Home > Politics (general) > Derbyshire’s war

Derbyshire’s war

June 18th, 2006

Quite a few people have commented in John Derbyshire’s apology for supporting the war in Iraq.

I haven’t seen anyone deny Derbyshire’s suggestion regarding his National Review colleagues who still publicly support the war that

If wired up to a polygraph and asked the question: “Supposing you could wind the movie back to early 2003, would you still attack Iraq?� any affirmative answers would have those old needles a-jumping and a-skipping all over the graph paper.

but then I haven’t looked hard. I’d be interested if anyone can point to any examples [1].

My main interest, like that of many others is in Derbyshire’s reason for recanting his support. While he wanted a war with Iraq, his idea was that the US should drop a lot of bombs, demonstrate that it’s a power to be feared and then leave, without wasting time on futile projects like nation-building. As lots of commenters have pointed out, Derbyshire’s position is worse, in moral terms, than that of most of those who continue to support the war.

It does however, raise some important issues that go to the heart of the debate between supporters and opponents of the Iraq war and the debate over war and peace in general.

In the leadup to the Iraq war, many different arguments were presented for and against going to war, and many different predictions were made about the likely consequences of war. People supported war for a range of reasons, some of which were logically inconsistent, and the same was true of people who opposed war. Many people made many predictions, many of which turned out to be wrong. However, there is a fundamental asymmetry here.

Among the supporters of war were people like Derbyshire, who wanted to reduce large parts of Iraq for rubble as revenge for the September 11 attacks (the absence of any proof of a direct link being, for many, part of the attraction), believers in the WMD threat who wanted to destroy the WMD threat and leave, militarists like Rumsfeld who wanted to use Iraq as a testing ground and permanent base for a new era of American military dominance, rightwing ideologues who expected to transform Iraq into a bastion of free-market economics and support for Israel, ruled by some pliant type like Chalabi, and decent leftists who who saw the invasion as a step towards a secular democracy that would bring the Iraqi left to power. While some of these groups might perhaps have reached a satisfactory accommodation, assuming a military victory, they could not all do so. Yet they all supported the war.

Of course, the opponents of war were a similarly disparate group, including isolationists and international realists who regarded it as an unproductive use of US state power, a large group (including most on the moderate left) who thought that the human costs of war would outweigh any benefits, opponents of a unilateral war carried out without UN support, advocates of national sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs and those opposed to any military action by the US.

The crucial difference is that, while the opponents of war might have disagreed violently about their reasons for their position, these disagreements made no fundamental difference to the policy that they supported. In debates over wars of choice, peace is the status quo, and is a fairly unambiguous concept. (Perhaps not totally unambiguous – if the inspections had been allowed to continue and nothing had been found, differences would no doubt have emerged about what to do next, but peace leaves options like this open whereas war forecloses them).

By contrast, the supporters of the war were giving their support to very different kinds of war and assuming that their own preferred version would be the one that took place. But if they were honest with themselves (as Derbyshire has been, at least retrospectively) they should have looked at their allies and realised that there was no warrant for this assumption. Instead, they committed themselves to war with a whole series of implicit conditions. Many of them, in recanting, have blamed the Bush Administration for not delivering the kind of war they supported, or for mishandling the war in various ways that reflect entirely different assumptions and objectives. But, they had no reason to expect anything different.

The same asymmetry arises in predictions about the war. Opponents of the war variously predicted a military defeat for the US, a long and costly occupation, tens of thousands of civilian casualties, millions of refugees, the emergence of a new dictatorship, civil war on religious and ethnic lines, a stimulus to terrorism and so on. Supporters of the war derided all of these predictions and projected a variety of rosy scenarios including a quick military victory, roses and sweets showered on the liberating troops, and so on. Apart from the initial victory, not many of the optimistic predictions have panned out, but, as war supporters have pointed out, plenty of the anti-war predictions have failed too.

But this is the wrong test, and presumes a symmetry that isn’t there. War is doing harm, and only under very special conditions can it produce enough good to outweigh this. This is the point of what used to called the Powell doctrine which allowed for discretionary use of force only with near certainty of success at low cost, clear and easily achieved objectives and a well-defined exit strategy.

Looking at the list of antiwar predictions, the realisation of any one of them would be enough to make war the wrong choice. As it is, several of them have been validated, and even some of those that seemed falsified, like the millions of refugees are now coming to pass.

Whatever the intentions of those who start them, most wars end up ruinous to both sides and even more to the people and land being fought over. The Iraq war has been no exception. There are occasions when there is no alternative, but we should be slow to go to war and quick to seek peace.

fn1. My only doubt on this concerns the reliability of polygraphs, but they serve well enough as a rhetorical device

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  1. stoptherubbish
    June 20th, 2006 at 18:32 | #1

    Following milano803′s logic, the US is entitled to invade, and kill the inhabitants who resist occupation in any country where the ruler was not ‘chosen by the people’, on the simple gounds that the ruler is a dictator. Does this mean that people who are unfortunate enough to live in dictatorships can look forward to invasions and occupation some time soon, irrespective of their wishes?

    I simply despair at the simplistic and amoral assertions of ‘might is right’ rhetoric that trips so easily from the mouths of people, who, like milano803 have never experienced the horrors of invasion and occupation. In my mind that is the real reason the US population generally, not just its leadership, simply don’t ‘get it’, about Iraq. Quite simply, it’s over there, it’s only towel heads who are dying, and there is no possible well of empathy available from a people who believe (correctly) that nothing and no-one can touch them for their depradations on the rest of the world. They feel invulnerable, and, in a practical sense, they are right to feel that way. We are simply observing, pace Lord Acton, the processes and ways in which absolute power corrupts absolutley.

  2. June 21st, 2006 at 02:14 | #2

    “I don’t believe that you understood the link. Not every action, not even every military action, is war.�

    Oh, I understood the link all right.

    You say that not every military action is war. But what you think the citizens of Iraq in 2003, or Yugoslavia in 1999, or Somalia in 1994, or Panama in 1989, etcetera ad nauseum, thought the U.S. was doing, if NOT waging war? Do you realize that in *every one* of those cases, U.S. troops killed literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of citizens (including military personnel) of those countries?

    If another country’s military killed thousands or tens of thousands of U.S. citizens (including U.S. military personnel), what would you call that? Wouldn’t you say the other country was waging war on the U.S.? So why is it any different if the U.S. does the exact same thing to another country? Why do you not consider it war, if when another country did the exact same thing to the U.S., you *would* consider it war?

    To merely choose one example at random, suppose the military of Panama landed in Washington DC, killed thousands of civilians and U.S. troops storming the White House, and took G.W. Bush back to Panama for alleged drug crimes, found him guilty, and threw him in a Panamanian prison. Wouldn’t you think that the government of Panama had waged war against the U.S.?

  3. June 21st, 2006 at 02:41 | #3

    “US law enforcement authorities should have demanded that the leadership of Al Quaida be handed over by the Taliban for trial as criminals. Why dignify criminals by according them the status of opponents in a war?”

    Absolutely. It depresses me tremendously that so few people here in the U.S. seem to understand that important logic. We can not be “at war” with terrorists. Terrorists are criminals, not warriors.

    Note: When I was at good ol’ Gen H.H. (Hap) Arnold High, in Wiesbaden, (formerly West) Germany, the school nickname was the Warriors. Would any school nickname be the Terrorists?

    G.W. Bush should either have:

    1) Waited for indictments naming Osama bin Laden in the WTC and Pentagon attacks, OR

    2) Taken the indictment of Osama bin Laden he ALREADY had, for the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa (since the U.S. embassies are U.S. soil, the crimes effectively are under U.S. jurisdiction)…

    …and demanded that the Taliban turn Osama bin Laden over for trial in the U.S. (for the U.S. embassy attack and the 9/11 attacks if he had them).

    “It is highly improbable that the Taliban would have complied and there you would have had a government of a nation (like the nazis governed Germany) harbouring a criminal organisation suspected of carrying out mass murder and planning more. Ample cause then for enforcement by military means if necessary.”

    Yes, absolutely. Bush should have announced, “Unless the Taliban government of Afghanistan turns over Osama bin Laden in response to this ‘Request’ for Extradition, then I will ask the U.S. Congress to declare war on the Taliban government of Afghanistan. I will then wage that war until either: a) Osama bin Laden and all indicted persons are turned over, or b) the Taliban government is replaced with a government that is willing to turn over all people for whom the U.S. government has filed ‘Requests’ for Extradition.”

    THAT would be following the Constitution. And if the Congress failed to declare war on the Taliban government–not bloody likely!–Bush could have said, “In the upcoming elections, I hope The People will vote out of office every single member of Congress who voted against war with the Taliban government. Then, Congress should immediately vote to declare war.”

  4. milano803
    June 21st, 2006 at 04:51 | #4

    Mark, the US did demand that the Taliban hand over the AQ perps. So did Pakistan and Britain. So did the UN.

    The Taliban and Afghanistan are not the same thing. Who would you have had the US declare war against?

  5. milano803
    June 21st, 2006 at 05:03 | #5

    In fact, there was at least one UNSC resolution, 1333, requiring the Taliban to turn OBL over to the US. Are events that get the kind of press these demands got, really that easy to sleep through? Even the French were demanding it.

    “The United Nations Security Council has urged Afghanistan’s ruling militia, the Taliban, to comply with texts ordering that Osama bin Laden be handed over.

    All terrorist training camps must also be closed down immediately, the UN Security Council ordered.

    Members of the United Nations Security Council this afternoon [New Zealand time] said the Taliban must immediately comply with UN Security Council resolutions, especially those calling on the group to hand over indicted terrorist Osama bin Laden.

    Resolution 1333, adopted on 19 December 2000, tightened sanctions imposed by the Council against the Taliban after Mr. bin Laden was indicted in the United States for the bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. Speaking to the press following closed-door consultations on the situation in Afghanistan, Council President Ambassador Jean-David Levitte of France [pictured right] offered a succinct account of the Council’s demands. “Today there is one, and only one, message the Security Council has for the Taliban: implement the resolutions of the Security Council, in particular resolution 1333, immediately and unconditionally,” he said.”

    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0109/S00153.htm

  6. June 21st, 2006 at 07:16 | #6

    “Mark, the US did demand that the Taliban hand over the AQ perps.”

    Yes, but the U.S. (specifically, G.W. Bush, as the U.S.’s chief law enforcement officer) didn’t bother to actually follow U.S. law. What Bush said was (about Osama bin Laden) was, “We know he’s guilty.”

    Of all the stupid, two-bit vigilante things to say! What Bush should have said was:

    1) “I am waiting for grand jury indictments regarding the attacks.”

    2) “Grand Jury indictments have now been issued for Mssrs. X, Y, and Z.” (Presumably, Osama bin Laden would be “X.”) “Therefore, I have delivered a ‘Request’ for Extradition to the Taliban government of Afghanistan. I expect Mssrs. X, Y, and Z to be delivered to U.S. custody within a week, for extradition to the U.S. for trial.”

    3) “It has now been more than a week since the ‘Request’ for Extradition has been delivered to the Taliban government. Therefore, I consider that the Taliban government has refused the ‘Request.’ Consequently, I request that the U.S. Congress prepare a Declaration of War against the Taliban government of Afghanistan. If the Congress passes such a Declaration of War, I will wage war until: a) the Taliban government delivers Mssrs. X, Y, and Z, or b) the Taliban government is removed, and a government is installed in Afghanistan that will honor all U.S. extradition ‘Requests.’”

    “The Taliban and Afghanistan are not the same thing.”

    Yes, I’m quite aware of that fact. In fact, when you previously said the U.S. declared war on “Germany,” in WWII, you were not correct. The U.S. declared war on the (Nazi) government of Germany, not Germany as a country. The Geneva Conventions explicitly prohibit war being waged on civilian (that is, war can only be waged on governments).

    “Who would you have had the US declare war against?”

    The “Taliban government of Afghanistan.” (As opposed to the Northern Alliance government, or any other government.)

    Here is the U.S. Declaration of War against the (Nazi) government of Germany in WWII. In the case of Afghanistan, it would be appropriate to specifically call out “the Taliban government,” to avoid confusion with any other government.

    “Resolved, etc., That the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.”

    http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/wwii/dec/dec05.htm

  7. Bemused
    June 21st, 2006 at 10:35 | #7

    Good work Mark Bahner!
    Your well researched material beats my relying on memory any day. I am in furious agreement with your points.
    That ‘two-bit vigilante’ quote from Bush is a gem. It epitomises the whole poblem with that gang.

  8. milano803
    June 21st, 2006 at 11:50 | #8

    “Yes, but the U.S. (specifically, G.W. Bush, as the U.S.’s chief law enforcement officer) didn’t bother to actually follow U.S. law.”

    1) That wasn’t the complaint here. The complaint here was that the US did not demand that the Taliban turn over OBL. Not only did the US demand it, everyone else, including the UN did also. How do you explain UNSC 1333?

    “What Bush should have said was:

    “I am waiting for grand jury indictments regarding the attacks.�

    2) OBL was indicted in the US.

    http://www.fas.org/irp/news/1998/11/98110602_nlt.html

    Ooops! There goes your two-bit vigilante talking point.

    “Yes, I’m quite aware of that fact. In fact, when you previously said the U.S. declared war on “Germany,â€? in WWII, you were not correct. The U.S. declared war on the (Nazi) government of Germany, not Germany as a country.”

    The government of Germany was not an unelected militia. It was a duly elected government, NOT separate from the German people. Remember, governments elected by the people are the same thing as the people themselves. Militias are not.

    So, I’ll ask again, who was the US supposed to declare war against? Afghanistan? Why? Afghanistan had no elected government, only an unelected militia.

  9. June 21st, 2006 at 12:52 | #9

    milano803,
    Afghanistan did have a recognised government – it just was not (as you correctly pointed out) elected. The government of Germany at the time of WWII, while having been installed by due process in 1933, had, by 1941 when they declared war on the US and the US reciprocated, abrogated the original timetable for elections, unilaterally changed the constitution by non-constitutional means and removed the need to face elections again. They were also heavily censoring the press and oppressing opposition and minorities. I would consider those moves to have abrogated their ‘democratic’ status. The government of Japan had arrived in power and maintained themselves there by similar means. Several regimes currently on the planet are in the same (fetid) bucket – the People’s Republic of China not least.
    While I would like to have a general principle of international law that it is OK to invade countries with a democratic deficit without a declaration of war the legal principle does not currently exist (at least to my knowledge). The problem would also be then to establish how serious a democratic deficit has to be before an invasion is justified or required. That consensus does not (IMHO) exist at the moment – but it might in the future. International law, like domestic law, is not static.
    As I have said before I believe the action against Iraq was justified on what was known at the time. I would just have liked to have had a formal declaration of war to clarify a legal basis in the absence of a clear UN resolution.
    .
    Mark Bahner,
    It was silly for him to have said that at the time and I remember cringing when I heard him say it, but he is not a lawyer, nor a member of the judiciary. There are plenty of examples of elected politicians, particularly in the executive branch, making mistakes of this kind in relation to the law. To expect better of non-lawyers may be unrealistic. However, the UN did request he be handed over and the US followed that resolution, including the time limits under it. The Taliban government of Afghanistan made it perfectly clear they would not close the camps and / or hand over OBL in compliance with the UN resolution so I have no problems at all with what happened in Afghanistan – although, again, a formal declaration of war, setting out the aims, would have been better.

  10. Terje
    June 21st, 2006 at 23:37 | #10

    Andrew,

    I don’t think anybody recognised the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan.

    Milano803,

    You said:-

    9/11 did indeed change the US, but as far as the relationship with Iraq it simply made us do what should have been done the first, or possibly second time Iraq failed to comply with resolutions. Anyone want to put any money on whether Iran gets 17 chances?

    Yes this is the position that I thought you were taking. And I have some respect for this idea. It implies that the US was kind of like a half asleep giant and 911 woke it up. On awakening it saw this threat (Iraq) that had always been there but that had not seemed significant during the period of slumber. So even though Iraq maybe had nothing to do with waking up the slumbering giant it was still up for a mashing because now the giant saw the world differently.

    In essence what changed was US perception. The question then is about whether this new perspective was a more sober view of the world or if it was actually a form of blind fury.

    In broader terms I may not necessarily agree with some of your views on several matters that have been raised here, however I think you do a credible job of defending your position and I thank you for some alternate perspectives.

    Regards,
    Terje.

    P.S. I still think the invasion of Iraq was a mistake on the part of the USA.

  11. milano803
    June 22nd, 2006 at 01:13 | #11

    Andrew, Afghanistan had a militia in control of it, not a government. It is very important that we remember that the action IN Afghanistan was not AGAINST Afghanistan or the people of the nation. It was against a militia and it was against that militia, no matter where they happened to be. Had Taliban operatives moved into Pakistan, they would have still been subject to military action by the US.

    Who would you have liked to have a declaration of war against? Afghanistan, and if so, why? There was a clear UNSC resolution, UNSC 1333.

    Terje,

    “So even though Iraq maybe had nothing to do with waking up the slumbering giant it was still up for a mashing because now the giant saw the world differently. ”

    I don’t think that’s quite it. Remember, Saddam was STILL given a final opportunity to comply with the UN requirements, even after 9/11. Whether he should have been given a 17th chance is debateable. What the US administration realized, because remember, Bush really wasn’t terribly interested in foreign affairs prior to 9/11, was that WE were remiss in not taking care of what we should have taken care of years ago. It made us realize something about ourselves, more than anything about anyone else.

    “In essence what changed was US perception.”

    partly with our perception of ourselves, but more than that, what changed is that we finally did something. The US is notoriously slow to take action against people.

    “The question then is about whether this new perspective was a more sober view of the world or if it was actually a form of blind fury.”

    It was actually neither. Blind fury would have resulted in a levelled Iraq and Afghanistan. And our worldview wasn’t unsober, when we bother to think about the rest of the world, our views are quite sober, we just don’t spend much time thinking about anything outside the US. It was a cure for laziness. We don’t actually like leaving the US to take military action against anyone. We’re quite happy here, making money and buying our HDTV’s, Starbucks and Ski-do’s.

    If you believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake on the part of the US, do you also believe it was a mistake on the part of everyone in the coalition that invaded Iraq? Also, should UNSC resolutions not be enforced? Are 17 chances not too many chances?

    Many thanks for your compliments. I also appreciate your perspective and your ability to discuss the subject without personal attack.

  12. gordon
    June 22nd, 2006 at 15:12 | #12

    Andrew Reynolds says: “While I would like to have a general principle of international law that it is OK to invade countries with a democratic deficit without a declaration of war the legal principle does not currently exist (at least to my knowledge).”

    To my knowledge, the UN Charter makes invading other countries illegal.

    What has happened after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq by the US and its compliant allies is the demolition of the collective security arrangements put in place after WWII. We are now back to a situation of uncontrolled Great Power rivalries, not dissimilar to the situation prior to WWI. I think Andrew Reynolds’ “principle of invasion” and the concept of “pre-emption” amount to no more than that.

    But I am not prepared to abandon, first, the legal principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries or second, abhorrence of international aggression. If we learn nothing else from the history of the twentieth century, surely we can learn that. And I mean learn it as individuals, if not as States. We should not make apologies for invasions, abductions, detentions without trial, murders, the wrecking of other countries’ infrastructure (such pathetic infrastructure, in many cases) and all the rest of it. We should oppose these things because they are both bad in themselves and because twentieth century history tells us they will lead to even worse things in the future.

    There comes a time when appeals to human feeling, law and morality cease, and are replaced by feelings of blind and bitter enmity towards the aggressor. This has already happened in many parts of the world. I hope that the sound instincts and essential goodwill of millions of Americans can arrange a halt to the awful tendency of that country’s current policies. I very much fear what will happen if they can’t.

  13. Hal9000
    June 22nd, 2006 at 16:19 | #13

    Milano803 wrote: “Had Taliban operatives moved into Pakistan, they would have still been subject to military action by the US.”

    Pakistan was among the nations – all of them US allies – to recognise the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, and to have diplomatic relations with it. The others were Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Axis of Evil members Iran and Iraq by contrast loathed the regime.

    This is hardly surprising, since the Taliban were largely the creation of the Pakistani secret intelligence service. Mullah Omar first emerged in the Afghan emigre community of Pakistani Baluchistan. This community remains the main source of recruitment for Taliban forces. Check out the wikipedia article on Taliban.

    Other than a much-apologised-for and apparently mistaken bombing raid on a Pakistani village in January this year subsequently touted as an attempt to assassinate AQ honcho al-Zawahiri, US military action inside Pakistan has been underwhelming. Pakistani military action has been much hyped but seemingly of limited scale and less than wholehearted – see http://www.guardian.co.uk/afghanistan/story/0,,1778443,00.html

    “Also, should UNSC resolutions not be enforced? Are 17 chances not too many chances?”

    Check out the 50-year history of Israel’s defiance of UNSC resolutions (65 and counting) here: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/stats/un.html Somehow I doubt whether the 101st Airborne is going to be charging over the Allenby Bridge any time soon. Smacks to me of gross hypocrisy, or perhaps what we lefties are invariably accused of: moral relativism. Especially since in Iraq the WMD in question did not in fact exist and the facts were, as British officials noted, fitted around the policy.

  14. Bemused
    June 22nd, 2006 at 21:35 | #14

    Good points Hal9000.
    I asked our pal milano803 these questions back on 20 Jun at 3:03pm:
    “A few simple questions for milano803:
    1. What nationalities were the hijackers in 9/11? Were there any Iraqis?
    2. Given that most were Saudis and Saudi Arabia is the source of Wahabism that promotes extremist ideas such as bin Ladens, would it not have been a more deserving target than Iraq?
    3. Given that the Taliban was largely sponsored by the state security service of Pakistan, would it not have been a good idea to take out the Pakistan regime too?”
    He didn’t rush in to answer them so I expect your points will also be ignored too.

  15. Terje
    June 22nd, 2006 at 22:37 | #15

    Milano803,

    You said:-

    If you believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake on the part of the US, do you also believe it was a mistake on the part of everyone in the coalition that invaded Iraq?

    In terms of self interest I think that the US made a mistake. In terms of self interest I think nations like Australia made a good call. The USA was always going to get the bulk of the blame/credit for the decision to invade Iraq. As such I think that the treasure/blood/reputation expended was not worth the benefits gained by the USA. To date it has lost something like 2500 lives. Australia with perhaps one 15th the population has so far lost one life in Iraq. So in crude numbers Australia has expended less blood. In terms of treasure Australia has expended very little. In terms of reputation Australia can within the global consciousness be easily excused because it was sticking with an ally in difficult times, did not lead the charge, has not got its hands very dirty and is low profile anyway. So all up I think it was a mistake for the USA (in terms of US self interest) and a good move on the part of Australia (who has got lots of trinkets for whoring itself and being Americas little best friend).

    Any benefit America receives for emancipating the people of Iraq has to be weighted against the cost it bears. Some people believe that governments should ignore such calculations and that they should serve some higher good. Personally I think governments that actively serve ideals beyond the collective interests of their citizens are a danger to humanity.

    You said:-

    To me, a declaration against a people is quite different. The US had and has no quibble with the Iraqi people, as the US did for example with the nazis.

    I think this analogy is flawed. The USA did not declare war against the Nazi party. It declared war against Germany and not all German people were Nazis. Iraq was in effect little different. The US disagreement was with the Bathists.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  16. June 23rd, 2006 at 02:21 | #16

    Terje writes, “The USA did not declare war against the Nazi party. It declared war against Germany…”

    No. The government of the USA declared war against the GOVERNMENT of Germany:

    “Resolved, etc., That the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.�

    http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/wwii/dec/dec05.htm

    The Geneva Conventions prohibit waging war against civilians.

  17. June 23rd, 2006 at 02:45 | #17

    1) I wrote, “Yes, but the U.S. (specifically, G.W. Bush, as the U.S.’s chief law enforcement officer) didn’t bother to actually follow U.S. law.�

    milano803 replied, “1) That wasn’t the complaint here. The complaint here was that the US did not demand that the Taliban turn over OBL.”

    I have no control over what others complain about. *My* complaint was that G.W. Bush didn’t follow the law (the U.S. Constitution).

    2) I wrote–concerning the 9/11 attacks!–that Bush should have said, ““I am waiting for grand jury indictments regarding the attacks.â€?

    milano803 pointed to a *1998* indictment of Osama bin Laden, and remarked, “Ooops! There goes your two-bit vigilante talking point.”

    No, that’s wrong for (at least) two reasons:

    1) I was referring to indictments for the *9/11* attacks, and

    2) Even if Bush HAD an indictment of Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks, it would STILL be a “stupid, two-bit vigilante” thing to say, to remark, “We know he’s guilty.”

    One of the very foundations of U.S. law is the presumption of innocence. For a PRESIDENT to make such a stupid and legally wrong statement was a disgrace. It merely emphasized and supported all doubts around the world that the U.S. is capable of holding fair trials.

    milano803 concludes with, “So, I’ll ask again, who was the US supposed to declare war against? Afghanistan?”

    So I’ll answer again, “The Taliban government in Afghanistan.” The fact that the Taliban were not elected is not relevant to whether or not they were a government on which the U.S. government could wage war.

    The government of the Empire of Japan in WWII was headed by an Emperor. Nobody elected HIM! Yet the U.S. government had the decency to follow the Constitution and declare war on the Japanese government in WWII.

    G.W. Bush (and the Congress) should have followed the law (the Constitution) regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. He and they didn’t.

  18. milano803
    June 23rd, 2006 at 03:18 | #18

    “In terms of self interest I think that the US made a mistake. In terms of self interest I think nations like Australia made a good call. ”

    Terje, not sure how you can reconcile these two items. If you mean that Australia is seen in the world as having little backbone, for lack of a more descriptive term, then I can’t see how that would be good for it. If you’re saying that Australia is seen as spending money and lives it doesn’t have to, merely to keep the US happy, that cannot be a good thing for it either. In terms of worldview, Australia actually comes off worse than the US under your scenario as it looks like the US does what it does on principle and Australia does what it does because it’s a toady.

    “The USA was always going to get the bulk of the blame/credit for the decision to invade Iraq. As such I think that the treasure/blood/reputation expended was not worth the benefits gained by the USA. To date it has lost something like 2500 lives.”

    If you go by how many lives were lost, then it wasn’t in the US’ interest to enter WWII in Europe.

    “In terms of treasure Australia has expended very little. ”

    I’ll gently point out that in comparison to the US, Australia has little treasure TO expend. And most people around the world know that.

    “Any benefit America receives for emancipating the people of Iraq has to be weighted against the cost it bears.”

    How do you reconcile that with US participation in WWII. Surely you recognize that we would have lost ZERO US lives had we not entered in Europe.

    “The USA did not declare war against the Nazi party. It declared war against Germany and not all German people were Nazis.”

    The German government, which we already established is the same thing as the German people, was a Nazi government.

    “Iraq was in effect little different.”

    It was quite different. Iraq, for all the charade of elections, did not have a democratically elected government.

    “The US disagreement was with the Bathists.”

    It was actually with Saddam Hussein.

    This “Policy easing to bring Baathists into new Iraq” would not have happened with the nazis.

    http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/04/22/iraq.baathist/

  19. milano803
    June 23rd, 2006 at 06:41 | #19

    “So I’ll answer again, “The Taliban government in Afghanistan.â€?

    so any Taliban militia could easily just move into Pakistan and be off the hook? If war was declared against The Taliban government in Afghanistan (leaving aside for the moment that it wasn’t actually a government), then you couldn’t very well have gone after Taliban anywhere else. That’s the problem with trying to tie Afghanistan as a country with a militia group within the country. They are not the same thing.

    “The fact that the Taliban were not elected is not relevant to whether or not they were a government on which the U.S. government could wage war.”

    I think it’s very relevant.

    “G.W. Bush (and the Congress) should have followed the law (the Constitution) regarding Afghanistan and Iraq.”

    They did. You may not have liked the action but they did follow the law. OBL had been indicted in the US. You may not have liked what he’d been indicted for, but he was under indictment in the US.

  20. milano803
    June 23rd, 2006 at 06:43 | #20

    “The government of the USA declared war against the GOVERNMENT of Germany”

    which was the same thing as declaring war against the country and the people. Tha Taliban were not the country of Afghanistan, nor were they the people.

  21. June 23rd, 2006 at 07:09 | #21

    “The German government, which we already established is the same thing as the German people,…”

    That may be what y’all have “already established,” but the Founding Fathers of the U.S. disagree. See the Tenth Amendment:

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    In this case, “United States” means the U.S. federal government. It’s quite clear from the Tenth Amendment–an amendment Thomas Jefferson called the foundation of the Constitution–that “the people” are separate from the “United States” (i.e., the U.S. federal government).

    Moreover, your conflation of “the people” with the U.S. federal government is a particularly dangerous mistake to be making at this time. This is exactly the way Osama bin Laden and his terrorist friends view the world, and they use that (mistaken) worldview as justification to target civilians (e.g., the WTC towers).

  22. June 23rd, 2006 at 07:12 | #22

    I wrote, “The government of the USA declared war against the GOVERNMENT of Germanyâ€?

    milano803 replies, “which was the same thing as declaring war against the country and the people.”

    No, as I just noted, the Founding Fathers of the U.S. disagree. (Please forgive me if I find their opinion of greater value than yours. It’s merely that I value their opinions so highly, not that I don’t value your opinions.)

    P.S. Even when you are wrong. ;-)

  23. milano803
    June 23rd, 2006 at 22:59 | #23

    Mark, the 10th amendment does not make your case. It defines what is federal responsibility and what is state responsibility.

    “Moreover, your conflation of “the peopleâ€? with the U.S. federal government is a particularly dangerous mistake to be making at this time. ”

    Those founding fathers you so love (even if you don’t understand them) disagree. They wrote a little paper that began “We the people………”, might want to look into it at some point. I don’t believe that everyone in America at the time signed it. But I could, of course, be wrong about that.

  24. milano803
    June 23rd, 2006 at 23:01 | #24

    Mark, I noted that you did not respond to my question about declaring war against “The Taliban Government in Afghanistan” which I believe was your suggestion as to who Congress could have declared war on. Here it is again:

    so any Taliban militia could easily just move into Pakistan and be off the hook? If war was declared against The Taliban government in Afghanistan (leaving aside for the moment that it wasn’t actually a government), then you couldn’t very well have gone after Taliban anywhere else.

  25. June 24th, 2006 at 13:08 | #25

    “Mark, the 10th amendment does not make your case. It defines what is federal responsibility and what is state responsibility.”

    No, that’s the common misunderstanding of the 10th amendment. You’re missing the important final clause. I’ll capitalize it for emphasis:

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, OR TO THE PEOPLE.�

    The People can not be the same as “the United States” or “the States.” Therefore, according to U.S. law, The People are not the same as “the United States” (the federal government) or the States.

    “They wrote a little paper that began “We the people………â€?,…”

    That means nothing, under U.S. law. The Preamble has no legal power. It’s simply a flowery introduction.

    “I noted that you did not respond to my question about declaring war against “The Taliban Government in Afghanistanâ€? which I believe was your suggestion as to who Congress could have declared war on.”

    Yeah…this might surprise you, but I’ve got better things to do than to respond to your every question. Especially such a silly question as that. Do you honestly think that it’s OK for the President to send U.S. troops into Pakistan under current circumstances, but would somehow not be allowed if the Congress had actually followed the Constitution and declared war on the Taliban?

    It’s almost universally acknowledged that Osama bin Laden and friends escaped from Tora Borah into Pakistan? Why didn’t the U.S. send troops and bombers after him? The answer is that it was not judged politically acceptable to do so.

    Also, in WWII, the U.S. declared war on the governments of *Germany* and *Japan.* Do you really think that President Roosevelt was then not allowed to send troops into North Africa, the Philippines, France, etc.?

    It’s a remarkable demonstration of your desperation to claim that it was perfectly legal for G.W. Bush to invade Afghanistan (and go into Pakistan, too) without any Declaration of War at all…and then to stand completely on your head to argue that if he HAD a Declaration of War, he would somehow be limited to Afghanistan, simply because the Declaration of War had the wording “Taliban government in Afghanistan.”

    Under your legal theory, do you think it would be OK for the U.S. troops to be sent into Pakistan if the Declaration of War had the wording “Taliban government OF Afghanistan”?!

  26. Bemused
    June 24th, 2006 at 16:36 | #26

    Mark, not only did OBL and Al Quaida and Taliban remnants escape into Pakistan, but it is widely acknowledged, and I don’t think seriously disputed, that the Taliban had it’s origins in Pakistan where it was fostered by the Pakistani secret service.

    Milano803 chides you for not answering his questions but he has a well established tactic of ignoring any questions to him that are inconvenient if he so chooses.

    I raised these questions with him on 20 Jun and issued a reminder on 22 Jun.

    “A few simple questions for milano803:
    1. What nationalities were the hijackers in 9/11? Were there any Iraqis?
    2. Given that most were Saudis and Saudi Arabia is the source of Wahabism that promotes extremist ideas such as bin Ladens, would it not have been a more deserving target than Iraq?
    3. Given that the Taliban was largely sponsored by the state security service of Pakistan, would it not have been a good idea to take out the Pakistan regime too?�

    Saudi Wahabism and the machinations of the Pakistani security service have had much more to do with the rise of OBL and the Taliban than Iraq, Iran or anywhere else. It is however inconvenient for the US to go after these root causes and so the former client of the US, Sadam Hussein was made the surrogate recipient of the Texas gunslingers rage.

    To pre-empt a likely milano803 response I will repeat again my earlier statement:

    “milano and his ilk will no doubt infer from this that I support Saddam Hussein. I don’t and never have, unlike the US administration that sponsored and armed him in the 1980s. They are all mired in their own contradictions.”

  27. milano803
    June 25th, 2006 at 02:25 | #27

    “The People can not be the same as “the United Statesâ€? or “the States.â€? Therefore, according to U.S. law, The People are not the same as “the United Statesâ€? (the federal government) or the States.”

    Here’s your mistake. The US Constitution is not a case of the federal government delegating power to the people. It is the opposite, it is the people delegating specific powers to the federal government, limiting it’s powers. It’s quite unusual in this respect. It’s the opposite of the Magna Carta, for example.

    Still no response to my question. Here it is again:

    “so any Taliban militia could easily just move into Pakistan and be off the hook?”

    This requires a yes or not response.

    “If war was declared against The Taliban government in Afghanistan (leaving aside for the moment that it wasn’t actually a government), then you couldn’t very well have gone after Taliban anywhere else.”

    could you or couldn’t you?

  28. June 26th, 2006 at 00:16 | #28

    Milano803 writes, “Here’s your mistake. The US Constitution is not a case of the federal government delegating power to the people.”

    Milano803, I know that. I’m pretty sure I know more about the Constitution than you do. Only someone who was pretty ignorant about the Constitution (not to mention international treaties like the Geneva Conventions) would claim, as you have, that the United States (the U.S. federal government) is declaring war on the GOVERNMENT of Germany is “the same thing” as declaring war on The People of Germany.

    I gave you the Tenth Amendment. You responded in a way (saying it just dealt with state governments) indicating you have never even read the Tenth Amendment closely (i.e., you completely ignored the important, “…OR THE PEOPLE.”)

    Obviously, you also haven’t read other amendments that form the Bill of Rights very carefully:

    1st Amendment: “…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    Why would THE PEOPLE need to “petition the government” if they were “the same thing” as the government?!

    2nd Amendment: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Perhaps to people like you, that refers to the National Guard. To ME (and I think most of the Founding Fathers) it actually refers to PRIVATE CITIZENS forming “well regulated militias” (i.e., NOT paid by the state governments).

    4th Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,…”

    If “the people” are the same thing as the government, there would not BE any “unreasonable searches and seizures”…because the government would be searching and seizing from itself.

    9th Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

    If “the people” is “the same thing” as the government, why would a 9th amendment even be needed.

    “It is the opposite, it is the people delegating specific powers to the federal government, limiting it’s powers.”

    Again, milano803, I’m (painfully) aware of that fact. I’m a Libertarian (or was, until the State of North Carolina dissolved our party). I support a more limited government than 99.5% of the U.S. population…including you, I’m fairly certain.

    “so any Taliban militia could easily just move into Pakistan and be off the hook?�

    Un-bleeping-believable. The answer is, *******NO********!

    Is that clear enough for you?! If there had been a congressional declaration of war on, “the Taliban government in Afghanistan,” that does NOT mean that the members of the Taliban government (or their military fighters) could, “easily just move into Pakistan and be off the hook.”

    But if members of the Taliban government (or their military fighters) went into Pakistan, it WOULD present a diplomatic difficulty. (Just as it HAS presented a diplomatic difficulty, even WITHOUT a declaration of war.)

    As I noted before, it’s ridiculous for you to claim that the President didn’t need any declaration of war at all to follow the Constitution, and then stand on your head and claim that if he had RECEIVED a declaration of war, he would have been completely prevented from waging that war as he saw fit, merely because of a single word in the declaration of war.

    By the way, YOU did not answer MY question: Under your legal theory, do you think it would be OK for the U.S. troops to be sent into Pakistan if the Declaration of War had the wording “Taliban government OF Afghanistan�?!

    This requires a yes or no response.

  29. June 26th, 2006 at 00:39 | #29

    bemused asks questions that milano803 has never answered. I’ll give my answers to the questions:

    1. What nationalities were the hijackers in 9/11? Were there any Iraqis?
    2. Given that most were Saudis and Saudi Arabia is the source of Wahabism that promotes extremist ideas such as bin Ladens, would it not have been a more deserving target than Iraq?
    3. Given that the Taliban was largely sponsored by the state security service of Pakistan, would it not have been a good idea to take out the Pakistan regime too?�

    1. As I recall, 15 Saudis, 3 from the United Arab Emirates, and 1 from…somewhere else. No Iraqis.

    2. In my opinion, no, the Saudi government would not be a more “deserving target” than Saddam Hussein’s government. And as I’ve pointed out to milano803 and others, it’s actually against U.S. law (specifically, the Geneva Conventions) to wage war against a country. U.S. law only allows waging war on governments.

    Why would the Saudi government not be a more “deserving target” than Saddam Hussein’s government? Well, several reasons:

    a) The nationality of the 9/11 hijackers is not really relevant, just as where they lived is not really relevant. After all, several of the hijackers lived in Germany…does that make Germany a “deserving target?”

    b) One major concern about Saddam Hussein was that openly sought–and even used–chemical weapons. He also openly sought nuclear weapons (it was a very good thing when the government of Israel destroyed the Osirak reactor).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osirak

    c) Saddam Hussein openly sheltered suspected Islamic terrorists, including Abdul Rahman Yassin, who *admitted* to participating in the 1993 WTC attack, which attempted to topple one tower into another, killing tens of thousands of people.

    d) Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbors (Iran and Kuwait) and lobbed missiles into Israel and Saudi Arabia.

    3) No, it would not be a good idea to “take out” the regime of Pervez Musharraf. (And most certainly not without extensive consultation with the government of India.)

  30. Terje
    June 26th, 2006 at 00:47 | #30

    No. The government of the USA declared war against the GOVERNMENT of Germany:

    Mark, I will defer to your quote and concede the point. Although I don’t think it weakens my point which was that there was no essential difference between the war in Iraq and the war in Germany that made the requirement for a declaration of war different.

    In terms of worldview, Australia actually comes off worse than the US under your scenario as it looks like the US does what it does on principle and Australia does what it does because it’s a toady.

    Milano803, I think you missed my point. The USA is being judged by world opinion. Australia is being judged by world opinion but also by US opinion. In terms of the long term diplomatic impact for Australia the former is likely to be less significant (because we are a low key player) compared to the latter (even though we are a low key player). I know that this is a rather macheavellian analysis of an arguably unprincipled position however I think it is essentially correct.

  31. June 26th, 2006 at 01:29 | #31

    Terje writes, “Mark, I will defer to your quote and concede the point. Although I don’t think it weakens my point which was that there was no essential difference between the war in Iraq and the war in Germany that made the requirement for a declaration of war different.”

    Yes, I agree completely with that. Under the Constitution, the Congress of the U.S. should have declared war on Saddam Hussein’s government before the war was waged by the President. Just like the Congress declared war on the government of Germany in WWII.

  32. Bemused
    June 26th, 2006 at 10:26 | #32

    Mark,

    Thanks for answering the questions that apparently milano803 dare not answer.

    I hold a somewhat different position to you but you seem to always get your facts right and even when I disagree with your opinions, I respect them as thoughtful and well argued.

    Regarding your answers to a couple of my questions, Saudi Arabia is the wellspring of Wahabism and I have seen it reported that the Saudi govt has ‘done a deal’ with the Wahabis to not interfere with them if they keep their terrorism outside of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia provides finance to all sorts of dodgy (to say the least) Islamic organisations in other countries. I would have though there was a good case for putting a large amount of pressure on the Saudi Government to curtail all of this.

    It is not so much that I think there was a strong case for any military action against Saudi Arabia as there being even less of a case against Iraq.

    To address your sub-points:
    a) It is rather the conspicuous absence of Iraquis I thought signifcant. It doesn’t really prove anything but one would have thought that if Iraq was really involved in 9/11 there would be some Iraquis implicated directly.
    b) This is all pre-Gulf War stuff. Iraq was being very effectively limited by the UN weapons inspectors. I suspect Sadam was playing a bit of a game in wanting the Iranians to fear he may still have some capacity, so he struggled to preserve some element of doubt.
    c) Need to do my homework on this but I recall a JQ post where he pointed to a lost opportunity to take out an Al Quaida linked base in the north of Iraq (i.e. not controlled by Saddam). The Kurds controlling this area were nominally US allies!
    d) This occurred during the Gulf War – nothing since.
    3. A rhetorical question and I largely agree with your answer. However, since the Taliban was largely a creation of the Pakistan state security service and there appear to be enduing sympathies if not links, I would have thought Pakistan would at least have been placed on notice. One should also consider that unlike Iraq, Pakistan does have nuclear weapons and also a track record in the proliferation of nuclear technology. It seems to indulge in dangerous behaviour and to have more potential as a threat than Iraq did afer the Gulf War.

  33. milano803
    June 27th, 2006 at 09:03 | #33

    “As I noted before, it’s ridiculous for you to claim that the President didn’t need any declaration of war at all to follow the Constitution”

    there wasn’t a country to declare war on.

  34. milano803
    June 27th, 2006 at 09:13 | #34

    Terje, The US and Australia are both being judged by:

    1) themselves

    2) each other , and

    3) everyone else in the world

    You could put any 2 countries in the world in the equation and the results would be the same.

    In terms of diplomatic impact, I agree, Australia will receive less attention because it’s impact is lesser. IIn terms of ability to impact international events, no one else has the same ability as the US. Put simply, no one else is the player we are.

    People who think the US was wrong to take action against Iraq, don’t say that everyone else who did was right to do so. It would be lovely for Australia if it worked that way, but it doesn’t. Will Australia suddenly be called upon to do things like sit in on the discussions with the European 3 on the Iran issue as the US is? No. Will calls suddenly come from all over the world for Australia to find a settlement of the Israel/Palestinian situation? No. Because without US participation, Australian participation wouldn’t mean much. Just the way it is.

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