Home > Philosophy, World Events > War and its consequences (cross-posted at CT)

War and its consequences (cross-posted at CT)

July 18th, 2005

Chris Bertram’s recent post on responsibility got me started on what I plan to be the final instalment of my attempts to analyse the ethical justification for war. Comments much appreciated.

In thinking about justifications for war, I haven’t found just war theory to be of much use. The checklist it requires seems to leave too much room for interpretation to really settle anything.

Instead, I’m going to start, but not finish, with consequentialism. On a strictly consequentialist view, actions (including decisions to go to, or persist with, war) are morally neutral; it’s consequences that matter.

As I’ve argued previously, a serious consequentialist analysis suggests that war usually has more bad consequences than good. In particular, anyone who takes consequentialism seriously must reckon with the fact that war is a negative sum game. This means either that at least one side in a war has miscalculated or that the costs of war are being borne by people who don’t have a say in the matter. In addition, it’s necessary to take account of rule-based concerns about the effect of decisions to go to war in particular cases weakening generally desirable rules to the contrary.

My main concern though, is to look at positions that diverge from consequentialism, either by justifying war even when its net consequences are (reasonably expected to be) bad or by opposing war even when its net consequences are (reasonably expected to be) good. I think the first position can reasonably be called “pro-war” and the second “anti-war”.

The pro-war arguments typically amount to claiming that some of the bad consequences of war “don’t count”. An extreme version is the position of Norm Geras that those who initiate a just war aren’t responsible for the consequences of the (by hypothesis) unjust resistance of the other side. Chris has responded to this, and I said much the same here.

Not many supporters of war push things this far, but a large proportion seek some sort of let-out clause, allowing them to ignore at least some bad consequences of war, while claiming most or all if the good ones . The most common let-out is to ignore the casualties suffered by the opposing side, even though most of those killed or wounded would not, as individuals, deserve this fate. This is a common feature of pro-war analyses but it is morally indefensible.

In the case of the Iraq war, the Coalition and its militia allies have fought at least four different (overlapping) groups of opponents: the Iraqi army during the invasion; Sunni nationalist and ex-Baathist insurgents in the subsequent continuing resistance; jihadists led or symbolised by Zarqawi; and Sadrist militia in the two outbreaks of fighting last years. Of these, the Sadrists and what’s left of the army are now part of the Iraqi government, and presumably some sort of settlement will be reached with the Sunni nationalists in due course. Those who survived the war are (or will be) regarded as being citizens with human rights. But those who were killed will still be dead. Using war as a means of pursuing policy goals entails moral responsibility for all the deaths that result, not merely those of civilians or innocent bystanders.

A second common feature of pro-war analysis is a failure to take account of the opportunity cost of the resources used in war. The $300 billion used in the Iraq war would have been enough to finance several years of the Millennium Development project aimed at ending extreme poverty in the world, and could have saved millions of lives. But even assuming this is politically unrealistic, the money could surely have been spent on improved health care, road safety and so on in the US itself. At a typical marginal cost of $5 million per live saved, 60 000 American lives could have been saved. This is morally relevant, but is commonly ignored.

In summary, a lot of pro-war argument may be characterised as consequentialism+special pleading.

Turning to the anti-war side of the argument, the standard criticisms of consequentialism are nowhere stronger than in relation to war. Any decision to go to war, or to persist with war when peace is available, involves a collective decisions to kill and injure innocent people, to destroy their homes and livelihoods and to require our soldiers to obey orders to do such things or face military punishment. On any account of morality that takes individual rights and moral responsibility seriously, such a decision should require more than a mere expectation, based on balance of probabilities, that the net consequences of the decision will be good.

These rights-based considerations are less of a problem in the case of a purely defensive war, since we are morally entitled to defend our own rights. In addition, since willingness to fight defensive wars discourages aggression, it gains support from a rule-consequentialist viewpoint. But this only strengthens the case against wars of choice, where the other side can plausibly present their fight (at least to the soldiers and civilians who are expected to bear the costs) as one of self-defence against an outside aggressor.

Based on all this, I conclude that a war of choice aimed at overthrowing a dictatorial government or taking control of another country. should face a very high burden of justification. Examples include imminent threat of attack, intervention to stop current large-scale killings or or (and this is the case that ought to be treated most stringently) interventions where it is beyond reasonable doubt that the dictatorship can be overthrown, and a democratic alternative put in place, with minimal loss of life.

Once the decision is undertaken, it is morally obligatory to commit sufficient military and financial resources to make success as certain as anything can be in an inherently uncertain world, and to ensure an approach in which civilian deaths and injuries are minimised in the same way as they would be if the people involved were citizens of the country doing the attacking.

There are some wars that would meet these criteria and instances where decisions not to intervene were morally wrong (for example, Rwanda) but they are far outweighed, in the historical record, by morally unjustified wars.

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  1. July 18th, 2005 at 20:04 | #1

    You could read this book “Overconfidence and War : The Havoc and Glory of Positive Illusions by Dominic D. P. Johnson.” It argues a very convincing case that overconfidence and false illusions can lead to one side starting a war. Often the justification is just a set of dreams in the minds of the leaders that are never achieved.

    Anyway it is a really good read.

  2. observa
    July 18th, 2005 at 23:43 | #2

    Presumably the same analysis would apply whether the decision to go to war was decided by the UN or a solo country, but somehow it doesn’t seem to in practice. In the end it is all unknowable and we revert to analogous history to try and judge a priori the costs and benefits. Spread those costs and benefits too widely and you probably wind up with the Rwandas and Darfurs, although miscalculations of narrow costs and benefits, coupled with overconfidence may see the fall of the Third Reich, as well as withdrawals from Vietnam or Afghanistan.

  3. SJ
    July 19th, 2005 at 00:07 | #3

    miscalculations of narrow costs and benefits, coupled with overconfidence may see the fall of the Third Reich, as well as withdrawals from Vietnam or Afghanistan

    Presumably you meant to draw show some distinction between just and unjust wars wars here, or something like that.

    But there’s really no distinction between your cases. Germany miscalculated, started a colonial war in Europe, lost. France and later the US miscalculated, started a colonial war in Vietnam, lost. Russia miscalculated, started a colonial war in Afghanistan, lost.

    It was obvious to me from about April last year, when the US went bannanas over the killing of the mercenaries in Fallujah, that the US had done the same thing. Started a colonial war, and lost.

  4. July 19th, 2005 at 12:10 | #4

    Pr Q gives a good round-up of the “useful consequentialist” (versus the “good intentionalist”) justification of war.

    The main thing missing from his analysis, but no doubt implicit, is the importance of intellectual veracity on the part of agents, and institutional accountability within agencies, in testing various claims for war. This is especially critical when offensive “wars of choice” are being considered, as opposed to defensive “wars of necessity”.

    The case for a defensive “war of necessity” is easy because the threat is already manifest and there is a prima facie causus belli for counter-attack.

    The case for an offensive “war of contingency” (or choice) is much harder to justify as the threat is latent. The general ignorance of the unpredictable consequences of war, and the great potential for these consequences to be adverse and escalate in cost, should be a prima facie constraint on aggressive war. To quote one of the experts in this business:

    To initiate a war is always like opening a large door into a dark room. You have no idea what is lurking there.

    A. Hitler

    Apparently Napolean coined a similar usage, according to Margaret Atwood. Her article on the uncertain consequences of war, written in the run-up to the conflict, turned out to be very prescient:

    Iraq on the other hand has many coreligionist neighbours who will sympathise with it, however repugnant they’ve previously found Saddam. A foreign occupation – not immediately, but in the long run – is less likely to resemble MacArthur in Japan than Napoleon in Spain.

    This is most evident with Iraq War, an offensive war of choice alright, where policy makers relied on lies in order to exaggerate the threat posed by Iraq and lies to underestimate the costs of goint to war. The general unpredictability and iniquity of the ME and the Bush admin made the (consequential) ex post costs of war much higher than the Bush admins (“pre-sequential”) ex ante estimations.

    The usual mode of justifying lying and violence inherent in an aggressive war is that “the ends justifies the means”. But this is only the case where the threat is real and the alternatives are diabolical. In the case of Iraq the situation was contained, the threat was moderate and more peaceful alternatives to war were being explored.

    It is not without some pain that I rake over the embers of this episode, as I was well aware that the official rationale for the war was bogus. I glibly invoked invoked the Machiavellian justification as I trusted the deceitful Bush administration to be capable of executing the war effectively, equitably and efficiently. The path from rogue to fool is surprisingly short.

    One important policy implication of this analysis is that the decision to wage aggressive war should never be within the power of the aggerssor state. This is because of the systemic tendency for the aggressor state to overestimate the threat of non-war and underestimate the costs of war. It follows that aggressive wars should always be regulated by super-national bodies such as the UN, or something equivalent in authority and legitimacy.

    The Hawks must surrender the power to wage aggressive war to a super-national Leviathan agency. And the Doves must ensure that this super-national Leviathan is institutionally constituted to be accountable and responsible to its principals.

    Unfortunately the current UN is inept at many of its tasks (as a multicultural socialist bureaucracy one could hardly expect otherwise). Thus persons who wish to employ a capable international military agency to constrain despotism and genocide are left with the unpalatable options of relying on either the iniquitous US administration or the ineffective UN administration.

    So far the Doves have given us plenty of idealistic criticism of bad situations, but not much realistic constructivism of good institutions. I would be interested in Pr Q’s suggestions on practical reforms to the UN’s constitution, bearing in mind the difficulty of imposing these kinds of reforms, as evinced by the EU’s problems.

  5. observa
    July 19th, 2005 at 12:21 | #5

    “Presumably you meant to draw show some distinction between just and unjust wars wars here, or something like that.”

    Dunno SJ. Perhaps it’s case of just wars belonging to the victors, although victory may have some long tailed and unintended consequences. Much as I enjoy Andrew Bartlett’s insights into many areas of his expertise and experience, I thought his typical left wishy washy differentiation of a just war in Afghanistan cf ET and Iraq, was self evident. Too much 20/20 hindsight about quagmires and consequences in a very uncertain field for mine.

    Take the issue of consequences and justification for Aus involvement in ET. We really risked total war with a populous neighbour for what? To tear up a very good negotiated deal on Timor oil, all for the sake of self-determination for a minority group in the Indonesian Archaepelago. Some might say a much riskier proposition than tagging along on the coat tails of large powers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Easy to pull out with them and not lose much face if things go pear shaped. Casualties, quagmires and long tailed consequences are important considerations to be weighed against immediate justice and vested interest here as always. Personally of the 3 conflicts, I would have a priori placed ET, Afghanistan(graveyard of empires a la Soviets,etc) and Iraq(big buddies) in order of descending risk for Aus involvement. With independence for Timorese and a peace treaty between Jakarta and Aceh in the offing, I’m not looking too good.

    What if some of my ancestors had chosen a different course? The Poms stuck with Chamberlain- forget Poland, no Dunkirk and did a deal with the Third Reich via Hess. Similarly the Yanks said none of our business after Pearl and signed a non-aggression pact with Japan, with due compensation for a misunderstanding over the Yank Fleet’s threat to honurable Japanese intentions in unifying Asia. A benign Fourth Reich now rules from Moscow to Capetown and the cliffs of Dover to Bombay. After the Third Reich’s final solution in Palestine and elsewhere, Islam is living comfortably and happily within the Fourth Reich. With Hitler taking out Russia and the Emperor China, Stalin and Mao’s casualties and Cold War never happened. The Americas are the third countervailing Superpower after Canada repatriated French in Quebec to their preferred homeland. Here in Aus its God Save the Emperor, we like hunting whales rather than watching them, eating supersize sushis, and we got to enjoy the benefit of Toyotas a lot sooner, without the need to suffer the Leyland P76 AND the leftys aren’t whinging about US hegemony. Oh what a feeling!

  6. David
    July 19th, 2005 at 12:25 | #6

    Downer, for one, was all pre-apologetic before the Iraq war about the upcoming death and injury to Iraqi civilians (using that annoying serious voice that he must think sounds good.) He pre-cleared his own conscience before the killing started. Can’t make omeletes…,etc. He must sleep soundly now. Wonder if he also pre-cleared his conscience about the blowback we’re bound to cop here in the future.

    Part of the pro-war mindset is the fury over blowback. eg London. There is the idea of ‘remote’ war. We’re in a war but only when it’s over there.

  7. Katz
    July 19th, 2005 at 12:30 | #7

    One aspect of international war which is often overlooked is that international wars are often domestic politics fought by other means.

    Some wars are fought to discipline the nationals of a belligerent. The Falklands War was an example of this for both the British and the Argentinians.

    Some wars are fought to claim domestic legitimacy and/or to take control of national myths. The Greek aggression against Turkey in the 1920s was an example of this.

    Some wars are fought as a means of redistributing national assets from one group to another or to benefit a vested interest. The current Iraq War contains elements of this.

    Once it is recognized that many foreign wars are at least in part civil wars by proxy, then the notions of national will or legitimacy of government or corporate responsibility, or cost/benefit become problematic.

    And it is worth noting that the typical path to military failure taken by great powers is via domestic dissent and civil disobedience. This applies to such diverse nations as Britain and decolonisation, the US in Vietnam and probably in Iraq, and the Soviet Union in its global overreach, as exemplified in Afghanistan.

    Once this path to failure becomes recognised as not atypical, it must cause regimes to rethink the consequences of bellicosity and it must give powerful national dissenting forces great hope in the ultimate success of their causes.

  8. Andrew Reynolds
    July 19th, 2005 at 12:52 | #8

    SJ,
    To me it comes down to a question of the US intentions as to whether this was a colonial war – for it to be that the US must have intended to colonise Iraq – something I do not believe they intended. The same may well be true of Vietnam.
    Unfortunately, in both cases I do not think that they thought that far ahead. In both cases I believe they thought that they could go in, shock and awe until the job was done, do a bit of nation building, leave a compliant leader in charge and get out, with a couple of bases there to annoy and worry their neighbours – Iran in the case of Iraq and China in the case of Vietnam.
    To me, at least, the problem with a consequentialist view is that it tends to a post hoc justification. In the short term, PrQ is right – war is a negative sum game. In the longer term, however, it may turn positive if the costs are kept down (in both lives and money) and any improvements it may bring are both great and highly probable.

    In the case of Vietnam, if the US had won a short war and it had done some good nation building afterwards then, to me at least, the war may have been justifiable – the property and goods destroyed would have been more than replaced by the increased trade generated (when compared to what happened under the dictatorship that was going to, and did, result from the US loss).
    The lives are always more difficult to replace, but, just as I would be willing to go to war and risk losing my life if it would mean a better outcome for my daughters, if the result was a much better life for those remaining then the war might be justified.
    The problem is, of course, to make those outcomes both lower in cost and more probable. IMHO, in the cases of both Vietnam and Iraq, the external belligerents both underestimated the costs and over-estimated the probability. Does that mean that the wars were both unjustified, or that the external belligerents were only guilty of optimism?

  9. July 19th, 2005 at 13:16 | #9

    observa – your alternative post-1940 scenario is a much better approach than UN bashing. It does remind us that – a bit like Dr Who’s time machine – changing one thing can lead the world down very different and impossible to predict paths, which is a useful thing to keep in mind.

    However, I’m not sure it goes a long way to addressing what Prof Q is trying to do. I think your East Tmor assessment is still incorrect. Clearly it was a risk getting involved – war is always a risk – but the ‘rightness’ in doing so goes to some of the wider issues that have to be taken into account in making these decisions and shows there are things beyond just a dispassionate cost/benefit analysis (important though I think that is). Also, it was not Australia charging in our own.

    The rights and wrongs of each armed conflict are not just a matter of saying yes or no to getting involved – of even greater importance is what type of involvement, how the war is conducted and (perhaps most important of all) what is planned and commited to beyond the strictly military phase.

    Another interesting alternative post-1945 history to consider is what would have happened if the winning side of WWII had decided to carve-up the ‘spoils of victory’ or occupy territories (such as the USSR did), rather than engage in rebuilding. I don’t profess to know international history well enough to suggest a scenario, but it would have been a very different (and probably less positive) world.

  10. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 19th, 2005 at 13:55 | #10

    …can’t shake the impression that it was jquiggin’s ancestors advising Chamberlain in Munich…

  11. observa
    July 19th, 2005 at 14:46 | #11

    “observa – your alternative post-1940 scenario is a much better approach than UN bashing.”
    Andrew, I’m not against reliance on a UN, ‘many heads are better than one’, type notion for assessing just wars, their costs and benefits, which is relevant to John’s post here. However, I can’t seek moral clarification from any international body, that equates the vote of a Mugabe with a Helen Clarke, let alone that of Kim Jong Il with George Bush. Such a UN may get it right occasionally but all too often it would fail, in comparison to a body of democratic countries. Hence my preference for a United liberal democratic Nations, where I would be more comfortable with an equal vote between a Chirac and a Bush. A two thirds binding majority vote, with no power of veto on just and doable wars, by such a gathering, might produce better outcomes than the deliberations of the current gaggle of gangsters.

    This sort of international democratic body might then be able to compile a hit-list of just and doable wars in order of priority. Interesting to speculate how such problematic arenas would be prioritised isn’t it? Think of Taliban Afghanistan, Saddam’s Iraq, Ayatollah’s Iran, Castro’s Cuba, KimJong Il’s NK, Sudan, Darfur, etc, etc Which one first and what will be the measure of ‘Mission Accomplished’ before we all vote again on the next cab off the rank and direct our combined power to that task. One good aspect of compiling such a public hit-list of just war projects by committed democracies, would be the enormous moral suasion for reform on the countries lower down the hit-list order. Lots of Gaddafi type sea-changes without firing a shot I reckon. Dump the gangsters and let the bastards quiver as we democracies deliberate over which of their necks is for the chopper next.

  12. July 19th, 2005 at 15:58 | #12

    JQ — I like some of your thoughts in this post. Mostly because it is what I’ve been saying for years. A few things though…

    In particular, anyone who takes consequentialism seriously must reckon with the fact that war is a negative sum game.

    This is obviously untrue in the long run. Wars can result in changes of institutions, and these can lead to long run benefits. In case this still isn’t obvious consider an example: war in Nth Korea leads to liberal democratic (or, for your sake, social democratic) government which leads the people to prosperity, freedom and happiness.

    Also, it’s not at all obvious that you must include the costs of other countries in your analysis. This is not how any other BCAs are done for any other government programs. While it may be nice to care about the world, the reality is that governments are charged with the responsibility to their own citizens only.

    [I note that open immigration becomes easy to defend if we take the universal welfare criteria instead of the national welfare criteria]

    Also, there is no need to talk about the opportunity cost of the war… it is enough to simply talk about the cost. The only reason not to do this is because some people have an irrational hatred of using money as a store of value. They can use bannanas or peanuts if they prefer, but money is the easiest & best thing to use for comparisons.

    Finally, on a personal level I strongly agree with your point that the burden of proof lies with the entity that wants to violate basic freedoms and rights. The logical conclusion form this is that the burden of proofy always lies with the government before it acts — and the consequentialist argument for government programs (including war) need to show a benefit, as you say, “beyond reasonable doubt”.

    Careful Q — if you believe what you wrote above, and you’re consistent, you might be turning libertarian. ;p

  13. July 19th, 2005 at 16:00 | #13

    TCFKAA — Goodwin’s law.

  14. Razor
    July 19th, 2005 at 16:15 | #14

    This is really all a load of academic codswollop. If it was based on evidence of what factors were considered when a decision to go to war was made, then I would take notice. This is simply a waste of time, unless you can show me evidence that decision makers are actually using this sort of decision making framework.

    Clausewitz has been shown to be correct in saying that war is an extension of politics by other means. It is therefore the politics of the decision that are important. And each war and it’s politics is completely different to every other war. Professor Blamey wrote an excellent book on the causes of war, and one of the key factors, among others is a belief in victory being attainable – nobody has ever fought a war they didn’t think they could win. When defeat becomes inevitable, you surrender. It’s not rocket science.

  15. observa
    July 19th, 2005 at 16:57 | #15

    More comment here http://www.janegalt.net/

  16. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 19th, 2005 at 21:59 | #16

    John Humphreys – I think you mean Godwin’s law:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

    You’re being unfair: Godwin’s law doesn’t hold if the discussion is directly related to WWII or to the holocaust. I think this thread reasonably satisfies, especially as my reference to WWII was not explicitly a reference to the Nazis, but rather to the motivations for going to war (or not) leading up to WWII, and any theory of the justification of war must address WWII as it was the most significant war of the last century.

    To clarify my point:

    Based on all this, I conclude that a war of choice aimed at overthrowing a dictatorial government or taking control of another country. should face a very high burden of justification. Examples include imminent threat of attack, intervention to stop current large-scale killings or or (and this is the case that ought to be treated most stringently) interventions where it is beyond reasonable doubt that the dictatorship can be overthrown, and a democratic alternative put in place, with minimal loss of life.

    On this reasoning, Chamberlain did the right thing in Munich, ipso facto the analysis is lacking something.

  17. Peter
    July 19th, 2005 at 23:34 | #17

    JQ –

    This site on argument uses the Iraq war as a case study, and so may be of interest to you.

  18. abb1
    July 20th, 2005 at 01:13 | #18

    Enough with misrepresenting the Munch agreement already. It was a deliberate attempt to encourage another ‘Drang Nach Osten’, to entice Germany into attacking the Soviets. Every school child outside the anglosphere knows it.

  19. July 20th, 2005 at 01:44 | #19

    Razor — I did my analysis of benefits and costs before the war. My analysis assumed Iraq had bio & chem weapons, that he would pass them to terrorists and that the war would end all terrorism, and the war still failed my BCA.

    My line of thinking existed before the war.

    The fact that the government doesn’t assess benefits and costs before it spends billions is surely a bad thing. So if decision makers aren’t currently using this sort of decision making framework — they should start.

    I agree war is an extention of politics. All government programs should have to pass a strict burdon of proof.

  20. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 07:11 | #20

    Enough with misrepresenting the Munch agreement already. It was a deliberate attempt to encourage another ‘Drang Nach Osten’, to entice Germany into attacking the Soviets. Every school child outside the anglosphere knows it.

    No abb1, only every pissant conspiracy theorist knows it. Sure, Britain did not want an alliance with the Soviets, but they were also not willing to go to war against Germany, I suspect for much for the same reasons outlined here by jquiggin.

    While the Munich outcome was popular with the British public, it was criticized by several other politicians including Churchill.

    I am with Razor on this one: every war is different. For me to be convinced that this analysis carries any weight I’d want to see it applied to more than just the Iraq and Vietnam wars. At present it simply looks like post hoc justification for the anti-US-aggressor position.

  21. Paul Norton
    July 20th, 2005 at 09:47 | #21

    tcfkaa,

    Just so we’re all debating the same thing, are you arguing that the British should have drawn a line in the sand (or soil, in that case) over the Sudetenland, rather than acquiescing in its annexation? Or are you arguing that the major liberal democracies at the time should have taken the more radical action of launching a war on Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy to achieve regime change? I’m not trying to put words in your mouth (or on your keyboard), I’m just trying to clarify what alternative course you are (retrospectively) advocating to that taken by Chamberlain, and the relationship of this issue to the debate on this thread.

  22. Katz
    July 20th, 2005 at 10:23 | #22

    PN,

    I’m gratified that you’ve taken up the issue of British options in 1938 and 1939.

    This moment in history has resonances that have been twisted and decontextualised, largely by US neocons and their quislings elsewhere in the world. For example, the Munich trope was used as a substitute for thought in justifying two wars against Saddam. However, the circumstances in 1938, 1991 and 2003 were only vaguely related. And in twisting the circumstances surrounding Munich, the neocons have falsified history.

    1. Chamberlain had a realistic understanding of the inability of Britain to counter German bellicosity vis a vis Czechoslovakia. He had been PM for less than a year. He began to rearm Britain after the rundown of British military capacity during the Great Depression. But he knew that Britain had no capability of standing against Hitler. Chamberlain was buying time.

    2. Chamberlain knew that only the US and the USSR were powerful enough to counter German military might. But in 1938 the US was determinedly neutral. By emphasising by implication (see below) the probable mendacity of German promises over Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain hoped to mobilise US sentiment in favour of intervention in Europe (not even Churchill was able to achieve that ambition. It took Pearl Harbor to shake the US out of its isolationism). Thus Chamberlain was not the only British PM frustrated by US disengagement from the affairs of Europe.

    3. Chamberlain knew that Stalin was itching to intervene in Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Ambassador to Prague offered to send troops. (Indeed, a squadron of Soviet fighters flew into Prague unannounced and uninvited). Benes, President of Cz, was thus faced with dismemberment by Germany, or assistance by Stalin. He chose the former. Chamberlain breathed a sigh of relief because this seemed the lesser of two evils for the entire world. Many Right Wingers in the world today would be inclined to agree with him.

    4. While waving the piece of paper to the waiting crowd at Croydon Aerodrome, Chamberlain misled the world about his own thoughts about the likelihood of “peace in our time”. (Chamberlain expected Hitler to break the agreement.) No one likes lying politicians. But some folks, like neocons, are inclined to wink at lies when they seem to be productive of welcome outcomes. Thus, the various lies told by Bush, Blair and Howard to embroil the COW in Iraq seemed to neocons to be fine examples of visionary statesmanship. Chamberlain was not the only politician in history to think that lying was a good idea in the circumstances.

  23. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 10:34 | #23

    I think the British should have drawn a line in the sand over the Sudetenland, and if that had meant going to war against the Germans alongside the Czechs, they should have done so. But even if they were not willing to draw a line there, they should have at least declared war on Germany with the aim of overthrowing Hitler when he annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia.

    Of course, this view is possible with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. But nevertheless, on JQ’s criteria the British government did the right thing. Hence if we follow his advice and another Hitler comes along, we’ll be doomed to make the same mistake.

    Is it possible to come up with criteria for war that would rule out Vietnam (and possibly Iraq), but allow earlier intervention in WWII?

  24. Paul Norton
    July 20th, 2005 at 11:44 | #24

    “they should have at least declared war on Germany with the aim of overthrowing Hitler when he annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia.”

    But in the light of one of the points raised by Katz, and in view of how the actual war panned out, it is inconceivable that this aim was achievable in the absence of (amongst other conditions) both the USA and the USSR seriously committing themselves to it alongside Britain and France. The issue here is not the desirability of regime change in Nazi Germany, but the feasibility and prudence of Britain and France attempting such a course of action in 1938-39 given (a) German power and preparedness and (b) the actual US and Soviet positions at the start of WWII.

    This is where the preconditions set by John Q become relevant, to whit:

    “. . .a war of choice aimed at overthrowing a dictatorial government or taking control of another country. should face a very high burden of justification. Examples include imminent threat of attack, intervention to stop current large-scale killings or (and this is the case that ought to be treated most stringently) interventions where it is beyond reasonable doubt that the dictatorship can be overthrown, and a democratic alternative put in place, with minimal loss of life.

    “Once the decision is undertaken, it is morally obligatory to commit sufficient military and financial resources to make success as certain as anything can be in an inherently uncertain world, and to ensure an approach in which civilian deaths and injuries are minimised in the same way as they would be if the people involved were citizens of the country doing the attacking.”

    In short, if another Hitler does come along, might it not be an even more serious mistake to launch an attempt at forcible regime change in circumstances where there is a high probability that such an attempt would end in defeat and demoralisation for those virtuous nations who would do the regime-changing, on top of all the human and material costs of the war?

  25. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 12:02 | #25

    In short, if another Hitler does come along, might it not be an even more serious mistake to launch an attempt at forcible regime change in circumstances where there is a high probability that such an attempt would end in defeat and demoralisation for those virtuous nations who would do the regime-changing, on top of all the human and material costs of the war?

    In this case, I would so no, it would not be a serious mistake, particularly when we’re talking about combating genocide (please don’t invoke Godwin’s law on me). I’d rather die trying than live in appeasement for lack of numbers.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing�

  26. Paul Norton
    July 20th, 2005 at 12:03 | #26

    This line of argument is also relevant to Observa’s call for the formation of a crusading union of liberal-democratic nations which would claim a moral mandate for undoing the regimes of Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Syria, etc.

    If we reflect on the history of both World War II and the Cold War, it is a mistake to regard either as ending in a straightforward victory of the liberal/social democratic world over the undemocratic world. In both cases, victory was achieved by an alliance between liberal democracies and undemocratic states and movements of a certain kind against a bloc of some, but not all, of the world’s extant dictatorships.

    In the case of WWII, we have to ask what the outcome might have been had the democratic allies not also been allied with the USSR, Guomindang China and the Communist partisans of many states – and, for good hypothetical measure, what the outcome might have been had these powerful undemocratic states and movements formed a grand totalitarian alliance with the fascist states against the liberal/social democracies.

    Likewise, the Cold War might well still be running, and perhaps not running in the West’s favour, had it not been for the falling out between the USSR and the largest Communist state (China), and the contributions of undemocratic states of various kinds (e.g. Indonesia under Suharto, Iran under both the Shah and Khomeiny) to anti-communist alliances of convenience with the liberal democracies. Also, and this is very relevant to Observa’s argument, ultimately the Cold War was lost by the USSR and its allies as much by soft power as by hard power, soft power in this case meaning the superior social and economic example set by Western societies (e.g. the European social democracies and social market economies), and the largely peaceful efforts of internal opposition movements (e.g. Solidarnosc) and of reforming currents within the Soviet-style regimes (e.g. Gorbachev, Poszgay, Dubcek, Kucan).

    Now, if the liberal democracies were to form the kind of crusading alliance which Observa suggests, with strict exclusion of all states not satisfying robust liberal-democratic criteria, and with a long-term strategic agenda of overthrowing such regimes wherever they exist, is it really to be expected that the various non-democratic states would fail to hang together rather than let themselves be hung separately? And in the launching of a series of regime-change crusades which (if Iraq is any guide) would be costly in human and economic terms and messy in political and military terms, would not the liberal-democratic alliance advocated by Observa lose much of the “soft power” which comes from setting a superior example of how a decent society should behave and function, and which is absolutely essential if liberal (or social) democracy is to be spread by emulation?

  27. Paul Norton
    July 20th, 2005 at 12:42 | #27

    “I’d rather die trying than live in appeasement for lack of numbers.”

    An admirable sentiment. However, when deciding whether to try one must consider the likely practical consequences of one’s efforts. In the case in question, if the likely outcome of an heroic effort would be that Hitler Mk.II would be left in a stronger position vis-a-vis the good guys than if such an effort was not made (or was deferred until the circumstances had become more favourable for its success, which is what we’re really talking about) then such an heroic failure must be considered a serious mistake to be avoided.

  28. Katz
    July 20th, 2005 at 13:05 | #28

    PN’s point about “soft power” is most apt.

    Vladimir Putin made an interesting comment recently when he opined that it was rock music that ended Soviet Communism. I am aware of the hyperbolistic nature of this comment. But it is worth considering that the allure of Western culture caused Soviet citizens to rise up and to overthrow communism simply by turning out into the streets. Indeed, even the Communist Party itself and the KGB recognised that the game was up. The second greatest military power in history fell with barely a shot fired in its defence.

    The Right tell a different story about the effectiveness of military confrontation. And indeed it cannot be denied that the Soviet economy was broken by perhaps an unnecessary attempt to counter US military capability.

    Nevertheless, I believe it is now time for historians to tease out the power of the various preconditions and causes for the peaceful collapse of the Soviet regime.

    In line with my earlier comments about the relationship between military adventurism and civil dissent, my preliminary preference is for the effectiveness of PN’s “soft power”.

  29. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 13:26 | #29

    Of course PN, I don’t disagree with you. But a policy of not acting unless it is “beyond reasonable doubt that the dictatorship can be overthrown, and a democratic alternative put in place, with minimal loss of life” will in many circumstances simply encourage the dictators, not discourage them.

    The world community should implement policies that ensure malevolent dictators have “reasonable doubt” that they will be allowed to remain in power, not vice versa.

  30. Katz
    July 20th, 2005 at 13:43 | #30

    “I’d rather die trying than live in appeasement for lack of numbers.”

    X-Anon,

    Fortunately, owing to the fact that, by popular demand, the GWOT has been granted an extended season, you can put your money where your mouth is.

    The armed forces of the COW are crying out for committed fellows (and fellowesses!) with your positive, can-do attitude.

  31. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 14:07 | #31

    haha. As far as moral crusades go, the war in Iraq is not quite in the same league as the war against Hitler’s Germany.

  32. jquiggin
    July 20th, 2005 at 14:13 | #32

    ” But nevertheless, on JQ’s criteria the British government did the right thing. ”

    How so? Let’s stick to the simple consequentialist analysis to start with. Then the British government did the right thing if the consequences of Munich were that the war turned out better than it would have if the line in the sand had been drawn earlier. That’s arguable, as several people have pointed out, but most people would say, at least in retrospect, that Munich strengthened Hitler’s position.

    I judge that, all things considered, drawing the line at Czechoslovakia would have been more likely to produce good consequences than did the Munich agreement (and non-consequentialist considerations point in the same direction) so I think the British government did the wrong thing.

    Are you asserting (as some of your comments imply) that it would have been better to fight earlier, even though the result would probably have been defeat instead of victory?

  33. observa
    July 20th, 2005 at 14:43 | #33

    The question I’m really asking is whether or not a ULDN body would be more functional and effective than relying on it now as a subset of the larger international UN body now, that includes a gaggle of undemocratic gangsters with democratic rights at the international decision-making table. Many of us have serious qualms about those who rely on the current UN legitimacy for their moral guidance as to whether Aus should ever have been in ET, Iraq or Afghanistan.

    The second issue is whether a ULDN type body should ever ‘crusade’ with its power to intervene militarily in ‘failed’ states, albeit that the definition of failed states would be theirs and some power of priority ranking given to where they should intervene first. This would need circumstantial flexibility for the Rwanda and Darfur crises, as well as the longer term plans for the Saddams and Talibans. If you don’t subscribe to their right to actively intervene in such horrible circumstances, it seems to me you have to wear the consequences of taking the view, that- They’ll all sort themselves out and come around to our way of thinking and behaving in the long run. IMO, what this really means is you need to be quite comfortable with pushing the refugees fleeing such unfinished business, back over the borders, to get on with sorting themselves out. I don’t think the pacifist luvvies can have their moral cake and eat it here.

  34. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 14:46 | #34

    “Are you asserting (as some of your comments imply) that it would have been better to fight earlier, even though the result would probably have been defeat instead of victory?”

    No. I am saying that using your criteria, and the information available at the time, the British did the right thing in not drawing the line at Czechoslovakia.

    “I judge that, all things considered, drawing the line at Czechoslovakia would have been more likely to produce good consequences than did the Munich agreement (and non-consequentialist considerations point in the same direction) so I think the British government did the wrong thing.”

    I don’t think you can make that judgement based on the information the British had available at the time. I think it is only possible with hindsight – knowing what followed.

    I think it is very rare that the consequences of not overthrowing a dictator are known at the time the decision is made to go to war. Eg WMDs as a justification for Iraq – the US congress voted for the war at least ostensibly based on the consequences of Saddam having and using (or allowing terrorists to use) WMDs, yet in hindsight that turned out to be a false justification. The reverse applies to Hitler: no-one suspected the holocaust at the time the British made the decision to appease.

    It is also very rare that we know “beyond reasonable doubt that the dictatorship can be overthrown, and a democratic alternative put in place, with minimal loss of life�. Again, the British in Munich or after the Czech annexation would have known there was no way of overthrowing Hitler without massive loss of life. The Americans (or at least the Bush Administration) in Iraq believed that they could satisfy your requirements, but it turned out they were wrong.

    My point is that if your criteria are to be useful as a decision-making tool, they have to eliminate unjust wars and allow just wars, using only the information available at the time the decision to go to war is made, not information only available in hindsight. I don’t think they succeed in that.

  35. Andrew Reynolds
    July 20th, 2005 at 14:56 | #35

    If we want to get serious on when intervention should have occurred to prevent, or reduce the effects of, WWII we should look at the re-militarisation of the Rhineland in 1936. Hitler had given orders to withdraw if confronted and this would have been a serious humiliation for him, personally. This would have reduced his ability to intervene in Spain and probably toppled him during a bad period.

  36. observa
    July 20th, 2005 at 15:07 | #36

    Let me clarify the moral dilemma for the pacifist luvvies here. Millions of Iraqi refugees(remember those camped in Iran?) went home and are still there now despite the quagmire created by the COW. Also they have to face up to the fact that sitting on their hands with the Saddams, means he can push any problematic individual over the border for others to worry about. Nice work if you can get it as a tyrant, which is exactly the gift he gave an incoming COW administration, by emptying all the jails, the moment he knew the game was up.

  37. Katz
    July 20th, 2005 at 15:44 | #37

    “I don’t think you can make that judgement based on the information the British had available at the time. I think it is only possible with hindsight – knowing what followed.”

    Precisely right X-Anon!

    All actors exist in a universe of incomplete information.

    Historians understand this. Economists and some disciplines tend to imagine that they can turn incomplete information into a dependent variable.

    In fact, incomplete information is the ultimate independent variable.

  38. July 20th, 2005 at 16:15 | #38

    Katz Says: July 20th, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    I believe it is now time for historians to tease out the power of the various preconditions and causes for the peaceful collapse of the Soviet regime.

    But it is worth considering that the allure of Western culture caused Soviet citizens to rise up and to overthrow communism simply by turning out into the streets. Indeed, even the Communist Party itself and the KGB recognised that the game was up.

    I do not think that the West’s “soft” cultural power was decisive in the victory of the First World over Second World since both “soft” cultural power (toys) and “hard” military power (guns) are derivative from “firm” industrial power (tools). The polity decides the priority between martial guns and cultural toys, but it is constrained by its industrial tools.

    The fall of the USSR was a complex multi-factored event. The Cold War struggle between First World USA and Second World USSR forces was the vector of at least four monumental world-historical ideological conflicts:

    1. State Constitution: Democratic Constitutionalist v Dictatorial Communist

    2. Economic Systems: Catallactic Capitalism v Coercive Socialism

    3. Cultural Nationalism: Eurasian Nationalism V Russian Imperialism

    4. Arms Race: Pentagon NATO V Red Army WARSAW PACT

    Of the four, I would say that “2. Economic Systems” was the critical one: the relative industrial efficiency and innovativeness of capitalism versus socialism. The fact that the Chinese Communist Party is still in the political saddle because it changed to from a socialist to a capitalist economic system is a controlled experimental proof of this thesis.

    However, the Russian Communist Party might well have survived for many more years as ruler of the USSR (as per Castro in Cuba) had not Carter and Reagan re-ignited “4. Arms Race” which gave Pentagon NATO strategic and conventional power over the Red Army WP system. The proof of this is the strategic advantage Reagan won by installing Pershing Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles to counter Brezhnev’s installation of SS-18′s. This blocked the Soviet’s last chance at clinging to strategic power: regional hegemony over Europe.

    The destruction of the Syrian (Bekka Valley 1983) and Iraqi (Desert Storm 1991) military forces by US made conventional weapons only rammed home the US’s full-spectrum dominance in military technology over the USSR. That was why the Red Army’s attempt at a coup failed in 1991.

    It should be noted in passing that “3. Cultural Nationalism” demonstrated that the USSR’s politico-economic system lacked international legitimacy amongs nations which prized their own identity. This made Russia an unlikely candidate as the mediator of the “End of History”.

    Finally, “2. State Constitutions” showed that democracy was the key to a state’s national legitimacy. Interestingly, constra Orwell and Hayek, the example of Gorbachev showed that it was possible to evolve from a dictatorial to a democratic system without bloody revolution and war.

    This is a critical piece of knowledge since it removes part of the justification for aggressive regime change of dictatorships. Containment, sanctions and constructive engagement can work to bring liberal forces to the fore.

  39. July 20th, 2005 at 16:48 | #39

    Eden knew perfectly well what would follow if the British walked away at Suez. And it did – a generation later, after the media had got bored with claiming how wrong history had proved him.

    From the perspective of Eden’s aims, the only flaw was in not pursuing matters sufficiently vigorously and promptly – which Britain simply didn’t have the resources for. Sending a gunboat straight away would have been far more effective than a belated air assault.

    None of this is endorsement, just pointing out that, yes, people very often did know the consequences of inaction. This reply is not about their value systems, only their clearness of eye.

  40. Razor
    July 20th, 2005 at 16:59 | #40

    Katz,

    “From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
    Look up Quisling in Wiktionary, the free dictionaryQuisling is the surname of Vidkun Quisling the leader of the Norwegian fascist party Nasjonal Samling (NS) and a staunch ally of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was executed by firing squad for treason.
    Quisling in modern English has taken on the meaning of any person who is a traitor to their country or collaborates with their country’s traditional enemies based on the actions and name of the original “Quisling”, Vidkun Quisling himself, because he is considered a traitor to Norway and a collaborator with the Nazis. ”

    I strongly object to your use of the term quisling to label those who support military action against Saddam Hussien, the Taliban and terrorists in general.

    The term is actually more appropriate for those who oppose these things.

  41. jquiggin
    July 20th, 2005 at 17:18 | #41

    “Economists and some disciplines tend to imagine that they can turn incomplete information into a dependent variable.”

    Resolving the problem of how to treat incomplete information is a central focus of my research, on which I’ve been spending most of my time lately. I hope to have something interesting to say before long.

  42. abb1
    July 20th, 2005 at 17:43 | #42

    No abb1, only every pissant conspiracy theorist knows it.

    Oh sure, you’re aware of it, but, apparently, it creates some kind of a cognitive dissonance in your heads, so that you have to immediately reject the most obvious and most logical explanation as a ‘conspiracy theory’. Oh, well. Just another one of those things.

  43. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 17:58 | #43

    “Resolving the problem of how to treat incomplete information is a central focus of my research, on which I’ve been spending most of my time lately. I hope to have something interesting to say before long.”

    Usually one represents the incomplete information by a random variable X, and then the criterion to be optimized becomes a function f of X and your other variables y. All prior knowledge is used to constrain the distribution of X. One then chooses y maximizing the expected-value of f(X, y).

    However, expected-value analysis is not much use when considering the consequences of war – minimax is more appropriate: choose strategy y such that min over x of f(x, y) is maximized. Ie, choose the strategy that leads to the best possible worst outcome.

    Minimax would lead us to overthrow all dictators as soon as they popped their vile heads into view.

  44. Katz
    July 20th, 2005 at 18:36 | #44

    Razor,

    “Quisling in modern English has taken on the meaning of any person who is a traitor to their country or collaborates with their country’s traditional enemies based on the actions and name of the original “Quislingâ€?, Vidkun Quisling himself, because he is considered a traitor to Norway and a collaborator with the Nazis. â€?

    You’re free to object as much as you like.

    The concept “quisling” has nothing at all to do with collaboration with “traditional” enemies.

    A quisling is someone who is treasonous to the national interest of his country, whether or not the beneficiary of her collaboration is a “traditional” enemy. Thus, Howard’s collaboration with the Bush clique is a result of a complex and mendacious calculation, with the ability to play wedge domestic politics looming large. The consequences of these calculations are against the Australian national interest.

    As Talleyrand said: “Treason is simply a matter of dates.”

  45. SJ
    July 20th, 2005 at 18:54 | #45

    Minimax would lead us to overthrow all dictators as soon as they popped their vile heads into view.

    Not bad, x-anon. Use bulls**t to justify a predetermined conclusion. Betcha Bush never thought of that one. ;)

  46. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 19:07 | #46

    actually SJ, it’s not bulls**t, although maybe not that relevant to the discussion – mathematical modeling is often not. And the conclusion wasn’t predetermined.

    When I set out writing that comment I thought minimax would lead to (more or less) JQ’s position, and I was going to have to come up with something between minimax and expected-value to justify my position. But when I got to the end I realized otherwise, much to my surprise.

  47. jquiggin
    July 20th, 2005 at 19:41 | #47

    Anon, I think you mean “maximin”. In a zero sum game, this is the same as trying to select minimax for the other side.

    But unless you’re dealing with a maniac whose sole object is to harm you, zero-sum games are the wrong model. Except in this case, any war outcome is dominated by the same outcome achieved as a result of negotiation, so war always reflects miscalculation or irrationality by at least one side.

    It follows that, as you first suggested, the optimal solution is usually somewhere between maximin and EV.

    On a more technical note, the f(x,y) “stochastic production function” model is inadequate in many respects. I have a bunch of papers on this, of which this is probably the most accessible.

  48. observa
    July 20th, 2005 at 20:37 | #48

    I think some esteemed educators have stumbled upon the ideal way of judging war and its consequences here http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,15990099-23109,00.html

  49. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 21:21 | #49

    JQ, yes, I meant “minimax” in the generic sense of optimizing one way under the assumption that the other side is optimizing the other way. I didn’t want to use “maximin” as fewer people are familiar with the term.

    I assumed the dictator was the maniac you described. Not a bad assumption for Hitler or Osama Bin Laden (who we may assume is a dictator over his small group of followers), but probably not reasonable for Saddam Hussein.

    I’ll check out the paper.

  50. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 20th, 2005 at 21:51 | #50

    ok, I checked out the paper. I don’t understand it – too far from my world and too many words for me.

    Can you explain for me in simple terms what your model adds?

    What is missing by modeling the cost f(x, y) as a scalar function of the unknowns (x – can live in an arbitrary space if necessary – R^N, the space of all differentiable curves, whatever), an arbitrary distribution over X, and the things I can control (y – again, anything you like)?

  51. abb1
    July 20th, 2005 at 22:40 | #51

    Hmm… Bush’s neocons definitely are messianic maniacs who definitely won’t stop till democracy and capitalism flourish everywhere on earth, so, if we are to assume that the opposite side are maniacs too, I don’t see how scalar or even vector functions can be of any help at all.

    My only hope is that neocons’ opponents have a perfectly rational desire to kick Western neo-colonialists out of their countries and be done with it. That’s, actually, what they’ve been saying all this time.

  52. July 20th, 2005 at 22:52 | #52

    John, my impression is that you arrive at a set of criteria, similair to a just war theory. Consequentialism seems to imply such common principles as universality and proportionality. Your advocacy for justifiability of defensive wars might be seen as similar to the Koran.

  53. Katz
    July 21st, 2005 at 08:35 | #53

    “Bush’s neocons definitely are messianic maniacs who definitely won’t stop till democracy and capitalism flourish everywhere on earth…”

    That’s what Bush’s maniacs would like to do.

    However, they will stop in just over two years when neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will want to be associated in any way with the messianism that characterises the politics, both foreign and domestic, of the Bush clique.

    The American electorate will punish severely any would-be national leader rash enough to utter the words “shock and awe”.

    This failure to produce a sustainable national consensus was highly predictable, about as close as I am willing to assert as inevitable.

    Howard probably heard this advice from his own Office of National Assessments, but has chosen to ignore it, thereby shackling Australia to Bush’s foreign policy adventurism, with unpredictable but probably seriously negative consequences.

    Howard’s own political life-cycle possibly had something to do with this choice to associate closely with the foreign policy of the Bush clique. He wins a couple of khaki elections and then retires with accolades before the pigeons come home to roost. (Menzies achieved something of the same apparent success with regard to Vietnam. However, Menzies lived long enough to rue his decision to involve Australia, calling the Vietnam fiasco “a very sad example of a war.”

  54. July 21st, 2005 at 10:30 | #54

    Katz

    This moment in history has resonances that have been twisted and decontextualised, largely by US neocons and their quislings elsewhere in the world.

    A quisling is someone who is treasonous to the national interest of his country, whether or not the beneficiary of her collaboration is a “traditional� enemy. Thus, Howard’s collaboration with the Bush clique is a result of a complex and mendacious calculation, with the ability to play wedge domestic politics looming large. The consequences of these calculations are against the Australian national interest.

    Katz is an idiot. I mean this in the literal etymological sense of one whose is consumed with the private ie idiosyncratic. He is forcing his own meanings on words, ala Alice in Wonderland, in order to pursue an ideological agenda. I also mean this is in the more colloquial sense, in that Katz is a stupid person.

    The dictionary definition of quisling is a native of a country who “helps the enemy army that has taken control of his or her country”. ie collaborates with an occupying enemy power. This self-evidently refutes Katz suggestion that a quisling need not be assisting an (occupying) “traditional enemy”.

    From this point of view it is possible to understand how Suunis (whether Baathists or Wahhabists) would see any Suuni or Shiite co-operating with the US military as a quislings. To most supporters of the Open Society it would seem that the January election results give basic legitimacy to the Iraqi government, although this fact seems to have escaped Katz’s notice.

    But Katz is arguing that Howard is a “quisling” because, allegedly, Howard’s support to US imperialists in their military ventures is based on “wedge political” considerations that is “treasonous” against some purported construction of the “national interest”. There, in a nuts hell, is a perfect distillation of the paranoid fantasies of the Idiot Left.

    Still, its worth recording the empirical evidence on Katz’s thesis. Howard”s support for the US’s Iraq attack probably cost him support amongst his Coalition base (“doctors wives”) and did not carve off much support from swingers or the Opposition’s base. The Morgan poll taken just before the Iraq war reported

    While just over half of Australians (56%) are in favour of military action if sanctioned by the United Nations, only 12% support unilateral action by the United States and its allies, and over a quarter (27%) are not in favour of military action under any circumstances.
    Across the Australian electorate there is a marked difference between electors. L-NP Coalition supporters are more supportive of Australia’s involvement in any military action against Iraq (63% with UN involvement, 20% unilaterally) than ALP supporters (60% with UN involvement, 9% unilaterally),

    This proves that Iraq-attack, to the extent that it was political, was consolidating the Coalition’s Base rather than trying to hive off support from the Opposition. So much for the illusive wedge.

    Most of the nation is strongly supportive of the ANZUS alliance, which would seem to make it in the national interest to support our US allies in time of war. The SMH reports the Australian Strategic Policy Institute survey

    finds support for the ANZUS treaty holding up well, with 84 per cent of voters believing it important.

    Howard has won four elections on the trot, with voters mostly giving him top marks for his performance on national security issues. A Newspoll survey showed that:

    on the subject of national security Labor again could hardly muster support, with just 21 per cent of the population behind it compared to the Coalition’s 57 per cent.

    There is no evidence that the ADF’s Iraq-attack has harmed our national interest. But there is evidence that it has helped. It was an insurance premium to the ANZUS alliance in a time of heightened security threat:

    Australia’s alliance with the US would have weakened “very substantially” if the Government refused to go to war against Iraq, the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, said yesterday.

    “It wasn’t a time in our history to have a great and historic breach with the United States,” Mr Downer said yesterday. “If we were to walk away from the American alliance it would leave us as a country very vulnerable and very open, particularly given the environment we have with terrorism in South-East Asia, the North Korean issue.”.

    Of course Katz would probably be unaware of the fact that Howard won some crucial national security kudos and assets for AUS by commttting the ADF to this venture, most notably a the installation of a US base up North. This which will assist the ADF in controlling borders and deterring threats.

    Australia has not, as yet, suffered any adverse blow-back from Iraq-attack. But we have suffered some violent blowback from elements within the INDON state, as evinced by the Bali bombers and the SIEV-X sinkers. Does Katz think that Howard is “treasonous” because he consolidated the US alliance in the INTERFET expedition? Howard’s support for the US’s Iraq-attack was also payback for the US’s support of AUS in our regime change of ETIMOR. We could not have done it without the USMC:

    The Australian military couldn’t have pulled off the 1999 peacekeeping mission in East Timor without the United States, according to a recent report by an Australian military think tank.

    Howard is not a quisling. But Katz is an idiot.

  55. Katz
    July 21st, 2005 at 11:07 | #55

    Jack,

    “The fall of the USSR was a complex multi-factored event.”

    Yes, this has to be the start point for any intelligent discussion.

    The problem lies in:

    1. the ranking of the many factors

    2. identification of these factors as necessary or sufficient causes.

    “I do not think that the West’s “softâ€? cultural power was decisive”

    I take this to mean that you don’t believe “soft power” to have been the sufficient cause for the collapse of Communist control of the Soviet Union.
    (I acknowledge that “soft power” is a concept so broad that it almost defies precise definition).

    .

    On the other hand, you mention Economic Systems as “the critical” cause. You describe the disadvantage under which Soviet economic policy laboured: “relative industrial efficiency and innovativeness of capitalism versus socialism.” Again, I agree with your description of the definitive distinction between the two systems.

    However, I would dispute your ascription of this as “the critical” cause for the collapse of Communist government in the Soviet Union.

    Consider this: it cannot be argued that the economic systems of all countries around the world can be ranked according to their efficiency. Moreover, it is observable that many national economies have languished for a long time towards the bottom of this table without producing a serious political crisis, let alone the collapse of the regime.

    So the question is what causes the relative stability of some nations which score consistently quite low on the rank of economic efficiency? The answer is: something other than economics.

    I agree with your observation that an advanced economy is a necessary precondition for an effective military, including an effective counter to civil disruption. And I agree that the Soviet Army didn’t have the full range of weaponry available to it to “do the job”.

    But this state of affairs in itself doesn’t explain why the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union never made any determined effort to attempt to save the Communist Government.

    The pages of history are full of stories of armies that followed orders to put down uprisings. Many of those suppressions were successful: Russia 1905, China 1989, Peterloo, Burma, the list goes on. Some of these suppressions were unsuccessful: Russia 1917 (March), the Bastille 1789, the British in Boston in the 1770s. But in all these cases the armed forces turned out to do the job. In the Soviet Union in 1991 the armed forces never turned up, except as a token presence.

    There are two broad possible explanations for this unusual behaviour of the Soviet Armed forces. And I acknowledge that they are not mutually contradictory.

    1. Soviet Generals, having been ordered to defend the regime, did a careful analysis of their capabilities and decided that they were incapable logistically of doing the job.

    2. There was a crisis in the legitimacy of the project of saving the regime. This may have taken several forms:

    a. the Politburo decided that their regime was worth protecting and therefore issued no orders to protect it.

    b. the Generals, having received orders from the Politburo, decided that the regime wasn’t worth protecting and therefore decided to disobey orders.

    c. subordinate ranks, having received orders from loyal Generals to protect the regime, decided to disobey orders.

    In short, for whatever complexity of reasons, the Soviet Armed Forces decided not to turn up.

    This, it seems to me has less to do with capabilities and more to do with will and with loyalties, all of which are dependent on attitudes to the legitimacy of the Soviet regime.

    And further, it is likely that this gnawing sense of illegitimacy infected people at every level of authority in the Soviet Union.

    And one component of this perception of illegitimacy is the sense that thing could be much better than they were, a consciousness stimulated by increasing exposure to the allure of the West, especially its very seductive “soft power”.

  56. Katz
    July 21st, 2005 at 11:31 | #56

    Memo to Jack:

    My first refence to quislings in this thread didn’t mention Howard at all.

    Razor jumped to the conclusion that I was refering to Howard and jumped on to his high moral horse.

    If folks are determined to get angry,and froth at the mouth, why not improve the show with a bit of provocation?

    I’ve enjoyed the results so far immensely.

  57. e sciaroni
    July 21st, 2005 at 12:23 | #57

    The Soviet government lost the trust of many of their citizens after the Chernobyl Incident. I really think that this caused a paradigm shift in the USSR.

  58. July 21st, 2005 at 13:56 | #58

    Justification of war? There is no such thing like this. I rather call it “having a good excuse”. People like Mr. Bush using it all the time.

    Do not waste your time thinking about it or you will get in enourmous trouble with yourself.

  59. Andrew Reynolds
    July 21st, 2005 at 15:36 | #59

    Katz,
    I think what happened with the Soviet armed forces was that they were not ordered to do anything – for this reason alone Gorbachev deserves the thanks of his former people. If Stalin or Lenin had been in charge you would have seen the tanks on the streets, weapons discharging into the people, as you did in Tiananmen.
    The Soviet armed forces would not act without orders and a plan – they had neither.

  60. Katz
    July 21st, 2005 at 15:47 | #60

    AR,

    Gorby certainly did spike the cannon of the Soviet military. I think my point 2a above addressed your comment.

    The interesting thing as that no Kornilov-style regime loyalist took it upon himself to attempt to do what Gorby refused to do.

  61. July 21st, 2005 at 17:51 | #61

    anon — fine, go dispose dictators. Just don’t do it with my tax money, you socialist.

  62. July 21st, 2005 at 22:04 | #62

    Katz Says: July 21st, 2005 at 11:31 am

    My first refence to quislings in this thread didn’t mention Howard at all.

    Razor jumped to the conclusion that I was refering to Howard and jumped on to his high moral horse.

    No. Katz is being misleading and deceptive. Razor was reasonable to jump to conclusions, given the implications that Katz was making.

    Katz July 20th, 2005 at 10:23 am first mentioned quislings in the context of criticizing the Bush neo-cons and their foreign collaborators (“quislings”):

    This moment in history has resonances that have been twisted and decontextualised, largely by US neocons and their quislings elsewhere in the world.

    It is true that Katz did not specifically mention Howard as a quisling in this comment. But it is disingenuous of Katz to wiggle away from his implications. This statement can only be interpreted as a castigation of the leaders of states that Katz has execrated for signing onto the Coalition of the Willing. These states currently collaborate with the Bush regime by hosting US military installations used to prosecute the war in Iraq (including democraticly elected governments in Afghanistan and Iraq). They are certainly locked into neo-con strategic plans for Mesopotamia, whatever they are:
    Katz July 20th, 2005 at 6:36 pm then offers a more general definition of quisling which certainly fits into his immediate characterisation of Howard. His uses the term “collaborator” in both lexicographical-general and Howard-specific instances.

    A quisling is someone who is treasonous to the national interest of his country, whether or not the beneficiary of her collaboration is a “traditional� enemy. Thus, Howard’s collaboration with the Bush clique is a result of a complex and mendacious calculation, with the ability to play wedge domestic politics looming large. The consequences of these calculations are against the Australian national interest.

    Katz’s argument can be reduced to a syllogism and conclusively refuted.
    The major (theoretical) premise is that quislings are those natives who collaborate with alien powers against the national interest.
    The minor (empirical) premise is that Howard is a (native) collaborator with the (alien) Bush regime in a war which is against AUS’s national interest.
    The inescapable conclusion is that Howard is a quisling.
    But my argument showed that the Howard-hating quisling implication that Katz’s is propagating is root-and-branch false and scurrilous.

    I must say that I “immensely enjoy” making mincemeat of Katz’s puerile arguments.

  63. July 21st, 2005 at 23:10 | #63

    KatzSays: July 21st, 2005 at 11:07 am

    it cannot be argued that the economic systems of all countries around the world can be ranked according to their efficiency. Moreover, it is observable that many national economies have languished for a long time towards the bottom of this table without producing a serious political crisis, let alone the collapse of the regime. So the question is what causes the relative stability of some nations which score consistently quite low on the rank of economic efficiency? The answer is: something other than economics.

    This is correct, which is why I stated that the causes of the Soviet collapse were essentially multi-factorial. The collapse of the USSR cannot be attributed to purely domestic economic causes, there was an inescapable political factor: the legitimacy of Bolshevik rule was called into question by the very constitution of the communist state and its position relative to other capitalist states.

    The legitimacy of the Bolshevik party rule, and the integrity of the Soviet state, was based on their claim to represent and further a nominal popular interest. But this claim was not regularly validated by effective popular consent. When the gap between the nominal aims of the Soviet state and its effective outcomes became to great the state suffered a “legitimation crisis” and the one-party state collapsed.

    The interesting problem is identifying the nominal popular interest that the one-party state purported to serve. Most analysts take the Soviet ideology (classless socialist society) at face value and point to the disparity between principled ideology and practical reality as being a cause of the political breakdown.

    But it has been decades since anyone in Soviet society took the socialist ideology seriously. And it was clear that, absent popular consent, the Soviets had to find some other basis for their rule.

    The Bolshevik’s claim to political power over the Soviet Union, and the USSR’s claim to political power over Slavic Eurasia, was based on the Party’s purported ability to increase national economic productivity and translate that into an improved global military security. This claim was enhanced by Stalin’s performance in industrialzing the Societ economy and militarizing the Soviet polity.

    But the Stalinist industrial-martial success, overlooking its appalling human cost, was ephemeral. It is not in dispute that the Soviet Union started to experience secular economic stagnation from the time of Brehznev onwards. Its state-socialized (heavy-industrial goods) planned economy failed to make the transition to a human-capitalized (post-industrial service) market economy.

    This was bad national politico-economics since both Party, State and People were keen on more and better consumer goods and service for their own satisfaction. Most Soviet bloc people were aware that the First World was streaming ahead of the Second World in standard of living.

    It was also bad global politico-economics since the Party’s central claim to legitimacy since the collapse of Lenin’s regime had been its ability to protect and defend the Socialist Motherland (“Rodina”). This claim had been validated by its defeat of the Nazi Wermacht and its parity with the US Pentagon.

    The Soviet Union’s strategic military advantage started to slip in the sixties, as evinced by its drop out from the Space Race and its eagerness to enter into Arms Control agreements. At that time the Red Army was still competitive in conventional weaponry.

    But by the late seventies even that advantage was slipping. And here Reagan deserves some credit for putting the blow-torch on the Soviets military-industrial complex by upping the Arms Race ante.

    RR did this by upgrading the US’s strategic and conventional military power to the extent that the USSR could not catch up. He established IRBM’s in Europe which blocked Brezhev’s attempt at Soviet regional strategic hegemony over NATO. And he escalated the Pentagon’s conventional weaponry, which was proven superior to the Red Army’s arsenal in ME field tests. The Red Army’s inglorious campaign against the US-backed mujhadeen in Afghanistan only rubbed in how far it had fallen from its heights as victor over the Wermacht.

    Once the USSR’s martial route to global power was blocked the new leaders of the Soviet state (Gorby) focused on improving the state’s performance on national politico-economic issues: efficient productivity (perestroika) and populist legitimacy (glasnost). But perestroika failed whilst glasnost succeeded.

    The Red Army generals were discredited by their strategic and conventional military failure. This explains why”no Kornilov-style regime loyalist took it upon himself to attempt to do what Gorby refused to do”. Thus the USSR collapsed because it could not translate “firm” industrial power into “hard” martial power – which was the proximate basis for the political legitimacy of the Communist party. Whatever “soft” cultural power advantages the USSR had over the US – the moral appeal of proleterian abstinence had over capitalist indulgence – had disappeared decades before.

    The apparat and nomenklatura no reason to throw good money after bad. They therefore concentrated on getting their hands on the state’s assets rather than improving the performance of those assets. Since a mafiosi had grown up under Stalin as the organizers of a black economy this proved to be a natural evolution. The Soviet elite were happy enough to lose the Cold War so long as they could join the winning side of the Class War. If you cant beat ‘em, join ‘em.

  64. the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 21st, 2005 at 23:34 | #64

    John Humphries, I’ll raise my own militia to overthrow dictators if you raise your own to defend yourself when they invade.

  65. Katz
    July 22nd, 2005 at 09:10 | #65

    Further memo to Jack,

    This is how you characterized my attitude to the provisional government of Iraq.

    “To most supporters of the Open Society it would seem that the January election results give basic legitimacy to the Iraqi government, although this fact seems to have escaped Katz’s notice.”

    This is what I said on this very blog site on 7 December 2004. As you can see, my characterisation of the Shia majority is anything but that of a quisling regime. And I have no resaon to change this assessment. (In fact, I’m rather proud of my perspicacity):

    [Katz 7 Dec 2004]

    “But I doubt that Juan Cole’s reserved seat solution would work. The US administration would likely stack the deck with Sunni secularists who have minimal credibility in the Sunni community. Worse, the Shia majority, now powerfully united behind Sistani on a single ticket, would likely reject any efforts by this group to prevent Islamicisation of the administration of Iraq. It would be a signal for Sistani to do what he has refused to do so far: unleash the enormous power of Shia militancy.

    “The kicker is that once the Shia have taken control of the administration after the January 2005 elections they will be in a position to utterly dismantle US arrangements to derail popular sovereignty.”

    Jack, given your much boasted diligence in finding evidence to support your positions, it is surprising you missed this one.

    After all, Jack you did find a very juicy quote from Alexander Downer that endorses Howard’s foreign policy. I guess Downer’s pronouncements have to be the definitive word on that issue.

    Disingenuous? Moi??

  66. Katz
    July 22nd, 2005 at 10:06 | #66

    “Whatever “softâ€? cultural power advantages the USSR had over the US – the moral appeal of proleterian abstinence had over capitalist indulgence – had disappeared decades before.”

    Almost, Jack. But you underestimate the potency of perception. And you are slightly anachronistic.

    The idea of the “New Soviet Man” did have some potency during the Stalin era as a legitimation of Soviet social and economic arrangements, especially in justifying a spartan lifestyle.

    However, Khrushchev offered Soviet citizens a new bargain — comparable material lifestyles vis a vis the West. For a while, Soviet citizens could convince themselves that they were catching up. (Mostly smoke and mirrors, but there were some genuine advances.)

    By the 1970s, it was impossible to shield Soviet citizens from the gathering evidence of the likelihood that they would never catch up. Moreover, rock music, the sexual revolution, the women’s rights movement, and a multitude of other evidence of the cultural dynamism and fascinating allure of the West persuaded Russians that they were living blighted, boring lives, and offered Soviet citizens the hope and possibility that overthrowing the Communist regime might enable Russia to become like the West.

    This attitude affected all levels of Soviet society. Indeed, even the KGB troops who were ordered to assist in the August 1991 coup outright refused to obey the orders of their superior officers.

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