Kto, kgo ?

May 25th, 2004

When you want the most succinct statement possible statement of the power politics view of the world, VI Lenin is your only man[1]. A lot of free-market advocates of revealed preference theory, and supporters of<a href="exit over voice“> exit over voice, would be surprised to learn who they are quoting when they refer to people voting with their feet.

In relation to the proposed “handover” of power in Iraq on June 30, the only question that really matters is the one posed by Lenin “Kto, kgo ?”, that is, “Who can do what to whom?”.

In particular, will the Iraqi government be able to issue orders to Casey (the new US military commander) or vice versa

. The idea that there can be some sort of harmonious division of responsibilities in which this question does not arise is not worth taking seriously. Just consider the following cases, all arising within the past month, which would certainly have implied conflict between the US forces and any Iraqi government worthy of the name

* The original assault on Fallujah and the subsequent decision to hand the city over to a Sunni militia
* The decision to press charges against Sadr and the subsequent assaults in Najaf and elsewhere
* The raid on the offices of Chalabi, an IGC member

If the “multinational force” has to seek permission from UN-installed Iraqi politicians every time it wants to do something like this, there’s bound to be a lot of angst among the US military. But there’s no alternative. A supposedly sovereign government that countenanced such actions without demanding direct operational control would be discredited in a matter of weeks rather than months.

It’s a positive sign that everyone, including Bush, has now effectively abandoned Clause 59 of the US-imposed interim constitution, which guaranteed the right of US forces to stay in Iraq more or less indefinitely. But I still can’t see the US accepting real Iraqi sovereignty, before or after elections, unless of course the US elections intervene.

fn1. As I argue here, it’s possible to get into a position when the power politics view is the only one that matters, and, when this happens, Lenin is the most reliable guide available. But the history of Russia shows that this is not the position you want to start from, wherever it is that you want to end up.

Update As Robert Corr points out in the comments, Blair has given the right answer to this question. I hope Bush will be forced to do likewise.

Categories: Economics - General, Environment Tags:
  1. May 25th, 2004 at 22:18 | #1

    It will be interesting to see what they do with Articles 48 and 49 which continue CPA appointees, agencies and laws. The principal beneficiary is Ahmed Chalabi, who controls the finance ministry, the debaathification commission and the special tribunal. Now that Chalabi is no longer the CPA favourite those provisions are going to be a problem for the US, as is Chalabi’s possession of the Saddam archive.

  2. May 26th, 2004 at 02:19 | #2

    I don’t know if you read this, from The Guardian:

    The prime minister, Tony Blair, said today that the new Iraqi government will have a full right of veto on future coalition military action such as last month’s controversial US assualt on Falluja.

  3. May 26th, 2004 at 08:18 | #3

    A helpful note for the uninitated: the Russian spelling is “Kto kgo” but the pronounciation is “Kto kvo”. Not that that makes it any easier, of course.

  4. May 26th, 2004 at 09:21 | #4

    Many on the Left and Right have perceived that contradiction between Iraqi sovereignty and US power.
    They have argued that the US should push forward the date of direct elections for Iraqis, which would encourage the Iraqis to defend the new state against terrorists, Baathists, criminals et al.
    There is also the suggestion that the US military will take orders from an Iraqi government which has greater legitimacy.
    A better solution would be to reflag the US army as a UN peace-enforcing army.

  5. Jason Soon
    May 26th, 2004 at 11:27 | #5

    JQ writes:”A lot of free-market advocates of revealed preference theory, and supporters of exit over voice, would be surprised to learn who they are quoting when they refer to people voting with their feet”

    I don’t know about other advocates but everytime I have used this phrase I always thought I got it implicitly from Albert Hirschman (a far more respectable source) in his Exit, Voice and Loyalty

  6. John Quiggin
    May 26th, 2004 at 11:38 | #6

    The exit-voice distinction is Hirschman (I had the link in the Crooked Timber version of this post, but omitted it here -fixed now). Hirschman was arguing for the legitimacy of voice as against advocates of exclusive reliance on exit.

    “Voting with your feet” is Lenin.

  7. May 26th, 2004 at 20:06 | #7

    This all works against JQ’s reworking of Locke (see other correspondence). Voting with one’s feet is only meaningful when one can go and has somewhere to go. In Locke’s day the English and Scots could, but Russian serfs couldn’t (the limited exception of the Cossacks was used, like the Maroons, to police further escapers by granting existing ones a modus vivendi that got them to kick the ladder away after them).

    So Locke had some right to his view in his time and place, but since today doesn’t offer real exits there is more ethical force in calling for a voice rather than an exit.

  8. May 26th, 2004 at 21:59 | #8

    Extraordinary Quiggin/Sailer co-incidence No XlMV.

    In discussing the exact same Iraq political sovereignty/US military command integrity problem, Steve Sailer came to the same conclusion as Pr Q, that the concept of divided sovereignty is incoherent, and even used a communist dictator’s metaphor to illustrate the problem:

    “Sovereignty” for Iraq — Either the post- June 30 Iraqi government will be truly sovereign, in which case it will have ultimate control over the U.S. military within its borders (which ought to be an alarming idea for patriotic Americans), or it won’t have control over the most powerful military force inside its territority, in which case it won’t be sovereign.
    Here’s an interesting debate between Tony Blair and Colin Powell over exactly what the President means by “sovereignty.”
    To paraphrase Mao, sovereignty comes out of the barrel of a gun.

    This is only one of many co-incidental conclusions drawn by both bloggers, which is heartening since it implies that science transcends ideology.

  9. May 27th, 2004 at 01:00 | #9

    Back in the early 1990s a US Political Scientist named Robert Jackson popularized the term “quasi-state” for those states which enjoy external recognition from the community of states but which exercise no meaningful internal authority or control over “their own” territory. That is what Iraq will be post-June 30.

    Sovereignty, contra Jean Bodin, is indeed divisible. Federalism is evidence of that fact, as well as things like the status of the Dominions in the British Empire in the early 20th century, or Bavaria under the Prussian/German Kaisers.

  10. tombo
    May 27th, 2004 at 04:27 | #10

    Glut,

    “A helpful note for the uninitated: the Russian spelling is “Kto kgo” but the pronounciation is “Kto kvo”. Not that that makes it any easier, of course.”

    It’s a lot easier if you spell and pronounce it properly. You missed a vowel in your spelling of the accusative Russian “whom”, which takes the genitive case when applied to persons.

    Spelling: kto kogo

    Pronunciation: kto kah-VAW

    Vse khoroshego,
    T

Comments are closed.