Smoot's a Hoot

by Don Boudreaux on July 15, 2007

in Politics, Trade

My friend Randy Simmons (co-author of the outstanding public-choice primer, Beyond Politics) draws my attention to this poem by Ogden Nash.  (After you click on the link, scroll down a bit until you find the second poem.)  It is Nash’s tribute to Sen. Smoot, of Smoot-Hawley fame.

Persons like Sen. Smoot — and Sen. Schumer — and Sen. Clinton — and Sens. Graham and Brown and Kennedy and Vitter and Boxer and Lott and McCain and you-name-the-office-holder — deserve such withering ridicule.  Such scorn is among the best ways to expose these arrogant busybodies for what they are.

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{ 47 comments }

raja r July 15, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Instead of talking about politicians who deserve to be scorned, I'd be interested to hear what everyone here thinks about someone who may deserve the support of most people here, Ron Paul.

I saw a video of his speech at Google and he said all the right things about free trade and individual freedom.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCM_wQy4YVg

Paris Lovett July 16, 2007 at 9:41 am

Ron Paul comes from the right place on many issues. But I find it difficult to get past his anti-immigration stance and his anti-abortion stance (albeit he has said he would like to see law on this issue devolved back to the states), and I cannot understand his obsession with returning the dollar to a gold standard. I would very much like to hear from Russ and/or Don regarding metal standards. Why do some libertarians see it as so crucial? Could you possibly explain some of the main arguments around this issue and what your own positions are?

Jon July 16, 2007 at 10:09 am

I'm an anti-abortion Libertarian …

Is this terribly unusual?

Methinks July 16, 2007 at 11:46 am

I think Ron Paul is delusional. Besides the gold standard and his abortion stance (with which I disagree but the arguments for which I can understand), I disagree with him about his views on the Middle East. He thinks "they" are attacking us because of the Iraq war. Did anyone brief him on the year of 9/11 and previous terrorist attacks versus the year of the Iraq war? The Nazis would have trampled him before he realized what was happening in WWII.

Right now, I favour Rudy Giuliani.

christiancb July 16, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Here you go Methinks, maybe you would like to methinks again?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaCYEEO-58I

Methinks July 16, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Oh please! I've heard all this before. A leftist union group in a socialist city that hates Giuliani because he didn't give into every single one of their demands as mayor? Shocking!! I was here on 9/11 and for all but the first 2 years of Giuliani's mayorship. He was a great mayor – especially considering that he was fighting rabid socialists the whole time. The city is cleaner and richer because of him. Nanny Bloomberg, on the other hand, hiked taxes and started dictating what we can and can't eat around here.

Why not look at this NY firefighters' site while you're at it?

christiancb July 16, 2007 at 1:06 pm

You where there on 9/11? Wait, I thought that was Rudys line. Oh well, I guess he isn't the only one that can use that to his advantage.

Sad.

And, I don't care about Bloomberg, as I wouldn't vote for either of them. A choice between a nanny statist and a fear monger isn't a choice.

Methinks July 16, 2007 at 1:56 pm

Oh! Okay! So anyone who doesn't like your chosen candidate is a sad asshole, right? I guess that would include the firefighters who are for Rudy too.

Vote for the candidate you want. What makes you think I care?

shawn July 16, 2007 at 6:07 pm

oh yeah? well, my dad can beat up BOTH your dads.

:)

jus' kiddin, lads…

Methinks July 16, 2007 at 8:16 pm

Oh yeah! Well my dad can beat up you whole family. nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!

*sticking out tongue*

:) :)

raja r July 16, 2007 at 9:11 pm

He thinks "they" are attacking us because of the Iraq war.

He actually said that they are attacking the US because the USA meddles in their affairs.

This may come as a surprise to many, but the US has been interfering in Egypt and Saudi Arabia for many many years.

methinks July 16, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Raja,

The United States and Saudi Arabia have had a military pact since around the late 1930's. Basically, the pact obligates us to defend Saudi Arabia and Kuwait against invasion. They don't really have a military – the U.S. tried to train some Saudis but it was hopeless. That's why we went to war when Kuwait was invaded and that's why we have basis. If an off-the-hook terrorist decides that he considers that "meddling" then I suppose we should take heed and shove off? I don't think so.

The "meddling" in Egypt has been in the form of aid and training their military officers in the United States. Every once in a while someone in America reminds Mubarak that the U.S. can pull the aid. Usually, Mubarak then lets up on the routine torture, repression and voter fraud just enough to let the Muslim Brotherhood win a couple more seats in parliament to remind the U.S. what will replace him. On net, this type of meddling reduced the presence of secret police on the streets and people are less afraid of speaking their minds in the street. The Egyptians will admit this and are grateful for it. My husband's entire family still lives in Egypt and, I assure you, meddling is not their complaint. It's way more complicated than this but they basically think that Islam is superior and the West should submit and any use of force to make it submit is justified. It boils down to that terrifying reality. It's like sitting in on a KKK meeting sometimes. The mosques preach "the spotless history of Islam" and the "duty to slay Jews" along with every conspiracy imaginable to justify terrorist acts. And this is the educated "moderates". We can only handle it for about a week at a time and it takes us about 7 months to recover from each trip. It's that bad and it's very painful for us because our family (his side) is still there. You've no idea how much I wish could say that the threat is exaggerated but our experiences lead us to believe that the threat is probably understated.

In our opinion, Ron Paul is deluded. Isolating ourselves would be great but it's not realistic. You may not share our opinion of Ron Paul but, regretfully, we can't share yours.

Hans Luftner July 17, 2007 at 5:22 am

methinks:
While I'm sure the people you've encountered in Egypt are as fanatical as you've described, the actual people who attacked American civilians have given specific reasons for doing so, namely the U.S. government's support for Israel & for interfering with Muslim countries. I believe it's wrong for the U.S. government to do this, whether the Muslims like it, or hate it, or if they think it's irrelevent to the issue of converting all of us to Islam. I believe continuing these policies will not solve the terrorist threat even if you're right about the motives. I see no reason to continue them, & many reasons to discontinue them.

I'm not going to advocate you vote for anyone, but you actually like "Freedom is about authority" Giuliani? I never thought any potential candidate would scare me more than Hillary, but gee whiz, this guy…

I agree with most of what you write here, methinks, so your support of Rudy came as a bit of a shock. Not that any of this is relevant to the post, but I had to add my two cents.

raja r July 17, 2007 at 7:47 am

The United States and Saudi Arabia have had a military pact since around the late 1930's. Basically, the pact obligates us to defend Saudi Arabia and Kuwait against invasion.

Ah – so they keep the oil flowing and you keep the Wahhabists safe. Nope, no problem with that. Shining example of democracy and freedom.

If an off-the-hook terrorist decides that he considers that "meddling" then I suppose we should take heed and shove off? I don't think so.

That 'terrorist' is deluded. How can a nation defending a small cabal of oppressive rulers thousands of miles away for oil be called a meddler? It is ridiculous. They should just watch Fox and learn the meaning of freedom.

In our opinion, Ron Paul is deluded. Isolating ourselves would be great but it's not realistic. You may not share our opinion of Ron Paul but, regretfully, we can't share yours.

Yep – just peacefully trading with and traveling to other countries is isolationist. Bombing countries to smithereens is engagement.

I'm not a citizen of this country. I could not care less who you elect – the reason I brought this subject up was purely from the point of view of free market economics.

methinks July 17, 2007 at 8:38 am

Hans,

The people I described were the educated "moderates" and the mosques are not radical either. Lunatics – like Cho – often give "reasons" for their insane behaviour. This is nothing new. Moreover, even if we completely retreated within our borders, the next beef on their list is historical. They believe they have the right to kill us (not convert – kill) based on unchangeable history, often revised history at that. To recruit, they don't use America's "meddling", they use American weakness – like backing down in Somalia and not retaliating for the African embassy bombings. The cry is that America is weak and "we" can conquer it now. They're not going to leave us alone because, and the terrorists told us this too, the "final solution" for them is world domination. I don't think we were wrong to fight the Japanese, nor the Germans nor communists. These were real threats to lives and freedom. Further, I think that never getting involved in any world conflict is immoral. Never getting involved means never coming to the aid of victims of genocide or allowing communism to enslave more people than it did. I can't believe that it was wrong to fight the Korean war so that all Koreans don't have to live as the North Koreans do.

I also liked "Peace through strength" Reagan. Hans, we have to choose from the field of candidates that we have. Right now, given the field, I lean toward Giuliani because I think he'll be as tough as possible on the terrorists and as soft as possible on our liberties. That was my experience with his mayorship. Hillary will be tough on both.

I agree with most of what you write here as well, but it's not unnatural to disagree on some things or read political candidates differently.

methinks July 17, 2007 at 9:12 am

"Ah – so they keep the oil flowing and you keep the Wahhabists safe. Nope, no problem with that. Shining example of democracy and freedom."

First of all, you have to decide whether you came here to discuss or to let of steam in the form of useless snark. For the moment, I'll overlook it.

I don't have time to get into Arabia's history and the reasons for the rise of a kingdom rather than a democracy. Suffice to say, that a mutually agreed upon, uncoerced exchange of goods for the service of defense is precisely free trade. You just take issue with the commodities traded. If you are against "meddling" in the ME but for free trade, then what right does the U.S. have to dictate Arabia's form of government? If we set political preconditions for each of our trade agreements, we would never trade and you would call that "meddling". You can't have it both ways, Raja.

Incidentally, there is that joint venture with Saudi Arabia known as Aramco. I suppose you think that a joint venture between an American oil company an Arabian oil company should have been prevented because of Saudi's "cabal of oppressive rulers". We're "meddling" with their oil. Incidentally, the terrorists also have a beef with Aramco. They say America is "raping" Arabia of its oil and stripping it of its wealth. So, should we force Aramco to dissolve because these very reasonable and level-headed terrorists don't like it?

I am disturbed by your justification of the murder of innocent civilians in office buildings, subways and buses. If the terrorists were truly dissatisfied with their own governments, they would be bombing them, not random pedesterians. Lots of citizens are dissatisfied with oppressive governments and don't go on murder sprees.

Further, the defense agreement is against foreign invasion, not against internal opposition. Even those in Saudi Arabia who hate their government would not prefer to be invaded and ruled by their neighbours.

"I'm not a citizen of this country. I could not care less who you elect – the reason I brought this subject up was purely from the point of view of free market economics."

Bullshit.

Eric July 17, 2007 at 11:43 am

FYI, Aramco has been wholly owned by the Saudis since the 1980s. In a shining example, the Saudis bought out the Americans rather than going the nationalization route. Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin should take note.

As for Ron Paul and the gold standard, I'll take a gander at explaining his focus on the issue. In Paul's opinion, forcing the government to adhere to a finite material as a base for its currency requires financial discipline because money cannot be produced from nothing (as has happened since the gold standard was first relaxed and then completely thrown out).

A return to some kind of concrete monetary standard would be a great way to rein in government spending, but it is impractical, in my opinion.

methinks July 17, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Well, this is a coincidence.

The Wall Street Journal ran
this editorial
today. It covers Ron Paul, Libertarianism and the War.

Hans Luftner July 17, 2007 at 6:08 pm

methinks:
I've never seen anything even remotely indicating that Rudy would be less than a strict totalitarian when in comes to civil liberties.

Even if we assume the muslims want to covert us to Islam by force, than I don't see how the U.S. government's current foreign policy would prevent their trying or quell their motivation. It does provide an additional reason to hate us, & we could debate to what extent this motivates them, but I think it aides recruitment far more than you think, not that I would justify anything they do against innocents. In short, I can't see how U.S. policy helps the situation, but I see how it hurts, & how it's ethically wrong either way. We may have to agree to disagree on this one, in as much as voting allows for disagreement.

One more point: one could argue that it was U.S. foreign policy that encouraged if not created the Japanese, Nazi, & Communist threats in the first place, usually dating to Wilson's involvement in WWI. You could apply many of the same principles to foreign policy as you would to health care or any other socialist program & get the same results.

Kat July 17, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Hans,

I've never seen anything even remotely indicating that Rudy would be less than a strict totalitarian when in comes to civil liberties.

It would be a lot more helpful if you could tell me why you think he would be a strict totalitarian.

We may end up agreeing to disagree on many things. By the same token, one of us may change our minds about some things in the course of discussion. A useful discussion can be enriching even if all parties don't end up agreeing on everything. I recommend the WSJ story, it sort of outlines where I think we might differ with regard to military action.

I would be happy to discuss current policies with you and how I perceive their effectiveness and learn your opinion. But there are many – some military, some non-military – and you didn't mention any specifically, so I'm at a loss.

I can understand why you would think that the rise of Nazism may have been due to Wilson, although I think I would put more blame on Germany itself and on France's desire to punish Germany for WWI.

I am – for obvious reasons – rather curious why you think Wilson's involvement in WWI led to the Communist revolution. If you would care to elaborate.

You could apply many of the same principles to foreign policy as you would to health care or any other socialist program & get the same results.

Generally speaking, I agree with that.

Methinks July 17, 2007 at 7:03 pm

Sorry. had the wrong screen name in "Kat" = "Methinks"

Ray G July 17, 2007 at 7:15 pm

Rudy has always been heavy handed; kind of like a McCain attitude.

And no, anti-abortion libertarians are not that unusual. It actually makes a lot of sense, and these types of libertarians are often the most rational of all people that one can meet. More anecdote on that, every single one that I know of advocates for returning the issue back to the states.

Methinks July 17, 2007 at 7:49 pm

anti-abortion libertarians are not that unusual. It actually makes a lot of sense, and these types of libertarians are often the most rational of all people that one can meet.

since we don't know when life begins and neither science nor even theology is clear on that. So, we leave it to women to decide individually. Why does it make a lot of sense that those who believe, on faith, that life begins at conception should be able to force a woman to subjugate herself to their beliefs?

I understand and respect the "life begins at conception" and life must be protected belief. But I don't understand why it is the right of states, localities or any other government to impose that belief on an individual and more than it is the right of the federal government.

Hans Luftner July 17, 2007 at 9:41 pm

methinks:
Regarding abortion, I think Dr. Paul's position is that if it's indeed murder, as he believes, then that's a criminal issue the Constitution leaves to the states. If it's not murder, than it's still not a federal issue.

"It would be a lot more helpful if you could tell me why you think he would be a strict totalitarian."

I realize it's no answer to simply reply "everything I've ever heard him say" so I'll give you something specific:

"We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."

Most of what a hear from him has this theme: submission to authority is the path to greatness. That me be my biased interpretation, but there it is.

"I am – for obvious reasons – rather curious why you think Wilson's involvement in WWI led to the Communist revolution. If you would care to elaborate."

That wasn't my argument, though I've heard people make it. It might have merit, but I haven't researched it. My point was that the U.S. pretty much created the Soviet threat by supporting them throughout WWII & then giving them eastern Europe, & encouraging them to go to war with Japan, resulting in N Korea, etcetera. We could debate whether or not Stalin deserved support in WWII, but I don't think the U.S. had the right to support a totalitarian regime over another one, nor was it desirable in the long-term. I don't see how it was in the interests of the American people.

(Note: I'm not defending Hitler, nor saying Hitler should have won. I don't think you would interpret my position that way, but I'm playing it safe, because the internet attracts some crazies & they might misread me.)

I understand that I'm painting some broad strokes here, but foreign policy is a large & complex issue, & I'm unclear on what specifics we disagree. As Harry Browne once said, war is the biggest big-government program of them all. As a result, it might be tough to address it succinctly.

Avatar July 17, 2007 at 9:46 pm

[i]since we don't know when life begins and neither science nor even theology is clear on that. So, we leave it to women to decide individually. Why does it make a lot of sense that those who believe, on faith, that life begins at conception should be able to force a woman to subjugate herself to their beliefs?[/i]

It's exactly because we don't know when life begins. Almost everyone recognizes that that life begins sometime between conception and birth. It's harder to agree on exactly when that it is, so we now have an arbitrary point at which no abortion may occur. But how do we know that's the right line? And what exactly is the difference between one day after conception, and one day after birth?

Brandybuck July 18, 2007 at 12:24 am

Libertarians won't vote for a libertarian they only agree 95% with (Ron Paul), but they will vote for a statist they agree 5% with (Giuliani). Didn't Monty Python make a movie about this?

Methinks July 18, 2007 at 9:34 am

Brandybuck, not all disagreements are valued equally. The issues on which some Libertarians disagree with any Libertarian candidate could be weighty enough to deny him/her a vote.

But how do we know that's the right line? And what exactly is the difference between one day after conception, and one day after birth?

Well, that's the problem, isn't it? The extension of this is the Terry Schiavo problem. At what point do we allow people to die? The easiest answer is that one day after conception it's not a person but a small mass of cells, unable to survive outside the womb, while the day after birth it is a viable life. You can make sort of the same argument about a persistent vegetative state. I have no idea if that's the correct way to look at it. None of the other arguments seem any more reasonable to me either, but that doesn't necessarily make this one correct.

Mercifully, I've never personally been face with either issue. But I wonder if I have the right to impose on other individuals who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being forced to choose.

Methinks July 18, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Hans,
My point was that the U.S. pretty much created the Soviet threat by supporting them throughout WWII & then giving them eastern Europe, & encouraging them to go to war with Japan, resulting in N Korea, etcetera.

Well, that's long discussion by I disagree with that point of view. In fact, I would say, that had the U.S. and Britain lent more support to the provisional government and sent more military resources to Russia, communism would not have taken hold in the first place. The Bolsheviks were a minority and did not have broad-based support. Of course, once Lenin seized control of the violent power of the state, it was over for any kind of freedom in Russia.

supporting them [Soviets] throughout WWII

This really deserves a long answer but I'll try to shorten it. The choices were pretty crappy for the allies. Hitler modeled Germany on Soviet totalitarianism and Stalin and Hitler were allies. That was part of the reason Stalin didn't believe intelligence that Hitler was amassing on his border. Then, one fascist attacked the other. For reasons which are interesting in and of themselves but which are beyond the scope of this post, the Soviets were not very successful in inciting communist revolutions abroad (they weren't successful at home either – it was imposed on people in Russia). The threat of spreading communism seemed and was small. Hitler, on the other hand, was winning the war. Stalin was completely unprepared to fight Hitler and taking Russia would have meant that Nazis would win the war. Churchill didn't want to help Stalin anymore than he absolutely had to, to make sure that Hitler beat himself to a bloody pulp against the Russian rock. He (rightly, IMO) questioned the wisdom of empowering a fascist like Stalin but it seemed the choice was empower Stalin or lose the war. In the end, 93% of Hitler's losses were on the Eastern front. Were it not for the aid of the allies, it is almost certain that Stalin would have pushed through Stalingrad and Moscow, taken Russia and won the war. The allies chose to back Stalin as the slightly less bad of the two bad choices. I think we know the outcome.

I think the mistake the West made was not, as Churchill wanted, stomping out communism before it had a chance to take hold in Russia. It was a threat to liberty and it was imposed on the population by force. There was every reason to fight it. The decision to not stop it then, lead to the conditions that made a choice between Stalin and Hitler necessary. I think the real disservice to the interest of the American people (and all people everywhere) was not stamping out Lenin in the first place.

We have to judge decisions not by their outcomes but by the choices and information available at the time we make them. a good decision sometimes leads to a crappy outcome and vice versa. If we judge decisions solely on outcome, nobody will be willing to make any choices at all and our choices will be made for us by those who want to dominate us and we become passive targets.

Ron Paul / Rudy Giuliani

One thing that disturbs me greatly about Ron Paul is his comfort with conspiracy theories (we're in grave danger of a "staged" attack on Iran?). Also, his belief that we deserved 9/11. I can see no way for America to be isolationist and I cannot see that pulling out of the ME now will send any other signal to the murderous crackpots than to intensify their attacks. If we assume (and I don't) that everything that happens to America it brought on itself, pulling out now will not make the problems already created go away nor will it improve them.

Outside of these disagreements (by far, I don't disagree with all of Ron Paul's opinions), I don't think he has a snowball's chance in hell of winning. On Intrade he's 2% to win the nomination. So, even if I agreed with him 100%, he's not going to win the primary and we have to choose among the candidates who actually have a chance of winning. That's my perspective, anyway.

I don't know the context of the quote you posted and the end was pretty scary. Rudy is a lawyer and former prosecutor. We do have to submit to the authority of the state to enforce our constitution, protect private property, uphold our liberties and to prosecute criminals. Currently, only the government has the authority to do those things. Without context, I'm inclined to think that this is what he was talking about. But I could be wrong. My mind is not made up about Rudy and I reserve the right to lean toward another candidate. So far, I'm leaning toward Rudy. As mayor, he did not impinge on personal or economic liberties. He did strengthen the police force but that only served to help decrease crime and give the majority law-abiding citizens more confidence that they won't be mugged on a regular basis. When I first lived in the city in the 1970's, we had no such confidence. I see that as a plus in the "more liberty" column.

At the same time, he did not expand public programs and he cut taxes. To me, this is perhaps more important. What I see developing in politics today is an old socialist trick of robbing us of our liberty via economics, not police action.

While we have a constitution which protects us from and gives us and avenue for recourse for things like wrongful imprisonment and unlawful search and seizure, we have no protection against an economic attack on our liberty.

The 16th amendment does not cap our government's ability to confiscate our property (and I consider my income my property). Our government can set a tax rate of more than 100% if it chooses and we've already had a 94% top marginal tax rate in the past. Meanwhile the left and some on the right are creating more and more programs to make citizens dependent on the state.

Further, the IRS rules are so broad that people have almost no protection against its tyranny because people have no way to predict the consequences of their actions. Most of their rules read like the recently passed price gouging legislation. The IRS has broad latitude to seize property by claiming some kind of tax violation and there is no presumption of innocence. The courts generally side with the IRS after people spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the charges. And this doesn't include the loss of productivity. For U.S. citizens there is nowhere to go. The U.S. taxes its citizens anywhere they they reside. Giving up your citizenship doesn't help because the U.S. taxes you for 10 years after you renounce your citizenship. All but rogue countries will send you back to the U.S. to be prosecuted if you refuse to pay the taxes the IRS claims you owe (even if you don't) and it will seize a foreign bank account even if the amount in it exceeds what they claim you owe. A punitive tax rate will not be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because the 16th amendment puts no limits on taxation. Add to this the increasingly liberal use of "imminent domain" to seize private property.

If the government has the ability to seize our property in this way, then private property doesn't really exist in the United States. If the state has unlimited economic power over us, then we defacto lose our liberty.

The class warfare waged by the left is taking us in the direction of a Totalitarian end via economic means under the cover of the public's dissatisfaction with the war. To me, this is much more frightening than any of Ron Paul's foreign policy concerns.

Hans Luftner July 18, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Ron Paul is pretty solid on economics, in my opinion. He's opposed to & wants to eliminate both the IRS & the Federal Reserve, both of which rob me of more of my property than anything else the government does.

"Also, his belief that we deserved 9/11. "

He never said we deserved it. He said it was a foreseeable consequence of an aggressive foreign policy. The CIA calls it blowback, & the 9/11 commission acknowledges it. It's not some whackjob opinion.

"I don't think he has a snowball's chance in hell of winning. On Intrade he's 2% to win the nomination. So, even if I agreed with him 100%, he's not going to win the primary and we have to choose among the candidates who actually have a chance of winning."

I think it's far, far too early to know who has a chance & who hasn't. If you look at the polling numbers at this time of the people who actually did go on to win, you'd be surprised.

I'm not a Republican, so I can't vote for anyone. So I'm hardly campaigning for Dr. Paul. Truth is the whole voting process rubs me the wrong way. But that's a tangent.

Speaking of tangents, my point regarding the Soviet threat was that we took someone who was not a threat to us, Germany, & funded the opposition, who did turn out to be a threat. My knowledge of WWII history dates about 15 years, so I can't remember details, but I read a lot about it & couldn't see how Hitler could possibly have beaten Russia in the long run, in that they could not have sustained any long term occupation.

As for whether Wilson could have helped the provisional government in WWI, I don't know if that would have worked. It might have, but a lot of Americans would have died, a lot of American property would have had to be taxed away, all for the possibility of propping up foreign government, which is not business of America, & only possibly in their interests (they couldn't know one way or another). This is a dangerous road to go down, & I don't think it's ethical, for the government at least.

But unfortunatly I have to leave for work, so I didn't have time to address this at length. It's an interesting debate. The "what if"s of history can be problematic, though.

Methinks July 18, 2007 at 3:35 pm

I have more time to reply because I'm not at work and home alone for a few days (double-edged sword!).

He's opposed to & wants to eliminate both the IRS & the Federal Reserve, both of which rob me of more of my property than anything else the government does.

As I said, I don't disagree with all of his positions. Removing ourselves from the UN is another of his positions that I support.

He said it was a foreseeable consequence of an aggressive foreign policy.

Without details, I am inclined to disagree with that. To agree with this opinion, I would have to take their excuse at face value. Given my personal experience, I believe they would have fabricated a reason to attack the United States solely because the U.S. stands in such contrast to their own societies. In the ME, brutal strength is both resented and respected while liberty is derided as decadent. They have no problem fixing the liberty "problem" with brutality.

If we just traded with them, they would accuse us (as they do now) of "corrupting" them with our Western decadence. For instance, they order American magazines of their own free will, then accuse America of cultural imperialism. I won't bother scrambling your brains with the convoluted conspiracy theory presented in defense of this view when it is questioned.

I think it's far, far too early to know who has a chance & who hasn't.

I always defer to the market. The market is giving me a 2% probability. That's all I'm saying.

my point regarding the Soviet threat was that we took someone who was not a threat to us, Germany, & funded the opposition, who did turn out to be a threat.

This is making the classic mistake of judging a decision on outcome rather than on how sound it was given available information and choices at the time the decision was made.

couldn't see how Hitler could possibly have beaten Russia in the long run, in that they could not have sustained any long term occupation.

That would not have been a problem. Stalin managed to murder tens of millions and imprison 2.4% of the population in gulags. Backwards Russia would have been the perfect place for a long term occupation, IMO. It was historically accustomed to totalitarian rule, there was (and still is) a mutual hatred of Jews and ethnic minorities in general. But the piece de resistance is Russia's giant natural prison and death camp – Siberia. Anyone who opposed him would have been sent there to die. This threat alone would turn the Russian Nomenklatura (the majority of which was functionally illiterate, btw) into slobbering sycophants prostrating before the der Fuhrer and begging to do his bidding. Private property and liberty were not really concepts in Russia. Certainly not by the time.

It might have, but a lot of Americans would have died, a lot of American property would have had to be taxed away, all for the possibility of propping up foreign government

Russia was not Iraq. The anti-communists asked for and wanted help. No Communist foreign fighters would have flooded in and Russia was severely weakened by WWI. IMO, the provisional government would not have needed propping up because communism was not the strong competing ideology that Islamism is. Also, I think it was rather predictable where a totalitarian ideology would lead. Instead of spending some time and wealth supporting the anti-communist effort, we later spent way more money and more lives fighting it. To me, that seems like a bad trade-off. Incidentally, the Soviets then went on to covertly subverting foreign governments.

they couldn't know one way or another

Well, I never know if any of my decisions will have the outcome I desire. But not knowing the outcome of a decision is not a reason not to make one. Actually, I guess the U.S. (which did send a little help) decided that it wasn't its business to interfere. Given the information available at the time, I think they should have.

You don't think it's ever ethical for government to interfere but that means that you do find it ethical to not interfere when governments commit genocide or invade weaker governments. To me, that's an extreme isolationism. It's like saying that you wouldn't interfere if a man were beating a woman in the street or if a friend were being murdered.

Hans Luftner July 19, 2007 at 12:27 am

"It's like saying that you wouldn't interfere if a man were beating a woman in the street or if a friend were being murdered."

I'm not sure that's a fair analogy. When the U.S. bombs a country they tend to kill & maim thousands of innocents, often without solving the problems they claim to be trying to solve, & more times than not they leave a powerful tyrant in place when they leave.

"This is making the classic mistake of judging a decision on outcome rather than on how sound it was given available information and choices at the time the decision was made."

I'm not sure it's a mistake to judge decisions that way. The first few times someone errs in a decision it's forgivable, but there comes a time when the tendency to create more problems than you solve becomes clear, & you have to factor that likelihood into the equasion. I think we've come to the point where military intervention is so likely to cause further problems that the entire method should be called into question.

I have no moral objection to you backing a means of solving these global problems yourself, but the methods you propose force me to fund your solution, & I'm skeptical, to say the least, in the U.S. government's ability to be successful or to avoid blowback, not to mention the slaughter of more innocents than guilty. Pure motives aren't enough. Socialists can have pure motives, too, but that doesn't mean their plan won't cost lives & money & not solve the problem they set out to solve. War is a form of socialism, when you think about it.

"Given my personal experience, I believe they would have fabricated a reason to attack the United States solely because the U.S. stands in such contrast to their own societies."

Why would they make something up? Why only the U.S.? Why not Canada or Sweden or Switzerland? I'm sure many of them hate us for the reasons you cite. But why give them another? Why tip the scales for those who only marginally want us dead? Why is the U.S. foreign policy their most successful recruiting tool?

We may have to agree to disagree on the German-Soviet War. It was a tangent anyway. Of the Russian Civil War I know very little. I know the U.S. did send some troops. Nobody knew just how bad a Soviet victory would be, but my overall point is that when you don't know, you should err on the side of nonintervention. This is my view on the market, too. I see no reason why it should be any different with war.

Kat July 19, 2007 at 11:11 am

non-intervention…This is my view on the market, too. I see no reason why it should be any different with war.

Because markets can't cow people and rob them of liberty. In fact, markets represent liberty. Wars, on the other hand, are violent actions against a population and can only be stopped with violent action. It does not please me, but neither does chemotherapy to treat cancer.

Why would they make something up? Why only the U.S.? Why not Canada or Sweden or Switzerland?

It's a long story but the brief answer is for the same reason that Hitler needed the Jews as a scapegoat. Outside of totalitarian secular rulers, Islam itself is an oppressive socialist-type ideology and because of centralized power, it behaves like a totalitarian regime too. But it's not just a religion, they tell you, it's "a way of life" and if you don't conform, the punishment is often death or mutilation. Of course, people become miserable and need a scapegoat. It's easy to see the most visible and wealthiest country on earth as an oppressor which is rich because it stole wealth that rightfully belongs to you. Even though the U.S. never had colonies or mandates in the Middle East, the Arabs claim that America robbed them of their riches and they are not impoverished and miserable because of totalitarian rule but because they were robbed by America. This is easy to believe for a population with a GDP/capita of $1,000, where illiteracy is high and 60% of women are functionally illiterate and information is tightly controlled by the government and coercion by both government and religious establishments is the norm. And I don't mean coercion like Jerry Falwell screaming on TV, I mean murder and mutilation.

They hate the rest of the West too, but, let's face it, Switzerland is not as visible a target.

I'm sure many of them hate us for the reasons you cite. But why give them another?

Well, that's the crappy thing about it. They don't really hate us, per se (it's very hard to explain fully without giving you a historical context beyond the scope of this post). They have this belief that the existence of the United States (and Britain, Israel, etc.) prevents them from prospering because the West is economically exploiting them (think Marx and exploitation of labour or Hitler's accusations levied against the Jews) and that if they could just eliminate the US, prosperity would return. In this way, the religious leaders and secular rulers deflect the anger for lack of civil rights and civil liberty which would naturally fall on them to a scapegoat. About 7% of the population doesn't buy this, of course, but they tend to be like my husband – well educated and well traveled.

The arguments about "meddling in our affairs" are specifically levied because they play well in the West. At home, and in the Arab press, that's not the recruiting cry. The cry, is the opposite: "America won't stand and fight. It's weak and its morality is weak – just look at the way their women walk around like uncovered meat – Allah will lead us to victory against these Godless these heathens." Another favourite is retribution for the Crusades – which killed more Christians than Muslims. But the biggest recruiting comes when America doesn't fight- after Somalia, the embassy bombing, the USS Cole. They are under the impression that the source of all their economic and social misery is weak and beatable and they shouldn't give up the fight now. The papers are full of this garbage.

Is this rational? No. But the Soviets used the same anti-American technique to cow us and Putin is doing it again. Plus, rationality is not highly valued in the Middle East. They take things on faith if a "respected leader" says them but if you can logically disprove it, they just shake their heads and say "No. Tantawi says this is so and I believe him." And this was said by an incredibly intelligent engineer. A logical person like you would go insane in about 5 minutes.

Although, I also have to say that these people are warm and generous and just trying to beat out some kind of meager living. Which makes it more scary and depressing. They don't mean to be evil but they wholeheartedly support the mujahaddin because they really believe that eradication of Israel and America (and the others on the long list) will bring them the prosperity they long for. They believe this not out of evil and seething hatred but out of misery, desperation mixed with racism and xenophobia. Oddly, in Iraq, fewer people think that way than in the rest of the Middle East.

I'm not sure that's a fair analogy. When the U.S. bombs a country they tend to kill & maim thousands of innocents, often without solving the problems they claim to be trying to solve, & more times than not they leave a powerful tyrant in place when they leave.

I think it's a fair analogy. If people are being systematically murdered, how do we morally neglect to come to their aid? I don't think fighting Hitler left us worse off – even with the communist threat. Of course, that's a matter of opinion. We actually haven't fought that many wars compared to other countries and no powerful tyrant was left in our wake in WWI (one arose, but that didn't result directly from the war). South Korea is much better off, so was West Germany. Japan is much better off for our interference and the Marshall plan rebuilt Europe. It's debatable how much it contributed to Europe's socialist tendencies since Europe already had them before WWII. In fact, most of the places the U.S. has been have ended up better off. Usually, America ensures people's freedoms are not trampled and those systems are always better than what others leave behind. Not that I'm suggesting we should run around the world freeing people from dictators but I still think I had what a solid reason for supporting the Iraq war, for example.

I'm not sure it's a mistake to judge decisions that way. The first few times someone errs in a decision it's forgivable, but there comes a time when the tendency to create more problems than you solve becomes clear, & you have to factor that likelihood into the equasion.

What you describe is not evaluating a decision but learning from bad outcomes. In evaluating a decision you have to look at all available information (including the learning from past bad outcomes) and choices at the time the decision was made.

I have no moral objection to you backing a means of solving these global problems yourself, but the methods you propose force me to fund your solution,

That's a good point. Not only do you fund my solution but lots of other people potentially lose their lives for my decision (of course, they now sign up knowing that there's that risk). The problem is that the military is a government monopoly. This sets up these moral dilemmas.

Having made the case for war, I have to say, I don't prefer it. By far, I don't prefer it.

This is a very informative discussion for me. I don't know any libertarians outside of this board, so I don't really get this perspective anywhere else. Thanks for taking the time to engage.

Methinks July 19, 2007 at 11:12 am

Dammit, The above was me.

Jon July 20, 2007 at 11:01 am

LOL @ Methinks ….

I see you have an alter ego … *chuckles*

"America won't stand and fight. It's weak and its morality is weak – just look at the way their women walk around like uncovered meat – Allah will lead us to victory against these Godless these heathens."

Hey now in all fairness … given the obesity problem in America … they may have a point…

And yes they can march to victory, right through superior firepower …. *sigh*

Methinks July 20, 2007 at 11:34 am

Yes, Jon. It's a sad day when we all start looking like Michael Moore.

I kind of got stuck with "Methinks" and I'm trying to transition to a new name. Not going well.

Jon July 20, 2007 at 2:03 pm

Kat … so MeThinks is of the female persuasion? Odd, with your aggressiveness I assumed you were male, don't judge a blogger by his/her diction and rhetoric….

Methinks July 20, 2007 at 3:28 pm

Jon, in my testosterone-soaked profession, If I were less aggressive, I would have been eaten alive a long time ago.

Hans Luftner July 21, 2007 at 12:38 am

"South Korea is much better off, so was West Germany. Japan is much better off for our interference"

For the survivors, maybe. You seem to be overlooking all the thousands of innocents that get killed or maimed, or maybe you chalk them up to acceptable losses. This is where I think your analogy ("It's like saying that you wouldn't interfere if a man were beating a woman in the street or if a friend were being murdered.") is flawed. Helping a stranger doesn't involve harming innocent bystanders, & going to war doesn't always help the stranger in question (sometimes it later turns out there was never any stranger in danger at all, as in Kosovo). Were the Poles really better off because of WWII? Some maybe were, others certainly weren't. Who exactly was saved in WWI?

Countries are only abstract collectives. The U.S. government didn't fight Germany, for example. It fought individuals, many of whom had no choice in the matter. Dresden? Was that really necessary? But this is what happens when you ask the government to fight "Germany". It all becomes an emotional "with us or with the enemy" form of violent collectivism. "Us" verses "Them". "Winning the War" becomes the objective, & it doesn't matter how pure your original intentions were, there'll be widows & orphans & cripples & wasteland, & they'll remember who did it, & maybe Saddam will get a trial, but meanwhile thousands of innocent people will die so the U.S. can… do what, exactly?

I'm suggesting the U.S. not have propped up Saddam's government in the first place, even if the U.S. only did so because they were affraid of Iran, who was only pissed off at the U.S. for installing & propping up the Shah for 30 years. Maybe the U.S. shouldn't have trained Bin Laden to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, & they shouldn't have supported the Soviets against Hitler, who may never have come to power were it not for Wilson giving the French all that extra muscle after WWI to impose whatever peace plan they felt like. Maybe middle easterners would be economically better off if the U.S. hadn't been backing nearly every ruler over there for the past 50 years, or the opposition, which only gives extra legitamacy to whoever tells the U.S. where to stick it. That's all water under the bridge now, but I think there are lessons to be learned here. Let's put these lessons into practice instead of repeating the same mistakes.

If you're right about what really motivates them, then I still fail to see how military intervention solves that problem at all. The solution is to currupt their youth more with rock'n'roll, hamburgers, & good ol' fashioned American porn. In other words, free trade. Maybe they'd be less likely to blow themselves up if they were hooked on "Lost" & wanted to know how it ends. I'm being a bit facetious here, but only a bit.

If they were economically better off they wouldn't be so desperate, & maybe the youth would learn eventually what's really messing up their lives, & I'd rather they didn't find out it was the U.S. government arming their oppressive leaders or bombing their neighbors two countries over. Maybe they'll secretly think to themselves "I don't care what my father says, I like America! The MC5 rocks!" rather than "I will avenge my father's death."

"Because markets can't cow people and rob them of liberty. In fact, markets represent liberty. Wars, on the other hand, are violent actions against a population and can only be stopped with violent action."

I agree completely. I'm taking it a step further, though. I say by trading with them we can peacefully Show Them The Way, but by bombing them that'll give them something else to violently react to. Will the problem disappear overnight? No. But there's still defensive measures we could take at home, the natures of which might be another long debate we could save for another time.

Jon July 21, 2007 at 11:17 am

@ MeThinks

*chuckles* Keep your claws out then. And good luck to you.

Methinks July 23, 2007 at 9:31 am

Hans,

Propping up – that is to say, not alienating him – seemed the best alternative at the time. Unfortunately, to get to who did what to whom and who is ultimately responsible for a particular "mess" will require us to begin our calculation of history at an arbitrarily set point in time. Again, that's judging decisions based on outcome. Purity of motive is not the point. Our best interest is.

We are stuck with these abstract collectives known as countries and they have a monopoly on violent force. I understand your position as never fighting anyone even if they are systematically murdering innocents because other innocents will die. Unfortunately, this sets up a human shield dilemma. A government can use its power of coercion to force innocent people into an apartment building built over a munitions dump and from which the government orders its soldiers to fire (Hezbollah, a defacto government, does that). This government can then attack another country and provoke war. Can the the government of the attacked country working to defend its citizens not fire on the soldiers shooting into its own borders and killing its innocents because the building from which the attacker is lobbing missiles is also occupied by innocents held against their will? This seems a useful tool for the meglomaniac of the world to use against all innocents.

Saddam's government in the first place, even if the U.S. only did so because they were affraid of Iran, who was only pissed off at the U.S. for installing & propping up the Shah for 30 years.

That's not exactly what happened. These same Iranians now regret this decision because what they got was worse than the shah.

Maybe the U.S. shouldn't have trained Bin Laden to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan,

The U.S. trained thousands of mujahaddin to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Bin Laden distinguished himself later as a terrorist but are we not going to help anyone defend against an invasion because one of them might grow up to be the anti-Christ?

If you're right about what really motivates them, then I still fail to see how military intervention solves that problem at all.

Showing brute strength makes them think that they can't destroy the U.S. Weakness makes them believe the opposite and encourages them to fight harder. Their words, not mine.

The solution is to currupt their youth more with rock'n'roll, hamburgers, & good ol' fashioned American porn. In other words, free trade.

Apart from the 100% import tariffs imposed by their governments, free trade already exists. Most of Egypt's exports are to the U.S. In turn, they love American stuff and hate America for creating it to "currupt" them. They are not culpable in the decision to buy it. Get that logic? Probably not. Don't worry, it's a sign that you're sane.

If they were economically better off they wouldn't be so desperate, & maybe the youth would learn eventually what's really messing up their lives, & I'd rather they didn't find out it was the U.S. government arming their oppressive leaders or bombing their neighbors two countries over.

They are not economically better off because of their own governments, not because of the U.S. The alternative to Mubarak, for example, is the Muslim Brotherhood (think modern day Iran). Iran is worse off than Egypt. The U.S. is propping up the better alternative while trying to spread liberal ideas about democracy and individual rights. It's the least sucky of all the sucky options. All options suck.

Interestingly, almost none of the terrorists come from the poor families. And they are funded by the wealthy Saudis. The Saudies are objectively not anywhere close to poverty. They believe in a racist & fascist ideology that they are the dominant race/religion and that it is their duty to fight for Islam to dominate the world. The strong mercilessly cut off any economic opportunity for the poor and weak and then use the U.S. (at the head of a long list) as a scapegoat to blame all their woes on. Woes created by the very guys feeding them this line of horseshit.

The poor are truly powerless there but they are preoccupied with eeking out a living, not global war. They passively support the real terrorists because they believe those guys are fighting to restore the wealth to which they are entitled. BTW, if you think economics is poorly understood in this country, understanding is non-existent in those countries. Nobody majors in economics or even takes an entry level class.

The interesting thing is that Iraqis have a more positive view of America and Americans than countries where Americans are rarely seen. One thing that never makes it into the news ever is how much the Kuwaitis love America. They're very grateful to the U.S. for saving them from Saddam in the first war and they're doing all they can to stabalize Iraq now. This never makes it into the leftist media, of course. I have to read it in the Arab press – and then only in the Kuwaiti press. Iran's population is one of the most pro-American – betcha didn't know that.

I'm taking it a step further, though. I say by trading with them we can peacefully Show Them The Way, but by bombing them that'll give them something else to violently react to.

Hans, we have been trading with them forever. We are the biggest buyer of Egpytian cotton. We buy tons of oil. They don't produce much, so it's hard to find more to buy than that but free trade hasn't stopped anywhere except with Iran. Iran's population has the You mistakenly think this is all a reaction to our action. If you think that, then you must think that Germany's widespread anti-semitism and willingness to help or turn a blind eye to Hitler's extermination of Jews is a violent reaction to some wrong inflicted on the Germans by Jews.

Maybe they'll secretly think to themselves "I don't care what my father says, I like America! The MC5 rocks!" rather than "I will avenge my father's death."

Oh please. Their fathers don't die because of the U.S. That's just hyperbole!

Hans Luftner July 23, 2007 at 10:56 pm

"Oh please. Their fathers don't die because of the U.S. That's just hyperbole!"

In Iraq they do. Afghanistan, too. If at anytime someone kills a member of their family, & the killer can be shown to have been supported by the U.S., then I think they could validly be angry at the U.S., although I don't necessarily agree with their methods of reaction. I don't think it's hyperbole, unless you're denying the tens of thousands of deaths the U.S. has caused in Iraq just these past few years.

"Again, that's judging decisions based on outcome. Purity of motive is not the point. Our best interest is."

It may have seemed like it would be in our interests, but the consequences of the decisions were contrary to our interests. I'm not trying to point the finger of blame so much as show how the decisions turned out to be errors in the long term. When the past fifty years of these types of decisions result in these types of consequences, I think we can now say that future decisions of this type would unlikely be in our interests.

"Unfortunately, this sets up a human shield dilemma."

The probelm with your example here is that I'm not talking about when a government sends it's troops over the American border. At that point it becomes a kill-or-be-killed scenario. I don't think that applies to an argument against supporting various foreign governments or overthrowing governments that lack the means to actually attack us.

"That's not exactly what happened. These same Iranians now regret this decision because what they got was worse than the shah."

They made an error in their reaction to the U.S.'s error. That doesn't excuse the U.S.'s error. In fact, one could argue that it demonstrates that the U.S. made a bigger error than they could have realized. I'm not pointing fingers, I'm just identifying the errors & suggesting they not be repeated.

"The U.S. trained thousands of mujahaddin to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Bin Laden distinguished himself later as a terrorist but are we not going to help anyone defend against an invasion because one of them might grow up to be the anti-Christ?"

I'm not sure I see how involvement in the Soviet-Afghanistan war was in America's interests. In the long run, it turns out it was against our interests. That doesn't mean they should have backed the Soviets, it means they should have stayed out. You may point out that no one could have foreseen that Al Qaeda would result, but then I would say that this is just more evidence that an interventionist policy results in unforeseen consequenses.

You may argue that there were Afghanis who needed help, & you'd be right. But as cold as this may sound, Afghanistan is not United States territory, it's outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, & it's not the place of the U.S. government to intervene in foreign matters any more in this case than if it was a simple criminal matter or property dispute. Again, I have no objection to you helping Afghanis any way you wish, but the U.S. government is not a moral agent, they exist (supposedly) to protect us, & cannot unilaterally extend that alleged protection to others without becoming an aggressor nation, & history is littered with examples of why this often turns out to be a bad idea. It fails on ethical & consequentilist grounds, but it sometimes succeeds on polital grounds, which is only a good argument if you're a mystic or a sociopath.

"Showing brute strength makes them think that they can't destroy the U.S. Weakness makes them believe the opposite and encourages them to fight harder."

Just because they're cowed by aggression does not justify aggression. At best that would only delay the problem while creating additional problems.

Besides, although your knowledge of middle eastern culture is clearly larger than mine (I've only known middle easterners who were wise enough to come to America, a self-selecting sample) I'm still skeptical of the claim that any catagory of people "only respect force" or "are just crazy!" when those discriptions have been applied to nearly every villian any government has decided we should fear, from the beginning of time. Maybe this time it's true, but it would probably be the first, so forgive me my skepicism.

As for their own government being the real source of their economic problems, I have no doubt you're right. But if they already hate America, for whatever reason, then backing their government will only empower the strongest opposition group, no matter how much worse they are, & backing the opposition group will only empower the incumbant power, no matter how bad they are. Neither method is the path to their freedom.

I'm guessing that the Arabs or Iranians who like America are the better educated ones. I'm not sure you could credit U.S. foreign policy for that. Most people, even irrational ones, desire education & prosperity for their children. The best thing Americans could do to encourage that would be to stay out of their way, continue trading with them when we want, & set a good example, which means acting ethically instead of expediently through violence. It won't happen overnight. Nothing ever does. But when the time is right, they'll see the way, & it'll seem like overnight, & no one will be able to stop them.

Or they'll stay ignorant, like most Ameicans I know who blame corporations for everything, but they're too fat & lazy to fight anyone, so they watch TV all night. Either way.

Methinks July 24, 2007 at 11:33 am

Hey, Hans.

Something strikes me as strange about your logic. Maybe you can explain this to me. You favour and open border – all people are part of the same world and should be able to move freely in it (in principle, I agree with you, btw). However, when there's conflict or oppression, invasion, etc., suddenly there's an "us" and "them". "We" have no business with "them" – regardless of what "they" do. How do you reconcile that?

In Iraq they do. Afghanistan, too. If at anytime someone kills a member of their family, & the killer can be shown to have been supported by the U.S., then I think they could validly be angry at the U.S.

Well, that would be very logical and simple but that's not what happens. Afghanis actually love the fact that the U.S. helped keep the Soviets out and their lives have improved markedly since the U.S. kicked out the Taliban. The Iraqis are joining forces with U.S. soldiers to kick out Al Queda. Seems that even the Sunnis (bitter enemies of the Shiite) have figured out that Al Queda (a Sunni organization) kills everyone indiscriminately and Americans will only kill a civilian by accident.

Your Afghanistan stance puzzles me most. Al Queda used it as a base from which to launch attacks on us. Not to get too emotional, but my husband was attacked on 9/11 and what the hell are he and I paying our taxes for if not for the government to defend him from being attacked again? Doesn't that mean that we have to incapacitate the attackers and doesn't that mean attacking them in Afghanistan?

They made an error in their reaction to the U.S.'s error. That doesn't excuse the U.S.'s error.

Given why the Shah was installed, I'm not certain that this was an error. It was the best of all available choices. If you want to talk about errors in response to errors, we're going to have to pick an arbitrary point in history. Unfortunately for your argument, Persian history didn't begin with Mossadeq.

I'm not sure I see how involvement in the Soviet-Afghanistan war was in America's interests.

It stopped the further spread of communism. It was in the interest of all mankind.

In the long run, it turns out it was against our interests.

You're attributing Osama bin Laden entirely to America and Afghanistan. But he is a member of the Wahhabis and they have always pretty much been terrorists. In the long run, I doubt very much that our involvement in the 80's was against our interest at all. What about Bosnia? Did saving Bosnians work against our interests? Now, saving France from Germany may have worked against our best interests :) :)

Again, I have no objection to you helping Afghanis any way you wish, but the U.S. government is not a moral agent, they exist (supposedly) to protect us, & cannot unilaterally extend that alleged protection to others without becoming an aggressor nation, & history is littered with examples of why this often turns out to be a bad idea.

I don't think history is littered with examples of why this is a bad idea. This is like driving on the road with other drivers. You don't actually have to do anything wrong to get into a car accident. Other nations don't play by these isolationist rules. If the U.S. government has information that U.S. citizens are at risk, should it not act on it? Communism was a threat to the free world and, ultimately, to the citizens of the United States. Islamofascism (and it IS fascism) has now emerged after Clinton payed no attention and cut our military and intelligence budget for nearly a decade. We had no idea how bad things were as a result. 3,000 civilians died in one day as a result of his basically isolationist strategy – that's nearly as many people as well-armed soldiers in 4 years of war! Isolationism doesn't work. It doesn't protect Americans better than being actively involved.

I'm still skeptical of the claim that any catagory of people "only respect force" or "are just crazy!" when those discriptions have been applied to nearly every villian any government has decided we should fear, from the beginning of time.

Careful, now. I said the "vast majority". When you talk about populations, you have to generalize. I don't know what is so sane about seeking world domination or believing that a group of people, by their very existence is responsible for the poverty of another group. To me, scapegoating is crazy. You call it what you want but I'm not getting my information from government. I'm getting it first hand from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

I'm guessing that the Arabs or Iranians who like America are the better educated ones.

Not as a rule. Better traveled Arabs tend to reject anti-Americanism because they've been here and, like Soviets before them, discovered that the censored home press and educators all lied to them. For example, we've discovered they think there's widespread persecution and torture of Arabs in America. They were shocked to find out that the managing partner of my husband's large company (it's a private partnership)is a Jew and will move heaven and earth to hold on to my husband. In fact, he flies up to NYC to have dinner with him at least 2x per year to make sure he's happy. I'm not sure that it even registered with this partner that my clearly Arab husband is Arab. Of course you and I are used to that because America is just not that xenophobic on the whole, but there it brought the room to silence. Iranians tend to be better educated than Arabs. But reactions range from "America and Israel are great examples of freedom" (rare), "America is bad but I've got my own life to worry about", "America is the devil and I support suicide bombings" and "I'm willing to kill Americans". Actually, Hans, with air travel becoming more popular even in poor countries and more brain drain people coming back from America to visit, there is a small but growing realization that America is a better model. I don't think it has more support than Islamism but people who went to America are clearly richer and look ten years younger than the people of the same age living in the Middle East. But when you ask them about adopting the American model, you get the scapegoating argument again. Sorry, I do call that crazy. I also call Nazism and communism a form of mental illness.

Iranians are pro-American across the board. They are better educated than Arabs, in general, but that's not really the issue. There are enough people around to remember how much better it used to be and how much better America was (even though the Shah was no picnic). Interestingly, they've become much less religious since the Islamic Revolution. A totalitarian regime, it seems, by any other name still produces crap.

Or they'll stay ignorant, like most Ameicans I know who blame corporations for everything, but they're too fat & lazy to fight anyone, so they watch TV all night. Either way.

Here, people are too fat and lazy. Over there, there are enough people who aren't fat and ignorant and they are willing to go farther than the average pissed off American who isn't too fat and lazy to do anything about it.

I do realize that we have the problem of using government force – a collective force. There will be disagreements like yours and mine about how to use it. I do think you're naive about the threat (no offense) and you may think that I'm dead wrong. I doubt we'll end up agreeing on how to handle the this situation – even if we clearly agree on most other things.

Methinks July 24, 2007 at 4:30 pm

"aren't fat and ignorant"

Should be "fat and lazy". Ignorance abounds.

Hans Luftner July 25, 2007 at 10:58 pm

"Something strikes me as strange about your logic. Maybe you can explain this to me. You favour and open border – all people are part of the same world and should be able to move freely in it (in principle, I agree with you, btw). However, when there's conflict or oppression, invasion, etc., suddenly there's an "us" and "them". "We" have no business with "them" – regardless of what "they" do. How do you reconcile that?"

Very insightful observation. I'm impressed.

There are only individuals, true, but when dealing with a discussion on war I almost have to use these terms, although I realize that they only represent ideas, not factual things.

For example, I didn't mean to imply that I see this as any sort of us vs. them dillema. If I were forced to catorize the people into exclusive groups of useful abstractions for debate purposes I would do so this way:

(1) the United States government
(2) American people in general
(3) terrorists
(4) middle eastern people in general
(5) middle eastern governments in general, including opposition groups

I've tried to keep these groups sepate as I explain my position, although not as stictly or explicitly as I probably should have. These groups can be broken down even further, for example:

"their lives have improved markedly since the U.S. kicked out the Taliban. "

Some have. Others haven't. We could tally up how many people like it more than others, & weigh these numbers based on to what extent some of the dead valued their lives, etcetra, but that would be impossible to determine, & unethical to base any decisions on that information.

"The Iraqis are joining forces with U.S. soldiers to kick out Al Queda."

Some are, perhaps, but many, many are not. Tens of thousands of innocents have died as a direct result of the occupation. It's hard to know if they would have thought it was worth it. I'm not even sure what benefit to weigh the cost against. Al Qaeda was never in Iraq before the U.S. invaded, & I'm skeptical, to say the least, of the U.S.'s ability to drive them back out again.

"Not to get too emotional, but my husband was attacked on 9/11 and what the hell are he and I paying our taxes for if not for the government to defend him from being attacked again?"

My sister worked in the city too, nearby the towers. I couldn't get ahold of her for hours. Was she alright? I was scared out of my whits! She's fine.

So when the U.S. invaded Afhganistan I agreed, at the time, that it was the right thing to do. If that's where Bin Laden is & the Taliban wouldn't give him to us, then we take him ourselves. I'm pretty sure that was Ron Paul's position, too, when he voted to go in (to return us breifly to what began this discussion). But I've since discovered that the government can't be relied upon to do what they say they're going to do. Ever. They never got Bin Laden, I don't think they're even trying anymore, assuming they were really trying before. Why stay in Afghanistan now? How does further occupation help the U.S. protect Americans from attack?

& I for one pay my taxes because the IRS will seize the rest of my property & lock me in a cage if I don't.

"Persian history didn't begin with Mossadeq."

But U.S. involvement began with installing the Shah. Maybe we read different history books, but my understanding is that Mossadegh was nationalizing British controlled oil interests. As much as I dissapprove of that, I don't see how that preventing that was in the interests of the U.S., & even if you made an argument that it was, I'm not sure it was a good idea.

"It stopped the further spread of communism. It was in the interest of all mankind."

I'm not so sure U.S. involvement in Afghanistan stopped anything. Also, the "greater good of all mankind" is a very dangerous position to argue from, as anyone can make that claim, & can lead to "the ends justify the means" which has serious ethical shortcomings.

"after Clinton payed no attention and cut our military and intelligence budget for nearly a decade. We had no idea how bad things were as a result. 3,000 civilians died in one day as a result of his basically isolationist strategy – that's nearly as many people as well-armed soldiers in 4 years of war! Isolationism doesn't work. It doesn't protect Americans better than being actively involved."

I hate Clinton so much, to this day. But you could hardly call him an isolationist. He interfered everywhere, based on lies & foolishness, often not even pretending to be in the interests of America.

To blame 9/11 on isolationism reminds me of that old SNL sketch with Steve Martin where he's a mediaeval barber, & no matter how much weaker & paler they got after his bloodlettings, his only solution was to let out more blood. The United States hasn't been even remotely isolationist for nearly a hundred years. I'm sure you could point to individual instances where they didn't intervene in this or that, but in order to avoid that claim they would have to involve themselves everywhere at every time & in every way. If fails every logical test.

"I don't know what is so sane about seeking world domination or believing that a group of people, by their very existence is responsible for the poverty of another group."

I agree that would be crazy. What I'm rejecting is anecdotal evidence, based on a small sampling, in light of repeatedly being lied to by the government. I know you're not the government, but in wartime the supporters of government policy can sometimes reach conclusions based on their emotional investment in supporting that policy. I'm not accusing you of doing that. I'm saying I can't know one way or another. But broad generalizations like that raises a red flag for me, so I'll need further validation before I support killing anyone.

But assuming you're right & most of them really are that crazy, I still think that involving the U.S. government can hardly bring enlightened discouse & reason. Even around here they just make it worse. I can't see how giving the military free reign along with a with-us-or-with-the-enemy, gotta-kill-them-for-freedom mindset can possibly educate anyone that their conclusions are wrong.

"Iranians are pro-American across the board. "

That may be true. I have no reason to doubt that they're coming around. But I guaranty that if the U.S. starts the war they keep hinting at, their support for America will wane considerably.

Hans Luftner July 26, 2007 at 1:10 am

If I may make an interesting point about my own recent post:

"If that's where Bin Laden is & the Taliban wouldn't give him to us, then we take him ourselves."

Clearly 6 years ago I still identified myself with the actions of the U.S. government. That's how I saw things at the time. I find it interesting that it still comes across when I recount that story. Funny what you can notice when you look at the words you choose.

Methinks July 28, 2007 at 4:12 pm

Some are, perhaps, but many, many are not. Tens of thousands of innocents have died as a direct result of the occupation. It's hard to know if they would have thought it was worth it. I'm not even sure what benefit to weigh the cost against.

The opportunity cost was the hundreds of thousands killed by Hussein and the hundreds of thousands more that were tortured by him. In addition, it was living in fear. As a person who lived in fear, I can tell you that it's worth dying for to end. That kind of living is not living.

My sister worked in the city too, nearby the towers. I couldn't get ahold of her for hours. Was she alright? I was scared out of my whits! She's fine.

Just random commentary: It was a nightmare day. Glad to hear she's okay. When it happened, those of us in New York didn't know what would happen next. We really thought that there would be a series of car bombs, a war. We didn't know and we were terrified waiting for the other shoe to drop. That's not often talked about but that's what happened. I used to work in one of the buildings that collapsed as well. It was oddly emotional.

But U.S. involvement began with installing the Shah. Maybe we read different history books, but my understanding is that Mossadegh was nationalizing British controlled oil interests.

Yep, good ole' Mo was not only trying to nationalize but threatening to go Communist, financed by the Soviets. The US was an ally of both Iran and Britain. Our involvement pre-dates the Shah. It may predate WWII but Iran was our ally and the U.S. had military installations there. Given our involvement with both Britain and Iran, the U.S. was between a rock and a hard place. I think that if Mossadeq hadn't gone the "I'm going over to the Soviets" tack, the U.S. would have probably just sat that one out. That was its preference.

To blame 9/11 on isolationism reminds me of that old SNL sketch..

Let me be clear, I do not blame 9/11 on anything but the fascism which gripped the jerks who planned it in the quest for world domination. I blame our lack of preparedness on Clinton's slashing our military and intelligence budgets. WTF? Military is one of the few businesses that government should be in. This guy went head first into socialized medicine but cut the military and intelligence budgets.

What I'm rejecting is anecdotal evidence, based on a small sampling, in light of repeatedly being lied to by the government.

Always reject what the government tells you – at least at first. I base my opinions on a much larger body of evidence than my personal anecdotes. Fouad Ajami, Walid Phares, Walid Shoebat, and a few others are more expert than I and Shoebat is an ex-terrorist. I promise you I misspelled some of these names(it's hard when you have to spell phonetically from a different alphabet).

I know you're not the government, but in wartime the supporters of government policy can sometimes reach conclusions based on their emotional investment in supporting that policy.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not invested in any particular government policy unless it matches what I think to begin with. I start out with the basic premise that government is always wrong. I have no emotional investment in policy, I do have an emotional investment in not allowing these fascists to take an inch. But I was actually worried about that long before 9/11.

But assuming you're right & most of them really are that crazy, I still think that involving the U.S. government can hardly bring enlightened discouse & reason.

Listen, under no circumstances should you ever just take my word for it. I just have a keen interest because half my family happens to be Middle Eastern Muslims. So, I read the Arab press and I'm kept informed (whether I want to be or not). The battle that went down between my classical liberal husband and his family after 9/11 was quite ferocious. I don't have the luxury of not being involved in the debate. But I am one data point for you and I don't expect you to capitulate to me. This is merely an exchange.

Enlightenment and discourse was going to work with neither Saddam, Hitler nor Stalin. There are times when you will be murdered in cold blood as you seek enlightenment and discourse. This is a point that I think Ron Paul is missing. I hate to say that because I really do think a lot of the man.

[Iranians are pro-American] I have no reason to doubt that they're coming around. But I guaranty that if the U.S. starts the war they keep hinting at, their support for America will wane considerably.

I agree with you. A Slate reporter went to Iran. At a dinner party a black clad woman who seemed conservative and remained quiet throughout the meal suddenly spoke up. In a quivering voice, barely above a whisper, she asked if the U.S. couldn't just attack the country and remove the Mullahs so they could all get their lives back. Of course, how she will feel if we actually did that may be very different. I don't cry easily but that one brought me to tears. I remember that we felt like that too in Russia.

I'm not so sure U.S. involvement in Afghanistan stopped anything.

It stopped communism. It stopped the domination and torture that always goes with it. Jimmy Carter and the liberals were wrong – it is not "another way to live" it is another way to slowly die. Think that's hyperbole? The well documented rivers of blood say different.

Also, the "greater good of all mankind" is a very dangerous position to argue from, as anyone can make that claim, & can lead to "the ends justify the means" which has serious ethical shortcomings.

Only when "the greater good of all mankind" is defined as a single end. When "the greater good of mankind" is individual liberty the ends don't justify the means. When fighting a totalitarian torture machine like the Soviets, the end is liberty itself the means is usually war and in that case, I think war is justified because it achieves an end (freedom) where the ends don't justify the means.

Methinks July 28, 2007 at 4:12 pm

AAARGH!!! I left the tag open and I don't know how to close it now!

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