Saturday, February 19, 2005

A modest proposal

It's all to the good that the Bush regime is appealing to the U.N. to provide additional help in Iraq. It's also significant to read the subtle but crucial change in the language of what is being requested. In the past, all the Bushists asked from the international community was money and troops in support of an American-defined agenda. But yesterday Negroponte extended this request by asking for "whatever assistance is possible to the government and people of Iraq."

In other words, even the Bushists themselves on some level are recongizing the illegitimacy of their actions, which is why they're going back to the U.N. to ask for more than just troops. What they're asking for is legitimation. I don't think this is a cynical ploy, either: the Bush regime would love any help it can get in Iraq, both in practical physical terms, and in terms of legitimation.

With that said, conservatives aren't exactly wrong when they say that there's little chance that the U.N. will respond in any useful way to Negroponte's pleas. I say "not exactly wrong" because what they are wrong about is in the implication that garnering more international help is inherently impossible. Receiving such help is in fact, I believe, very possible -- but only if the Bushists are willing to concede political-diplomatic ground to the position of the international community on the original legitimacy of the war.

However, it is true that the international community will do nothing to help legitimate the initial decision to go to war, which so many of them opposed. In other words, as long as the Bushies insist that the war itself was legitimate in the first place, the international community will allow us to continue stewing in it alone.

If the Bushists really want help, I would suggest, what they ought to do is say, "We renounce the doctrine of preemption; we admit the war in Iraq was a mistake; we admit that we violated well-established and worthy international norms in going to war without the Security Council's approval; and we promise we won't do anything like this again." If the Bushies were to do something like this -- in other words, if they were to concede the diplomatic defeat of their hyperimperial ambitions -- then I believe the international community would be much more likely to provide significant material and moral support in the ongoing situation in Iraq.

Needless to say, the proposal is a nonstarter. These guys would rather have a dozen Americans get killed in the Mesopotamian sands every week for the indefinite future than concede a political point to those dastardly Old Europeans and their fellow travelling Third Worldistas.


Zak Braverman said...

However, it is true that the international community will do nothing to help legitimate the initial decision to go to war, which so many of them opposed. This means, of course, that they are willing to hang the Iraqis out to dry to get back at the Bushies.

You make it sound elevated, but that's exactly what it means, and anybody who can read between the lines knows it.

The correctness or the morality of the Bush administration aside, do you think this willingness on the part of the UN to let Iraqis bleed to prove Bush wrong is moral or correct, Nils?

purpleprose said...

I disagree strongly, Zak, in the claim of an immoral equvalence here. Both sides are equally guilty, it is true, in hanging the Iraqi people out to dry.

However, the international community is at least trying to stand up for the principle that no country should go invading another without Security Council approval (i.e. unless everyone important agrees that it is necessary). Their goal in this strategy is not simple political vindictiveness, as you imply, but rather to prevent future Iraq-style disasters -- an extremely morally worthy goal. To put it concretely, they are trying to help the Iranian people, the Syrian people, the North Korean people... and who knows who else after that? The Cubans? The Venezuelans?

zachawry said...

I was going to add more to that comment, but Blogger seemed to be busy (get a real host-blogger still sucks) and wouldn't let me in.

The fact is that Iraq has already proved to everyone concerned that pre-emptive war is not a "cake-walk", and I think there is essentially zero chance of any US government going to war "voluntarily" in the next several decades. So, the UN's position against pre-emptive war has already won out in the hearts and minds of everybody. Even the neocons would be much more hesitant about launching a pre-emptive war now, and the average American a hundred times more so.

If you accept this as a fact (and I think any reasonable observation of the political climate would), then the UN's reluctance to step into Iraq is nothing but petty vindictiveness that also happens to go against their own interest. We should not lose track of the fact that, whether or not anybody believes Bush was right or wrong, a successful Iraq will be a hundred times better for the "world community" than a failed one.

(And, the chance of Bush or anybody else going and launching wars against NK (totally impossible for anybody who knows anything about it), Venezuala, etc. are so nonexistant that I can only assume you are being purposefully facetious.)

purpleprose said...

I reject the premise, Zak, on which you admit your argument rests, namely that "there is essentially zero chance of any US government going to war 'voluntarily' in the next several decades." First of all, let's talk about the next obvious target: Iran. As I blogged about five weeks ago, there's evidence that the attack against Iran is already being planned. And just listen to what Bush and Rice have themselves been saying, "We're not planning on attacking Iran... now"; "it's not the cards... at the moment"; etc. They're explicitly leaving the option on the table. Are you really so sure they're bluffing? Real men, as the saying goes, want to go to Tehran.

Secondly, who would have thought even a couple of years ago that this clique of militaristic rightwingers (supported by the "Paranoid Style coalition" of religious fundamentalists and popular chauvinists) could have so completely hijacked our foreign policy, and committed themselves so explicitly to doing the unthinkable? Now, have you seen any of these guys saying, "Ooops, yeah, we were wrong, we won't be invading anyone again any time soon?" Of course not. Zak, these guys feel vindicated by Iraq, not chastened.

I don't disagree that an attack on NK would be insane, but then I considered the attack on Iraq insane, and they went ahead and did that. As for Cuba, it's not like we haven't invaded them a couple times before. Who knows what options get considered after Castro dies, depending on how the succession shapes up.

Finally, Zak, I would point out that if you go back over the history of our country, you'll be hard pressed to identify any 2+ decade period where we did not voluntarily attack another nation. Militarism has always been part of our political culture, but now the hardliners have taken over and have moved what was a subculture to the center stage.

I for one can't but feel sympathy for those who feel like these hardliners need to have their political oxygen cut off before they can do even more catastrophic harm.

Anonymous said...


Zak Braverman said...

Nils, you may be right, although I hope not (for reasons far beyond winning an argument!).

The bit from the Hersh piece about planning an attack on Iran seems whacky to me, though. I mean, that's what people in the Pentagon do: they sit around making and updating various kinds of military plans for all sorts of situations. They'd be remiss in their duties if they didn't, so it means nothing that they are. I'm sure they have for the past couple decades as well.