Iraq: A War of Liberation

Supporters of both sides in the war in Iraq, and particularly those who are or were associated with the left, have described it as a “war of liberation”. Here, for example, is John Pilger and here is Norman Geras. Presumably Geras and Pilger each think the other is wrong.

The obvious position for an opponent of the war is that both are wrong. On reflection though, I think that Geras and Pilger are both right.

If you look at the many wars that have been justified as wars of liberation, it’s clear enough that the overthrow of a brutal dictator and the struggle against authoritarian Islamism in all its forms fit the general picture. Equally, so does the expulsion of a foreign invader responsible for tens of thousands of deaths and a wide range of other criminal and oppressive actions.

The problem, rather, is with the whole idea of a “war of liberation”. Just as with the Christian doctrine of “just war”, the doctrine is so loose that it can easily be claimed by both sides in the same war. Most wars of liberation, like most wars of all kinds, have done more harm than good.

This is obviously true of the failures, which have been many. But even the (usually temporary) successes have rarely been worth the cost. Are the people of Indochina better off, for example, than they would have been if the French had ruled there for another thirty years? For that matter, did the wars of liberation extended throughout Europe by the French after 1793 achieve anything to justify the hundreds of thousands of deaths they entailed?

Another important observation, particularly relevant in the case of Iraq, is that, even if you conceive of a war as one of liberation, it is almost always necessary to ally yourself with people who have less noble aspirations. Nationalist Iraqis, seeking only the withdrawal of the occupying forces, have inevitably co-operated to some extent (how much is not clear) with terrorist jihadis, who want to use Iraq as a base for their own global operations. Supporters of the American war effort find themselves in coalition with all sorts of unsavory parties, from thugs like Allawi and (until a few months ago) crooks like Chalabhi, to anti-Muslim crusaders in the West. As a rule, the least scrupulous members of a coalition are the most successful in pursuing their goals.

I’m not advocating a dogmatic position of nonviolence, or of opposition to revolution. The classic pattern of revolution is one in which a rotten regime collapses in the face of a relatively modest show of popular force, and we have seen plenty of examples of this in our own time. But the decision to embark on a the path of war is one that can only be justified by the most dire of necessities, and, preferably by the assurance of a rapid and relatively bloodless victory. This is particularly true of wars of liberation, which are inevitably fought without any of the constraints that (at least some of the time) mitigate the worst effects of wars between states.

23 thoughts on “Iraq: A War of Liberation

  1. I am not sure you can ever go into a war with the assurance it will be a rapid victory or relatively bloodless. There are too many variables.

    As for the most dire necessities, this is probably the point where reasonable supporters/opponents of the war differ. Supporters see the need to act now, whereas opponents think there may be other ways.

  2. John, the winners tend to get to define what sort of war it is and whether it is just. All wars involve violence, and evil, and it’s fruitless to try to justify any death. I don’t know therefore whether war can in any case be driven by “noble aspirations”. It can, however, be driven by necessity.

    You write: Are the people of Indochina better off, for example, than they would have been if the French had ruled there for another thirty years?

    Who knows? It depends on what criteria you use. But what is certain to anyone who’s read in the history of Vietnam is that the Vietnamese people resisted French rule with an iron will almost from the moment of colonisation by conquest. What we do know is that the Vietnamese people are now responsible for what happens in Vietnam, and this seems to me to be the only relevant issue. French – or any other – colonialism could be justified on some sort of utilitarian grounds, but such grounds are unlikely to be accepted by those who are on the receiving end of Imperial rule.

    The argument made by Tariq Ali that the Iraqi resistance are objectively in the same position as the French resistance were in WW2 is valid. In a world of nation-states and nationalism, it is absurd to think that any people is going to feel that they should be thankful for their “liberation” and quite natural that they should engage in armed resistance against invading forces. To be quite honest, Hussein’s regime probably had more support – in addition to legitimacy in both international and Iraqi Law – than that of the “interim” Prime Minister Allawi.

  3. The words don’t matter. The people don’t matter. The only thing that matters is the ‘great game’ being played in somebody else’s backyard, Vietnam and Iraq share the honor of being hosts to this great game.

    Ho Chi Minh to Jane Fonda: “I envy you because I can only see the claws of the tiger – you are in it’s belly.”

    How to turn a pacifist into a suicide jihadist: Blindly kill his family for no apparent reason and destroy his livelihood.

    There is nothing moral about war. There is no difference between Bin Laden and Bush on the front line, the only thing that matters is who is winning.

    At the moment the answer is unequivocal – Bin Laden.

  4. The Yanks, the Brits and the Aussies, attacked a sovereign nation in order to control it, it was not a war of liberation, it was a war of conquest.

  5. There was an excellent article on Just War in the NYRB recently.

    In the end though, the fact is that the US invaded for its own interests and that was reflected in the way the war was conducted. Of course, at some point Iraqi interests might intersect with those of the US, but for the proponents of the war to use this as moral justification is disingenuous and rings especially hollow now, since the war failed precisely at these areas of intersecting interest.

  6. Albert Langer and Co. also think that Iraq is a war of liberation and criticises opponents of the war in Iraq as ‘pseudo-left’ to quote:

    ” That is a genuinely Left case for a revolutionary war of liberation, such as has occurred in Iraq. The pseudo-Left replies: “That’s illegal.”

    Well, of course revolutionary war is illegal! Legal systems are created by revolutions, not revolutions by legal systems.
    The next logical step for the new policy is to establish a viable Palestinian state. Bush has put himself in a position where he can and must take that step. Naturally, he will not admit to the enormous strategic and policy retreat that such a step implies, so he has preceded it with enough triumphalist rhetoric to make even the Fox News team look queasy.”

  7. Wars of liberation always arise out of a belief that, given the opportunity, the rest of humanity has the same aspirations as the self-appointed standard-bearer of liberty.

    Napoleon took his version of French revolutionary ideas all over Europe. Many of them stuck. Napoleon recast the sensibility of much of Europe.

    But French chauvinism and the decision to tax non-French people to fund further imperial expansion excited many nationalist movements. European nationalism became an irresistable force which unleashed both European imperialism in Africa and Asia and the totalitarian demons of the twentieth century.

    The glum fact is that liberators with big, new ideas about human nature are always too optimistic about their persuasive power. When confronted with the proofs of this naivete, would-be tend to behave vengefully, like a spurned lover.

    Napoleon’s Spanish fiasco is about the closest parallel I know to Bush’s Iraqi fiasco.

  8. Pr Q surveys the historical scene from very Olympian heights of detachment:

    Most wars of liberation, like most wars of all kinds, have done more harm than good.

    This is an very owlish ex-poste judgement. “History”, Max Weber famously observed, “is not a tram that one can get off and on as one pleases”. Most liberating agencies always act on the basis of an ex-ante appreciation of the situation.
    In general, wars/revolutions of liberation have a good public image in the West on account of the fact that the 18th C rationalistic liberal Enlightenment was kicked off by two: the French and American Revolutions and associated Wars of Independence. These tremendous act of ideological self-definition still echo down the corridors of power, as we can see by the several super-powered institutions that they created: the United States of Europe and America.
    And the 19th C romantic national liberation warriors also got a pretty good press fighting the decomposing feudal and ecclesiastical power structures that governed post-Westphalian Europe. I dont think that the peoples of the Italian, German and Greek nations etc regretted the cost of fighting for their own state.
    The pro-Iraq war neo-cons, in ideological orientation, werre mainly ex-Leftist Central European Jews. They were “captured by a certain picture” (Wittgenstein) associated with 20th C romantic/rationalistic socialist wars and revolutions. The, generally good, consequences of the anti-fascist Second World War (“Good War”) and the anti-communist East European Revolution (“Velvet Revolution”) suggested that violent war and social revolution could still yield a net advantage.
    But violence-effecting agencies do tend to underestimate, or perhaps dislocate, the prospective costs of violence. Younger men, or middle-aged men going through mid-life crises, tend to underestimate the long-term costs of risky behaviour.
    Stricter agency-to-principal accountability, heavier weighting of “unforseen” costs and veto power to the older and wiser should be the rule for all future wars. Hitler, for all his faults, was very wise in alerting statesmen to the hazards of the unforseen in mass-homicidal adventures:

    waging war is like opening a door into a darkened room. One never knows what is hidden in the darkness.

    Perhaps he should have listened to the better angels of his nature!

  9. On the other side of the ledger, many Free-Trade Liberals (those who expouse limiting government intervention as much as possible, free-trade, globalisation, oppose the war in Iraq. Some may have heard this interview on Radio National’s Counterpoint with Wolfgang Kasper
    Fellow, Centre for Independent Studies:

    Michael Duffy: So just to clarify or to make sure I’ve got this right—you would say that a liberal, in the sense that you’re using the word liberal, would be opposed to the war in Iraq?

    Wolfgang Kasper: Many of my American liberal friends, they call themselves libertarians as I’ve said, are opposed to foreign intervention, full stop, unless there is a present and strong danger, and these people are opposed to the war in Iraq.

    Michael Duffy: And this is to do with liberalism or does it just happen to be the view of history and what’s possible, that they might have?

    Wolfang Kasper: A great scepticism of what is possible but I think also, quite frankly, believe that it’s immoral to go out and export by force a system that may well be superior. They would trust much more in openness, in free trade, in good example, in imitation—and they would probably argue that free markets now will lead to democracy later, as has happened in East Asia. In reality, of course, the American-led government has retained price controls in Iraq. Petrol prices are a fraction of the world’s market price, and there’s a licensing system and great corruption, no job creation, and that explains part of the discontent. So the libertarians in America have a pretty good case, I think, in criticising the neo-conservative intervention.

  10. Jack Strocchi wrote:

    “The, generally good, consequences of the anti-fascist Second World War (“Good War”) and the anti-communist East European Revolution (“Velvet Revolution”) suggested that violent war and social revolution could still yield a net advantage.”

    Of course, if one thinks deeply about the Velvet Revolution, one immediately notes that it was (a) largely non-violent; (b) achieved with the acquiescence of, and to some extent on the initiative of, the ruling Communist regimes or reformist factions therein (Hungary and Slovenia being particularly striking cases); and (c) directed to rectifying the consequences of a violent social revolution and the resultant regime’s subsequent “liberation” of its neighbours.

    Especially in the light of the historical amnesia highlighted by the commentary surrounding Ronald Reagan’s passing in June, I think there is a need to seriously study what actually happened in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the late 1990s and early 1990s, why and how it happened, how it was able to happen in the way that it did, and what this can tell us about the problem of how to dissolve a totalitarian or extreme authoritarian regime in a way which is likely to lead to a significant improvement in democratic and human terms.

    In the case of the self-defined “socialist” regimes in question (and perhaps also in the cases of the self-defined “Christian” regime of Francoist Spain) one factor could have been that an ideology which is, at bottom and in its origins, democratic and humanitarian cannot serve in the long run as the legitimating ideology of anti-democratic and inhumane regimes, even if it can be tweaked in the early decades to justify revolutionary violence and repression as means to its noble ends.

  11. Paul Norton:

    “In the case of the self-defined “socialist” regimes in question (and perhaps also in the cases of the self-defined “Christian” regime of Francoist Spain) one factor could have been that an ideology which is, at bottom and in its origins, democratic and humanitarian cannot serve in the long run as the legitimating ideology of anti-democratic and inhumane regimes, even if it can be tweaked in the early decades to justify revolutionary violence and repression as means to its noble ends.”

    This is a fascinating insight and one worth much elaboration. Bernard Bailyn, “Ideological Origins of the American Revolution”, came to much the same conclusion about the autonomy of ideas from interests in the context of the American Revolution.

  12. Paul Norton at November 15, 2004 11:21 AM falls victim to the epidemic of vast sweeping generalisations that is currently infesting this blog:

    Of course, if one thinks deeply about the Velvet Revolution,

    I may not be able to “think deeply” about history as Paul Norton but I do think differently to what he thinks I think.
    I cited the Velvet Revolution as an example of sucessful revolutionary regime change, at least judged by other Revolutions. The US expected Iraqi regime change to go smoothly according to the INC’s program. The E Euuropean historical example informed US thinking in Iraq, as evinced by the fact that the CPA had a lot of Heritage Foundation wonks who specialised in “post-transition socialist economy” problems.
    Of course, the Velvet Revolution did not spring up overnight but had its roots in the long struggle of captive nations to resist their Soviet Communist dictators. There was a fair bit of violence involved in maintaining these popular struggles, as the history of the Poles attests.
    Reagan’s legacy has been abused by both Left- and Right-wing revisionists keen to grind their favourite ideological axe. It is the height of cheek to historicly second-guess the guy who was way ahead of everyone else’s learning curve on the 20th C’s Grand Ideological Narrative.
    Reagan was neither a war-mongering hawk nor born-again dove. I suggest, grinding my own ideological axe, that Reagan followed the “Vital Centrist” (eg Kennedy) policy of containment to its logical conclusion: prevailing in the nuclear Arms Race against the totalitarian-militaristic Brzhenev and then negotiating a secure nuclear Arms Freeze with the libertarian-pacifistic Gorbachev.
    Reagan achieved the Goldilocks polity of being neither too passive or too aggressive. He avoided the Scylla of endless Communist strategic domination of Europe and the Charbydis of Super-power nuclear anihilation of the World. The results speak for themselves: the promotion of democracy in E Europe and a massive demilitarisation in the RoW.

  13. Jack,

    I didn’t read any “sweeping generalisations” in Paul Norton’s comment. I think it is, however, a generalisation to attribute democracy in Eastern Europe and “demilitarisation in RoW” entirely to Reagan’s policies. As Paul Norton pointed out, the so-called “Velvet Revolution” was a complex process that has not been well-explained. The neocon line that assertive US brinksmanship cowed the USSR into submission, thereby liberating Eastern Europe, is more than a little simplistic.

  14. Are the people of Indochina better off, for example, than they would have been if the French had ruled there for another thirty years?

    For Việt Nam: I’d say yes. In so many factors – literacy, poverty, absence of malaria and even economic growth, the chaps live better on average than their precedessors 50 years ago.

    Mind you, I would have to give a different answer 10 years ago. War aside, a lot of the damage was self-inflicted, such as the introduction of collective farming into the South after 1975. Turned the country into a rice importer. But as far as I can tell, that’s been mostly scrapped. Nowdays the private GDP has the bulk of it.

    For Cambodia: I’d say no. Having your educated classes hacked to death by hoes and shovels stunts your national growth. As for Laos: it’s always been the poorest place in Indochina, so I can’t imagine it being poorer under the French.

  15. But the neo-cons weren’t exporting “revolution” as such. There was little attempt made to integrate the Iraqi’s into Saddam’s overthrow (see Paul Mc Geough’s quartally essay for some anecdotes), the original plan being that they’d be “littered with flowers” upon arrival anyway. Infact, there have been those who’ve argued for an active cultivation and support of organic uprising since GW1, but as far as I’m aware the neo-cons didn’t belong to this group.

  16. The question as to whether another 30 years of french imperialism would have been better for the indo chinese people is a nonsense.
    It is an interesting question with last weeks events on the ivory coast and tahiti-who would ever accept being occupied by the frogs,or the americans or the chineses or the japanese or the germans or the israelis?
    Not me!

  17. Fyodor at November 15, 2004 02:37 PM resumes his depressing career as stalker of my blog-comments. Although it is a bit like breaking a butterfly on a wheel I will, for the sake of Reagan’s reputation if nothing else, spend a while making sport with Fyodor’s fairy punches:

    I didn’t read any “sweeping generalisations” in Paul Norton’s comment.

    Thats because Fydor is not very good at reading. Any generalization that subsumes the long-term histories of Fascist Spain and Communist Russia (“early decades…Francoist…socialist”) is “vast and sweeping”, if nothing else.

    I think it is, however, a generalisation to attribute democracy in Eastern Europe and “demilitarisation in RoW” entirely to Reagan’s policies.

    Thats mildly interesting to know but irrelevant to the specific point that I made.
    FTR, I explicitly did not “attribute democracy in Eastern Europe and “demilitarisation in RoW” entirely to Reagan’s policies.” (emphasis added). I argued that Slavic democracy and Global de-militarisation were consequential results of Reagan’s Centrist foreign policies. This implies, for the logically-impaired, that Reagan was at least partially, but not necessarily wholly, responsible for these happy end-states. Clearly Gorbachev was the other critical political player in this politico-diplomatic game, a fact that I alluded to in complimenting Gorbachevs liberal tendencies. When Fydor feigns to pounce on an argument one has to spend a good deal of time retracing ones steps and repainting the premises, rather like rennovating a den thats been vandalised by a “troubled child”.

    The neocon line that assertive US brinksmanship cowed the USSR into submission, thereby liberating Eastern Europe, is more than a little simplistic.


    Well I am glad we agree on something, or is Fydor slyly trying to tar me with the neo-con brush? I wouldnt put it past him.
    Just to be on the safe side, I specifically did not, as indicated by my comments criticizing “Right revisionists”, endorse the neo-con claim that Reagan’s bullying (or bankrupting) military policies were the main cause of the USSR’s political capitulation. My comment addressed Reagan’s part in the Pentagon’s victory over the Kremlin in the Arms Race and its resultant relationship to the promotion of democracy in E Europe and disarmament in the World.
    It is not in dispute that Reagan’s maintenance of US superiority in the Arms Race has caused all peer competitors to give up conventional and strategic military competition and led to a 35% reduction in global military spending, otherwise known as the Peace Dividend. A Leviathan superpower constrains the state war of all against all. As to whether Ronald “Tear Down this Wall” Reagan played a major part in the promotion of E. Europe’s democracy: don’t rely on me, just ask the Old East Europeans.
    I specifically did argue that Reagan’s victory in the nuclear Arms Race constrained Brezhnev’s bullying (and bribing) of Europe and allowed Reagan to negotiate from a position of strength with Gorbachev. Soviet strategy was to detach West Europe from the NATO alliance so as to preserve their hegemony over E Europe forever. Reagan’s Centrist containment strategy outflanked the passive appeasers on the Peacenik Hard-Left and the aggressive roll-backers on the Pentagon Hard-Right.
    Reagan’s nuclear strategy, as the historical results show, worked like a charm. In 1981 Reagan, with full Alliance support, overrode the Peacenik Doves by countering the Warsaw Pacts deployment of SS20s with a NATO deployment of Pershings, thus closing off the last avenue of strategic prevalence for Soviet hard-liners. In 1986 Reagan overrode the Pentagon’s Hawks by placing sufficient trust in Gorbachev to do nuclear disarming business with him, thus opening the door for the Soviet internal reformers.

    the so-called “Velvet Revolution” was a complex process that has not been well-explained.


    Since Fyodor asks I may as well, whilst I am on a roll, have a crack at it. In 1989 [metaphor alert] “History’s Muse” saw fit to use the moment of the impending US-USSR rapproachment to weave together four Grand Ideological threads, that had dangled for most of the 20th C, into a coherent Narrative:
    failure of Command Socialist economies to efficiently administer hi-tech services;
    prevalence of the US Pentagon over the USSR’s Kremlin in the Super-Power Arms Race;
    rejection of Communist Dictatorial Polities by educated liberal middle classes;
    withdrawal of Soviet Russian Imperial forces from East European client states
    Grand historians may legitimately debate the weighting of Reagan’s actions in these events, but none ought to deny him great credit. I merely repeat, for what already feels like the infinteenth time, that there was a causal relationship between the variables I posited in points 2. and point 4. Only a fool would beg to differ from this rather trite conclusion.
    But some fools really do need to have everything spelled out in mind-numbing detail or else they jump in where angels shouldn’t be bothered to tread.

  18. Jack,

    You may be too fragile for the blogosphere if you react so defensively to a little mild criticism.

    My first point was simply that Paul Norton did not make sweeping generalisations: Eastern Europe WAS under the control of “self-defined ‘socialist’ regimes” and Spain under Franco WAS Christian. I can only conclude that you dishonestly constructed a straw man from his comments simply to float your theory on Reagan.

    As it turned out, your comments on Reagan were simplistic, and little more than hagiography. It was only when I challenged your glib assertions that you actually acknowledged other factors that played an important role in the “Velvet Revolution”. To your credit, you had a stab at discussing some of these. You delivered another dog’s breakfast, but at least you had a go.

    Some of your errors:

    1. You accuse me of misunderstanding your position, then state that there was a causal link between the “prevalence of the US Pentagon over the USSR’s Kremlin in the Super-Power Arms Race” and “withdrawal of Soviet Russian Imperial forces from East European client states”. Just to emphasise the point, you stated that “Only a fool would beg to differ from this rather trite conclusion.” Well, you got one thing right in that sentence: it was a trite conclusion.

    2. You state several times that the US prevailed over the USSR militarily, without stating that, on paper, the USSR at all stages of Reagan’s presidency had the military advantage in conventional and nuclear forces. Reagan argued for increased military spending from a position of (at least perceived) weakness, not strength. What was not well known at the time in the West was the inability of the USSR to continue funding these forces.

    3. The USA deployed Pershing missiles to West Germany in the 1960’s, not 1981. You’re confusing them with their replacement, the Pershing II, which was deployed in 1984.

    4. Brezhnev only lasted in the job until early 1982. Reagan dealt mostly with Andropov, Chernenko and Gorbachev.

    5. Of your “Grand Ideological threads”, only one (no. 3) has any ideological content. The others are economic, military and strategic. Arguably, 2 and 3 are a consequence of 1, and could be seen as redundant. [P.S. calling something “Grand” doesn’t make it so].

    Reagan obviously had a big role to play in the events of the 1980’s, but we are agreed that his strategy was not solely responsible for the liberation of Eastern Europe or widespread demilitarisation.

  19. Jack Strocchi has read a slight into my previous comment which I did not intend. I did not intend to suggest that Jack doesn’t “think deeply” about history and I would never make such a suggestion, as clearly he does think deeply about it.

    Jack also states: “I do think differently to what he [i.e. me] thinks I think”. I agree that Jack thinks differently to what Jack thinks I think he thinks. This is because I think differently about what Jack thinks than what Jack thinks I think about what he thinks.

    I hope I have made myself clear.

  20. Fyodor at November 16, 2004 08:07 AM, perhaps suffering from shell-shock, confuses defensive with offensive commentary:

    You may be too fragile for the blogosphere if you react so defensively to a little mild criticism.

    My demolition of Fyodor was a bit over the top. I conceded as much (“butterflys” and wheels”) to begin with. This, of course, was passed over in silence by our slippery carp. His combination of ignorance and duplicity presents such a tempting target that I can be forgiven for succumbing to aggressive over-kill.
    Fyodor must think I am in the market for a large urban bridge if he thinks I buy his pathetic little attempt at a “hit and run” on my characterisation of Nortons statement. He constructed a little non-problem in order to provide filler for his otherwise pretty slender criticisms.
    Fyodor will have us believe that Norton’s statement was simply a run-of-the-mill descriptive (Spain fascist, Russia socialist etc) proposition. In fact, Norton’s statement was a generalisation that, somewhat murkily, blended evaluative and explanative predicates. Norton posited the inherent dangers that typical humanitarian-ethical movements (x1, x2, x3..xn) tend to face when they resort to political violence to survive over unbounded time periods (t, t2, t3…tn):

    ideology which is, at bottom and in its origins, democratic and humanitarian cannot serve in the long run as the legitimating ideology of anti-democratic and inhumane regimes

    This is not neutral desription of uncontested historical fact. It tacks together ideological systems with very faint affinities (Franco & Stalin?), in a predictive generalisation with a vast historical sweep. One is forced to conclude that Fyodor, when he calls me “dishonest”, is projecting his own uneasy bad faith back onto his accuser.
    I conceded that my intial characterisation of Reagan’s political effects were less than sufficient – for the multi-volume biography that Reagans office deserves. But this “glib” simplictity was not unreasonable for the comments section of a blog. Obviously the tacit assumptions needed to be spelled out for the more obtuse or perverse readers, but thats their problem, not mine.
    The errors in Fydodor’s errors:
    Fyodor misleadingly attempted to identify my views with the neo-cons. I refuted his little ruse chapter and verse. He called my elaboration “trite” but this is true only in the sense that spelling out the bleeding obvious will always be trite.
    Fyodor blathers on about the pre-Reagan quatitative US-USSR military differentials. BLAH X 3. Its the strategy, stupid! The strategic threat of SS20s were real enough, which is what Reagan dealt with. The Soviet deployment of SS20s took the strategic initiative which logically implies a temporary US strategic disadvantage – that Reagan’s deployment of the Pershing II’s rectified. Reagan – Brehznev + Gorby = Mutual Strategic Disarmament. This strategic see-saw equation, and my substantiated claim about Reagan and E European democracy-promotion, is the extent of my rotten hagiography on Reagan.
    Fyodor gets me dead to rights with the crime of using taking nomenclatural shortcuts in a comments thread. It is true that first generation “Pershings” were deployed in the sixties and Pershing II’s in the eighties. But since Reagan was govenor of California then, and we are discussing his (eighties!) Presidency, I recklessly assumed that the savvy reader would not be misled. If I want to remain solvent in the blogosphere I should always follow Mencken’s advice in regards to Fyodor’s comprehension capabilities.
    Reagan’s most pressing strategic problem, as I indicated in my “totalitarian-militarist” characterisation, was dealing the strategic challenge that Brezhenv threw down before Reagan took office. It dominated Reagan’s military policy for most of his first term. Why is this controversial?
    No doubt some part of the SuperPower strategic stand-off was, as de Toqueville predicted, accidents of historical and ethnological factors. But most observers agree that the US & USSR’s self-definitions as “Revolutionary proposition” nations was at the ideological core of their conflict. Arguing that 2. (democratisation) and 3. (WMD disarmament) are a reliable consequence of 1. (failed socialism) would be news to Hussein, Castro, Sung III etc.
    Fyodor also implies that 1. (Capitalism V Socialism) and 4. (Imperialism V Nationalism) are not threads in the Modernity’s “Grand Ideological Narrative”. The American Revolution is not ideological? Chifley’s Bank Nationalisation was not ideological? Fyodor is welcome to his sell himself on his eccentric beliefs but he should not expect to be treated as anything more than a nuisance if he tries to retail them in public.
    I would acknowledge that my litany of the Cold War’s lineaments lacked, what one might call, “scalable functionality”. It is an exclusive, if not exhaustive, taxonomy which is as much as you can expect in the comments section of a blog!:
    Economic Organisation: Capitalist Market V Socialist Plan;
    Ideological Proposition: American Revolution V Russian Revolution;
    Political Authorisation: Pluralist Democracy V Communist Dictatorship;
    Cultural Subsidiarization: Russian Imperialism V Slavic Nationalism.
    Not a “dogs breakfast” by any means. Certainly better than the thin gruel (“not been well explained…”) served up by Fyodor.
    And when Fyodor finally expends his last round he has the cheek to offer (“we are agreed…”) the olive branch! Like Reagan I prefer to negotiate from a position of strength so I am happy to accept Fyodor’s grudging offer of capitulation.
    PS I note that the “Decline of the Wets”, and corresponding “Rise of the Dries”, thesis continues to be a main theme in dicussing the ideological fall-out from both the AUS and the US elections. eg Abbott on Abortion, Red State Morals voters etc. History is not being kind to Fyodor’s musings.

  21. Jack,

    You’re obviously still smarting from the last scourging I gave you so I was willing to let your ad hominem bullshit slide. However, I think it’s poor form on your part to continue to play the man and not the ball on someone else’s blog. The record will show that you got in the gutter first, but if that’s the way you want to play it, that’s fine with me. I assume JQ will pull the pin when we pass the threshold of acceptable behaviour.

    OK, first off it’s not my place to continue defending Paul Norton’s comments, particularly as he’s already qualified them. However, you’ve distorted my response in the process. I didn’t say that PN’s comments were descriptive. I said they were not “sweeping generalisations”. PN’s comment was the following:

    “In the case of the self-defined ‘socialist’ regimes in question (and perhaps also in the cases of the self-defined ‘Christian’ regime of Francoist Spain) one factor could have been that an ideology which is, at bottom and in its origins, democratic and humanitarian cannot serve in the long run as the legitimating ideology of anti-democratic and inhumane regimes, even if it can be tweaked in the early decades to justify revolutionary violence and repression as means to its noble ends.”

    This is not a generalisation. It is a hypothesis [i.e. “an ideology which is democratic and humanitarian cannot serve in the long run as the legitimating ideology of anti-democratic and inhumane regimes”] supported by two potential examples: Eastern Europe under socialist regimes and Spain under Franco. The phrase “one factor could have been” is a particularly important qualifier that indicates an hypothesis and not a prediction, as you assert.

    You simply have a poor grasp of grammar and logic. Furthermore, expressing yourself in convoluted gobbledygook (the “evaluative and explanative predicates”, “typical humanitarian-ethical movements (x1, x2, x3..xn)” and “unbounded time periods”) can only reinforce the appearance of linguistic incompetence on your part. I suggest that if you wish to reinterpret another’s comment then you should begin with what they actually said.

    Your comments on Reagan’s strategy were glib and simplistic, as you acknowledge. I’m heartened by your progress in admitting defeat.

    Numbered points:

    1. I didn’t name you a neocon or attribute a neocon line to you. Reread the sentence. YOU called your conclusion on Reagan trite. I simply agreed with you on that point.

    2. You got the facts wrong. You got the strategy wrong. The deployment of SS-20s conferred no advantage to the USSR in a scenario of MAD. Reagan simply wanted to match the USSR warhead for warhead, and he was replacing existing medium-range missile capability. The Pershing II missile was also a poor choice on your part, as the USA deployed far more Ground-Launched Cruise Missiles in Western Europe than Pershing IIs. Moreover, most of the increase in US defence expenditure went on CONVENTIONAL weapons: armoured divisions, carrier battle groups, attack submarines etc. You simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

    3. See 2. above.

    4. You stated that “Reagan’s victory in the nuclear Arms Race constrained Brezhnev’s bullying (and bribing) of Europe and allowed Reagan to negotiate from a position of strength with Gorbachev.” yet Reagan won no such “victory” over Brezhnev, and Brezhnev was not the adversary that Reagan faced for most of his two terms.

    5. What? I’ll repeat my earlier comment: there was no “Grand Ideology” in three of the four “threads” you named. You were just making shit up again.

    You then go on to say that “Fyodor also implies that 1. (Capitalism V Socialism) and 4. (Imperialism V Nationalism) are not threads in the Modernity’s ‘Grand Ideological Narrative’. The American Revolution is not ideological? Chifley’s Bank Nationalisation was not ideological?”

    What? I didn’t respond to “1. (Capitalism V Socialism) and 4. (Imperialism V Nationalism)”. You wrote nothing about the American Revolution or bank nationalisation. I responded to this:

    1. failure of Command Socialist economies to efficiently administer hi-tech services;
    2. prevalence of the US Pentagon over the USSR’s Kremlin in the Super-Power Arms Race;
    3. rejection of Communist Dictatorial Polities by educated liberal middle classes;
    4. withdrawal of Soviet Russian Imperial forces from East European client states.

    You could at the least get your own quotes right!

    The problem is not that your “litany of the Cold War’s lineaments” lack “scaleable functionality” [!], Jack, but that you shot your mouth off, again, with a pompous ill-informed comment and took to sulking when you were challenged. You’re now backpedalling with ex-post rationalisation. You can’t defend your original statements, so you’re creatively reinterpreting them. You clown.

    As for the Decline of the Wets yadda yadda, you’re revealing your masochistic side as I’ve beaten you comprehensively several times on the issue. However, if you want a rematch, start up another thread at Catallaxy and we’ll have at it, again.

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