The Black September War
Thursday, September 18, 2003
What Is To Be Done?
The traditional organization of a page like this is to keep it in chronological order, and I will do that. I will try to index new additions. But this does mean that sometimes the more important material, because more thought out and perhaps based on later knowledge, will be toward the end. I leave things as written in part because this gives a chronicle of the way thoughts proceed.
I have heard many suggestions for responses to the opening of this war through attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They range from Nuke Them All, God will know His own: Deus lo vult! To "Be calm, forgive, remember these are only a few terrorists, we must not harm the innocent, we must punish only the guilty."
My ancestors were Crusaders, and Deus lo vult! was their cry. My temperament inclines me in the same way. But revenge is a dish best served cold, and strategy should prevail as well. There is no joy in harming the innocent: not the next day when you will see the photographs of the dead children. Herod was haunted by ghosts, by visions of dead children in his dreams. CNN will show us pictures.
We must do something.
For a start: we know the places where they rejoiced and danced in the streets in celebration of the falling of the towers. Those streets and all their buildings should become monuments: not one stone stands upon another. Level the rubble so that a troop of cavalry could ride across where they stood and not one horse stumble. Then sow salt on those grounds. They will be left as monuments, visible from the air, visible from space: monuments to dead Americans.
"But we did not do it! We only -- we only rejoiced that you would see what it is like."
"You chose the wrong friends. Next time make better friends. You may take what you can carry. You have five minutes, then the bulldozers will flatten this area. Get out of here. And of course if anyone is stupid enough to fire on us, the Marines are eager. Aren't you, Sergeant?"
"Sir. Yes, sir."
Nablus. Gaza. Baghdad. Damascus. There shall be monuments, perpetual, large enough to be seen from the air, from space: monuments of desolation in each of those cities. A million square feet; let the company commanders measure each building before flattening it. Let it be recorded. And let salt be sown where those places stood. Let their refugees go where they will.
And if that requires the Army fight its way into those places, then the devil take the hindmost. We have no lack of volunteers.
When that is done, Kabul, since they decline to deliver bin Laden or his head. That will be more difficult because it is harder to get to.
Begin by laying bare their air defenses. Leave them naked to air attack. These are acts against military targets, legitimate targets of war. Next drop leaflets mapping that part of Kabul that has been chosen for our monument. Twenty four hours later, begin its construction. We will have to open iron bomb factories, we may have to build new heavy bombers. So be it. The monument will be built. It will not be completed until we ritually sow salt on the site, while the population of Kabul stands at a distance and does not interfere.
I think Libya needs to contribute a monument site as well. There may be other places. Tehran now appears to be a candidate.
Much of the mail I have on this seems to miss the point. Pete Schmitt begins with the Subject "Way over the top!" Others sent mail that makes me wonder if they can read, since it seems to condemn me for practices I do not advocate.
First, do I think we will do what I described above, build monuments sown with salt in places known to have supported terrorist organizations? For certainly every city I named has done so, has people who harbor our enemies, give them aid and comfort and support. Probably not. Almost certainly not. But I haven't seen alternatives I like much either.
Nuke Kabul: we won't do it, nor should we.
Carpet bomb various cities: we won't do that, nor should we. I wasn't kidding when I said Herod was haunted by visions of dead children, but we won't need visions, we will have them on television.
Do nothing: that is, send police and detectives to track down those who can be proven guilty, and send them through the court system with endless trials and appeals. If there is any single way to end not merely the republic but most republican institutions this method will do that. The American people won't stand for it.
Occupy Palestine, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and install American pro-consuls to rebuild their governments as we did with Germany and Japan. This is possible but requires full conversion to Empire, selection of pro-consuls, client states to furnish occupation forces, and a war footing for a long time to come.
Attempt to force nations that harbor terrorist organizations to change their ways without actual occupation and restructuring: deal with them as we did with Belgrade, bombarding them from 15,000 feet, destroying their news centers, power plants, transportation systems, food supplies, commerce, in "surgical strikes" as if that mantra had any meaning. We could do this. It would be expensive in material and would take a long time, but it would be cheap in lives: our lives. It would be costly in other lives. Reducing nations with little technology to the stone age will cost many lives of many people, first among the elderly and the very young. There will be disease and death, and probably plague which is never too far away when there are unburied bodies. This is an alternative that I am sure is seriously considered, and will meet approval of some.
What I proposed, mostly as a thought experiment because I do not think we will do it, is to leave a perpetual reminder in those places that might be tempted to try this again that there are serious consequences, but do it in a manner that the fewest non-combatants will be harmed. I had not meant that as exclusive of other measures. I had meant it as a project that has a defined goal and a defined ending, a defined mission. Clearly it needs to be coupled with intelligence activities.
I think the republic is done. I think empires have a logic and there is a logical ending to the trends that were already started and will now be accelerated. I would prefer that pace be a little more deliberate, with opportunities for rational choices.
No, I don't think my monuments will be built; but I note that those who tell me I am insane propose alternatives that in my judgment are either worse or impossible. And believe me, "surgical strikes" is a mantra, not a feasible alternative. We know how to break things and kill people. I would prefer some control over what is broken and who is killed.
We will do something. What is not clear.
It is not likely to be fun for Harry Browne, whom I met when he was a Zurich silver salesman.
I have letters from a disgusted subscriber who thinks I should not have mentioned Clinton's futile bombardments of Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998, and particularly I should not have made reference to the Lewinsky affair: this was too partisan in a time when we should strive for national unity.
Perhaps; but if we are to look at what is to be done, we need to have a fair look at what we did.
Those bombardments probably triggered the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Prior to US actions against them, the Taliban were seen as a bunch of fundamentalist cranks, enemies of civilization inside the areas they controlled, but tribal in nature and not much interested in the rest of the world. They had reason to despise the United States as symbolic of most they stood for, but then they had that view of Riyadh and the Gulf oil kingdoms in general; of soft Muslims everywhere. They had no reason to hate us more than anyone else not one with them.
US Intelligence intercepts found cell phone traffic indicating a meeting in rugged territory in Afghanistan. Some open remarks indicated that this was a training camp of terrorists, and that bin Laden would be there. Senior intelligence officers said this was most likely deception; bin Laden is a great deal more careful, and has and uses codes, and locating him is never easy. This is probably a plant.
We attacked anyway. Under any definition of International Law the President of the United States fired munitions at a country with whom we are not at war, with no warning, no declaration of war, and no resolution of Congress. Now over the years there have been precedents, but this was pretty stark.
What we hit was not a training camp of terrorists. It was not generally reported in the US media, but what we hit was a religious retreat of Moslem Pakistani physicians. Several of the survivors were interviewed on US television for a day or so after: then nothing, and you will find little about this or who was at that camp no matter how hard you search. But the effects were many.
First, it was then known we did listen to cell phone conversations (and used other intercepts of other channels; this may in part have been a deception operation intended to see just how much we could learn and just what we did listen to). Those channels will not be useful again.
Second, the Taliban went from disgust to hatred: the United States was not merely a cultural threat, but an active enemy. Do not forget that we conducted an act of war against them. Their memories are long.
Finally, the timing of the attacks is a matter of public record. There was a need to keep certain matters out of the headlines. The strikes did that. Having done it there was no follow up action. We delivered our bee stings, "surgical strikes" which did little harm and which certainly did not raise a sense of dread: which did not give those who harbor our enemies any reason to be vigorous in disarming them or dissuading them from attacking us. Our response to the destruction of our Embassies in a coordinated and well planned attack was -- not much.
True we sent police and detectives. That was good. But it were better we had not reacted at all than that we fired millions of dollars worth of ordinance to accomplish little but infuriating our enemies and making enemies of some who had previously merely disliked us. Being detested is no fun -- I get a lot of mail that shows how strong feelings can be -- but being hated is dangerous. It is better to be feared than loved; but it is dangerous to be feared a little but not much, while being hated.
That was my reason for including reference to the futile bombardment in my discussion of what to do , and it is the reason I do not eradicate it, my subscriber's passionate disgust with me to the contrary. It was an important action and one that must not be repeated. In particular, the US must not be seen as a source of directionless destruction, fired off at a time and for reasons unrelated to national interest -- unless we are willing to be seen as so irrationally dangerous that we must never be provoked lest we bring the world down about us.
That latter, the rationally irrational, was discussed by Herman Kahn as a strategy, and it needs thinking about: it was the basis of the Mutual Assured Destruction strategy that governed US policy for decades. Note that I was against it at the time, Possony and I proposing a national strategy of Assured Survival rather than Assured Destruction; but in any event we are no longer faced with that sort of threat, and the automatic destruction of our enemies with nuclear fire is not even "rational irrationality" in my judgment.
We must respond.
What are the real alternatives? I tried to list them above. I note my critics seem not to have many of their own however they ridicule mine.
My guess is that what we WILL do is force a change of government in many places. We will then look for proconsuls to govern those places. They will have to make common cause with some very bad people -- there are no good guys sometimes -- and the road will be hard. It will engender more threats, and we will find ourselves surrendering more and more of our personal freedoms in order to obtain what we hope is security. We will find ourselves forced into a logic of retaliation of the kind we, until last Tuesday, roundly condemned in Israel. We will accept many actions done in our name that until now we have thought not merely unacceptable but monstrous. Depend upon that.
I am not sure there is any way out of that. But my monuments were a thought experiment looking for a way: a way to make the governments in Baghdad, Kabul, Nablus, Gaza, Damascus, Tripoli, believe it is very much in their interest to find and apprehend, to STOP, any group that appears to be planning a real attack on the United States, lest our monuments be enlarged. They are a way to be feared without mass slaughter of the innocents, and they leave behind a legacy of fear as well as hate. It is better to be loved and feared, but if one must have one or the other, it is better to be feared and hated than loved and not feared. So said Machiavelli and so has history confirmed.
I want it in the interest of our enemies to want to protect us, without our having to send in armies of occupation and proconsuls. It may be an impossible goal: but I see no reason why I should be vilified for discussing the possibilities.
Americans really would not want a desolation to be their monuments. A school would be better. But a school implies occupation or at least defense.
Still, a US Information Agency, with access to the world though computers and the Internet, spread through the world, might make more sense. Or might it merely enhance communications among enemies?
A desolation leaves fear. A school tries to gather love.
Was Machiavelli right?
Possony used to say you either believe in the power of rational thought or you don't. And that is the dilemma we face.
I would like to convert the world with rational arguments. There is no rational argument that will convince a person displaced from a home in Palestine that what was done to the Jews in Germany justified his home being taken; and yes, I know several such people, Christians who operate a clinic in Jerusalem. They do not seek revenge, but this is not rationality at work, it is religious conviction.
I don't think we will try to convert those who hate us to Christianity, and certainly the Constitution gives us no mandate to try that as a nation.
So I keep coming back to monuments of desolation, created by bulldozers and engineers not by raining fire from the skies. It seems silly. I welcome better ideas.
And I do not preclude, in addition to monuments to engender fear, dissemination of Victoria's Secret and other catalogues in all those cities. I don't preclude paying for the buildings destroyed to make the monuments, not all they are worth, but some, in scrip redeemable from American mail order houses.... I have nothing against cultural war to undermine the leadership of those countries.
But I want large and visible reminders to those leaders that violence against the United States will result in their personal destruction.
Let's take a deep breath and try to start over.
The problem is, what shall we do? The immediate instinct for anyone is to strike back. The argument in favor of that is historical: it often works. People do not provoke sleeping lions. Even Sparta was an old dog lying in the sun, best left in peace, and if Phillip and Alexander, not precisely peacemongers, understood that, there must have been a reason. To have a reputation for avenging one's own no matter the cost and without much selectivity in ones targets can be an advantage. It can also be a disadvantage provoking leagues of your enemies to vow your destruction because the world with you in it is too dangerous; better if you are dead.
And leaves out entirely the moral questions.
What is the objective here? Revenge or Prevention? That is, are we willing to forgo revenge if we have taken measures to insure this -- or worse -- won't happen again? Do we seek justice, revenge, or security?
All three, but the ordering of those goals is important, and the goals must be chosen. Once that is done we can begin looking at how to get there from here: but it helps if we know where we are going.
Let us assume that our goals are security and justice in that order, and that we will subsume vengeance into those above.
There are many ways to achieve security. I presume we would like to achieve security without losing too much liberty: that we don't want to turn ourselves into a garrison state -- your papers, please! -- as our defense against the enemy. We may have to but surely this isn't the main goal?
What we really want is for the ruling class of every nation to think it is very much in their best interest to detect, apprehend, STOP, anyone and everyone under their jurisdiction from doing this again. If that is our goal there may be ways to achieve it.
If that is not our goal, then what is that goal? In the Miss America Contest it is always World Peace, (Sandra Bullock found you neglect to say it at your peril) but that mantra is a bit harder to achieve. So I ask again: what is the goal? If we know the goal, we may have a chance of achieving it. If we don't know where we are going, it is not likely we will get to a place we like.
With that in mind go back and read Part One again.
I will leave that material under the heading Black September War, which is still the best name I have for our condition; but understand it may not be a war at all. We will see. But until we know what we WANT, not just now but in the long term, we are unlikely to accomplish much. Actions now will affect what we can do in the future.
As a nation, do we want to make it safe for us to impose a New World Order? I ask this seriously. Is it our goal to restructure the world to a way of our liking? Understand, I am trying to put this in the most neutral terms I can. Other terms would be "A glorious crusade to eliminate evil from the world," or "Preserve the right to meddle in other people's affairs to make them do things because we want them to."
"Impose a new world government acceptable to the United States" is yet another way of putting it.
Do we, as a nation, embrace a foreign policy that preserves the right and possibly the duty of the United States to interfere beyond our borders in matters that are not part of defending direct national interests?
If the answer to that is yes, we need to determine whether it is better to f eared; do we accomplish our goals with direct action or through client states; do we try to bribe our way to dominance or impose our will by force? How far are we prepared to go, and for what.
Examples: we have already shown that we will bomb a European nation from 15,000 feet and wreck the economy of a region in order to protect immigrants legal and illegal, and prevent ethnic cleansing in Europe.
We have so far refused to take part in similar wars in Africa: Ruanda, Sudan, Uganda. We did intervene in Somalia. We don't know what to make of Zimbabwe: if the farmers there were blacks driven out by whites one suspects we would already be involved; since the situation is the opposite we are not and probably will not be. It may be that Sub-Saharan Africa is simply outside our sphere of influence.
We have been ambiguous in the Middle East. We encourage Israel to hold out but we discourage them from taking "extreme" measures. We do continue to send Israel a very great deal of money every year, and to use that as a means of influencing their policies.
We have been ambiguous in our responses to attacks on the United States. The response to the bombing of the Embassies was a short spasm of cruise missiles fired at targets that, on reflection, had little relation to the attacks or their sponsors; dispatching detectives and crime specialists to find out who did it; indicting din Laden and actually capturing a few individuals; and not much else. We did not restructure our relationships with anyone as a result, nor did we impose our will on any nation.
One possible action we can do this time is the same, without the futile cruise missiles which accomplished little beyond strengthening our enemies' resolve, and proving to some that the US will strike back but not hard and not much. That is, we can send lawyers and detectives. This will not surprise our enemies.
We have been ambiguous in the Middle East: we threw Iraq out of Kuwait and returned the country to client kings of whom we cannot be very proud, and whose actions in the case of non-Kuwaiti nationals kidnapped into Iraq and seeking to return to what they thought were their homes were despicable. We don't know what we want to accomplish in the Arabian Peninsula. We wish it would simply send us oil and cease to bother us with its problems. That won't happen.
We have been ambiguous in the India-Pakistan wars, and for good reason. Until recently the USSR was our enemy and thus Pakistan our friend whatever we might think about the Pakistani government. Now we find the situation a bit different. India is in a low level state of war with China (whatever the legal status may be); and while there is poverty in India it is a democracy, had some good schools and universities, and has contributed to the technological revolution. Think of India as Great Britain set down in the midst of a vast sea of poverty and ignorance and you will not be far off the mark.
We haven't really had an Afghanistan policy. During the Seventy Years War Afghanistan was a way to bleed the USSR. So long as it did, the enemies of our enemies were our friends. Afghanistan has never been eager to export its internal problems, nor so far as I know has the Taliban, been much interested in exporting its brand of pre-enlightenment religion. The Taliban is largely an ethnic group with ties to Pakistan, and is in some sense as much a foreign conqueror of Afghanistan as any other. In any event it is no threat to the United States, although it is a threat to any of our citizens that it can get its hands on, as witness some of our aid workers jailed for spreading Christianity. Do we want an Afghanistan policy? What should it be? Are we to impose civilization on them?
How will we do that? Pakistan's rulers live precarious lives: without the US they will never rule a prosperous or even a merely poor nation; embrace us enough and they will cease to rule, and the nation could fall to something like the Taliban. Rulership of Pakistan carries with it a small nuclear arsenal.
So: these are all matters to think about as we try to figure out what shall be done.
But the very first thing is, what do we want to do? Are we seeking safety for a United States that is the friend of liberty everywhere, but the guardian only of our own; or do we seek to impose the enlightenment and our views of law, order, and justice on the world?
Or something in between? But on these questions hang the answer to what must be done.
Of all the proposals I have seen, the one I like best is Cook's: build our monuments, but then put solar power receiving stations on them, and give about 800 megawatts of power to each of the cities in which we built those. The more I think on it, the more it grows on me.
Of course I have been for building space solar power satellites without this incentive: to build SSPS will required a fleet of reusable space ships, and if we have those we automatically have Thor (non-nuclear orbital precision bombardment: tungsten telephone poles that can hit any target at about 15,000 fps velocity with an accuracy of about 10 feet CEP): that is, given the fleet and space construction we can build Thor on third shifts. We can also build a Lunar Colony on weekends. Space solar power will eliminate our dependence on Mid-East oil, and make parts of the Mid-East dependent on our good will. It will bring prosperity to them and to us, and will at the same time be an enduring monument to those killed, a reminder: and with that go, of course, detectives and lawyers to find those who planned and executed the attack.
It is a strange kind of war, but one many can participate in without compromise of conscience. Want revenge? Join the detective forces. Want to help people in poverty? There will be plenty of work to do. Want high tech for America-- Well, you get the idea.
Kabul has fallen, and whatever the future of Afghanistan, neither Bin Laden nor the Taliban has much place in its future. Bin Laden is on the run, probably alive but in hiding and out of communications, and his military commander is dead. He can protect neither his chief subordinates nor himself, and that will be enough to cause someone to turn him in for the bounty.
The Afghan campaign is now in essence over, with some need for US air support if we can find local forces we want to support, and some help with the new government which I suspect will be one formed by the King, the former president being unpopular and unloved. We will still need the services of bounty hunters, but those are easily obtained.
Meanwhile, the Germans and French seem eager to take a hand in The Great Game, and we should let them. We do not need Afghan territory. We should keep good relations with various Khans there in case we ever need to go back...
Our first concern must be Pakistan. Whatever the situation before September 11, they have been cooperative since, and we have to show that we reward our friends as well as punish our enemies. The government there is not the one we would choose, I suspect, but a democratically elected government might well invite in Bin Laden and the Waahaabi elements and all the other panoply of Medieval Islam concerned with redressing the Crusades and the Spanish reconquista. That we do not need. So we have I think no choice but to support Pakistan.
That is complicated because India is involved. What we do not want is to get involved in the territorial disputes of Asia. (Nor of Europe, of course, but the Asian sink is vast and endless and unfathomable, capable of absorbing everything we send over there before we can even choose which side to support... We don't understand Asia, and American imperialism in Asia would be a terrifying futility. Or so think I.)
How we dance with India and Pakistan and go home with neither is an exercise best left to diplomats. We have waved the big stick. Now it is time to speak softly.
The Gulf comes next.
We simply cannot allow the present government of Iraq to continue. We need not be concerned with Iraq's "integrity": it is a "nation" that has existed only since the end of WW II, and was put together by British diplomats drawing lines on a map: it exists separate from Jordan only because there were two Hashemite princes who had to be given compensation for having lost Mecca -- Medina to the Saudi, who themselves got lucky by supporting T. E. Lawrence early; had the Hashemites gone over to Lawrence first they would have had Arabia and Jordan/Iraq would probably have been British Mandates, as Syria was French. As it was, Jordan was in reality a British protectorate for a long time.
Iraq can be dismembered into tribal states without any qualms of conscience. I am told there are strategic reasons for Iraqi integrity, but I don't see them: Iraq spends much of its prowess just trying to hold itself together. Since I doubt we can replace Saddam Hussein with any government acceptable to all the warring tribal factions in Iraq, dismemberment seems the best course. It is even possible we could build some new allies: if Turkey were compensated with non-Kurdish portions of Iraq they might be persuaded to allow the Kurdish part of Iraq to unite with Kurdish portions of Turkey in a Turkish Autonomous Province. That may or may not happen and may or may not work, but there are good arguments in its favor.
One can speculate on Iraq's future a lot, but I think it clear we cannot allow its present government to continue.
My first proposal after September 11 was to build monuments. I later modified it to include SSPS receptors on the barren sites of our monuments. The more I reflect on this, the better I like the notion.
It would require about $100 billion in research and development. For that we would get: cheap access to space; hemispheric energy independence; a cheap way to send quite significant quantities of electric power to friends who would find that we can turn it off as easily as we turn it on; and with cheap access to space, space battle stations capable of missile defense of the US and much of the world, and some fairly good non-nuclear orbital bombardment capability at quite low costs.
That's a pretty good return for investment: and our monuments in those places that rejoiced at the destruction of 9-11 would be pretty good reminders that it should not happen again.
We want to leave behind this much: the ruling class of every country should understand that if they allow, or FAIL TO PREVENT, anyone on their territory to plot harm to the United States, we will replace their government. The next government may not be able to do it either: in which case we replace that one. And so on. To ruling classes everywhere: it is not in your interest to allow your subjects to plot against America. Be warned.
This is pretty close to the doctrine President Bush has proclaimed. We will see how this goes.
Lawmakers are 'concerned' about all this tribunal business.
I'm becoming quite fond of Bob Barr.
I suppose the below isn't particularly relevant if Afghanistan is no longer an issue, but here are some useless URL's anyways (I kept meaning to send them, but didn't get around to writing the bits I meant to include):
detail the boundaries of the assorted ethnic groups of Afghanistan. They seem to be Fed maps.
Those come from the Perry-Casteneda collection of online maps (covering the whole world) - the Afghanistan section is here:
For anybody who wants to be able to discern the difference between a Pashtun and a Hazara/Aimur Chamak/ Tajik/ Uzbehk/ Turkmen/ Nuristani/ Baluchi and so forth, there's this site:
which does a spiffy job of outlining Afghan history and identifying the assorted ethnic groups. Note that it seems to have been created by an anti-Taliban Pashtun, and thus someone who opposes the Northern Alliance, although they do not identify themselves. They don't spell very well either. But it's superior to CNN, et al, for that kind of background info.
Additional ethnolinguistic maps fished out of Perry-Castenda:
Ethinic groups of the southern old USSR with Iraq, Iran, etc:
A more up-to-date version mostly covering Central Asia, with graphs:
This ones covers the Caucasus:
This one covers Iran and large chunks of Afghanistan and Iraq:
And this one covers Pakistan, but for reasons I am unable to discern does not cover Kashmir. (In fact, I still cannot find a decent map of the ethnic breakdown in Kasmir on either side of the border.):
Historical: a 1923 map of India for 1700-1792. Outlines the limits of the Moghul empire for one:
This one actually outlines ALL the (disputed) boundaries for Kashmir:
The Kurdish population in the Middle East:
All of the above, of course, is too much information, but I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about all of the assorted groups in the future. Particularly the Kurds, and Iraq.
This is not even slightly relevant but included for the sheer perversity of it all, which grants a certain perspective - Indochinese ethnicities:
['But wait! I've got even MORE!']
Thanks. that's plenty for light reading...
May 20, 2003
It's the standard cliché, "we won the war, now comes the hard part."
So. What do we do now? How can we build democracy in Iraq? Is there a chance for success?
Middle Class Rule
Aristotle defines democracy as rule by the middle class, the middle class being those who possess the goods of fortune in moderation. There have been a lot of other definitions of democracy, but that one endures: it has been a characteristic of every working democracy that lasted long enough to make the history books. The implications are worth examining.
First, note that nothing has been said about religion, birth, military ability, family connections, or anything else but property. The ruling class is defined by an economic condition: and that condition is the possession of property, not excessive amounts of property but not zero either.
Marx said that history would end only when the proletariat -- those who had no property -- became rulers and everything was held in common or owned by the state. He made no distinction between those conditions. The end result of Marxism has been rule by the nomenklatura, Djilas's "New Class", everywhere it has been tried, and there is no reason to suppose it won't work that way every time. When the state is the sole employer, dissent means starvation, and power comes only from climbing the political ladder.
Most states that have tried democracy by enfranchising the proletariat have ended with "one man, one vote, once," after which a strong man takes charge and ends the electoral process. We then have rule by one party, such as the Baath, or maybe rule by the bogeymen as they demonstrated in Haiti. Incidentally, it may not be true that Haiti was as well off under Papa Doc, Baby Doc, and the Tonton Macout, as it is under the US-imposed thugs, but I haven't seen any evidence contradicting that proposition. Our nation-building experiments in this hemisphere don't augur well for what's going to happen in the Middle East.
The task, then, is to empower the middle class in Iraq. Can this be done?
Well, on the plus side, Iraq has a middle class. There are people there who own property, and many are well educated. Most are literate. They're not all proletarians and thugs. On the other hand, Iraq has never had a democracy, and the middle class in Iraq has never had any power. Ever. Empowering people who have never had any experience of governing is a tricky proposition at best.
Can You Afford To Lose?
The central question in a democracy is, can you afford to lose the election? If you try and fail, is loss total? Will you be jailed, your property confiscated, your family jailed or killed? If the consequences of loss are enormous, then you don't let the ballot box be the final decision. Nor should you.
The first thing we must do is assure the losers they can afford to lose, and that we will be there to protect them.
We all see the complexities. In some parts of Iraq fair elections will instantly result in the rule of the Mullahs and Ayatollahs and Sheiks. People will vote for the only leaders they ever knew, and since they have never had any political leaders or officials who weren't appointed by Turks, the British, the Monarchy, or a series of dictators, the notion of electing political leaders and giving them real power isn't likely to be thought of, much less popular. There's no tradition of self-government in Iraq. Politics is a career. Of course we're losing that tradition here, so perhaps Iraq doesn't need it: but then we're beginning to discover that career politicians really hate it if they lose elections since they don't have any other career, and that will be doubly true in Iraq. One of the nice things about self-government by the middle classes is that politicians can afford to lose elections, and still have something to do with their lives. Particularly in the early days of this Republic most of our political leaders couldn't wait to go back home to their farms and law practices.
The point here is that Iraq has no tradition of self-government, it has no distinction between political office and civil service, it has no tradition of standing for office, losing, and going back to work as a tent maker or leathersmith or shopkeeper, and almost zero instances of having won a political office, then losing it without losing everything: life, liberty, property, family. Once you went into politics under the old regime, you didn't have a lot of other choices. To get any kind of political job you became a Baathist, and once a Baathist, always a Baathist. Note that in Syria the current dictator was once an ophthalmologist; can you imagine him laying down political office and returning to that life?
What can we do?
If we are serious about building democracy in Iraq, we will have to stay there for a generation, and we will have to make it clear we are going to stay there for a generation; and while we are there we are going to run the country in the sense of running the national government. That means building and training its armed forces and national judiciary, and allocating the national revenues, most definitely including oil revenues. That latter is extremely important.
On the local level, though, we want to turn things over to local elected people just as soon as possible; and we want to distribute some of the national revenues to those local governments. We should, in other words, empower the local governments, give them real power and resources, and stand guard as the guarantors that the local governments can make mistakes but they won't be mired in utter corruption and one-party rule enforced by thugs whether posing as police or not. We guarantee life, liberty, and property to the participants in the political process, and we stand ready to enforce those guarantees. There will be no one man, one vote, once.
We put locals in power and let them run things, including make a lot of what we call mistakes, and "wasteful" decisions, so long as it's all done according to law and not simply under the table bribery and corruption. There's going to be a lot of that, but at least make them be discrete about it.
And when things begin to work at the local levels, we can start looking at a federal constitution for a federal state.
The Top Down Option
Going the other way -- trying to have national elections with real power going to a national parliament -- will be disastrous. There's too much at stake, and the majorities hate the minorities too much. The Shi'ites will want an Islamic state, and incidentally to get their own back from the Sunnis. The Sunni are wealthier than the Shi'ites and will want to protect what they have. The Baathists are a special case, which we'll get to in a moment. The Kurds want a Kurdistan and want the oil revenues to build an army that will help them get it.
There are also the Arab revivalists, who remember that Saladin, a Kurd, united all the Kurdish and Arabic Muslims to throw out the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and reconquer the whole Middle East, and this only a couple of generations after Robert of Normandy rode throughout the region begging anyone of courage to come out and fight him. Saddam Hussein, no Kurd, still tried to use many of the symbols of Saladin and pose as the coming Great Liberator of the Arab world. One might suppose that turning Uday loose on athletes, virgins, and wives as whim dictated wasn't a great way to win hearts and minds, but perhaps Arabs think different from Westerners. Then again, Marcus Aurelius was father of Commodus.
Throwing all these elements together and holding a winner take all national election is a prescription for utter disaster. Surely even the neo-conservatives know this?
Whose Oil Is This?
If we go the other way, building working local governments in which there is actually a chance of government through consent of the governed, and allow that to run long enough that people actually trust the institutions built, there may be a chance for Iraq as a nation. Perhaps not: there is a great deal at stake, namely the oil. Switzerland is an example of a federal government of states that retain real power; the power remained with the states because at one time the linguistic and religious differences between the various people in the Helvetian Confederation were very real indeed, as real as the differences between Sunni and Shiite, Babylonian and Kurd. But Switzerland had one great advantage: no oil. Capture of the control of the central government brought with it no great reward.
Iraq has the opposite problem: control of the central government gives control of enormous wealth, and even if you spend that money honestly some will probably stick to your fingers as you pass it along to the people. What is managing the local water plant or sewage treatment plant compared to getting control of a few oil wells?
Whose House Is This?
The other problem that even local governments will face is the simple one of restoring rule of law. Over the past 20 years a number of people have been displaced: Baathist officials simply came into town and took over shops, houses, olive groves, of people who weren't Baathists. The original owners may not have been killed but they were turned out. Some of them have documentation of their previous ownership and dispossession. Others have nothing but memories and the hopes that their neighbors will remember them.
Restoring clear title to property is important. Without it there can be no rule of law, and without rule of law there can be no democracy. You can't have rule by the middle class if the middle class has a lot of people in it who got to be middle class by acts of terror and theft. (Well, you can, but you have to let a few generations go by, or exterminate the losers, or both. We don't have a few generations, and apparently Saddam's Baathists weren't as thorough in eliminating claimants as they might have been.)
On the other hand, there has to be some finality: claims that your great grandfather owned this house, but the Brits or the Turks took it from him, can't be allowed to displace someone who bought the house in what was a perfectly legal sale. There needs to be an end to litigation. Settling these matters is more one of local custom than any general principle common to mankind -- but they have to be settled, and settled with finality.
There needs to be, in other words, a judiciary system that is reasonably trusted to hand down decisions seen as fair to the local inhabitants. One suspects this can't be national, and that the various Justices of the Peace will vary from one place to another, some being religious figures, others professionals or even local storekeepers with a reputation for honesty. But it is essential that local courts that have the confidence of the local population be set up, and that their decrees be enforced. Given that, there's a start at rule of law -- and a start at democracy.
I do not envy the proconsuls whose task is to build that judiciary.
And once again, that isn't going to happen from the top down. As long as control of the top is in contention, there won't be any real infrastructure of government built. The best people won't even try to become Justices of the Peace when there's a chance to be Deputy Assistant Oil Minister or some such.
But we need those local courts and local governments with real authority, and offices held by people of real ability. Democracy is in part a habit: the habit of submitting to a government you consented to.
Those habits have to be built from the ground up; which means the US is going to be in there for a long time, and controlling the oil revenue and allocating that money will be its most important task, if only to make it clear that it's pointless to compete in politics for control of the oil. If you want to work in Iraqi Oil you get out of politics, and you work for a salary. We are not going to build a New Class.
Which is to say, if we are going to build democracy, we have no choice but to be imperial: not in the sense of an emperor, but in the sense of retaining command. US officials with proconsular power -- with Imperium -- will be running Iraq at the top for years to come.
Can we stay that course?
We often hear speculations about what our "real" agenda in Iraq might be. Rumsfeld and the President continue to protest that we don't have one other than the public statements the President has made.
Of course Republics don't and can't have a hidden agenda. In a Republic the goals of our policies are set in open debate and signed onto by the Congress or representative assembly. There can't be a "hidden agenda" because the mechanism for setting an agenda in the first place makes that impossible. This can be a real disadvantage for a Republic, which is one reason why Republics should have limited expectations about what diplomacy and foreign policy can accomplish. If the goal is conquest and colonization, it needs to be said right up front, and that's fair warning to the potential victim.
Now of course this describes an ideal, but it's an ideal that's not far from necessity. Give the Executive the power to keep, not just operational secrets, but secret agendas and goals, and you have gone a long way toward ending the Republic. Venice found this out, and do note that Venice was the longest lasting Republic in history, and one which the Framers had studied with some admiration.
And it's a sign of the times that many who support both the President and the war wonder if we don't have a secret agenda, and some of them fervently hope we do, and a few influential people are not only sure we have a hidden agenda but that they have helped to set it. The President denies this, of course; but then he'd have to, wouldn't he?
I am not trying to be paranoid here, and my assessment of the President is that he's pretty much what he seems to be, says what he thinks, and is pretty thoroughly on the side of a Republic: he really doesn't want to be Emperor. Of course it's said that Clau-Clau-Claudius had the same sentiments.
Now, while I don't believe President Bush to be stupid, few political figures in history have been smarter than the Emperor Claudius, who believed in the Republic but set up the civil service and other mechanisms that gave the Empire such power and endurance. Empire grew despite the reluctance of a very smart Emperor, one a lot more aware of the distinction between Republic and Empire than President Bush is likely to be, and this is not intended as an insult to the President.
Note also that Empire doesn't really require an Emperor, at least at first: Empire is rule by command, by Imperium, which can be exercised by a junta or a political class: what it is not is open covenants openly arrived at, self government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.
It can be splendid, and it's often more efficient than a republic. Clearly there's a lot more to be said on this; my point here is that hidden agendas are very much the negation of what I understand by a Republic.
Facts that aren't quite Agendas
One thing that isn't being said but which surely everyone knows, is that we don't need Iraq's oil revenues to make a profit from the war. All we need is for lots of that oil to start flowing into the international market. When oil gets down to $20/bbl., the Dow will go above 10,000, US government revenues will go up, the deficit will disappear, and tax cuts will look very good.
Another thing that's not being said loudly is that the venial UN Bureaucracy will be the big winner if we continue the "Oil for Food" campaign, which in the past sold oil for bureaucratic salaries, guns for the Special Republican Guard, palaces for Saddam, and money for the various outfits that suck blood from the UN and would die without it.
We need to say it out loud: the time for sanctions is over, we don't care what the UN thinks about that, and we're going to sell Iraqi oil to the highest bidders. The money will go to building public service infrastructure in Iraq, and after the first round of emergency contracts is over, those will go up for competitive bid; but with big penalties for companies that do shoddy work or none at all, and we're going to enforce that with a vengeance.
We'll also put politically correct administrators into the source selection boards. Time for the rest of the world to learn about set-asides, minority owned companies, female-owned companies, and all the rest. (I suspect that US companies, being used to that sort of thing, ought t0 do well in fair competition here...)
The Agenda We Don't Talk About
When most people talk about a US hidden agenda, they are really referring to Israel; specifically that we're over there to bash Arabs to aid Israel. That one needs a lot more discussion than I have time for here. It's certainly not a big factor in the President's decisions (if it were there are many things we could already have done that wouldn't be obvious), but it almost certainly is the not very hidden agenda of a number of people whose advice is quite influential.
As I said, this needs more discussion than I have time for at the moment. But do note that it's the major topic of discussion among Arab sympathizers, both "the Street" (whatever that is) and the intellectuals. Acting as if no one had ever thought about this is not going to work, and indeed will raise even more suspicions.
So What Should Our Agenda Be in Iraq?
I say agenda because we have been using that word, but in fact I mean goals. What are our War Aims, and when will we have achieved them?
This is a matter for resolution by the Congress of the United States. Shouldn't the discussion be going on right now? What more important matters do they have?
Or have we come so far that we think such matters are properly restricted to the President and his advisors? There's a word for governments that set foreign policy that way; and it's not Republic.
I wrote this for another discussion forum, and I probably ought not publish it here since it's fairly intemperate; but I am still boiling mad, so forgive me if this is over the top:
This morning's LA Times had two articles of interest. One was about a bunch of Iraqi's who were saying they don't want any institutions imposed on them, they want to do things their way: that any government that arises must "reflect their society, their culture, their way of doing things." Or else.
The other article was about the pathetic conditions of about 300 inmates at the Baghdad psychiatric hospital. It seems that looters broke down the gates and stole everything, beds, toilets, the motor that ran the water filtration system, medicines, anything not nailed down. They also raped all the female patients.
I presume this is their way of doing things? And this will be the kind of institution they want to install?
Is there any other "civilized" city in the whole flipping WORLD where an invading army is seen as the opportunity to go pillage a psychiatric hospital and rape the patients? Nothing like this happened in any of the riots I have been in and around. People looted Bullocks Wilshire and some stores, but no one even thought of breaking into psychiatric hospitals and raping the patients and stealing the beds. I doubt any such thing happened in Berlin in 1945, or in Leningrad during the siege, or Stalingrad, or even in Tobruk or Behghazi. Sure, conquering armies have sacked cities in the past. The Russians certainly looted and raped in Berlin in 1945. But the Berliners and Viennese didn't see their defeat as an opportunity to loot the local hospitals and rape the patients.
Must reflect their culture, their society, their way of doing things. But I haven't heard one word of shame. Just demands that the US let them do things their way.
Maybe Iraq deserved Saddam and Uday. What kind of people are we "liberating"????
Note that "the Arab way" is to stone women who have has sexual relations with anyone other than a husband, even if they were raped. There seems to be some crazy obsession with sex over there, but it's all to the benefit of the men.
Me, I am beginning to think we had better IMPOSE some civilized rules of order on these people. Maybe we ought to restrict the vote to the women?
May 20, 2003
The above generated mail to the effect of :What are we doing over there, and why berate the Iraqis from reacting to our being there?
To which the reply is, sure, they have a right to resent our being there, and we should not expect gratitude. That is not the same as saying that the Arab Way is civilized: they ought to resent the people who looted the hospitals and raped the inmates, but if they do, there is little sign of demonstrations against that sort of thing. Instead...
May 30, 2003
They haven't found Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and at least some of the military people are beginning to think they never will: either he didn't have any, or he managed to destroy them all, or they are very well hidden indeed.
With that realization comes condemnation. Were we deceived?
Well, no. No more than we wanted to be, anyway.
First, does anyone question that Saddam had the resources to make any kind of WMD (other than nuclear, anyway) he wanted in any reasonably short time? After all, he had nerve agents, and mustard, and other such stuff, and actually used them at one time; whether they were all gone or not isn't terribly important because it's very easy, if you're a government, to get more.
To an intelligence officer, a "threat capability" is just that. Saddam had the means and the will, and what difference did it make whether or not he had kept any around this time?
The puzzlement here is why, if he didn't have anything to hide, did he go to such great lengths to make it look as if he did? Why not cooperate, more than cooperate, with Hans Blix and his Merry Band? You want to interview my scientists in Geneva, or New York, or Cancun? I'll send them, along with their families, first class tickets round trip. You want to look in my palaces? Bring the camera crew, and a good travelogue narrator, and we'll do a Public Television Special on The President's Many Palaces, or It's Good to be the President. What else do you want to see? You don't have to send in the Marines, Mr. Bush. I may not be a good guy, but I am not entirely stupid, and I saw what you did to Afghanistan: come to Baghdad and have tea. Or send your inspectors. We welcome them, and when you are done, please lift those sanctions so I can buy some food for my people, now that I've got almost enough palaces...
Why didn't he DO that? It's still the question I ask, and my guess is that he really counted on Bush being like Clinton, someone who would be satisfied with dropping a few bombs and throwing in some cruise missiles, and he could be toyed with for months to years. After all the Democrats, many of them, were saying as much. And the French and the Germans and the Russians were dead against the invasion, not like the last time, so --
It's all I can think of.
I welcome better suggestions.
I didn't care for this war, and I don't care for it now. I think the morass comes now, a low level mess, with just enough sabotage to keep people miserable and without decencies of life, punctuated by a few successes and even a few spectacular ones. I would hope that without the UN bureaucrats we can do a better job than is happening in Kossovo, where there are areas that don't have electricity restored after years of UN administration. And if I had to be occupied, I'd rather be occupied by American GI's than anyone else I know of. And clearly I am in a distinct minority: most Americans continue to approve of the war, and I don't want to be in a fight with them over it.
It's going to be a long road, building liberal democracy in a place that has absolutely no democratic traditions, in a "nation" that was formed out of lines on a map with no thought to ethnic and religious divisions, among a people who may not have made the blood feud quite as high an art form as they have in the Balkans, but who still have traditions of the Avenger of Blood, particularly among the Shiite majority.
I make no doubt we'll do better at it than most would, and I'm prepared to cheer our successes and mourn our failures; but if it were left to me, I'd pump enough oil to break OPEC, get world oil down to a competitive price -- and get the heck out of there, leaving a stern warning that harboring our enemies will get you another visit.
And I really don't care if they find real WMD.
Back in the days of Prohibition, a lot of illegal bars had their stock stored in special shelves that acted as a trap door. If the cops arrived, the bartender or someone else would pull a lever which would cause the shelves to dump their contents into a chute that led to the basement. The end of the chute featured a metal grate which would shatter the glass bottles and a pile of gravel for the contents to drain into. Given the rules of evidence that prevailed at the time (remember, prohibition was passed by the nations newly enfranchised women while the men were away fighting a war, so it wasn't really a very popular law), this simple ruse was sufficient to avoid prosecution even though it was obvious that the owners of the establishment had possessed illegal booze when the cops arrived.
Much the same thing has happenned in Iraq. The two mobile, bioweapons labs that have been found are analogous to a pile of gravel that reeks of alcohol. We know what they were intended for, but they don't constitute a smoking gun. The barrels of extraordinarily radioactive yellow cake are far more worrisome to me. IAEC seals not withstanding, Iraq shouldn't have been allowed to stock pile any form of Plutonium. You'll remember that it took the Bush administration nearly a year to get prepared, both militarily and politically for the invasion of Iraq. During much of this time, Saddam had good reason to believe that Bush could be flim flammed just as easily as Clinton had been. When it finally became apparent that unlike Clinton, W has the testicular fortitude to actually do something, Saddam started hiding the evidence. I suspect that all of the production equipment was either destroyed or converted into plausibly civilian uses. Most of the finished products were probably buried in remote locations in the desert where they'd be nearly impossible to find in spite of our much vaunted spy satellites which can allegedly read newspapers (they can't due to diffraction limitations combined with atmospheric distortions). Unfortunately, some of the finished WMD may have probably been transferred to other parties. Certainly Syria and perhaps Iran were beneficiaries, but I expect some infamous terrorists organizations have also gotten some new toys. In spite of some well deserved criticism, it seems unlikely that these groups still have the global reach to use these WMD in the USA. However, the recent bombings in the Middle East, particularly Saudi, suggests that these weapons will be used over there. What should be making everyone in the US angry is that the French and Russians were knowingly aiding and abetting Sadam's cover up by abusing their diplomatic clout.
We know that Saddam had chemical weapons (not very good ones); that he used them on both foreign and domestic enemies; that his government had the power to make them whether or not it was making them at the time; and left to himself if he needed such he'd make them. He had missiles adapted for delivery of chemical and probably biological weapons. He had people technically trained in production of biological weapons, particularly anthrax, and the techniques for make weapons grade anthrax are fairly low technology, and can be bought off the shelf from France or some other place that isn't too careful of what it sells.
The WMD issue is a political issue. There never was much of a threat to the US from Iraq. Deterrence worked and would have worked a lot better if we had simply come home, minded our own business, and built our energy production resources.
We didn't do that. I would not have invaded, and now that it is over I wish we hadn't invaded; but we are there, the deed is done, and we have to make the best of the consequences. I do not consider the invasion of Iraq so stupid as to negate everything else the Bush Administration is doing. It was far more effective than Clinton's random scattering of cruise missiles around the world. What Clinton did truly came close to being terror attacks, especially in Sudan, and those cruise missiles enhanced neither or moral or our military reputation: they made us neither feared or loved.
If it is better to be feared than loved, the Iraqi war accomplished that much.
I agree: he had the means, and at one time had certainly built CBW and if he could have managed a nuclear weapon or two he certainly would have.
Now he's gone. What do we do next?
You may be interested in an article titled "Middle East - No Going Back" at < http://www.riia.org/index.php?id=52 >.
> What an irony, then, that the Americans who managed to fuel the > Islamic revolutionary forces that overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979, > by their support for his aims and their own materialism, are now in > the process of unleashing Shi’a ambitions in Iraq. If only they had > thought through how to re-establish the rule of law and had the forces > ready to do so.
> It beggars belief that the Washington ideologues could have so snowed > the president with their logic that the sober advice of the State > Department experts was effectively sidelined in the run-up to war. > Even if the Bush administration pays the price in the next election, > Pandora’s box has been opened and there is no going back now.
> Best take note of the current flurry of US activity in the Middle East > in the wake of the fall of Baghdad, because this may well be the sum > total of US achievements in remaking the region.
[I should perhaps point out that my wife works at RIIA and is therefore a colleague of the author]
It hardly beggars belief, and the "snow job" took in much of Congress as well.
Once again: I did not believe Iraq was a threat to the US, but of course Saddam did rejoice on 911, and told his people to rejoice so they did so. You may all recall that I advocated building monuments to the Twin Towers: a couple of acres of rubble in the capital of every country that did rejoice or did provide, or wanted to and might have provided, aid and comfort to the 911 terrorists. The point would be to make clear that "Don't Tread On Me" was a real warning.
We have done something like that in Afghanistan and now Iraq, and both were fairly popular military adventures. Whether we ought now to stay over there and try to reconstruct those countries -- GIVEN THAT WE ARE NOW THERE -- is another debate and one we have not had yet. A good case can be made that now we are there, we have to go through with it, even though it was a bad idea to go there and take up that burden.
We need to have that debate.
I also point out that the fruits of victory are sweet, and will be sweeter. The Dow closed above 9000. Gasoline prices are falling. When the world price of oil falls below $20/bbl the Dow will top 10,000 and still be going up; my guess is 12,000 by Election Day. And gasoline prices will be down there where they were at the turn of the century.
The danger of putting the worst on top in the Middle East is quite real. We may already have made that inevitable: I suspect it is inevitable unless we stay. Are we holding a wolf by the ears?