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12/09/2004

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Palooka

Judge Posner, how about EXTERNALITIES?

With your penchant for economic analysis, I am surprised you haven't discussed externalities in preventive war (both positive and negative).

While I certainly concur that "legitimacy" is per se of little persuasive force to nation states, and that states usually follow their interests rather narrowly, isn't the criticism of a slippery slope at least valid when viewed through the prism of externalities ( though it is perhaps an impercise analogy because of the lack of mutual decision making among principal actors)?

Though a nation state may refuse to engage in a preventive war because the probablity that other nations will attack it also rises (a shaky, though at least plausible, scenario), it does not bear the full costs of that decision, and will engage in preventive wars which otherwise neutral or allied states oppose.

Let us say that for every preventive war the probablity of being attacked in the same manner rises .05. Let us also assume that the nation state which decides to engage in preventive war garners most of the benefit. In the case of Saddam, let us say, for the sake of argument, that it lowered the chance of WMD attack on the USA by .15. The USA may decide that for its purposes the action is cost justified, but the rest of the world is stuck with the externality of increased probability of preventive war.

It is also possible that the world reaps benefits, or positive externalities, from preventive war. Israel, Kuwait, perhaps even Iran, are some of the primary secondary beneficiaries of the removal of Saddam.

Therefore, whether there is too much or too little preventive war is determined by the amount and distribution of the costs and benefits.

If one is serious about promoting global stability and fostering global security, then one has to consider the possibility that a nation, though acting in its own interests and though justified by its own costs benefit analysis, is acting in contravention to the interests of the world as a whole.

Tim

Peter:

I’ve read Dr. Becker’s post, and the resulting comments, and I really do not have a new analysis to present on this topic – I believe my views are close to Dr. Becker’s as they relate to a nation’s right of self-defense (although I would go a step further and say that I believe the U.S. was justified in its war on Iraq). However, after reading your most recent post, I could not resist fisking some of the comments you made in response to Michael’s post (or, should I say, fisking your fisking).


First:


“…Russia has thousands of warheads many of which are unaccounted for. If the US decommissions most of its warheads, in exchange for assurances that Russia does the same - then the Russian black market for nuclear warheads is dramatically reduced. I suspect controls on nuclear weapons under Putin has been very much tightened, but that was where my reasoning came from on that.”


I don’t think you meant to say that the “black market for nuclear warheads is dramatically reduced” by decommissioning weapons – I suppose you meant that the supply of nuclear warheads may be reduced. Anyway, I don’t agree that the US decommissioning its warheads would somehow lead to safeguarding of Russian “loose nukes,” or a reduction in the supply or availability of such weapons. In fact, one of the reasons for the fear of a Russian black market in nuclear weapons is the trade in decommissioned nuclear weapons that have not been properly disposed.


As you note, I would suspect the Russian government has a tight handle on those nuclear weapons that have a role in Russian strategic defense. The problem the world faces from terrorists is really the threat from decommissioned weapons, such as tactical nuclear “suitcase” weapons. The number of loose nukes, if not properly safeguarded and disassembled, would likely increase under your disarmament scenario.


Second:


“I hope you're not implying that by certain relationships between states and terror groups that Iraq funded Al Qaeda; because that's just patently not true.”

To start with, I believe Michael spoke of state support of terrorism, not necessarily or specifically state funding of terrorism. Just because there is no evidence that Saddam wrote a draft from his Credit Suisse checking account “Pay to the Order of Osama Bin Laden dba Al Qaeda” does not mean that he did not otherwise support Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

Take a look at the 9/11 Commission Report and other sources; at the least, there were contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda. At one point in 1998, Iraqi intelligence agents encouraged Bin Laden to relocate his organization to Iraq. He decided to not do so, mainly because he enjoyed greater freedom in Afghanistan. With his Afghan sanctuary no longer available post-9/11, Iraq may have seemed an attractive new base. You should also look into the situation of Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who fled Afghanistan post-9/11 and found sanctuary and medical care in Iraq.

Anyway, the absence of evidence of direct funding by Iraq of Al Qaeda, or any other terrorist group, is not evidence of absence. So, I think you overstep a bit in your statement that it is “patently not true” to say that Iraq funded Al Qaeda.

Third:

“Some argue that the US has supported state terror. They argue for example that the US and Europe funded and provided chemical and biological weapons and infrastructure for WMDs for Saddam in his fight against the Ayatollah Khomeini from 1980-88 in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam was no less a violent, ambitious tyrant then.”

Are you part of the “some” who argue this? If so, why not just come out and say it? But still, I don’t understand this argument, which has become a standard of the anti-war crowd. It seems like you’re trying to make some moral equivalence between the US providing support for Iraq in developing WMDs and the possibility of another state providing the same technology to terrorists. That’s just plain silly.


Really, it seems that even if you accept your premise – that the US and Europe supported WMD production in Iraq in the 1980s –how should this alleged fact (which I would say is patently not true) make the US less free to reduce the modern-day threat of possible Iraqi WMDs? If true, as you allege, doesn’t it in fact make the US and Europe even more responsible for solving this problem, as it is in essence a monster created by the US?

Finally:

“Some also argue, that according to the UN charter, the invasion of Iraq was illegal, so that brings into serious question the following comment you made:

‘Iraq sent a powerful message to the lunocracies of the Middle East: join the world of democracy, freedom, law, and prosperity or perish trying to destroy it’"

Again, do you count yourself among the “some?” And, if so, why not just come out and say so? And, your argument is flawed – just because “some also argue” the US violated the UN charter by invading Iraq, how would this make the signal to the “lunocracies of the Middle East” less powerful? Assuming arguendo your premise that the Iraq invasion violated the UN charter, I would say the invasion made the message even more powerful by also saying that nations developing these weapons cannot hide behind the creaking bureaucracy of the UN.


Just my thoughts.

Deb Frisch

"The case for preventive war must be debated on its merits rather than rejected outright on the ground that any war that is not defensive is aggressive and therefore 'illegitimate.'"

Unbelievable - you still don't understand that from a decision science/rational choice perspective, the question of whether a particular preventive war is justified depends on the particular preventive war. You are still suffering from the delusion that there is some general principle about whether preventive war is good.

Preventive war, like chemotherapy, amputation, tax cuts, etc. can be a good idea under certain conditions.

There is no value in trying to deduce general principles about the utility of "preventive war" or "amputation."

It was mind-boggling that you didn't understand this the first time around and almost unbelievable that you still don't get it.

Peter Konefal

Tim! (laughs) you made a lot of good points. Very well argued actually.

And yes, the "some" I spoke of, does include me, but often when I make these kind of arguments, the argumentation can become personal, and not focussed on the evidence.

To respond to a few of your points:

"Anyway, I don’t agree that the US decommissioning its warheads would somehow lead to safeguarding of Russian “loose nukes,” or a reduction in the supply or availability of such weapons. In fact, one of the reasons for the fear of a Russian black market in nuclear weapons is the trade in decommissioned nuclear weapons that have not been properly disposed."

I couldn't agree more. My proposal certainly would not overlook the possibility that decommissioned nukes would end up in the hands of rogue actors. Good point.

"Take a look at the 9/11 Commission Report and other sources; at the least, there were contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda. At one point in 1998, Iraqi intelligence agents encouraged Bin Laden to relocate his organization to Iraq. He decided to not do so, mainly because he enjoyed greater freedom in Afghanistan"

My question is, does this justify an attack in lieu of the retroactively disproven WMD claim? He had contacts with 'Al Qaeda'? I personally don't believe it, because the only evidence I've seen is that Saddam despised Al Qaeda, and wanted nothing to do with the organization. But admittedly, I am not omniscient and can't ascertain this for sure, so I'll leave it at that.

(quoted from previously) “Some argue that the US has supported state terror. They argue for example that the US and Europe funded and provided chemical and biological weapons and infrastructure for WMDs for Saddam in his fight against the Ayatollah Khomeini from 1980-88 in the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam was no less a violent, ambitious tyrant then.”

Are you part of the “some” who argue this? If so, why not just come out and say it? But still, I don’t understand this argument, which has become a standard of the anti-war crowd. It seems like you’re trying to make some moral equivalence between the US providing support for Iraq in developing WMDs and the possibility of another state providing the same technology to terrorists. That’s just plain silly."

Lets imagine a scenario. State x funds terrorism that ends up killing lots of people. State y funds terrorism that ends up killing lots of people. State x is the US of A. State y is Iraq. I seriously cannot comprehend why moral equivalency would not exist in this hypothetical (and applicable) case. What is it inherently about the United States of America that renders all actions it pursues in the world divinely 'good'?

I also want to qualify my membership in the 'anti-war' crowd. I am not anti-war in principle. In fact, I supported the original gulf war, not only because it was in response to real aggression, but because Saddam (by my sources) was close to developing nuclear capacity (regardless of whether the West supplied that technology).

I am not 'for' the UN either. I recognize its failings in Sudan and Rwanda. But I also believe, that the UN has its most consequential policy largely decided by the security council. This is the UN's downfall. If any nation in the security council opposes UN action, the UN is powerless. Thus it is a bit shortsighted to blame the 'UN' for paralysis, when that paralysis is in direct relation to the policies of five nations.

I might point out that the vast majority of UN paralysis is due to US vetoes. The US, followed by the UK has vetoed most UN motions in the past 30 years. Go to the UN, and check out what motions were vetoed, it might surprise you.

But what puzzles me the most, is how UNACCEPTABLE dissent has become. I am an American/Canadian and I am really blown away by it all. We really haven't become all that different from some of the most indoctrinated populations in history. An affront to say, I know, given the mythological American resistance to authority. But bear with me, I have an interesting passage to relate on why this might be so:

"...the United States is among the leat regulated and most commercialized press systems in the world. The irony is that despite the highly competitive appearance of this free market of ideas, the content is relatively limited and the consumers express extreme dissatisfaction with it. How can this free marketplace of ideas produce such restricted choice of content and such low consumer ratings?

The answer to this important question requiers a somewhat deeper understanding of the organization of the media in the United States. At least two features distinguish American media in general and the press in particular, from almost any other nation on the planet. First, the US does not just display a tendency toward private ownership of media and unregulated political content; it is likely the most extreme case in these regards among the industrial democracies. Most other media systems have large sectors devoted to public or state-funded broadcasting, with various regulatory solutions that provide broad social and political representation in the programming and editorial policies. Second, the overwhelming professional norm guiding political journalism in the US is somewhere between "objectivity" and "fairness." Most media systems are mixed not just in ownership, but in the political and professional biases of different media organizations.

Wherereas party-affiliated, ideologically diverse papers and even broadcasting outlets are common in other societies, most US news organizations attempt to create a similar political "balance" in their reporting. There is no felt obligation to educate citizens, to introduce useful organizing schemes for political information, or to worry much about whether neglected issues or social viewpoints are being represented. In other words, fairness and balance in the American media system do not mean assessing all views and preferences on a given issue, but publicizing the dominant views that are most readily available to the press. This means that the most prominent politicians, the best-organized interests, and, above all, those players with good publicity and strategic communication operations shape the flow of information in society.

As noted earlier, the irony of this system is that even though it is arguably freer of government regulation and political constraints than any in the world, the result is greater conformity and uniformity of program content than in many systems that are more highly regulated. For example, a study of the press in five democracies (US, Britain, Italy, Sweden, and Germany) conducted by Patterson and Donsbach found that American journalists reported fewer pressures and limits on their professional judgements and reporting choices than their colleagues in other societies. Yet American journalists displayed by far the smallest differences in their decisions about how to report various hypothetical news events and political issues (Patterson 1992). The irony of the free press in America is that the convergence of private ownership and the historical evolution of norms of nonpartisanship and political neutrality generally restrict the range of ideas circulating among the mainstream audience"

This connects, I believe, to why there is a massive disconnect in American thinking and the rest of the world. It has NOTHING to do inherently with Americans, but rather with the media environment that we are exposed to.

As Huxley wrote in Brave New World, we only know 'difference' based on the range of ideas we are exposed to. If this range of ideas is limited (comparitively), ideas outside of this range appear silly and outlandish.

Just my 2c....

Peter Konefal

My source for the above quote is:

W. Lance Bennet (2000) "Media Power in the United States" in 'De Westernizing Media Studies' Ed. James Curran and Myung Jin Park., p. 213

BTW: my last post is not meant to be 'the verdict' on the issue, rather I hope it is a provocative, thought provoking excerpt which gets you all thinking... :)

Ben

If I perceive my neighbor to be a threat, and he is a gun collector, am I justified in entering his house and killing him?

Adam Levin

Kosovo was a defensive war. If the law allows A to defend against B who is attempting to stab A, then surely it allows C to defend on behalf of A if A is unable to help himself. I think that was the rational for war in Kosovo.

Ben

Peter Konefal: Your piece should be required reading for all US citizens!

Peter Konefal

Thanks Ben!

Michael Walker

Ben: It depends. If your neighbor has a history of violence and making threats about hurting or killing you and your family, you have a legal complaint and should take self-defensive measures.

Applied to Iraq, Saddam offered shelter to al Qaeda, funded suicide bombers, sponsored terrorism against the U.S. and deceived U.N. weapons inspectors. Iraq had a long historical record of genocide and aggressive military action against neighbors. Saddam had a political ideology and dream of reconstituting an ancient empire and bringing the entire Middle East under his boot. Saddam openly talked about annihilating Israel and vowed revenge against the U.S. Saddam openly tortured and killed his own people. And as we witnessed throughout his reign of terror, he viewed weapons of mass destruction not as weapons of last resort, but as weapons of choice.

Saddam used weapons of mass destruction. In the early 1980s, he deployed chemical weapons to kill and maim thousands of Iranian troops. In 1988, he used chemical weapons against his own people, killing thousands of Kurds and causing birth defects that haunt and scar the Kurdish people to this day.

Saddam was persistent threat to his region. In the span of just two decades, Saddam attacked no less than four of his neighbors: Iran, Kuwait, Israel and Saudi Arabia. He used ballistic missiles against civilian populations in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel. He set fire to the Kuwaiti oil fields, pumped raw petroleum into the ocean, and scorched vast stretches of desert, triggering long-term health problems throughout the region and crippling the Gulf's fragile ecosystem.

And Saddam cynically turned U.N. sanctions against his own people: Rather than using oil revenue to feed his subjects, he diverted it to new palaces, yachts and personal wealth as he corrupted the U.N. Oil for Food Program.

Peter Konefal

We need external verification of this claim... That said, I am happy to believe its true as long as there is sufficient evidence.

"Applied to Iraq, Saddam offered shelter to al Qaeda, funded suicide bombers, sponsored terrorism against the U.S."

I recall statistics indicating that about 40% of Americans still think that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11, or was involved in any way. The percentage of the rest of the world that believes the same? Very, very small.

However, like I say, out with the facts! Where is there any evidence of this!

MrSpkr

Ben, let me give you a slightly different scenario. You live in a frontier area, with no real law enforcement around. Your neighbor has been hostile to you and others around him for over a decade, and in fact has taken the occasional potshot at you in your field.

You know it must be miserable on his farm -- his wife and kids cower in fear of him, and there are even rumors that he shot a few relatives who tried to challenge the way he ran his farm.

Now, you and several of your neighbors have information that this bad neighbor is preparing to poison the local water supply with cholera.

Are you now justified in entering his property and searching his house to make sure he is not able to do that? Better still, if you choose to invade for the greater good, do you have the right to defend yourself as you do so?

Corey

I've got a two part preventative strategy
for stopping crazy foreign governments or fundamentalist groups from wanting to use WMDs against us.

1) Stop researching new WMDs and selling them
to crazy foreign governments or fundamentalists
groups.

2) Figure out why these people are mad at us and
STOP DOING IT. (And no, it isn't "because of our
freedoms". You get an F Bush)

Can I have a nobel prize?

Peter Konefal

Corey:

I would give you the nobel prize if it was mine to give. By even aknowledging that there just maybe, might be a 2) you are already way ahead of the game.

As far as 'why these people are mad at us' I can only offer the meek comment that perhaps it has something to do with Western occupation of the three most holy sites in Islam....maybe....

But the bottom line is: YOU DESERVE A NOBEL PRIZE. END OF STORY.

Lowly 2L

Lowly 1L: In castle doctrine jurisdictions you are not required to retreat from your own home- would argue that 9/11 is such an attack.

Question then is: Is the war in Iraq self-defense in under that paradigm...?

Ben

All the reasons just given for the Irai invasion, are after the fact excuses. They were NOT the initial reasons given.

Ben

Mr. Spike: Nice scenario, N/A. Saddam was a beast, with our assistance for many years. But given the circumstances at the time of the invasion, was no threat to the US. All available FACTS, bear that out.

Peter Konefal

Ben, Corey,

both of you are rare individuals in this online world. There seems to be a cultural amnesia, groupthink (pseudo-indoctrination if you will) going on in the US today, which obstructs our memory of obvious facts...and inconvenient hypocrisies.

All this talk of assigning numbers and probabilities to different scenarios and possibilities is fun, but it lets us abstract from the gruesome reality of this war, which has, like most wars, disproportionately resulted in far more thousands of women, children and families killed than it has "terrorists".

Its almost disrespectful to sit here and assign silly numbers and ratios to nonsensical formulas while this goes on.

Tim

Peter:

Thank you for the response to my response. But, regarding your criticism of American media, I'm not sure of your point. Does this have relevance to what has been discussed previously, or are you just looking to start a new discussion on a new point?

A few responses to some things you post:

"But what puzzles me the most, is how UNACCEPTABLE dissent has become. I am an American/Canadian and I am really blown away by it all."

Really? Are jackbooted thugs kicking in your door as you post on this blog? Has the government shut down your computer? In what way has dissent become "UNACCEPTABLE?" I have plenty of friends and relatives who do not agree with me on current events, yet we do not find each other "UNACCEPTABLE."

And what does it mean to be "American/Canadian?" Are you still trying to decide? Do you mean American-Canadian, or Canadian-American, or North American/Canadian?

And then this:

"We really haven't become all that different from some of the most indoctrinated populations in history. An affront to say, I know, given the mythological American resistance to authority."

Really? We're just like the Japanese or German people during World War II? Or Stalinist Russia? Or Maoist China? Or Khmer Rouge Cambodia? Modern-day North Korea? Iran? Saddam's Iraq? Your writing would be much more persuasive if it didn't degenerate into overblown hyperbole.

If our population is so "indoctrinated," how did Bush only get 51% of the vote? Or was that part of his diabolical plan, to lull us into thinking that there actually is dissent in this country?

I really don't get your point that our media system is flawed because it strives to be fair and strives to balance viewpoints. I also don't understand how our media would be better if it were more partisan - so, the American people would be better off if the daily newspaper they read on the way to work had only one point of view, and did not consider alternate viewpoints? But isn't that exactly what you claim is the problem with Americans - they're so "indoctrinated," and fail to consider alternate points of view?

I have a lot of problems with the American main stream media, but being fair and considering all points of view is not one of them. I think the media spends too much time on sensational, easy-to-digest stories (Scott Peterson, Kobe Bryant, Gary Condit, OJ Simpson, etc). But you're wrong if you think that the media needs to spend more time advocating and less time reporting. That's why newspapers have Op-Ed sections.

You also ignore something staring you right in the face (literally): The internet (or "internets," as George Bush might say). Fewer and fewer Americans are getting their news from the networks and newspapers, and more and more are getting their news from blogs like this.

I enjoy responding to your posts because, unlike many folks on here, you rarely resort to Michael Mooresque simplistic attacks. But, that does not mean I agree with you!

Ben

Hey Tim; Great writing! But I fear you're a bit naive. We live in an age of paradox. At a time when information is more available than ever, more and more people are less informed. We use the net, most people don't. The great unwashed masses(were I live and work) get most of their information in one minute pieces from the mainstream media. I think you're smart enough to know the quality of that information. They don't read either. Grab a clue Tim, get out more.

Corey

Truly uninformed people don't matter, their votes will tend to cancel each other out. They are like monkeys. The problem then becomes ideology, you only have to zap a monkey with electricity a few times when he picks blue and he will go red every time. Similarily, you only have to say 9/11! 9/11! Terrorist! Terrorist! to an uninformed voter a few times to scare him into looking for the biggest gun. If this blog is any indication, this methodology even works on Nobel Prize winners.

We shouldn't think this is a recent phenomena though, witness the propaganda campaigns leading up to WWII. This country interned its own Japanese-American citizens in concentration camps during the war and the population was cool with that. Up until 10 years ago, we have been teaching all our schoolchildren that Columbus was a cool guy. (not the genocidal greedy rapist that he actually was) Look at the way a reluctant population was cowed into going along with WWI or the Spanish-American War. "Remember the Maine!"

Its a never-ending battle against ignorance, and it looks bad right now because we have had twenty five years of rollback under republican and pseudo-republican administrations. I still have hope though, because the "unwashed masses" can be influenced either way, and the worse things get the more likely revolution is coming.

Positive change (relative to the little guy) happens in American History when large groups of otherwise ignorant peasants realize their role and start shaking their pitchforks at the rich. (1890s, 1930s, 1960s...) So don't be down on the people, they want to know the truth, and they are less likely than you think to trust the government. You just have to present it to them, in a non-elitist fashion. The left has a horrible time with this.

Michael Walker

Does anyone want to address the risk-benefit analysis of a preemptive military strike on Iran’s WMD capabilities?

Cosimo

I don't think modern technology and the risk of nuclear destruction ups the ante for avoiding or opposing a "preventive" war on practical, let alone ideological grounds. Earlier societies faced similar risks. Consider the Gallo-Romans in 3rd and 4th century Gaul. They well knew that every punitive foray they launched across the frontier caused a gathering and uniting of the Germanic tribes, leading to greater instablility and risk of homeland invasion. So they eventually elected a purely defensive and absorbtive strategy, which actually lasted quite a long time until forces beyond their control (mass population migrations) ultimately forced a breach. In the same way, our foraying into a war today to "prevent" a potential nuclear holocaust may, and I think probably would, hasten and increase the risk that it would actually happen. This is particularly true given the nature of the modern enemy we would likely fight in such a war: a decentralized, highly mobile and elastic foe, with multiple sources and means of obtaining the needed weaponry. The solution here is not a military one, something which the Gallo-Romans would have told us, as they sipped on the wonderful Chardonnay they had ample time to discover and perfect.

Lowly 1L

Lowly 2L:

But Iraq did not attack us on 9/11. Saudi Arabia did...

If we applied your logic to a case of self-defense, that would be like saying if Person A attacked me in my home, I have the right to go out and kill Person B, in self-defense, because I suspected at some point in the future Person B might help out others who want to invade my home.

Even in a jurisdiction that allows deadly-force to proctect a dwelling, I wouldn't want to face the jury on that one...

Peter Konefal

Tim:

my first thought is - you're obviously an intelligent person, so I enjoy receiving criticism from you. And as to my citizenship, I'm a dualie (dual Canadian and American citizenship).

And no I don't subscribe to bush masterminding and indoctrinating America conspiracies. Its just to simplistic. In fact I wasn't referring to political parties and elections specifically. What I was referring to, was how there are mainstream understandings of the US and its role in the world, and how the rest of the world fits into things.

Generally speaking, when the rest of the world disagrees with the US, we in the US ask, what's wrong with the world? We rarely question whether our two party system in fact represents similar interests and do similar things (Clinton attacked Iraq, initiated a variety of pro-business policies etc). A criticism along the lines I just made is extremely rare in American politics which buys into this unsupported idea that the Democrat party is about as liberal as Zapatista marxists, which is JUST NOT TRUE. In Canada, the Democrat party would possibly be to the right of the Canadian conservative party (just to give you an example).

But my criticism is moreover, about how terms like terrorism and US power have come to be understood in the US. We in the US consistently hold ourselves as being a benevolent superpower, and in fact, compared to the Nazi's or Stalinist russia, there is no doubt that's true. In fact, there's no comparison, as you rightly point out, tim.

But I still believe, if you re-read over the quotation I made, that the mainstream media propogates and relies upon a fairly narrowly defined way of representing society and its issues. In my view, the US media and most US citizens, whether democrat or republican, subscribe to a mythological understanding of what US as standing for, i.e. supporting freedom and democracy, when, according to the evidence and arguments I've been exposed to (McChesney, Chomsky, Chalmers, etc) things are not so simple.

The US has and continues to be schizophrenic in its foreign policy, upholding democracy and helping end illegitimate governments in some cases (milosevic in 1990s, saddam 1990s), while at the same time supporting many regimes that are anti-democratic and authoritarian (pinochet 1970s, Saddam 1980s) when it suits US economic self interest.

If one pays attention to these peices of evidence, then it becomes more difficult to look upon "Saddam" as a projection of all that is evil in the world. It requires us as citizens to be pragmatic and say, well, we funded him when he was doing Washington's bidding, and now that he isn't he's our enemy. Its fine for America to stand for peace and freedom, and in fact, I love it when it does. But we need to hold the government accountable for these schizophrenic policies, and always look deeper than the official explanations for why the US is doing things.

On the one hand, you could argue that Iraq is about bringing democracy to the middle east. On another, you could say, its all about oil. Probably its a mixture of both, but to say oil is not involved requires a leap of faith, and a buying into what I call mainstream-American-mythology.

These are just some ideas that I thought of as a response to your comments Tim. Like all good criticisms though, I am careful to seperate 'what I feel the US is doing wrong' from the US itself. Its not necessarily that the US and its citizens are evil or bad, but that specific policies and interventions are bad.

If I disagree with you Tim, I'm (hopefully) never going to call you names and demean you, I'll pay you respect by giving what you say consideration and responding to it in kind.

I think the mainstream media doesn't do this to opinions and critiques which are outside the range of 'acceptable criticism'. As CIA chief (or official) Mike Schuer said, America needs to enter into debate about the middle-eastern policies its pursued for the last three decades as a way of understanding Al Qaeda and the larger context of the so-called "war on terror," instead of reducing it to a simplistic "if we kill all the terrorists, then that's the end of that problem" kind of thinking.

If you have a blog tim, I'd be happy to check it out, and I invite you to check out my blog, it has a few topics on things related to this.

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