Liberty & Power: Group Blog
Roderick T. Long
"Israeli political sources said yesterday that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will get a written U.S. pledge that in exchange for a Gaza pullout, Israel will be able to keep parts of the West Bank under a future peace deal."
Does the West Bank belong to the United States now?
Close your eyes and you're back in Saigon in 1966 listening to Robert McNamara rhapsodize about the future of Vietnam. All that's missing is the body counts.
The piece makes some rather loopy assertions and slaloms in and out of running-off-the-rails stream-of-consciousness, but it's still more interesting and insightful than any war coverage you're likely to read on NRO these days. I can't wait to see the letters this generates.
David T. Beito
As I wrote earlier, we both chaired an Ad Hoc Committee which was able to force over 200 changes in the document (despite objections from education professors, etc. who wrote the document). Unfortunately, the online version of the article has many typos. For a cleaner and expanded article, see the longer version on HNN .
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
There is a very good article, written by James Traub, with accompanying decorative illustrations by Peter Max, in today's NY Times. Traub's"Making Sense of the Mission" raises some very important questions—even if I don't agree with many of his answers—about the nature and complexity of nation-building in Iraq. Pointing to the failures of nation-building in such places as Haiti, Traub argues that the task is not impossible, but it"is very hard, and ... it demands a great deal of both patience and modesty—qualities that do not come naturally to American policymakers or, for that matter, to Americans."
It is ironic, of course, that"[d]uring the 2000 Presidential debates, George W. Bush mocked the idea of nation-building as a dangerous Democratic folly. The function of the American military, he often repeated, was 'to fight and win wars.' Bush gave the impression that nation-building was something Bill Clinton and his team of woolly-headed multilateralists had dreamed up. But the truth is that while the term is new, the endeavor is not ..."
Traub discusses a bit of the history of nation-building. He writes that Maj. Gen. William Nash, who first commanded the American division in Bosnia, had discovered that he couldn't separate peacekeeping from nation-building."'The first rule of nation-building is that everything is related to everything,' Nash said, 'and it's all political.' Everything, that is, impinges on somebody's power, and in order to establish stable democratic institutions you have to deal with, and often confront, the political structures that provoked the conflict in the first place."
Ah, yes, that ol' dialectical insight, that in any given context,everything is related to everything. The problem is, of course, that we don't exactly know how things relate in any social order, and, in fact, much of what constitutes social relations is tacit and habitual, having never been formally articulated or even understood by the social actors themselves. A fundamental epistemological weakness of central planning, as F. A. Hayek has shown, is that planners cannot grasp the tacit dimension, which relates to knowledge possessed by individual actors who pursue their own purposes while situated in a particular time and place.
The same principle is just as relevant when considering foreign intervention into a country in which the locals have their own customs and habits. Unintended consequences, which are a normal part of what it means to live in society, are a particularly insidious effect of such intervention. (What we're seeing in Iraq, of course, was not necessarily intended, but many of us have been predicting the chaos for over a year."Unintended" does not mean"unpredictable".)
There is no greater or more forceful form of political intervention than military action. Indeed,"war," observed the 19th century military strategist Carl von Clausewitz,"is the continuation of politics by other means." And like all forms of political intervention, it too generates unintended consequences. In the aftermath of the Iraq war, those who remain to keep the peace are now arguing that there is a need for"about 20 soldiers per 1,000 inhabitants to stabilize an unsettled population.'' This could translate, in Iraq,"to almost half a million troops. And yet," says Traub,"this overwhelming military force must be coupled with a nuanced awareness of local conditions. 'These places tend to be chaotic, dynamic,' said Frederick Barton, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a veteran of many peacekeeping operations. 'Our own institutions tend to be static. You have to head things in the right direction rather than controlling them.' One cannot easily find a peacekeeping mission that exemplifies this peculiar mix of characteristics."
While candidate Bush argued that"nation-building represented the triumph of the nanny state on an international scale," it's pretty clear that the neocon nannies have exerted a strong influence on the stated policy-making goals of his administration, which now aims to foster"political transformation, first in Iraq, then throughout the Middle East. This is, of course, a call to the most ambitious kind of nation-building." It is a call, in other words, to a formal knowledge of conditions of a complex foreign society that central planners of whatever sort will never fully possess.
And so let's not be too surprised by the unintended ripple effects that are now on display in the wake of such folly.
"WEIRD SCIENCE....This story is so weird it defies belief:
The Department of Agriculture refused yesterday to allow a Kansas beef producer to test all of its cattle for mad cow disease, saying such sweeping tests were not scientifically warranted.
The producer, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wanted to use recently approved rapid tests so it could resume selling its fat-marbled black Angus beef to Japan, which banned American beef after a cow slaughtered in Washington State last December tested positive for mad cow. The company has complained that the ban is costing it $40,000 a day and forced it to lay off 50 employees.
....Gary Weber of the cattlemen's association called 100 percent testing misleading to consumers because it would create a false impression that untested beef was not safe. He compared it to demanding that all cars be crash tested to prove they are safe.
....Asked if beef producers did not want to be pressured to imitate Creekstone and pay for more tests, Mr. Weber said it was"absolutely not about the money."
Let me get this straight:
Creekstone wanted to voluntarily test all its own cattle.
They were doing this to respond to demand for tested beef in Japan, a market they wanted to sell into.
The federal government, supposed champion of the free market, refused to allow Creekstone to take this voluntary action.
And the beef spokesman then has the gall to say that this has nothing to do with money. They are just righteous advocates of sound science.
Since when have federal safety regulations prevented someone from voluntarily adopting more stringent measures of their own? Will we be banning Volvos next?
Gus here: A while back Ben and Jerrys was forced to remove a notification that their ice cream did not contain bovine growth hormone because by implication it cast aspersions on those whose milk products did. the chicken industry tried the same with Rocky the Range Hen, but that time they failed.
The greatest threat to the free market is not consumer advocates wanting safety regulations or people wanting social services, it is corporations and their servants in government trying to guarantee special privileges and protections for the economically powerful. By comparison the rest are pikers.
David T. Beito
The official cheerleader publication for the neoconservatives effort to rejuvenate the American Empire’s interventionist agenda around the world, The Wall Street Journal, carried a page one article April 7, 2004, entitled “For Guidance in Iraq, Marines Rediscover A 1940s Manual.” It highlighted that “Small-War Secrets Include: Tips on Nation-Building, The Care of Pack Mules.”
Considering the exploding insurgency in Iraq this week, the insurgents might well proclaim what Gen. George Patton supposedly commented about Gen. Erwin Rommel, “I read your book.!” And, that’s just what is needed in Iraq; some tips on how to care for mules.
Apparently numerous Marine officers have taken the book with them to Iraq, and it has been cited by gung ho congressmen for its insights. Max Boot, then a Journal writer, built a whole book around it two years ago, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars & the Rise of American Power, and has often since written on how the Philippines provide a model for nation building in Iraq.
The Journal article hints, since the Small Wars Manual wasn’t rediscovered until 1972, it might have helped the U.S. win in Vietnam. William Luti, an advisor to Donald Rumsfeld, keeps a copy in his Pentagon office.
Americans love a good “How To” book, and the Journal has long touted this 446 page one, which details how “from 1898 to 1934, the Marines fought a number of small wars, in the Philippines, Cuba, Honduras, China, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.”
What no one bothers to mention is that the great Marine hero Gen. Smedley Butler (2 Medals of Honor, in combat), turned against all of this interventionism in which he had participated (a kind of early Whistle Blower!), in his 1934 book, War is a Racket, listing the nations in which he intervened for American global corporations such as Standard Oil, United Fruit, and the National City Bank. Butler observed that Al Capone operated in three Chicago districts, the Marines on six continents. He concluded, in short, “I was a gangster for Capitalism [Imperialism?]!”
The Journal does point out the Manual may be popular in Iraq not because of its “excellence” but because there is “little serious competition,” and “in the absence of anything better.” What a comment on the intellectual bankruptcy of the Tactics of Empire!
Granted, that it does discuss a bit of what is today called nation building, one wonders if any of its advocates have examined the list of its so-called successes in any dimension other than the short-run military put-down of an insurgency.
The Philippines: The U.S. won because the insurgents had few guns, and with fissures in the revolutionary coalition, never really adopted the tactics of people’s war. The Philippines are rife with corruption and insurgents today, and were in 1981 when this writer lectured there for the USIA. With 220,000 dead Filipinos, and 2,000 Americans, this was a small war? Only if you consider Asians not worth counting!
Cuba: Now there’s a great example of the success of America’s interventionist nation building skills.
Honduras: Not noted as a great success, but under “H” the Journal forgot to mention Haiti, where the Marines intervened several times. Ask Bill Clinton about what a great success story that has been.
China: A growing success, but I‘m not sure about the role played by the U.S. and the Marines in all of that since 1900.
Nicaragua: The Marines in the 1920s made A.C. Sandino a hero all over Latin America for his successful tactics against them and their use of the auto-gyro, the ancestor of the helicopter used with such success in Vietnam and Mogadishu. Our trained police thug and later dictator, the first Somoza, with the knowledge of the American ambassador murdered Sandino as he was coming in under a flag of truce. Well, things are quiet there for now after the events of 1979.
The Dominican Republic: Like Haiti, with the inflation there, hundreds of people are taking to rafts, floating into the shark infested Mona Passage hoping to reach Puerto Rico, since Miami is too far away.
Mexico: The Journal didn’t mention it, but Butler did. Pollsters might ask a wetback swimming the Rio Grande what he thinks about American interventionism.
Russia: Not mentioned by the Journal, but let's remember that the Marine intervention force of 1918-19 had to be recalled because many of the grunts were fraternizing with the Bolsheviks in Vladivostok.
“How To” books deal with Tactics, not whether you should be doing whatever it is you’re trying to do, just as Condi Rice blathered on yesterday about the Tactics of Empire. When will some American leader take on the questions of Strategy and Grand Strategy; What Empire is doing to corrupt America?
In the meantime, with respect to the success of our “small” war interventions, to paraphrase King Pyrrhus, “ A few more successes like Iraq, and we may be undone.”
The article of mine below, with photo, will appear in the Asheville Citizen-Times, NC, Sunday edition. If it appears a bit dated at this point, it is because it was originally written a week ago. A shorter version was posted yesterday by the Independent Institute at antiwar.com:
By William Marina
By William Marina
The death and mutilation of four American private contractors in the Sunni dominated city of Fallujah was followed by the subsequent uprising in at least six cities across Iraq by some of the more radical elements of the Shia militia. The early American response to events in Fallujah was a promise that “we will pacify that city.”
Now the nationalistic uniting of the two religious groups, suggests the insurgency has taken a significant step toward a situation perhaps best described as a “people’s war.” Even the police trained by the U.S. have retreated in the face of this uprising, with some reported to have given their flack jackets to the militia.
With less than two months left until the promised return of some powers to the Iraqis, the increased militarization of the situation means probably more American troops and an uncertain future.
How did the explosive events of the last week come to pass?
The Shiite uprising was caused by the U.S. occupation authority’s closing of a Shiite newspaper for printing allegedly false stories, the arrest of the militant cleric, Moktada al-Sadr’s chief aide, and the issue of an arrest warrant for Sadr.
These events clearly precipitated the crisis; the real question is why did our proconsul, Paul Bremer, choose to do this?
Rumors are rife in Washington that the military was concerned that its role in Iraq would soon diminish as diplomats sought to build some kind of legitimacy leading toward June 30th. If that is so, then clearly the short run winners have been the Iraqi radicals and the American military, because we are now faced with the widespread insurgency, many hoped to avoid.
Only a little over a year ago, neo-conservative pundits were assuring the American people that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq would be a piece of cake. (General Eric Shenseki was sacked from command for suggesting otherwise.)
One of those was Max Boot, a journalist formerly with The Wall Street Journal and now with the Council on Foreign Relations. Mr. Boot's fame rests upon his book, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars & the Rise of American Power (2002), which made him, apparently, a kind of instant neo-con guru on these kind of interventionist counterinsurgencies. One chapter in that volume, based essentially on secondary sources, recounted the U.S. defeat of the Filipino insurgency a century ago.
Few seemed to disagree when Boot put that forward as a model to be followed in Iraq. In the early months of the occupation of Iraq, he visited there, returning with glowing accounts of U.S. success. The neo-cons did not mention that other American intervention, Vietnam, which was a military disaster, and hardly an example of nation-building.
But Iraq and the Philippines are very different. For example, the insurgents in Iraq, while apparently lacking the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration claimed existed, have no shortage of conventional weapons. The Filipinos, on the other hand, were extremely short of them. One might argue that the turning point in the Filipino insurrection came before it had actually begun--when U.S. diplomatic pressure was sufficient to dissuade the Japanese from shipping 5,000 rifles to the insurgents. Our"Benevolent Pacification," as we called it, resulted in the death of 220,000 Filipinos, with 2,000 Americans killed.
How is it that the United States again finds itself in an incipient insurgency with so little real study of past conflicts? In the case of the Philippines, Captain John R. M. Taylor tried for years to get his five-volume study published, arguing in the late 1930s that we might need it in case the U.S. was ever involved in another guerrilla war in Asia.
Fissures existed among the Filipino revolutionary coalition, and the U.S. was able to exploit these to eventually quash the rebellion. The U.S. counterinsurgency also was helped immeasurably by the Filipinos’ choice to fight a more conventional war rather than a real guerrilla insurgency, or people's war.
But a people’s war is what the Iraqis, especially the majority Shia, are now preparing to exploit in the face of a continued American occupation.
The first step in such a war, as can be seen in the Shia’s destruction of the Iraqi village of Kiwali, is to make certain that the Iraqi population understands that there will be no"free riders," and that the population will commit to the side of the insurgents. That process, if it succeeds, will take a while, as it did in the American Revolution against Great Britain. If that occurs in Iraq, helped by a popular reaction to U.S. counter-violence, ours will, indeed, be a very long intervention and occupation.
The insurgents are now also making it clear that Coalition partners and contract companies will not have a cheap ride either. With insurance policies going up by 300%, how many besides V.P. Cheney's old company, Halliburton (now KBR) will choose to stay the course? And, our service men and women, not paid $100,000 to $200,000 for enlisting as are private contractors, are becoming increasingly disillusioned as well. The 15,000 private contractor “security guards” are almost double the 8,000 British soldiers there.
The US military has announced that it is not waiting until the end of this war to assess its successes and mistakes, but is already involved in a Strategic Study of the intervention in Iraq. Given our propensity to use the term"pacify," and its continuity to earlier imperial counterinsurgencies, it will be interesting to see if we select that term to characterize our new program in Iraq.
In the Philippines, of course, we called it,"Benevolent Pacification," and in Vietnam only"Pacification," but the latter was the exact same term adopted by the British in America in 1778, after some American leaders had rejected their peace overtures in favor of Empire -- seeking to gain Florida and Canada as well.
By far the bloodiest part of the War came after that.
David T. Beito
But -- and here's why I think it's an L&P kind of issue -- grade inflation may result from a prisoner's dilemma game. Suppose faculty promotions and even tenure depend in part on student satisfaction with their courses. And suppose that satisfaction depends in part on grades taken. It could be other things like beauty, but there's pretty good evidence of a relationship between ease and satisfaction. Merit pay is a zero-sum game -- the university puts $X in the pot, and professors compete to demonstrate their merits. Now let Professor Smith decide she wants to stop runaway grade inflation and tightens her standards. Student satisfaction wanes because others do not follow her lead, and thereafter Smith receives a smaller merit pay packet. Applied to larger issues of promotion and tenure, the incentives against individual actions to stop grade inflation strike me as rather large. There are similarities between this and the argument about union wage demands during disinflation that I learned as a grad student years ago. Thus, to stop this, it may indeed take a committee, a dean's office or an entire administration. Collective effort might be needed. My libertarian tendencies chafe at the thought, but is there another way?
I don't agree with much of Wolf's worldview as he remains a Keynesian.
Bonds dropped a half point this last week and mortgage rates went up by the same amount, due, I think, to the news about unemployment being down, however inaccurate that figure might be.
David T. Beito
"The paradox inherent in the American occupation is that we may need to demonstrate some of the brutality characteristic of Saddam Hussein to ultimately make Iraq a different and better kind of place than it was under him.... Saddam ruled Iraq in harsh fashion, but that harshness also served a purpose in terms of maintaining order. America needs to maintain order there, too, and one suspects that tanks will prove more useful in the short term for achieving that crucial objective than simply getting the electricity going or providing job opportunities."
Postscript: Andrew Bacevich says the appropriate comparision for Iraq is not Vietnam but Algeria.
As we move toward setting up a Quisling government in Iraq, with a requested increase in troops while talking of handing over power June 30th -- our Kommandant in Guantanamo has just been sent to Iraq to supervise more prisons there (some exit strategy !) -- we should not forget the events which continue to unfold in Israel. A Financial Times piece, for subscribers only, is pasted in below.
You might also want to check out this NYT piece describing the growth of Islam in Rwanda, based in no small part on the Muslims heroic efforts to protect people from the killers ten years ago, while it would appear many Christians, especially Catholics, were complicit in the affair.
Also, here is a piece of mine on Iraq, linked as well at antiwar.com:
A somewhat lengthier and updated version of this will appear in The Asheville Citizen-Times next Sunday. http://www.citizen-times.com/ ---------------------------------------------------------------------
Financial Times April 6 2004
Sharon's gamble could trigger holy war
By Henry Siegman
Since September 11 2001, Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, and members of his government have insisted that there is not much difference between al-Qaeda and Hamas and that indeed Israel's war with Hamas places Israel in the vanguard of President George W. Bush's global war on terror.
It is this conception of Hamas that underlies not only Mr Sharon's justification for the assassination two weeks ago of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, but also the difficulty Mr Bush seems to have in objecting to Mr Sharon's resort to extra-judicial executions.
The analogy between Hamas and al-Qaeda is false. Hamas, for all its fundamentalist Islamic passions, is a movement for Palestinian national liberation with a clear political agenda - the establishment of a Palestinian state. While its convictions define the Palestinian national goal as a return to all of Palestine, the goal of statehood is so central for Hamas that Sheikh Yassin offered an open-ended ceasefire ( hudna ) if Israel were to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and return to the pre-1967 borders.
Israelis view those who attach any seriousness to such Hamas declarations as hopelessly naive. They are convinced that no one understands Hamas and Palestinians better than they do because they live with them and next to them. But for all this geographic intimacy, the understanding that many Israelis have of Palestinians is profoundly and pathologically distorted. The two peoples' century-long conflict has resulted in demonisation of the other, not deeper mutual understanding.
An Israeli security expert who sees the situation in entirely different terms is Ephraim Halevy. Mr Halevy was until last September the head of Israel's National Security Council and Mr Sharon's national security adviser. In an interview published in the newspaper Ha'aretz (September 4 2003), Mr Halevy said:"Anyone who thinks it is possible to ignore so central an element of Palestinian society [as Hamas] is simply mistaken." While Mr Halevy advocated"a strategy of brutal force" against its terrorist activities, he urged Israel's government to encourage Hamas' political and religious leadership to"enter the fabric of the Palestinian establishment". He added:"In the end, there will be no way around Hamas being a partner in the Palestinian government". Mr Halevy also insisted that the conflict between Judaism and Islam was"resolvable" and that the two could achieve"a historic hudna such as existed between Islam and Christianity for the past 300 years".
When Abu Mazen was appointed prime minister of the Palestinian Authority last year, Hamas leaders declared a hudna partly because they did not want the US or their own activists to see their conflict with Israel as connected to al-Qaeda's ideological war with the west. They feared that such a perception would discredit the Palestinian national struggle and permanently alienate Washington. Despite their political and ideological extremism, Hamas' leaders are pragmatic and understand that, ultimately, Palestinian statehood cannot be achieved without US support. That is why when Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a hard-liner who replaced Sheikh Yassin as Hamas' leader in the occupied territories, threatened to launch terrorist attacks against the US, he retracted the threat the following day.
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah told me in 1999 that Saudis saw the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in political, not religious, terms. Therefore, if the two parties were to reach a reasonable compromise based on the pre-1967 borders, Saudi Arabia would establish normal diplomatic ties with Israel.
Mr Sharon's decision, however, to assassinate a man seen as a religious leader by both Palestinians and Muslims risks transforming what most Muslims have so far considered to be a conflict over competing national and territorial claims - albeit claims that have religious resonances - into a religious conflict whose claims are absolute and existential.
The insistence by Mr Sharon and so many Israelis that Sheikh Yassin deserved his fate is beside the point. To be sure, Hamas had no right to demand immunity for someone who provided religious legitimacy for the brutal killing of Israeli civilians. But if the assassination is transforming Israel's conflict with the Palestinians into a religious war, the Israeli civilians in whose name Mr Sharon carries out these extra-judicial killings may yet pay a far more bitter price.
The writer is a senior fellow on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations