How do we defeat militant Islam?
While I was and am a strong supporter of the Iraq war, I have been increasingly worried about the course of American policy in occupied Iraq, and about the continuing absence of a broad ranging public debate on where the war on terror is headed and what our options are. My un-ease was not lessened by the president’s superficial, “just stay the course” speech this week, which, moreover, he delivered with a disconcertingly blank expression on his face, adding to the impression that he does not have a fully thought-out policy. What follows is a collection of observations and exchanges on the question of how do we “win” this war. As the reader will see, I repeatedly raise the same question, but do not arrive at any satisfactory answer.
As I have written before, I have sympathy with, though I am not committed to, Michael Ledeen’s idea of going after the Terror Masters, not because I believe in Ledeen’s utopian notion of a global crusade for democratic revolution, but because I recognize the reasonableness of his argument that the only way to defeat our Islamic terrorist enemies is to defeat the regimes that back them. But the experience in Iraq draws home the point that overthrowing a bad government or governments does not necessarily end the problem. The forces of militant Islam are deep and powerful. They are not going to go away. I don’t see how moderate (let alone “democratic”) governments that we might help set up in these countries (assuming we could ever set them up) would have the force and effectiveness to suppress the radical elements in their midst.
Given these facts, what does “success” mean, and how do we get there? Mainstream war supporters do not ask the latter question. Consider these two commentatators at National Review Online who accept Bush’s premise of “success” in Iraq, without asking how this “success” is to be achieved.
His was a stay-the-course speech. Iraq remains the “central front” in the war on terror. Since terrorist attacks are inspired by a perception of weakness, America must respond vigorously and take the fight to the enemy. In answer to those who would have us cut and run, Bush argued that it would serve the strategic ends of the enemy. That is not an option. To finish the job, more funds are needed. More help from our allies is needed.Richard Lowry:
Bush argued that terrorism emanates from the politics of the Middle East, which ranges from the poles of secular fascism to radical theocracy without a lot in between. Nearly all the regimes in the region are complicit in terrorism one way or another. So stamping out Islamic terrorism isn’t possible without at least changing the behavior of these regimes. Iraq is the strategic linchpin in the region and creating a decent pluralistic, pro-Western government there will create a new model for Middle East politics and pressure the surrounding governments. This was always the most compelling geo-strategic reason for the Iraq war, but it was usually overshadowed by others (WMD, U.N. compliance) and has been derided as “the domino theory.” Of course, other Arab governments aren’t just going to collapse if we succeed in Iraq. But if you want just a hint of how U.S. success there could have a subversive effect, consider the way other dictatorial Arab governments—dishonestly, but tellingly—have had to pay lip service to democracy in Iraq. Such words, even if insincere, have consequences.I unfolded my thoughts about this lack of discussion of what “success” would require in a thread at lucianne.com. While it is evident that my interlocutor was misconstruing some of what I was saying, I find her remarks interesting enough, and expressive of a certain kind of mentality, to reproduce them here. My own comments also reflect what I was saying right after 9/11, that we needed to go after our immediate enemies, but after that, our longer term strategy should be a mutual separation between the West and Islam.
After this lucianne.com exchange is an e-mail exchange with a correspondent who tends to support the Michael Ledeen approach.
Exchange at lucianne.com
Reply 65—Posted by: Larry 9/8/2003 5:14:50 PMExchange with correspondent
I had raised with him the same concerns expressed above, about how how do we “win” this war if our enemies just keep coming at us, and he replied:
Well, why is it different from fighting militant fascism or militant communism? As you know, I believe that this “war” should be fought primarily with political weapons, and with military ones only when absolutely necessary … but I think that when the “terror masters” are defeated, there will be fewer militant islamists, because they will see that their leaders were false prophets.As I said at the beginning, I did not find either LoneStarDaughter’s replies nor those of my correspondent satisfactory. I do think that we have a very big problem and that we need to talk much more thoroughly than we have so far about what our aims are, how we get there, and what the costs may be.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 10, 2003 09:16 PM | Send
It seems we need to drive Muslims behind strategic borders and then maintain deterrence. This of course should include repatriating Muslims already in the West along with individual Muslim sympathizers. South of the Sahara Desert would be a good place. It seems to be militarily possible for those in parts of the former Soviet Union, in India, and in more western areas. I don’t have any ideas on East Asian Muslims unless the Japanese and Chinese are willing to help.Posted by: P Murgos on September 10, 2003 11:18 PM
In theory, Mr. Murgos’s proposal, like my own, would at least seem to have a logical endpoint: when Islam and the West are disengaged, when Islam is contained in the same manner in which we contained the Soviet Union, when we deal with them from a respectful distance, then there could be, if not entire peace, at least an absence of outright war. In comparison, the idea of being forever entangled with them, and so having to wage perpetural war against them, would seem to make the prospect of a livable peace impossible.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 10, 2003 11:47 PM
There is one matter that has to be addressed here, and it’s not a light one: a 3-letter word — O-I-L.Posted by: Joel on September 11, 2003 12:40 AM
Libertarians believe we can hide behind our borders and wait for the rest of the world to Whiggishly evolve into liberal democrats at the end of history. Neoconservatives argue that we should force the pace of evolution through military expansion. What is left for traditionalist conservatives but to recognize that we are limited in our ability to change distant and ancient cultures, and so no “logical endpoint” exists?
We should help our friends and hurt our enemies to the degree prudent. We should destroy regimes which threaten us, and we should try to track and destroy terrorists if we can. We should obviously do a lot more about our borders, and we should actively study and teach the Western and Christian civilization which we revere. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we can “win” this thing. We can just stay alive as long as we can until it passes.
I’m changing my screen name from DR, which isn’t really pronounceable and which I keep forgetting anyway. Agricola was the father-in-law of Tacitus, whom the historian put forth as proof of the possibility of being an honorable man in the dishonorable age of the emperor Domitian.Posted by: Agricola on September 11, 2003 12:05 PM
What is striking about your exchange with the lucianne.com posters, Mr. Auster, is how quickly their arguments have become cliche. I see that stuff posted regularly on pro-Bush sites. Odd, isn’t it, that lonestarwhatever would propose simultaneously bombing every Muslim into oblivion and cheering on Bush, especially since Bush’s first stated wish in Afghanistan was to “bomb them with food”.
You know, I’m not sure that any of these arguments matter. We’re going to lose this war. We’re going to lose in Iraq, because we’re fighting there with the same beliefs and restrictions that caused us to fail in Vietnam. Win those hearts and minds! It reminds me of the scene in Stanley Kubrick’s FULL METAL JACKET, where a Marine colonel, standing over the mass grave of executed Vietnamese, instructs the film’s protagonist that: “Inside the heart of every Gook, there is an American waiting to get out.” Such a grotesque combination of overwhelming arrogance and incredible ignorance describes the Bush administration in a nutshell. Fourteen centuries of Muslim culture, they seem to think, can be swept away in a frenzy of importing American ideas and building some sort of Washington D.C. on the Euphrates.
As for deporting our enemies living amongst us, isn’t that just a fantasy? Does anybody really think that anything short of simultaneous suitcase nuclear bomb attacks on several American cities by “undocumented immigrants” from Muslim countries will move the citizenry to do anything?Posted by: Paul on September 11, 2003 12:09 PM
Agricola’s points are reasonable, but don’t quite respond the question I raised. He says: “We should help our friends and hurt our enemies to the degree prudent. We should destroy regimes which threaten us, and we should try to track and destroy terrorists if we can.” Fine, but what do we do after we destroy a regime that threatens us, and we realize that if we just go home something like that regime will return to power and we’ll be in the same spot as before? And if we realize that if we start killing the terrorist loyalists of that regime, more and more of them keep coming? That’s my question.
Paul says deporting Muslims is a fantasy. That may be, but I’m not asking what is politically possible at this moment. I’m asking, if we were to pursue the _best_ policy, what would that policy be?Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 11, 2003 12:35 PM
Mr. Auster replied: “Paul says deporting Muslims is a fantasy. That may be, but I’m not asking what is politically possible at this moment. I’m asking, if we were to pursue the _best_ policy, what would that policy be?”
The *best* policy? Oh, ok. How about the same policy, at least, that characterized our effort during World War II: *anything and everything to win*. That is: realizing that civilians are part of the enemy war effort,too; that internment camps based on racial and national origins are necessary; that deportation is central; that summary executions or imprisonment for enemy agents who happen also to be American citizens must be carried out; use of area bombing, fire bombing, and, yes, nuclear bombing to eliminate resistance and *defeat* and *destroy* our foes; some degree of sacrifice from the general population, say, in energy usage (something other than being told to go out and consume and shop). In short, the same “total war” concept employed in World War II.Posted by: Paul on September 11, 2003 1:02 PM
Our all-out, no-holds-barred approach to fighting WWII ended with Communist control of China and Eastern Europe. War is a profoundly unconservative force, and in the twentieth century led to the destruction of American federalism and a disintegration of traditional sexual and cultural mores. Robert Nisbet is perhaps the most eloquent of the many conservatives who have discussed this.
Would the deportation of Muslims include those Americans who had converted to Islam? How much power would the central government have over the religious life of its subjects? (This differs from the internment of people who were ethnically/racially Japanese, it seems to me).
If in ten years Iraq is again a terrorist-supporting nation, we’ll have to invade again, and we’ll have gained ten years. No one knows how to get at the “root causes” of Islamic militancy, but I’m sure that attempts to do so carry grave dangers domestically as well as internationally.Posted by: Agricola on September 11, 2003 2:06 PM
“In short, the same “total war” concept employed in World War II.”
Posted by: Paul on September 11, 2003 01:02 PM
since total war is also immoral, paul’s “*best* policy” leaves just a little bit to be desired.
“Total war” on a materially bankrupt civilization fraught with unutterable delusion and dreary despotism everywhere, and alive with febrile spiritual energy? I don’t think so.
More and more I think the answer is that Islam must be defeated; that is, Muslims must be brought back to the Christian faith, of which so many were a part before the rise of Islam. Now, it is difficult to imagine a task for which we post-modern Westerners are more poorly suited. In addition, Islam has always proven most unresponsive to Christian apostles. Even St. Francis, the man who most nearly approximated Jesus Christ, was unsuccessful.
This is a task for a saint of almost unimaginable stature and holiness. For us, the task is to recover our history, our historical faith, and begin the restoration of confidence in its truth.
As a matter of policy, there is alot of searching reflection and self-scrutiny to be done — something which, I agree with Mr. Auster, is distressingly absent. A great deal of work must still be done domestically: on immigration and internal security, for example. Outside the country, my sense is that we must develop an “imperial cunning,” as it were, playing on intra-Arab quarrels, fomenting insurrection here, strengthening acceptable despotism here, acting with speed and ruthlessness; generally working to undermine the civilization that opposes us and strengthen within it the pro-Western elements (for example, our indifference toward the persecution of Christian by Muslims, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East is inexcusable).Posted by: Paul Cella on September 11, 2003 2:35 PM
In the second paragraph above, I meant “the Muslim peoples” not “Muslims.”Posted by: Paul Cella on September 11, 2003 2:38 PM
Agricola, of course, is correct that war radically transforms a society. But I’d argue that the victory of NS or, today, Islam just might transform “traditional sexual and cultural mores” even more radically. And, abby, what is it you propose? I am sincerely interested in hearing just what else might work. I believe that it will take “Total War” to win. But, as I indicated above, I greatly doubt we will employ such a strategy and, as a result, are going to lose this war. I doubt, therefore, we’ll need to worry much about morality, one way or the other.
““Total war” on a materially bankrupt civilization fraught with unutterable delusion and dreary despotism everywhere, and alive with febrile spiritual energy? I don’t think so.”
whether or not a civilization is materially bankrupt and fraught with unutterable delusion and dreary despotism everywhere, and alive with febrile spiritual energy, is not relevant as to whether or not total war is immoral.
we are not responsible for the actions of others, but we are responsible for our own actions. as st. agustine writes, it is immoral for us to use evil acts in order to attempt to bring about a good end. total war is an evil per se, thus we are prevented from applying total war as a means of self defense.
Posted by: abby on September 11, 2003 3:34 PM
Paul Cella writes: A great deal of work must still be done domestically: on immigration and internal security, for example. Outside the country, my sense is that we must develop an “imperial cunning.” …
This seems rather an understatement. “Work” on immigration, great or otherwise, is beyond yielding results. The tens of millions of Third Worlders living amongst us now hold us hostage. Like the vast numbers of Muslims in France, our Latins, Asians, Africans, and Middle Easterners hold a veto over any democratically produced policy that might affect their status. Abroad, meanwhile, the outline of actions you summarize as “imperial cunning” sounds distressingly similar to the combination of diplomatic, military, and economic policies that characterized the “Great Game” and eventually led to British and Russian/Soviet ruin.Posted by: Paul on September 11, 2003 3:38 PM
An understatement indeed. And I can’t see how a shrewder imperial policy would be more ruinous than total war withput end.
I don’t think total war is moral either.Posted by: Paul Cella on September 11, 2003 3:51 PM
opps, i mistook paul for paul cella.
can we please have a little more distinction in the names here. some us are not too too bright at reading.Posted by: abby on September 11, 2003 4:08 PM
Paul thinks deporting Muslims is a fantasy? Good. It won’t be the first time fantasy becomes reality. (The Mexican illegals are going to join them, preferably together with the businessmen who knowingly hire illegals and the politicians who get bribed to encourage the whole thing.)Posted by: Unadorned on September 11, 2003 5:58 PM
Our side needs Unadorned’s faith that what now seems utterly impossible is really possible. Only then can we begin to think along the lines of life instead of death.
I have previously pointed to the recent small exodus of Pakistani illegals from the U.S. as a glimpse of something that could happen on a much larger scale. The way to make this possibility real to ourselves is to think, not in terms of miraculously returning to a pre-1965 America, but in terms of slowing, stopping and then reversing the current _direction_ of immigration, from the immigrants become more and more, as at present, to the immigrants becoming less and less. As far fetched as it seems, such a change _is_ possible.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 11, 2003 6:29 PM
Here’s one example of the immigration momentum slowing in response to policy changes instituted by the U.S.:
Huge drop in foreign students on campus
Mr. Auster is right again. We need to take one small step at a time; I can’t recall anything worthwhile that was done with only one step. The Immigration Reform Caucus now has at least 60 members. A few years ago there was no such caucus.
We should give the Muslims a prudent and merciful choice they don’t deserve: convert to Christianity or get out. A country can be carved out to hold Muslims; a choice Muslims have never offered and would never offer to Christians.
Total War is too vague a phrase. People do whatever it takes to protect themselves. If this is Total War, then I am for it.
Mr. Murgos wrote,
“We need to take one small step at a time … “
The first small step often is just saying it. Saying something which is perfectly OK, normal, and right (such as that homosexuality is not psychologically healthy or normal but is a sexual perversion, or the white race should not be deliberately exterminated from the earth in a worldwide planned, coordinated assault, or Muslims in large numbers don’t really “fit” into traditional U.S. society — what there is left of it, or Salvador Allende was a hard-line Communist who promised to be every bit as bad as Fidel Castro) — saying such things which are true but which the other side has forbidden to be spoken breaches the first line of defenses that side has thrown up against a restoration of normalness and rightness. Just say it, and refuse to be shut up by the thought police. There will be a snowballing effect as more and more people hear the truth and realize what the truth is, and the other side starts to pee in its pants.
Posted by: Unadorned on September 12, 2003 8:25 AM
What a great statement by Unadorned.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 12, 2003 8:53 AM
Speaking of truth-saying, Razib does some of it here (linked below) as regards the glorious transformation which incompatible immigration is working upon Holland, that formerly picturesque land of wooden shoes, windmills, and Dutch maidens in their lace caps, and soon to be land of burquas, mosques, and answering the call to prayer five times a day in the direction of Mecca (that’ll be right across the English Channel from the Mother Country, folks — isn’t everyone just so exited at the blessings the multi-cultis are showering us with?):
Razib’s a first-generation American of Muslim family background who does not himself practice or identify with any religion (I won’t call him an “atheist” as he’s, I think, called himself, because at age 25 one does not really know what one is saying in calling oneself an “atheist”) who is not interested in and does not take sides on what Vdare.com refers to as the national question. But (as can be seen in this article) he’s a good thinker — even a brilliant one. He’s always worth a read.Posted by: Unadorned on September 12, 2003 9:16 AM
A mass slaughter of Muslims in some kind of extended guerilla war such as Vietnam or in nuclear combat is repulsive and unnecessary at this time, which is why we must act now while Islam remains backward and on the run. Bush needs to be wholly non-political about the situation; that is, he must not take his re-election into account. He must use his power, which is what power is for. Let partisan historians debate whether it was a war of survival or a war over oil.
Bush could put a permanent end to Islam as a threat if he would act. Again, he needs to continue taking one small step at a time. The next step should be to reinstate the draft (including able-bodied adults beyond their 30’s) and to bar women from combat roles. The next two steps should be to disarm North Korea and Iran without warning.
Tactical neutron weapons should be on the table with the latter two nuts. Neutron weapons, if I understand accurately, are precision weapons that can instantly remove the entire North Korean army, which is foolishly aligned along the infamous 38th parallel. No collateral damage would be suffered by South Korean and U.S. forces.
I wonder if anyone else suspects Bush (through the Chinese) knows the status of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and knows how to destroy it. China’s price might be the right to pose as the dominant power broker. Saving face is especially important to the Chinese.
Well as long as I have put myself into the tinfoil hat category, I cannot further harm my credibility by suggesting American cities became obsolete when we set off the first nuclear weapon. If it is done orderly and working people are given relief to the extent possible, evacuation should begin. Telephones, the Net, fax machines, and satellite conferencing (even in legal proceedings) are common. Our roadways remain brutish sites of slaughter.Posted by: P Murgos on September 13, 2003 3:51 AM
This discussion is complimented by Andrew Sullivan’s interesting article on the “flypaper” theory—that U.S. occupation draws terrorists to Iraq where we can more readily destroy them. But in a sense, it’s the flypaper theory that I’ve been questioning here, because it assumes that the number of terrorists is limited, but what if they’re not? I guess the answer would still be that it’s better to have the jihadists attack our military there than to have them attack civilians here or in other countries.
http://www.andrewsullivan.com/main_article.php?switch=black_whitePosted by: Lawrence Auster on September 13, 2003 6:52 PM
I am surprised that there are few who suggest that it’s simply not in our national interest to be in Iraq, period. We are there, seemingly, mainly at the behest of the Israel lobby, and secondarily at the behest of the big oil companies. It would seem to be our continued support of Israel’s oppression of non-Jews that provoked the terrorist attacks of two years ago, and the consequent “war on terrorism” is probably the most fruitless enterprise the nation has begun in decades if not centuries. All this “war” is doing is increasing the power of our rulers in the Imperial Capital over us and magnifying as never before the all-powerful welfare/warfare state.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 18, 2003 9:50 PM
Thanks to Mr. Williamson for his collection of anti-war clichés posing as the definitive statement of the case. Is it any wonder that people who think and speak like Mr. Williamson lost the national debate?Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 18, 2003 10:36 PM
They’re not cliches. They’re commonsense objections to the Iraqi adventure that occur naturally to any conservative, and I have yet to hear convincing responses from the big-government Beltway neocons who are pushing this and other foreign adventures.
And as for a “national debate,” it never happened. The liberals and their neo-con allies control the elite media and effectively squashed dissenting voices.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 19, 2003 12:09 AM
For Mr. Williamson, the commonly existing and recognized reality doesn’t exist. He says the motive of the war was “Israel” and “oil,” NOT the actual issues which were debated ad nauseam in this country for over a year, and which persuaded the actual people who actually supported the war. In his mind, the actual debate that occurred and that occupied the mind of the country for so long was an illusion, a front, a conspiracy. Indeed, he says, this national debate NEVER HAPPENED, because the true side, which he represents, was suppressed. He makes this assertion about the antiwar side being suppressed, even though its voices were were heard loud and strong for an entire year, from both the left and right.
Such are the gnostic consolations that people retreat into when they are unhappy with reality and are unwilling to face it as it is.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 19, 2003 9:20 AM
LA: “For Mr. Williamson, the commonly existing and recognized reality doesn’t exist. He says the motive of the war was “Israel” and “oil,” NOT the actual issues which were debated ad nauseam in this country for over a year, and which persuaded the actual people who actually supported the war…”
Nonsense. The “actual issues,” by which you mean the silly alibis put forward by the Bush team of neo-cons, were transparently false to anybody who actually thought about the matter from the first. I need hardly point out that the WMD’s never materialized and almost certainly never existed. On this point—the sole and major reason the neo-cons adduced for war—the warfare/welfare statists were proved absolutely and totally dead wrong.
The skeptical person will always ask cui bono, and the answers in this case are as painfully obvious as the dog-in-the-night WMD’s: namely, the many partisans of Israel among the neo-cons and their sheep-like allies in the evangelical right. AND the big oil companies, which hoped to add a degree of stability and cheap oil to their financial future.
And, needless to say, the matter of just how our support for Israel’s brutal policy toward non-Jews figured into the 9/11 attacks got almost no attention in the elite media. The matter of big oil’s hand in the matter got slightly more attention, but in neither case can there be said to have been a real national debate on the two main reasons for the invasion.
LA: “Such are the gnostic consolations that people retreat into when they are unhappy with reality and are unwilling to face it as it is.”
Coming from a partisan of the big-government Beltway neo-cons whose claims about WMD’s have now been exposed as a tissue of fantasy, this is a little more than my minimum daily requirement of irony.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 19, 2003 10:25 AM
Mr. Williamson continues to spill forth mindless slogans in place of thought, and so is not worth talking to.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 19, 2003 10:33 AM
LA: “Mr. Williamson continues to spill forth mindless slogans in place of thought, and so is not worth talking to.”
The usual response of the big-government Beltway “conservative” when lovely theory is slain by inconvenient fact.
In the meantime, as all the world can see, the utter absence of the WMD’s has vaporized the only rationale the Bushite neo-cons and Stupid Party apparatchiks had for their imperial adventure in the first place. Those of us who prefer to deal with the world as it is—instead of how we’d like it to be—had better pay attention to this fact and draw the obvious conclusions.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 19, 2003 10:47 AM
The fact that the weapons, weapons materials, and weapons programs that we knew existed in Iraq before the war have not been found, should make any rational and patriotic person feel deeply concerned, since it means that those weapons are still in existence and can be used against us. But instead of being concerned, the anti-war paleocons are gleeful and victorious. For them, a blinding, consuming hatred of “neocons” trumps all other values, even America’s own safety.
Also, anyone who describes me as a “partisan of the big-government Beltway neo-cons” is truly a mindless ranter.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 19, 2003 11:14 AM
LA: “The fact that the weapons, weapons materials, and weapons programs that we knew existed in Iraq before the war have not been found, should make any rational and patriotic person feel deeply concerned, since it means that those weapons are still in existence and can be used against us.”
Which is like saying, “The fact that no elephants have been found in the Blue Ridge Mountains should concern us, because it means they’re out there hiding and ready to attack.”
This is ridiculous. You’ve got to do better than this, Mr. Auster.
LA: “Also, anyone who describes me as a “partisan of the big-government Beltway neo-cons” is truly a mindless ranter.”
As for your love for big government, all we can judge by is what you say. You are flacking for precisely the kind of foreign policy that brought down 9/11 on us and which threatens not merely to bankrupt us but to erode yet more of our liberties here at home. You’re asking conservatives to trust the bureaucrats in the Imperial Capital. No thanks. Real conservatives know that the Bushite neo-con Israel Foreign Legion has nothing to do with true American self-interest.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 19, 2003 11:58 AM
“The fact that no elephants have been found in the Blue Ridge Mountains should concern us, because it means they’re out there hiding and ready to attack.”
seth williams has me concerned. here i was thinking i was safe, but now i don’t know what is lurking about. one of our children, she was about three at the time, swore she saw an elephant up on the cliff where we were looking for big horn sheep.
of course we poo pooed it at the time with an indulgent smile to ourselves. but if lawrence auster is correct, and contrary to all rational evidence there were and are wmds lurking about, then what is to prove that seth williamson’s equally likely example of elephants is not in fact a reality.
the next time the kids say there’s monsters under the bed, i’m bringing in the shotgun, shooting first and looking under the bed later, after all, if such a policy is good enough for the u.s. government, its good enough me.
i’m a bit sorry for the kids though, but then whats a little colateral damage in the name of saving the children from monsters.Posted by: abby on September 19, 2003 1:01 PM
Its always great to get confirmation that I am not the nuttiest poster at VFR. That Hussein had nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs is undisputed fact. What exactly he did with them, and when, is unknown (in large part because Hussein kept it unknown). If someone had been parading elephants around the blue ridge mountains for years and then refused to say what happened to them the analogy might be apt.
There is plenty of room for dispute once the basic facts have been acknowledged. But refusing to acknowledge the basic facts and weaving conspiracy theories is just a way of checking out of the discussion without actually remaining silent.
” … is just a way of checking out of the discussion without actually remaining silent.”
A hit, a very palpable hit! (Hamlet, Act V, Scene ii)Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 19, 2003 2:06 PM
I don’t know. Scott Ritter’s position has gotten very strong in the past several months. I think that there is a reasonable chance that he has been right all along. That’s hardly a conspiracy theory.Posted by: Thrasymachus on September 19, 2003 2:27 PM
With Ritter it depends on what you mean by “all along”, rather like with David Brock, doesn’t it?Posted by: Matt on September 19, 2003 2:35 PM
“Hussein had nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs is undisputed fact.”
the operable words are ‘had’ and ‘programs’
Posted by: abby on September 19, 2003 2:58 PM
“With Ritter it depends on what you mean by ‘all along’, rather like with David Brock, doesn’t it?”
Matt scores again!
Also, does Thrasy really want to hitch his wagon to the star of Scott Ritter, a loony-tunes quasi-traitor? This is a man who went to Baghdad before the war and (while repeatedly and absurdly claiming that he was a “loyal” American) repeatedly, not just disagreed, but TRASHED the United States from the soil of a hostile foreign power. I saw this all on C-SPAN. He was one bent out of shape character, who reminded me of some of the leftists who went to Hanoi during the Vietnam War.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 19, 2003 3:05 PM
Well that is the speech, I believe. There is nothing that appears in it from my quick scan that would appear as “trashing” to me. If he really believed that he was right on the WMD issue, and to be fair the evidence now seems to point in that direction, he would be somewhat morally obligated to do what he could to stop the war.
Now, the biggest question to me is how he has justified this New Republic article: http://www.fas.org/news/iraq/1998/12/21/981221-scott.htm
I assume that he has some explanation, but I have never really investigated the subject. I would note, however, that he was at that point pushing for better inspections, not justifying war. A war requires another level of proof. But all the same, I would like to see some explanation on the subject.Posted by: Thrasymachus on September 19, 2003 3:18 PM
“Iraq has positioned itself today that once effective inspection regimes have been terminated, Iraq will be able to reconstitute the entirety of its former nuclear, chemical and ballistic missile delivery system capabilities within a period of six months.” - Scott Ritter, Testimony to US Senate Committee, 3 September 1998Posted by: Matt on September 19, 2003 7:45 PM
The point to the Scott Ritter quote, just to be clear, is to emphasize that he also knows that Iraq had nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs. Unlike the elephants in the blue ridge mountains what is unknown is not whether they exist at all but just what happened to them, and when it happened.Posted by: Matt on September 19, 2003 7:50 PM
No one debates whether Iraq used to have those programs. Did it maintain them through years of budgetary constraints imposed by sanctions, however? Unless there has been some wholesale purge of engineers and scientists (which would leave massive evidence), it should be simple enough to find out what programs Saddam was still conducting at the end. Scientist interviews were also a powerful inspections option before the war that we never took full advantage of. (That surprised me at the time. While there was a military case for proceeding quickly, there was a strong diplomatic case for forcing a confrontation with Iraq over scientist interviews. You cannot hire $5.00 an hour laborers for this sort of thing.) And that is to say nothing of the actual facilities that are required. This is not the sort of thing that is easy to hide for any realistic weapons program. We can be absolutely sure that Iraq possessed no chemical weapons in militarily significant quantities because of the lack of facilities. Biological weapons are a bit of a different story, but should certainly leave behind a far better trail among the scientists. And any biological weapons created through small labs would mainly as a terror devices—which would mean money diverted away from actual military aims. The only way Iraq could have gotten nuclear materials without massive facilities would have been through buying a quantity of enriched uranium or plutonium from somewhere. The difference between talking about possibilities—which is justification for inspections—is a different thing from talking about probabilities—which is justification for a large expensive war. The arguments against Ritter were far better a year ago than they look today.Posted by: Thrasymachus on September 19, 2003 8:30 PM
Precisely. That is why the elephants-in-the-blue-ridge-mountains analogy was irrational raving. That is why that sort of talk is to check out of the discussion despite the ongoing flow of words. If the blue ridge mountains used to be covered with elephants and now was not then the analogy might work.Posted by: Matt on September 19, 2003 9:26 PM
Irrational Raving? That is pretty harsh, even if you do not agree. It was a humorous way of making a point about a weakness in Mr. Auster’s argument. I think that some other statements from the same source were more vicious than I would like, but that one was a zinger.Posted by: Thrasymachus on September 19, 2003 9:53 PM
A zinger would have to have some merit. The elephant thing has none. I’m sympathetic to the isolationist right, as I’ve written here before, perhaps even moreso than Mr. Auster. There may be some merit to going directly and unequivocally after Islam and stomping it (and related pan-Arabism) into submission in order to stop further terrorist attacks. It would be tough to justify morally, but it might have practical merit enough so that I am quite glad to not be the king right now. (If I chose to do it, I would be ruthless - there is no moral high ground nor even practical everyday mercy in halfheartedness - but I doubt that I could actually give the orders, being more selfish about my own soul than concerned about the security of our modern Sodom). The neocon notion of converting Islam to secular liberalism rather than stomping it into submission is certainly horrifying and delusional.
But part of the reason I criticize Mr. Williamson’s raving is because there is a great deal to the paleo (and presumably Mr. Williamson’s) substantive position with which I am sympathetic. A neocon is essentially a hopeless case, but an antiwar paleo doesn’t have to be. Howard Sutherland and others for the most part set a good example in my view.
Matt: “That Hussein had nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs is undisputed fact. What exactly he did with them, and when, is unknown (in large part because Hussein kept it unknown).”
“Programs” are one thing. Actual WMD’s are something else. It beggars the imagination that, after all this time, these fantastical weapons haven’t been found. It goes without saying that any Iraqi scientist or official who tipped off the American forces to the existence of same would be set for life financially, or would at least be rewarded handsomely. And yet NOBODY has come forth with evidence? It’s simply too difficult to believe that they exist, but that they have somehow been concealed after all this time. A reasonably skeptical observer must admit that they probably don’t exist now and probably never did.
Matt: “But refusing to acknowledge the basic facts and weaving conspiracy theories…”
The only “conspiracy theories” have come from the Bushites. Namely, that these chimerical WMD’s exist, but they’re being concealed by a cabal of Hussein supporters in a militarily prostrate nation—THERE’S your conspiracy theory. I merely advert to the facts: Bush claimed they had WMD’s, and after plenty of time to find them, nobody has.
Matt: “But part of the reason I criticize Mr. Williamson’s raving…”
You’d better find a dictionary and look up the meaning of “raving.” I merely advert to irrefutable fact: Bush justified this imperial adventure because of WMD’s—and now he can’t produce same. That’s sober fact, dude.
Also fact: we brought down the 9/11 attacks on our heads by our one-sided support of Israel in a long-standing feud in which we have no compelling national interest. We are not going to “solve” the problems at the root of that boiling cauldron of hatred in the middle east. Israel’s problems are Israel’s business, not ours. A sane (and conservative) foreign policy will acknowledge this fact. Either wish them both the best, or a pox on both their houses—in either case, it’s their problem, not ours.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 20, 2003 7:31 AM
Mr. Williamson writes:
Not even the neocon bogeymen ever claimed that Hussein actually had a completed nuclear bomb, and despite the unanimity on the existence of the programs not a single chemical weapons lab has been found. The programs-weapons distinction is a straw man invented by anti-war types, and like hyperbolic analogies its assertion represents checking out of the discussion rather than engaging it. It is possible that Hussein destroyed all of his weapons programs in secret and then played a winking and bluffing game. That would have been really dumb, but then this enemy’s willful blindness is rivaled only by our own. What exactly happened to those weapons programs is certainly an intellectually valid and troubling question; their existence is not, and never has been, in doubt.Posted by: Matt on September 20, 2003 10:20 AM
Matt: “The programs-weapons distinction is a straw man invented by anti-war types, and like hyperbolic analogies its assertion represents checking out of the discussion rather than engaging it.”
In fact, it’s beside the point. THIS is the point: Bush claimed that WMD’s existed. And now that we have dominated the country for months—and furthermore in a period when it’s inconceivable that at least one Iraqi official wouldn’t have tipped off the occupiers—they haven’t been found.
So no, their existence has ALWAYS been in doubt. Maybe they once existed; maybe they still do. It’s possible. It’s also possible that Hussein’s scientists invented a time machine and stored them in some alternate dimension somewhere. Yeah, it’s possible—but it’s not likely.
The bottom line is that our involvement in the region has been unwise, if not insane, from the beginning. Zionism perpetrated a massive injustice on the non-Jewish residents of the region. Our role in facilitating that injustice is regrettable. But the relevant point is that the hatred between Jews and their neighbors is their business, not ours. We have no compelling national interest in the survival of Israel. And the only national interest we have in most of the Arab states is that they maintain regimes stable enough to provide us the oil we need, at least until and unless we find an alternative energy source.
Personally I find the Islamic regimes in the area almost uniformly repugnant. Just as I find Israel’s racist treatment of non-Jews repugnant. Fortunately, it’s not up to me or my fellow citizens to rectify either situation—as John Adams said, Americans should not go abroad looking for monsters to slay. The world is full of injustice which we cannot erase. We have enough trouble managing our own affairs at home without attempting to police the rest of the world.
What I find curious is the number of self-professed “conservatives” in this forum who have not made the connection between a massively powerful military empire and the erosion of liberty at home. The warfare/welfare state stumbles on, provoking mass homicide at home by enraged Muslims and progressively augmenting the power of government at home to run every aspect of our lives. That “conservatives” should lend support to this insane project is among the more pungent ironies of our day.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 21, 2003 7:27 AM
Mr. Williamson writes:
The big news in Powell’s speach to the UN was about mobile weapons labs, not stockpiles. And in any case if everyone agrees that there were programs and none of the program materials have been found then, as Mr. Auster says, the issue isn’t what happened to stuff some suspect was there. The question is what happened to the stuff that everyone *knows* was there.
If you break down the doors of a known cocaine lab and you not only don’t find any cocaine, but you also don’t find any lab equipment or paraphernalia (that you know and everyone agrees as undisputed fact was there before) then the big question isn’t “did the police chief lie”?
Mr. Williamson doesn’t seem to understand that I agree that
1) It is senseless to prosecute a war abroad in order to “convert” Islam to hedonistic liberalism.
2) It is senseless to prosecute a war against Islam and pan-Arabism without calling it a war against Islam and pan-Arabism.
3) It is senseless to engage the enemy abroad and simultaneously import him through immigration.
4) Israel’s interests are not the same thing as America’s interests.
And the list could go on. It is precisely because these are all valid points that they should not be tainted with hyperbolic false analogies and this equivocal rhetoric to the effect of “that’s not true and even though it is true it is irrelevant”.
Beating up on Mr. Auster as a neocon Bush fan is proof positive that all reason has been abandoned. Mr. Auster (like myself) wants to see Mr. Bush depart from the oval office for good.Posted by: Matt on September 21, 2003 9:48 AM
Matt: “The question is what happened to the stuff that everyone *knows* was there.”
We “KNOW” that Hussein had developed WMD’s that were a threat to America? Or that he was working on same? News to me. I have heard of no proof of this.
Matt: “Beating up on Mr. Auster as a neocon Bush fan is proof positive that all reason has been abandoned.”
I believe he said he supported the Iraqi adventure. This being the case, any quibbles he may have with Bush are beside the point. To support such imperial adventures is to place oneself squarely in the neo-con big-government camp.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 21, 2003 10:39 AM
Matt, I ended my own exchange with Mr. Williamson some time ago. Is there any reason to carry on a discussion with someone who is capable of saying things like the below, except perhaps to let him hang himself by his own words? (And that’s apart from his rank anti-Israel bigotry.)
“I believe [Mr. Auster] said he supported the Iraqi adventure. This being the case, any quibbles he may have with Bush are beside the point. To support such imperial adventures is to place oneself squarely in the neo-con big-government camp.”Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 21, 2003 10:47 AM
Mr. Williamson: see the quote by Scott Ritter - who opposed the Iraq operation and is now a favorite of the anti’s - above. I don’t take the position that one either supported the Iraq operation or was a lunatic. Neither does Mr. Auster, as far as I can tell. What IS lunacy, though, is voluntarily putting a millstone of hyperbolic nonsense (see blue ridge mountain elephants above) around the neck of principled opposition.
Mr. Williamson wrote:
I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything at all about whether the Iraq operation was justified or not, whether Iraq was a credible threat to the US or not, or any of those things. What I said is that the most telling question isn’t why we haven’t found a massive nuclear, biological, and chemical arsenal in Iraq. The most telling question is: why haven’t we found _anything at all, including the materials that everyone *knows* were there_ in Iraq? Where did the stuff that *we all know and acknowledge was there* disappear to?Posted by: Matt on September 21, 2003 10:52 AM
LA: “Is there any reason to carry on a discussion with someone who is capable of saying things like the below, except perhaps to let him hang himself by his own words? (And that’s apart from his rank anti-Israel bigotry.)”
This is the worst kind of liberal cant, by the way. The only bigotry in this situation is the Israeli treatment of non-Jews as second- and third-class citizens, the kind of treatment that would make them squeal with outrage if they encountered it in the Western democracies. The dishonest attempt to teflon-ize Israel by branding those who dare criticize this racist state as “bigots” is sorry, dishonest behavior.
SW: “I believe [Mr. Auster] said he supported the Iraqi adventure. This being the case, any quibbles he may have with Bush are beside the point. To support such imperial adventures is to place oneself squarely in the neo-con big-government camp.”
What you said was this: “While I was and am a strong supporter of the Iraq war…” Or haven’t you had time to go back and alter that one yet? I’m critical of your support of the war, sport—and I don’t much care what you think about Bush.
Matt: “What IS lunacy, though, is voluntarily putting a millstone of hyperbolic nonsense (see blue ridge mountain elephants above) around the neck of principled opposition.”
Piffle. It merely points up the silliness of of saying that we knew WMD’s existed before the war, only we can’t find them now. We DIDN’T know they existed before the war, nor did we have reason to suppose that Hussein would have used them on us if they had.
Maybe they did. But a reasonably skeptical person is going to want proof. There is none yet. And this, of course, is quite apart from whether or not a given dictator is likely to attack us. Lots of countries have WMD’s. We don’t invade them all. What was special about Hussein? He was far from being an Islamic fundamentalist.
We know the Israel lobby wanted him out. They want us to cleanse the entire region of their enemies for them, needless to say—onward, Christian soldiers. And the big oil companies found Hussein’s regime inconvenient. Relative to the interests of ordinary Americans, however, how was he worse than all the other torturing murdering bastard dictators in the world? It’s not evident that he was. Which is the point. The whole adventure appears to benefit these two tendencies, and not much of anybody else. Which is why it was nuts for us to get involved.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 21, 2003 7:42 PM
While we have not yet found proof of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, there are numerous facts that can hardly be explained apart from the existence of such weapons in the recent past.
For example, Iraqi scientists who defected between the 1991 war and the 2003 war claimed to be working in the WMD programs themselves. We know that such weapons existed at one time, as they were used against Iran and the Kurds, and we don’t know that they were destroyed. According to the 1991 cease-fire agreement, the burden of proof was on Saddam, because they were known to exist. Saddam admitted they existed in 1991, and then claimed that they were all destroyed in the first few weeks after the 1991 war, BEFORE the UN inspectors arrived. That has been the official Iraqi position ever since (in which case they violated the terms of the cease-fire by doing such a thing, as the cease-fire required them to destroy the weapons WITH CONFIRMATION from the UN). The burden of proof is NOT on George Bush, as a simple matter of fact. We had every legal right to simply declare that the cease-fire agreement had been violated and resume the 1991 war at any time over the last 12 years.
Given all that, nothing more needs to be said, but I will list a few more anomalies, anyway:
All weapons inspectors during that period were continually hindered in their work by Iraqi officials. As late as the latter half of 2002, you could watch for yourself on CNN as UN weapons inspectors were followed around by Iraqis, who were continually using cell phones to call ahead and predict where the inspectors were going. Why all this, if there is nothing to hide?
The scrubbed-down mobile biological weapons lab that was found in northern Iraq in 2003 can hardly be dated credibly to 1991 or earlier for its most recent use.
The simple fact that Saddam Hussein could have ended a costly UN embargo against his country by cooperating with inspectors many years ago would be hard to explain apart from the existence of weapons of mass destruction which he wanted to protect.
Furthermore, chemical residues and fish kills in the Euphrates river during the 2003 war indicated a mass destruction of chemical weapons.
Recent intelligence leaks indicate that massive truck traffic into Syria from Iraq occurred just weeks before the 2003 war. New info has come from Lebanon indicating that a WMD stockpile was hidden in the caves of the Bekaa Valley there, which is an anarchic territory that offers deniability to Syria if the WMDs are ever discovered, unlike allowing Iraq to hide them in Syria itself. This was discussed on Rush Limbaugh recently after it appeared in print. Going into Lebanon to find them would be quite an undertaking (and would no doubt provoke quite a bit of criticism from the likes of Mr. Williamson, as well as provoking Hezbollah and other groups in Lebanon that are currently focused on Israel and not the USA).
I don’t have proof, personally, that Adolf Hitler is not alive and well in Argentina. It just is not very likely. The likelihood that Hussein had no WMD stockpiles or programs, yet continued to obstruct inspectors and suffer the embargo as a consequence for 12 years, and that all the defecting scientists were lying about their work, and the info about the Euphrates, Lebanon, etc., is all false, etc., etc., is very low. Sometimes in life, we have to make judgments when likelihood all points in one direction, even if it is not absolute proof.Posted by: Clark Coleman on September 21, 2003 8:57 PM
Saying that the US had a legal right to invade regardless of absolute proof of WMDs is quite correct. The cease-fire agreement was clear. But Bush also had a duty to American citizens to justify the war. He did so through claims of WMDs. The burden of proof was on George Bush—it’s our money and we had to authorize his actions through Congress. We are in the middle of a war on terrorism that requires a great deal of our resources, and if Bush has mistakenly squandered them in Iraq that should matter a great deal to us.
As for the defectors, there was tremendous motivation for defectors to lie with almost no risk. That is the sort of thing that makes intelligence data suspect.
The point about inspectors being hindered—if we believed that Iraq was hindering inspections, we needed to demand that Iraq change its behavior in specific ways—instead we demanded that they tell us where the WMDs it claimed it did not have were. They were actually complying quite well with inspections.
British experts have officially concluded that the “mobile biological weapons labs” were actually facilities for filling artillery balloons with hydrogen. In fact, the embarrassing part about it was that the British company Marconi Command & Control sold them to Iraq.
I have not heard of the Euphrates river incident nor seen any investigation report, but I would point out that there are all sorts of chemicals that you can dump into a river to kill all the fish—in nations without a government that believes in enforcing environmental laws, it is a common occurrence.
I really cannot give any credence to intelligence leaks about everything being moved to Syria before the war (Why would Saddam do it?!?) without more information to back it up. But it would be a terrible failure for the Bush Administration to have allowed something like that to occur when we presumably had satellite coverage of the area and human resources on the ground. In fact, if the war was to keep WMDs out of the hands of terrorists, that would have meant we lost right then.
And finally, don’t the Russians have Hitler’s skull somewhere? I always figured that they would get around to doing a DNA test.Posted by: Thrasymachus on September 21, 2003 9:52 PM
Thrasymachus fails to address the basic point of common sense: We know that the WMDs existed prior to the 1991 war. What could reasonably be hypothesized as their fate since then?
I presented several reasonable possibilities: Moving them out of the country; destroying what little remained as the war started.
Those who harp on the “nonexistence” of the WMDs refuse to address their known existence in prior years. I start with their known existence at one time and try to reason about what might have happened to them since that time.
The fact that George Bush and the majority of his foreign policy advisers are idiots is beside the point. They can say whatever they want about WMDs, the justification for the war, etc., but I am not defending their every saying. I am reasoning about the WMDs and inviting others to make a more plausible case. Instead of doing so, others (such as Thrasymachus) try to shoot holes in particular possibilities I raise. So, give us your own possibilities that make some sense.Posted by: Clark Coleman on September 22, 2003 8:59 AM
CC: “For example, Iraqi scientists who defected between the 1991 war and the 2003 war claimed to be working in the WMD programs themselves.”
Look. Let’s cut to the chase here. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Hussein had WMD’s, or was working on them. This puts him into a crowded category on the world stage—there are lots of nations that possess WMD’s.
Please explain to me why we had anything more to fear from Hussein than from North Korea or Pakistan? Or, assuming we DID have something to fear from him, why invading his country was the best response?
The most sensible response to threats from this region would seem to be ceasing our one-sided support of Israel and its brutal treatment of non-Jews.
CC: “We are in the middle of a war on terrorism…”
Here is the central lunacy. We are NOT in the middle of a “war on terrorism.” We are reaping the consequences of our one-sided support of Israel’s brutal, racist regime. The attacks on us are a direct result of our support of this regime since its beginnings. There is massive popular hatred of America, and as long as we continue to meddle in the Israeli situation, that hatred will continue to fester and will continue to produce terrorist attacks. We can no more conduct a “war” against this popular reaction to our policy than we can conduct a “war” against the raindrops in a rainstorm.
The only sane response is to stop meddling in this boiling cauldron of hatred. It’s their problem, not ours. Our rulers ensure that ordinary Americans, who have no interest in the politics of the middle east, will bleed and die because of their insane support of Israel’s unjust treatment of non-Jews.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 10:55 AM
Mr. Williamson writes:
“Look. Let?s cut to the chase here. Let?s assume, for the sake of argument, that Hussein had WMD?s, or was working on them. This puts him into a crowded category on the world stage?there are lots of nations that possess WMD?s.
Please explain to me why we had anything more to fear from Hussein than from North Korea or Pakistan? Or, assuming we DID have something to fear from him, why invading his country was the best response?”
Your idea of “cutting to the chase” is what I call “changing the subject”. I do not think the invasion of Iraq was the best choice, nor have I said so. In fact, I would have devoted far more troops to Afghanistan, leaving them unavailable for use in Iraq, and NOT rearmed the regional warlords in Afghanistan, because we then would not have needed their help. If I had the time, I could go into detail about what I would have done militarily in Afghanistan, and non-militarily in Iran, etc., while holding off on doing anything in Iraq.
I was arguing a narrow point: That those who whine about our failure to find WMDs have no plausible explanation for their absence that differs from the plausible explanations offered by those of us who claim that they DID exist in Iraq in recent years (such as removal to another country, destruction just before the war, or a combination of these two).
If you are willing to concede that point and stop whining about the failure to find the WMDs, then you could proceed to discuss the general situation in the Middle East with anyone who is interested.
By the way, the second quote that you attributed to me in your reply was actually from a posting by Thrasymachus.Posted by: Clark Coleman on September 22, 2003 11:09 AM
The biologicals had a short shelf life. There were never any nuclear weapons because Saddam never got a hold of the material to make them. And chemicals could have easily been destroyed at any time up until 2002. A reason for trying to create or hide chemical weapons in the face of inspections and sanctions for very long prior to 1998 would be a mystery to me—though Saddam is certainly an irrational being. The things are not very useful from a military standpoint. They really do not belong in the WMD category any more than bombs do (except as per the ceasefire agreement). And when you have budget problems, it is far better to spend the money on bullets. Even for terrorism they have limitations. The main exception to this is VX gas, but facilities are needed for its production and military limitations are still there.
Saddam’s compliance in 2002 is troubling to any theory that WMDs still existed then. He was no longer playing the game that Clinton had let him play up until 1998. The idea that Saddam kept WMDs through the 2002-03 inspections but then destroyed them in the lead up to war seems far less likely than the idea that anything in existence was destroyed prior to 2002. We could have known the answer to this with a high level of confidence if Bush had pushed Saddam on inspections. That would have either led to a confrontation or to the conclusion that any WMDs in Iraq are highly unlikely. Instead, Bush made the call based on available intelligence that Iraq had WMDs and that inspections were eating too far into the military timeline without necessary diplomatic results, so he decided to go to war.
The greatest reason I have to question that intelligence were the common statements about the Iraqi military having WMDs leading up to and during the war. We now know for a fact that troops were not supplied with them. This alone makes the rest of the case very weak.Posted by: Thrasymachus on September 22, 2003 11:15 AM
CC: “Your idea of ‘cutting to the chase’ is what I call ‘changing the subject’.”
No, it’s not. I still don’t see any evidence of WMD’s, now or in the past. I merely note that, even if they DID exist, it wouldn’t justify our invasion of Iraq.
CC: “That those who whine about our failure to find WMDs have no plausible explanation for their absence…”
Uh, I don’t NEED an “explanation for their absence,” anymore than I need an explanation for the absence of elephants in my beloved Blue Ridge mountains. The burden of proof is on people like you. Although, as I noted, even if they DID exist, it still wouldn’t justify our imperial adventures in the region.
The essential point is that a sane foreign policy must be based on what is in the best interest of the American people. Most Americans have no interest in the centuries-old hatreds of the middle east. It is most certainly not in our interest to support Israel’s unjust treatment of non-Jews—this is what has earned us the enmity of the huge majority of Muslims in the area, and brought down upon our heads the 9/11 attacks. We have no interest, one way or another, in the continued survival of Israel.
We should give our best wishes to both sides, or say a pox on both their houses, and assist both with such humanitarian supplies as we can provide. That should be the extent of our involvement in the area, outside of peaceful trade.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 11:45 AM
“Saddam’s compliance in 2002 is troubling to any theory that WMDs still existed then. He was no longer playing the game that Clinton had let him play up until 1998.”
Thrasy should go to the State Dept web site and view Powell’s February 2003 UN speech. The Iraqis were engaged in massive systematic hiding of things from inspectors in late 2002 and early 2003.
It shouldn’t be necessary to repeat these same basic facts over and over and over …
In fact, I’m considering having an “embargo” on any further discussions of WMDs.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 22, 2003 11:55 AM
I am quite familiar with the speech, but I will respect your embargo if you like. It is somewhat Jeffersonian though :)Posted by: Thrasymachus on September 22, 2003 12:04 PM
Clark Coleman wrote:
Yep. Earlier I wrote:
“That Hussein had nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs is undisputed fact. What exactly he did with them, and when, is unknown (in large part because Hussein kept it unknown).”
Mr. Williamson then replied:
So Mr. Williamson does seem to acknowledge the fact known by everyone, Mr. Coleman’s narrow point: that Hussein had nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs. No doubt Mr. Williamson will cross his arms and stamp his foot as he once again attempts to change the subject from the narrow point about which he is utterly irrational to the larger issue of policy, about which we all acknowledge substantial room for debate.
Thrasymachus’ points about chemical stockpiles and their shelf-life are true or at least are commonly thought of as true in the media — I am not a chemical weapons expert. Research and manufacturing facilities - and all of their associated equipment, files, personnel, and other materials - don’t degrade in a barrel, though. What happened to them, I wonder?
On Thrasymachus’ point about biologicals and chemicals, I agree that a nuclear weapon is in a category all by itself. Still, a cloud of mustard gas over Wall Street has the potential to destroy trillions in value and beggar the nation, so I’m not sure it is a tiny threat. But as I said, all of that is quite debatable to my mind and it isn’t as though Bush’s “compassionate antiterrorism” is likely to work out for the good without modification.Posted by: Matt on September 22, 2003 12:05 PM
“I will respect your embargo if you like. It is somewhat Jeffersonian though :) “
But more practical, since, unlike Jefferson, I’m not dealing with hostile foreign powers. :-)Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 22, 2003 12:11 PM
Mr. Williamson writes:
“I still don?t see any evidence of WMD?s, now or in the past.”
Do you see Saddam Hussein’s actual use of such weapons in the past as “evidence of WMDs, now or in the past” ????
Do you see Saddam Hussein’s admission in 1991 that one of the terms of the cease-fire was to be the destruction of existing stockpiles of WMDs as “evidence of WMDs, now or in the past” ????
The other thing about the “programs, hah!” objection is this: it is far easier to hide some barrels of chemicals, or a nuclear bomb for that matter, than it is to hide the infrastructure needed to perform research and manufacture. So yeah, we haven’t found the small and easy to hide stuff that we maybe don’t know for sure was there. But we also haven’t found the large, difficult to hide stuff that we do know for a fact was there.
It would be refreshing for Mr. Williamson and Thrasymachus to just grant that an unqualified “Yes, that is true. Hussein had WMD programs and we don’t know what heppened to them”. If you want others to share your foxhole it is important to clean the sewage out of the bottom.Posted by: Matt on September 22, 2003 12:19 PM
Matt: “Mr. Williamson then replied: ‘“Programs”’ are one thing. Actual WMD’s are something else.’
“So Mr. Williamson does seem to acknowledge the fact known by everyone, Mr. Coleman’s narrow point: that Hussein had nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs.”
I don’t “acknowledge” it because I haven’t seen hard evidence of it. It strikes me as an uninteresting point. Like every other murdering dictator, he was probably trying to lay his hands on big-time weapons—welcome to the real world. But, to repeat, it’s not germane to the question of whether we should have invaded in the first place. Lots of nations have WMD’s.
CC: “Mr. Williamson writes:
‘I still don?t see any evidence of WMD?s, now or in the past.’
“Do you see Saddam Hussein’s actual use of such weapons in the past as ‘evidence of WMDs, now or in the past’ ????
What? Poison gas? That’s a weapon of mass destruction? Then so is modern artillery. Ask the residents of Dresden if conventional bombs don’t amount to WMD’s.
“Do you see Saddam Hussein’s admission in 1991 that one of the terms of the cease-fire was to be the destruction of existing stockpiles of WMDs as “evidence of WMDs, now or in the past” ????”
Did he not claim that he didn’t have them in the first place? And just what are you calling a WMD these days? If poison gas qualifies, then why doesn’t modern artillery or bombs?
LA: “In fact, I’m considering having an ‘embargo’ on any further discussions of WMDs.”
The typical statist response to inconvenient ideas. Why don’t you just admit that you’re a Big-Government Beltway neo-con and get rid of the phrase “anti-modern politically incorrect Right” on the masthead? You’re about as “politically incorrect” as Bill Kristol or Jonah Goldberg. You embody the worst aspects of the state-worshipping neo-con crypto-liberals.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 12:41 PM
The legacy of Auster-styled “conservatives”:
http://www.amconmag.com/09_22_03/article1.htmlPosted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 12:45 PM
Mr. Williamson writes about WMDs actually used by Saddam Hussein:
“What? Poison gas? That’s a weapon of mass destruction? Then so is modern artillery. Ask the residents of Dresden if conventional bombs don’t amount to WMD’s.”
Being a conservative, I don’t feel free to invent my own definitions of words just to bolster my arguments. Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are grouped together in the phrase “weapons of mass destruction.” Obviously, in all my previous references to WMDs, I was referring to the common definition of that term, and I assumed that you were, as well.
Having the illogic of your statements exposed, you can only resort to a constant changing of the subject and even the changing of definitions of common terms. Then you wonder why Mr. Auster considers it unproductive to continue a discussion with someone as obtuse as yourself.
Perhaps mustard gas and other blistering gases should not be any more heavily regulated by international treaties than plastic explosives, but they are. Perhaps they should not have received special mention in the 1991 cease-fire agreement, but they did. I don’t care to change subjects to debate weapons classification, just as I don’t care to change the subject to a general debate on whether we should have invaded Iraq. My point was that the continual cries of “the WMDs never existed” or “we cannot prove that they existed” are not reasonable arguments. This point stands uncontroverted by any rational argument so far, so I suppose that it has been conceded.Posted by: Clark Coleman on September 22, 2003 1:01 PM
Mr. Williamson links to a book review which reveals that the Israelis are worse than the Palestinians and decries the violations of the rights of immigrants after 9/11. How many other things do I have to believe to be a real conservative?Posted by: Agricola on September 22, 2003 1:06 PM
In the “American Conervative” article by Justin Raimondo, he says that Israel was founded by the Irgun:
“Bovard’s chapter on U.S.-ally Israel’s model for fighting terrorism is a searing indictment of a nation-state that was founded, after all, by a terrorist organization, the Irgun, one that did not distinguish between civilian and military targets. While unequivocally condemning Palestinian terrorism, the author traces the long history of Israeli oppression that was more intense and effective than the Palestinian counter-offensive.”Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 22, 2003 1:17 PM
CC: “Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons are grouped together in the phrase ‘weapons of mass destruction.’”
For politically tendentious reasons. If poison gas qualifies, then why doesn’t modern artillery or bombing, which have created firestorms that killed tens of thousands at once?
CC: “Having the illogic of your statements exposed, you can only resort to a constant changing of the subject and even the changing of definitions of common terms. Then you wonder why Mr. Auster considers it unproductive to continue a discussion with someone as obtuse as yourself.”
Nonsense. Not only has no one here “exposed” any “illogic” in my statements, you have continually dodged the essential points: the WMD’s haven’t been found, and they don’t justify our invasion even if they HAD been found.
Agricola: “Mr. Williamson links to a book review which reveals that the Israelis are worse than the Palestinians and decries the violations of the rights of immigrants after 9/11. How many other things do I have to believe to be a real conservative?”
I would suggest one essential point in connection to the current discussion: that it’s not our job to be the world’s policeman, and not in our best interest to intervene in long-standing feuds on the other side of the world which are of no interest to most Americans, and that the entirely predictable blow-back from our imperial adventures does not justify depriving Americans of fundamental liberties.
CC: “My point was that the continual cries of ‘the WMDs never existed’ or ‘we cannot prove that they existed’ are not reasonable arguments. This point stands uncontroverted by any rational argument so far, so I suppose that it has been conceded.”
The only point that stands uncontroverted here is that the WMD’s have not been found. The ones that Bush promised were there and would be quickly shown to a waiting world. That’s the main point. The essential justification for this imperial adventure is missing in action. So far as anybody can determine, it doesn’t exist. And adverting to some incident in the past in which Hussein supposedly used poison gas does NOT provide a cover for our invasion.
But it’s not merely that the WMD’s don’t apparently exist. It’s that, even if they did, they don’t justify what the big-government “conservatives” here want them to. So you’ve fanned out in both categories. You want to justify a profoundly un-conservative foreign policy, the “proof” you offer apparently doesn’t exist, and it wouldn’t do what you wanted it to do even if it did.
Before you slander real conservatives, you should look into getting your emperor a new set of clothes that aren’t transparent.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 1:28 PM
Regarding the absense of WMD’s in Iraq, Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc, wrote an interesting article where he describes a plan for quickly ‘removing’ Iraq’s WMD’s and explains the Russian role in this plan:
Posted by: Joel on September 22, 2003 2:17 PM
Joel: “Mr. Williamson’s argument that the existence of WMD’s would not have justified our action makes a mockery of the concept of ‘conditional ceasefire.’ When such an agreement is reached, the ‘conditions’ must be enforced lest any future course be regarded as meaningless.”
Lots of nations have WMD’s. Nobody has explained why Hussein was special. And more importantly, nobody has explained why simply ceasing our meddling in the Israeli/Palestinian situation isn’t the best solution to the whole problem in the first place. We have no compelling national interest in the local squabbles of the middle east.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 2:30 PM
Some moron wrote:
“But it’s not merely that the WMD’s don’t apparently exist. It’s that, even if they did, they don’t justify what the big-government ?conservatives? here want them to. So you?ve fanned out in both categories. You want to justify a profoundly un-conservative foreign policy, the ?proof? you offer apparently doesn’t exist, and it wouldn’t do what you wanted it to do even if it did.
Before you slander real conservatives, you should look into getting your emperor a new set of clothes that aren?t transparent.”
Listen, you moron, I have already written that I did not support the war in Iraq. I don’t defend Bush’s policies anywhere on this board, and he is not my emperor. I don’t want to justify his foreign policies, because I think that they have been mostly in error. I don’t like Bush because he is a big-government conservative, and I am a small-government conservative. Got that, moron?Posted by: Clark Coleman on September 22, 2003 2:42 PM
A correspondent writes:
“Virtually every country in history including America, was founded through violence, displacing people and unfortunately, innocent civilians were hurt or killed. Isn’t it funny that people like Williamson only have a problem with this tiny Jewish state.
“I have said for quite some time that one’s position vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian situation is a definite indication as to a person’s moral character. Anti-Israel does not necessarily mean anti-Semitic, but it certainly does mean in every case that I have ever seen, a totally broken moral compass, and usually a lot of deeply repressed psychological baggage and major head problems. That’s just the way it is! I think of Israel as a Rorshasch Test for morality. It works every time.”Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 22, 2003 3:13 PM
CC: “Listen, you moron, I have already written that I did not support the war in Iraq.”
I haven’t read a single word that you’ve written except in this particular thread, where you continue to make light of the fact that Bush’s main reason for invading Iraq is missing in action. You DID, however, write:
CC: “We had every legal right to simply declare that the cease-fire agreement had been violated and resume the 1991 war at any time over the last 12 years.”
Which sounds pro-war enough for a reasonable person. The previous war was no more justifiable than this one, needless to say.
From LA’s “correspondent”: “Virtually every country in history including America, was founded through violence, displacing people and unfortunately, innocent civilians were hurt or killed. Isn’t it funny that people like Williamson only have a problem with this tiny Jewish state.”
Stupid and irrelevant. I have a “problem” with “this tiny Jewish state” because our one-sided support of its brutal treatment of non-Jews is getting innocent American civilians killed by the thousands, with many thousands more at risk from what may be far worse attacks. To my knowledge there are no mass terrorist attacks in the U.S. these days from American Indians, Maoris, Australian aborigines, etc. etc. Please stick to the point.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 3:51 PM
I just noticed Mr. Auster’s statement above questioning why one should waste their time discussing these issues any further with Mr. Williamson. Good advice.Posted by: Joel on September 22, 2003 4:05 PM
The arguement that Iraq has/had no WMD’s is a red herring. Iraq USED Chemical Weapons in the Iraq-Iran war, not only against the Iranians, but also against Iraqi civilians (Kurds and Shi’ites). The US and UN found and destroyed WMD’s after the first Gulf War. In the interum period, the Iraqis played a game of hide and seek with the inspectors, eventually throwing them out. Either the Iraqis were hiding weapons (complete or inomplete) or they were bluffing. If Saddam was bluffing, then he did the equivalent of pulling a toy gun on a cop.(ie suicide by police)
Frankly to say that there are/were no wmd’s is the equivalent of finding a disassembled gun, bullets, and primers and concluding that there was no weapon.
As for the Raimondo piece, Justin/Dennis is comptetant at many things. History is not one of them. Bovard is equally sloppy. The assetion that Israel was started by the Irgun is counterfactual. The Irgun Zvai Leumi (Etzel) was the minority party (ie revisionists). It was essentially a combination of classical liberals and secular nationalists. (The type of people American Conservatives would normally support!) It was the socialists and their army, the Haganah, which domnated the independence movement and early country. In fact, animosity between Etzel and the Socialists was so great that the socialist controled IDF sank an Irgun ship, the Altalena during the war of Independence. http://www.us-israel.org/jsource/History/Altalena.html
As for the attacks on Israel, most of these are inaccurate. Even if true, they only show a state protecting its national identity. Paleoconservative rightly want the US to do this. Only Israel is not allowed to do so.
LA’s “correspondent”: “I have said for quite some time that one’s position vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian situation is a definite indication as to a person’s moral character. Anti-Israel does not necessarily mean anti-Semitic, but it certainly does mean in every case that I have ever seen, a totally broken moral compass, and usually a lot of deeply repressed psychological baggage and major head problems. That’s just the way it is! I think of Israel as a Rorshasch Test for morality. It works every time.”
This is an extraordinarily stupid, not to say arrogant, statement—arrogance, of course, being the anaesthetic of stupidity.
It was my privilege to have had a brief correspondence with Prof. Israel Shahak not too long before he died. He survived the death camp at Belsen and emigrated to Israel in 1945. He had an extraordinarily clear moral vision, despite the fact that he was not religious in any sense that was obvious to me. He was an extraordinarily learned man, and had a devotion to truth that, as it seemed to me, was Socratic in its profundity. He clearly recognized that the Israeli state was racist to its core and that its noxious policies were a threat not only to its neighbors but to Jews themselves. If you want to see what a humane and learned Jew believed about Zionism and the Jewish treatment of non-Jews, read “Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years.” My only regret was that at the time we exchanged a few letters, my own understanding of Zionism was shallow and influenced by the American media stereotypes of heroic Jews and vile Palestinians.
At any rate, the idea of LA’s “correspondent” that to criticize Israel indicates a “totally broken moral compass” is too complacently stupid to waste time on.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 4:10 PM
Ron: “Only Israel is not allowed to do so.”
So far as I’m concerned, they can conduct their affairs as they see fit. What I object to is endangering the lives of American citizens by our one-sided support of this racist state. The survival of Israel is not our concern—it’s the concern of Israelis, who’d better find a way to co-exist with their neighbors, not to mention non-Jewish Israelis, without our support.
Ron: “Raimondo, Bovard et al are shilling for the Islamists.”
Nonsense. They object to our one-sided support of Israel. If American lives weren’t endangered by our meddling in the Israeli/Palestinian question, I doubt if they’d care what happened in the area.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 4:19 PM
SW:”So far as I’m concerned, they can conduct their affairs as they see fit. What I object to is endangering the lives of American citizens by our one-sided support of this racist state. The survival of Israel is not our concern—it’s the concern of Israelis, who’d better find a way to co-exist with their neighbors, not to mention non-Jewish Israelis, without our support.”
While the Pan-Arabists may be content with unifying the Arab world and destroying Israel, the Islamist will not be. The most moderate of Islamists want to retake any territory once under control of Islamists, at least in the short term. They want the Balkan and Iberian peninsula, the Danube up to Vienna, most of Russia, most of India, and parts of China.
Mr. Williamson writes about me:
“You’re about as “politically incorrect” as Bill Kristol or Jonah Goldberg. You embody the worst aspects of the state-worshipping neo-con crypto-liberals.”
He writes about Israel:
“The Israeli state was racist to its core.”
He writes of U.S. relations with Israel:
“our one-sided support of its brutal treatment of non-Jews.”
Mr. Williamson’s stupid, jargon-ridden personal insults, his attacks on Israel’s “racism” and “brutality” (ignoring the terrible situation Israel is in and why it’s forced to use tough measures), are below the level of intellectual discussion at this site. Then, having called Israel “racist to its core,” he tops it off with the audacious lie that he’s only “criticizing” Israel, and that he, poor soul, is being unfairly attacked for such “criticism.”
I’m not inclined at present to close Mr. Williamson out of this site. I do however invite him either to moderate his language, or, if he’s not willing to do that, to go away.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 22, 2003 4:38 PM
Ron: “The more radical Islamists openly call for a World-wide Caliphate. They want to conquer the US.”
If they ever show signs of attempting to conquer us, then we should look to our own defense. In the meantime, Israel should find a way to survive on its own without our taking sides in the middle east.
LA: “I’m not inclined at present to close Mr. Williamson out of this site. I do however invite him either to moderate his language, or, if he’s not willing to do that, to go away.”
If by that you mean that I should refrain from speaking the truth, then forget it. Yes, the Israeli state is fundamentally racist—this is so patently obvious in their own founding documents that it’s beyond question. If Jews were treated in the Western democracies the way non-Jews are treated in Israel, then they would squeal in outrage. Everyone on this site knows this to be true.
And yes, Israel’s treatment of non-Jews is “brutal,” as long as words retain their dictionary meaning. They murder dissidents, they murder innocents, and then they whine about their public relations problems.
As for me, although I am disgusted by their many double standards, I don’t think we should get involved on either side. There are injustices on both sides, plenty to go around, and the only relevant datum for American foreign policy at the moment is that the Israelis, not the Palestinians, retain the whip hand, mainly due to American military and monetary support. It is not in our best interests to support either side, unless it be even-handed humanitarian support.
The way in which the American conservative “movement” has been seduced into supporting the endangering of American lives because of this unlovely little state is one of the more sad stories of the Right in America.Posted by: Seth Williamson on September 22, 2003 4:53 PM
Lawrence writes this, “The fact that the weapons, weapons materials, and weapons programs that we knew existed in Iraq before the war have not been found, should make any rational and patriotic person feel deeply concerned, since it means that those weapons are still in existence and can be used against us.”
Au contraire! Auster never mentions that Iraq never found ways to stablize their bio-chemical weapons, which means they had a shelf life of no more than three or four months. This is the point everyone misses. Unless you use the weapons soon after their production, they are useless and no longer “weaponized.” Also, Auster writes that everyone “knew” Iraq had bio-chemical agents before the war. Again, he is dead wrong.
http://www.thecouriermail.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5936Posted by: Paleocon Avatar on September 28, 2003 11:20 PM
Paleocon Avatar’s link seems to be a bit off
perhaps this one will fix it.
This thread was most interesting when it stuck to the original topic—how to defeat militant Islam. Then it went to the dogs over WMDs, Israel, etc…a huge digression which no one seems to have noticed. Civility suffered, too. Clark Coleman impressed me; I was sorry to see him resort to language like “Got that, moron?”. I’d be interested to see this discussion get back on track, if anyone’s interested…thanks, all.Posted by: paul t on November 21, 2003 7:02 PM
Well, this particular thread was quite long enough, and I’ve touched on the same problem in numerous brief articles before and since (mainly complaining about the desperate need for a full-scale national debate on this issue). Perhaps I will open up a new discussion on this topic in the near future.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on November 21, 2003 8:35 PM
Many fail to understand how islam merely reflects the religious component in the majority of all ancient conflicts, where the earthly armies represented the divine will of the dieties. The sun god vs. the moon god vs. the tree god etc… In these conflicts, the ultimate arbiter was marching into your enemies temple and thoroughly thrashing the place, along with the requisite amount of looting, raping and killing, such ability would enverate the faithful to acceptance of the inevitable. This fantasy ideology of the islamist will end abruptly when once sufficiently provoked either the united states or the Russians will deploy very unmythical thermonuclear devices and turn mecca and medina and qom into molten glass.Posted by: Anonymous on November 28, 2003 3:40 PM
Williamson vs LA
10 to *nuthin*