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How big a disaster ?

January 15th, 2008

The publication of new survey estimates suggesting that there were 150 000 violent deaths in Iraq in the first three years after the invasion, and as many as 400 000 excess deaths (relative to the death rate immediately before the war) has provoked a predictable flurry of blog activity. The main concern has not been the figures themselves, but whether and to what extent these results are consistent with previous, even higher estimates, by Burnham and others, often referred to as the “Lancet survey”. You can read the Crooked Timber view, with which I broadly agree, here and here, and follow links to others on all sides. For an opposing view from Oz, you can go to Harry Clarke.

It seems to me that most of this debate is, like most blog and media wars, is missing the main point. The central fact is that the Iraq war has turned out worse, on almost every count, than even the most pessimistic critics suggested .

As regards war deaths, there were few precise predictions, but suggestions that the death toll would amount to more than a hundred thousand were at the upper limit. Here’s a piece written two years into the war saying that such estimates were way off the mark. If the latest estimate of 150 000 violent deaths in the first three years of war is correct, the pessimists had already been proved right by then, and we’ve had nearly three more bloody years since. Almost certainly, the war has, by now, caused the deaths of well over half a million people who would be alive if the policy prevailing in 2002 (sanctions, but with essential imports of food and medicine permitted under Oil-For-Food) had continued. That includes over 4000 US and Coalition troops killed, along with tens of thousands severely wounded.

The UN suggested war would drive 1 million refugees from Iraq, and internally displace another million. The true figure could be twice as large.

While Treasury Secretary Lawrence Lindsay was sacked for predicting that the war could cost $100 to $200 billion, extreme pessimists like William Nordhaus were projecting a total cost of $1 trillion. It’s already clear that the total cost will be closer to $2 trillion, and it could well be more.

This war has been a disaster for everyone involved*. Quibbling over how large a disaster seems pretty pointless.

* With a handful of exceptions: mercenaries and contractors on the US side, Shia radicals like Sadr in Iraq, and the Iranian government waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces.

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  1. January 15th, 2008 at 10:46 | #1

    since the bush family has substantial investments in oil and armaments, no disaster for them, quite the contrary.

    until the americans leave iraq, and the income of oil production falls into the hands of iraqis, the disaster for america remains in question. possibly a democrat president will have to leave iraq, but i have to see it happen.

    casualties in the vietnam war were ten times higher, there was no visible material reward, american methods were criminal. that war was a disaster in every sense but one: the usa was too big to punish, too rich to shun, and consequently, walked away unscathed.

    the iraq invasion offered real geopolitical prizes, the lords of the universe thought they could write their names under alexander and caesar. well, victory remains elusive, and the expense may preclude rejoicing anywhere but the boardrooms of carlyle and halliburton.

    but i suspect the people who planned the iraq invasion are cheerful about their bank balances, even if in the end there are no laurel crowns. the losses sustained by americans at large do not figure in their lives, anymore than they worry about hitting a dog on the road.

  2. melanie
    January 15th, 2008 at 10:59 | #2

    Agree with you on the argument over the number of deaths. But I’m interested to know what you think about the economic impact of this war. It was argued, convincingly I thought, that US expenditure in Vietnam was largely responsible for the global stagflation of the 1970s (via huge budget deficits and CAD leading to Nixon’s devaluation of the dollar in 1971). Are we getting a similar result this time around? Similar arguments were being put forward about oil back then too – Club of Rome, for example. Except that this time climate change leads to the search for alternative fuels rather than the search for more expensive sources of oil?

  3. wmmbb
    January 15th, 2008 at 11:58 | #3

    A trillion, is roughly equivalent, I believe, to the number of seconds in 35 years. Anyway it is a very large amount of money that could have been spent in other areas, with greater net social benefits. It seems to me implicit violence exists in the decision process, in the choice made, as much as in the outcomes. These outcomes were predictable. In this light, the whole foolishness and stupidity can be seen as the triumph of aggression over intelligence. Contrary to popular belief, and the political posturing of those under its spell, aggression, according to Wikipedia, is associated with low levels of testosterone.

  4. January 15th, 2008 at 12:27 | #4

    It’s a huge disaster for the US, despite what the oil cronies might get out of it in the short term. Long term it has complete rooted the USA.

    Oil is no longer a strategic resource (regardless of the exact timing of any peak in production). In the medium to long term oil is a dud. Therefore the USA will never recoup what it has spent in Iraq.

    The Iraq War 2 is the end of the American century and a result of short term thinking by powerful men who gained their power and experience through short term activities and know not how else to think.

    The USA is now officially stuffed.

  5. Spiros
    January 15th, 2008 at 15:52 | #5

    Here is a quibble. Lawrence Lindsay, whoever he is, was not Treasury Secretary. Maybe he was someone down the food chain in the Treasury department.

  6. gordon
    January 15th, 2008 at 16:14 | #6

    Meika: “Oil is no longer a strategic resource…” Actually, oil is a very strategic resource for armed forces. I have said it before: without oil, the planes don’t fly, the tanks don’t move and the ships don’t leave harbour. While the civilian economy can become much more carbon-efficient in ways long expounded by eg. the Rocky Mountain Institute and other environment groups, armed forces can’t. They need oil.

    On another point, isn’t it revealing how the US seems prepared to pay almost any present price to get its way in Iraq, but is prepared to pay virtually nothing to ameliorate global warming. The payoffs for both projects are in the future. What does that tell us about the discount rate the US Govt. uses for evaluating policy projects? For global warming, US economists insist that a high discount rate be used. For Iraq, on the other hand, it must be far lower.

  7. January 15th, 2008 at 16:40 | #7

    Good point Gordon, I think you underline what I’ve said though. They need oil so they need an oil war… to prove their importance or something, that they’re needed, that their needs are real, that they’re special… even it destroys the country –in order to save it— in the long term stakes.

    Oilmongering has-beens.

    The oil was a strategic resource for armed forces, now it’s just a tactical tide-over. They need to control wants left so nobody else gets the cheap polluting energy source. Shortterm thinking by parasites.

    So it’s interesting that in recent weeks was the US Mil’s release on possible solar energy platforms in orbit, beaming energy back to the surface. This has two benefits for them, easy control of an energy source as compared to solar voltaics on every roof, and they would make mighty fine microwave fry-em-if-they-move-fry-em-if-they’re-well-disciplined beam weapons.

  8. swio
    January 15th, 2008 at 17:55 | #8

    The oil was a strategic resource for armed forces, now it’s just a tactical tide-over.”

    You’re confusing 20 to 50 years from now with the reality of today. At the moment, nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers are the only types of military equipment that can even operate without oil.

    A single mission by one fighter plane uses 6 tons of fuel. A bomber uses more like 50. Just starting up a tank engine uses 11 gallons. And these things happen thousand or tens of thousands of times in even a small war. At some point this will change as technologies move on, but not in any meaningful way for 20 years at least. Considering it takes 10 to 20 years to get a weapon system from concept to operational use its probably even longer.

    They need oil so…”

    Its not so much that they need oil rather than the need to deny oil to others. Germany and Japan lost WWII in part because it had no oil and the Americans have never forgotten that. That’s why if there was a war between China and America today it could not last more than 12 months. The US Navy controls the oceans that China’s oil travels over. No oil means no planes, no tanks, no transport vehicles, no logistics, effectively no military.

  9. January 15th, 2008 at 19:26 | #9

    “At some point this will change as technologies move on, but not in any meaningful way for 20 years at least.”

    That’s what I mean by short term thinking.

  10. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2008 at 20:04 | #10

    George Bush has been running around the Middle East once again giving umpteen billion dollars in military aid and equipment to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. At the same time he has been trying to drum up support to take on or at least contain Iran. Then he has the effrontery to talk about peace in the Middle East.

    There will never be peace in the Middle East while Western powers interfere. Israel has been made into the strongest 2nd rank power in the world. It is easily militarily stronger than England or France in both conventional and nuclear force terms. This is on a population base one third of Australia’s and a land mass smaller than Tasmania.

    Clearly Israel is not viable in this form except as a militarised and subsidised client state of the US. This of course illustrates how the US is locked into endless support of Israel unless it wants to see Israel collapse utterly. This in turn illustrates that my posited condition for peace in the Middle East (disengagement of the Western powers) can never be met.

    Hence, there will not be peace in the Middle East. Not in the next 150 years anyway. The only way there will be peace in the Middle East is if the human race goes extinct. Hmmm, come to think of it there may be peace in the Middle East in the next 150 years.

  11. January 15th, 2008 at 20:13 | #11

    As one who has on occassion attempted to do his washing in a crowded laundromat in a predominantly arab suburb, I can state that there will never be peace in the middle east whilst it is populated by people of middle eastern origin!

  12. melanie
    January 15th, 2008 at 20:45 | #12

    satp, I think you are probably of middle eastern origin!

    Ikonoclast, I don’t think we should discount the major change in rhetoric from the Bush/Olmert camp in recent weeks. Neither want to see Israel collapse utterly and both are now suggesting that this means returning to the 1967 borders. Possibly too good to be true though.

  13. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2008 at 21:52 | #13

    The pre-1967 borders are militarily undefendable (another time round at least). The Israeli government and military high command will never agree to that. Without the West Bank and Golan Heights we have;

    (a) the drive to Tel Aviv – 18 kms
    (b) the drive to Netanya – 15 kms
    (c) the drive to Haifa – 35kms
    (d) Nth Israel dominated by the Golan Hts.

    These distances are chicken feed for an armoured drive. If I was an Israeli General, I would never give up the West Bank and the Golan Hts. Sorry to say Melanie. It won’t happen. I would discount all rhetoric and look at action. The action to continue massive military aid to Israel says it all.

  14. Ikonoclast
    January 15th, 2008 at 22:08 | #14

    Postscript. If you think a portrayal of the vulnerability of Israel on pre-1967 borders is inconsistent with a portrayal of Israel as the strongest second rank power then I beg to differ.

    That much power still needs (indeed demands) a minimum footprint from which to operate effectively. The current borders provide that… just.

  15. Persse
    January 15th, 2008 at 22:09 | #15

    I am very disappointed that Prof. Quiggin threw in the remark about Iran waiting to ‘ pick up the pieces’. Firstly it has never been in any way Iran’s interest to have a failed state, let alone an occupied tribal/ethnic grouping torn by pending civil war, as Iraq is now, on its borders. Like most developing countries its internal problems are more than enough for it to deal with. What pieces that Iran may ‘pickup’, in say, territory, goodwill or treasure, or whatever, is not made clear, and with respect I am skeptical that any of these things could eventuate. And also with respect,I don’t believe that the Iranians would delude themselves, or show such blindness and ignorance of their own regional realities, to believe that there is some prospect of capitalizing on Iraq’s catastrophic predicament. If you have better evidence of such, please present it. The emphasis put on Iran’s foreign dealings by the media of its enemies, is invariably racist, ill informed and tendentious. Iran is more democratic than most of the petty tribal/clan and familial oligarchies of the middle-east. Not only is it more democratic, within of course,the limitations of its culture and history, it has far more to offer the world as a agent for peace than as an object of demonisation.

  16. melanie
    January 15th, 2008 at 22:34 | #16

    Ikonoclast, Personally I think that a one-state solution is inevitable in the long-run. But Bush has a problem on his hands – his legacy will be disastrous for the US. He’s hoping to pull a rabbit out of the hat and he is putting pressure on Israel (or rather he is listening to Rice on this issue, for now). Olmert put it rather succinctly a couple of weeks ago (upon his return from Annapolis): either we get a 2-state solution now or we eventually have a South African style integration = end of Jewish state. In short, Israel is more vulnerable in the long run if it maintains the ‘swiss cheese’ approach to Palestinian statehood, than if it can achieve a peaceful solution now. 60 years is not long in colonial histories and military solutions have never worked before.

  17. jquiggin
    January 15th, 2008 at 22:57 | #17

    Persse, I think you’re overreacting. I’m not imputing anything more to the Iranian government than the normal reactions of governments anywhere.

    It’s obvious the Iranian government is better off with its enemies destroyed or weakened – Saddam gone and the US overcommitted. As for picking up the pieces, it’s scarcely surprising that they would seek to promote the emergence of a friendly government from the current chaos, and obvious that they have done so by promoting friendly political parties such as SCIRI, whose ties to Iran are a matter of public record.

  18. Syd Webb
    January 15th, 2008 at 23:27 | #18

    wmmbb wrote:
    A trillion, is roughly equivalent, I believe, to the number of seconds in 35 years.

    No, it is a far larger number. One American trillion, the number under advisement here, is 10 to the power of 12. There are a trillion seconds in 31709 years, 9 months and 15-and-a-bit days.

    My back-of-the envelope calculation is that the US has been spending an average of $10,000 per second since the invasion of Iraq.

  19. wmmbb
    January 16th, 2008 at 00:17 | #19

    Thanks for putting me straight Syd W.

    Obviously, I had billions and trillions confused.

  20. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 00:52 | #20

    Persse:

    On the one hand, Iran has long-standing border disputes with Iraq.

    On the other, there are close cultural and business links between the Shia south of Iraq in particular and Iran. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians go on pilgrimage to sites in Iraq, equal numbers of Iraqis used to vist Qom and other holy Shia sites in Iran. Even on a perely commercial basis, the Iranians are probably keen for those visits to resume.

    It is quite reasonable that Iran would hope that a friendly governemnt in Iraq would allow them to finally resolve the border disputes and deepen their connections with their fellow shia.

  21. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 01:02 | #21

    Meika “The USA is now officially stuffed.”

    The US may never recover its position of unchallenged global preeminence but that was almsot inevitable anyway given the rise of China and India.

    Dubya’s just moved up the schedule a bit – and his moronic economic policies have probably contributed to that as much as his moronic Iraq policy.

    Look at it this way, Britain post-Empire is in many ways a more pleasant place to live than it was in the days of the Raj.

    Maybe the same thing will happen with America.

  22. mugwump
    January 16th, 2008 at 02:28 | #22

    “The USA is now officially stuffed.”

    I doubt it. The USA is still the only modern western country I know of that celebrates rather than denigrates success. Until Australia, Canada, Europe, etc get over their tall poppy hangups, they’ll forever be playing catchup with the USA.

  23. Persse
    January 16th, 2008 at 06:39 | #23

    I now see that I did take your comment beyond what you meant to imply. I gave what you said a predatory implication that obviously on re-reading was not meant.

  24. January 16th, 2008 at 08:08 | #24
  25. January 16th, 2008 at 14:53 | #25

    mugwump,

    What’s the saying? “If you don’t like it, leave.”

    Puh-lease!

  26. January 16th, 2008 at 15:04 | #26

    I’m disappointed there is not more energetic and intelligent debate on Prof Q’s blog about this subject. Are economist-type people scared to say what they think?

    G.W. Bush has set a new standard for incompetence, but it’s not really his fault. We should blame the people who pushed him through the door: if ever there was a puppet President, this guy is it!

    And of course all roads lead to Dick Cheney and his Big Oil mates. No wonder they wouldn’t release the details of those Energy Taskforce meetings in the early days of the Bush 43 administration! Big Oil took over the White House in 2000.

    So if we accept that fact, we need to look at things from this viewpoint. US-based Big Oil going to the casino with trillions of US taxpayer dollars in their pockets… and losing. Big time. Year after year.

    Because oil has peaked, the US military is a pack of ignorant teenagers, the world has long had a gutful of US exceptionalism, the theatrical drama of 9/11 didn’t survive the post-release scientific reviews, and it turns out that US allies in the Middle East never liked them anyway.

    So where are we? You can come up with all kinds of conjecture, but the basic fact remains: we are smack bang in the middle of a massive global economic disaster. It just hasn’t played out yet.

    I’m tempted to say, “put on your sunglasses and get out the popcorn”, but it’s far too serious for that. We are all f*cked.

  27. gerard
    January 16th, 2008 at 15:11 | #27

    the USA is also the only modern country where the theory of evolution, stem cell research, universal health insurance and counting election votes are seriously considered controversial. not to mention being the world’s largest debtor and most murderous international aggressor.

  28. gerard
    January 16th, 2008 at 15:20 | #28

    whoops – forgot to add torture to the list.

  29. Ken
    January 16th, 2008 at 16:12 | #29

    How much suffering is enough? More importantly, how can the mess be cleaned up? Whilst the amount of oil under Iraq is hard to pin numbers to it has to be one of the great fortunes of our time and as long as ownership/control over it is in any way uncertain the bloodshed is likely to continue. If there was a time when the invasion may have done more good than harm, it’s long past now. Those Iraqi’s that cheered the arriving troops are surely disillusioned at the least and at the worst are supporting militants who want the invaders forced out – or more likely supporting the militants that are attacking Iraqi’s that support the US presence.
    So, would we see acceptance of whatever post-withdrawal regime(s) arise in Iraq by the US or, should they be brutal (most likely) aligned with Iran (likely) or otherwise unacceptable, or will we see further interfering and meddling of a military nature? I’ve not noticed that the US considers brutal and dictatorial as reasons in and of themselves to meddle, so long as they aren’t harming US interests, but after all that’s happened I expect anti-US sentiment to be quite popular over there. Can the US cope with yet more anti-US rhetoric for long enough to let it die down? Remembering that people over there will have much longer and clearer recollections of messy military interventions in the region than most Americans – or Australians. When we’re asking why they hate us they’ll recall quite clearly.
    In any case, for those who wanted a full measure of blood to pay for the twin towers, surely there’s been enough. Especially since so little of it’s the blood of anyone who had anything to do with that atrocity.

  30. January 16th, 2008 at 17:18 | #30

    Gerard, are you seriously suggesting that the USA is the world’s leading perpetrator of torture?

    Most murderous international aggressor?

    Any more hyperbole to give?

  31. January 16th, 2008 at 18:33 | #31

    Gerard, are you seriously suggesting that the USA is the world’s leading perpetrator of torture?

    Most murderous international aggressor?

    In keeping with good neoliberal principles, the US outsource much of its torture, strictly speaking.

    It’s not difficult, however, to argue that the US is the worst country in terms of brutal foreign policy, post-WWII.

    The people of Latin Amercia, South East and Central Asia, and Africa would likely agree.

  32. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 19:03 | #32

    “I doubt it. The USA is still the only modern western country I know of that celebrates rather than denigrates success. Until Australia, Canada, Europe, etc get over their tall poppy hangups, they’ll forever be playing catchup with the USA.”

    Yeah, if only Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer had been born in the US – they might have made something of themselves.

  33. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 19:06 | #33

    “The pre-1967 borders are militarily undefendable (another time round at least).”

    Yeah 1948, 1956 and 1967 were all just flukes.

    This was, of course, the argument used to oppose returning the Sinai to Egypt.

  34. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 19:11 | #34

    Ken “More importantly, how can the mess be cleaned up?”

    Narrowly and precar4iously it seems that the current US policy in Iraq is working, at least well enough to prevent further catastrophe there.

    That being the case, the policy should continue – but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the worst is over.

    A precipitate American withdrawal could still result in disaster and even the progressive drawdown envisaged by the Bush administration is extremely risky.

  35. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 19:14 | #35

    SATP, Gerard was responding to Mugwump’s comparison of the US to other “modern western countr(ies)”.

    Can you give examples of other modern western countries that apply torture more freely than the US?

  36. rog
    January 16th, 2008 at 19:24 | #36

    “The USA is now officially stuffed.�

    Anybody wishing to put real money on that?, not “pretend money”

    Subject to clarification of “officially stuffed,” of course.

  37. rog
    January 16th, 2008 at 19:27 | #37

    Stupid question Ian Gould, there is no evidence that the US applies torture “freely”

  38. Pepper
    January 16th, 2008 at 19:32 | #38

    America is far from stuffed. It is the most productive economy and will remain so for a while. It has an experienced, competent military and a civilian government prepared to use it.
    America regularly goes nuts. I am thinking of laissez-faire capitalism, the 1920s stock market, the 1950s McCarthyism, Vietnam, Iraq. Basic reason is its inadequate democracy.
    American individualism is an attitude that believes in (or requires) vengeance in a lawless environment. Don’t tread on me! Someone has to pay for 911.
    With a bit of give and take Israel could have solved its problems in 1948. But win-at-all-cost bloody-mindedness prevailed and now they are unsolvable.
    Over the next fifty years America, productive, tough and bloody-minded, will drive the world into one giant Middle East conflict.

  39. gerard
    January 16th, 2008 at 21:21 | #39

    SATP: the US the most murderous international aggressor in the world at present? I would say that’s simply a blindingly obvious statement of fact!! World’s biggest arms manufacturer too, by an enormous margin. And while they’re not the world’s leading perpetrator of torture (within their own borders at least), the US is the world’s only ‘modern’ country where torture is even considered a legitimate topic for debate. same for death penalty.

  40. gerard
    January 16th, 2008 at 22:26 | #40

    as for America being stuffed – at any rate, it’s not looking in great shape. the euro is kicking the dollar’s arse and the leading banks (Citigroup and Merril Lynch in the news today) are being bailed out by the asians and arabs. the American military is embroiled in its worst ever failure having just spent a trillion dollars effectively handing the world’s largest energy reserves to Shi’ite nationalists, while the Russians are laughing all the way to the bank. back at home poverty rates are hitting thirty percent in rust belt cities where the only job opportunities are drugs and crime; healthcare and education standards are a joke but the country does boast the world’s biggest prison population. the judicial system has been turned into a branch of the Republican Party, which is taking unabashed corruption and bare-knuckled government law-breaking to new extremes while rolling back America’s defining constitional rights to privacy and a fair trial – and the so-called opposition party of Reid and Pelosi couldn’t organize a root in a brothel. The type of science-hating religious fundamentalism that the rest of the modern world shook off ages ago is taking off like there’s no tomorrow – I guess the country’s problems will sorted out when Jesus returns, as millions of Americans expect will happen any day now.

    Meanwhile, America’s corporate elite is investing plenty of money on long-term, wealth-creating, job-creating industrial development… in China!

  41. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 23:04 | #41

    “Stupid question Ian Gould, there is no evidence that the US applies torture “freelyâ€?”

    Brush up on your grammar Rog.

    If I donate dollar a year to charity and my neighbour donates $2 he’s donating more generously even if his donation is not generous in an absolute sense.

    But just for you, can you site another “western modern country” which uses torture to the same extent as the United States?

    If you want to claim Mexico or Turkey say as “western modern countries” feel free to show your workings.

  42. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 23:15 | #42

    “America is far from stuffed. It is the most productive economy and will remain so for a while. It has an experienced, competent military and a civilian government prepared to use it.
    America regularly goes nuts. I am thinking of laissez-faire capitalism, the 1920s stock market, the 1950s McCarthyism, Vietnam, Iraq. Basic reason is its inadequate democracy.”

    I recently did a fair bit of reading about American history, including military history.

    The US faced near-certain defeat in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Even in the Mexican-American War, Santa Ana who was actually a pretty decent general and had superior forces won several early victories as did the Californios (hispanic Californians who favored independence rather than rule by either Mexico or the US).

    What struck me was American resilience. America survived the disastrous defeats in the New Jersey and Quebec campaigns of 1775 and went on to win their independence.

    I’m not sure that democracy in itself is enough to explain America’s success.

  43. Ian Gould
    January 16th, 2008 at 23:24 | #43

    Is anyone else struck by the similarities between the Iraq War and the Boer War?

    Two Great Powers set out to engage in discretionary wars against far weaker (and despised) opponents for reasons of sheer expediency (however dressed up in grand language about freedom and democracy).

    Both powers expect brief glorious wars to be followed by immense material benefits.

    Both powers find initial overwhelming conventional victories succeeded by long-running bloody humiliating Guerilla struggles which stretch their military to an extent that would have seemed absurd pre-war.

    Both powers find themselves resorting to tactics they would have considered unthinkable at the start of the war (e.g. the British concentration camps).

    Both powers are amazed and angry at the extent to which world opinion turns against their little adventures.

    Of course, the Boer War was close to marking the high-point of British power and the whole Imperial edifice began to fall apart little more than a decade later.

    Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself.

  44. mugwump
    January 17th, 2008 at 03:56 | #44

    “What’s the saying? “If you don’t like it, leave.â€?”

    I did.

  45. mugwump
    January 17th, 2008 at 04:01 | #45

    “With a bit of give and take Israel could have solved its problems in 1948.”

    That’s 20/20 hindsight if ever I saw it. 1948 was 3 years after WWII ended. You might want to put yourself in the shoes of an Israeli Jew whose entire race had just nearly been wiped out before preaching about “give and take”.

    They don’t say Never Again for nothing.

  46. mugwump
    January 17th, 2008 at 04:03 | #46

    Let me guess gerard, you write for Green Left Weekly? You should visit the US sometime. Apparently you’d find it unrecognizable.

  47. mugwump
    January 17th, 2008 at 04:06 | #47

    Both powers are amazed and angry at the extent to which world opinion turns against their little adventures
    Actually Ian, you’ll find most of the US couldn’t give a rat’s proverbial about the rest of the world. Bush’s biggest problem is the overwhelming domestic anti-war sentiment.

  48. mugwump
    January 17th, 2008 at 04:07 | #48

    formatting:

    Both powers are amazed and angry at the extent to which world opinion turns against their little adventures

    Actually Ian, you’ll find most of the US couldn’t give a rat’s proverbial about the rest of the world. Bush’s biggest problem is the overwhelming domestic anti-war sentiment.

  49. Ian Gould
    January 17th, 2008 at 08:07 | #49

    “Actually Ian, you’ll find most of the US couldn’t give a rat’s proverbial about the rest of the world.”

    Yes, we know this because Americans keep telling us so at every opportunity.

  50. January 17th, 2008 at 09:03 | #50

    Ken (31) makes a good point: it might be best for the world economy if the oil reserves in Iraq could get back into the market.

    OTOH, one assumes that the high price of oil is helping to reduce consumption, which can only be good for global warming.

    And restricted oil production should also be helping to drive progress towards green fuel alternatives.

    If there IS a silver lining in the dark, blood-smattered cloud of Iraq, maybe that’s it…?

  51. Katz
    January 17th, 2008 at 12:25 | #51

    I’m not sure that democracy in itself is enough to explain America’s success.

    Democracy is America’s success.

    The trouble is, since the FDR years, America has forgotten it. Instead now the US is a national security state that has stripped democracy out of its own governmental system and has replaced it with a cynical farce of democracy.

    In 2006 under the provisions of the Defense Authorization Act (2006) the US Congress conceded to Bush the right to declare martial law unilaterally. Congress did this by allowing the President to waive unilaterally the Insurrection Act (1807) and the Posse Comitatus Act (1878).

    Both of these Acts had severely limited the power of the President to declare martial law domestically. In fact, the latter act prescribed a prison sentence for anyone who used the military within the United States without the express permission of Congress.

    Thus the legislature has surrendered more of its authority to the Executive. (There were some states rights issues involved as well, but they aren’t particularly relevant.)

    The Insurrection Act (1807) allowed the President to deploy troops within the United States only “to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.� The 2006 law allows the president to decide unilaterally when troops may be deployed without any stated limit.

    The US president since 2006 has an enabling law that allows him unilaterally to impose martial law over the entire nation.

    This state of affairs arose out of the circumstances of Bush’s strategy in fighting the so-called GWOT.

    Whether or not the GWOT served as a pretext is a moot point.

    The point is that Bush’s Awfully Big Mesopotamian Adventure has terminated popular sovereignty in the United States. If the president decides to declare martial law, the only way popular sovereignty can be won back is by violent insurrection.

    I’d call that An Awfully Big Disaster for democracy.

  52. melanie
    January 17th, 2008 at 16:55 | #52

    #53, somebody above said that Reid and Pelosi couldn’t organize a root in a brothel. I think that’s exactly what they’ve done!

  53. Katz
    January 17th, 2008 at 17:02 | #53

    With respect to Reid and Pelosi, the 2006 legislation was passed when the Republicans still had a majority in both Houses.

    However, it is true that very few Dems voted against it.

    This legislation is close to the final piece in a slow-motion putsch.

  54. Ian Gould
    January 17th, 2008 at 18:21 | #54

    Katz, I’m sure that much of what you say is true but are any of the current Acts worse than, say, the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798); Johnson’s defiance of the Supreme Court (1832); Lincoln’s suspension of Habeus Corpus and press censorship; the stealing of the 1876 election; the Sedition Act of 1918 and so on?

    Again, the extraordinary character of American democracy isn’t its perfection, it’s that it survives the regular assaults on it.

  55. Katz
    January 17th, 2008 at 19:01 | #55

    IG, the Alien Act was oppressive, but only against enemy aliens. The Sedition Act was draconian, but at least it required a legal proceeding for a person to be found guilty under it and it had a sunset clause written into it.

    These Acts pale into insignificance in comparison with the scope the of the Defense Authorization Act (2006) for untrammelled abuse of executive power.

  56. Pepper
    January 17th, 2008 at 19:20 | #56

    I said:
    “With a bit of give and take Israel could have solved its problems in 1948.�
    Mugwump said:
    That’s 20/20 hindsight if ever I saw it. 1948 was 3 years after WWII ended. You might want to put yourself in the shoes of an Israeli Jew whose entire race had just nearly been wiped out before preaching about “give and take�.
    - – – -

    So I take it you agree with me, Mugwump? You agree that had there been give and take they could have solved it then?

    And you agree – well, more than agree, you sort of illustrate it – that someone who has been hit has to hit back. Never again! And just to prove we mean business we will expel Palestinians to refugee camps. You’re probably right: if I’d been in their shoes, I’d have done the same. Whether that excuses their bloody-mindedness (as you seem to think) it has not proved a successful policy.

    So on September 11, 2001 do we have to do the same? Well yes, because we are delivered up to the vengeance culture of the USA, to the same sort of retaliatory attitude that operates in Israel and which is going to have the same results for the whole world as it has had for the Middle East.

    I sheet it home to inadequate democratic institutions. I note that presidential democracies always fail and the prez turns into a dictator – except one, which has lurched on for 200 years. Erratic trip but still on the road (now in deep trouble if Katz is right). I have long puzzled over its survival and put it down to federalism and the president having a power-base in a state, rather than nationally. Whatever, because of it and because of their Dirty Harry culture, there is a lot of trauma – otherwise avoidable trauma – to come.

  57. rog
    January 17th, 2008 at 20:53 | #57

    Pepper notes that the US has a “vengeance culture” and Israel has a “retaliatory attitude;” both countries appear to be guilty of defending themselves from violent attack by unreasonable and iniquitous tyrannies.

  58. January 17th, 2008 at 22:58 | #58

    “The US faced near-certain defeat in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812″ – IG, the US did not exist during the former but came into existence as a result of it (with considerable outside help), and it was defeated in the latter (it gained absolutely none of its war aims, although the end of the Napoleonic Wars put an end to impressment at about the same time, which leads some people into the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy).

  59. mugwump
    January 18th, 2008 at 02:38 | #59

    So I take it you agree with me, Mugwump? You agree that had there been give and take they could have solved it then?

    I don’t know enough to say one way or another. But I think the counterfactual is about as useful as “had Newton known about differential geometry he would have discovered General Relativity”.

    No-one had the information at the time to predict what was going to happen. The information they did have said Israel should be defended at all cost.

    So on September 11, 2001 do we have to do the same? Well yes, because we are delivered up to the vengeance culture of the USA

    It is not vengeance. As a state, the US is the ultimate pragmatist. They don’t want another 9/11; they will do what it takes to ensure there isn’t one, and the world will be a better place for it.

  60. Katz
    January 18th, 2008 at 05:53 | #60

    As a state, the US is the ultimate pragmatist.

    Mugwump,

    I imagine an “ultimate pragmatist” is willing to sacrifice anything to achieve her ultimate ambition.

    Thus, I take it that you are arguing that the Bush administration is prepared to sacrifice everything, including democracy, to the cause of preventing another plane from crashing into another building.

    Benjamin Franklin, a person not unconnected with the foundation of the United States (check him out, he’s on the $100 bill if happen to have one of those close-handy) warned:

    Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.

    This can reasonably be paraphrased as meaning:

    Those who are prepared to sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security.

    Has ol’ Ben been wrong all these centuries?

  61. Pepper
    January 18th, 2008 at 10:08 | #61

    From Rog #59
    “Pepper notes that the US has a “vengeance culture� and Israel has a “retaliatory attitude;� both countries appear to be guilty of defending themselves from violent attack by unreasonable and iniquitous tyrannies.�

    No. They have FAILED to defend themselves. Israel punishes Arabs for the German holocaust; the US punishes Iraq for Saudi Arabian fanatics.

    Mugwump (#61) virtually admits that Israel hasn’t, in hindsight, acted successfully in its own interest yet thinks the US is pragmatically doing what it takes to ensure there isn’t another 911. No. The US is doing what it takes to up the ante, to make the US (and the whole world) less safe, not more safe.

  62. January 18th, 2008 at 10:38 | #62

    Benjamin Franklin, like many of the American rebels, often advised other people to do what was in his best interest.

  63. Katz
    January 18th, 2008 at 12:23 | #63

    PML, he wrote it in 1758, long before there was any thought of rebellion.

    Unless of course you subscribe to some sort of conspiracy theory on the origins of the american Revolution…

  64. Hal9000
    January 18th, 2008 at 13:27 | #64

    “No-one had the information at the time to predict what was going to happen. The information they did have said Israel should be defended at all cost.”

    The myth of nascent Israel standing up to the regional Arab bullies in 1948 and merely defending itself isn’t even accepted among Israel’s academic apologists, mugwump. In fact Israel embarked upon a policy of military aggression and ethnic cleansing in 1948. On the off chance you’re interested in an analysis of the intellectual debate, including a critique of Israel’s modern history doyen Benny Morris, see

    http://www.merip.org/mer/mer230/230_beinin.html

  65. January 18th, 2008 at 19:13 | #65

    To clarify: Benjamin Franklin was the sort of person who became an American rebel in due course. Many that did so had character traits in common. These included a certain measure of double dealing, whether through convenient self deception or conscious hypocrisy – it does not particularly matter which, for present purposes. It is quite likely that Benjamin Franklin was set in his ways – those ways – as early as 1758, when he wrote the passage in question.

  66. alan
    January 18th, 2008 at 20:09 | #66

    How is it a disaster? We got the oil, didn’t we?

  67. mugwump
    January 19th, 2008 at 01:20 | #67

    In fact Israel embarked upon a policy of military aggression and ethnic cleansing in 1948.

    I never said they didn’t. But given their then-recent history, it was the right thing to do. Note that their “ethnic cleansing” as you describe it was not genocide.

    Today we have a strong Israel that makes a significant contribution to the global economy, particularly in IQ-intensive industries. In contrast, their bordering Arab states have barely advanced beyond their 1948 state.

    I know who I want to win the culture war.

  68. Katz
    January 19th, 2008 at 05:57 | #68

    I never said they didn’t. But given their then-recent history, it was the right thing to do.

    How does “history” justify anything? Or to put it another way, how can “history” not justify everything?

    You can use the same argument to justify radical Arabist and Islamist demands that the state of Israel cease to exist. Note that this demand is neither genocidal nor does it necessarily involve ethnic cleansing.

    But that is a subsidiary point.

    My major point is that “history” justifies nothing.

    On the contrary, folks use “history” to justify their own actions and to condemn the actions of others.

  69. mugwump
    January 19th, 2008 at 09:15 | #69

    How does “history� justify anything?

    The history in question was the not-yet three-year-old holocaust that wiped out most of Europe’s Jews. That justified building a Jewish nation. Seems pretty simple to me.

  70. Pepper
    January 19th, 2008 at 10:13 | #70

    It is just as simple, mugwump, to the people in power in Israel and in the US.

    The US will keep on lashing out on the world stage as Israel has in the ME. The result will be the same, magnified to global proportions. But of course it will be “justified”.

    Thank you for illustrating my point so well.

  71. Katz
    January 19th, 2008 at 10:23 | #71

    Seems pretty simple to me.

    So I notice.

    And it’s equally self-evident that if displaced Palestinians want their property back they will have to evict the present occupiers of that property.

    If trespassers don’t go peacefully then they must be evicted by force.

    “History” also provides that lesson.

    So you see “history” can provide contradictory “lessons”.

    That isn’t simple at all, is it?

  72. Ian Gould
    January 19th, 2008 at 10:23 | #72

    “I never said they didn’t. But given their then-recent history, it was the right thing to do. Note that their “ethnic cleansingâ€? as you describe it was not genocide.”

    I’m sure the families of the thousands of Palestinians they killed along with the Palestinian women who were packraped appreciate the difference.

    Have you actually read Bennie Morris?

  73. Ian Gould
    January 19th, 2008 at 10:29 | #73

    “The history in question was the not-yet three-year-old holocaust that wiped out most of Europe’s Jews. That justified building a Jewish nation. Seems pretty simple to me.”

    Well for starters the Holocaust didn’t wipe out “most” of Europe’s Jews.

    Proportionately the Nazis and the Ustashe killed more Serbs than the Nazis killed Jews. Does this justify the criems of Tito and Milosevic.

    Secondly, the Irgun were attacking and killing both Arab civilians and British soldiers before the holocaust.

    As a Jew, I often think that if our supposed wellwishers in the west would just leave us alone we’d have a better chance of a peaceful accommodation with the Arabs.

    Ignorant parrotting of Likudist propaganda does not make you a friend or ally of Israel or the Jews, it makes you a parrot.

  74. rog
    January 19th, 2008 at 18:00 | #74

    Re the holocaust museum there were ~9.5M jews in euroe prior to WW2, ranging from Scandinavia to USSR to the Med.

    If ~5.5M were killed by the Holocaust quibbling over the semantics of “most” is an infantile waste of time.

  75. rog
    January 19th, 2008 at 18:05 | #75

    This image from Wikipedia puts the pre war total at 8.86M and the deceased at 5.9M with a mortality rate of 67%.

  76. Ian Gould
    January 19th, 2008 at 19:40 | #76

    “If ~5.5M were killed by the Holocaust quibbling over the semantics of “mostâ€? is an infantile waste of time.”

    Thank you so much for your lecture on the evils of the Holocaust. It’s not like I’ve lived every day of my life with the knowledge of it or anything.

    Actually I missed your initial reference to the Jews “of Europe”.

    On a world-wide basis about one third of us were killed.

  77. mugwump
    January 20th, 2008 at 01:43 | #77

    Ian Gould:

    Well for starters the Holocaust didn’t wipe out “most� of Europe’s Jews.

    wiki:

    There were about 8 to 10 million Jews in the territories controlled directly or indirectly by the Nazis (the uncertainty arises from the lack of knowledge about how many Jews there were in the Soviet Union). The 6 million killed in the Holocaust thus represent 60 to 75 percent of these Jews.

    Ian Gould:

    Ignorant parrotting of Likudist propaganda does not make you a friend or ally of Israel or the Jews, it makes you a parrot.

    Clearly I am not the ignorant one here. Willful denial of the holocaust does not make you a friend or ally of Palestine or the Arabs, it makes you a denialist.

  78. Katz
    January 20th, 2008 at 06:57 | #78

    I guess that seeing this discussion about the magnitude of the disaster in Iraq has veered off into yet another discussion about the holocaust, the consensus is that the disaster of Iraq is of the same magnitude as the disaster of the holocaust.

    And that’s not far wrong. About one half of the pre-war Sunni populaton of Iraq is now either dead or refugee in squalid camps somewhere in the world.

    This process of genocide didn’t start until about two years ago. That’s 4 million Sunni in two years, which is quite comparable to the number of Jews whose lives were either terminated or totally disrupted by the Nazi regime in the early 1940s.

    Now I can already hear the Bush apologists sputtering on the screens of their Commodore 64s. “Bush didn’t mean to do this!”

    And this is partially true. Yes, Bush’s own incompetency is an odd form of exculpation. Like you can’t blame the kid with Down Syndrome when he opens the plane door in mid-flight. His guardians are the blameworthy parties for not exercising more restraint.

    But that is only part exculpation. Believe it or not there are a few responsible adults with imput into US policy in Iraq. This appalling ethnic cleansing and genocide in Iraq was carried out by government-employed or government-sponsored troops and militia. And who bankrolled and armed this action? Why, Uncle Sam, of course! This genocide was US policy.

    Let’s get a bit of perspective here. Recent events have proven that it is relatively easy for Iraqis to flee the country. Even 200,000 US troops can’t seal borders. Yet, under Saddam Hussein, as brutal as he was, relatively few Iraqis ran away. It took George Bush to show Iraqis just how terrifying life in Iraq could be.

    How big a disaster is Iraq? It could hardly be any bigger.

  79. rog
    January 20th, 2008 at 17:16 | #79

    So you are saying that there were no Iraqi refugees pre invasion?

    Fafo estimate that there are currently 450-500K Iraqi refugees in Jordan of which >20% of fled the effects of the sanctions, persecutions or conscription prior to invasion.

  80. Katz
    January 20th, 2008 at 17:59 | #80

    So you are saying that there were no Iraqi refugees pre invasion?

    Are you capable of reading for meaning?

    Only a dolt would read “no Iraqi refugess” for “relatively few”.

    You’re not a dolt, are you rog?

    Since Bush’s Iraq disaster at least 2m Iraqis have fled the country.

    On those figures, crudely stated, Iraq is four times worse under Bush than it was under Saddam.

  81. rog
    January 20th, 2008 at 20:00 | #81

    Again the thread moves further into the absurd; by the unskillful use of bizarre semantics and wrong arithmetic Iraq transcends the Holocaust.

  82. Katz
    January 20th, 2008 at 22:38 | #82

    What do you understand about the difference between relative and absolute values rog?

    For you, zero is an option.

  83. fatfingers
    January 21st, 2008 at 09:49 | #83

    Easy, fellas. Breathe.

    “The central fact is that the Iraq war has turned out worse, on almost every count, than even the most pessimistic critics suggested”

    Sounds like a challenge. Can anyone find a serious pessimistic prediction from before 2003 that hasn’t been surpassed? There must be some, surely.

  84. January 21st, 2008 at 11:41 | #84

    One such pessimistic prediction pre 2003 was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They didn’t. Good news surely. ;-)

  85. Hal9000
    January 21st, 2008 at 11:58 | #85

    Terje’s remark reminds me of the scene in the film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ where the fascist officer beats one peasant to death and shoots his father on the basis they were armed with a rifle and could have been partisans, deaf to their entreaties they were hunting rabbits. Having killed them, he then searches their bag, only to discover… rabbits! As Terje says, ‘Good news surely’.

  86. Katz
    January 21st, 2008 at 12:10 | #86

    Another pessimistic prediction was that the US troops would be treated with chocolates by the grateful locals when they “liberated” Baghdad.

    They weren’t.

    One extra source of America’s obesity crisis averted!

    That’s gotta be good news!

  87. January 21st, 2008 at 12:50 | #87

    Where were the locals going to get actual chocolates, considering sanctions? Clearly the thought could have been there.

  88. Katz
    January 21st, 2008 at 13:43 | #88

    Here’s a story of some Baghdadis who had chocolate for Christmas in 2002, months before the US troops arrived.

    Donning a Santa cap decorated with flickering plastic toys, Silva put the final touches to chocolate baskets she is selling for Christmas in her flower shop.

    When she felt war would likely hit after Christmas, she hurried to Beirut to buy Belgian chocolate and caps like the one she wore.

    “The three dozen caps I brought back were gone in 48 hours, and customers can’t wait to get the goodies from Lebanon,” she said, in an indication Iraq’s Christians are still determined to brush off war fears and have as happy a Christmas as can be.

    http://www.islamonline.net/english/news/2002-12/24/article01.shtml

    Oh, they had chocolate alright! they just didn’t wanna give it to their “liberators”.

    PS The article also shows these Baghdadis buyin Christmas trees from an open-air tree lot. I bet that doesn’t happen in Bush’s New Iraq!

    PPS. And every now and again I like to remind folks about Bush’s dreams for “The New Iraq” as embodied in the really very attractive flag he thoughtfully had designed for the country. So here it is again:

    http://img.slate.com/media/1/123125/2079215/2093179/2098572/2101355/2101356/2101357/02_NewIraqFlag.jpg

    Cute, isn’t it?

  89. Ernestine Gross
    January 21st, 2008 at 15:15 | #89

    Re 87. Good one, Terje. Solving a problem which does not exist is one way of creating a problem; well a disaster is this case.

  90. January 21st, 2008 at 16:51 | #90

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

  91. Katz
    January 21st, 2008 at 17:50 | #91

    The more I think about that little story I dug up, the more tragicomic it is.

    http://www.islamonline.net/english/news/2002-12/24/article01.shtml

    Here is a Christian woman who ran a shop selling small luxuries. In the very jaws of war, she is driving from Baghdad to Beirut to stock her shop with chocolates and festive caps.

    These items find a ready market in Baghdad. I wonder how many of those buyers of chocolate and caps are still alive and/or still in Iraq in 2008.

    And there is a Muslim trader selling Christmas trees to Christians taking time out to pray to his own God.

    And there is the family taking their tree home to decorate, maybe for the last time.

    It is quite clear that this Christian family could have left Iraq at any time had they felt threatened by the Saddam regime. The woman drove, probably alone and unaccompanied, to Beirut for chocolate. And then she returned unmolested.

    Their world is now shattered.

    Think about this world next time you pop a choccy in your mouth and especially when you buy your next Christmas tree.

    Our taxes helped to crush their lives.

  92. January 21st, 2008 at 18:17 | #92

    Evil wicked life destroying taxes!!

  93. Katz
    January 21st, 2008 at 19:00 | #93

    Taxes don’t kill people.

    People kill people.

  94. MH
    January 21st, 2008 at 19:17 | #94

    A little known website – Unknown news has been tracking this data quite faithfully some time.

    Here is the url if you would like to check out their data and figures:

    http://www.unknownnews.net/casualties.html

  95. Ken
    January 22nd, 2008 at 09:06 | #95

    Back to Pr.Q’s post, I think knowing the magnitude of the disaster is important – failure to acknowledge the real damage can only result in further erosion in confidence that the US and allies can see clearly enough to carry out their intentions successfully. For future military and policy planning purposes, to have grossly wrong estimates of the what happened embedded in historical accounts of previous actions can only lead to future failures.

    I don’t know that the US pulling out and leaving Iraq to it’s own (and other interfering nations’) devices is the best course. Is the UN capable of taking on the challenges presented? Probably not, but then, but it could well be better than the ongoing intervention of the fracturing COW.

    I wonder if UN inadequacy is something the US has deliberately fostered- certainly you get a lot of anti-UN rhetoric from there. Can the world afford a weak and ineffective UN? It may be long past a thorough overhaul and I for one would welcome it, since it was always compromised in allowing the “Great Powers” to veto when they couldn’t bribe or bully. A UN that simply does what the US (or other powerful nation) wants or is ignored when the US or other nation does something the UN opposes is not good enough. That the US administration is legally bound to put US interests first is given. Sometimes those interests are congruent with international ones, but that isn’t a given.

  96. January 22nd, 2008 at 09:39 | #96

    Ken Says: “failure to acknowledge the real damage can only result in further erosion in confidence that the US and allies can see clearly enough to carry out their intentions successfully”; however, the inference drawn is a mathematical impossibility. There’s a New York saying, “when you’re at the bottom, there’s only one way to go – sideways”.

  97. Katz
    January 22nd, 2008 at 09:53 | #97

    I think you’ve made some excellent points Ken.

    Certainly, successive US administrations have done nothing to support the credibility of the UN. Of course, given the present structure of the UN, as you have described it, the potential credibility of the UN is probably not great.

    But given that the permanent members of the Security Council have both veto rights and a vested interest in the status quo, it would appear to be extremely unlikely that the UN will reform itself in any significant way.

    You are also correct that the US administration (like many other administrations) is legally bound to represent national interests.

    But the interesting question is who in the US determines what national interests are? Constitutionally, the answer is clear: it is Congress. Congress can impeach anyone and everyone in the administration for high crimes and misdemeanors.

    The Congress needs only to convince itself what constitutes High Crimes and Misdemeanors. There is no appeal of the decision of Congress to the Supreme Court or to any other body.

    Thus, if the Congress decides that the US administration is not pursuing the interests of the US, its principals can be removed.

    Of course, this description of the options of Congress ignores domestic political considerations.

  98. Pepper
    January 22nd, 2008 at 10:34 | #98

    “But given that the permanent members of the Security Council have both veto rights and a vested interest in the status quo, it would appear to be extremely unlikely that the UN will reform itself in any significant way.�

    Yes. I see one possibility: through expansion of the permanent membership. The prospect of Japan and Germany joining has been discussed for yonks (so long that one wonders whether they really want to be members) and it raises complications such as whether India and Brazil should also join.

    Each permanent member has veto power, which is the net reason for no reform. Obviously, with a larger Council this immovability would be worse. So new joiners could make it a condition of joining that the rules be changed to majority vote or at the very least to a rule requiring two members to veto. If there was a serious move to expand, a political awkwardness could arise and something might happen.

    I won’t hold my breath but it is a possible escape from the stalemate. How ironic if Japan and Germany were to bring about reform of the UN.

  99. January 22nd, 2008 at 10:43 | #99

    Mike Whitney has a message for Kevin Rudd:

    As the stock market continues its inexorable downward plunge, foreign central banks and investors need to reevaluate the present situation and aggressively pursue legal alternatives. They should initiate a boycott of all US financial products until an appropriate settlement for the hundreds of billions in losses due to the “structured finance� swindle can be negotiated. That is the best way that they can serve their own national interests and those of their people.

    Deregulation has annihilated the credibility of US markets. There is no oversight; it’s the Wild West. The assets are falsely represented, the ratings are meaningless, and there’s a clear intention to deceive. That means that the stewardship of the global economic system is no longer in good hands. There needs to be a fundamental change. As the “nightmare scenarioâ€? of global recession continues to unfold; we need new leaders in Europe and Asia to step up and fill the void.

  100. Ernestine Gross
    January 22nd, 2008 at 12:57 | #100

    Re 101 last line. It would not necessarily be ironic. One could also interpret it as the Nuremberg trials having been successful.

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