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Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, July 24, 2008

What Would YOU Think?

I interpret Maliki's statement as pretty much: "You won! We don't need you any more. We can handle it now. Please return home with our love and gratitude."

Whether I'm right about this is immaterial at the moment. I see another, very very bad problem brewing over the comments.
And I'm not sure I see a way out of it for those who believe we should stay. Before I go into my reasoning, I'm going to take the position that those folks are intelligent, capable, patriotic--everything the other side is. But I do believe there are some differences in core beliefs and perceptual filters (let's take the position, for the sake of argument, that their attitudes are basically correct--the problem still exists.)

1) The majority of the Iraqi people, and their elected leaders, seem to want a 16-month time table for withdrawal.
2) The perception throughout the Arab and Muslim world is probably that this is the case.
3) America must look out primarily for its own interests. Like everyone else.
4) If we believe it is NOT in our best interests to leave, we can no longer say "if the Iraqi people want us to leave, we will." We must at that point say something to the effect of "when we believe it is safe for us and/or the Iraqi people, we will go."
5) This might well be sane and smart. Yes, the decision can be defended. But can you fail to admit how this sounds to Arabs? Can you fail to grasp that, EVEN IF YOU ARE HONEST AND SINCERE it sounds like a naked power grab?
6) You are then saying, in effect: "Maliki is incompetant, and the Iraqis cannot handle their own affairs." That, in effect, they are inferior to Americans. I'm not saying this is what you think. I'm saying that you MUST enter the world of the "Other" and see how this looks from their position.
7) So...you have a nationalistic, proud, cocky, testosterone-fueled generation of potential soldiers. Given one situation, they are citizens, shepherds, lawyers, whatever. But when their country or way of life is threatened, these guys (and gals) get two-dimensional, black and white, "us and them" and pick up sharp sticks. Happens all over the world, throughout all history. And you follow the guys screaming "they did it!" and go fight, whether you understand the politics or not.
8) In other words, not respecting Maliki's words, pressuring him to change them (or being perceived as pressuring him) creates the god-damnedest recruitment poster for Jihadism imaginable. Perfectly reasonable Arabs will want to kill us. Hell, if about 60% of AMERICANS think its problematic, what percentage of Arabs will think that? I cannot imagine what we would gain that would be worth what we will lose.
9) I also cannot imagine this attitude coinciding with a sense of respect for their culture, religion, and humanity. How many times on this board alone have we argued about whether Christianity is superior to Islam? And it seems pretty clear from listening to talk radio that a huge percentage of those who are still in favor of our actions in Iraq have a sense that Islam is inferior. Now, there's nothing new about that attitude. I'm quite sure at least as many Muslims feel their religion is superior to Christianity. Sauce for the goose. The problem is that we are on their soil. And that makes it horrifically easy for recruiters to go to otherwise reasonable people and claim that this is a religious war. And horrifically difficult for us to win--wars of occupation have very long supply lines, and tend to break the back of the occupier if he isn't careful.
10) At the same time, it fuels the belief that we are there for the oil. If a big chunk of Americans believe that (I don't have the numbers) don't you dare lie to yourself and say it's unreasonable that Arabs would think it. You might think it unfortunate, that we have the best of intentions, etc...but don't you dare create a situation where the only way to have peace is for the other guy to have more respect for you than you have for him. Don't you DARE.
11) Think about it. A bunch of Saudis rammed planes into our buildings, and the majority of Americans were quite content to believe that attacking Iraq was a direct response. Take the same type of thinking, transfer it to the other side (by simply giving them the same humanity you demand for yourself) and see what you get. They have no better critical thinking skills than we have. They will be, and are, just as proud. And we are taking actions that can EASILY be misinterpreted, if we don't handle this right. This is the kind of thing that could make an otherwise honest and responsible Arab customs agent turn his head when fissionable material marked "to delivery in New York" passes his desk.
##

Other people have no obligation to trust us. Trust must be earned. But too often, I hear something like "Of course they know we mean well. We're Americans!" This is such blindness, and a complete lack of being able to see the world from the perspective of others. It actually reminds me of a Christian lady who said: "of course Jews know Jesus was the son of God. They're just being stubborn."
#
I considered whether to say this next part, and have decided to go ahead.
We talk about the damage done in the oppressor-oppressed relationship. I think that both take damage, but when one group can literally exterminate the others, the underdog damage is far greater. In that situation, the fear of death is a very real thing across the entire group. That fear is an insanely powerful weapon, and if you've never been in a situation where you had to genuinely fear for your life at the hands of another, you may not be aware of how deep it goes. I have often commented that the legacy of slavery includes both the pain of generations of soul-withering "We will kill you if you complain, resist, or run" and the belief patterns that said "We have the right to do this because we are superior to you." It just began to break down in the middle of the 20th century, and arguably has really only broken down within the last generation--leaving hundreds of years of damage to repair. Fair enough.

But there's another side to this. Even for white people, I now suspect, there was real damage from slavery (not as much a there was to slaves, but damage nonetheless.) During slave days, there was a theory of a disease called "Drapetomania"--a slave's desire to run away was, in fact, considered by many to be not a natural human response, but a disease. In other words, a slave was insane for not recognizing how wonderful it was to be chained and abused by white people.

In a slightly milder form, it seems that I've heard this from other empires: the Brits seemed to think that the Indians, Africans, and Chinese should feel blessed to have British rule. The Germans, I believe, did some of this too--although I never heard anything as insane as Germans thinking Jews should be grateful for the Holocaust. The Nazis weren't THAT crazy. But Native Americans should be grateful that we rescued America from them, and them from themselves? Yep, I've heard that one.

Individuals vary, but every group seems to think that God made them first and loves them best (with the exception of black Americans--but that's another subject.)

The point is that it is natural to think you are the best, most honest, smartest, bravest, closest to God. Perfectly natural. And natural perhaps to forget that others feel the exact same way about themselves. But in order to enslave other people, and have an empire over them, it seems that people develop beliefs that they are not only superior, but that there is something WRONG with the other guy for not admitting it. That slaves should be GRATEFUL to be enslaved, and any who aren't, well, there's something wrong with them. Or even that, of COURSE they know we're superior--they're lying if they say they don't.

And that attitude is a sickness of power, of the slave owner, of the Empire-builder. You can't just say "We're stronger, we're going to take it." That would be refreshingly honest. Instead, for whatever reasons, some people have to believe that it is GOOD for the other people to be dominated or enslaved, and if they don't acknowledge it, if they fight back...why, they're a terrorist!

This is a kind of super-hubris, a swelling of ego until it blinds logic and obscures humanity. In researching the South for "Lion's Blood" I came across so many references to Southern superiority and valor that seemed to imply: "We are great enough to rule men as if they were beasts. We are the super-breed. Outnumbered and outgunned, we will turn back the Northern tide because God is on our side." And a number of scholars commented that when the end came, there was a sudden collapse that seemed more moral than material, as if (my words) that false ego-wall came crashing down as the reality of lost battles made them question. Were we really superior? And if we weren't, what does that mean about what we did to these Africans..?

In this case, the hubris of being the "most powerful country in the world", former slave holders (as a culture), led to a massive sense of entitlement. Not just that we were the best, but that everyone in the world should know it, and trust us no matter what we do. I remember when Nicki and I were in Tanzania, there was a Floridian tourist lady who was behaving with such a level of entitlement--she could go where she wanted, do what she wanted--she almost got us killed with an elephant charge--and it hit me that while I've certainly seen worse behavior on the part of black people, there was a very specific attitude that she had, and that some others have had, that I have NEVER seen from black people.

That sense of entitlement, that the world exists to serve you, that you can go where you want ot go, do what you want to do, and that the world loves you for it. That has to be what it was like to be a part of any royal family, or any conquering empire, or any "master class" in history. A pathology of power. And it warps the mind of the master as well as the slave. Iraq will welcome us as liberators. The war will be over in a few months. The oil will pay for it. Help the war effort by shopping. Even if they want us to leave, they're too stupid to realize they need us.

You could take a perfectly reasonable, loyal American. Re-wind the tape of his life until he is an infant. Slip him out of white (or brown or black) skin and put him in Arab skin. Have him watch what is going on in Iraq, and he will come to the conclusion--just as I did following 9/11, that "it's time to go and kill them." For me, the "them" was whoever the hell had hit us. I heard that voice in the back of my head, very clearly. And so will they.
Toward us.
##
I can understand if you think America must do this, and that it is right. That's not what I'm discussing. It is the fact that, if I am right, trying to spin this in ANY way will create more enemies than we can kill. And they will not be centrally located, so no army can simply smash them. And we can win that war at the cost of gigantic amounts of our precious wealth that should be invested in moving America toward our future. It could take generations to recover.

But...how can we know if I'm right or wrong about this? We can't, but I humbly offer an experiment, as follows:
The Question of the Day Is: "If you were an Arab or Muslim, would America setting a time-table to leave Iraq make you more or less likely to want to kill Americans? Why or why not? Would America refusing to set a time table now make you more or less likely to want to kill Americans? Why or why not?"

Let's assume that those answering on either side are honestly conveying their attitudes. I suggest to you that we can use this to estimate the response toward our actions, worldwide.

Remember: in communication, it doesn't matter what is in your heart. What matters is the way your actions are interpreted. And there is grave danger of our attitude being interpreted as:
"We're better, smarter, and closer to God than you. We know what's good for you, better than you do. We're powerful enough to take whatever you want. We're having an energy crisis at home, and you're sitting on an ocean of oil. Do the math."

And any brilliant arguments you have "proving" that that's not what Republicans , Right-wingers or Neocons want has NOTHING to do with whether reasonable people could interpret our actions in such a way. And if you say: "Well, anybody who thinks that's possible is an idiot!" you're just kinda proving my point, unless said people routinely get worse results than you in terms of health, income, and happiness. If you ain't outperforming them in these arenas, any superiority complex is completely unearned.

Anyway, I think I've expressed my concerns here. The rest is up to you guys. Remember, please. The question is not: "Does America have good reasons to stay" but rather "could the refusal to make solid plans to leave be interpreted by a sane, intelligent Arab as an act of war against the Muslim world?" I think, to a disturbing degree, the answer is yes. There is a gap between action and interpretation, and we could flush our entire way of life down the toilet if we don't stop blaming slaves for running away...or patriots for fighting for their own damned country and culture, just the way we would.

31 comments:

Christian M. Howell said...

Most people's problem is narrowness of perception. It's that "neighborhood mentality" that has long been a problem for America. We refuse to see others as they see themselves. We paint people into our view of them and refuse to ever change it, no matter how may examples disprove said conclusions.

We should have never been in Iraq in the first place, but that's how it works, we do something stupid that soothes egos or pads someone's pockets and then feign ignorance to the cost.

Admittedly, I don't follow world news as much as I used to but what the hell, the news doesn't change because you did or didn't watch it.

At this point in time we have squandered nearly 40,000 troops on this foolishness and all we've gotten out of it is higher gas prices and more people hating us. Don't mistake the death toll for the actual toll, because as James Gandolfini's doc showed, people with half a leg or a nub for an arm are not going back into combat. That number is around 40K.

We don't need 16 months to pull out of Iraq. Two months would do. I was in the Army and I know deployments and exits take around the same time.

I long thought that our major problem was that our troops should have been wearing dress uniforms the majority of the time. Those uniforms are much less threatening even with M16s slung on shoulders.


But you hit the mentality: I'm stronger, I'll take. I learned that from this country the hard way. Now I just take (meaning I don't care what people's opinion of my actions or goals is, move or be moved) what I want.
Fortunately, I just want a well-paying job where I do something that advances society in one way or another.

I wish more people thought like that. Functional illiteracy wold go WAY down. I mean, in the state where Microsoft is based there is 20% illiteracy and one of the highest concentrations of millionaires. WTF!!!

Josh Jasper said...

For me, the huge problem id the issue with the Der Speigel interview, in which, whatever Maliki's intent was, he had the opportunity to vet the translation, and the draft of the article before publication, and only claimed a mistranslation after he got a phone call from the Bush administration.

In essence, he had one thing to say, and was corrected by Bush. That's not a leader of a sovereign nation, that's a puppet.

So, really, what the majority of the Iraqi people say, as filtered through their Prime Minister is controlled by the US government. they're not a free country. They're a client state pretending to be a democracy at our behest.

It's time we stopped pretending otherwise.

Josh Jasper said...

4,000 troops, Christian, not 40,000.

Here's a link

Mike Ralls said...

>The Question of the Day Is: "If you were an Arab or Muslim, would America setting a time-table to leave Iraq make you more or less likely to want to kill Americans?<

Depends on what type of Arab or Muslim I am of course. I could take the American's setting a time-table as a sign of weakness, which would make me more likely to want to attack the Americans. Attack the weak and submit to the strong is not an uncommon strategy.

If I assume I'm an Arab or a Muslim who still has my general outlook and world view, only with my group loyalty attached to Iraq or Muslims instead of America or the first world then it would have pretty much no change at all on my desire to try and kill Americans. The fakirs are just _too_ strong. I would have seen too many others throw their lives away to make me think it was a good risk-benefit ratio. I wouldn't attack a vastly more powerful foe unless I was sure I had no other choice and the people I care about were going to die no matter what, and the Americans do not appear to be working towards that end.

My Iraqi neighbors on the other hand may want to do just that, so an American announcement of withdrawal could influence my decision on if I was willing to attack them (and of course, Iraqis are more focussed on killing other Iraqis then they are on killing Americans). It would depend on if I'm a Shiite Arab or a Sunni Arab, or a Kurd Muslim and what my recent history in my area has been. My most probable response would be to hope for a united and peaceful Iraq, but heavily prepare for a bloodbath in 16 months and make sure that my group suffered the least damage as possible, and my family survived.

bud said...

Quite frankly, since anti-americanism is endemic across the midddle east, I don't think that public perception is a critical issue. If 80% of the people think that America and it's people are their enemy now, what difference does it make if another 10% agree?

The issue is not Arab street "perception", but the enlightened self-interest of the US. And from that standpoint, we "leave" (for some definition of "leave" - is that when we're down to the Marine detachment at the Embassy, or when we have 20K support troops logistically supporting the IAF?) when the Iraqi government is able to protect the populace and the infrastructure on its own. Malaki knows that this condition is extremely unlikely to occur within Ob's time limit, (cue Judy Tenuta), but he's a politician, so he says (assisted by "translation difficulties") different things to different people. It's worth noting that at least one of the "translations" makes a genuflection toward this requirement.

In short, the Arab "street" is not going to love us if we got out next week, or in 16 months after 1/20/2009, or in 2010, and the degree of dislike is not going to change much either. If the country goes to hell after we leave, we'll be blamed, of course, but if it doesn't, 10 years down the road, we may get some grudging acknowledgement that we helped.

Josh Jasper said...

Bud -


The issue is not Arab street "perception", but the enlightened self-interest of the US. And from that standpoint, we "leave" (for some definition of "leave" - is that when we're down to the Marine detachment at the Embassy, or when we have 20K support troops logistically supporting the IAF?) when the Iraqi government is able to protect the populace and the infrastructure on its own.


So they're not a sovereign state, and we won't leave when they ask?

Christian M. Howell said...

4,000 troops, Christian, not 40,000.

Here's a link


I said NOT the death toll. The number of casualties is close to 40K(30K+ according to CNN). Didn't you see the posters for Alive Day Memories?

Those soldiers can not go back into combat.

Marty S said...

Mike I think you stated the situation extraordinarily well. Think of Arabs as divided into two groups like Liberals and Conservatives. Liberals read liberal blogs and newspapers a which confirm their beliefs and say see I was right. And anything said to the contrary by a conservative source is all lies. The Conservatives do the same. So there are Arabs who are either pro-American or at least neutral and there are Arabs who are anti_American. Whether we set a timetable or not the anti-Americans are definitely not going to change their minds and as long as we don't do anything to outrageous anybody who is still pro-American probably won't change their mind either.
As I have already said though we should get out when they ask simply because its their country.

Dan Moran said...

And from that standpoint, we "leave" [omitted] when the Iraqi government is able to protect the populace and the infrastructure on its own.

How about we leave when it's in our best interests to do so? Where does it say we're responsible for the Iraqi people or the Iraqi government?

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Granting your premises (which I haven't checked), I think you're right about Iraq.

I've got a couple of more angles on slavery, though.

One is that the fear of death goes both ways. Even you believe that your slaves are your inferiors, you know that they're pretty much like humans, if you're rich, they're got you outnumbered, and some of them might be very angry even if you think it's unreasonable. Slave-owners are haunted by the fear of slave revolts. Slaves have much more reason to be frightened of masters and are more traumatized, but the fear of slave revolts isn't nothing.

I've heard that another cost of slave-owning is that it makes work unrespectable for free people.

I don't know if it's important for this discussion, but there's at least one other take on slavery possible. It's not a sign of deep inferiority. It's just bad luck. If your people get conquered, you get enslaved, but it doesn't say much about you personally. "A Funny Thing Happened to Me on the Way to the Forum" struck me as curiously unmodern because there was no anti-slavery subtext, and I was pleased to find out that it was based on ancient Roman sources.

A general point about thinking: I've been noticing a little about different styles. You like the big generalizations. I like making sure the special cases are included. Some people look for contradictions. Some people try to pin down all the corners of the arguments. I suspect these preferences are very strong personality traits-- modifiable with effort if there's a reason it's worthwhile but at this point mostly interesting as a sort of human variation that usually doesn't get noticed.

More about human variation: I work on believing that people really mean what they say about their preferences. It's hard for me to believe, but most (many?) people really like beer. They aren't putting me on, no matter how foul it tastes to me.

Conservatives are as worried about stability as I am about freedom.

I mostly need some elements of fantasy or science fiction to enjoy a novel. There are people who are equally strongly repulsed by sf and fantasy. And so on.

It's surprising how hard it is for me to believe people mean what they say when their view of the world is very different from mine.

Mike Ralls said...

It's a moral thing, more or less. Many people, myself included, would regard it as morally wrong to abandon the Iraqi people at this point and at the costs we are currently incurring. We vote, so we have a say in things.

The politicians also know that if they pull and Iraq goes to hell, people like us, and a good % of people who say they want a pull out, will blame them and their party for the next generation. This is one reason why despite widespread opposition to the war, funding bills and other measures that are required to keep the war going pass by large measures.

Shady_Grady said...

There's very few instances in history where one group has actually welcomed being invaded by another group. Iraqis are no different than anyone else. They want the Americans out. Direct colonialism is not going to be accepted in the 21st century any more than it was in the 20th century.

Fortunately for the Americans the Iraqis are weak and quite divided amongst themselves to the point where there's not really a unified national resistance movement yet.

The US is making plans for permanent bases and foreign control of Iraqi oil that few truly independent nations would accept.

So the longer the US stays the more likely that enemies who truly hate each other will be willing to make (temporary) common cause against the foreigner.

The invasion of Iraq drove the opinion of the US down even further than it was. No one can really say what will happen in the future because of this any more than someone could see that the overthrow of Mossadegh would lead to a fundamentalist Iran nursing a grudge twenty-five years later.

But the US intelligence and security agencies have reported that the invasion of Iraq has made the threat of terrorism worse.

To my mind the only moral thing to do is to leave now and pay reparations.

Steve Perry said...

What would I think? Oh, maybe that America was an imperialist nation led by a lying nitwit who thought behaving like a cowboy gunslinger was the way to run the world?

A man stupid enough to say "Bring it on!" to terrorists who would happily see the entire world in flames because of their perversion of religion?

That Americans must have the IQs of turnips to go along with such lunacy without screaming bloody murder, high, wide, and repeatedly?

Wait. Wait. I'm not Arabic and I already believe that. God only knows what people on the receiving end of this insanity must think.

I think that if there is a Hell, most of the current administration will have reserved seats in the 9th Circle waiting for them.

Anonymous said...

Simple patriotsfighting for their culture and country didnt ram an airplane into the world trade center. the problem with the question of the day is that like anything else it depends. Are the Muslims Wahabi or members of a more tolerant flavor of islam? would our pull out be spun as a sign of weakness by the middle eastern press? We have been hated for a long time in the middle east (for good reason sometimes) I think that a time table will not change Most muslims view of us,our unforgivable support of the isrealis and our embrace of a funamentally secular world view and culture have made us the "great satan" for a long time. My view:realistically a time table can be viewed as weakness / victory while not having a time table will be spun as evidence of our imperial intent. So damned if we do damned if dont. Mikes got it right i think. Langdon

Anonymous said...

"Slave-owners are haunted by the fear of slave revolts."

As it should be. Any slave-owner who suffers in this way has the power to free himself by finding a way to live and do business that is not a crime against humanity.

AF1 said...

"would our pull out be spun as a sign of weakness by the middle eastern press?"

What if it was?

Are Middle Eastern armies suddenly going to sail the oceans and invade the US because we're "weak?"

I could care less how they spin it.

lynn said...

If you really want to get a clue to what Iraqis think read a few Iraqi blogs. They are not "filtered through their Prime Minister" or "controlled by the US government". You might say that any Iraqi who writes in English is not an "average Iraqi" and you might have a good point but you can still see that Iraqis are as divided as Americans are. They don't all think alike anymore than we all think alike.

Dan Moran said...

It's a moral thing, more or less. Many people, myself included, would regard it as morally wrong to abandon the Iraqi people at this point and at the costs we are currently incurring.

Noblesse oblige? Can you have that when the being you're being nobbly to want you to get out?

We vote, so we have a say in things.

Fortunately less of a one than in election cycles past.

The politicians also know that if they pull and Iraq goes to hell, people like us, and a good % of people who say they want a pull out, will blame them and their party for the next generation.

The way people blamed Republicans for a generation because Nixon pulled out of Viet Nam?

That didn't actually happen, of course ... though I give you full credit for predicting that conservatives will treat a Democratic President who leaves a stupid war behind much, much differenty than they treated a Republican President in the same circumstances. Foolish hobgoblin, and so on. You do seem to know conservatives at least as well as I do. :-)

Marty S said...

Afl: Your view of things is simplistic. Here is the scenario to be afraid of if we are perceived as weak. The perception of U.S weakness encourages Middle Eastern armies to start a war with Israel. Israel with not enough conventional military strength at this point resorts to using its nuclear weapons and the whole Mideast goes up in a radioactive cloud. While you may not care about the Mideast this would be very bad for the environment and global warming.

Nancy: I find your analysis that conservatives care about stability and liberals about freedom interesting. My first reaction was to be very offended. I am a conservative and I certainly care deeply about freedom. Then I thought about it and realized you were talking about a different type and set of freedoms then the freedoms I think of when I here the
about when I say say the word freedom. You are talking about freedom of gays to marry. I am talking about freedom to choose my own medical plan or freedom from an oppressive tax structure. A conservative believes the government is there to ensure things run well not to run my life. A conservative would say he/she is for freedom from the government.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Marty, I'm a liberal-flavored libertarian, not a liberal.

I'm in favor both of gay marriage and the right to choose your own insurance and medical treatment.

As for taxes, I find anarchism very tempting. It's a lovely theory, but doesn't seem workable at present. I'm not sure what the reasonable take on taxes is, but the extremely complicated cobbled-together system we've got isn't it.

There's a sensible bit from Matt Ruff about one of the costs of the tax system is just the amount of time people (some of them very bright who could be doing something more useful) spend thinking about it.

I twitch every time I hear someone say that highly progressive taxes are a good solution for income inequality. Aside from issues of justice, anyone who argues that way seems to think that the government is a benevolent distributor for the money rather than an institution which can use the money destructively. And there's a tremendous power imbalance between people and "their" government, even in a democracy.

I was being sloppy, since there's more than one sort of conservative. I do think there are conservatives whose primary concern is about not breaking the system for fear of ending up with something very bad.

Marty S said...

Nancy: to me there are two extremes of taxation.

1) There are no taxes. People realize the need for certain governmental functions and voluntarily give to the government what they feel is right.

2)All income is 100% taxed and each individual receives a stipend from the government depending upon that persons needs as the government sees those needs.

Given human nature I don't believe either of these two extremes will work. So liberals and conservatives are just arguing where between these extremes the right answer lies. The problem is that going too far in either direction is almost as bad as the extremes and arch conservatives and arch liberals don't seem to understand the danger posed by going too far in their direction.

Lynn said...

-- "A conservative believes the government is there to ensure things run well not to run my life." --

Oh really? It seems to me that the only difference between liberals and conservatives is that they each want to run different aspects of our lives. And look how well things have been running lately.

Steven Barnes said...

1) Slavery in Rome was much different from slavery in the United States. There was far greater respect for the "inwardness" of, say, Greek captives, while African slaves were pretty much considered sub-human, "natural slaves" who were inferior mental, physically, and morally.
2) "We should leave when they can defend themselves." According to whom? Their elected officials? The average Iraqi? The average American? God Almighty? It would be perfectly possible to stay there forever, if the evidence procedure isn't spelled out explicitly.

Mike Ralls said...

>Can you have that when the being you're being nobbly to want you to get out?<

Sure. The majority in the South in 1866 wanted Federal troops to leave. Doesn't mean that was the right thing to do. So yes, it can be "noble" to stay even if the majority want you out. Ditto Germany and Japan in 1946.

The question in Iraq then becomes one of if you think our leaving will lead to a civil war and ethnic cleansing. In 2006 I think the answer was an obvious yes. In 2010 there is a good chance that the answer will be no, in which case we can leave. But I don't know that for sure, which is one reason why I am against setting a timetable.

>Fortunately less of a one than in election cycles past.<

The nature of politics is that various issues come and go and fluctuate in perceived importance. This is not surprising.

>much differenty than they treated a Republican President in the same circumstances.<

That is true, but it's not just conservatives but large numbers of moderates as well.

Most high ranking Democrats know what allying themselves with the anti-war crowd in Vietnam cost them. Americans came to the conclusion back then that the war was just not worth the cost, but they never thought the communists were anything but evil men, so that loss produced bad feelings. Once there was no chance of further sacrifices in Vietnam, it was easy for many to blame the defeat on the political party that had aligned itself with the anti-war crowd, many members who did regard the communists as the good guys, or at least regarded the US as the bad guys.

Currently, the democrats are also aliening themselves with the anti-war crowd. If the US wins in Iraq they will get no credit, and if the US loses they will get the blame.

Mike Ralls said...

> 1) Slavery in Rome was much different from slavery in the United States. There was far greater respect for the "inwardness" of, say, Greek captives,<

People often focus on the small minority of slaves in Rome who could go on to achieve something. They were there, but they were dwarfed by the vast number of slaves who were worked and starved to death. Studies of Roman slave bones show malnutrition and starvation to be chronic states of their existence. This was not the case with slaves in the American south.

Slaves in ancient Rome were more numerous and easily obtainable than African slaves in America, hence they were not valued as much and would be used and disposed of much more easily than African slaves in America. Ceasar may have enslaved more people in his Gual campaign than were shipped to the US and proto-US in the entire Atlantic slave trade, for instance, and supply and demand works on people too.

Dan Moran said...

Sure. The majority in the South in 1866 wanted Federal troops to leave. Doesn't mean that was the right thing to do. So yes, it can be "noble" to stay even if the majority want you out. Ditto Germany and Japan in 1946.

We didn't go into the South, or Germany, or Japan, under the guise of "liberating" its population. (To a minor degree in the case of the slaves, but they weren't the people the North had been fighting.) And no one, with his bare face hanging out, argued that we were there out of any noble obligation to the people we'd conquered; we were there out of our own raw self interest.

Which is all good. But when our raw self interest says get out, which it does in Iraq, and the Iraqi people say get out, which they do, I assume that the argument of noblesse oblige is really just an excuse to do something that's in the perceived best interests of the person arguing.

I don't believe conservatives really think Iraq is in the best interests of the United States. Had a Democratic President presided over an epic disaster of this scale, we can all imagine the conservative howls of outrage. Or at least, I can.

The question in Iraq then becomes one of if you think our leaving will lead to a civil war and ethnic cleansing. In 2006 I think the answer was an obvious yes. In 2010 there is a good chance that the answer will be no, in which case we can leave. But I don't know that for sure, which is one reason why I am against setting a timetable.

I'm not willing to sacrifice American soldiers to prevent someone else's civil war. Nor would conservatives be, if it weren't a conservative President blundering us into this mess.

Currently, the democrats are also aliening themselves with the anti-war crowd. If the US wins in Iraq they will get no credit, and if the US loses they will get the blame.

Well, conservatives will do their screaming best to make the argument, but they've got the anchor of George Bush around their necks. All they're really looking for out of the Iraq war: not what's best for the U.S., but what's best for conservatives. And, of course, that's all they ever were looking for; this war always had more to do with domestic politics than with the global interests of the United States.

Mike Ralls said...

>I don't believe conservatives really think Iraq is in the best interests of the United States.<

That must be very psychotically comforting for you. It is much easier to think your political enemies are just twirling their evil mustaches than that they may be good smart people who see things differently from you.

It is a bit childish though.

> Had a Democratic President presided over an epic disaster of this scale<

From the American perspective, it's a small scale war, in relative terms about as costly as in lives as treasure as the Filipino insurrection. Which is why it's less important to most Americans than the price of gas.

>we can all imagine the conservative howls of outrage<

Probable. Politics will always exist and one side will use what it can to beat up the other. I doubt though that the Republicans would be as allied with the anti-war movement as the Dems are. Too many fundamental disagreements and they just wouldn't get along as well on a person to person basis.

> I'm not willing to sacrifice American soldiers to prevent someone else's civil war.<

It's your right as an American voter to push that view. It's been ignored and overruled for about five years now, and my guess is that it will be continued to be overruled for at least another two. at which point they probably won't be needed to prevent someone else's civil war.

> but they've got the anchor of George Bush around their necks.<

He'll be gone in six months, and while memory of him will remain, any loss isn't isn't going to come on his watch, so much of the blame will fall on whoever replaces him (if we then lose).

Figures like General Petraeus are against a quick pull out, for instance, and he has a very high reputation among the American public. The military is the most respected institution in America, and they would be against a quick pull out. So in 2012 it won't be "George Bush was against President Obama pull-out that led to disaster," it would be "The Military said it was a bad idea, but Obama overruled them and it led to disaster!"

Also, it's more emotionally satisfying for many people to beleive that their side could have won if only they had tried a little harder.

> And, of course, that's all they ever were looking for; this war always had more to do with domestic politics than with the global interests of the United States.<

Curses! You biting insight and totally impressive analysis has figured us out! Excuse me while I go pet a white cat and meet with a board of shadowy figures to discuss what shall be done now that our secret is lose, and on the internet of all places.

Dan Moran said...

That must be very psychotically comforting for you. It is much easier to think your political enemies are just twirling their evil mustaches than that they may be good smart people who see things differently from you.

It is a bit childish though.


Shrug. The people who got us into Iraq are either not good, or not smart. If that's a psychotically comforting childish analysis, I'll stand by it.

From the American perspective, it's a small scale war, in relative terms about as costly as in lives as treasure as the Filipino insurrection. Which is why it's less important to most Americans than the price of gas.

I'll stand by "epic disaster," too. The fact that it's only killed or maimed 40K American troops may make it cheap and small scale by some standards, but the total weight of this war is epic. It's destroyed American standing in the world, destabilized oil markets and directly led to the remarkable cost of gas, cost us a trillion+ dollars, robbed thousands of Americans of their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters; and killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Figures like General Petraeus are against a quick pull out, for instance, and he has a very high reputation among the American public. The military is the most respected institution in America, and they would be against a quick pull out. So in 2012 it won't be "George Bush was against President Obama pull-out that led to disaster," it would be "The Military said it was a bad idea, but Obama overruled them and it led to disaster!"

Yes, no doubt conservatives will run that line. But possibly some of the rest of us will point out that it was conservatives who got us into this disastrous war in the first place, and then lacked the courage to admit their error and bring the troops home.

Also, it's more emotionally satisfying for many people to beleive that their side could have won if only they had tried a little harder.

True at the level of more emotionally satisfying, but also true at the level of, it's true. Had the United States' survival been at risk in either Viet Nam or Iraq, we'd have won both wars. Both wars were started for foolish reasons and the American public never supported them the way they'd have supported a war where the United States had a meaningful interest in victory.

Curses! You biting insight and totally impressive analysis has figured us out! Excuse me while I go pet a white cat and meet with a board of shadowy figures to discuss what shall be done now that our secret is lose, and on the internet of all places.

Any time.

AF1 said...

"Afl: Your view of things is simplistic. Here is the scenario to be afraid of if we are perceived as weak. The perception of U.S weakness encourages Middle Eastern armies to start a war with Israel."

Let Israel and it's neighbors deal with it. It's not worth the lives of our soldiers or worth our tax dollars.

I don't agree that Israel would need nukes, by the way. The US has supplied them with plenty of advanced armaments.

And they have won against a combined force of Arab coutnries before.

Marty S said...

Afl: Yes, Israel won against the combined forces 35 years ago, the nature of the forces and weaponry has changed just a wee bit since then. In the last battle Israel couldn't even defeat just the forces of Hezzbola.
During the Cuban missile crisis, we were discussing the situation at dinner my father commented that he was worried. He said the U.S. and Russia would never fight a war. He said the next flashpoint for a major world war would be the Mideast. To me that prediction still looks pretty good.

Shady_Grady said...

I do not think that the US should use the spectre of civil war or ethnic cleansing or whatever to justify its presence in Iraq.

Those evils were unleashed as a result of the US invasion. The US has absolutely no right to be in Iraq. It's a war crime. This is not just hyperbole. Launching a war of aggression is a violation of just about any moral or legal principle one can cite. People were hanged or imprisoned at Nuremberg for this.

Occupying nations always like to posit themselves as essential to keeping the peace. It's rarely the case.

The majority of Americans think the war was a bad idea and want a schedule to leave. Similarly, so do the majority of Iraqis.

The fact that withdrawal hasn't occurred is testimony to the fact that the War Party is pretty firmly ensconced in both political parties, Democrat and Republican.

I don't see this as a conservative/liberal issue. There are plenty of anti-war conservatives and pro-war liberals.