact that Obama authorized the United States to participate in the conflict in Libya said to some liberals that American foreign policy had not really changed. But even a cursory examination shows the difference in approaches. In Libya, the US waited until the proper time to act – when Libya was at its absolute worst, justifying intervention not with decades-old examples of violence, but with violence occurring at the time and with potential to occur in the future. And rather than going it alone or leading the charge, the US hung back and didn’t endorse intervention until the same had been proposed by numerous other relevant, regional powers. Adequate latitude was granted the armed forces to make the completion of the mission possible, but it was the Libyans themselves who dominated the operations and ultimately won victory, thus making the change in regime more palatable to Arab and Muslim sensibilities. End result? A hostile dictator is removed for a thousandth the cost of the war against Saddam, and much more importantly without the loss of American soldiers that characterized Bush-era foreign policy.

The conclusion? Well, we’d need more experiments to find out for sure, but it seems there are two hypotheses – something changed when we switched administrations, or else the secret committee that plots American foreign policy awoke in 2009 from a prolonged fit of nigh unbelievable stupidity.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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The Polish Wolf


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  • As to Libya, Obama had said that it would be wrong to seek regime change in Libya by force. However, that is precisely what happened. So are you wrong to give him plaudits for doing so, or was Obama wrong for saying the use of force was wrong, or was Obama just incapable of refraining from doing what he said was the wrong thing to do, or is Obama just a liar for intentional misleading the American people as to his intentions?

    • There is a significant difference between outside force and rebel forces. You’d best be specific about which you are discussing before washing another with ideals you hold.

  • A lot of wish-it-so/make-it-seem-so going on here. Most of the differences that you see on the ground have other explanations and absolutely nothing to do with electoral politics. And you have failed to look for similarities, the biggest of which was the PR hook used to generate public support for the war. in Iraq, it was WMD’s, in Libya, the threat that 700,000 people were about to be killed. Both bullshit.

    Now, if you will, look for other similarities and explanations for events on the ground. Saddam had switch to the Euro to trade oil, and Qaddafi was shaking down oil companies. Both gentlemen had enjoyed support from the US, but we’re then seen as deviant and suddenly made it to the American radar screen as bad guys. Both countries are oil-rich. The US is popular in neither country, and so cannot possibly allow democratic rule, or our ass will be handed us I a bag. We know little or nothing of facts on the ground in Libya, and in Iraq that information is only known by a curious few, called extremists. We don’t know the future in Libya, but since democracy is not in the cards, an insurgency/counterinsurgency and occupation is likely in the cards.

    You are right that foreign policy is “bipartisan” in the sense that it is not affected by electoral politics. Not much else is either. This exercise you have done, searching through the ashes of Libya looking for reasons why it was different than Iraq, is a little troubling. Both wars were illegal, fought for unstated reasons. Obama would have had to openly give the finger to US law to fight it with American troops, and so used NATO.

    Nice try.

  • Chomsky spoke to FAIR recently on this subject:

    “… in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries of that category, there is a game plan, which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it … when there’s a favored dictator and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible, full support as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him — like, say, maybe the army turns against him, business class turns against him — then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old regime, maybe with new names. And that’s done over and over again. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always tried — Somoza, Nicaragua; Shah in Iran; Marcos in the Philippines; Duvalier in Haiti; Chun in South Korea; Mobutu in the Congo; Ceausescu is one of Western favorites in Romania; Suharto in Indonesia. It’s completely routine. And that’s exactly what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia. OK, we support them right to the end — Mubarak in Egypt, right to the end, keep supporting him. Doesn’t work any longer, send him off to Sharm el-Sheikh, pull out the rhetoric, try to restore the old regime. That’s, in fact, what the conflict is about right now .. we don’t know where it’s going to turn now, but that’s what’s going on.

    Well, there’s another category. The other category is an oil-rich dictator who’s not reliable, who’s a loose cannon. That’s Libya. And there, there’s a different policy: try to get a more reliable dictator. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Of course, describe it as a humanitarian intervention. That’s another near historical universal. You check history, virtually every resort to force, by whoever it is, is accompanied by the most noble rhetoric. It’s all completely humanitarian. That includes Hitler taking over Czechoslovakia, the Japanese fascists rampaging in northeast China. In fact, it’s Mussolini in Ethiopia. There’s hardly any exceptions. So you produce that, and the media and commentators present — pretend they don’t notice that it has no — carries no information, because it’s reflexive.”

    Your writing above appears to me to be reflexive as well.

  • you mischaracterize those who put Obama’s foreign policy in the context of US Imperialism when you state in the first paragraph:

    “This has led some to believe that it doesn’t, that regardless of the party in power, there is some group controlling everything. A quick look over the last 11 years suggests otherwise.”

    the rest is just the usual junk you spin.

    • Are you going to tell me that there are not those who believe that there is some group controlling everything? You may not be among them; not everything I write is directed at you. There are some who have said that foreign policy decisions were “above the presidents pay grade.”

      On the other hand, viewing Obama’s policy in the context of US imperialism are quite accurate. A nation the size of the United states inevitably has profound repercussions either in action or inaction. Since Bush’s departure, that effect has not only been more positive for the world (depending on how Libya works out, perhaps only less negative), but much less damaging to our own resources and reputation. Can you really deny that? I would love to hear it.

      • yes, some folks think the illuminati run everything. but you don’t have to be lurking in the conspiratorial fringe to posit that long-term goals of US imperialism get implemented regardless of the party in power.

        this weak attempt to champion Obama’s foreign policy doesn’t compute with reality. you seem to think the multilateral cover of NATO and no US soldier deaths makes the regime change imposed by NATO more palatable. no, there was deceit from the beginning, using a narrow UN resolution to stop an alleged slaughter-about-to-happen, and exploiting that to dispose of Libya’s tyrant.

        then there’s Obama’s first broken promise about Gitmo:


        • “you seem to think the multilateral cover of NATO and no US soldier deaths makes the regime change imposed by NATO more palatable.”

          Lizard, grats! you’ve bested yourself in saying offensive things. There’s 4,483 families in America that I think are going to profoundly disagree with you on that statement, lizard. That’s a lot of families, and they are a lot more convincing to me than you and Mark’s preaching.

          But I suppose, if you’re not concerned with those lives, you might also look at the economic costs. Gaddafi cost us literally one thousandth of what Saddam cost. Viewed from a rational perspective, that’s a pretty good deal.

          • do non-American lives count? certainly not as much as American lives, right?

            i think it’s tragic that any family has to lose loved ones in these wars. whether it’s thousands of women and children being killed in Afghanistan during night raids, or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed based on our governments lies, or a 16 year old US citizen blown to pieces by a drone strike, or 4,483 US soldiers killed in combat because they signed up to fight for their country, and ended up fighting for oil companies and other multinational corporations.

            oh, and i think your self-described “rational perspective” is offensive, and ignorant. but that’s just me, and most people would probably vehemently disagree with me.

            • Not “vehemently”, though you certainly seem to desire it so.

              The point of being rational is often to consider alternatives in the face of strong emotion. It’s hardly surprising you would counter with emotion (OFFENSIVE!) and thereby think it “ignorant”. PWolf’s argument is “ignorant” only because it disagrees with your sensibilities. So yes, it probably is just you … well, and Mark.

            • First – I like you strategy here, lizard. You know that on a thinking person’s level, you’re wrong. You’re very, very, wrong. And I think on some level, you know it. So you avoid it and move directly to emotions. But I do think that the vast majority of people, be they Americans, Libyans, or Iraqis, would agree that they’d rather have another Obama than another Bush.

              Secondly lizard, if all lives are equal, then Libya scores a heck of a lot higher than Iraq.

              But that’s not really how your rationale works, lizard. You don’t think like that. Because in your mind, the vast majority of the deaths in Afghanistan that are caused by anti-government forces are not as important as the much smaller number killed by American forces.

              I realize you hate being rational – we’ve discussed this a couple of times. But irrationality gets people killed many, many people killed. Especially the sort of irrationality you and Mark subscribe to, which holds that a person is more dead if they are killed by someone from a different polity than if they are killed by their own. I’ll spare you the historical examples because I’ve been over this before, but you’ll recall that the death toll from US isolationism is in the tens of millions. Sure, we feel better because we didn’t actually rape Nanking, or machine gun Jews at Baba Yar, or gas Ethiopians. But by refusing to recognize that we had a responsibility to the rest of the world, we were complicit in allowing it to happen.

              • you have one thing right, we’ve been over this before.

                the premise of your post takes the last 11 years of US foreign policy under two different US regimes, which you claim represent two significantly different approaches, the latter being “better” or at the very least more preferable. you compare Bush’s Iraq, where the cost of lives and money far outweigh Obama’s Libya, a multilateral effort that cost much less and not one US soldier came home in a body bag. if those were the only two factors we could use in judging these two different administrations, then you would win the argument, hands down.

                my rational counter-argument is that both wars were waged under false pretenses, Iraq had phantom WMD’s, and Libya had a dubious impending slaughter. Bush used dodgy intelligence and corporate media propaganda to justify invasion. Obama used a UN resolution that supposedly only sanctioned establishing a no-fly zone. The end result was the same: two heads of state turned into corpses.

                there are more similarities with these two wars. both wars involve oil. both wars took out dictators who messed with the west regarding that oil. both wars unleashed sectarian/tribal violence. both wars will produce contracts for multinationals to help “rebuild”. and both wars have nothing to do with making Americans safe from terrorism.

                • There are very sincere problems with your argument, Lizard.

                  1) It was verified that Iraq had *no* WMDs or even “weapons of mass destruction related program activities”. The government lied to us. Small wonder. However, you’re engaging in circular reasoning.
                  a) The government has lied to us.
                  b) The government(s) claimed that there was an impending slaughter.
                  c) But the government has lied to us, so the notion of slaughter is dubious.
                  Therefore: The government lied to us about the impending slaughter.

                  There is ample evidence that Quadaffi’s troops were closing in on rebel positions and more ample evidence that the Libyan dictator has engaged in slaughter when that occurs. That I’ve seen, there is next to no evidence that such a slaughter would not have occurred without western intervention. Empirically, the idea was well founded. Yet you call the conclusion “dubious”, based on the very difference you wish to deny that Polish Wolf has argued. Your analogy fails and you attempt to state that it succeeds for the very reasons that it fails. At that point, you have no standing to refute the thesis. Unless you can show otherwise (A history of Quadaffi’s mercy, the Libyan military refusing kill orders like in Egypt, anything …)

                  2) Your likening the deaths of these two heads of state is also deeply flawed. The US invaded Iraq with a standing order to capture Saddam and turn him over to Iraqi justice. He was captured by US troops based on US intelligence and turned over to the Iraqis for trail and yes, summery execution. None of those things happened with Quadaffi. He was captured by rebel forces having been offered the opportunity to leave by western diplomacy and holding himself up while still convinced of his right to rule. He was killed (murdered) without trial, but the US had jack-all to do with it. “End results”, so narrowly defined, are meaningless if the path is so dissimilar.

                  3) Coincidence is not similarity of cause or result. It is coincidence. You’re assuming a case you haven’t made.

                  4) Libya was not ever billed as “making Americans safe from terrorism”. If you pay attention to any one other than Greenwald, you’d see that the right pitched an unholy fit about that very point. The right wanted this to be about terrorism, and it wasn’t, not for the President or for the military. And it is kind of odd that you would point to a non-existent hypocrisy of ‘not being about terrorism’ while dismissing the idea that maybe it really was about letting people (sectarians and tribalists and whatnot) have their own say in how they are governed. You, Lizard, point out the very reasons this may not have been in the US’s best interests while arguing that it surely must have been because the foreign policy actions of the other guy’s certainly was. Do you see any problem with your stance at all?

                • ample evidence? please, cite your sources.

                  if you believe the reason NATO intervened in Libya was to save civilians, then please explain Sirte. and explain Africans being targeted, and towns being “cleansed” of “loyalists”. the dynamic of Gaddafi bad, opposition good is total bullshit. and because the Obama administration (and other western and arab leaders) exploited a narrowly defined UN resolution for imposing a no fly zone, NATO itself has lost credibility, crippling its future effectiveness to address other places, like Syria, where over 3,500 people have been killed since March.

                  as for evidence, you can look up some of my other posts. there was an article i linked to, that i’m not going to waste time finding again here, that showed how Gaddafi’s forces acted in a different town, and it wasn’t a door-to-door mass slaughter like was allegedly about to happen in Benghazi.

                  it would have been nice if both Saddam and Gaddafi could have stood trial at the ICC, but that would have meant the US and its nasty dealings with both leaders could have been more exposed, and that would highlight the utter hypocrisy of our supposed noble intentions when imposing regime change.

                • Why cant you just be happy that the Libyans are now truly liberated and enjoying their freedom fries regardless of what the US true intentions were? 🙂

                  Ive read a lot of what you have wrote on the subject, I would be interested to know what would have been the correct course of action for the US to take in regards to Libya in your opinion. And Syria and Yemen if you feel like it.

                • NATO should have stopped at what the UN resolution gave them authority to do, because once it became clear NATO was targeting Gaddafi, there was no incentive for any significant attempt at reaching a diplomatic resolution. the rebels knew this, and snubbed regional efforts to mediate.

                  now that NATO and the Obama administration have totally squandered their credibility in the region, no western attempt to bring pressure on regimes in Syria, Yemen, or Bahrain will be effective.

                • “if you believe the reason NATO intervened in Libya was to save civilians, then please explain Sirte.”

                  Why would I believe that? NATO intervened in Libya to advance NATO interests, as ever. But there is absolutely no evidence that that intervention killed any more Libyans than would have died otherwise, so the intervention was good for the US and, at worst, neutral for Libya.

                  And I don’t buy the loss of NATO credibility. NATO never had the chance to intervene in Syria, but our forceful action in Libya has likely contributed to the robustness of Arab league reaction to the Syrian crisis.

                • I asked:

                  “Do you (Lizard) see any problem with your stance at all?”

                  So, the answer would be “no”, regardless of the contradictions I’ve pointed out in your writings.

  • Yes, Mark, Gaddafi just now made it onto the radar screen for bad guys. The man who repeatedly massacred his own people and was a driving force behind the instability in Darfur, who has been an official enemy of the United States since Ronald Regan, is considered a ‘bad guy’ only because he threatened the oil companies with losing some profits?

    Gaddafi has been on the bad list for a long time. It is only now that there was a good opportunity to remove him. And that’s why I didn’t say that Obama’s election made US foreign policy open and honest, or removed self interest from it. That would be disastrous for the US, as for any other major country. But he made it more intelligent. Rather than inventing an excuse to invade an oil rich country on the ground at the cost of thousands of our lives and tens of thousands Iraqis, he waited for the excuse – and the opportunity – to come to him.

    Indeed, that’s probably the best summary of the differences between how Bush ran foreign policy, and how Obama has run it. Bush’s team made decisions based primarily on domestic political timing – we invaded Iraq because after 9-11 it was possible to convince the Americans that it was a good idea. Instead, we intervened in Libya when the situation in Libya was most practical, even though the domestic timing was imperfect. That is the difference between an intelligent foreign policy that leans towards foreign goals, and a careless one that views foreign policy as merely a tool for domestic politics.

    • I think you err in assuming that electoral politics influences foreign policy. That is your baseline error. Beyond that, you don’t seem to know of the deal struck between Gaddafi and Bush, how he agreed to pay the Lockerbee families even though he was not the Lockerbee culprit, in exchange for removal of sanctions. He was a good guy again and remained so until he attempted a shake down to raise the funds he needed to pay off the families, about $2 billion.

      You don’t seem to know of the controversy surrounding the attack on Libya in 1986, where the Reagan people never put up evidence that Gadaffi was responsible for the German disco bombing that supposedly prompted it. You don’t seem aware of the need for pretext for war and the need for heightened skepticism when the country says we have reasons for going to war, in this case 700,000 people supposedly threatened with death. You seem unable to connect events such as Vincennes and Lockerbee.

      In short, you are living in a deprived information environment, and you are a low-information thinker. Bone up and get back to us.

  • Mark –

    Let me summarize your comment:

    Electoral politics don’t influence foreign affairs. Here’s some stuff that happened in the 1980’s. I will now ignore your point entirely.

    America’s history with Libya is only obliquely relevant here. What is the root of the animosity between Gaddafi and the US? I don’t claim to know. I don’t believe it’s really terrorism – it’s a question of entering into the Washington consensus, or actively working against it. I think you are assuming something about my position here – I don’t think that US policy goals change with elections, but the ways in which those goals are achieved does. And though Gaddafi may have reached some level of detente with the US, it doesn’t seem likely that the rapprochement was complete, and after Obama had condemned the Libyan treatment of dissidents, it was certainly coming to an abrupt end.

    So, while George Bush and his team chose to invade Iraq, like they had wanted to do for some time, as soon as the public opinion would allow it, Obama advanced a similar goal but without the casualties or expense of an invasion, while at the same time leaving the country with something of a government that doesn’t require our ground forces to continue to operate. Like I said, I hope the Libyan people are better off in the long run, but it’s too soon to tell. However, it is quite certain that the US has advanced its policy goals in a far more effective way than it did in Iraq.

    • You cannot enter into discussions such as this without historical context; you cannot enter into a discussion like this while suffering illusions. For a short while I wanted to ‘believe’ in Obama. If I pushed that belief hard, if it fed my soul, I could construct a distorted outline of events and their meaning that fulfilled my needs. I would believe that Libya somehow represented something different, that we did not attack a sovereign nation for our own ends.

      Once the scales fall for our eyes, contortion is not necessary, or even great intelligence. It is business as usual in Libya, Iraq, Guantanamo, Washington … everywhere.

      The biggest hurdle we have to overcome in understanding one another is the office of president. If it did not exist, then we could view events without that taint … this illusion that something changed because one party left office and the other took over. Remove that and I suspect we’d have more agreement than we do.

      I do a lot of this and meet a lot of people. Lizard has come to understand these things on his own and at a young age. I was much older when the scales fell. But it is never late in the game. I invite you to look at the world without the lens of the American president between you and events. They will clarify.

        • They still may not like us, in a lot of countries but I believe Obama and Hillary have diffused the anger… possibly even some hate. For know…

          But my biggest point about foreign policy regarding the world right now is this: Imagine your standing in a very Toxic smoked filled room, and Obama just gave you a gas Mask! Now you can see and breath… you wont die of the toxic smoke, but you still cant see two feet in front of you with the mask on…. you still dont know where the door is… and Obama is now nowhere to be seen.

          This is how other countries view us , as even friends right now…. This is how far the rabbit hole we have gone… because of Policies of the past… and all they really know is maybe Obama will still be there after the election, and can find you again! Maybe!

          Foreign policy only matters to the USA if we win, do not kid yourself that we are white Knights… we are far from it. Truth is the first casualty of foreign policy with other countries Mark !

          • It took you 3 days to come up with a response? You’re slipping, Tokarski.

            Mark, you talk about illusion, confess your own failings in falling for such, and then beg others to accept an alternate reality (imagine no President) as if it has bearing and your have credibility on the topic. To both of those I answer I hearty “No.”

            Notice, Mark, I am indeed questioning authority … Yours.

            • About as often as you cross my mind.

              Hate to hit you with this late in the evening, as god only knows, but I have to break it to you: No president. You may need that lens, but it’s not real. There’s a deeper, hidden reality, in plain sight – interests. Powerful people often fight among themselves – did you notice millionaires petitioning congress today for higher taxes? But when there is agreement, there is tremendous access to public resources – our tax dollars, our military, to achieve private objectives, and at the same time, convince fools like you that the fake reasons are the real ones. You are quite a fool, pretending to understand things that you do not.

              I only know one thing … you are beyond reach.

              • Mark, the Presidency is not a lens, it is not a filter. Nor does one “need it” in which to view or review policy, foreign or domestic, anymore than one needs actual numbers to discuss mathematical theory. But if one wishes to discuss empirical result, then that one needs actual elements of the function discussed, either variable (the Presidency) or an instance (Bush, Obama). The snake oil you’re selling is that we can know what is really going on only in the absence of such underpinnings. In other words, you’re demanding acceptance of theory in the absence of a variable which, quite obviously, is part of the very discussion of theory posited. One doesn’t need the Presidency to discuss policy, but one does need to acknowledge it’s role given the very real politics of the Constitution and the very theory that The Polish Wolf put forward in his hypothesis.

                Mark T. – “There’s a deeper, hidden reality, in plain sight – interests. Powerful people often fight among themselves – did you notice millionaires petitioning congress today for higher taxes? But when there is agreement, there is tremendous access to public resources – our tax dollars, our military, to achieve private objectives, and at the same time, convince fools like you that the fake reasons are the real ones.”

                Why don’t you just admit your belief in the Illuminati? It would make things so much easier for you. No one you have ever insulted online has disagreed with you about “interests” Here’s what we have disagreed with you about. 1) You don’t have special insight into a “hidden reality”. We all get that there are powerful special interests at play in our politics, and that their role is vastly more than it should be, or that our Constitution allows or we wish it allowed. The Polish Wolf’s thesis was that some actors in our political play are better at achieving goals we can agree with than others are by serving special interests, special interests fully recognized. Honestly, Mark. You’re like the kid who just awoke to the realization that there is no Santa Claus and now you have to run around screaming at every adult you see “THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS!” Yeah, No kidding.
                2) To further the analogy which I’m actually enjoying, The Polish Wolf posed the question – who is better at bringing presents, parents or the Salvation Army? Your response has been that the bringing of presents at all is a bad bad thing because it makes you believe in Santa Claus. You further the ridiculousness by positing that evil elves must be bringing the presents, which are evil, to convince us that Santa Claus exists when in fact there is no difference between parents and the Salvation army. The latter two are actually in cahoots to hide the evil elves from scrutiny. They are obviously the same. Uhhh, no. American foreign policy is not controlled by evil interested elves without the interplay between government and the people. You acknowledge this and then deride others for acknowledging it too. Guess what, Mark. There really is no Santa Claus, foreign policy (presents) is something that most believe has to happen and there really is a difference between Democrats as individuals and Republicans as individuals. Claiming that there is no difference because of evil elves does not make it so.
                3) You consistently post the counter theory of your Illuminati, couching it of course in the soft rhetoric of “interests”, and rely on others to disprove your claim when you never ever offer proof that you are correct at the expense of another’s thesis. You simply assume that you have the correct view and somehow it negates all others, agreeable or otherwise. See number one. If others already agree with you that there is no Santa Claus, how does your theory of evil elves negate the idea that someone brings presents? It doesn’t. It’s an Occam’s razor problem, and you’re on the wrong side, Mark. Yes, special interests can buy the good will of Congress and the Presidency. You leap willy-nilly into the idea that those political positions are powerless and that anyone who disagrees is simply, what was your word, Foolish? No, Tokarski. The people are not sheeple (and if they are, you are definitely addressing the wrong ones) , our government and Constitutional rule of law are not powerless and you have no primacy of vision just because you ignore those who don’t accept your unfounded conspiracy theories. Prove what you know, Mark. And don’t be so meek as to assume that others don’t know what they have obviously already stated as truth.

                Yes, Mark, I am beyond your reach. I’m walking in a very real world in which you are crawling and wishing you were anywhere else.

                • You read it. You just have no answer. Your “perceptions” are open to question. Mine actually have factual basis. Don’t ask for “new management” while tasking others with “questioning authority”. As I’ve indicated clearly, you have none.

                • Let’s face the truth, Mark. You have no interest in discussing anything. You simply wish that others will accept your fine verbiage and believe the BS you foist on those others. When they don’t, you dismiss and wail and whine.

      • “I would believe that Libya somehow represented something different, that we did not attack a sovereign nation for our own ends.”

        Mark, it is you who suffer from illusions most dire, for whom the scales are thickest. Like so many liberals you are under the impression that every attack on a sovereign nation is equivalent, that inf act the idea of a sovereign nation is universally meaningful. It’s not. It’s not meaningful to people who are dying whether the people killing are acting under the orders of someone claiming to be their sovereign.

        First of all, when a state of civil war already exists, the legitimacy of a sovereign nation is immediately in question, as their exist to competing claims. Secondly, if human rights have ‘justified’ every imperialistic invasion (they haven’t, but I’ll play along), sovereignty has justified ever genocide and orgy of intrastate killing that’s been allowed to happen. Now, since World War Two, guess which has been more destructive, intrastate or interstate killing? So tell me Mark, what is so special about sovereignty that it is more important than lives lost?

        So Mark, is bombing a sovereign nation in order to change the out come of a civil war, at little cost and with the consent of multiple international bodies, more ALIKE or more DIFFERENT than straight up invading a sovereign nation that is currently more or less at peace, occupying it for years, installing your preferred government, and causing a civil war where one did not previously exist?

        If you say ALIKE, you’re hinging on the idea of sovereignty, and you are leaning rather heavily on legalism, the finest accomplishment of which is the Kellog-Briand pact. Since that pact was followed by the bloodiest war in human history, legalism has shown itself to not be particularly legitimate.

        I say DIFFERENT. I could make my case on ethical or humanitarian grounds, but that leans rather heavily on hypothetical questions and on the future – “What would have happened had we not intervened, what will happen in the new Libya?” We can have that discussion in a decade, and it will be half way factual.

        I say DIFFERENT on purely practical grounds – like a said, no soldiers dead, no country needing to be occupied, and no trillion dollar price tag. Those three very concrete realities are much more convincing to me than the one thing they had in common, which is a violation of some imagined, unenforced rules about sovereignty whose inviolability is generally touted most loudly by those governments who lack any other moral claim to power.

        • Pardon me for a brief chuckle here, but I had visions of Eric Stratton marching out of the classroom, the rest of the frat house behind humming the Battle Hymn as I read your words. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

          Your argument is fraught with strained logic. You start out with the premise that Iraq and Libya are different because “Bush” did one, “Obama” the other. That is the first crack in the logic. The same forces did both. Then you look at extenuating circumstances – a civil war raging in one, not in the other. Why, that must make them different! But what about Iraq pre-invasion? Had we not already invaded? had we not already destroyed an innocent county? Put down internal rebellion? Had we not already starved half a million kids, done by “Clinton”? Oh yeah, those extenuating circumstances don’t seem to enter your mind.

          Here’s another explanation: The US is a conglomeration of powerful forces that occasionally agrees on objectives. When that happens, there is a branch of the Pentagon whose sole mission is to bring public opinion along. One time it was WMD’s, another time a pending massacre!!! The objective is the same: control of resources. Democracy is a fig leaf, human life means nothing to these people. If it did, we could solve these problems without bombs and dead kids. The problem is that these people in these countries do not like us or admire us. There cannot be democracy and us in charge at once. Therefore, we kill, baby, kill.

          PW, my patience is at an end with you. You are smart, no doubt, but are of a submissive imperial mindset, and seemingly afraid to admit that your vote is pointless. I’ve met you in a thousand forms.

          • “You start out with the premise that Iraq and Libya are different because “Bush” did one, “Obama” the other.”

            Nope. I start with a very different premise. I start with the premise that one caused American and Iraqi deaths and tied our credibility to accomplishing goals we didn’t understand, while the other bolstered the credibility of American force, eliminated a long-term hostile dictator, and gave us access to strategic resources without killing any Americans and likely without killing any more Libyans than would have died in a null hypothesis. From that premise, I noted that indeed, they occurred under different presidents, from different parties.

            I’d also note that your mind is in fact made up on hypothetical issues, not based on facts, but on US positions. For example, you may chastise the US for allowing Saddam Hussein to slaughter Shi’ites and Kurds, often with American weapons, and well you should. But you dismiss as impossible the thought of Gaddafi massacring his own people after a large scale armed uprising, circumstances very similar to Saddam’s. Indeed, even a cursory glance at Gaddafi’s record would indicate that mass killings were extremely likely. And many would have been done with the aid of newly purchased western equipment. And the irony, then?

            If the US had not intervened in Libya, you would be criticizing our government right now for encouraging Libyans to rise up and then allowing them to be killed by weapons we had sold to the Libyan government (and thousands would be killed; no one knows if more would have died with US intervention, or without, but unlike you, I don’t assume in my favor). That’s where your lack of real insight becomes clear – you will criticize US policy whether in sins omission or commission, and presume that hypothetical situations always swing against US actions.

            An imperial mindset need not be submissive, and I am not uniformly partisan. I recognize that America is an Empire, whether it takes responsibility for the fact or not. With that in mind, it is important to examine our policies and what they accomplish in the world. I think Clinton had his failings, and Bush I had his successes in foreign policy. But on balance, I find Democrats more effective at advancing US interests, and also at creating better conditions in the world generally.

            • You presume that the election of “Clinton” and “Bush” and “Obama” are the driving force. I assume that they are not, that once in office they are quickly brought to understand that it s a big enterprise and that many forces are out there and ready to pounce. Clinton, to his credit, had to be brought into line via Monica. Obama has been submissive from the beginning. As Sarkozi said on first meeting, this is a very weak man.

              Imagine as you will, have your fantasy. Your reasoning is strained to the point where a laxative is in order.

  • We would have still been a colony of Britain if the French had not interfered in the civil war taking place on their sovereign territory in America.

    Its mixing apples and oranges a bit to compare what happened in Iraq with Libya given that Obama did not have the forces available to invade and occupy Libya even if he wanted to. Clearly, for the US, the costs in Libya were lower than Iraq. But if we were to assume regime change in Iraq as a legitimate goal of the US and one that would further US interests…the approach taken in Libya would not have succeeded in Iraq. Maybe if it had been implemented directly after the 1991 gulf war there may have been an opportunity, but clearly there was a difference of opinion as to what was in the US ‘interests’ between policy makers in 1991 and those of 2003.

    • It’s true that forces available were different – Obama could hardly have managed an Iraq-scale invasion. But then, it should have occurred to Bush that he couldn’t handle an Iraq-scale invasion while also fighting in Afghanistan. Apparently it did not. Bush stretched the military beyond its capacity for effective action, and Americans died as a result. Obama recognized the limits of his depleted military power, acted within those limits, and was successful.

      • We are getting pretty obscure now but I would disagree that the military was stretched beyond its capacity for effective action, if you mean effective in Iraq specifically. They were effective in Iraq for what they were trying to accomplish. The Bush crime family had no intention of occupying Afghanistan or committing the forces neccesary to ‘pacify’ that area. Assuming it would even be possible to do so. Rumsfeld was smart not to want to get tied up in a ground war in afghanistan and keep the eyes on his prize in Iraq. We would really see what it means to be stretched beyond our capacity if we were to become engaged in open hostilities with Iran, which is why it wont happen.

  • lizard November 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm
    NATO should have stopped at what the UN resolution gave them authority to do, because once it became clear NATO was targeting Gaddafi, there was no incentive for any significant attempt at reaching a diplomatic resolution. the rebels knew this, and snubbed regional efforts to that NATO and the Obama administration have totally squandered their credibility in the region, no western attempt to bring pressure on regimes in Syria, Yemen, or Bahrain will be effective.

    Fair enough. I would disagree that nato really had any credibility in the region to begin with if by credibility you mean convincing the dictators of these countries to act against their own interests. It is possible that sticking to the UN resolution and keeping to a no fly zone to try and enforce a stalemate would have worked. In my opinion I think that would have ended up exactly as it did with the iraq in the 90s with a de facto partition enforced by the no fly zone and probably a heavy handed sanctions regime aimed at Kaddafi that ends up hurting the civillian population (just like Iraq). In the end probably Kaddafi would still be there until the next round of neo cons came into office and decided it was time for the full scale invasion treatment. And ultimately..with all due regard of course…the lizards and Tokarskis and jack rubys of the world would then claim that NATO is needlessly killing millions of innocent libyan children with the sanctions regime and trying to splinter & divide and conquer the state of libya as part of the grand conspiracy to take over the mideast.

    I think ultimately its a question of engagement or disengagement. If we are going to engage in affairs over there I think we probably handled it in a fairly reasonable manner. Whether we should be going around flexing or not or keeping to ourselves is a different question.

  • You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

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