Politics: August 2002 Archives

"There's no cave deep enough for America, or dark enough to hide." —Oklahoma City, Okla., Aug. 29, 2002

Courtesy of Slate.

NY Times columnist Maureen Dowd announces, "I'm with Dick! Let's Make War." She admits she was dubious at first, but says that Cheney's vision -- as the vice-president put it, "a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized" -- convinced her. "I'm on board," she says. "Let's declare war on Saudi Arabia!"

My favorite part:

The Saudis would probably use surrogates to fight anyway. They pay poor workers from other countries to do their menial labor. And they paid the Americans to fight the Iraqis in 1991. The joke among the American forces then was: "What's the Saudi national anthem? 'Onward, Christian Soldiers.' "

I'm a total amateur compared to Republicans when it comes to cognitive dissonance. How they are able to oppose the International Criminal Court -- using the constitutional protections given a U.S. citizen as an excuse -- while putting American citizens in jail and denying them their rights as "enemy combatants" is beyond my comprehension. Sometimes political cartoons say it better.

As someone who thinks a pre-emptive strike on a country that few people other than Bush believe is a significant threat to us, I just signed Move On's petition. This group got started during the horrors of the Clinton impeachment/Republican coup.

I will not feel safe in a world, as an American and a New Yorker, that justifiably believes that force is the only way to convince the USA of anything.

A Republican administration that has Kissinger telling it this is a bad idea is a danger to us all.

P.S. Are we really going to be safer if every country with weapons of mass destruction thinks we might attack them? It brings new meaning to the phrase "use 'em or lose 'em".

Apparently the people around him can't spell his name correctly. I'll quote it in case it gets fixed:

What is Trade Promotion Authority?

"It is important for America to understand that we’re good at what we do. We can compete with anybody in the world. We'’ve got the most productiv workforce on the face of the Earth; therefore, let’s open up markets to sell our products. The Senate has got to give me the ability to do that."

—President George W. Buh
Charleston, West Virginia
January 24, 2002

"Good jobs depend on expanded trade. Selling into new markets creates new jobs, so I ask Congress to finally approve trade promotion authority."

--President George W. Buh
State of the Union Address
January 29, 2002

Remember the guy held for months until Ashcroft suddenly announced his "capture" as the corporate scandals erupted? He's been held without a lawyer and without being charged with anything, and the government doesn't seem to have a case.

This is a brilliant summary of his comments on a WBAI show.

I received a response from leftyblog regarding my little rant about the wimpiness and conservatism of the Democratic Party and its supporters, but I just now had enough time to write my response. The beginning shows up on the main page of the site, but I don't think I can link directly to it.

Read my entire rebuttal here.

Bush falters but who dare oppose him?

Here wobbles America, then, plutocracy rampant, 11 months into shadowy war, economically troubled, suspicious of allies, suspected by allies, hated - and American politics remains becalmed and unready. A lot of weak wills wait for events to take the initiative they're not taking.

I'm reaching the limits of the comment system so I'm posting my response to swerdloff's comments on this here.

How can you say we have enough troups in Afghanistan? I'll quote the Washington Post on April 17:

The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand knowledge.

Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted communications, that bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave complex along Afghanistan's mountainous eastern border. Though there remains a remote chance that he died there, the intelligence community is persuaded that bin Laden slipped away in the first 10 days of December.

Of course, this really begs the question of whether we've done anything about 9/11 at all. No one has ever presented evidence to the public that anyone involved in the plot is still alive -- that we know who was involved other than the 19 hijackers. Even the "20th" hijacker prosecution lacks evidence that would stand up in a normal court of law. Merely telling us that there is evidence and even the courts can't see it is not acceptable. How do we know the funders weren't members of the Saudi royal family rather than Bin Laden and Al Quaeda?

It's not surprising to read articles that ask whether this was as much about controlling Central Asian oil as it was about "revenge". Who employed Karzai and many members of his government before 9/11? Unocal.

We also have not provided enought troops to actually regain civilian control of areas of Afghanistan outside of Kabul. They are once again controlled by the warlords of the pre-Taliban era. Remember Laura Bush, et al, talking about how this was a war about liberating women? When Karzai announced his cabinet 2 weeks ago, the minister for women's affairs was not filled. It may not ever be, either because it's too dangerous, or because of the opposition of religious conservatives. Remember a member of the government has already been assassinated.

Regarding Yugoslavia, I'll quote the Tony Judt article I talked about in another post:

Earlier this year the US ambassador for human rights called for the early dismissal of the ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia -- even though these are integral to any serious war on international terror and the US itself spent millions of dollars to bribe Belgrade into handing Slobodan Milosevic over to the Hague tribunal.

Of 45,000 peace-keeping troops in the world, 700 are American, although we have troops stationed in approximately 150 countries. I refuse to count military advisers in places like Indonesia and the Philippines as peace-keepers. We have also announced that any country receiving aid from the U.S. will have to certify that it considers U.S. troops immune from prosecution of the International Criminal Court. It's rather difficult to argue that we are a force for justice and peace in the world at this point. Why anyone should believe that our military might exist except to provide us with cheap oil and an inordinate proportion of the world's resources is beyond me.

Regarding the NY Times: I read a lot of news sources, ranging from The Economist (not very liberal), to the Guardian, Ha'aretz, the BBC, etc. because I don't trust one source for news. The Times is a pretty good paper, but it's a centrist establishment paper, and I wouldn't confuse it with a "liberal" news source any day.

In the end, I think the thing that frustrates me the most is that what we're doing isn't even particularly effective. Even if I were a Kissinger-style "realpolitik" thinker, I wouldn't think the Bush Administration policies make sense. They really only make sense in the context of enriching defense companies and oil companies. We are spending a fortune, even before Iraq, and it's not making it any safer for Americans overseas or in their own country. We are devoting more and more resources to military spending while the rest of the world is realizing that it's not economically effective to do so. We are risking our own economic well-being, whether we care about anyone else in the world or not.

The always brilliant Tony Judt (don't miss the Road to Nowhere links) uses a review of
The Paradox of American Power: Why The World's Only Superpower Can't Go It Alone to discuss how this country's focus on unilaterism and military power over all other forms of persuasion are making us less able to influence world affairs.

I will summarize his points (all emphasis is mine, not his):

  • The US is often a delinquent international citizen. It is reluctant to join international initiatives or agreements, whether on climate warming, biological warfare, criminal justice, or women's rights; the US is one of only two states (the other being Somalia) that have failed to ratify the 1989 Convention on Children's Rights. The present US administration has "unsigned" the Rome Treaty establishing an International Criminal Court and has declared itself no longer bound by the Vienna Convention on Law of Treaties, which sets out the obligations of states to abide by treaties they have yet to ratify.

  • Focusing on the ICC treaty: There are only 700 Americans currently serving overseas in UN peacekeeping missions (out of a total of 45,000 personnel), and the ICC already contained clauses, inserted explicitly to mollify Washington, that virtually exempted UN missions from prosecution. Washington's stance is particularly embarrassing because it makes a mockery of American insistence upon the international pursuit and prosecution of terrorists and other political criminals; and because it provides American cover for countries and politicians who have real cause to fear the new Court. All of our allies on the UN Security Council voted against the US on this matter; meanwhile Washington's opposition to the International Criminal Court is shared by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, Israel, and Egypt.

  • In Nye's view, international relations today resemble a particularly intricate game of three-dimensional chess. On one level there is hard military power, a terrain where the US reigns uncontested. On the second level there is economic power and influence: in this field the European Union already challenges the US in trade, the regulation of monopolies, and the setting of industrial standards, and outdistances America in telecommunications, environmental policy, and much else. At the third level Nye places the multifarious and proliferating nongovernmental activities shaping our world: currency flows, migration, transnational corporations, NGOs, international agencies, cultural exchanges, the electronic media, the Internet, and terrorism. Non-state actors communicate and operate across this terrain virtually unconstrained by government interference; and the power of any one state, the US included, is readily frustrated and neutralized.

    The trouble with the people in charge of shaping and describing US policy today, according to Nye, is that they are only playing at the first level, their vision restricted to American military firepower. In his words, "Those who recommend a hegemonic American foreign policy based on such traditional descriptions of American power are relying on woefully inadequate analysis."

  • The European Union (including its candidate members) currently contributes ten times more peacekeeping troops worldwide than the US, and in Kosovo, Bosnia, Albania, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere the Europeans have taken more military casualties than the US. Fifty-five percent of the world's development aid and two thirds of all grants-in-aid to the poor and vulnerable nations of the globe come from the European Union. As a share of GNP, US foreign aid is barely one third the European average. If you combine European spending on defense, foreign aid, intelligence gathering, and policing—all of them vital to any sustained war against international crime—it easily matches the current American defense budget. Notwithstanding the macho preening that sometimes passes for foreign policy analysis in contemporary Washington, the United States is utterly dependent on friends and allies in order to achieve its goals.

Oh my goodness, it's too good to even quote. Just go and read it.

Can someone please explain to me how we can afford to have a larger defense budget than the next 25 countries combined, but we're not going to make the deadline for screening all airline baggage for explosives?

Foreign Policy has a very interesting article whose thesis is that America is now in decline because of a number of factors, including:

  • Public and private spending that is too heavily focused on military technology

  • The damage to our economic interests from an attack on Iraq

  • The likely failure of an attack on Iraq to "win" given the high risk of casualties and the lack of public support for combat leading to significant losses

  • The collapse in our world stature and leadership when we, as the foremost military power in history, fail to create a sustainable regime to follow Saddam Hussein

This page is an archive of entries in the Politics category from August 2002.

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