Should we be scared of Uncle Sam ?

This poll showing that 57 per cent of Australians thought US foreign policy to be as great a threat as that of Islamic fundamentalism provokes a variety of thoughts. I happened to read the poll results on the same day as this NYT story about Maher Arar, whose ‘extraordinary rendition’ has been covered in detail at Obsidian Wings.

There are various ways of assessing threats, and most Australians rightly regard terrorism as an overstated danger. But, as far as terrorism is concerned, there can be few instances more horrible and terrifying than the kidnappings and televised beheadings we’ve seen in Iraq. There are, however, equally awful things going on that are not televised, and that are carried out by the United States government.

An unknown number of people have been kidnapped, then shipped to torture chambers in unknown locations. We’ve found out about this from cases like that of Maher Arar, who was eventually released after his captors gave up on the idea that he was a terrorist, but it’s likely that in most cases, the victim simply disappears and is never seen again. Arar was in transit through the US when he was grabbed, but there have been similar kidnappings in Italy, Sweden and Macedonia and of course, countries like Iraq and Pakistan are free-fire zones.

As with quite a few of the worst policies of the Bush administration, the practice of extraordinary rendition apparently began under Clinton, but has been greatly expanded by Bush[1].

As far as I’ve seen so far, all of the victims in this cases have been Muslims. If that comforts you, perhaps you ought to read Martin Niemoller

As long as extraordinary renditions and similar practices continue, Australians are right to regard at least some aspects of US foreign policy as a threat comparable to that of Al Qaeda.

An update In the comments thread at Crooked Timber, Katherine observes, correctly I think, that arguments about moral equivalence are counterproductive. As she says ‘“Are we better or worse than Zarqawi and Bin Ladenâ€? is the debate people like James Inhofe and George W. Bush want us to have. ” So, I shouldn’t have said “equally awful” above. But what is being done is awful, and such things are contributing greatly to the fear of US foreign policy I referred to.

fn1. Supporters of the Clinton Administration might usefully think about this the next time they are tempted to take a small step on the slippery slope of curtailing civil liberties. Supporters of the current Administration might want to give some thought to the likelihood that the practices they are now defending or assiduously ignoring will sooner or later be directed by Hillary Clinton, who might well choose to use them against the vast right-wing conspiracy linked, at its extremities, to Oklahoma City (the apparent starting point of extraordinary rendition) and to terrorist attacks on abortion clinics.

65 thoughts on “Should we be scared of Uncle Sam ?

  1. The victims of the Waco disaster were not muslims, and nor are the innocent casualties in the War on Drugs which has always had bipartisan support in the US. It is impossible to know where to turn for a straight feed on Waco, this is an anti-government site
    http://www.serendipity.li/waco.html
    After Bush won the election there was some talk that the real (small government) conservatives would start to show some fight inside the Republican Party but don’t hold your breath. A bipartisan stand on civil liberties is required but both the major parties have lost the plot.

  2. Sadly, I think Uncle Sam has never really been one for international law or conventions on human rights when they do not suit his purposes.

  3. there can be few instances more horrible and terrifying than the kidnappings and televised beheadings we’ve seen in Iraq. There are, however, equally awful things going on that are not televised, and that are carried out by the United States government.

    You Dickhead, read the above obscenity again & tell me you weren’t drinking when you wrote it? (EQUALLY awful indeed!!)

  4. Ha ha ha! A prospective Chinese invasion of Taiwan, and wbb calls that “US aggression”.

  5. So what you’re suggesting that the US abducting Maher Arar, taking him to a foreign country and beating him is perfectly fine? Umm, OK.

  6. Oh yeah, and which part of …

    Johnson goes on to argue that if the United States and Japan left China and Taiwan to their own devices, it seems possible that they would work out a modus vivendi. Chen’s informal coalition with the FPP has led Taiwan to open full transport and commercial links across the Taiwan Strait, increase trade, and ease the ban on investments in China by many Taiwanese business sectors. Taiwan has already invested some $150 billion in the mainland, and the two economies are becoming more closely linked every day.

    But both Washington and Tokyo appear determined to undermine this growing cooperation. China is clearly not in a position to confront either country right now, let alone a combination of the two.

    … did you not read, Steve?

  7. That last bit of the quote should read…

    But both Washington and Tokyo appear determined to undermine this growing cooperation. China is clearly not in a position to confront either country right now, let alone a combination of the two.

  8. Yet the Taiwanese have voted for a pro-independence party. Of course, they’d still like to make money off the mainland, but that doesn’t mean they want the Communist Party running Taipei.

  9. Quote: “We’ve found out about this from cases like that of Maher Arar, who was eventually released after his captors gave up on the idea that he was a terrorist, but it’s likely that in most cases, the victim simply disappears and is never seen again.”

    Why is it likely? What evidence exists for this assertion? What’s wrong with the hypothesis that people always get released when they are no longer suspected of being terrorists? Given that the US is clearly willing to release some people, why would it, and in particular, why would individuals, want to risk the highly illegal step of making people disappear?

  10. In your “Update” you appear to resile from your assertion, but only on the ground that it was “counterproductive” and playing Bush’s game.
    Maybe it would be better to do so on the basis that what you said was patently ludicrous.

  11. Another interesting aspect of the Lowy Institute Poll is the benign view most Australians have of China. The mellowing of public, business and governmental attitudes towards relations with China seems to be a textbook case of catallaxy at work. They’re our second biggest market and getting bigger, and this context shapes our responses to things like Tibet, the 1989 massacre, the Falun Gong persecution, the Taiwan Anti-Secession Bill, etc.

    This raises a further question. There is a fashionable economic determinist theory of the inevitability of political liberalisation and democratisation in China as a consequence of its economic development and integration into the world capitalist economy. I don’t think I have ever believed that political events are inevitably determined by economic developments – indeed, one of the first problems I recall grappling with in the Marxist Discussion Group of my youth was the fact that many important events in the political superstructure clearly weren’t determined by developments in the economic base. One wonders what the CCP theoreticians make of mechanistic Marxist predictions of their historically inevitable demise.

    More concretely, it may well be that one effect of Chinese “market Stalinism”, in raising working-class and rural material living standards, and in fostering catallactic friendships with the liberal west, will be to preclude the combination of internal popular discontent and external pressure which forced the former Soviet and Eastern European regimes to embrace political reform. In the absence of such pressures, it is difficult to see why the CCP regime shouldn’t be able, for the forseeable future, to see off movements for political democratisation (mainly arising from the intelligentsia) through a judicious combination of repression and co-optation. For obvious reasons, I don’t find this a comforting thought.

  12. John, I think you are verging into Phillip Adams territory here. It is simply ludicrous to equate the US (even under Bush) with Islamic fundamentalism. How many people have died or been tortured in the likes of Sudan and Iran under Islamic regimes in the last three decades or so -Nothing the US has done recently approaches this. You also suggest that the threat of terrorism is overrated – well will you still be saying that when a nuke (probably an easy to manufacture crude type gun device) devastates Sydney, Washington or London. The US is also the country that is pushing the hardest (quite rightly) for Iran to disarm – nobody takes the Europeans or the UN seriously in this regard. It is also the country that lead the way in Afghanistan, liberated Iraq and stopped Muslims being massacred by Serbs in Kosovo.

    It also deserves great credit for protecting Israel over the years (loony fundamentalist Christian reasons for doing this not withstanding). It also deserves credit for putting pressure on China over human rights and over its appalling stance re Taiwan (which should be recognised as an independent country). The Europeans simply view china as a market and are more than ready to brush over human rights abuses.

    As someone who strongly in the past objected to US policy in the likes of Vietnam and Guatemala, I would have to say that the biggest danger in the world today is anti-Americanism. It has now reached such a ridiculous level I am tempted to put a US flag on my house. The fact that a significant section of the population views China more positively than the US also suggests that the right wing press are not as powerful as many suggest.

  13. There are a diversity of reasons for Australians to fear the US, China, Islamic fundamentalist movements, Christian fundamentalist movements, etc., etc.

    Some of those reasons include: the development of a military hegemony that is so powerful that it licenses a bullying attitude to the world and a hogging of access to vital resources; the evolution of claims of a new or resurgent power for “a place in the sun” which licenses destabilisation of long-standing arrangements; the upsurge of messianic absolutism which licences civil repression and atrocity.

    It is difficult for anyone of good will to state with absolute assurance that one of those reasons for fear predominates over all others. It is mostly a matter of taste.

    Given that the Lowy Institute’s survey has some validity, I guess that Australians are expressing their desire for a quiet life. They understand that US adventurism often mutates into Australian me-tooism, with all its attendant inconveniences.

    Moreover, many Australians probably remember that when the US loses sight of, or fails to define clearly, its mission in the world, Americans tend to lose enthusiasm and give up on the project before the job is done. The world ends up in a mess.

    The Lowy results sugeest that Australians like a quiet life, they also don’t like a mess.

    Reasonable preferences, I’d think. But then again, it’s mostly a matter of taste.

  14. How many people have died or been tortured in the likes of Sudan and Iran under Islamic regimes in the last three decades or so -Nothing the US has done recently approaches this.

    A challenge! How about sending mercenaries into Nicaragua to massacre schoolkids? (http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/amter.html)
    Or supplying Saddam’s Iraq with money and arms to support his invasion of Iran and suppression of minorities using chemical weaponry? (http://www.zmag.org/zmag/articles/ShalomIranIraq.html http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A52241-2002Dec29&notFound=true)

    Or support for the Pol Pot regime and supply of arms to his guerillas – support that continues today in the form of refusal to co-operate with other nations funding trials of Pol Pot lieutenants (http://www.users.bigpond.com/nlevine/khmer_alliance.htm http://www.genocidewatch.org/CAMBODIAgovernmentspledge38million28march2005.htm)

    Hmmm, now let’s see – 100,000 in Nicaragua, roughly a million in Iraq/Iran, 3 million in Cambodia. Remember, in law the accomplice/mastermind is as guilty as the person who actually pulls the trigger or attaches the electrodes. I’d say JQ’s equation is looking good at this point.

  15. This poll showing that 57 per cent of Australians thought US foreign policy to be as great a threat as that of Islamic fundamentalism

    ……………………….
    Pr Q’s interpretation of this article is misleading. The pollster made a point of distinguishing b/w the US’s state policy and the GOP’s partisan politics.

    “But I suspect that a lot of it has to do with that particular administration … George W Bush can be a difficult export.”

    …………………….
    Pr Q has well-made this vital distinction, b/w state policy and party politics, before so why doesnt he bear it in mind now? His reference to the Clinton admins human rights violations look spurious and frivolous when viewed in the Big Picture, remember Timor, Apartheid?. I will wager that most Australians were quite happy when US state policy was in the hands of the DEM’s logical professionals rather than the GOP’s ideological politicals. Sooner or later the US electorate will come to its senses and toss these fools and rogues out. Hence Pr Q’s attempt at constructiing a continuity of US political deformation collapses.

    most Australians rightly regard terrorism as an overstated danger.

    ………….
    Pr Q’s statement is contradicted by the article which reports that “most Australians” agree with Howard’s regional anti-terrorist pre-emptive strike policy:

    two-thirds said Australia should have the right to pre-emptively strike against a direct terrorist threat..

    …………………….
    I doubt whether “most Australians” would share Pr Q’s sanguine attitude towards terrorist organisations if they got hold of bio- or nucleo-weapons. Since this is the stated aim of organisations like Al Queda we are entitled to remain alert, if not alarmed.
    Bill Joy predicted this kind of terrorism before 911, so his position has greater credibility than the Panglossers who did not predict this event.
    Also, Pr Q ignores the geo-political reality of the Global War on Terror, especially as it affects our region. The GWOT is not just about stopping bug-eyed bomb chuckers right here or over there. Nor is it a Clash between Islamic Jihadists and Christian Crusaders. It is mainly a Clash within (Southern hemipsheric) Islamic civilisation. The aim of the struggle is to keep African, Arabian and Asian states in the moderate secular, rather than militant sectarian, camp. Our region is still an active front in this struggle, as the examples of the INDON. and PHILP. and other failing states indicate.

    There are, however, equally awful things going on that are not televised, and that are carried out by the United States government.

    ………………………
    It is silly to construct a moral equivalence b/w organisations (like AQ) that use terrorism to promote theocracy and organisations (like the US) that, however foolishly, use militarism to promote democracy.

    Australians are right to regard at least some aspects of US foreign policy as a threat comparable to that of Al Qaeda.

    ………………….
    This is evidently a false statement. The US’s threat to AUS is not empirically equivalent to AQ, JI et al threat to AUS. So far two Australians have alleged serious mistreatment at the hands of the US government in the pursuit of its anti-terrorist foreign policy. (These allegations, in any case, ought to be viewed in the context of the plaintiffs’ less than credible evidentiary status and dubious personal histories.) Compare the US’s minor harm to AUS to the scores of Australians murdered by terrorists in both the WTC and Bali massacres.
    Also, the US has helped to constrain terrorist and militarist threats to AUS security. In 1999 the US helped AUS to liberate E TIMOR. whilst it was under terrorist attack from state-sponsored sectarian and ethnic militants. The failure of the KOPASSUS stooges to get their way in ETIMOR massively accelerated the democratisation & secularisation of the INDON state. This was a crucial victory in the War against Islamist-sponsored, or associated, terrorism.
    Finally, does anyone remember what side the US was on in the Hot War against Fascism or the Cold War against Communism? I vaguely recall that the US-allied AUS state was vindicated in these military conflicts. “Short memories”, indeed.

  16. I would have thought that the critical point at issue in the original post is the motivations and world-view of Australians rather than the justification or otherwise for those views.

    After all, there have been plenty of recent opportunites for comparative demonology and rather fewer opportunities for discussing Australian world-views.

  17. Sylvia Else, there are two risks involved; that of not setting somneone free, and of setting that person free. There’s a passage in Macbeth about wading deeper in blood once you start. As for the “what evidence” bit, that’s spurious. On the one hand there are people who vanisged within the formal cracks; we have to use inferential methods to get estimates of those who were never accounted for to begin with, since of their nature these victims will never have evidence about them anyway.

    For what it’s worth, after 1814 US courts tried and convicted a Canadian who mentioned that he had served in the successful defence of Canada. It took diplomatic pressure to stop that abuse by the forces of liberal, federal democracy. But who can bell the cat now? The die was probably cast well before the milestone of the iconic displacement of Brother Jonathan by Uncle Sam, when the notion of free association was blown away among those denizens of North America transitioning from barbarism to decadence.

  18. PM Lawrence

    Please tell me more about this “inferential method”. Where I am from we call that making it up as you go along.
    And as for your story about the Canadian – “for what it’s worth ” – it’s not worth anything at all.It is so off-topic as to be bannable.

  19. < >

    Yes, but only after its candidate repeatedly promised not to seek to promote Taiwanese independence.

  20. < >

    Yesw, never mind the evidence of repeated opinion polls in Taiwan that the majority of the population don’t WANT independence.

    America knows what’s best for them.

  21. Ian, don’t be silly – the opinion polls on Taiwan reflect the fact that if they do declare independence they will be invaded- the vast majority clearly want independence they simply just dare not say so.

  22. Michael – how do you know what “the vast amjority” of Taiwanese want?

    Have you ever visited Taiwan?

    Do you know any Taiwanese?

    Do the Taiwanese want to be forced into reunification with China under the current political system?

    No.

    do the Taiwanese want to be invaded?

    No

    Do many Taiwanese think that declaring independence is a bad idea because it could lead to a Chinese invasion?

    Yes

    Do many Taiwanese regard themselves as Chinese and hope that eventually they’ll be able to re-unify with a democratic mainland China?

    Yes.

    Did citizens of West Germany cease to regard themselves as Germans because they didn’t want to live in East Germany?

  23. “You also suggest that the threat of terrorism is overrated – well will you still be saying that when a nuke (probably an easy to manufacture crude type gun device) devastates Sydney, Washington or London.”

    I fear that inept Bush-led US foreign policy might provide the causus terrori of such an attack. It’s my fear of terrorism that makes me fear the current US regime. In 3 years since 911 we haven’t seen a lot of progress in making international relations more harmonious. All we’ve seen are a couple of invasions and the trashing of the former United Nations.

    Unfortunately if you go down the invasion path you have to take all their bases not just a few. (Iraq wasn’t even one of theirs, but now maybe disputed territory.)

    The USSR was well-defined geographically and well-understood politically. Islamist terrorism is not. The cold-war nags running the US should be sent to the knackery.

  24. Ian you really are a fool of the first order.

    Your comments at 22 and 23 state that Taiwanese don’t want independence, but that America apparently wants to force them to have it. Then in your next post you state that they don’t want to be unified with China in its current form. Thereby agreeing with Michael.

    By the way I’m Taiwanese, my dad is Taiwanese, and I was fortunate enough to sleep with a nice Taiwanese chick last night, does that help to convince you ?

  25. Simon,

    Do you want Taiwan to declare independence tomorrow and risk a war with China or would you prefer to maintain the current situation?

    you propose a false duality – independence or reunification. THere is, of course, a third alternative – maintaining the status quo in the hope that the political position in China changes.

  26. Ian

    I like the third option. So does the US which is why it told Chen Shui – bian to pull hi head in last year when he was making “declaration of independence” noises.

    My quarrel is with your initial characterisation of the US position, which was totally incorrect.

  27. Much of the Anti-Americanism is the result of America’s appalling foreign policies. They continue to ignore cultural differences and nuances and seem to learn little. The British and to a lesser extent us Australians, who learned from the British, do much better at hearts and minds policing campaigns. British troops in Iraq can walk around amongst the population without armour and treat them like human beings. The majority of American troops seem to regard the Iraqis as beneath them and do not engage with them in the same way. They did much the same in Somalia and Vietnam.

    On the other had we do depend implicitly on the US for defence. Our ADF has really no more capability than to hang on until the US arrives. We have 100 artillery pieces. Israel lost that many on the first day of the 6 day war.

    It is really not America I dislike but more the neo-cons that are in charge at the moment. Moderates from the Bush Senior days like Baker regarded the current lot as the ‘crazies’ and referred to them in these terms. Much damage has been done to America’s reputation by this regime.

    China is another story. Here is a country with a 4000 year history that was civilised when we were still living in huts that has now the dubious distinction of being the world’s sweatshop. What a sad end for a great country. China’s record on human rights is nothing short of disgusting. In most enviromental issues it is worse than the US. I do not feel good about China either.

  28. A quick point on Clinton. I’ve been critical of his Administration a couple of times lately for setting bad precedents which have been seized on and extended by Bush. I think these criticisms were valid, but I still view Clinton much more favorably than Bush (I or II) particularly as regards foreign policy.

  29. For a moment thought I must have accidentally visited Democratic Underground.

    Polls like this don’t mean much. Surely there must be some fans here of “Yes (Prime) Minister” who remember how to get the answers you want from a poll.

    Although, I must say I think Katz’s assessment is on the money. There is a large “I’m having a good time, don’t upset anything” attitude in Australia.

  30. Sorry to slightly change the topic: but if you saw the paper version of this story on the cover of the herald (not the online version) you would have seen a table that lists all of the things that people were supposedly concerned about.

    Number one was a worry that terrorists would get nukes.

    Somewhere down the list were islamic fundamentalism and US foreign policy.

    The most interesting thing about the article for me was that global warming was the 2nd highest worry (higher than islamic fundamentalism or US foreign policy), yet it didn’t rate a mention in the actual article.

  31. Hal9000 has tried to blame the US for Pol Pot – suggesting they were the “accomplices” in 3 million deaths. This is fiction. The 3 million deaths happened before 1979, not after.

  32. I missed that bit. Terrorist nukes are a strategists nightmare. Undetectable, undeterrable and unbearable.
    Australian’s perceive the biggest threats to be mostly the issues that have been flagged as national security problems by the Howard government.
    “unfriendly coutries getting nukes” (91%)
    “global terrorism” (88%),
    “Islamic fundamentalism” (78%)
    “illegal immigration” (75%)
    Greenies can take heart that the masses are also worried about “Global Warming” (94%).

    The SMH obviously feels that it is more important to grind ideological axes rather than give a correct impression of the truth. No wonder the Right bickers constantly about Left wing media bias. This is a blatant example of it.

    Here is the tabulated data for Lowy Institute Poll Data Book 2005

    How worried are you about the following potential threats from the outside world?

    Very worried / Fairly worried / Somewhat worried / Not at all worried / Unsure

    Unfriendly countries developing nuclear weapons 51 20 20 8 1
    Global warming 46 24 20 9 1
    International terrorism 41 22 25 12 0 International disease epidemics 36 25 25 13 1 Islamic fundamentalism 36 21 21 18 4
    US foreign policies 32 25 22 18 3
    World population growth 23 23 29 24 1
    Illegal immigration and refugees 23 21 31 25 0 Failing countries in our region 17 29 32 17 5 China’s growing power 16 19 26 38 1

  33. Yes, shocking leftwing spin. The SMH says that Australians are as worried by Islamic fundamentalism as US foreign policy. As Jack shows with close analysis of the actual data the figures are 57% and 57%.

    How the SHM can spin this that they are as worried about the one as the other is beyond me.

    The real spin is that the SMH is left-wing. It’s good old Aussie middle of the road white bread no nonsense balance and phlegm.

  34. I agree that it is silly to label the SMH left wing. However, this does raise the issue of the misuse of such terms as left and right nowadays. I personally always thought being on the left meant favouring a more equitable distribution of income and supporting secularism and being a moderate left or right winger meant operating from within a framework strongly influenced by the western enlightenment tradition such as a belief in free speech and the right to criticise religious silliness no matter whom it might offend. From this perspective I am clearly on the left despite my support for US intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan and my criticism of Islamic fundamentalism. Many contributors to this column who regard themselves as being on the left are clearly not in that they spend more time criticise democratic regimes and leaders than they do undemocratic ones or religious fanatics. Marx (for all his faults) will be turning over in his grave though George Orwell (I suspect) will not be that surprised.

  35. “I am clearly on the left despite my support for US intervention in Iraq. . .”.

    I would question Michael’s use of the word “despite” in this passage.

    What is interesting about the debate on the US intervention in Iraq is that the pro-war left has based its case on arguments which have a long and impeccably left-wing pedigree, traceable back to Marx’s enthusiastic support for the North in the US Civil War. Simple fairness and intellectual honesty demands that this be acknowledged by people like myself who, after considering the matter carefully, ended up in the anti-war left. It also requires that I acknowledge that I came to this position, and have maintained this position, in large part on the basis of arguments which have a strong liberal or conservative lineage, and which are not distinctly left-wing.

    Whilst I disagree about Iraq with Pamela Bone, Bruce Hartnett, Barry York, Adam Carr, Albert Langer, Nick Cohen, Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, Christopher Hitchens, Paul Berman, Paul Piccone, the ex-Communist Party in Poland, etc. (as well as Michael Burgess), I would make a complete arse of myself if I were silly enough to suggest that all of these people simultaneously became traitors to the left early in 2003.

  36. Well said PN.

    Our friendly pro-war interlocutors on this blog, and beyond, work themselves into a froth of moral outrage about the supposed inconsistency of “leftists'” opposition to the US frolic in Iraq, when, according to them, leftists should be emulating their own high moral disapproval at the beastliness of islamofascism and assorted “outposts of tyranny”. Well, here’s a newsflash: a high proportion of those “outposts of tyranny”, such as in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, throughout Central and Latin America, and the pocket despotisms of post-Soviet Central Asia were established and/or sponsored by various US administrations. It was the Left who protested these injustices while the apologists for US geopolitical ambition told us to be “realistic”.

    But there is a reason for the post-Iraq discovery of moral absolutism by US apologists. And that reason: the Iraq fiasco is simply not realistic.

    This debate is beginning to sound like a broken record. There are all sorts of moral reasons for intervention in Iraq. But if the practicalities preclude objectively varifiable declaration of “mission accomplished”, then there was no sufficient reason for intervention in Iraq.

    And, finally, some of the saner members of the Bush Administration are edging — crablike — to this conclusion. Consider the following:

    ‘On March 28, columnist Robert Novak, who has a long history of credible reporting and strong contacts in the Bush administration, reported in The Chicago Sun-Times that there is “determination in the Bush administration to begin irreversible withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq this year.” Novak gives credit primarily to Secretary of State Condolezza Rice who he says “is expected to support administration officials who want to leave even if what is left behind does not constitute perfection.”‘

    http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=7554

    Ever since el Sistani forced the Bushites into holding elections, the US has been in a no-win situation.

    It’s not Vietnam: in Vietnam, the US fought to keep its major enemy out of power, and lost. In Iraq, the US is bankrupting itself by protecting the political power of its major enemy.

    Iraq is not Vietnam: it’s weirder.

    And that’s why I opposed the invasion and its absurd consequences.

  37. As every neocon knows, the way to stump a lefty is to bowl a line and length ‘tradeoff’ delivery, right arm over the wicket. With that in mind the Observa designed a poll of his own in response to Gianna’s enthusiasm for the Lowy Institute’s push-poll in her post; ‘It is easy being green’. Gianna wisely chose ‘other’ in response to my push poll.

    Now as every good push-poller knows, you shouldn’t design a poll without knowing the answers, or at least smugly pretending to know. With that in mind, I asked all and sundry there, to rank the following ten countries in order of their preferred world hegemon:
    1. UK
    2. US
    3. Australia
    4. France
    5. Germany
    6. Russia
    7. China
    8. Saudi Arabia
    9. Cuba
    10.North Korea

    Now the Observa being the smug bastard that he is, has already placed them in the order he thinks just about every rational Aussie bloke would. Question is, apart from the odd statistical disagreement about interchanging one position on the table, does the Observa have the right to be so smug about his predicted outcomes? I’ll assume here that, like Gianna, you all have an idealised ‘other’ choice for your number one hegemon and are being forced reluctantly to choose numbers 2-11, although you might like to put the case that a logical number one is on the list already, like the Observa smugly believes. Lowy Shmowy!

  38. wbb in comment #38 1/4/2005 @ 12:36 am bungles the analysis from the get-go:

    The SMH says that Australians are as worried by Islamic fundamentalism as US foreign policy. As Jack shows with close analysis of the actual data the figures are 57% and 57%.

    ………
    No. That is not quite what the Lowy poll data says, nor is it what “Jack Strocchi” says. The data says that Australian citizens have various degrees of worry about:
    – US foreign policy – 79%
    – Islamic fundamentalism – 78%
    More to the point, the Lowy poll numbers generally indicated broad political support for Howards national security policies, although anyone reading the SMH or Pr Q’s post would have come away with quite a different impression.
    I dont think that wbb really is a functional illiterate and innumerate, except that ideology makes him so.

    How the SHM can spin this that they are as worried about the one as the other is beyond me.

    …..
    It is beyond me to, although for the opposite reason. The US is generally a good ally of AUS, although the GOP needs reform. Islamist terrorists mean us nothing but harm.
    I indicated that both Pr Q and the SMH put a leftwing spin on the public attitude towards Howard’s foreign policy stances. The full quote, which I only partially excerpted, is as follow [empahsis added]:

    Only two-thirds said Australia should have the right to pre-emptively strike against a direct terrorist threat

    ……………….
    The qualifier is so obviously anti-Howard spin that I did not even bother to rubbish it. What does require rubbishing is Pr Q’s post which is, I think he will agree, not one of his better ones.
    He applied a second order of ideological distortion to the SMH’s primary distortions by failing to properly distinguish between the US nation state and GOP partisan politics.
    To make matters worse he made two silly analogies in an attempt to prove the evolution of iniquity in US political agencies. First he implied moral parity between the Clinton and Bush admins anti-terrorist policy, a pointless enough smear on the face of it which became ridiculous when he cast Hilary Clinton in the role as the US’s future Torturer-in-Chief.
    Then he tried to argue that US state militarism was morally equivalent to ME sub-state terrorism. I give him credit for a pretty fast back down on that one.

    The real spin is that the SMH is left-wing. It’s good old Aussie middle of the road white bread no nonsense balance and phlegm.

    ………..
    The SMH editorial line has generally been against Howard’s national security and cultural identity policies. The “good old Aussie middle of the road white bread no nonsense” voters have politically validated Howard’s policies four times. Going by the poll data they are still broadly in favour of Howard’s line. It is the Left-Wets who are out of touch.
    They are trying to cash in on the outrage that voters rightly have about being duped into the War in Error for some bonus political chips to play on the uneasiness voters feel about the War on Terror.
    This play wont pass. The avoidable harm caused by Iraq-attack is about four orders of magnitude worse than the harm caused by civil rights abuses in the GWOT. And the latter harm at least has a grounding in a perceived threat to the community, as evinced by the Lowy poll numbers.
    This Left-Wet bias is partially, although not totally, because they have ideological axes to grind against conservative politicians. Thus the soft-right Blair gets litte stick, firm-right Howard quite a bit of a flogging and hard-right Bush is the Great Satan, despite the fact that they are all in it together.
    I know that I sound like a broken record sometimes but the Left-Wets will have to lift their game if this is the best they can do by way national security critique and charter. Otherwise they will continue to get beaten like a drum.

  39. Observa, from the limited range of options you suggest, I’d rank Germany under its current government at #1, although I must admit that the Blair Government has made some big strides forward in the Good Global Citizen stakes through its leadership on greenhouse and on combatting African poverty, earning it #2 on your list. Using those issues as benchmarks (and the Lowy Institute poll suggests that greenhouse policy ought to be a benchmark) also leads one to rank Australia and the US quite a ways below several countries which, for reasons best explained by yourself, aren’t on your list.

  40. Not a chance Paul. With two World Wars under their belts relatively recently, your average Aussie wouldn’t be swayed by krauts coming over all warm and tree huggy like a mob of Bob Browns. True we’d be fairly ambivalent between democracies, but the frogs would get the nod, because the guillotine was much further back in history than blitzkrieg and in any case, we’re not exactly dripping with born-to-rule upper-classes. OTOH we don’t all have blond hair and blue eyes these days, just in case our hegemon goes a bit pear shaped again.

    Next?

  41. Paul, by current German government you do mean the SPD/Greens coalition which is struggling to make the free market reforms which were done about 20 years ago here, the failure of which to implement in Germany have left them with about 12 % unemployment ? Oh and that is also the government which will probably not be around after the next election.

  42. Simon, I mean Germany with the current SPD/Greens coalition which is a well-developed democracy and a good global citizen.

    If, as you suggest, economic performance should be the main benchmark for ranking countries as desirable global hegemons (the issue Observa was referring to in his first post), we’d have to put the Chinese Stalinists at the top of the list, followed by the Russian crypto-neo-Stalinists! See this link for details:

    http://www.voanews.com/english/2004-11-17-voa41.cfm

  43. I suppose Germany could be a good global citizan for the same reasons that Luxembourg (or Japan) is probably a good global citizen – no one ever trusted them to ever do anything. Instead they just hand money over and keep quiet.

    The reason why the Chinese have had high growth in the last few years is totally unrelated to their having a “Stalinist” government. Things like the Great Leap Forward did not help a lot economically.
    As far as the Russian “neo- Stalinists” go – I don’t think there was any Russian miracle at all. The growth there was pretty illusory.
    In any event you do appear to be right that economic performance was not one of the relevant criteria for a hegemon.

  44. The SMH editorial line has generally been against Howard’s national security and cultural identity policies.

    Except when there’s an election on when Fairfax either endorsed Howard (The Age) or didn’t know (SMH).

    What are cultural identity policies anyway? Locking up children? Don’t know anybody in the mainstream media apart from professional stirrers that support that policy anymore.

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