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Remembrance Day

November 12th, 2010

Over the fold is the piece I wrote for the Fin which ran yesterday, on Remembrance Day. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the last couple of paras, referring to the present and future, so I need to spell them out a bit more.

First, while I was, in 2002, a fairly enthusiastic supporter of the decision to go to war in Afghanistan, subsequent events and the evolution of my own thinking have led me to qualify that view, and to conclude, in particular, that Australia should withdraw its troops in the near future.

First, some general thoughts

* War is justified only in self-defence (including collective self-defence), and only to the extent that there is a reasonable expectation that going to war will yield a better outcome than not doing so
* Even when war is justified by self-defence, it should not be used as a pretext for securing benefits that go beyond restoration of the status quo ante bellum (bearing in mind that war changes things, so exact restoration is often not feasible).
* Political and public thinking is biased in favor of the belief that military force is an effective way to deal with political problems and a successful use of military force (even if justified) reinforces this bias. So it is important to create whatever institutional constraints are possible, such as requirements for Parliamentary approval of decisions to go to war
* Even when justified ex ante, war is unpredictable and likely to go badly. The idea that having started on a war that has turned out badly, we should “see it through” is a mistake

Coming to Afghanistan, I think the self-defence case is clear-cut. The US was attacked by terrorists trained in and led from Afghanistan, by a group supported by the Taliban government. It’s possible to make a hypothetical case that absent the incompetence and malice of the Bush Administration (backed by Blair and Howard in the decision to start a new war in Iraq) that there was a reasonable expectation of success. However, I observe with some discomfort that much the same case is put forward by many on the left who backed the Iraq war, where, however, the self-defence case was a transparent sham. In any case, we are past the point where continuing the war can be expected to produce benefits for either Afghanistan or the world. It would be better to withdraw and spend some of the money saved as a result (many times Afghanistan’s annual national income) on aid.

Finally, I concluded my post by saying “On this Remembrance Day, we should honour the sacrifice of all those who died by giving up, once and for all, the belief that war should be part of our national policy.” To be clear, I am not a pacifist and do not oppose fighting in self-defence. The idea that “war should be part of our national policy” means to me, that the use or threat of military force can and should be used to advance our perceived national interest. This idea, which forms the basis of military policy in most countries, appears to to both morally wrong and factually false.

It is now ninety-two years since the guns fell silent on the Western Front of what was variously called The Great War, the War to End War and, when both of these descriptions were rendered grimly obsolete after 1939, World War I. The commemorations of the end of the war were similarly renamed, from Armistice Day to Remembrance Day.

The Great War cost the lives of 15 million soldiers and civilians, with another 20 million wounded, many maimed for life, by bullets, high explosive and poison gas. Far from being a war to end war, it brought forth the horrors of Nazism and Bolshevism and paved the way for World War II, and for the long series of conflicts that were collectively called the Cold War.

The consequences of the Great War are easy to see, and some are still with us (for example, the last of Germany’s war debt was repaid only a couple of months ago). The causes, on the other hand, are obscure to the point of invisibility. The spark that set off the war was the assassination of an Austrian archduke. At a marginally deeper level, the rush to war reflected simmering disputes between the European state over colonial possessions, economic rivalry and the like.

More fundamentally, though the cause of the War was a belief in war itself. Political and military leaders, along with the mass of the population, believed that countries could, and should, advance their interests through military force.

A few years before the outbreak of war, British writer Norman Angell had demolished this idea, in a book called The Great Illusion. Angell pointedg out that, in a modern economy, an expansion of national territory through war can provide no significant benefit to the citizens of the ‘victorious’ country, any more than New South Wales would benefit if it could annex Queensland. Any attempt to profit from military victory by confiscating the wealth of the conquered will cause economic damage to the country pursuing such a path, and such damage will far outweigh the temporary benefits of plunder.

Subsequent writers have suggested that Angell’s argument that militarism had become obsolete was refuted by the outbreak of war. But in reality, the whole history of the 20th century demonstrates Angell’s points. The great empires that went to war in 1914 had mostly been destroyed by the time the war ended.

The victorious allies, seemingly determined to test Angell’s arguments, sought massive reparations from Germany, and a combination territorial advantage and strategic influence for themselves. All they achieved was to sow the seeds for Hitler and World War II.

The Axis powers not only confiscated the wealth of the conquered, but brutally enslaved captive populations. Yet with most of the wealth and people of Europe and Asia at their command, they were unable to match the output of the Allies and were ultimately overwhelmed.

Finally, in 1945 the Western Allies had learned some of Angell’s lessons. Instead of seeking to impoverish and exploit Germany and Japan, the Marshall Plan and other initiatives promoted their recovery and prosperity. Stalin, on the other hand, pursued the traditional policy of expropriation, stripping East Germany of much of its capital and shipping it to Russia. The results speak for themselves.

These days, the idea that war is motivated by a desire to seize the assets of other countries is indignantly disclaimed. But marginally more subtle versions of the same fallacious idea remain influential. The idea that military force provides a way of ‘projecting power’ and thereby enhancing the national interest remains a staple of strategic thinking. In plain words, this means that a country with a strong military can threaten war against others who do not do its bidding.

The temptation to solve problems by military force remains strong. Yet the evidence of the 21st century is just as negative as that of the 20th. The US has already spent a trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with little to show for it. The total bill,, will be at least two trillion or about 20 per cent of US GDP. The same money could have saved millions of lives and lifted a billion or more people out of poverty.

On this Remembrance Day, we should honour the sacrifice of all those who died by giving up, once and for all, the belief that war should be part of our national policy.

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  1. quokka
    November 12th, 2010 at 18:55 | #1

    “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

    - US Marine Major General Smedley Darlington Butler http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket

    Are the wars in the Middle East really all that much different?

  2. quokka
    November 12th, 2010 at 19:22 | #2

    Continuing the gangster analogy, Chomsky describes post WWII US foreign policy in terms of the “godfather principle” – bad things happen when you step outside the family. An observation that is pretty much on the money.

  3. November 12th, 2010 at 23:39 | #3

    The idea that having started on a war that has turned out badly, we should “see it through” is a mistake

    Well, that depends. If there is a game theoretic analogue of a dollar auction, as there was in the First World War, it’s a least worst remaining option; the mistake is getting into that situation in the first place (I am reminded of the apocryphal Admiralty advice to mariners caught off a lee shore in a gale – “don’t be”).

    Coming to Afghanistan, I think the self-defence case is clear-cut. The US was attacked by terrorists trained in and led from Afghanistan, by a group supported by the Taliban government.

    They weren’t trained in Afghanistan, they might well not have been “led” from there (given the decentralised structure of Al Qaeda), and the “support” of the Taliban government for those of Al Qaeda who were there was of the same sort as that of Dr. Mudd for Booth – a humanitarian duty rendered unwittingly (they even offered to extradite Bin Laden, if a case were made out).

    Any attempt to profit from military victory by confiscating the wealth of the conquered will cause economic damage to the country pursuing such a path, and such damage will far outweigh the temporary benefits of plunder.

    That does not happen to be the case, if sophisticated financial methods are used; Nazi Germany did this. This is not a matter of later developments than those of Angell’s day, since they were the basis of the “evacuation” of the resources of northern Italy and the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary Wars. However, winning the war in the first place is likely not to be cost-effective even with those returns; it’s just that it does indeed make sense, after victory, to try to cover the losses that way – it doesn’t add to the cost. The fact that the Nazis lost in the end is not a cost or a consequence of their using these methods.

    Finally, in 1945 the Western Allies had learned some of Angell’s lessons. Instead of seeking to impoverish and exploit Germany and Japan, the Marshall Plan and other initiatives promoted their recovery and prosperity.

    As against which, the USA used the leverage of those to help ringbark the former spheres of influence of the Europen powers for its own geopolitical advantage – most notably in the Dutch East Indies.

    Stalin, on the other hand, pursued the traditional policy of expropriation, stripping East Germany of much of its capital and shipping it to Russia. The results speak for themselves.

    No, they don’t. On the one hand, the USSR suffered from handling those resources through a directed and controlled economy (so you can’t disentangle the effects of that from the effects of gaining those resources), and on the other hand they gained measurable technical advantages that way, e.g. developing the first practical gas centrifuges for concentrating uranium 235. For what it’s worth, Soviet Bloc planning deliberately kept a lot of (by 1940s standards) advanced industry in East Germany, supplying it with raw materials from Russia (hence the Trabant – a good car by those standards, given the deliberately cheap fuel and the zero cost arbitrarily assigned to pollution). The decline of that industrial base cannot be traced to removing it but only to the effects of planning.

  4. Ikonoclast
    November 13th, 2010 at 07:35 | #4

    “Only the dead have seen the end of war”- George Santayana. (Often attibuted incorrectly to Plato.)

    The problem, as always, lies in attempting to attribute causation. It is not possible to attribute causes to any phenomenon. Indeed, positing “cause” is as much a case of essentialism as positing “soul.” Correct science and correct philosophy looks for laws (laws of relation) not causes. We cannot find the causes of war or anything else.

    We need to look for the laws of war. Under what conditions does war tend to arise? What does war correlate with? Remembering meanwhile that correlation is not causation. If we find the conditions that war correlates with then we may attempt to ameliorate those conditions and we thus may in turn reduce war.

    Insisting on laws rather than causation as the basis for our thinking is not merely semantics. Working with discovered dependable laws is the empirical method. Attributing cause (even for physical events) is metaphysics.* Attributing causes rapidly devolves into speculation and assertion. Working with discovered laws is to be modest in our claims about what we can know. Claiming to be able to attribute cause is grandiose and specious.

  5. Chris Warren
    November 13th, 2010 at 07:36 | #5

    So if a terrorist attack on USA from Afghanistan, justifies USA (plus Australia) attacking Afghanistan in self defence, where does this leave us?

    When French terrorists attacked Greenpeace and New Zealand, does this justify Greenpeace attacking France?

    When American terrorists attacked Cuba, does this justify Cuba (plus Soviet Union) attacking USA?

    What is the moral calculation? “Western terror Good, Eastern terrorism Bad?” America, France, and Israel can assassinate at will?

    Maybe on Remembrance Day we should remember that America, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand were all constructed by the most unremitting terror against indigenous peoples imaginable.

    America has been playing dirty strategic games in Afghanistan ever since the 1970′s. It now reaps only what it has sown.

    From now on lets use Remembrance Day as the day they hung Ned Kelly and Gough Whitlam.

  6. David Allen
    November 13th, 2010 at 07:49 | #6

    You’ve slowly come part way back from your mistakes John. I suppose we have to be patient. You’re a smart guy, you’ll get there eventually.

  7. gregh
    November 13th, 2010 at 08:07 | #7

    I think the idea that ‘countries’ go to war is naive – that the ‘US’ has spent money with ‘little to show for it’ is the wrong level of analysis of the profits and costs. Clearly there are a lot of people who do really well out of military action of all sorts. And there are a lot of other people who pay for it. To cross reference another discussion – there are a lot of people doing really well out of what seem to be stupid economic policies, when the analysis is done at the level of countries rather than individuals or classes of individuals.

  8. November 13th, 2010 at 10:20 | #8

    I agree completely with these thoughts. It is not so much why a country goes to war but what they do after the war that is most important. In most cases war is just a futile attempt to take care of a political decision gone bad. I do not think that there will ever be another war like WWI or WWII now mainly because of global economies are glued together. In democratic country no government will ever get the complete support of their people to declare war or continue the fight if they think it is morally wrong.

  9. November 13th, 2010 at 10:30 | #9

    Complete support will, however, be forthcoming when survival of society as we know it is at stake. This will be regardless of how or why the war began, or the manner in which the war is fought.

  10. November 13th, 2010 at 14:19 | #10

    “Pacifism -n. opposition to war or violence of any kind”

    “Self-defence -n. the act of defending one’s own person.”

    “Revenge -n. retaliation for injuries or wrongs.”

    “To be clear, I am not a pacifist and do not oppose fighting in self-defence.”

    “Coming to Afghanistan, I think the self-defence case is clear-cut.”

    I am a pacifist. I am opposed to war or violence of any kind. Just because I’m opposed to it, it doesn’t mean that I would not, if under a violent corrupt and deadly military occupation, do something to defend myself or help others repel the invader. That would be self-defence. That is what ‘the enemy’ is doing against the Coalition of The Willing (including Australians) in Afghanistan.

    Blowing up Afghanistan could never logically be considered self-defence.

    That is, and has been for 9 years now, revenge.

    The reason why so many people have to perform pretzel-shaped rationalisations to justify it by painting it as “self-defence” is because “our soldiers are dying over there because we are exacting revenge”, would not only be politically difficult, but would beg the question: “Haven’t we exacted enough revenge yet? Can we stop now?”

  11. Alice
    November 13th, 2010 at 14:54 | #11

    @David Allen
    The Prof is clearly smarter than you David Allen. Perhaps youll learn one day. Youll need more than patience.

  12. Fran Barlow
    November 13th, 2010 at 15:11 | #12

    Hmm there’s just so much to disagree with in your post PrQ.

    Let me say that I broadly endorse your parameters for warranting military action though because of the open-ended nature of the downside risks and the high probability that the massive imposition of misery on those who have not had any effective say in the causes of the threat would imply that the case for military action being the least of all evils would have to be compelling. Nothing less than a compelling existential threat would suffice.

    You continue:

    Coming to Afghanistan, I think the self-defence case is clear-cut. The US was attacked by terrorists trained in and led from Afghanistan, by a group supported by the Taliban government.

    No, it was not. The bulk of the 9/11 attackers were Saudi, and the alleged architect had long been an American asset. Mullah Omar had previously had reasonable relations with the US and had offered to turn over the alleged ringleaders to the ICC at the Hague. The US could have taken the regime up on this offer.

    It was also unclear in what sense the Taliban “supported” Al Qaeda. The Taliban were after all, the creation of the US’s principal regional client — the Mushharraf regime and its ISI. If the Taliban were indeed supporting Al Qaeda, then so were Pakistan, and one only has to recall the shambles around the ferrying in of Karzai to see that point underlined. The US was forced to look askance as Mullah Omar and OBL were removed from US hands, while Karzai had to be careful which of the US government’s allies knew where he was.

    The whole thing was mad, or it would have been if there weren’t such a fabulous domestic political advantage in riding tall in the saddle. Bush’s ratings went stratospheric after that. The removal of the Taliban from power was one of the cheapest regime changes ever — probably less than $US50million because they simply paid off criminals who would have an interest in setting up their own little Taliban-free districts.

    Really it would have been fairest to say that the US had been attacked by people who were supported by the US, and that regime change in Washington was in order. But who was going to say that?

    You add:

    The temptation to solve problems by military force remains strong. Yet the evidence of the 21st century is just as negative as that of the 20th. The US has already spent a trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with little to show for it.

    Were I still wearing my Trotsky-style beret, I’d cite this as textbook social chauvinism. It asserts as natural the idea that the US boss class should profit from war. Yes they spill blood — both of their “own” citizens and much more commonly the citizens of other countries, but they have an improved hold over their assets to show for it.

    The US boss class did get something out of it of course. Sections of them made a bundle, and the passion for retributive justice or, failing that the idea that one’s loved ones were not maimed or killed on a fool’s errand or the service of criminal cause amongst the populace strengthened the hold of the class over their assets. That’s a kind of “self-defence” of course, albeit a defence of one’s postion within the “nation” against rival claimants.

    From the point of view of the interests of the general population, war is almost never warranted. It is massively corrosive of human collaboration which is the foundation for all human progress. Those who warrant it without compelling cause ought to be shunned by civilised folk. Like all true self-defence, one’s responses must be proportionate, and designed entirely to foreclose prospective harm not to avenge past wrongs assuming even that they are quite as they seem.

  13. Alice
    November 13th, 2010 at 15:19 | #13

    @Fran Barlow
    Actually Fran – I couldnt agree more with this quote of yours….except perhaps with Quokkas quote at no 1.

    “Really it would have been fairest to say that the US had been attacked by people who were supported by the US, and that regime change in Washington was in order. But who was going to say that?”

    No one was going to say that then or now, and it takes a lifetime for the ordinary person to realise that wars simpy are not what they seem. Behind wars we have to follow the money trail as ever, the corporate interests, those that use the rest of us as cannon fodder and ensure people really do die, not only in vain but in complete ignorance.

  14. Fran Barlow
    November 13th, 2010 at 19:30 | #14

    And while we are on this matter one should perhaps reflect on the question of how exactly the criminal attack on the US on September 11, 2001 might have been seen by those concerned primarily with human wellbeing.

    While one should not confuse expressly criminal conduct causing harm with conduct that is recklessly negligent (or for that matter non-recklessly negligent) from the standpoint of humanity, all prospective harm to legitimate interests ought to be a matter of concern. While we are interested in the predisposing factors for harm — this is mainly because we want to know which measures will about the harm at least cost to other legitimate claims.

    September 11 was seen as an existential harm by westerners in general and Americans in particular and thus in a special category of harms which relieved Americans of at least some of the normal constraints upon human conduct one expected of ostensibly civilised societies. September 11 was provocation writ large. Somebody had to pay. There postively had to be a pile of bodies and a smoking ruin in some setting connected with the animus felt by wide swathes of Americans. Bush and his criminal gang were never passing up the chance to play Bruce Willis or Clint Eastwood.

    It is worth noting though that if state policy reflected merely the loss of quality life years, September 11 would have got almost zero funding. In 2009, apparently, highway deaths in the US fell to a 50-year low of about 33,000. Throw in the fact that of this toll something like 10,000 children under 8 either die or suffer disabling injuries each year oinh collisions and one gets a sense of the long term cost of using the roads. What this almost certainly means is that every month since September 11 the US has had a painful loss of life of at least equal magnitude in perfectly banal circumstances. Yet the makers of cars and the builders of roads and the designers of cities aren’t being hunted out of their ratholes or bombed with drones and indeed, some of them were funded with billions of dollars because without them, America would not be a place worth living.

    One could go on. Is there in America, a war on poor health care or insufficient quality housing, or poor diet all of which cut short more lives each week than September 11th? Of course not. That apparently, isn’t all that existential a threat.

    And if we move beyons American shores and ask whether other countyries have suffered mass casualty attacks without responding as the US did, one will surely note that it’s an odd week when in Pakistan or Afghanistan of Iraq, an attack killing up to 100 people doesn’t occur. These are barely news in the west precisely because they happen all the time. In America, September 11 was an oddity, and that’s why they felt entitled. Clearly, not all lives are of equal value. Indeed, in Pakistan, drone attacks by US craft are a western directed mass casualty attack. They of course must cop their “collateral damage” on the chin and not see it as existential. In a real sense though, America is continuing to exact its revenge for September 11. It’s not clear when they will feel that they’ve had their fill.

  15. Sam
    November 13th, 2010 at 23:10 | #15

    Of all the John Quiggin posts I’ve read, I disagree with this one the most. I certainly don’t believe that self defence should be the only reason to go to war. Responsible, compassionate nations have a moral duty to come to the aid of their friends and allies, and to protect vulnerable people in evil regimes from genocide.

    It’s true that unnecessary adventures like WW1 and Iraq have been disastrous, but I’d say isolationism has quite a lot to answer for as well. Consider the Rwandan genocide. In 1994 the world stood by and watched 800 000 Tutsis hacked to death in 100 days. A moderate international military effort could surely have stopped this, but because it was threatening no other countries interests, nothing was done.

    We could say something similar for Darfur. And what about World War 2? I submit that if Germany had not attacked any other countries but merely contented itself with murdering millions of their own citizens, that act alone would have been justification enough to go to war.

    I also think you’re mischaracterising the Soviet post war response. Their actions were consistent with agreements made at the Potsdam conference, at which it was decided by the big three to permanently deindustrialise Germany. Having presented genocidal and existential threats to the world, it was believed too dangerous to be allowed to once again rise to great power status. Indeed, it was Roosevelt who expressed a wish to see an entire generation of Germans raised on nothing but Red Cross soup kitchens.

    The allies reneged on this deal, not out of enlightened humanist thinking, but in the context of the early cold war. The only reason for this was to re-arm Germany, so it could serve as a buffer for expected Russian invasion.

    I for one, wish this hadn’t happened. It would have been better if Roosevelt’s wish had been fulfilled and the axis powers reduced permanently to penury. I see no reason to restore the status quo antebellum in this case. A million small acts of sabotage on the part of Nazi subjects could have destroyed Germany’s capacity to make war and murder millions, but almost none were taken. This marks the biggest failure of courage and morality in history. Sometimes a nation bears it’s war guilt collectively, and so should be collectively punished.

  16. jquiggin
    November 15th, 2010 at 05:43 | #16

    Sam, I agree on collective self-defense and will edit accordingly.

    On your second point, as I said in the post, the results of Stalin’s policy speak for themselves.

  17. Sam
    November 15th, 2010 at 14:01 | #17

    @jquiggin
    Ok.

    The results of Stalin’s (and Roosevelt’s!) policy certainly show that punitive deindustrialisation leads to a lower standard of living. I just don’t believe that was a bad thing. It was appropriate for Germans to suffer after committing such crimes. If it had led to another war we could say the policy had failed, but it didn’t.

  18. OldSkeptic
    November 15th, 2010 at 18:09 | #18

    Sorry John your comments on the reasons why Afghanistan was attacked are simply incorrect.

    By your logic, if an Australian goes to the US and commits an act of terrorism, then the US has the right to bomb us into the stone age and invade our country?

    Firstly The internationally recognised Taliban Govt of Afghanistan did not support, per se, Al Qaeda. Bin Laden and some of AQ were based in a part of Afghanistan and, mostly, kept quiet. The reason they were allowed to stay was BL’s help (backed by the US) in beating the USSR, those wonderful anti communist mujahideen we all supported back then (blowback indeed).

    Secondly, the Afghani Govt offered to extradite BL to the US, provided the usual level of proof that is required in such cases was offered. This proof was not supplied. In fact the 9/11 terrorists nearly all came from Saudia Arabia and mostly planned and organised their attack in Germany (perhaps the US misread their maps).

    Later they offered to send BL to another 3rd party country (such as Saudia Arabia or Turkey). This was rejected.

    Ironies abound. The Taliban were the group the US supported to overthrow the USSR backed Govt of the time, after the USSR forces left. The Northern Alliance, now supported by the US and used to overthrow the Taliban, are the remnants of the old USSR backed Govt supporters, plus a motly crew of warlords and drug lords.

    Plus the Taliban had killed all opium production, as it is anti-Muslim. Since ‘our boys’ were put in power Afghanistan has risen to being the greatest opium producer in the World. Our troops guard and support the drug lords! And the Iranians helped the US considerably, being extremely anti-Taliban (fat lot of good it did them).

    And there is plenty of leaked evidence that both Afghanistan and Iraq were well in the US’s firing line long before 9/11 as part of their geo-political ‘strategy’ (oil, pipelines, Russia and China containment, etc).

    9/11 just gave them the excuse to do it.

    Note, they didn’t catch BL or destroy AQ. But they managed to (and continue to do so) kill an awful lot of innocent people, including an ever increasing number in Pakistan.

    Good sources for what really happened are people like: Jim Lobe, Gareth Porter, Philip Giraldi, Tom Engelhardt, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, Gordon Prather, etc. Try sites like Antiwar.com and Counterpunch.

  19. Fran Barlow
    November 15th, 2010 at 19:47 | #19

    Sorry Old Skeptic, but your description below is mistaken

    The Taliban were the group the US supported to overthrow the USSR backed Govt of the time, after the USSR forces left. The Northern Alliance, now supported by the US and used to overthrow the Taliban, are the remnants of the old USSR backed Govt supporters, plus a motly crew of warlords and drug lords.

    The Taliban didn’t really become a factor until well after the soviets had left, and were largely a creation of the Pakistani ISI. The NA had been a previous Pakistan/US client and were again the principal US vehicle for regime change in 2001. Interestingly, the ISI continued to back the Taliban even in Novermber 2001 when US forces were using NA to install Karzai.

  20. jquiggin
    November 15th, 2010 at 19:51 | #20

    @Old Skeptic. Among the things I haven’t changed in retrospect is my rejection of the Bush-like evasions engaged in by the Taliban some of which you endorse here.

    1. We all know AQ was guilty of the 9/11 attacks, and they in fact confessed after the event. The Taliban knew as well. The talk of proof and extradition was just so much lawyerly evasion.

    2. They had already committed a string of terrorist attacks by then, and claimed responsibility for them.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Cole_bombing
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_al-Qaeda_attacks

    The Taliban knew exactly who they were harboring.

    The fact that the Taliban are and were evil murderous thugs doesn’t justify an invasion, but is worth considering if you want to defend and excuse them.

  21. Fran Barlow
    November 15th, 2010 at 21:02 | #21

    @jquiggin

    The talk of proof and extradition was just so much lawyerly evasion.

    That may well be so, but the fact of the matter is that the offer of handing OBL and his henchmen over to the ICC went untested, and it should have been tested. Of course that would have embarrassed the US as they were rejecting the authorioty of the ICC — wnting to do as they pleased.

    Strictly speaking most of the attack on the USS Cole was not a terrorist attack. The Cole was a bona fide military target. AQ was as entitled to attack the Cole as the US was to attack them. While attacks that have a high risk of collateral damage despite focus on military personnel can be deplored, prospective collateral damage does not restrain the US from attacking “insurgents” with drones. We know how that goes.

    First world states who have the resources to launch high tech coordinated attacks with near impunity can call their acts “rules of engagement” while small groups who respond are called terrorists. They are both on the same ethical footing however.

    Really, September 11 should have been dealt with as a purely criminal matter but the advantages of the politics of culture war made this less appealing to Bush.

  22. Alice
    November 15th, 2010 at 21:53 | #22

    @Fran Barlow
    Oldskeptic is right Fran. The Taliban really didnt exist before 1994 but they were were formed from remnants of other factions that were indeed funded by the US CIA in its cold war activities against Russia. So its hair splitting really to contradict Oldskeptics comment that the CIA funded the Taliban. It did by another name.
    I would specifically go straight to the last para here

    http://www.mediamonitors.net/mosaddeq2.html

  23. Fran Barlow
    November 15th, 2010 at 22:08 | #23

    @Alice

    The Taliban really didnt exist before 1994 but they were were formed from remnants of other factions that were indeed funded by the US CIA in its cold war activities against Russia.

    That’s inevitable but leadership and organisation defines organisations more strongly than mere personnel. Quadrant Magazine has its share of ex-lefties these days but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a redbaiting rag.

    The Taliban were in bloody conflict with the people who had not come over to them from NA and other groups. They knocked off a number of them. That puts a bloodline between them and their predecessor groups.

  24. Alice
    November 15th, 2010 at 22:21 | #24

    @Fran Barlow
    I dont think you can say for a minute that any factional group had a clear bloodline there…its a thirty year anarchic civil war disaster with western and Russian and Pakistani and other external countries involvement. Did you read the history in that link? Afghanistan is just a mess – a relic of cold war battleground – an opium producer and where there is opium there are guns and slick interests anyway. If as Jack hints, the US is the opium trade – I ask too why hasnt the US destroyed the Afghanistan opium fields? The US can fly unmanned drones from US soil to spit out missiles that locate individual targets half way across the globe…they have satellites. They have the technology.
    But I doubt the US would want to waste all that white powder traffic and why should another country have it?. The US has the biggest consumers of the stuff.

  25. jquiggin
    November 16th, 2010 at 05:14 | #25

    “The Cole was a bona fide military target. AQ was as entitled to attack the Cole as the US was to attack them. ”

    But of course that only makes the self-defence case even clearer, and therefore undermines even further the Taliban case. There’s nothing in international law, with or without the ICC that suggests that a country can’t defend itself against military attack without first going to a court.

  26. Fran Barlow
    November 16th, 2010 at 05:59 | #26

    @jquiggin

    There’s nothing in international law, with or without the ICC that suggests that a country can’t defend itself against military attack without first going to a court.

    That’s true of course. While it is certainly handy politically to have something that looks like a Chapter 7 Resolution behind you, the principal restraints on initiating military action have always been technical — do we have the resources to do this and emerge in front when the dust settles? States sometimes get this judgement wrong, but the US has never acted like a power encumbered by international law in respect of significant military deployment.

    Just war is a useful idea to plant in the minds of the domestice populace, (alongside military glory and booty) but it is merely a desirable rather than an essential feature of war as foreign policy

  27. jquiggin
    November 18th, 2010 at 22:47 | #27

    Fran, you’re missing my point. In international law, waging a war of aggression is a crime, even if it rarely gets prosecuted.

    The right to self-defence is not merely a convenient rationalisation, it’s a generally accepted principle, applicable in the case of the Afghan war. The case against war is not that it’s unjustified but that it’s unsuccessful.

  28. S. Baxxerzy
    November 19th, 2010 at 00:08 | #28
  29. S. Baxxerzy
    November 19th, 2010 at 01:27 | #29

    Oops – forgot to add
    whatreallyhappened.com

  30. November 25th, 2010 at 20:37 | #30

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